The first time I came face-to-face with Benny Mardones was in the lobby of the big daily.
Roll the calendar back to 1991, the year I’d made the switch from the sports department to covering music and entertainment.
I’d talked to the rocker on the phone for a big piece to preview his show at the Landmark
Theatre. The story was a gimme. Ninety inches of newspaper copy had rolled from my fingers after phone interviews with Mardones from out in LA, record honchos around the country, friends and fans in Syracuse.
Apparently Mardones saw it.
When I picked up the phone at my desk, the guard in the lobby informed me that Mr. Mardones wanted to speak with me.
Down the stairs I crept, wondering what he thought of the frank tales of quick stardom, abject misery, painful recovery and slippery redemption that had made their way to the front doorsteps of Central New York.
Apparently, Mardones approved. He beamed, standing in that lobby wearing a fur coat.
He pointed toward the curb, and declared that a car awaited.
“Bialczak, we’re going shopping!” the rocker declared.
Didn’t happen. Thanks, but … not in this newspaperman’s world.
“You’re going to the show, right?” he countered.
Indeed. The first of many.
Dozens of times thereafter, our lives intersected.
I watched his concerts and wrote about them in the big daily and then on its website. I talked to him to report news about his career and life. Before I knew it, I had a seat on the Benny Mardones Rollercoaster.
Mardones and his Syracuse band, The Hurricanes, played huge shows at the Landmark. After executive director Frank Malfitano was not retained by the board of the restored downtown Syracuse movie palace, Mardones took his annual Christmas show up the road to the Showroom at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona. He’s that loyal.
They played big shows at outdoor places, like Hooligan’s in Liverpool. In fact, that’s where Benny Mardones and the Hurricanes are hosting the benefit show this Saturday, Aug. 3, where the bar and grounds are now called Sharkey’s Eclectic Sports Lounge.