Where the Boys Are by: Cat Bentivegna Adami

"If a girl doesn't make out with a man once in a while, she may as well leave campus." - Where the Boys Are, 1960 Part of being an American folk hero is being at the right place, at the right time. Part of being an American folk hero in the twentieth century is about being "on the road." Cue Jack Kerouac and Woody Guthrie. Like his Jazz drummer father, the Beard decided to seek his fortune, higher education, and "non-square," pool hustling, career training, on the road. In the early nineteen sixties, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida was the "it" place for America's youth. Still known for having the most beautiful beaches on the East Coast, it was made popular by the 1960 film "Where the Boys Are" and the Connie Francis song that played on every radio. When my father began his twenties, he made his way down to Ft. Lauderdale from Chicago to shoot pool. He began his days there by running on the beach and taking a swim. If he was lucky, he might have enough money for a fast-food burger. He often says those were some of the best days of his life, when he was young, broke, and starving - but in a beautiful place with plenty to do for free and women everywhere. He was still on his eastern religion kick and studied Buddhism. He read the newspaper, front to back, and a book every day. Ian Fleming was his favorite back then, and John LeCarre. My father dreamed of being a master spy. He wanted the knowledge of the top one percent of the top one percent, and a master spy was in that league. He didn't want to be a sucker and always wanted to be able to identify when something was "gaffed up." A master spy was "special," "always defied the odds," and proved he was "exceptional." That was my father's goal - to be exceptional. And he said that's what's great about America, you have the opportunity to prove just how smart or how tough you are. Even as a pool hustler, living outside the mainstream economic system, he was an ardent capitalist and a proponent of "Survival of the fittest." There was a bar called The Sugar Shack on the beach and an outdoor pool room(which come to think of it - was a fabulous idea and someone should bring those back!) He claimed he always invited three girls to meet him at The Sugar Shack at night to guarantee he would get some play. He would "start with the prettiest girl first and work his way down." There were many other American celebrities who "hung" at the Sugar Shack at the time. Tennis champion/hustler Bobby Riggs was one, and the most famous jewel thief of all time - Murph the Surf- who stole the Star of India from the Natural History Museum in New York. Murph's girlfriend was sweet on my Dad and used to give him a two dollar a day allowance. Still just enough for a hamburger and a pack of smokes, maybe a bet at the racetrack, but she kept him afloat. My father always said, "you have no idea the miracles that can happen when you put a little cash in someone's pocket. You think about yourself differently - you just do." And that's why my Dad always gave his friends a little something for their pockets when he had it and they didn't. It was good karma. Cheers to the glory days of Ft. Lauderdale, and my father - a dark, young, Italian boy from Chicago, waking up everyday in a cheap motel room, pool cue case beside him, with a smile on his face, and feeling like he's living the dream...




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