Yesterday (2/24/14), Albany lost a legend – Pat (Pasquale) Rocco, chef extraordinaire and all around mensch.
Pat started out with a small restaurant on upper New Scotland Ave.
Pat then went on to become the Executive Chef at the legendary Ambassador Rstaurant – first on State St. and then on Elk St. when it was forced to move by South Mall demolition.
After the Ambassador closed, he served as executive chef to Governors Carey and Cuomo. Chef Rocco was instrumental in the development of the pastry department of the well-known culinary division of Schenectady County Community College. Pat subsequently moved to Las Vegas and worked his magic there, before returning to Albany.
Pat was perhaps most known for his magnificent and spectacular sugar creations; extravaganzas of pastillage. Pastillage is the art of creating decorations and objects from sugar dough, and dates back to perhaps the 16th century.
Pat was the master. He exhibited at the International Culinary Food Show in NY, Societé Culinaire Philanthropique, for many years. In 1972, he won the silver medal in the pastillage category in the World Culinary Olympics in Frankfurt, Germany. His pieces were amazing!
Pat literally wrote the book, in 1998.
He was an astonishing talent, in addition to being a much beloved husband and father.
For three years, the Paradise Show Boat Club was THE place to go in the Capital District. It booked some of the biggest acts and exuded a glamour and vitality unique to the 1930’s.
The Paradise Show Boat started out as a 5 masted schooner called the “City of Portland”. When she was launched in 1916 she was the largest single-deck wooden vessel ever built in the United States. She weighed more than 4000 tons and was over 300 feet long. The City of Portland was commissioned into the United States Navy during World War I. After the War end she hauled cargo. mostly in southern waters near New Orleans, various Florida ports and Central America.
However, in 1924, on trip in the Northeast, she became water-logged in the Hudson Highlands off the New Jersey coast. She ended up, badly damaged, at the docks in Perth Amboy, N.J.
In late 1930, she was purchased by Edward Berry and John Moncello with the intent to turn her into a floating pleasure boat in Albany. She was towed up the Hudson to the port of Albany, near the Albany Yacht Club. Her 5 masts were reduced to 3. Major renovations were envisioned. There would be a dining room, dance floor, miniature golf course and tennis courts; all the amenities one might find at the time on an ocean-going cruise ship.
Lloyd Vanfbenscoten, a local man from Altamont (a small town outside of Albany), was engaged to decorate the ship. While he was waiting for the ship to be ready for his work, he set up camp in Albany and painted the wonderful old murals on the walls of the old Boulevard Cafeteria (now Ristorante Paradiso – how coincidental is that?) on Central Ave. and Robin St.
In the photo below, the City of Portland is docked in Albany, near Madison Ave and Riverside Park.
The intended renovations did not materialize quickly. For a while she lay at anchor in the Schodack Creek. The proposed fittings were much scaled back to a just dining room and a dance floor. Finally, in 1933, she was anchored and ready for business in Troy, not Albany. Albany City officials would not permit her to be moored in the Port of Albany. She was towed across the River and found a home at the bottom of Fulton Street in Troy. The Paradise Show Boat was open.
The Paradise soon became a wildly popular local venue, offering major talent and drawing large crowds. The major headliner to play the Show Boat was the wonderful Cab Calloway and his Cotton Club Orchestra.
Another headliner was Ina Ray Hutton and her Melodears. She was one of the only female band leaders, with an all female band. Hutton toured with the Melodears for five years. Known as the “Blonde Bombshell of Rhythm,” she often danced and sang as she conducted. Ina was known for fabulous gowns, ranging from the glamorous to the almost scandalous. The audience expected sex appeal and she gave it to them, often changing costumes 3 times within a show.
INA RAY HUTTON
Most of the other bands that played The Paradise were well known, from their recordings and radio broadcasts. They included Ted Blake and Bennie Meroff, who had close connection with Jack Teagarten and Bix Beiderbeck , and the Blue Barron, who would go on to have one certified hit in the late in 1940’s, “Cruisin’ on the River.
But there were other acts. Some nights the lineup looked like a Broadway revue of the time, and others, more like a classic night club floor show. There was a “house band” comprised of local musicians; it played regularly on WGY. There were fan dancers and vaudeville acts like the Gould Sisters from the old Orpheum Circuit who sang and did musical impersonations. Carlton and Juliette were a Latin dance duo from Havana who were said to have popularized the Cha Cha in later years. Phil Regan was the “singing Irish Cop”, a handsome tenor who went on to appear in a number of movies in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Gypsy Nina was a well-known dark beauty who sang and played the accordion.
Most often the acts made the circuit in and around New York City, Long island, Upstate New York and New Jersey in night clubs and supper clubs. Some, like Edith Murray, a singer, appeared in one of the first one reel “talkies”. Others, like Mildred Roselle, a blues singer, appeared in Broadway revues, clubs, and was a recording studio singer.
Some of the music was sweet, perfect for dancing “cheek to cheek”. but there was plenty of jazz, swing and blues. There was something for every audience; “society singers” to acrobatic acts. While some performers were ‘regulars”, most of the acts changed regularly so there was always something new. There were tea dances on week-end afternoons; charities and club booked the Paradise for fund-raising and special events.
I think my favorite act is Elvera Gomez and her Canadian Rockets.. if only for the name.. but there is a great graphic in the ad too.
In the Show Boat’s last summer season, 1936, the
In summer, 1936, the Paradise moved to Crescent Beach, about 5 miles north of Albany, up Route 9, to a site on the Mohawk River. However, it appears that, while she was towed back to Troy in fall, 1936, she never re-opened.
It was the Hudson River itself that did in the Paradise. She survived the spring floods of 1936, and being smashed by millions of tons of ice that clogged the River in the winter. But it was the possibility that she would break her moorings and smash into the Congress Street Bridge, destroying the only direct automobile and bus route into Troy that made the Mayor of Troy and his Police Commissioner demand that the Paradise be moved in December, 1936. By this time the Paradise seems to have been acquired by new owners. The demands for her removal went unheeded several times. Finally, in 1937 the Paradise was sold at auction for scrap.