As a 15 year old who bullshitted his way into getting All Access Photographer Passes for Madison Square Garden, I ran the fan clubs for all 3 Wise Men of the East. During the summertime, I would sometimes go to Allentown and Hamburg, and cover the WWWF television tapings. One time, I ended up catching a ride with Albano, who was driving Blassie (which was a great idea, because Blassie was partially blind and a menace behind the wheel even with perfect eyesight).
This trip was taking place after a great show at Madison Square Garden, and as always when it came to MSG, Lou was lit up beyond belief. "The Captain is hell when he's well," he'd say not only on tv, but also in person, "and The Captain is well when he's drinkin' ... and The Captain drinks a little ALL THE TIME!"
So we got out of Madison Square Garden, and we're flying through New Jersey heading towards Allentown. Lou reaches under his seat, and pulls out one of those big glass Tropicana grapefruit juice bottles. Of course, grapefruit juice was no longer the contents of this bottle. As a matter of fact, I can't even tell you that Lou was drinking Vodka AND grapefruit juice. It was more like vodka with a tiny little splash of grapefruit juice. Or, as Blassie used to tease The Captain, "methane with something to give it a little bit of color."
Now keep in mind, I'm in my mid-teens here, watching and listening to Blassie scream at Albano "you're going to get us killed! This kid's Father is a lawyer! He's going to sue our widows, and take our swimming pools, you (2 minutes of expletives) maniac!"
Lou would just laugh, with both feet on the gas pedal, and hanging onto the steering wheel for dear life.
All of a sudden, Lou goes into an insane coughing fit, and spits up some phlemmy-looking loogie that must have come from the deepest, darkest recesses of his digestive system. This frightening piece of intestinal backwash ends up all over the inside of the windshield, and Lou pulls a tissue out of his pocket, wipes it off the windshield ... we're still going 90 miles an hour, mind you... and proceeds to suck the loogie back down with a big mischievous smile on his face.
Blassie was going to hurl. "Did you see that?" he screamed, "what the (expletives abound) is wrong with you? That's the sickest thing I've ever seen ... and I've seen some sick things in my life! Albano, I'm never driving with you again!"
All of a sudden, Lou slams on the brakes, as the car slides sideways. He tries to open his door, but can't find the handle. He finally jumps out of the car, hangs onto the window as if he'll collapse without its support, and spits up about 10 of those revolting looking loogies.
Blassie was horrified. I, of course, being just a kid, thought this was the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life. Man, did I have a story to tell when I got home. Of course, I was going to leave the drinking and driving part out when I told my parents, but why quibble over small details?
Lou reaches into the car, grabs his Tropicana bottle (hey, you think they'll sponsor the Hustle after this story?), takes two swigs, gargles, and spits it out on the side of the road.
He gets back into the car, peels out, starts driving 90, with Blassie just screaming at him about how their estates will be sued by my grieving Father. Lou is just laughing his ass off, and finally turns to Blassie and says, "Brother, it's that grapefruit juice. I hate the taste of it!"
Blassie was apoplectic. What could he possibly say in response? So Classy Freddy did what any self-respecting legend would do. He passed the buck, "Hey kid," he barked at me, "say something to Albano!"
The Captain, driving 90 miles an hour while crossing over from New Jersey into Pennsylvania, was now staring at me in the rear view mirror, and said, "Paulie, that's your cue!"
"Hey Lou," I asked, shrugging my shoulders, "if you hate grapefruit juice so much, why do you put it in with your vodka?"
Lou looked over at Blassie ... he was always looking everywhere, it seemed, but the road ahead of us... and said "where did you find this kid? What's wrong with him? Is he retarded or something?"
Lou took another big swig of vodka (with the hint of grapefruit juice), and said "learn in life from this Paulie.
The Captain puts grapefruit juice in his grapefruit juice bottle because The Captain hates the taste of grapefruit juice. Hates it. Makes me gag. Ruins my drink. Makes me regret ever putting this bottle up to The Captain's lips. I hate myself just for putting in my body!"
Lou took one more swig, knowing I was hanging on his every word.
"Don't you get it?" Lou explained, "It's helping me quit drinking!"
Every trip with Lou was a similar adventure. He was loud, obnoxious, insane, and yet in many ways one of the most endearing human beings you'll ever meet. Lou related to people, and at heart was a giving, caring, compassionate man who just wanted to entertain people. He always picked up the tab,and never complained about anything except "Vince Junior." In the "wild and wooly" days of the 70's and 80's, he was a loyal, affectionate husband and a damn good man.
And as you can see, he was never boring, especially when traveling from one town to the next.
RIP Captain Lou. Have a wonderful trip.
With great appreciation and affection,
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