On The Silly Side by Jimmy Del Ponte
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
This article originally appeared in The Somerville News on March 29, 2008.
It used to be called Smitty’s, on Somerville Ave., but when it became the Embassy Lounge, that’s when the real fun began. The year was 1974 and the Fabulous Pharaohs were the big attraction. Inspired by The Great Pretenders, The Pharaohs were a pantomime act that did ’50s and ’60s music on Thursday and Sunday nights. The members were Mark, John, Mike, Billy, and Brian. Mike’s brother, another John, ran the equipment (p.s. – get well soon, John). Mark’s brother George was part of the group for a short time and their father, George Sr., managed them for a while. Joe W and Dave Emery were also on the tech crew at various times.
Complete with their matching tuxedos, other flashy outfits and impressive light show, The Fabulous Pharaohs packed the Embassy Lounge week after week. Loads of enthusiastic girls showed up religiously to cheer on the entertaining group. They had a dedicated following who knew every song and every move – and believe me, these guys had their moves down to a “t” with precision accuracy. When the strobe light kicked in during Pretty Little Angel Eyes the crowd went wild. Brian, who was at least 6 foot 4 inches tall, danced into a frenzy, faster and faster with the beat. When Beep Beep played night after night, the place went crazy.
The phenomenon went on and on, spreading to Studley’s and eventually to Johnny D’s. The personnel of the Fabulous Pharaohs changed along with the name. The Amazing Sensations and Solid Gold were offshoots and reincarnations of the original.
At the same time The Pharaohs were packing the Embassy on Thursdays and Sundays, a live band gave Fridays and Saturdays a try. They were The Premieres, and they consisted of myself, Bernie M, Pat O and Junior. We played live, but never got the response the Pharaohs did. We played the songs of the day, like Grand Funk’s Bad Time To Be In Love, Captain and Tennille’s Love Will Keep Us Together and Kool And the Gang’s first hit Hollywood Swinging. To this day those songs remind me of the Embassy Lounge and all the crazy fun we had.
Jerry D. and Sandy owned The Embassy Lounge. Jerry was a cigar-chomping gentleman who had class written all over him and his wife Sandy was a former model who was absolutely gorgeous. The Embassy Lounge staff included Franny, Paul and Carol on the bar, and waitresses Gail (Paul’s lovely wife), and in later years Grace and Marie. I think little Jo-Ann was a waitress for a while too. Regulars were Jimmy and Rita D, Joe and Joanne M, Lenny C, who worked for the city, and of course, “Wolfman” Steve. Other regulars were Mike D, Joe S, Buttons, Denny and a host of other colorful characters. “Cheers” had nothing on The Embassy Lounge back in those days.
Johnny C took the backroom over and ran it with a no nonsense policy. I remember him hopping over the bar, grabbing a Louisville Slugger and asking the troublemakers if they wanted to go “a few innings.”
Johnny took no crap from anyone. He is still a close friend of mine to this day. Johnny inspired a character I did on the Matty in the Morning Show for years. Do you remember Johnny C from the fictitious “666 Somerville Ave, Somerville Mass?” That character, who provided the long running “Somerville 02144” was based on Johnny C and his days at The Embassy Lounge. Johnny C’s catch phrases were: “pay attention” and “do you follow me, what I’m saying?”
The Embassy Lounge gave a lot of us in Somerville some great memories. So let’s recap. First it was Smitty’s, then it became The Embassy Lounge. After that, enter TJ Snookers, SkyBar and finally China Delight. I stayed at The Embassy Lounge with many different bands for about fifteen years or so. I can honestly look back and say that 1974 was the best year of all.
Jerry and Sandy own an Inn down the Cape and still invite some their former employees, patrons and friends down from time to time.
Brian from The Pharaohs was seen a few years back in a Dr. Scholl’s television commercial. I never understood how all those Fabulous Pharaohs fans could spend every single Thursday and Sunday night at the show, close the joint and then get up for work the next day. That’s what I call dedication.
Someone should get an Embassy Lounge reunion together, because that was surely a magical place and a magical time. Actually, I think Mike D did a few years ago and I missed it. I guess I wasn’t “paying attention.”
I’ll never forget the fun we had back then. Along with real estate man John B, city official Frank S and lots of others, I am proud to say that I am an official Ambassador from “The Embassy.”