Vineyard Scary Dude 1, Bronx Comic, O

A Magical Long Ago Night At The Lamp Post

So I met this guy, Marty Nadler, on the Paramount Studios lot, he gave me a job writing a script for Laverne and Shirley, and I was so grateful, I agreed to marry him (like that’s doing anyone a favor) but, before we got that far, he brought me to Martha’s Vineyard.

It was April of 1976, kind of grey, and seriously cold for this Valley girl who had never spent that particular month in a place where the land was still frozen and you’d need a microscope to see tiny green buds on a grey brittle branch. But still, the island was pretty, nice ocean and all that. ...

We were walking up Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs, and we ran into a short, stocky, muscular guy with a brush-cut of dark hair. He wore baggy jeans and a tan combat jacket. He pointed a finger at Marty and said with a certain quietness and lack of affect that put you in mind of Batman, “You owe me, Nadler.”

As we walked away, I whispered to Marty, “If you owe him, why not pay up?”

And then he told me what he owed Joey Montesion.

It was the summer of 1973. Marty was working as a bartender at the raucous bar (some might say it’s more upscale these days), the Lamp Post, down there in the southeast quadrant of Circuit Ave, a hood that on hot summer nights teems with neon lights, open bar doors, and patrons spilling out onto the sidewalks, patrons who may have already spilled more than they needed to down their throats.

Marty, a native of the Bronx, had made his bones on Martha’s Vineyard for the many summers he’d come here with his theatre troupe from Ithaca College, The Vineyard Players. So now, graduated, a struggling actor and upcoming standup comic in New York, Marty was intent on spending a last summer (or two or three) on the Island where he’d been carefree and foolish and the happiest young man alive.

Coming up on midnight at the Lamp Post upstairs, Marty’s shift was over. He knocked back a beer, and chatted with Joey Montesion, fisherman, mason, iconic bad boy: he’d occasionally run afoul of the law and had, apparently, done some time.

Marty liked tough guys; reminded him of his growing up years on Mousholu Parkway, the same neighborhood that produced The Fonz.

Marty proposed a dart game to Joey, Joey gave Marty a long stare. “How much ya wanna bet?”

Nadler, a habitual lunatic, said, “I’m not gamblin’ for money, Joey. That’s for losers. Let’s bet our lives.”

Joey pawed at his unshaven chin. “Our lives?”

“Yeah,” said Marty, already drawing up the classic three darts for the game. “Winner gets to kill the other guy.”

 “Uh huh,” mused the man as he grabbed his own darts, squeezing them between his palms. He nodded thoughtfully. With advanced communication skills, he might have said, “That adds a certain irresistibly heightened pleasure to the sport.”

The few stragglers in the bar, aware of the stakes, formed a circle behind the players. Marty waved for Joey to throw ahead of him.

Joey assumed an expert pose behind the line and lobbed his first dart.

 Bull’s eye.

Marty threw his. Somewhere three feet to the left of the board, his dart boinked off the fake pine wall.

 Joey threw again. Not quite a bull’s eye, but only a silly millimeter above his first dart.

Marty began to think that perhaps he should have, before suggesting the game, and at such ridiculously high stakes, practiced darts during down times at the Lamp Post. He took his second shot. This time the dart quivered with impact. Right below the red lights of the EXIT sign.

Joey aimed again. His third dart formed a triumvirate of well-placed quivers directly at the center of the board.

Marty stood frozen in place, his fist wrapped around his final dart. The enormity of what he’d done, of what awaited him, of his life about to end, shattered him like a telegram in wartime, only coming to his own doorstep, to inform him of his own passing.

Joey softly chuckled.

Marty turned to study his own personal grim reaper.

How would this alleged ex-con kill him? Hold his head under the rotgut can? Stab him with the hunting knife everybody said he carried in the folds of his old combat jacket?

Suddenly Marty remembered a few years back, needing a rifle for a staging of The Angry Gun. Everybody said, “Go ask Joey!” Marty asked Joey, who produced a rifle from the trunk of his car. “Ya need bullets?” he asked. “Oh Lord no!” said Marty. “Ya sure ya don’t need bullets?” Joey kept on asking whenever he ran into Marty during the run of the play.

Now, as the fatal tourney came to a close, Marty wondered if he should use his last dart to fling at his opponent’s face. Bing! Right between the eyes. It would only stun Mr. Monetsion, but it would give the comic / bartender a chance to skedaddle out the back door. A slam-dunk case of self-defense.
But with Marty’s bad aim and rattled nerves, he knew the dart would skid across an empty bar table. Montesion would be madder-than-hell at him, which in turn would make the comic's coming clobbering still more savage.

Marty faced the board, sighed deeply, and gave it his best shot.

It splish-splashed in the ice tray. Marty was very nearly elated; at least he’d made a big noise. He turned back to Joey to accept his fate.

The island gangsta looked grim. Then he pointed a finger at Marty, just as he did three years later when I met him on Circuit Ave. “You owe me,” he said.

Over the years he reminded Marty many more times. Sometimes he did this when I was with his targeted victim. The sight of the man gave me the willies. How would he collect his due? Would he come for Marty and force him to help bury bodies in the swamps off Farm Pond?

Then one dark and foggy night in October of 1992, Marty and our 8-year-old son, Charlie, had joined the fishing derby. Some buddies dropped them on the south shore of Chappy, planning themselves to face the heftier surf up at Wasque. Marty knew as much about fishing as he did about throwing darts. Charlie watched anxiously as his dad tried to thread a line through the little gizmos on his pole.

A menacing voice stirred through the mists. “Having trouble, boys?”

On the dark and lonely beach, Marty turned to see Joey Montesion, his own fishing rod in hand.

Then, with the gentleness of the Yankee sea salt that he was, Joey rigged up Charlie’s rod, then Marty’s, then knelt down to show the young boy, a native son who needed to learn about the tides and the sea and the creatures that gambol within it, how to cast, how to reel in the catch, how to re-jigger the line and rod.   

Lesson over, Marty and Charlie positioned themselves to start fishing. Joey climbed the hill, fading into the swollen mists.

“Thank you!” Marty called after him, feeling like the bit player in The Lone Ranger who inevitably asks, ‘Who is that masked man?’

A disembodied voice floated over the thunderous incoming surf:

 “You owe me.”

Joseph R. Montesion died on December 29, 2003. He is buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Oak Bluffs.  

William Glazer January 07, 2013 at 12:58 PM
I enjoyed this very much. It appeals to my adolescent (and adult) fears and envy that I have had of the people who live very practically, without utopian, highly intellectualized expectations and with an expert eye for day to day survival. I should have taken car repair in high school rather than Latin. This story helps me identify more closely with the Joe Montesions of the world....which makes me a better person. Thank you Holly. Nice piece.
Holly Nadler January 07, 2013 at 01:12 PM
Thank you, Bill, I really appreciate your good feedback! And I must say, I'm grateful to Nadler, that reckless, outrageous ex of mine for all these great stories!
Warren Gosson January 07, 2013 at 02:14 PM
Holly, great story! I, especially took great interest in this story because I know the people and locations.
Holly Nadler January 07, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Warren, thanks! As someone in law enforcement, wouldn't you say Marty was the more dangerous dude?
Warren Gosson January 07, 2013 at 03:10 PM
Yes he is Holly! He has an exorbitant amount of "brain muscle". He should be in the CIA chasing the Taliban, and get rid of those costly drones. The undercover Jewish guy. Only weakness, just eating the eggs at an all you can eat, ham and egg breakfast and asking for horseradish. lol!
Michael West January 07, 2013 at 03:17 PM
Beautiful, Holly. Like Warren, knowing the people brings a certain edge to the pleasure of this piece, but I think you've captured both Joey and Marty well. It's funny. I think about Joey every now and then. He was definitely a Vineyard scary guy, but once you got past that, he was funny and a great guy to know, at least from a safe distance. His whole crew, including Wesley Winton, "Mike Wreck" Reynolds and Dickie Gale sure did like to party...
Holly Nadler January 07, 2013 at 03:35 PM
Warren, you got that so right! Marty has his own ingenious plans for righting the injustices of the world, but they're so politically incorrect and deranged, you find yourself telling him to shut up when he comes up with a new one. Didn't know that bit about the eggs and the horseradish!
Holly Nadler January 07, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Michael, I don't anything about all those other "gangstas", maybe it's time YOU wrote about them?!
Martha Magee January 07, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Great story, Holly. Loved it. As a native New Yorker, Los Angelean and Vineyarder, I could relate to all of it. Coupla quick notes.. The parkway you speak of is The Mosholu - (been driving by it for years) and the now legendary Lone Ranger line is actually ( sorry, but I'm a MAJOR Lone Ranger person..) " Who WAS that masked man ?? " Thanks for playing with us, and get home safe!!! Special bonus gift enclosed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFabfnfhIaY&feature=youtube_gdata_playe r
Sam Feldman January 07, 2013 at 04:40 PM
Lovely tale about Joey. His tough exterior and warm interior was heartwarming to me. I'm going to use "you owe me". rather than "whatever" or "like, you know" Warm wishes from Palm Beach.
Holly Nadler January 07, 2013 at 05:49 PM
Sam, you lucky Florida-sun-radiated man! And I imagine you could collect a big pile of I.O.U.s @Mathea, can never spell Mosholu Parkway but I sure as hell can pronounce it (thanks to Marty).
Nancy Dole January 08, 2013 at 12:34 AM
Very very funny
Nancy Dole January 08, 2013 at 12:39 AM
That's Mike the Wreck. So so many stories about all those guys and their better halves. Long time ago.
Cynthia Mascott January 08, 2013 at 01:57 AM
What a great story and one I had never heard before
Holly Nadler January 08, 2013 at 01:04 PM
It's pronounced, btw, Mah-Shah-Loo Parkway, emphasis on the first syllable.
Michael West January 08, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Nancy, I knew Mike and Susie pretty well, spent a lot of time over there. And Mike dropped by my place often when I lived with Jim Raymond.
Bob Kinnecom January 08, 2013 at 03:54 PM
Holly, Great story.. So many unique people like Joey, Wild Wes, Johnny Seaview, Trina and many more made the Vineyard a fun place to grow up. We all could tell you stories like this. Good job !!!
Martha Magee January 08, 2013 at 03:59 PM
That's right, Holly! It always sounded Yiddish to me ("let's hop on the Mosholu and go for a knosh", etc.). It's actually named after a native american tribe. Algonquin. I looked it up just now. It means "smooth stones". My little sister went to Camp Mosholu.
Holly Nadler January 08, 2013 at 04:16 PM
Thanks for the good input, Martha! And Bob, next time you run into me, let me hear some of your stories! I miss Johnny Seaview. Did you know he died? Quite recently to. He was in a rest home off-island. I wrote a chapter about him in Vineyard Confidential (the book)
Martha Magee January 08, 2013 at 04:19 PM
Gaudeamus Igitur !!
Meghan Montesion January 11, 2013 at 04:01 PM
I was stopped at the grocery store lastnight and was told about this article. I have been searching all morning and i tell you, it sure was worth it! Thank you Holly and all that have commented on the wonderful stories of my father. I don't hear of them often, rarely ever, except i got many at his funeral which barely registered obviously because of the situation at that time. Unfortunately i recently just had to revisit all that pain as I helped my husband bury his father because of a freak accident in New Bedford, so needless to say once again the Holidays and New Year weren't Merry or Happy. I don't know what made you wake up and write this story Holly, or why i happened to see my Uncle at the grocery store lastnight so he could tell me, but I think it was for a reason, this story is for me to see at this time in my life and again, i would like to thank you! Meghan Montesion
Meghan Montesion January 11, 2013 at 04:12 PM
Oh and just wanted to note that my father is buried in Vineyard Haven cemetary, right next to his mother and all the other Pachico's. =)
Holly Nadler January 11, 2013 at 05:17 PM
Meghan, I DID just wake up and decide to write that story! Isn't that amazing? I'd known about Marty's & Joey's adventures since 1976, but last Sunday I got the brainstorm. I called Marty in Florida to get refreshed on the details. It was great that I touched base with him because I hadn't known about your father's last line through the mists after helping my boy to fish, "You owe me." Sorry I got it wrong about the cemetery, btw., but that's what I read when I jumped into newspaper archives. Here's wishing you a more restful holiday season next year.


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