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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Something To Remember You By.

Pat and Erin in 1981
Our Darling, Pat
by Erin Dickins, July 30, 2011

Pat left us. She was my best friend and a co-founder of the Manhattan Transfer.  She was the one with the banana.

Patricia Aurora Olivia Rosalia died on Tuesday, July 19, 2011, at 9:00 a.m. She was 67 years old. She was with her husband, Tim, and her beloved brother and sister-in-law, Giachino and Sandi Rosalia.

Giachino: “Don’t know why the Lord picked her, but it just had to be for something important - I just know. I told her the night before she passed that it was ‘OK to go home now, that mommy and daddy will be waiting for you and give them a kiss from me…and, of course, to save me a seat as it probably won’t be terribly long before I’ll be passing that way myself.’  She understood this and responded, ‘OK, I love you and I will see you later,’ and that was it.”

I met Pat in 1969 when the early Manhattan Transfer was still just a good idea. She was married to a guy named Tommy Picardo at the time. He was also known as Tommy West of Cashman, Pistilli & West, a production/songwriting team that discovered, and later produced, our great friend Jim Croce. Jim and Ingrid were living with Pat in New York. Those were days when we all - literally - put our small change in a hat to scrape together a pasta dinner at Pat’s apartment. Those were some of the happiest times I’ve ever experienced.

The marriage to Tommy didn’t last and that's a story in itself. It is rumoured that when Pat was walking down the isle to marry Tommy, her father whispered to her, "if you want to turn around and run, I'll run with you."  He knew it just wasn’t right.

Different story with Gene Pistilli, who had just written the mega-hit, “Sunday Will Never Be The Same”, for Spanky and Our Gang. I was completely taken with his passion and his gift. So was Pat. And theirs was a match made in heaven. A big, giant love story.  Gene was a handful in those days, and also our pied-piper. He was an irresistible force. And Pat was his rock.

Still, we had to talk her into working with our new singing group. She knew Tim, and had worked with him earlier, but didn’t want to be in a band as she was composing and doing studio work with our friend, songwriter Ellie Greenwich, as well as for Cash-West.  She had just written a chart hit with her song “Red Is Red,” which was recorded by Al Martino.

That first time we met, she had a broken rib and told me that laughing was very painful. I was in a checker cab with her and Marty and Tim; even the bumps were killing her. In spite of it, we found ourselves laughing so hard it hurt – all of us. I was instantly her biggest fan and was elated when we finally convinced her to sing with our group. There was something about her laugh that made everything right in the world.

Tim: "No matter what happens in life, every person that comes across our path is a gift from God.  For me, Pat was certainly a perfect example of that...I'm very sad at the fact that she is gone…Pat was my friend, and I loved her.  She is no longer here, but is in my heart as one of God's gifts.  That love will always remain." To Read Tim's eulogy, CLICK HERE.

Not long after, Tim won the battle of the names for our group with Manhattan Transfer, the title of a popular book by John Dos Passos. Thank goodness! The other two names in the running were Ebbet’s Field and the American Indian name Kawliga (after Charlie Pride’s big hit with the Hank Williams, Sr. classic).

We used to go to Pat’s parents’ home in New Jersey for weekend visits from time to time....and her mom was an amazing cook. There was always a leftover sitting on the kitchen table, and when we finished the first snack, she’d pull out the next. “You'll just taste it, won't hurt you. It’s just a bite.”  When dinner time finally arrived (we were usually stuffed to the gills by now), she would serve course after astounding course of homemade Italian delicacies – sometimes for hours on end - complete with the family’s own wine. And she was right, it did not hurt us. It nourished our souls.

We once stayed at my parents’ home in Annapolis. I remember Gene and my father sitting down on our patio to martinis and a bushel of piss clams and having a big old time. Dad was a dear, and a wonderful musician in his own right. He just loved our harmonies and was very proud of me. My mom wasn’t so sure….we were quite a sight back then. Me in antique dresses and purple suede high-heeled boots, Pat in short-shorts and Indian jewelry.

During and after our stint with the Transfer, the Manhattan brownstone at 155 Prince Street, in all its iterations, was the center of our universe. And Pat was its “Grand High Exhaulted Ruler.”  It was Bobby McKinnon’s apartment before SOHO was hip. When Gene and Pat lived there, it became a favored rehearsal spot. Always a pot of fresh coffee brewing. Always a lot of laughter. We sang for hours on end.  Here is the chorus to one of the songs we sang, written by Gene:

We sang those songs with feeling,
From way down deep inside.
They made us cry until we laughed,
And laugh until we cried.
We sang those songs together,
And no one was alone.
We sang those songs with feeling,
Just like we did back home.

I got my big red cat, Frank Rosalia, from Pat. He was the kitty love of my life.  She named him Frank specifically so that we could call out, “Hey Frankie!” (Imagine the Jersey accent here).

So here’s an inside joke: Later on, she was crazy in love with Harry. And when she first told me about it, I said, “Harry who?” She nearly died laughing. After Harry was over, Pat moved to San Diego - and took my heart with her.

Gene: “It figures that Pat and I found new loves – my Pamela and her Harry – as we were both ready to go our separate ways. But we never fell out of touch because I couldn’t go very long without hearing the best laugh anyone ever had. She shared it with me once more just a few days before she left us. Donna Patrizia, I called her – with her sparklin’ gypsy eyes and that joyful noise that will always be with us. Always.”

Darling Pat wrote me beautiful letters – often - and I still keep her writings in a file drawer. I cherish them. One of my favorites is entitled “What I Did On My Summer Vacation”, by Suzy Cream Cheese.  Suzy was my Pekingese dog, and summer vacation was a couple of weeks visiting with Auntie Pat while I was touring with Gregg Allman.  She likened walking my little dog to having a fuzzy bedroom slipper on a leash.

Here is an excerpt from her (San Diego) Christmas card to me in 1981:

“To tell you that I miss you wouldn’t exactly be true, but to say that I think of you often and mention your name and hope that the time comes easily so

         we can talk about things to come
         things we’ve left undone
         things that grow in the sun
         things that are served on a bun
         things that once weighed a ton but now are tossed
         lightly  aside
         things that no longer hide but flaunt in the
         faces of any who even glance in our direction
         things that will never pass final inspection

Digression is my favorite pastime…

I need to talk to you my sister-friend-love of my life.  I send you love and tropical flames for the Christmas fire.  From my palms to yours, Pat”

Marty: “Fair winds come, rustle the leaves to meet their demands and pleasures, then pass… leaving still silence for the tree to forever remember how it felt to sway for that wonderful moment.”

I can give you the laundry list of all the things we did together as friends and musicians, all the laughs and tears, all the tours we did, our chick group Ethylene and the recordings I made of her wonderful songs, but it all pales in comparison to her inner light, her joy and spirit. She was smart, funny, beautiful, kind, warm, generous, talented. And she made an amazing cup of coffee. But, who cares.

For me, I am just going to picture her, coffee in hand, in her favorite spot - on the stoop at Prince St. I’ll meet you there someday, dear.

“Sweet time spent, where does it go?” Pat Rosalia

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