The Jones Beach Follies  by Jude Cull


Around 1950 or so, all the serious club skaters in the United States were so proud of the achievement and mastery of the sport they had adopted and mastered, that roller dance and figure skating and free skating competitions became spectacular shows that vied in popularity with "the Shipstads and Johnson Icetravaganza" or the "Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus," for sheer consumer joy provided to their customers!" Not only were these shows extremely popular, but so competent were the performers, that some of the performances by the super "stars" were almost unbelievable for quality of entertainment provided. One of the programs in the Northeastern United States was the "Jones Beach Skating Extravaganzas." The U.S.A.R.S.A. seemed to have the "inside track" on appearing in these shows, and I seem to remember occasional R.S.R.O.A. champions also appearing. The U.S.A.R.S.A. made this declaration at the beginning of each summer: any skater or dance couple, or pairs team, or fours team (you get the idea) that placed first in national competition was guaranteed to perform at the fabulous "Jones Beach Open Air Showplace," an open-air theatre with a smooth concrete floor and seating for 5,000 spectators. But first, if you qualify to perform, you get to travel on the luxurious New York Parkway System on Meadowbrook Parkway or Southern State Parkway to Jones Beach, park in a 3,000 vehicle safe parking area, enjoy the outdoor Aquarium Area where the fish entertain you, the luxurious attractions, the pool, the J.B. Seafood Restaurant and finally, appear as the main attraction under a star-laden sky for 5,000 skating fans!   

The weather always seemed to cooperate at Jones Beach for the skaters and their relatives and guests. It always seemed to be about 68 degrees with a gentle westerly breeze appearing "on cue." The skating bunch would always forage for driftwood so we could have lovely bonfires on the beach, while telling stories to pass the time. These were marvelous times and never forgotten as friendships created on these weekends seemed to last forever!     Jones Beach is a State Park, surrounded by sand dunes instead of housing projects. It is open all year, but lifeguards are only on duty from May 24 to September 1. It is a huge place, with six parking fields holding a total of 23,000 cars, eight Atlantic beaches, two Olympic-size swimming pools, snack bars, restaurants, cocktail lounges, ball fields, pitch and putt gold, lockers, showers, etc. There is even the Jones Beach Theatre, which throws rock and pop concerts during the summer. Recent acts have included the Pointer Sisters, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel and Joni Mitchell.     The U.S.A.R.S.A. from the early 1950's provided a roster of U.S. Championship quality skaters, to provide skating entertainment for the large crowds in attendance up to 5,000, who really showed the skaters their appreciation. Some of the skaters were Ed O'Donnell and Anne Feder, U.S. Senior Dance Champions; Charles Lowe and Willie Stuchel, the Silver Medal Dance Champions, the Gold Medal U.S. Senior "Fours" Champions, an act that most viewers liked and had never seen before. Even a comedy act was done well and appreciated by the crowd. Your author even got a chance to perform at Jones Beach several weekends with Charlotte Ludwig, since we happened to be the U.S. Senior Pair Skating Champions. We did a number titled "Indian Love Call" with beautiful music by Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy, which seemed to go over fairly well. But the point is, the fact that the U.S.A.R.S.A. arranged the entertainment for the New York audiences for many years and it was appreciated by many thousands of New Yorkers!   

Of course, when you hear the words "Jones Beach," the furthest thing from your mind is a skating show. For millions of New Yorkers, however, summer means Jones Beach, a fabulous recreation area that can accommodate hundreds of thousands of people on its more than 2,400 acres! Recreational facilities include swimming in the ocean, Zach's Bay, and fresh water pools; bathhouses, fishing in the ocean and bay, boating dock, nature and biking trails, 18-hole pitch and putt golf course, miniature gold, softball fields, shuffleboard, recreation programs, restaurants and snack bars. At the Jones Beach Theatre, there are concerts from country to rock (top entertainers), an 11,000 seat outdoor theatre, and a magnificent, smooth outdoor skating rink with dressing rooms, and rental skates availability.     The U.S.A.R.S.A. ( UNITED STATES AMATEUR ROLLER SKATING ASSOCIATION) always provided skating shows to entertain the visitors in the early evenings on weekends, and they loved being treated to these skating shows at the 5,000 space roller skating bleachers area and stand areas, especially when it was announced that each and every skater was a U.S. National Champion. Doesn't the above sound too good to be true? Well, it was for the spectators, and also for the skaters, for they loved performing for the crowds.     To repeat, New York's BIG BEACH experience was only Jones Beach, located about 25 miles from Midtown as the crow flies, in the Southeastern corner of Nassau County. 
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Photo & Story by Jim Kohl

Curiosity gets the best of me and I visit the old Boulevard Arena where my life was formed at the Skating Club of Boulevard. Pulling into the parking lot the cars of the 50's are missing - just trucks, all advertising plumbing and heating contractors. Yes, my beloved rink is now and has been for 32 years General Plumbing & Heating Company. Entering the side door I gaze around and hear a voice say, "May I help you?" Now what do I say and do? This person will think I'm weird when my reply is, "I used to roller skate here." It didn't get a great response. Feeling a little more comfortable,  I start a conversation (an ability I seldom lack). The lady was nice and I say, "May I just browse around? This was my world 45 yearsago and I've never been back since." She checks with the manager, who gives me permission. My first thought is, I'm standing at the concession stand, but no drinks and hot dogs here. This is now a counter for plumbers to get their materials. At the front entrance I'm greeted by tubs of all kinds, vanities, toilets, a lovely showroom- but not the place where Bill Morris would have stood, checking the length of a skating skirt or whether a guy had a sweater on (sleeveless of course). I then walk into the skating floor area, just looking for anything to remind me of my cherished Boulevard.
The wooden floor is gone, ceiling fabric gone, stage gone. All my wonderful recollections are fading fast. Not to worry. I spot the original ceiling over the aisles of the restroom and what had been the skate room. In the background is the beep-beep of a forklift, but in my mind I hear the refrain of Frank Bederka at the organ. My curiosity gives me a very sad feeling - thoughts of how many other stories could be told about the other America on Wheels roller skating rinks.
Is nothing sacred anymore?

Phil Pinto Remembered

by Bobby Russo

When Hackensack Arena was demolished on April 2, 2008, a precious bit of roller skating history was destroyed along with a part of my heart. It was at Hackensack Arena, exactly fifty years earlier — at the age of ten — where I first met Phil Pinto. Not only was Phil my revered skating coach, but he became a larger-than-life icon who, unknown to him, had a profound effect on many aspects of my life. In fact, Phil had such a positive influence on the direction my life took that, on a whim, I phoned him almost three years ago specifically to thank him for being "Phil". Sadly, I waited too long to make that call. His phone, a cold automated voice said, was no longer in service. As I was soon to learn, Phil Pinto had passed away, only about a year before, of heart failure.

How such a massively compassionate heart could ever have failed confounds me. I’ll always remember Phil as one of the sweetest, kindest human beings ever to lace up a pair of Snyder skates. According to his nephew, John, Phil was so good-hearted that he was sometimes taken advantage of. People would ask him for financial help, and Phil would generously, selflessly oblige . . . no documents drawn up, no questions asked. I wasn’t in the least surprised to hear that about Phil Pinto. It was totally in keeping with my recollections of the man.

All of us in the roller skating world know of Phil’s skating accomplishments, but in reality he was so much more than a beautiful skater and an excellent teacher. Some may not realize that he was a gifted tailor, who made most of the clothes that he wore! I recall walking into the rink one day in the 1960's to find Phil wearing a very colorful and unusual shirt. "Hey Phil," I said . . . "Where’d you get the cool shirt?" He replied, "It was a tablecloth this morning." All my life, I thought he was just kidding me, but his nephew recently explained that the Pinto family was, at the time, involved in the salvage business which just happened to give Phil access to a vast array of tablecloths. When he died, Phil’s closet was packed with hundreds of shirts that he had made. In addition to shirts, he also stitched together handsome vests and expertly detailed trousers, the quality and workmanship of which exceeded what can be bought in the finest of stores. Besides clothing, Phil also created things like zippered bags to hold skating tools and, later, a handy elasticized cloth device in which to store those pesky plastic grocery store bags. These kinds of items are now available commercially, but Phil’s versions were created decades earlier. In this and in many other ways, Phil Pinto was ahead of his time.

Anyone who knew Phil will attest to his outrageous sense of humor. One summer, on the way to Nationals in Livonia, Michigan, my mother and I were riding in Phil’s car. At one point we got stuck in stop and go early-July traffic. A bored and frustrated Phil noticed a jiggling, buxom woman walking along the roadside at a much faster rate than we were traveling. Without any warning, Phil shouted out of the open car window, "Hey, honey . . . walk a little slower. It’s hot out and you don’t want to shake those coconuts out of their tree!" I remember my mother sheepishly looking at me and the thirteen year old me looking at my mother for a stunned moment, and then both of us collapsing into a heap of laughter. Those were more innocent days (less politically correct days), and the endowed woman stopped walking, then turned and gave Phil and the rest of us a delightful smile. Riding with Phil was the best part of the trip.

Family was very important to Phil Pinto. He was one of eleven siblings which included two sets of twins — one set of each gender. Phil and his brother Louie were, in fact, fraternal twins (who really looked identical, especially in their younger years). Skaters who frequented Hackensack Arena will remember Louie as one of those natty, gray and maroon suited floor guards who effortlessly zigged and zagged through the throngs of skaters during public sessions. Louie Pinto may have been Phil’s look-alike twin brother, but the two had very different personalities. Louie liked to walk a bit on the wild side (he really had an eye for the women and he wasn’t particularly shy about it) while Phil was decidedly more mellow and kept his private life very much to himself. Into adulthood, Phil and Louie shared the Pinto family home at 137 Monroe Street in Garfield, New Jersey, with their wheel-chair bound mother — essentially until their deaths. Sadly, Louie died prematurely of a heart attack at the age of fifty-eight. After his mom passed away, Phil continued on in the ancestral home; however, he was to be briefly confined to a nursing home at the very end of his life. Phil loved his family and gloried in the fact that he had twenty-four nieces and nephews! Two of his nephews, by the way, are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame . . . one as a member of the group The Rascals and the other as a member of Joey D and the Starlighters. Because of the size of the Pinto clan, Christmas was reportedly done in shifts and New Year’s Eve was described as verging on pandemonium. It comforts me that Phil had such a large, loving and supportive extended family. They fondly remember "Uncle Phil" and they are very proud of his skating and other accomplishments.

During World War II, both Phil and his twin were in the U.S. Army, coincidentally stationed near each other in Africa. One harrowing night, Phil went to sleep in a foxhole with his rifle positioned across his chest. He was abruptly awakened by the sound of gunfire ricocheting off his rifle. He would have been surely killed if not for the exact positioning of his own gun, so it was evidently not Phil’s fate to become a war statistic. As we now know, he had some serious skating, teaching, choreographing, costume designing, tailoring, wise-cracking, living and loving left to do!

As a skating teacher, Phil was as generous as he was in his private life. Your time with him was your time, and he gave you his full attention for the duration of your lesson. In my mind’s ear I can still hear him calling out "No lunging!!!" or "Bobby! No sub-curves!" Then there were Phil’s tutorials at the boards where he’d take a number two pencil to steno pad (it was always a steno pad) and expertly draw out the pattern of whatever dance you were working on. After he illustrated a dance pattern for you, it was almost impossible to forget it. You knew from his precise drawings, for example, that a right inside edge cut through the exact middle of each corner during the Straight Waltz and that the correct pattern for The Collegiate should resemble the shape of a dog bone. When a direct demonstration was in order and Phil partnered you, you suddenly became a much better skater than you’d been just a moment ago! Your posture improved as did you edging as did your overall presence. It was difficult to skate with Phil and not have a big smile on your face. And he remained the same wonderful Phil through decades and decades of being a skating professional.

We can certainly appreciate Phil’s contributions to the roller skating world by contemplating the long list of highly accomplished skaters who were, at some point in their competitive careers, coached by him. Many rose to the level of national champions and several became world competitors. What an amazing legacy! All of these skaters took a part of Phil Pinto with them to the pinnacle of their sport.

After more than sixty years in the sport he adored, Phil Pinto retired from roller skating approximately nine years before his death. His heart condition (he’d had open heart surgery) and perhaps changing times at the Montvale Roller Rink, where he’d been teaching, finally conspired to nudge him, regretfully, into hanging up his skates. In retirement, he spent a number of years in Hawaii, where some of the musical members of his family had re-located. Phil loved Hawaii and he got to thoroughly enjoy this tropical paradise before ill health eventually forced him to return to the care of family in New Jersey, where he eventually passed away at the age of eighty-four.

Some misguided people might say it’s "progress" that toppled the once beautiful and renowned Hackensack Arena. I, on the other hand, call it "sacrilege". The building’s physical demise, however, is nothing compared to the loss of our beloved Phil Pinto. If I could see Phil one more time, I’d be sure to tell him that he is one of my heroes. He taught me so much . . . not just how to skate without lunges and sub-curves, but that a life is best lived by being true to yourself and that human creativity is a direct path to joy. I miss you, Phil. Always will.

Beloved Professional at Skating
Club of Boulevard, Bayonne, New Jersey
From David to Jane and how many in between

Written and submitted by Warren “Danny” Danner, son of Warren Danner.

David Tassinari—Pat Fogerty—Charlotte Owings—Lyndell Edgington—Dan Danner—Sheryl Ann Truman—Jack Courtney—Gary Callahan—Sherry Street—Rob Shaffer—Richard Horne—Jane Panky—Jim Stevens—Jane Purachio—Mark Howard—Cindy Smith—Richard Dalley—Carol Fox.

Other than Douglas Snyder roller skates* on their feet, what do all of these former national and international skating champions have in common.  13 went on to successful professional skating careers, 8 became World Roller skating champions, 7 had significant competitive careers not only in the world of artistic roller sports but also enjoyed significant success as competitive Ice skaters at a national,  international, Olympic and professional levels.  7 were members of the first merged roller skating team in 1965.

Successful transition to the world of Ice skating.

Two years ago while attending a skating reunion, in Orlando FL, I found myself reading an article in skating magazine from 1971 or 1972. In that article there was a discussion of the success enjoyed by Richard Horne and Jane Panky (L) in roller dance skating as well as their being among the first to reaching the top of the podium in the FIRS world of artistic roller sports. Also discussed was their successful transition to the world of Ice skating.   Although Richard and Jane were, in fact, not the first to reach the top of the podium.  The article seemed to indicate some level of surprise that it was in roller dance skating that the USA broke through on the world stage of the FIRS.   

As I recall, there was  Barbara Jablonski, in ladies singles,  Miami FL in 1961, Rita Smith and Donald Rudalawicz (R) in the dance event, in 1968, Jack Courtney and Sheryl Ann Truman, 1968 Pairs, and of course Jack Courtney in Men’s singles in 1968. Richard Horne and Jane Panky won the dance title in 1970 and 1971, Jane Purachio and Jim Stevens in 1973, and Jane with Kerry Cavazzi in 1975 and 1976.  That being said, I noted in the article that, clearly, there was no mention as to where, or from whom Richard and Jane, and the skaters in the leading list, received their training!  That, my friends in the skating world, would be the common denominator shared by all of the skaters listed above.  

Charlotte Owings, Lyndell Edgington, GayaJo Nelson, Steve Courtney 1955, Marion Indiana.
David Tassinari & Lorna Jean Urban in 1951 about age 10.  David paired with Lorna Jean about 1959 as RSROA 4's Champions both were started by Warren about 1950 as was Pat Fogerty

One man, who has spent over 6 decades contributing his heart and soul to the development of artistic roller sports; please understand, this commentary is no way meant to detract from the input of other coaches contributions and their input into the training and development of these athletes but, rather, to point out that he, Warren Danner, often without recognition, did contribute to the development and evolution of the sport in which we all share a common kinship.

Warren A. Danner, my father, imbued a love of the sport of roller skating to all of those mentioned above.  It was he who tied the first pair of roller skates onto, not only my feet at age 18 months, in Mechanicsburg PA,  but also to those of David Tassinari, Pat Fogerty, in Brocton MA,  Sheryl Ann Truman, Jack Courtney, Gary Callahan,  in Indiana, and Richard Dalley  and Carol Fox, in Livonia MI.  (National roller champions and, 1984 Olympic team and World Professional Ice dance champions 1986 and 1987)

Warren started skating in the streets of Boston in the late 1930’s During the 1940’s while stationed in Baltimore, MD he met and skated competitively with my mother, Phyllis.(pictured R)  Following the war the Danner family moved to Mechanicsburg PA, ** to start their teaching careers, then in 1948 onto   Boston and Uncle Charlie Santoro’s Roll-A-Rena in Norwood MA.  In 1950 while teaching in Brocton’s Maple Arena he started David Tassinari and Pat Fogerty on a path in skating which would, not only serve them well as they grew into highly productive adults, but it also started them on a path which, in the end, would become part of the history of the world of roller skating, the merging together of two schools of thought in roller sports.  The sport which they came to love and make a part of their lives had been split into two competing structures back in the mid 1940’s.  It would be David Tassinari, Pat Fogerty, and in a sense Warren Danner that would become a bit of the glue which would contribute to the healing of a long standing schism in the world of Roller sports.

In 1953 the Danner family moved to Indiana, and the Idle-Wyld Roller Palace in Marion Indiana, there with the help of Kenny Truman (rink operator) Bob Craigen (Rhythm blues), and Jim Wall (rink operator) together they built an interclub structure which spread throughout the state of Indiana and became the forum for training of such skaters as Lyndell Edgington Charlotte Owings, Jackie Courtney, Sheryl Ann Truemen, Sherry Street, Gary Callahan and myself!

It was in 1965 that it starts to come back together in the world of U.S. roller sports, in the official photo of the parade of nations at the Madrid  Spain world artistic roller skating championships, we see Jackie Courtney carrying the US flag with David Tassinari and myself Dan Danner bringing up the rear. Seven members of that team got their start in skating from Warren A. Danner. It was one of the few World championships in which he had skaters that he did not attend. Warren went on the continue to produce and develop outstanding roller dance teams such as Jane Panky and Richard Horne, Jane Purachio and Jim Stevens, Mark Howard and Cindy Smith all developing into world roller dance champions.

Warren is now in his 85th year and lives with his second wife Audrey, in Highland Heights KY. They and their daughter Kellie operate RECCA roller rink in Alexandria KY.  They still hold many fond memories of building and developing generations of roller skating talent. His lifetime body of work and contributions to the sport of roller sports has provided a legacy which continues through the teaching voices of Jane, David, Pat, Cindy, and other roller skating professional around the country, just too numerous to list. I for one feel that, for far too long his legacy has gone unrecognized.

On July 25, 2008, Warren A. Danner was recognized for his great accomplishments in roller skating and was admitted to the USARSA Competitive Coaches Roller Skating Hall of Fame.  This award was presented during the 2008 National Roller Skating Championships held in Lincoln, Nebraska.  We congratulate Warren and thank him for a life time of contributions to our roller skating sport.