BENSONHURST, BROOKLYN – Whenever the Bee Gees song Stayin’ Alive is being played one’s memory goes straight to Tony Manero’s’ strut down 86th street In Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst section. The song also clouds peoples’ minds, what with Manero chomping two slices he piled on top of each other – for convenience purposes. Manero, who was portrayed by John Travolta, had his other hand occupied by a can of paint that he was delivering to the hardware store where he worked.
Lenny’s Pizza, home of the two most famous slices in movie history were eaten, closed down a few weeks after 70 years in the business. The owner, Frank Giordano decided to retire. In that infamous opening scene Travolta’s character was served the two slices by Ann Travolta, who happened to be John’s sister. The paint can that was swerving like a slow paced speed bag was handed over to an elderly female customer in the hardware store. That female was John’s mother, Helen Travolta.
By now you’re probably scratching your head, thinking what does this have anything to do with sports?
The answer is…
I raced over to Lenny’s Pizza on that final Sunday of service, hoping to be the last customer to eat a slice. I may have been competing with others to take that final bite from the pizzeria that Travolta put on the map, so I gave it a try. As long as there’s competition involved, then it’s a sport.
I made my way from Queens that Sunday night and when I arrived a flurry of customers were hanging out outside of the store. I parked my car under the elevated tracks and my adrenalin was as high as the train on that “el.” I then strutted towards Lenny’s, but unlike the Manero characters footwear, I was wearing Nikes.
It was 9:30 pm. I had thirty minutes to spare. I rushed past about fifty stragglers, who were hanging out listening to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. I made it to the front of the shop where two Guardian Angels were stationed. My hand pushed the door and then pulled the door which was locked. One of the red beret wearing Angels informed me that they ran out of dough. No more pizza!
To say I was disappointed is an understatement. The Agony of Defeat was settling in. I couldn’t even get a garlic knot from the iconic Lenny’s Pizza. Not even a piece of pepperoni, as everything was gone! I peeked in the window and saw pictures of Travolta on the wall… displayed as if he were some sort of religious icon. His two-slice purchase probably added another thirty years of shelf life to this establishment.
Suddenly, my competitive wires were burning. I saw a bunch of menus on the back of the counter and I knocked on the window to get someone’s attention. A youngster who was behind the counter looked my way as I pointed to the object of my desire – the paper menus. He handed me two through the locked door, and then my greed took over. I asked him if he had any pizza boxes. He hustled to the back of the store and came back with a box signed by the owner, Mr. Giordano.
Even though I didn’t get the last slice, the menu and pizza box were a nice consolation prize. The winner of the last slice eaten at Lenny’s Pizza was William DeMeo, a Brooklynite who acts for a living. DeMeo played Sammy “The Bull” Gravano opposite John Gotti, who was portrayed by John Travolta in the movie Gotti.
Instead of crying spilled tomato sauce over the Hollywood connection, all I could do was congratulate DeMeo. After all, who am I to challenge the guy who played The Bull, and also stars in the gangster series Gravesend. There’s plenty of pizzas for me to enjoy while I’m… Stayin’ Alive.