thanksgiving field note 2: arlo guthrie, nick apollo forte and sylvia woods
Sandwiched between a giant Smurf balloon and the Hamburger Helper float in this years Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Arlo Guthrie will be rolling down Broadway and waving to the crowd. He’ll be in good company along with Jessica Simpson, Kanye West and Wisconsin’s Waukesha North Marching Band.
Arlo is in town for his annual T-Day holiday concert. Also playing in the city at other venues on various nights will be Dylan, Earle and Helm….Levon that is. Not Jesse. I think it would be kinda cool if they all met up over at the Stage Door Deli and Woody filmed the conversation like he did with all those stand-up comedians in Broadway Danny Rose.
That film is my absolute favorite of all time, hands down. Starring with Woody is ex-girlfriend Mia (the mom of his current wife) and Nick Apollo Forte…who was plucked from doing lounge dates in Long Island to play the boy singer Lou Canova.
As I understand the story, Forte had never seen a Woody film when a casting director found one of his albums in the bargain bin of a record store and contacted him about the part. Sadly, Forte’s luck didn’t last for long. Even though Allen made Forte’s song “Agita” (Italian for “indigestion”) the film’s theme song, he never acted in another film.
It took me years and years to track down a copy of “Agita”, and Nick has become a Facebook buddy of mine. He lives in Connecticut, does a lot of fishing, still performs and has a website where he offers two albums for sale. The “Live at the Sands and More” is a classic, worth all of the twenty bucks he charges. He’s a fifties-style Italian singer in the vein of Jimmy Roselli and Al Martino if you dig that sound.
We’re off to Sylvia Wood’s restaurant in Harlem tomorrow for a late breakfast or early lunch. Known as the “Queen of Soul Food”, Sylvia was a waitress at Johnson’s Luncheonette near 125th and Lennox. In 1962, after several years of dedicated service to her employer, Mr. Johnson recognized Sylvia’s entrepreneurial spirit and sold her the luncheonette. Her mother, whom was a farmer and mid-wife, mortgaged her farm to loan her the money for the purchase.
There are now three generations of the Wood family running the restaurant and all the various off shoots. Sylvia has won countless awards, and been featured in print and television. I’m hearing the banana pudding is the killer desert, but I’m going for the coconut cake.
Tomorrow night we’ll be downtown at Strand, my favorite bookshop in America which beats out Powell’s in Portland by a nose. Got a long list…