"Still Racing with the Moon III" --

A Gathering of the Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society

May 29-30, 2009

by Claire Schwartz

photographs by Lou Kohnen, Jerry Furris and Tinker Rautenberg

The New York Sky Line

The Big Apple

The third gathering of the Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society was held in and around New York City. It was decided at the close of the Boston gathering, that the next venue would be New York, where Vaughn lived in the early 1940s and played at  many of the  renowned New York hotels and establishments throughout his career. He also recorded and broadcast numerous radio and television programs from the "city that never sleeps."


We stayed at the Meadowlands Plaza Hotel located across the Hudson River from Manhattan  in Secaucus, New Jersey.  The hotel was the perfect setting for our group. La Reggia, a chic Italian Restaurant located within the hotel, was a convenient destination for dinner Friday evening.


La Reggia -- The Little Italy of Secaucus

photo from website

The Meadowlands Plaza Hotel

photo from website

Friday evening, May 29

Nine members arrived Friday evening and spent some time "chatting it up" in the lobby before dinner. Present were. . . Polly and Paul Attridge, Lou Kohnen, Tim Ellingham, Jerry Furris, Herb Wasserman, Tinker Rautenberg and Gary and Claire Schwartz. New acquaintances were made as Tim Ellingham met other members for the first time. Also, Polly was surprised to see Tinker after almost 60 years.


We made plans for the following day and our walking tour of New York City. (Read Herb's notes on the tour.) Those physically up to the challenge of walking three or more miles planned to leave in the morning, with the second group joining them at the museum after lunch. Herb then had to depart for the evening, and Gary opted for alternative supper plans with take-out in the room, but the rest of the group rallied for dinner at La Reggia.


We had a wonderful dinner in the Italian style accentuated by our waiter who served us food and conversation in a most authentic manner. Laughter abounded, and most turned in after a lengthy meal with a complementary ice-cream dessert and much conversation.

Tinker, Tim, Claire, Lou, Herb and Gary

Photo from Jerry Furris

Tim, Claire, Lou, Herb and Gary

Photo from Jerry Furris

Herb, Paul, Tim, Polly, Claire and Lou

Photo from Tinker Rautenberg

Saturday, May 30

The day was beautiful, and the morning group had headed out before we came down to breakfast. Gary and I had breakfast with Lou and Tinker and we sat and talked until they were clearing away the buffet. We had about a half hour to go back to our rooms and gather our bags for our day-trip into New York City.


The hotel shuttled us from the front lobby to the Secaucus Junction Train Station, a newer facility that was bright, clean and had some architectural style to it for a modern public transportation facility. Once we figured out how to work the machine to get our tickets, we only had to wait twenty minutes or so for a train to arrive. Problem was, the first train that stopped was so crowded the four of us couldn't even make it out of the doorway. I was thinking, "There is no way I'm riding into New York City crammed in the doorway of a high speed train!" So in a split second decision, Lou pried open the door and we jumped. . . yes, off the train . . . just in the nick of time. Thank the Lord!


The next train was a mere five minutes behind the first train and offered somewhat more inviting accommodations. We were all four still standing, but at least we were inside of a passenger car. We were again blessed to have two young men offer up their seats to the ladies (Tinker and myself)--a great relief, and an unexpected courtesy in this day and age. The train ride was no more than ten minutes. In that time we  rumbled past the New Jersey flats,  tunneled under the Hudson River and came to a screeching halt at Penn Station.

Secaucus Junction Train Station

Penn Station Address

Entrance to Madison Square Garden and Pennsylvania Station

photo from internet source


Penn Station

OMG! The door of the train opened and people swarmed out into crowds of more people all herding into a narrow escalator in the dingiest underground bunker of a train station  imaginable. Water of questionable ilk dripped on us from overhead pipes. The noise was deafening. I was seriously wondering what we had stepped into, but we followed the crowd to escape this bedlam in the bowels of Manhattan. Not what a Midwestern girl is used to, that's for sure.

Once we surfaced from the escalator, the main level was still crowded and noisy, but the sight of daylight and the spacious ceiling removed any lingering feelings of claustrophobia. It was then that Lou's cell phone began to ring. It was Paul, trying to tell us where they were. Of course, we couldn't hear a thing. After several tries, Lou figured out that the morning group, consisting of Polly and Paul, Jerry and Tim, with Herb as their tour guide, was at the Cafe Metro on 52nd Street, across from the Museum of Radio and Television. Penn Station is located on 34th Street.

We found our way to the street and stood in line to hail a taxi cab without any trouble. We were above ground and out in the sunshine in New York City.  I was happy now. We sped along the avenue to our destination.

Museum of Radio and Television

Our cab dropped us off on 52nd Street between 6th and 5th Avenues. The  Cafe  Metro was on the south side of the street, but we didn't see the museum as we stood there looking up and down the block. We started walking in the wrong direction and finally asked a policeman for help. He pointed us in the opposite direction. We walked back along the north side of the street and there in front of us was Herb and his tour group--we were almost directly opposite of the Cafe Metro.


The Museum of Radio and Television, also known as the Paley Center for Media, is located at 25 W 52nd Street. Our group of nine checked in at the front desk and took the elevator up to the fourth flour library and screening room. We had made arrangements to screen three variety television show episodes that featured Vaughn Monroe as the guest. The shows included:

  • The Ford Festival (May 24, 1951)

  • The Texaco Star Theatre (September 25, 1951)

  • The George Gobel Show (October 21, 1958)

Cafe Metro 22 W 52nd Street

photo from Google Maps

Polly, Paul, Herb, Tim, Tinker, Lou, Claire and Gary--in front of the Paley Center for Media

photo from Jerry Furris

Our group of nine, split into three groups of three persons each to view the shows. Each group was led by a dosen down a flight of stairs to a dimly lit screening room consisting of a number of four-sided television stations (pods) with three seats in front of each television screen. Headsets were required.


Gary, Tim and myself started with the George Gobel Show. We were also able to screen parts of the Texaco Star Theatre before it was time to return to the hotel. In all, we had about 2 to 2 1/2 hours of viewing time at the museum. Not a lot considering the average length of one episode is 59 minutes.

Vaughn Monroe (standing on right) in a television appearance

The Television Shows

The George Gobel Show started out with a monolog by George Gobel and included a musical number by Vaughn very early into the program. Vaughn sings "You Were Meant For Me," which was his only performance in the show. However he did appear in several commercials and demonstrated stereophonic sound used for the first time on a nationally televised program. The first commercial was for RCA records and phonographs, including a new phonograph with a speaker that detached for stereo sound. Among the LP covers shown was "There I Sing / Swing It Again" by Vaughn. He also did a commercial extolling the benefits of RCA color TV, and the new NBC/RCA stereo. He demonstrated  how you could tune your radio to the local NBC radio station which was simulcasting with NBC TV and get a stereo broadcast. He suggested eight feet separating the radio from the TV, and showed how the sound changed as he moved from right to left. Back to the show. . . we sat through two painful numbers from a novelty band that called themselves "The Goofers." They donned masks and performed acrobatic tricks while playing their instruments. Silly stuff. George was also featured in a comedy skit with guest, Phil Harris. Phil also played drums for a musical rendition of "Ace in the Hole," and Vaughn joined in on the trombone. Very nice to see. Cogi Grant sang and John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra played "Blues in the Night." This was an interesting sample of 1950s television, and gave us a taste of what George Gobel was like as a comedian. However, Vaughn was little more than a spokesperson in this show.

The Texaco Star Theatre with Milton Berle was very entertaining. Since we were running short on time, we fast-forwarded to only those parts that included Vaughn, with one exception. Patrice Munsel was also featured on this particular episode. (You'll recall that she and Vaughn recorded a Rogers and Hart album together.) She sang "Italian Street Song" from Victor Herbert's "Naughty Marietta." I was in heaven. Vaughn opened with "Ballerina," followed by "There, I Said It Again" and "Sound Off." He was in excellent voice. Afterwards, Vaughn was featured in one skit with Milton Berle, which showed off how exceptional he looked in a top hat and tails. In the skit, Vaughn is an uptown "swell," named Reginald, while Uncle Miltie, is the hobo in rags who lives two doors down the street where they are both courting the same girl (Munsel) who happens to live in the middle. The trio sing a comedic "Come On A My House." Vaughn forgets his line at one point, and the skit ends with Munsel turning down both of their gallant advances and going off with a heavy, unattractive cast member. A very fun skit. Vaughn was not presented so stunningly in a second musical review number, where a newsboy shouts out headlines of the day while the scene fades to Milton Berle and guests in appropriate costume, singing the headlining story. Picture Vaughn in a super hero suit. But not the tights, cape and mask you would expect any respectable super hero to don. No, this was some hooded suit with antennae that made him look like a stereotypical Martian whilst singing "Racing with the Moon."  Where are The Goofer's when you need them?

We did not get to view the Ford Festival, but besides Vaughn, it featured performances by the Mary Kay Trio, James Melton, Victor Moore and the Weire Brothers. Vaughn sang "Ballerina" in a production number with a few dancers in the background. Vaughn and Melton, and guest Victor Moore did a comedy skit that included a version of "Sam's Song." In a dramatic sketch with a Civil War theme, Vaughn sings a hymn," Many are the Hearts." THAT I was sorry to miss.

George Gobel





Milton Berle


Lou, Tinker, Gary and myself left early to catch the train back to Secaucus Junction and prepare for the evening banquet. The cab ride through Times Square was phenomenal and too short. A carnival midway is what came to mind--lights, colors and people-- all in motion. When we arrived at the Secaucus Junction Train Station and called the hotel, we found that a shuttle was already on its way to pick up another guest who had just arrived. While walking to the elevator, we ran into VMAS member Joel Klein and boarded the shuttle together for the ride back to the hotel.

The Banquet

The banquet started at 6:00 pm. The hotel posted our event on their activities board in the lobby so guests who were arriving for the banquet would know where to find us. We were set up in the Princeton Room. We had two round tables with place settings of ten. An appreciation society banner was new this year, in addition to our poster board.


We welcomed nine others who joined us for the banquet:  Marian Gower, Joel Klein, and special guests Bucky Pizzarelli, his wife Ruth, Jerry Bruno, Joe Bennett, Dick Bagni, and journalists Jana DeHart and her photographer, John. Jana was doing a documentary on Bucky Pizzarelli and requested permission to cover our event. We were very pleased to have Jana and John with us.

The evening was fantastic! I couldn't believe that so many members from Vaughn's orchestra and chorus would be able to attend. It was all very thrilling. The bar was open and social hour was very pleasant as members and special guests mingled with old  and new friends alike. The anticipation grew as instruments were brought in.


Polly puts it this way: "When I walked in and saw the bass and the guitar case beside it I was thrilled, as I didn't realize that Jerry and Bucky were going to come and play for us. I thought they were just there for dinner. Then, after we stat down and someone asked Joe if he had brought his horn and he answered that it was in his car, I couldn't believe our luck. They sounded so good, and Tinker was wonderful. What memories they brought back!!"

Social Hour

photos by Lou Kohnen

Jerry, Marian, Bucky and Dick

Joe and Tinker

Dick, Claire, Herb and Gary

John, Jerry and Ruth


photos by Jerry Furris

Marian, Tinker, Jerry, Dick, Ruth, Bucky and Tim

Jana, Herb, Joel, Gary, Claire, Joe, Polly, John

Table Shots

photos by Lou Kohnen

Marian, Tinker and Jerry

Ruth, Bucky and Lou

Gary and Claire

Herb and Joel

Polly and Paul

Tinker and Jerry

Dinner was an event. Claire said the invocation, and Chef Enza served up a five-course Italian meal fit for Caesar himself. The seafood appetizer was a pallet-pleaser, followed by a crisp green salad. Bowls full of steaming pasta followed. The main course was a selection of veal or chicken with potatoes and vegetables. A voluptuous slice of New York cheesecake was served up for dessert. By this time, the group was getting antsy for some live entertainment.

Claire gave the floor over to Dick Bagni to say a few words, while the boys--Bucky, Jerry and Joe--readied their respective instruments. We had a grand time requesting old favorites and listening to real live music, played by the best musicians in the world, just for us, and just for the fun of it. It doesn't get much better than that folks. Tinker was coaxed up front and lead the vocals for some "sing-a-longs."

We all wished the band could have played on and on and on, but it was too soon ended. Take-home mementos included the table goblets, a CD of Vaughn singing his hits on television (thanks to member James Stewart), and ballpoint pens with the society name and website address.

Still Racing with the Moon III





Tinker, Bucky and Jerry (Joe not shown)

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