Ray Rossi – My Life In Short [VIDEO]
The other night, I told a story about a terminal lung cancer patient from Rutherford named Al Note.
Without knowing it was to be his last day on earth, he decided, with the help of nieces and nephews, to throw himself a party in lieu of a wake to say goodbye to friends and loved ones.
It was a great way to celebrate a life well lived.
And it got me to thinking. How would I sum up all that my life has been thus far?
Not that I’m thinking of leaving this mortal coil just yet, even though I never know what God has in store.
So I decided to try and sum up, in brief, how I got to where I am today.
So here goes!
I was born and raised in Brooklyn in December of 1951, over the bakery my family owned on Avenue U in Brooklyn.
My paternal grandparents came from a little town outside of Naples, Italy called Nola. They settled in this country in 1928; and my dad was born here in 1931 not able to speak a word of English. That is until a kindergarten teacher pinned a note on his shirt saying only, “…speak only English to this child.” (Imagine how that would go over today. They’d give him a special class, but that’s besides the point!)
My grandmother still didn’t get it, but learn to speak English he did…without the help of the school.
His family eventually moved out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn to Gravesend where they set up the family business in 1936, and prospered for a number of years.
My mom’s dad came here from Meta Di Sorrento, Italy; and served this country in the First World War. My mom’s mom was born here in the shadow of what they called the “New Bridge”…which is today’s Manhattan Bridge, albeit not so new!
Her parents were from Palermo, Sicily…and both she and my grandfather settled in the Italian enclave of Coney Island…which is where my grandfather owned a lumber yard, and built most of houses on the block where they lived.
I’m the oldest of 4 children, and have always had an interest in my heritage. Hence, my ability to speak the Neapolitan dialect of Italian, which allowed me to converse with my grandmother.
Through that, I heard here stories of what it was like growing up in her time; the many sayings that she’d use that were so simple; yet so profound; and about cousins, great grandparents, great aunts and uncles who I’d never see, but knew so well through the stories she’d tell.
One only needed to watch the movie Avalon, which came out in the 1990’s to truly grasp how fascinated I was with the backstory of my life.
I still get choked up watching that, especially at the end of the movie, because you see how far removed each generation becomes from its roots.
But I digress.
I attended Our Lady of Grace grammar school, eventually went on to Nazareth Regional High School, which, by the way, will be closing at the end of the school year; and eventually went on to receive my BA in TV and Radio from Brooklyn College in 1973, with a minor in Spanish.
While I always had a fascination with the family business, my father, who took real pride in his baking ability, dissuaded me from becoming a part of it. And although I did work in the bakery for a good part of my childhood, adolescence, and part time through college; I saw the sacrifices that my dad, grandmother, and uncles had to make, especially given that the hours were long and the work was extremely difficult.
So the decision to not pursue that career path was an easy one for me to make.
But there were two things that, growing up, always interested me:
mass transit, and radio.
I was always fascinated by busses and trains. Many a day, I would go for rides on the various subway lines through Brooklyn and Manhattan, always looking out the front window to try and get the view that the motorman had. And it wasn’t unusual for me to ask my mom for 15 cents to ride the B3 to the very end of the line and back. (Try and let your kid do that today, and you’ll get reported to DYFS!)
But my real passion was radio. Growing up in the 60’s, I became mesmerized by the music (Motown and R ‘n B in particular) and the personalities of the time…especially how they were able to interweave their personalities throughout their shows.
So after graduating college, and after a year of working for the Social Security Administration; I enrolled in an announcing course, where I got the basics of not only learning the craft of broadcasting, but more importantly, marketing oneself to get a job.
Which I did, in Ft. Valley, Georgia in the summer of 1977.
Truly like a scene out of “My Cousin Vinnie.”
That’s where I learned that a Southerner never puts sugar in his grits. And the Catholic Church was the smallest one in town; and not even IN town, but on the outskirts of town.
And forget about it if you were Jewish.
But it all worked out for the best; because I’ll always say, that and getting married to the the woman I love were the smartest things I’d ever done.
After spending a year down south, I came back up and married my girlfriend, Lynn, at the Embassy Terrace in Brooklyn in March of ’79. (This weekend marks 33 years)…after which we moved around a bit.
First, Georgia, then up to Harrisburg, Pa. where my daughter was born in 1980; then to Tampa, Fla.; and finally back to NYC, where I was one of the first personalities hired to work at the brand new top 40 station in the New York area, Z-100, under the name of Danny Hernandez. (Don’t ask about the name change!)
From there it was on to WPLJ, Power 95 as Bobby Valentine, (again, another long story about the name change); Hot 97, WYNY, WCBS-FM, Shadow Traffic, New Country Y107, and eventually to New Jersey 101.5.
And what a ride that’s been!
But I’m saving that part for the book!
But this is the part that’s most satisfying!