Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Something very common among recent dinner companions

“It’s too bad you and Rick weren’t at Molinari’s the other night,” I told Karen Sippola a week ago at the huge Imagine! blast at Lakeland Community College.

“We could have celebrated All-Karen night at the restaurant.”

Karen was dressed as a flapper, in keeping with the Roaring Twenties theme. She looked great, of course. But she had no idea what I was talking about.

But first let me say this about Imagine! It is the college’s biggest party of the year. Two floors of people non-stop partying. Never a let-up in the music or the flow of food and spirits, not to mention the bananas Foster.

And thanks to Connie Beverage, the First Lady of Lakeland, for telling me and the lady of the house where to find the bananas Foster. Outstanding!

But I’m getting way ahead of my story.

It is important to award a gold star for the evening to Laurie Principe, No. 2 honcho at the Lakeland Foundation and prime mover of the evening’s activities, for coming up with the Michael Petrone band for the evening’s musical treats.

I have known Mike since he was a lad. But I hadn’t seen him since he and his father, John Petrone (they are two of Northern Ohio’s finest jazz pianists) played a memorable “battle of the pianos” at Nighttown several years ago.

I had heard he was going to be at Lakeland that evening, so I told him I put in my car an arm load of favorite piano CDs to play all week.

I mentioned his own recordings, which I have a bunch of, plus Andre Previn and Oscar Peterson.
He opined that was pretty good company. And I forgot to mention Claude Williamson!

Now there are four piano players who can blow up a storm, so to speak.

A footnote: Mike is still playing at Johnny’s Downtown in Cleveland after all these years.

Thanks, Laurie, for bringing in Michael for Imagine! It probably would be asking too much to have had his father there also. I wouldn’t have had a chance to eat dinner. I would have pulled a chair up in front of the band stand and sat there, all night.

But I digress.

What I told Karen Sippola was that the lady and I had been at Molinari’s the week before and did something out of character — for us. We sat in a booth — for a change.

We go there for dinner at least once a week, but we ordinarily sit at the bar and eat. That way we can be entertained by Justin and Kim while watching the ball game.

Well, at least one of us can watch the ball game.

At the booth across from us was a beautiful woman named Karen and her husband, Bill.

We quickly struck up a conversation. We learned Karen was homecoming queen at North High in Eastlake in 1960, two years after my sister, Molly, was queen.

She said she and Bill knew Molly very well, and that Molly at one time had dated her brother, Neil Fawcett, that being Karen’s maiden name. She is married to Bill Futchi, a North grad in 1959. He excelled at wrestling and boxing — and looked every bit like a heavyweight wrestler and a boxer.

The four of us had a great chat. She said she hopes Molly comes back here from Nashville next time they have a queens’ reunion. They were pleased to hear Molly and Larry have a brand new granddaughter.

I took out my phone to call Molly, but Karen and Bill left before she answered. So we talked with her anyway — for 8 minutes and 27 seconds. Amazing what you can find out from your cell phone.

No sooner did Karen and Bill leave, but who should come in to sit where they had been but Karen and Tom Tercek.

This Karen is the one who is the operating head of the Willoughby Western Lake County Chamber of Commerce.

Amazing! Two beautiful Karens in the same seat, moments apart! I asked Karen if she was a queen and she said no, but she was in the Miami University Pageant. That’s close enough for me.

Tom works at Lubrizol and they met in college. “We were a Miami merger,” she said.

By the way, they were also at the Imagine! party.

Now we come to Karen Sippola. I told her about all the beautiful Karens and she said, “I was homecoming queen at Madison High School.”

Wow! So now my tale is complete. I ended our conversation with a story about how Karen Bates’ father, the late Dick Bates, once introduced his family when he was named Distinguished Citizen by the Madison Perry Chamber of Commerce.

Dick was one of the wittiest guys I ever knew. I always hated to follow him on a program, such as a YMCA dinner, because he was too funny.

I won’t tell you exactly what he said. I will just say he introduced his wife Joann as Mrs. Bates and his daughter Karen as Miss Bates.

I will leave the rest to your imagination. But he left the audience at Madison Country Club that evening gasping.


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