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Backstage with The Arcada Theatre’s Ron Onesti: A Yankee Doodle Time of the Year

Ron Onesti:  A Yankee Doodle Time of the Year

Six months down, six months to go!  What began about sixteen months ago seems to finally be leveling off and we are close to that end of the tunnel where the light has been shining for a while now.  That horrible Pandemic basically squashed most business and social activity through 2020 and halfway into 2021.

But now, we are at the “All-Star Break” of a baseball season we were unsure we would even have this year.  We are slowly getting back to visiting our loved ones with this July Fourth weekend being the first time in a year and a half since many have shared moments with their extended families and life-long friends.

AND…restaurants and LIVE MUSIC are back!

I am almost beside myself with emotion!  Several municipalities will be doing some form of July 4th parades or other celebrations in an effort to get back to “normal”.  For several years I produced the Village of Elmwood Park’s 4th of July Parade.  They will bring it back this year with a car parade throughout the village.  Yay!

My memories of that parade are made up of the main streets of the village donned with hundreds of American flags.  Vibrant American flags face painted on the bright little faces of the children, puppies with red, white and blue scarves and uniformed military veterans marching proudly resonate with my memories of those wonderful days.

Proud leaders at the time were Mayor Peter Silvestri (now Cook County Commissioner) and State Rep. Angelo “Skip” Saviano (now Elmwood Park Mayor).  What they did for the village then (and continue to do) was a true patriotic presentation to proud of!

Fireworks are a nice tradition we have known for generations.  The family picnic is a welcomed get-together I never take for granted, especially now.  I treasure memories of my mom proudly wearing her diamond-encrusted American flag pin we gave to her as she became an American citizen at the age of 80.  I have an indelible image of my dad saluting every flag in remembrance of his fallen brothers of WWII as he would annually talk of the tears he shed upon seeing the Statue of Liberty as he returned home from Europe on December 31, 1944.

But with all of the pomp and circumstance related to traditional 4th of July celebrations, you probably won’t believe MY annual homage to the formation of this great country!

It really comes down to me sitting in my Lazy Boy recliner, and watching the 1942 film classic, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”.  It stars James Cagney as the song-and-dance-man George M. Cohan.  It was his performance in this film that earned Cagney his only Academy Award.

Cohan was a producer, actor and songwriter who penned iconic American patriotic songs including “You’re A Grand Old Flag”, “Over There” and of course, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”.  At any one time, Cohan had his name as either a producer or performer (or both) on as many as a half a dozen Marquees on Broadway.  His legendary song “Give My Regards To Broadway” still remains a “Great White Way” (the term given to Broadway reflecting its pioneering of electric light bulbs in 1910) staple to this day.

With all the legends who have graced the stages around 42nd Street over more than one hundred years, only one monument stands in Times Square honoring a person of music and Broadway accomplishment.  And that is a statue of George M. Cohan.

My dad truly got a kick out of the “stiff-legged” dancing style of James Cagney.  I would watch this film either on or around July 4th because that’s when WGN Channel 9 would show it, way before VCRs, DVDs and Netflix.

So now, as I plop down after a day of barbeque, fireworks and corn on the cob, I turn my dad’s picture around so he can “see” Jimmy Cagney wave that “Grand Old Flag” and tell the story of George M. Cohan to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Sure, I get emotional every year at the same time.  But still, I get a certain sense of patriotism from watching that film.

So, to James Cagney and George M.Cohan, who represent in that film what is good about our great country, and to our heroes in history that got us all here, my mother thanks you, my sister thanks you, my brother thanks you and I of course thank you.

But in particular, I know for a fact, my father thanks you.

If you watch the film, you’ll know what I am talking about!  I wish you and your family a happy and safe 4th of July!