Sunday, October 1, 2023

Notes to my Neighbors 3.8.2006

By Rick Racela

We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when…”
Apparently, there was no tribute in Cape May County when Steve (Milky) Lawlor passed away on Feb. 24.
Even though the funeral was in Audubon and his body was interred in St. Denis Cemetery in Havertown last Thursday, there ought to have been some celebration of his life in the county where he was known as “Mr. Entertainment,” in Wildwood, where the headlines touted “The laughs and fun never stop.”
Maybe most of the folks he entertained here from the 1960s well into the 1990s have forgotten him.
Maybe those who do remember his “piano-comedy” routines in popular spots like Club 18, Cozy Morley’s Bulkhead Bar, and The Red Garter didn’t hear of his passing.
Some did, though. A number of Wildwoodians made the trip to attend the funeral.
You might recognize the names of these attendees (only true Wildwoodians will): Eddie Mackin gave the eulogy, and then played Lawlor’s theme song, “We’ll Meet Again,” with Cozy Morley on clarinet and Steve Koszelak on accordion.
His long-time friends, Mary Lou and Al Trottnow, were the first to tell me about the loss, and I went directly to the man who knows everything about the Wildwoods, Bob Bright of the George Boyer Museum on Pacific Avenue.
When I mentioned the name “Steve Lawlor,” Bright immediately countered with: “You mean, Steve Milky Lawlor.” He took to his voluminous files and found an advertisement for Club 18 where Lawlor played alongside the Mickey Shaughnessy Revue, Norman Brooks (“Al Jolson Sings Again”) and the Joan Rodgers Quintet (“Miss Public Energy No. 1”).
Combing through the Herald’s archives, specifically Shout News, which covered the entire club and restaurant scene in those days, I found more, like an ad for Jimmy’s where Lawlor hosted “hilarious fun-filled afternoons.”
Seems Lawlor was well loved among the regular Wildwood crowd.
Mary Lou Trottnow recalls how Lawlor orchestrated his brand of audience-participation, getting people to come up and sing with him.
She also said, “He had a “memory like an elephant. If he met you once, and you came in the club’s door another time, he’d know your name immediately.”
On the day of Moore’s Inlet’s swan song, Lawlor came to say goodbye to the institution and wish the owners well, and also to honor Charlie Gracie who was being feted that day.
Not having a history here, I never saw his act, but it sounds like he was “quite a character,” as they say, full of a joie de vivre that he enjoyed spreading around.
We ought to mourn the passing of Lawlor and of his style of entertainment.
We’ve moved on, for sure, but I wonder: do entertainers today offer us such harmless fun? Just think about “Crash” winning the Oscar for being the best in entertainment Hollywood offered this year.
I understand Lawlor’s passing was peaceful. I’m told he died in his sleep.
The obituary that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer was stamped with his sense of humor:
“In lieu of flowers, please give a generous tip to your favorite bartender.”
Good night, Mr. Entertainment.

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