ere is what writers do best, tell the truth about themselves, make the obfuscated become more clear. So here is the deal with my name. I have no legal document of birth from that Christmas Day in Brooklyn, NY back in 1963. My mother had told me it existed, that she had seen it, but, that it had been destroyed in an effort to protect me. I have never seen it and was told to never talk about it. It is alleged to have the name of my natural birth father, Antonio Maranzano. His name was instituted as mine to mark me as his Jr., even though my mother and he were not married and at some point he was shot in the back of the head by unknown assailants in his favorite restaurant. My mother did marry a man in Atlantic City soon before I was born in a move to protect me and give me a different last name. It was not a successful ruse, as the man, Harry Norden, was an abusive drunk who tormented her and threatened our lives. Friends and family of my birth father intervened on my mother's behalf, or so I have heard. My mother was told to leave Brooklyn and all would be taken care of, but she should not ever come back. To the best of my knowledge this was done by the favor of an old Don who had been supportive of my father and friends with my grandfather, my father's father, who brought my birth father from Sicily when he was a boy and who was also murdered in New York City in 1931.
So you see, my naming was a bit erratic from birth. I was my mother's firstborn child. She had been living in New York City for some time before I was born. She had moved there from Dallas, TX in the mid-50's. She had spent a little time at the Art Institute of Chicago before that. She was born in Roswell, NM in 1935. She was also the first child of her teenage mother, who ran with the honky-tonk crowd back then. My grandmother left my mother's father and took up with a silver-tongued devil that would later record with Lefty Frizzell. This man was abusive toward my mother after my grandmother bore him his first child and my mother's first sibling. My mother was left behind in Roswell with her grandmother, my great-grandmother. As a young girl my mother took to behaving loudly and grew to a height of 6' 1". She witnessed lights fall from the sky and crash on the horizon on a magical night in Roswell. It became the first official UFO hysteria incident. Her grandmother had passed away on a Christmas morning and my mother was taken to Texas to be looked after by her aunt. She finished high school there and worked at several jobs to make money to go to art school in Chicago. She worked for the Hunt Bros. as a secretary and secretly worked evenings at The Silver Spur. Her employer, Jack Ruby, had a sympathetic ear, and he encouraged my mother to go to Chicago, which was his hometown. She went, but did not last a full year, returned to Dallas and began to work at the Vegas, one of Ruby's newest clubs. The Vegas had striptease and dance shows as well as bands traveling through. My mother then was inspired to go to New York City. Possibly to dance as a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall and to pursue her artistic interests.
My mother had told me it existed, that she had seen it, but, that it had been destroyed in an effort to protect me.
My mother arrives in New York City and tries a few different things that don't pan out. She stays at a women's boarding house on 57th and Lex at first. She does dancing, acting off Broadway, hanging out in the Village art scene, painting backdrops for Broadway musicals, assisting Wardrobe, joining a witch's coven, acting like a beatnik, hanging out at jazz clubs all night long. She finally lands a gig with a music producer named Mo Preskell who worked for Kapp Records. She works her way up from his secretary to an A&R job that has her out every night, sometimes flying to Havana to support acts like Roger Williams, Brian Hyland, Ruby and The Romantics, Chubby Checker and The Mary Kaye Trio, vacationing in Puerto Rico and hanging out at the Blue Note with various gentlemen, one of whom would become my biological father. She moved to Brooklyn, to a brownstone behind the Dutch Reformed Church on Flatbush Ave.
She was soon well known around the neighborhood, and at her and my father's favorite restaurant in Sheepshead Bay, as "Tex". They were an item for a while. She became pregnant one day and a short time afterward something happened between her and my father. As my mother tells it, it had to do with her not being Sicilian or Catholic. Around this time he was killed, after which she took up with the Norden character. She was alone, pregnant and scared inside, but kept up a good front outside. She married Norden on a whim to help protect me by hopefully giving me a new birth name. He became very drunken and abusive after the overnight wedding in Atlantic City. On November 22, the president was assassinated in Dallas, TX. People began to shun her and she became very depressed. On November 24, her former employer and supporter, Jack Ruby, gunned down the alleged assassin and it was broadcast on television. On Christmas Eve, 1963, a blizzard had hit the Brooklyn area and everything was snowed in. My mother was forced to walk many blocks to the Scottish Rite Hospital, where she collapsed in labor and sick with pneumonia. She gave birth to me the following morning. Someone from my father's side of the family had been alerted and filled in the portions of the birth certificate with my father's name and my name as a "Jr."
What's In A Name? continues...