When Elton John’s song Benny and the Jets plays, I always think of my dad. Not because it was his favorite or anything, Rod Stewart’s Maggie May was, and not only because my dad’s name is Benny (when translated from Biagio) but he also used to shine shoes for the Jets when he was a little boy. Thus, his connection to the song lyrics Benny and the Jets.
Let me give you some background. Before all the teams headed down to the warm Florida areas for the off season, the Jets pro NFL team used to train in Peekskill, New York in Westchester County. My dad, an Italian immigrant, was five-years-old and was given a shoe shine kit from a local politician, so he’d shine the football players shoes and give the money to his family. The Jets would all leave their shoes out and my dad would return them all shiny and new and they’d give him a dollar in return. All but Joe Namath that is, who although at the time was the richest paid and most popular athlete in America; he’d only leave my dad--a little kid--25 cents.
That really pissed my dad off, which is why he grew up hating the Jets too and liking the Oakland Raiders. At the time they were the only team that could beat the Jets, so my dad started rooting for them and the NY Giants. I also grew up disliking the Jets and Namath as a result too. Funny.
So Benny was shining shoes at 5, but by 19 he had his first pizza place. Pretty amazing, huh? He was never afraid of hard work that’s for sure. When I was younger, I used to pretend the song Benny and Jets was about my dad, funny that it is such a coincidence though. Now I hear it play on the radio and I smile.