‘Geator’ heats up Lititz
The baby boomers came out last Sunday &tstr; not Saturday, like the old days. One said, “Sha boom sha boom, rama lama ding dong” in a monotone Ben Stein voice. They weren’t in a record or malt shop, but Aaron’s Books in downtown Lititz.
They were looking for some nostalgia. Listening to the random playlist their grandkids put on their iPods wasn’t cuttin’ it.
In flared Jerry Blavat, the “Geator with the Heater,” the “Boss with the Hot Sauce.” He’s been disk jockeying oldies and rock-n-roll into homes and cars for over five decades using his South Philly accented fast-paced lingo.
“When I started, I didn’t wear a tie and stand behind a podium, I got out and danced with the kids,” said Blavat, who got his start dancing with American Bandstand at the age of 13 before it went national. “Sammy Davis Jr. said to me, ‘How’d you learn to dance like that? You’re like a little white me.’”
The “Geator,” who describes himself as a “little cockroach kid from South Philadelphia,” captivated his audience at Aaron’s while signing his new book, “You Only Rock Once: My Life in Music.” He’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is considered an authority on oldies music while still spinning the turntable at his weekly radio show on WXPN in Philadelphia.
He’s met many music-biz celebrities including Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra and became close friends with Frankie Avalon and Sammy Davis Jr.
Blavat talked fast and non-stop while his hands moved about as if conducting himself.
“Our parents were listening to Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney, but that was not rock and roll,” said Blavat. “Did you know Sinatra hated rock and roll and said it wouldn’t last?”
Blavat’s upbringing and past are as colorful as his broadcasts. Uncommon for the time, Blavat had a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, and by day his house was a bookie joint.
“My father was a Jewish racketeer and was on the lam from the cops in 1937 and ran into Broadway Theater in South Philadelphia,” said Blavat. “My mother was in the movie theatre with my Aunt Philomena and in comes this guy running from the cops. There’s an empty seat, he sits down, puts his arm around her. They (cops) were looking for a single guy and the cops don’t find a single guy so they run out. She was startled, smacked him and five weeks later, they run away and get married.”
And one man who was like family to him: Angelo Bruno, a Philadelphia Mob boss. The Geator simmered in some hot sauce in the past as he was investigated because of his relationship with the Brunos, but to Blavat, the people he grew up with, the organized crime gangs were just a recognized part of the culture.
“If you lived next door to a guy, it was none of your business what he did if he was a good neighbor. I’ve been married 54 years and separated 38,” said Blavat. That family (Brunos) became like a second family to me when I was first living alone.”
Blavat was a pall bearer in Bruno’s funeral, even though it meant he would start to be investigated heavily. He also jeopardized losing his fans over it.
“When you don’t have anything to worry about, you can always be honest,” said Blavat.
A woman asked what “The Geator” means.
“It’s an alligator,” said Blavat. “A gator that lives in the mud, doesn’t bother anybody, but once you heard me, I snatched you up.”
Another women said, “Oh, you’re not kidding, you did!”
The energetic keepers of the music world, DJs, don’t create popular taste anymore. Boomers no longer wait with anticipation by their transistor radios to see what the next song will be.
“I’m a dying breed. I’m the last guy in America to do what I do,” said Blavat. “I’ll be 74 years old. If it ends tomorrow, my life has been blessed and I will continue to do it as long as I have good health and as long as people come to see me.”
Judging by the adoring reaction of the sold out crowd, he has developed a following as devoted as those of the stars whose records he played. And, yes, Jerry Blavat helped the boomers become energized by reliving their childhood.
Michele Walter Fry welcomes your questions, comments and suggestions via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.