Brooklyn girls just break your heart
Then they watch you fall apart with their incredible eyes
Moistened by the goodbyes
'Til I forget all I ever learned about those crazy Brooklyn girls…
They were all beautiful, as I remember them, friendly too, and they asked YOU to dance.
The first time at Tomorrow’s Lounge on 86th Street – I thought it might have been a prank. Back in those days you could ask a dozen Irish girls before one might trip the light fantastic with you.
I remember very politely inquiring of a young lady in Wexford’s Parish Hall if she’d care to dance. Without missing a beat she replied, “Certainly, if you could find me a partner.”
Moving to Brooklyn was like finding the Promised Land. Not only was I a musician but Irish too and just off the boat, a rare commodity. Pierce Turner and I ended up there by accident – story of our lives. We needed a place to stay, an acquaintance had a room to spare and so we took the Double R train to Bay Ridge – wherever that was.
Eventually, we nailed down three nights a week at Tomorrows, a piano bar, frequented by cops, firemen, transit workers and others of a certain respectability in need of a drink.
And there we met the Brooklyn girls. A couple of them strayed in and found that we were dab hands at imitating Simon & Garfunkel - and with accents too. These lovelies spread the word and their sisters arrived in droves; within months we were the talk of the town – or at least Bay Ridge.
I just couldn’t get over how beautiful they all were – it’s not that ladies in Ireland didn’t have their looks, it was just the sheer variety of those Brooklyn girls. Now I see the melting pot at work, back then I thought I’d won the lottery.
It was the best of times and the worst of times. The Vietnam War was inching to a close, but even though it was the ‘70’s, the ‘60s were still in full flower on 86th Street. Brooklyn’s own Pete Hamill wrote for the New York Post. Different days, indeed! I remember how he brought the war home by describing the carnage in New York if hit by the same tonnage of bombs dropped that day on Hanoi.
He singled out Prospect Park. Never been there? Forget about the Sheep Meadow, Propect is a well-kept Brooklyn secret. And make sure you don’t miss the Botanical Gardens, particularly when the cherry trees are blooming; even better, stroll hand in hand under an eiderdown of pink blossoms with a Brooklyn girl.
‘Twas in Bay Ridge that I was first introduced to the glories of Italian food. To this day I’ve never had chicken cacciatore the beatings of Lentos, a dimly lit family restaurant on Ovington Avenue.
And talk about a variety of bars – from saloons like the Three Jolly Pigeons down around Senator Street up to swanky rock clubs like Bananafish Park, and did Poverty’s Pub really allow you to drink all the beer you could handle over two hours for three bucks? A privilege often abused, I fear – my brother once heroically downed 19 beers. Never made it to the 20, however.
Have you ever lay in the sands of Coney Island, ate oysters in Sheepshead Bay, drank vodka with wanna-be gangsters and Soviet veterans in Brighton Beach? There’s a whole different world out in that borough and I’m just scratching at the surface.
If there’s a nicer walk in the city than Shore Road, let me know. But most of all, I wonder if the Verrazano still “hang like a string of pearls in the night” and did those Brooklyn girls marry and move out to Staten Island?
I don’t know. Vietnam ended and everyone swore there’d be no more unnecessary foreign adventures. We moved on too. CBGB’s was opening and you could get an apartment for a buck and a half a month in the East Village (eat your heart out).
Those Brooklyn girls probably have daughters now every bit as beautiful as they were in that wonderful year. Do they still ask immigrant boys to dance? Maybe they even smooch to the song written about their mothers.
Now I'm on the sidewalk, night lights up your room
Go down to the Narrows, watch the immigrant moon
Beam down on Staten Island with its unforgiving sheen
And I'd give everything not to hemorrhage all of your dreams
Brooklyn girls just break your heart…