One day in October of 1960, Jerry called me and ask if I would
like to go with him to a motel on the beach, where he was to
meet a producer who wanted to use him and his band in a TV
series called Miami Undercover. When we got there, they were
still shooting a scene with Lee Bowman and Jill Corey. We waited
and watched the shoot. The producer was Howard Koch.
When they finished we walked down a long driveway to the
cars. Howard was talking to Jerry and I was walking with Jill.
This is a side trip but, that has been the way things have
happened to me most of my life. I have been on more side trips
than are necessary. Jill and I exchanged small talk and suddenly
Jill looked at me and said, "Havenít we met before?"
I smiled and nodded, "
She said, "Didnít I have a crush on you at one
Again I smiled and nodded. Jill and I met when she was
singing in a polka band in Pennsylvania and her name was Norma
Jean Speranza; I danced with her when she wasnít singing, and
we dated. I went to Florida and didnít see her for a long
time. Before I went into the service in 1951, I returned to
Pennsylvania to visit my family. I called Jill and we went out a
couple of times while I was home. I went into the army for two
years, then returned to Florida, where I attended the University
of Miami, and got into many adventures.
In 1954 I delivered a 40 foot Chris Craft to New York City.
Bunnie, a lady I met on Miami Beach, joined me in New York. One
day I read that Jill was one of the members of the TV show,
"Your Hit Parade". I didnít contact her because of
Bunnie. I was happy for Jill.
Back in Miami after the summer in New York, I was helping
Frank Linale with staging and recording in the Vagabond Club.
One night while sitting in the office at the club, I read that
Jill Corey and Joel Grey were appearing at the Americana Hotel
in North Miami Beach. I commented that I knew her and one of the
Vags, I think it was Tillio, said, "Give'r her a call,
I didnít want to bother her, it had been a long time. Then
the other guys got in on it, and they all insisted that I call
her right now. They called the Americana and got Jill on the
phone. I said hello and we made small talk. Jill invited me to
come and see the show. I told her I was in Miami, and probably
wouldnít be able to make it to the beach.
When I hung up, the guys all insisted that I go see her. They
called the MaitreĎd at the hotel and got me a good table. The
Vagabonds had played the Americana and knew everyone there. I
drove up and caught the show. I sent word back stage that I was
there. After the show I waited in the lobby to see her. Joel
Grey was also waiting for someone. We both stood and chatted for
about 45 minutes. Then Jill appeared.
I said "goodbye" to Joel and "hello" to
Jill. Jill looked at me and then she gave me a zinger. She said,
"I donít know you and I donít think you know me.
Someone is waiting for me and I have to go." I was
dumbfounded. I couldnít think of anything to say. Finally I
said, "Look, I only came to congratulate you. You do know
me, but thatís okay. Good luck and good bye." What a
story I had to tell the Vagabonds when I got back to the club.
Now 4 or 5 years later, here we were strolling down a winding
driveway on Miami Beach chatting like old friends. We started
talking about old times, and were, once again, good friends when we
reached the cars. The Americana never came up. The plan for that
very night was to record Jillís voice with Jerry accompanying
her on the piano. It was for a night club scene to be shot at
the Club 21 at a hotel on 21st street, Miami Beach,
later in the week.
That night we went to the recording studio. Jill and I had a
soda while they were setting up. She told me she was dating Don
Hoak a third baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jerry was
pleased that I had a friend. He knew Kaye, the girl I was seeing
at the time. He felt she wasnít treating me right.
Jerry her arrangements and they started to rehearse. After a few
bars Jill stopped and said your not playing my charts. She was
right, Jerry didnít read music. There could have been one of
those Hollywood scenes, but Jill went over to Jerry and they
talked it out. I was afraid he would lose the gig. But Jill
worked with him and they did the recording. Jerry told me he was
glad I was along.
Jerry called and said the shoot was scheduled for Wednesday
the 6th. Later Kaye called and asked me if I would meet her at
the Club 21, she was cast in a TV series that was shooting
there. I told he that I was going with Jerry and could meet her
in the parking lot by the hotel. She got snippy and said that
she would go alone.
We did meet in the parking lot and the three
of us entered the club; it was closed for the shoot. The cameras
were being set up and Jerryís band was on the stand. Kaye and
I sat at the bar talking.
Jill entered with her assistants and as she walked passed me
she said, "Hi Sam, How are you feeling today?"
I answered, "Great, How about
"Knock Ďem dead, Jill."
Kaye was thunderstruck. She couldnít believe what had just
When Jill got to the stand and was doing a sound check, she
called me over the mic, "Sam, If I get Jerry to play a
polka will you dance with me?"
I yelled back, "My pleasure."
Kaye treated me much nicer after that.
That afternoon, Jill and I watched the world series, Don Hoak
was playing third base for the Pittsburgh Pirates. We watched
the Pirates win the Series. Our home town. Jill returned to
Pittsburgh and married Don Hoak. I stayed in Miami.
I met Jill again in 1988 in the Cine Grill Lounge in the
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Jill was appearing there as a
featured singer. We talked about those times and I watched her
act. It was the last time I saw her.
Jerry did another segment of Miami Undercover. This time he
played a gangster. He came over to me and whispered that in the
next scene he would have to fall out of a rowboat into Biscayne
Bay. The problem was he couldnít swim. I was going to jump in
and save him if he needed help.
It was a tense moment. Finally,
the scene arrived and he was pulled overboard. For a few moments
he didnít come up; I was ready to jump in when he surfaced and
grasp the side of the boat, gasping for breath. When they got
him out, Howard ask him why he didnít say anything. Jerry said
he didnít want to slow up the production. He was a true pro.
Rocky Graziano was in that segment. Each day after the
shooting, Jerry, Rocky and I would go to the lounge in the
Fountainbleu Hotel and have drinks. I had a lot of fun in those
days and Jerry was a big part of it.
I bumped into Rocky some years later in front of the
Stage Deli in New York. He was playing hooky from a rehearsal
for a show. When I walked past him he was sitting on the bumper
of a car. Then it clicked who he was; I went back to said
hello. I told him I thought he was a narc sitting there. We went
up to my room for some drinks. I was staying at the Great
Northern just around the corner on 57th
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