Ooh Wah Ooh Wah

Location Bensonhurst
Rent $800 (market)
Square feet 500 (one-bedroom apartment in house)
Occupants Danny Pesce (doorman, Park Laurel); Amy Pesce (nurse, Guild for Exceptional Children)

How long has it been like this?[Danny] It started off small. [Amy] Then it got bigger.

Almost 40 saint statues are in front of the sofa.[Danny] We sit in the kitchen. [Amy] All the food is in the kitchen. [Danny] I get them at Universal Mercedes Botanica. A few of these are not made no more. When I'm going to be an old man, they will be almost extinct. It's not something this generation is into. I'm 27. I keep to the old school. I don't know why. I'm one of the last young guys going to mass every morning—Regina Pacis Church.

When thieves stole gold from the church, you said, the late Carlo Gambino said, "No police." It was back in eight hours. I went to Tomasso's Restaurant in Bensonhurst once and there was a picture of Paul Castellano in front. There was a lot of chintz, big wine glasses—the owner was very close to his late mother. He sang "God Bless America." His piano player had this long gray hair. What's going on in Bensonhurst now?Block parties are pure guido. It's the land time forgot. Ten, 20 years, it's all going to come to an end. Houses are selling for half a million. Chinese, Russians are paying in cash.

In bills?Yes.

In black garbage bags?[No comment.] The old Italians, they're moving to Florida or back to Italy. Lot of their kids are moving to Staten Island, the new Little Italy.

You're holding your stomach. Are you going to have the baby now?[Amy] No, it's OK.

I was walking along l8th Avenue—it was emptier than I thought it would be but there was Kersner Furs—"Remember Her With a Gift of Fur" and some stole in the window with small animal tails on it. And then, Doris, the store full of mannequins leaning to the side, in satin evening gowns. Their arms are reaching out but they have no hands. You've been a doorman five years. Your father was a doorman for 30. Your two brothers are doormen—all in the Lincoln Center area! Are lots of Italian doormen from Bensonhurst?[Danny] No. They're all Hispanic now, Dominican. Couple of Irish guys left. It's a dying art. You gotta have some etiquette. I just go with the moment—"Hey look, there's Jackie O, ready for the evening." My father, he put me to shame. He was so natural. I look at the building across the street where he worked. [His father died last year.] I sing to my tenants. They say, will you sing "Happy Birthday" to me? We're the hottest building on the Upper West Side, very exclusive. If the paparazzi knew.

Don't you want to live in the fancy building? [Amy] At night, he's dying to come back to Brooklyn. [Danny] I get here and I feel like a new man.

Do you wear your hat even when you're a doorman? I got 30, all old-style—applejack, fedora. I grew up in the '80s. I really believed it was the '50s. This generation cannot capture the class. My dad kept it that way. He'd have guys come over every night. All we'd do is sing doo-wop, play baseball, and hang out at the OTB. That's all I knew. A gangster'd tell me, Pick a number, kid. I have like a 14,000-song collection. Frankie Lymon, my favorite.

Why do foo-oools fall in love . . . why do they fall in loh-ove?My father won the Apollo seven times. Our whole family sings. I was doing doo-wop in a restaurant on Staten Island. This older Italian lady walks in. She said, Come with me. I thought I was going to get whacked, this lady in this Cadillac, some Bruno waiting for me. Lo and behold, she brought me to this shrine. It's on Victory Boulevard. That's all I'll say. The candles never go out.


schlesinger@villagevoice.com

 
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