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SARATOGA SPRINGS – If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it:
“Art, how you doin’? How about those Mets? I don’t know, that Davey Johnson – he seems to run hot and cold with me… hold on.”
“Hey Sam! So we are talking stocks. I tell you, no one picks ‘em like my uncle – man is he a wiz! Be right back…”
“Vito! Welcome back buddy! I think last time we were into this discussion about the Civil War, right?”
And on and on.
The scene would take place at Joe Collins restaurant (now Bravo) when it was one of THE places to go. Night after night, he would hold court at that big square bar, with sometimes up to two-dozen people. Later, it would happen at the defunct Broadway Joe’s with a similar amount of patrons.
One bartender would hold court, uncannily remembering everyone’s drink, whether it was two hours, two days or two years since you last walked in.
Even more amazingly, the man behind the bar would have the ability to hold two-dozen separate conversations, on maybe 24 different topics – enough of a renaissance man to speak knowledgably on each. But wait there’s more:
“Yeah, Art. Now with Gooden and Darling, Frankie V and Jesse, you would think he’d have to try to mess it up… I don’t know…”
Yes he did. And he still does.
But the amazing thing about Joe Raucci is that he can hold two-dozen or so conversations, PAUSE them to serve 4-5 customers, and come back to you – picking up at the exact spot you and he left off… visit awhile, then off to the next guy…
“Yeah, Sam, my Uncle can sure pick those stocks just when they’re about to make their move, understand? He just had this uncanny ability. I tried to get him to go to the track, but he was having none of it…”
But wait, there’s still more.
Meet Joe Raucci, Saratoga Springs through and through. The Collector. Of memorabilia – different artifacts of this and that. Sports in general. But it is horse racing, particularly Saratoga horse racing, and Saratoga Springs in macro, that Joe focuses his concentration toward.
And we have already established that the man can concentrate.
During a too-brief visit recently, he had stuff strewn out on his kitchen table that made it resemble the set of Hoarders. But the thing was – it was all cool, and very valuable. So extensive is his collection that we had to segment it into digestible, yet delicious parts. There are things we are saving for future segments that I promise will blow your mind. Think hardware that horse owners raise in triumph. That sort of thing. But we’ll get to that. Today, we explore his complete collection of Lake House gambling chips and postcards. “Aaaah, the Lake Houses. The romance of gangsterism,” Joe said with his omnipresent good-natured smile. “For a lot of people, the real action began after racing was done for the day… certainly, in that era, the two went hand-in-hand. Lansky and his crew. You know, Saratoga is the only place Meyer Lansky ever spent a night in jail…” Enjoy Mark’s photographs of items that are long gone but still cherished. I assure you, this is just an aperitif. Like Joe himself, the best is yet to come. “I’m a historian at heart. I think I acquire these things because when I look at them, the history comes alive,” Joe says.
He knocks on the table for emphasis. “So, what about those Mets?” Joe said. “Man, are they loaded! It’s like 1969 with the rotation they’ve got… But I don’t know…”
Next Week: Programs – programs galore!
Online note: see all of the photos from this feature on our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/SaratogaTODAYnewspaper/
Saratoga is also the Graveyard of Many a Wallet
Could you hear the weeping? It began approximately two minutes after track announcer Larry Collmus led the crowd in the annual “And they’re off at Sarato¬¬ga.” When #1 Clifton Pleasure (6-1) angled out off the rail to run down Battle of Evermore (5-1) and crossed the finish line ahead of favored Jet Black in the July 22nd nine furlong opener, most players here and watching from around the country were officially re-introduced to the most difficult race meet in the world.
So why and how is this race meet we love so difficult? Let me count the ways.
1) For starters, Saratoga is a boutique meet for the fashionable and sophisticated. Thoroughbred aficionados (and that includes serious recreational handicappers) point to this race meeting. The prestige of winning a race (and cashing tickets) at Saratoga will forever draw the best horses that have been bred to the best race mares. I was in the paddock some time back with a group of West Point Thoroughbred partners. When jockey Mike Smith shook hands with one partner, this gentleman leaned in and said in a graveled tone, “Get me the picture, Mike.” To a certain degree, for those directly involved, winning a race, any race, at Saratoga is like the Super Bowl or seventh game series final in other major sports…extremely competitive, and everyone wants that picture.
2) The racing season at Saratoga has always been compressed into a limited calendar. My personal experience began when Saratoga was the “August Place to Be.” It was a frenetic 24-day happening. Most trainers and owners took one shot with their horses during the meeting. Some horses thrived on the dirt or turf surfaces; others failed to handle either the August heat or the heat of competition. A few sharp trainers squeezed a second run from horses. Those horses able to win once often returned to repeat their winning efforts, creating a “horse-for-the-course” mythology grounded on the efforts of runners like Quick Call and Fourstardave. A win or near-winning effort over Saratoga dirt or turf continues to be powerful medicine. The current 40-day stand gives connections more opportunities to race. Each year more horses become potential horses-for-the-course. Leave previous Spa winners, regardless of current form, off your tickets at your own peril. It’s a tough meet.
3) Saratoga is synonymous with juvenile racing. The Saratoga race meet offers breeders and owners of juvenile colts and fillies the opportunity to showcase their stock. From sprint dashes for non-winners to end of meet stakes at longer distances, young horses begin the sorting and selecting process for the Triple Crown and major Filly races of their sophomore year.
4) Saratoga draws from all the major racing circuits around the country. Also, connections with runners from lesser tracks ship in to test the deep waters. Sometimes they snare a purse and a prize. Maiden Special Weight races for unraced and lightly raced juveniles are particularly difficult. Like a spiritualist reading tea leaves, one must consider nature (pedigree) and nurture (trainers). The few specialists in pedigree, physicality and supporting trainer stats might have an advantage over a much less informed public. But knowledge and hard work only reduce the degree of difficulty that is the Saratoga meet.
5) Turf racing around two-turns (and two turf courses!) is another feature of the Saratoga race meet. As important as juvenile racing, the very nature of turf racing makes this premier meet more difficult. Sprinting on dirt or turf is the polar opposite of distance running over turf. Sprinting is all about gaining position in the early going. Distance turf racing is about gaining inside position and saving ground to avoid racing wide. Distance turf racing is about position among the herd down the straight, then into and around a turn. Unlike the sprinter’s beginning dash, distance turf racing culminates in a late sprint to the wire. The nature of turf racing leaves betting favorites more vulnerable than their sprinting counterparts. Add pedigree analysis to the equation, whether the horse will perform well over turf, and the level of difficulty increases further. Turf fields are usually full fields, sometimes with 14 meeting the starter. Contention often runs deep - the process of elimination difficult. Oy!
6) And, of course, Saratoga’s often quirky weather pattern (Hazy, Hot and Humid with a 30 percent chance of a monsoon) wreaks havoc on turf racing. Races switched or rained-off from turf-to-dirt are maddening to handicappers. First, there are the scratches. Next, there is the search for horses meant to run on turf that can handle a track labeled “off”. Finally, certain horses were originally entered in hopes the race would be rained off. Yeesh!
7) Intent increases the difficulty of the Saratoga meet. Everyone wants to win. Everyone shops a spot where they can be competitive enough to win. Many prepare horses months out hoping their horse will peak during Saratoga. Such preps often hide or darken form, nothing unethical or shameful, but another factor that makes this meet an absolute killer.
8) Finally, Saratoga brings together the best of the best in terms of jockey colony and trainers. Top riders from far away circuits struggle to obtain and keep business at Saratoga. Lesser-known or obscure trainers sometimes get the best of a Todd Pletcher, Chad Brown or Steve Asmussen…but not with any regularity. These irregular winners are often head scratchers that bust up more logical plays. Yeesh again!
Yes, the annual race meet at Saratoga is a difficult and tough meet. It’s tough on breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, backstretch employees, and handicappers. But these folks love being in Saratoga, competing at Saratoga, winning and, yes, non-winning at Saratoga…after all, a difficult day at Saratoga is better than an easy day anywhere else.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — This event has everything: among its many attributes are a cocktail hour, gourmet dinner, silent and live auctions and dancing to the music of Body and Soul with a special tribute to Prince. But that’s not why you should go to Equine Advocates Gala on Friday, July 29 at the historic Canfield Casino in Saratoga Springs.
The organization will also be celebrating its 20th birthday, as well as the 15th anniversary of this event in Saratoga. This year’s honorees are: - Hall of Fame Trainer Jonathan Sheppard. A sports legend, he has trained 13 Eclipse Award winners, winning six Breeders’ Cup races (four steeplechase and two over the flat), as well as being the leading US steeplechase trainer of all time in victories and earnings. Equine Advocates will honor him with the Ellen and Herbert Moelis Safe Home Equine Protection Award for his humane treatment of racehorses. - Lisa Caporizzo. She worked on placing countless companion animals, and is also the co-founder of the Free to Be Me Rescue for dogs and cats. Her husband, Steve Caporizzo, is the Chief Meteorologist at News10 ABC where he hosts The Pet Connection. For the past 25 years, he also has been dedicated to placing companion animals and has helped thousands find homes through his TV work and his advocacy. Assemblyman Jim Tedisco will be on hand to present Steve and Lisa with their award.
The event is known for its unique and alluring items… a few of the many choice ones include: - An authentic halter worn by Storm Cat, with Letter of Authenticity, plus a book about the horse signed by Jonathan Sheppard. - A Kentucky Derby experience for four: Two rooms for three nights in Louisville and seats for the 2017 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. - Meet and greet with Kelly Ripa at “Live! With Kelly” for four
But that’s still not why you should go.
“Lisa and I do a lot of fostering of pets.” Steve Caporizzo said, in an interview with Equine Advocates Founder and President Susan Wagner. “My wife is so into helping the underdogs. We personally take some hospice pets and the ones that nobody wants the three-legged dog, the one-eyed cat or the one who has a bad heart. The group that my wife co-founded is the ‘Free To Be Me’ Rescue. It’s a wonderful group that does so much, and she her close friend work together as a team. What they do is inspiring.”
Hint: You’re starting to learn why you should go. But there’s more: “Some of the happiest days of my life was when I owned horses,” Steve Caporizzo continued. “There is a special bond. Bottom line, horses are companion animals. This country would not be the country it is without horses. They made this country great. They brought us West - they plowed our fields. They entertain us with racing. “No matter what you think about horse racing there has to be a better outcome for these athletes. Why in the state of New York, with many millions and millions of dollars in revenues, in jobs, are brought into the state because of horse racing - why do we treat them the way we do? “I always say, why can’t they take 1 percent of their money at the end of the racing season and donate it to horse rescues? I bet you if you survey the people who go to the track they’d be happy to donate and let part of their winnings go to help horse rescue groups in New York State. How can a state as great as New York justify the transport of horses to slaughter?” Steve Caporizzo concluded.
And that, my friends is why you should go.
It’s not a small ticket, but it’s a big mission. A unique mission, a worthwhile mission.
It’s as simple as respecting those animals that have given us such pleasure throughout their lives at the end of their days.
We advocate for doing the right thing. Go.
15th Annual Gala
Friday, July 29 - 6 p.m.
For info: 518-392-0175
Note: The Finest Fillies and Some Colts field has been drawn, and an all-star prodigious slate of entries awaits your bets – all to benefit Jake’s Help from Heaven (JHFH – visit: www.JakesHelpFromHeaven.org). This is a field so incredible that it will take two issues to sort through this lineup. To help with this supreme test of handicapping acumen, we enlisted the aid of JHFH’s Heather and Brian Straughter. Heather provided great color commentary about some participants whom I was not familiar with; Brian’s primary role was to smile and giggle at our remarks – a role he filled quite excellently!
SARATOGA SPRINGS – AG: Welcome to the festivities. We have quite a task before us. We need to handicap this field so people can make their bets on their favorites intelligently – and of course, help Mr. Tom Durkin, a new MC for these proceedings, understand just what he has gotten into.
AG: Well, no worries. We will sort it out for him, and have some fun along the way. Let’s start off by saying that any of the nine entrants – each team with a “racer” and a trainer – can win this. And in fact, they are ALL winners for putting themselves out there for Jake’s…
AG: So Heather, before we handicap the field – and today we are going to do post positions 1-4; and 5-9 next week – tell us a little about the game itself.
HS: The game that people will see on event night (Wednesday, July 20, from 7-9 p.m. at Vapor Nightclub) is quite similar to Wheel of Fortune. In addition to Tom being MC, I will play the role of Vanna…
AG: I see – excellent casting all around. And will who provide “Vanna’s” wardrobe?
AG: That would be Natalie Sillery of Saratoga Trunk – who is a former MC of the Finest Fillies, and lo and behold – “racer” number 8! Hmmm – well, that adds another layer of interesting dimension – and we’ll get to her team next week. But meanwhile…
HS: If I spin your number, your team advances one position. The first to the end wins – but wait, there’s more!
AG: I bet we’ll be saying that a lot today…
HS: In addition, all the teams are competing for most money “bet” or pledged to them. And this is where it gets interesting… So you know, these people aren’t in the habit of losing. AG: Indeed… HS: So, many of the teams are having early-bird fundraising events to up their totals (see below), and this where some really creative, fun stuff is happening!
AG: OK, that’s a good short course. As we said, all these teams are winners for participating. Having said that, let’s analyze their strategy, chances and maybe rip them a little as the situation warrants … let’s start with post-position 1.
HS: Beth Alexander. Third consecutive Finest Filly. Won the game last year. Looking for her first $$ raised title. Making a Major statement here.
AG: Indeed. I know this team. And Beth is not fooling around, with her drink special at Hattie’s – nor, in her trainer! One Lars Huus-Skladzinksi … Oy! Talk about a first round draft pick out of stud-muffin central casting! Server at Hattie’s / Associate at Julie & Co Realty… Gee, Heather – as we sit here today, who is leading in the fund-raising to date?
HS: Them… and they have no intention of being headed.
AG: Yes, we’ll see… but if form holds, and, as Mr. Durkin would say, the rail is good – this could be over!
AG: Exactly. So let’s consider PP #2: Two first-time starters with outstanding pedigree… Angela Amedio and Katie Nemer. I know Angela – but tell me about Katie – all I know is that she probably drives a really nice car…
HS: Katie is also at Julie & Co, as is Angela…they’ve got two fundraisers on the schedule and I don’t think they feel like rookies…
AG: So the Julie stable entry is pretty impressive, much like herself… and let me say this about Angela, who owns Saratoga Cycling Studio as well. She is a fierce warrior…
HS: Yes, as game as game can be!
AG: …and if this were a real race, she would dust everyone! Probably circle the game board 58 times before some of these go one lap! The only question I see is experience – but these two could be anything – so therefore, it couldn’t be classified as an upset if they pull off either win. On the other hand…
AG: Well, what do we have here at #3? An all-colt entry, again first-timers… Michael Billok, trained by Todd Shimkus. Tell me about Michael’s pedigree…
HS: Attorney. Partner at Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC.
AG: I see… well, hopefully I won’t get sued, but I have a little question about strategy here… I like that they’re doing an event, but Colt 45? For 45 minutes? Seriously?
AG: And, of course Todd – well, I’m a Todd guy most of the time. He’s always there when you ask, and always comes up with creative stuff, so maybe there’s some alchemy that I’m not getting… but OK I’ve had enough. They pay me to have an opinion here, and in this case, I feel that the fillies – all of them – experienced and otherwise – are going to carve these guys into finger sandwiches… and, then guess what they’re gonna do…
HS: Oh, no!
AG: Yes, in every race, someone’s gotta be last – and I say this is it. Sorry… in fact, I’ll go further… It may be controversial, but it comes down to this: Todd roots for every WRONG sports team on the planet! All this New England/ Red Sox stuff – outta here! No, I’ve been waiting, and the Evil Empire is throwing his hex on these blokes… Not only last - I see a possible DNF: I have a vision of a bad future here… I predict Michael, probably a nice guy, halfway through the proceedings, throwing his hands up and exclaiming: “I’ve been had!”
HS: Oh, boy…
AG: We will drink their beer though – I hear it’s great for washing down finger sandwiches. Next!
HS: Post 4. Colleen Carlson. Trained by Mary Gavin.
AG: OK, Colleen. Saratoga TODAY Woman of Influence. Former “Vanna” in earlier Finest Fillies, when she was “Plinko Queen.” JHFH Board Member. And, home field advantage at Vapor. Wow! Stand back! How about Mary?
HS: Vice President at Gavin and Lavigne, Inc., Healthcare Capital Financing Specialists. Married to Jim LaVinge, who was my former trainer when I was a filly.
AG: So really, if I understand – Colleen has set herself up with a training TEAM…
HS: Essentially. And both of them support this event strongly They reach out to everyone they know – and I think they know everyone! So this is the epitome of a contender!
AG: Agreed… well, the producer’s waving to us. Time to wrap up for today… but we still have the second half, and a lot of strong entries to cover next week… So, any final thoughts?
HS: Yes – thank you for playing. Bet early and often! See you at all these great events… Bye!
Bet Early – Bet Often!
Upcoming Pre-event Fundraisers
As of Press Time:
- Ongoing: “Jakes Crazy Cardinal Cocktail” at Hattie’s…
$10 cocktail with all proceeds going to JHFH to support Beth and Lars (PP 1)… Also an internal competition among Hattie’s staff for whom can sell most drinks.
- Monday, July 11, 3:30-7 p.m.: Natalie Sillery’s (PP 8) “Porch Party” at Circular Manor
- Monday, July 11, 5-5:45 p.m.: Mike and Todd’s (PP 3) “Colt 45 - It works every time!” Event at Gaffney’s.
- Friday, July 15, -6 p.m.: Car Wash Party at Nemer Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram of Saratoga held by Katie Nemer and Angela Amedio (PP 2)… Katie and Angela will wash cars for $5 and Nemer will match every donation.
- Saturday, July 16 – 10:30 a.m.: “Rooftop Karma Spin & Yoga” on top of Washington Building, 422 Broadway. Angela Amedio (PP 2). A complimentary class, donations accepted to benefit JHFH.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — In the ol’ music talent evaluation game, certain rules of thumb apply. Of course, you learn to trust your own instincts, but beyond that – I don’t care how good you tell me you are, even though you are nice, clean cut and polite.
And I certainly don’t care what your parents say! Even though I know most of them in this case, and they are solid citizens all.
No, I care about what these guys say: “The first thing that impresses me about the members of Delphino is that they are very smart,” said Jeffrey Halstead, musician and music teacher extraordinaire at Saratoga High School. Jeff has had most of the six members of Delphino – all now going into their senior blue streak year - as students in his various classes. “They all have a keen awareness of music history – both rock and pop,” Halstead continued, “I expect that they will continue to work hard and be creative.” Jeff said he expects to attend Delphino’s Album release party at Lake Local (details below) next Thursday.
That alone is good enough for me, and should be for you too. Jeff is about as close to the Underwriter’s Laboratory seal of approval as it gets on the local music scene. But wait, there’s more:
“Awww, Delphino. Now this is a pretty cool thing to see,” said Rick Bolton, local music legend and esteemed host of Gaffney’s open mic on Tuesdays for more years then he cares to admit. “They first came to the open mic, two or three years ago, with a smaller configuration,” Bolton continued. “They waltzed in like they had been there before. I remember getting them up right away because they were so young. They came back again last spring, and you could see a lot of progress.” “But even that first time - the stuff that they were putting out was structured and creative. Moreover, they approached and presented their original music very seriously. Another thing I like is how they get support from their families to reach for more – the best thing in the world is to have the opportunity for talent to flower at a young age,” Rick concluded.
That’s hitting the daily double, but let’s go for the trifecta. For my part, the members of Delphino (we’re on a first name basis, meaning: Max, Emma, Adam, Sam, Jeff and Aaron) all bring a unique level of talent to the table – but the synergy is much greater than the individual parts. You can see they enjoy each other, and it’s reflected in the music.
I asked each of them one of my “pick your favorite parent” questions, in this case – tell me your ONE top musical influence – only one. Here was the scoreboard:
- 2 for Velvet Underground – Adam and Aaron
- 2 for Cage the Elephant – Sam and Jeff
- 2 for The Strokes – Emma and Max
And the mix works. Photographer Mark said he heard They Might Be Giants, which got knowing nods from most. Me: I said I hear The Kinks in some numbers – which got some smiles, though I think Emma was just being nice to me. In any event, Jeff Halstead is right for giving them an A in music history. This may be one to follow – and not just for the music. They took great pains to acknowledge the recording engineering efforts of Brian Miller of the Capital Area Music Project (and also the head of Cutting Edge Martial Arts), thanked him for his donation of time and effort on Delphino’s album. That says a lot about the quality of the young adults we are dealing with here.
It may be overkill, but we end with my intern - and recent Blue Streak graduate Allie Capasso, who said. “Oh, Delphino! Yeah, I know those guys… you’re doing a story on them – cool!” That, my friends, is a cold pick six.
Album Release Party
Thursday, July 7 at 4 p.m.
550 Union Avenue at Saratoga Lake
ROCK CITY FALLS– Seth Sikes of whom NY Arts Review said, “may well be one of the saviors of the Great American Songbook” will make his 801 Supper Club at The Mansion at Inn debut on Thursday, June 23, for one performance only in his critically acclaimed show Seth Sikes Sings Liza Minnelli & Friends, an evening of Minnelli’s most popular songs.
Hailed as “the best male singer of his generation on the cabaret scene” by Theatre Scene, Sikes will perform many of the show-stopping standards for which Liza is known along with some lesser known gems. Tickets for Seth Sikes are $60 and are available now by calling 518-885-1607 or visiting themansionsaratoga.com/supper-club/
Seth Sikes is one of New York’s best known nightclub performers and each of his appearances at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York have sold out. His previous show, which paid tribute to Judy Garland, was named Best Tribute Show by BroadwayWorld and Rex Reed said, “Sikes belted out small gems and big treasures alike to a sold-out house screaming for more. He’s already developing a fan base and there’s no telling how far Seth Sikes will go.”
Seth Sikes Sings Liza Minnelli & Friends debuted in March and garnered critical acclaim across the board. Theater Pizzazz said, “Sikes is not a Liza imitator and didn’t channel her persona, he just very ably performed the music that has made us love Liza all these years.”
Liz Smith said, “The place was packed and the crowd went wild. Just like, well — a Liza Minnelli concert!”
Nitelife Exchange said, “He somehow makes everything work together in the moment to create a magically compelling evening of entertainment.”
The evening was conceived by Sikes and Tony-Award winning Lyricist Lisa Lambert and will feature orchestrations by Matt Aument, Neil Douglas Reilly and Jesse Vargas.
Before becoming one of New York’s most talked-about performers Sikes worked in the theater behind the scenes. He was the Assistant Director of The Nance on Broadway (starring Nathan Lane and directed by Jack O'Brien), and of the Off-Broadway productions of Tribes (directed by David Cromer) and Pageant. His other Assistant Director credits include Sondheim: The Birthday Concert (directed by Lonny Price), and Sweet Bird of Youth (directed by David Cromer and starring Diane Lane).
He directed the original musical Bunked!, which won Outstanding Musical at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2010, as well as The 7th Annual Broadway Beauty Pageant. As a performer, Sikes performed in Fame on 42nd Street Off-Broadway.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — It was a completely different time. The early 1960s - prior to the summer of love, prior to the turmoil the country would experience due to the Vietnam War. It was a time that saw the construction of great public sector projects – sometimes in conjunction with the private sector, but clearly led by our elected officials. In 1960s New York State, the Governor was Nelson Rockefeller. A Republican – surprising, perhaps in that these were nothing like today’s Republicans – or today’s Democrats for that matter. Rockefeller, and the leaders of his day, used great public projects as the cornerstone of their economic programs. Whether you agree with his agenda or not in retrospect, Gov. Rockefeller’s economic model for upstate involved giving nearly town a public sector anchor – usually a branch of SUNY or, in some cases, a prison. But for Saratoga, he had something else in mind – a jewel. An artistic wonder that was to become what we fondly call SPAC. Perhaps his wife –Margaretta – known popularly as “Happy” spurred this on. “Happy” would later serve as Chair of the Board for the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in 1971, and was named Honorary Chair of SPAC’s 50th Anniversary, before her passing on May 19, 2015. But regardless, this wasn’t going to be an easy case of Nelson spending money just to please his wife. Ask someone who was there. “‘Rocky’ wasn’t going to move on this without seeing evidence of a strong civic commitment from the local community,” said William P. “Bill” Dake. The Dake family, as well as others with names like Lewis Swyer, Richard Leach and Marylou Whitney, among others, provided the cornerstone local foundations for the performing arts mecca to come– and one which has stood the test of time – as evidenced in 2015 being named the Best Outdoor Music Venue in the United States by a USA Today Reader’s Poll. Brick and mortar and steel are one thing, but the civic commitment that made SPAC what it is goes way beyond that. “From a programming standpoint.” Bill Dake recalled, “we recognized that we were coming into an age where live entertainment was being severely challenged by new forms of electronic entertainment.” In the 1960s, this would be primarily television, yet this is even truer today –with live performance being challenged by a myriad of digital entertainment delivery options. “Our response was to offer ‘the best of breed’ in every category,” Bill Dake said. “This not only included a spectacular setting, but also world class resident companies – New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra – and also the best of everything in opera, theatre and every other performance genre.” That commitment to excellence later extended further – to Jazz, Rock, and even multi-media performances. Whatever the state-of-the-art was at the time, SPAC embraced it. Because of that philosophical cornerstone, SPAC not only survived – it thrived. “What SPAC offered then, and continues to today,” Bill Dake concluded, “is more than a lovely setting, more than a performance – it’s a superior experience.” Some things don’t change – even after 50 years. When you attend SPAC this summer, take a moment to celebrate that the cornerstones, laid over five decades ago, are as strong as ever. Coming June 24: “All that Jazz,” the “Greatest Musical Day of My Life! And other surprises.
Bailey’s New Ownership Poised to Elevate Landmark to a New Level
SARATOGA SPRINGS – This is a great story. It’s a local business story, and a ‘market moving’ trend story. It’s also a hospitality story, with food/beverage and entertainment thrown into the mix. But what makes this a great story is that it is, ultimately, an American story – the type of story America should be more about.
It is a story about two hard-working, highly credentialed local gents who once started as line staff, worked their way up for years, and are now getting the opportunity to take the reins of a landmark location and make it their own.
Chances are, if you are at all interested any aspects of Saratoga Springs nightlife, you already know these guys. Perhaps you are one of their thousands of FB friends and/or customers. But we are a newspaper of record, so let’s make it official:
Meet Sam Bottini and Matt Beecher: the new co-owners of Bailey’s Café - on the landmark corner of Phila and Putnam streets. And they can’t wait to show you what they have in store to make your good times greater – just in time for summer!
“I’ve been scouting out these two for quite some time,” noted Joe Richardson, former sole owner (and still a partner) with Sam and Matt. Indeed, like a savvy baseball general manager who just added Derek Jeter and Clayton Kershaw to his lineup, he can’t be more excited for the season to start. “These two will bring it all: Passion, dedication, and new energy. With them on board, we’ll be able to pursue things we have wanted to do, and take Bailey’s to a new level,” Joe said.
One of many cases in point: A new Sunday Brunch is already in effect. You can enjoy it this weekend from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Eggs Benedict and more, washed down with a Mimosa, or perhaps Sam’s signature Bloody Mary, or maybe Matt’s specialty Mojito or Margarita. “People have begged us for about five years to do this,” Joe Richardson stated, “and we now have the proper team in place to get it done.”
They certainly have the bona fides to know how to make a specialty drink special. For relatively young men, Sam and Matt have each built impressive hospitality resumes. Sam has done several jobs at Gaffney’s, starting as a service bartender and working up the ladder. He also had a stint at the prestigious Albany Country Club as a bartender, and most recently held several key positions at Putnam Den. Matt is a six-year veteran at Harvey’s and has had corporate hospitality training from international casual dining conglomerates.
In other words, they know what they are doing – and how to make sure you have the best experience possible.
Other signs that Bailey’s, which took the market by storm when it was first founded in 1999 and into the first years of this millennium, is poised for a big-time revival are starting to coalesce. For one thing, the outdoor patio has been glammed-up with some new furniture and general sprucing – the place just looks brand new, and that all leads to…
Destination: Clam Bake
Check it for yourself: A perfect opportunity to meet the new owners and crew is coming on Saturday, June 18 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Bailey’s inaugural clam bake. $12 gets you a dozen clams plus potatoes and corn, but for those that like to indulge it’s 2 for 1 clams for the same price. It promises to be a festive afternoon with giveaways galore. They are still gathering some really good prizes that I’ve been sworn to secrecy about – but these are examples of what they’ve already lined up for the day:
- A Shipyard Brewery tour, plus a gas card from Saratoga Eagle to get you to Shipyard HQ in Portland, Maine
- A Corona CanJam game. Those in the know will want this one
- Four general admission tickets to Blue Oyster Cult at the American Music Festival – September 24 in Lake George
If there’s one thing I know, these gents are mighty motivated. Expect this list to grow substantially before showtime.
Looking ahead a bit, we find a few summer music anchors are in place as well. Bailey’s has always had the physical layout to put on well-attended performances, but it was the performing lineup that packed the place.
One who will tell you, if you ask him, that Bailey’s helped to launch his career into the realm of the mega-mega and mighty, is none other than Garland Nelson, The Soulist/Visionary behind the powerhouse Soul Session, and all it has become. Write him in the music lineup for ten consecutive Thursdays, beginning in late July. So that kinda adds a Willie Mays here: a legend at the top of his game.
Also, an interesting pickup is the “Dark Day Blues” franchise on Track Tuesdays, a treasured staple in many venues to date, and administered by the textbook texture and talent that comes out of George Fletcher’s Folding Money – George’s secret desire has always been to be Ichiro – and now he is.
Overall, everything to report at this point from Bailey’s indicates progress is being put in motion, by a new management team that gives it a real shot to reclaim a valued nightspot on the local scene. Indeed - an opportunity to elevate it to new heights, in short order.
Its no stretch to forecast that there will be a sea change in the hospitality market this summer. And that sea’s current will flow to the intersection of Phila and Putnam Streets.
For more information about everything, visit baileyscafe.com or call 518-583-6060.
The two past weeks has been a run for spring sectional championships for local high school teams. A first time team Sectional Championship for Saratoga boys' Tennis, the Blue Streaks boys' Track and Field won the AA sectional title and a class B sectional runner up performance for Saratoga Catholic boys' baseball team.
First of all, whether you are aware of it or not, Saratoga High School has a very good tradition in boys and girls tennis and until recently, the boys have been unable to overcome the dominance of teams like Bethlehem, Shen and Niskayuna. The Suburban Council, in my opinion, is one of the top conferences in scholastic tennis for upstate NY. Congratulations to a solid performing tennis lineup, a fairly young one at that, and their Head Coach Tim O'Brien (who also teaches social studies), and the rest of coaching staff for a stellar season. I feel that Coach Tim O'Brien will continue with future success for the Blue Streaks boys’ tennis team.
Congratulations to the SSHS Track and Field team for winning the Class AA sectional meet last week. A track and field meet, for those who don't understand how it works, is an event that is the sum total of a series of events. There are anywhere from 16 to 18 events that make up a track meet, so there's a lot going on, to say the least. It's really a great spectator sport that has many interesting individual and team aspects to it. This phenomenon takes place at a single area, a smorgasbord, or collection of a variety of athletic endeavors and challenges. My hat goes off to the athletes and Head Coach Chris Conley (who also teaches math) and his staff, for their accomplishment.
I would also like to pass on my salutary endorsement to the Saratoga Catholic baseball team for a great season, a record of 22-2, they finished as runner up in the Class B sectional championship game. The Saints have a reputation for an excellent high school baseball program. The tradition has an obvious mentor, and leader – Head Coach Phonsey Lambert, who incidentally just passed the 500 career games won milestone. Amazingly, the Saints, year in and year out, are at the top of the baseball leader board of the Capital District and Section 2. Congrats to the Saints and their coaches, one of Coach Lambert's assistants is Dale Long, the namesake of his dad who played MLB.
The Ballston Spa High School softball team won its first ever Class AA Sectional title by upending Suburban Council nemesis Shenendehowa, congrats to Coach Amanda Fifield and the Scotties. Also, about a week ago Greenwich High School baseball team won its first sectional title in 16 years; Burnt Hills swept the boys and girls class A track sectionals; with Mechanicville boys and Greenwich girls track teams winning their respective championships. The Shenendehowa girls' track program won the AA sectional title, by edging out Saratoga, 190.5 to 171 in total points.
Section 2 has always been a leader in sports throughout the history of New York State interscholastic athletics. New York has eleven regions, or sections, for scholastic athletics. Some sections are known for their dominance of certain sports, like Sections 8 and 11, in the New York City area, are known for their basketball. Section 3, Syracuse area, is also known for basketball, but has a strong football, soccer and lacrosse tradition. Section 2, I feel is a little more diverse with sports like, ice hockey, basketball, cross country/track, soccer and football. There are many more noteworthy sections in the state known for excellence in certain sports.
On the other side of things, some teams that did not win sectional titles, but were very successful, like the Saratoga High School girls' track and field program, under the direction of Art and Linda Kranick, as usual, were still in the hunt and had a great season.
As for the Saratoga Catholic track and field program, in its third year of existence, the boys won the first ever track meet against MeKeel Christian of Scotia, and followed with a second win the following week. The girls did very well, but there aren't enough team members to score a victory. The boys and girls both established many personal and school records this season.
A note of interest: Saratoga Catholic has moved out of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) and beginning this coming fall the Saints will be competing in the Wasaren league. The transition will be a challenging endeavor for the school. The Wasaren is an excellent league, but I feel it's a good move for SCC's athletic program.
In case you missed it: The Upstate New York Basketball Hall of Fame inducted the class of 2016 a couple of weekends ago. Local inductees were: Saratoga's Joe Britton, 1988 Section 2 Championship team. In 1992, he was named for D3 All American Honors while at Hartwick College; Superintendent of Mechanicville City School District, Michael McCarthy, Schuylerville High School's early 70s Section 2 Champs and Clarkson College standout; Robin Chudy, Saratoga's girls varsity basketball coach, who starred at Union College, and well known referee Gary Kalinkewicz, ranked as one of the areas top officials. I would like to extend my congratulations to those recipients.
I'm not one who likes to compare eras of local sports, because it gets to be "my dog is better than your dog" and it can become personal, but in the near future I intend to talk about the "good old days" of section 2 sports. An era that I'm referring to relates to a time that drifts from the late 50s through the mid to late 70s, with an emphasis on the 1960s which is a time that I can give an account of since it's part of my history.
Burnt Hills Native Returns to Northshire for Third Novel Release
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Kara Storti has been blessed with the gift of articulation – the ability not only to communicate – but to reach into her own soul, and touch yours. This has been evident since her high school (Burnt Hills/Ballston Lake) days, when, as a young songwriter, she dazzled audiences with her original, introspective lyrics, a sweet, yet powerful voice, and melodies that grabbed you and wouldn’t let go.
It was obvious that, despite not being old enough to buy a drink at some of the places she played music (such as Gaffney’s, during songwriter nights) with her band, or solo behind the keyboard, that she could more than hold her own with seasoned veterans twice her age, maybe more. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that saw her perform that she would be a pro – and a successful one at that.
Fast forward just over a decade, and we find that Kara done just that – become a professional who has taken her craft of writing to a new level, with the publication of her third novel, Tripping Back Blue, that will have its New York release next Thursday at Northshire Bookstore. This ‘homecoming’ to her native area will include reading, Q + A, and book signing.
In addition to being a novelist, Kara has applied her craft to professional outlets. After high school, she migrated to Boston (her current home), where she logged a stint at Harvard University’s office of correspondence for Harvard’s then-President Lawrence Summers, and currently does medical writing for Vortex, a pharma company that develops drugs to combat cystic fibrosis.
“I love medical writing,” Kara noted, “After Lawrence Summers left/got booted at Harvard, I stayed around for a bit during the search for his successor in the Provost’s office, but I needed to get more stimulation from writing.” This came from the medical field, but more importantly from writing fiction as well.
Don’t judge a book by its cover, and in the same vein, don’t let Kara’s sweet persona and her good-natured sense of humor (laced with a nice bit of deadpan sarcasm) fool you – this is gritty writing in the realism mode. In Tripping, set in the urban, mostly inner-city areas of the Capital Region, Kara writes from the perspective of Finn, a male drug dealer and his own personal struggles with addiction, and life in general.
“The inspiration for this was real,” Kara said, “I was in a relationship with a guy from Burnt Hills who struggled with a drug problem. I had started to develop some of the themes of the book before I became aware about his battling these demons. Actually, the main character began as a female, sort of a female Harry Potter, who defeated dark forces with components of magic. But once I did learn the truth about him, the words just flowed in a different direction. It turned out to be a catharsis of sorts for me.”
Some brief excerpts tell the tale:
“All I’ve got to do is just get through this ordeal. Push through it; be a man…
“Stupid car. Stupid neighborhood. It’d be one thing if I lived in New York City, where there’s violence, sure, but tons of opportunity to become a better man. Not the case here. Instead I’m north of Albany, in rotten Dammer-f-ing-town, where there is no other side, where no great life is waiting for me, where the earth threw up and walked away.”
- From ‘Tripping Back Blue’
By Kara Storti
Published by Carolrhoda Books - April 1, 2016
I asked her if she still composed songs. “I still write them, from time to time, when I can,” she said. “I find that it is good to combat writer’s block – switching disciplines can unclog the mental log jam.”
These and other tips will be shared with a Saratoga Springs High School Senior class earlier that day, while you get to enjoy the finished product of her hard work and effort later that evening.
As a music programmer, Kara Storti made me look like a very discerning, smart judge of talent. You will feel the same way if you recommend her appearance next week, as an accomplished author, to friends. As big a thrill as it is to spot a young person with a gift, it’s even a bigger thrill to check in later on, and see how that ability and flair has blossomed. And that, simply, is what you have before you next Thursday.
Speaking of which, if you read this far, you have migrated to our PULSE section, where Rebecca Davis does a great job letting her talent blossom. I highly recommend that you read the rest of this section as long as you are here - always a nice counterpoint to the dreary news of the day.
“An evening with author Kara Storti” will take place at Northshire Bookstore, 424 Broadway in Saratoga Springs next Thursday, May 26 at 6 p.m. Kara will be conducting a Q & A, reading and signing copies of her new novel – “Tripping Back Blue” – which is suitable for mature teens and adults.