Culture

Venice Spirit of Life

– Paul Tanck  Cosmo w_ big smile 3-30-16

I feel that 2016 is the year of death. Look at the “celebrities” that have left us suddenly and too soon this year so far: David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Glenn Frey, Patty Duke, Alan Rickman, Garry Shandling, Maurice White, Paul Kantner, Sir George Martin, Nancy Reagan, Morley Safer, Prince…

All gut-wrenching losses to us, in many random, various ways.

But the most heart-breaking loss was that of local Venetian Cosmo Goffredo, who passed in the evening of May 5, 2016.

Cosmo had been ill for some time, and was living at his St. Annie Siqueiros’ house when he left. Born on July 24, 1938 in Paterson, New Jersey, he was 77 years old.

For 15 years he and Annie were neighbors on Cabrillo, but before that, Cosmo resided in the canals during the early 70s, and in a panoramic roof-top residence on the Ocean Front Walk during the 80’s. He was an accomplished piano player, a germophobic, a land-owner in Hawaii and New Mexico, a successful entrepreneur, always a giver, a poet, and he always took situations a step above the normal. He became the true Venice spirit of life. And he is and will be truly missed.

Here, to show his true background, is his own life-story…

Carnie Boy

by Cosmo Goffredo

I

It was a hot August night in 1952, just turned 14 years old, some guy offered me five dollars to climb to the top of the Ferris wheel to tear in down. Very dangerous place to be. I loved it. At midnight, I took off with the Carnival. Kept falling asleep in the big red truck around daybreak a loud noise Like a bomb awoke me our first blowout sitting on the side of the road waiting for the gas station to open, this guy driving a car 1935 or so with a rumble seat was screaming and beating this woman behind him. Our truck created a blind spot as he pulled onto the highway and side swiped a 1955 Chevy as I was running towards the cars I heard death moans and saw blood everywhere. I turned ran behind the gas station I saw the whole thing 30 seconds before it happened and was helpless to do or say anything. 3 people died. Our flat fixed on the road to Pa. …Hours later raising tents and stoking racks of nick naks, plush teddy bears.. “on with the show” was my bosses motto. Italian Greaseball con man trickster, smooth talker he taught me everything he knew about how to get money from the staging suckers that’s what he called people who weren’t Carny folk. All the money I made he got. I was lucky to eat. He would make me empty my pockets at closing time. Joe Gandoso was his name.

II

I met Ruby. My first Teacher. She had a scar from the corner of her mouth to her ear, the mark of a snitch. Always had a cigarettes in her mouth. She moved with grace and confidence. She wore glasses with diamond segue sets, cat eye shaped Turned up, harsh low demanding voice … Hi Kid Pay attention, I’m only going to tell you things one time. She felt like a Mom, Grandma, and Grandpa all in me person. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open, first rule, when you say something, mean it. Don’t blink your eyes or twitch too much, always look the suckers in the eyes, stare them down with a smile, then make your moves, got it?

Yes Ruby, I got it. So let’s go through the moves now kid, ok, stand here. I saw behind the faces, fast moving people, street, country, jungle, savvy kind. Wild untamed energy all…
Everything is different here, all the rules have changed. Spontaneity has its full run. Sometimes I talk to the fat people and all they could do is sit there on their backs
I played with Snakes, mail carts, 50 or so in cart covered with wire tops. Got my cherry broke by 18 year old Hoochy-Koochy girl in the back of the big red carnival truck.

IV

She fucked me and left. Her name was Pat. She wanted to take me with her in the caddy convertible, canary-yellow, but her boyfriend said I was too young, he was right. Carny people embrace the world by living in the moment. Some of my new friends were freaks and actual geeks. A geek would bite off a chicken’s head and perform all kinds of weird acts.
Such odd shaped faces and bodies were all around me constantly. My hair was combed in a Tony Curtis, TC, Ducks Ass, DA, green eyes, 120 pounds soaking wet, a real greaseball punk. Rearing to go. Full of life and spunky as they come. The old gypsy grandmothers would make me stay inside on full Moon nights.

V

They feared vampires and werewolves!! The old gypsy women always threw rocks at me and hollered GoHome! Go back to your family before it’s too late. Sometimes I would be in a trailer on the floor sleeping with about 20 or so gypsies. Some of the other young boys would threaten me with Knives and say if you bother my Sister, I will cut your throat and then we would laugh together, but I knew they meant it.

Coffee and cigarettes first thing in the Morning.

Sometimes we would go to town to do body and fender work. Just a dolly and hammer. There wasn’t any bonds then. We used to make a pile of money in just a few hours. The gypsy boys would steal anything. Money, food, dogs, cats, purses, and pick pocket in between.

By the way, Paterson NJ was where I started out, and traveled all the northeast coast down to Greensboro N.C. About 5 months time.

VI

Coming from up North, I didn’t know about separate rest rooms for the colored, and I never saw a negro who was black-blue-black. The midway was an ocean of Blue- Black facesandbodies, scary as hell, I felt like I was deep, deep in. The middle of Africa trapped with no way out.
I was working the baseball six-cat scam, the set up is either you are either behind canvas backdrop with a peep hole sitting on a seat with a hinge and one pin, so you can pull it out to disappear out of the back of the tent. There are three 18 inch canvas cats that baseballs are thrown at on each side of the tent. 6 total and they are supposed to fall all the way to the bottom, except you are back there pushing a rod attached to a board that stops them half way. It’s all set up as a “blind”, most people like to gamble.

VII

Greed gets to about 30% plus the will to win?? Who knows. Sometimes I would be up front, hawking, conning people, lots of money lost and won. This one time I was in the back peeking through the peep hole and listening for the words niceandeasy, which meant to let the cats fall or the other key words, not too hard, which meant push the rod to not let the cats Fall to the bottom.

Sometimes it was confusing about what side was meant, so I would hold both sides up. Your head had to be close to the Canvas, so you could see what was going on so this 6 foot 4 colored guy sees me and throws the ball at my head. Boing, Bingo, stars and stripes and a loud moan to follow.

VIII

All hell broke loose. I saw that eye back there, did you hear that moan? I hit the sucker in the head, the big guy was screaming, it’s a Gyp, it’s a gyp. Give me my money, sir. Give me my money back, sir. Then, they started to jump over the counter, out of control, hey rube, hey rube! I pulled the pin, slipped out of the seat and slid out the back of the tent running for my life. Found the big red carny truck, jumped inside scared shitless, shaking like it was 20 degrees and cold wind on me.
I ran four other games that were just as crooked, all gambling set upon games. No fucking more for me.

IX

That was it. I quit. Joe Gandoso kept begging me all night not to leave. Next morning, early, I was on the grey-hound bus, heading home, up north, back to school or work were my options.
So, I choose work, first at the silk mill then at the dye house, then at a coat factory for the next couple of years.Nobody believed anything I told them about my adventures, because they all seemed too outrageous. I came from an Italian family of 10 boys and 4 girls, momandpop cat and canary.

Lived on a big river sort of like Tom Sawyer environment, plus we had the big 2,000 ft. Passaic Falls, I called it little Niagara. It was the hub of the silk industry for the 2nd world war.

X

Parachutes, bandages and sundry items. When I turned 17 years old, my Mom paid my tuition for Barber School in N.Y.C. I graduated in a year and got into men/women hairstyling. Thanks MomandPop.

I joined the Navy when I was 18 and did a yearandhalf.No wars in 1956 or 57, so I was released early, worked as a hair stylist in different shops for the next 9 years. I met all the wrong or right people. I had connections for everything. Razor-blades to Cadillacs, botany 500 suits, shark skin shoes, the works. I was living high on the hog, good-looking grease-ball. New cars. Etc. Lots of gorgeous women. I was a real fucker. Always had a mean streak, or you could call it “out of hand crazy”

XI

I sold everything on the side. Cigarettes, perfume, anything. Bet the ponies. I even bet on the 1/4 mile stock car races, what a blast! !!!
One day this guy, some gangster Vito, I used to cut his hair, needed a ride to do something. His car just died outside my shop. So, off we go. The mother fucker tells me to wait outside this Italian restaurant, just like in the movies, 2 minutes later he comes running out, shooting two guns. He kills three people. A mob hit! Take off kid! Move it the fuck out.
To my surprise, this gook hands me $500 and thanks me. Now, you’re one of the boys, like it or not, ok! Sure Vito, thanks. Now, we both go on the lamb for a while. When I finally came back I’m honored by all. The guineas hex piasone.

XII

Welcome to the family. That’s a goodaboy. Come on, you gotta meet the new Don. ….
That was the beginning of hard knocks and easy street Life in the fastandfurious lane, no stopping here All of a sudden I felt much more alive, as if the electricity quadrupled. Intensity plus every day drama leaves not too much room for inner calm or should I say everyday trauma. Some of the guys fed off this energy. Meatball heads, half a step up or down from a cro-magnum. Not such nice beings these guys.

XIII

The foot soldiers, enforcers. Low man on the totem-pole. They would kill each other like flies, comes with the territory. So, I took my position in the mob on the East coast. Because I knew many of the head honchos on the E. Coast from when I was a kid in the carnival gambling tent, a direct connection and an innate trust it was easy for me to…

XIV

…climb to the top in just about 8 years. Everything clicked and gelled like a Swiss movement. Senators, vice presidents and the most important heads of government and state officials, including many foreign presidents and government officials. Lots of money and goods exchanged. Ability of it’s own, breeding destruction took top priority. The most brutal people operate within…

XV

… these areas, no one is immune to the reaches of the high officials long arm of injustice plus our mob system of operation, no one escapes, not a good place to be. So many lives wasted, tragedy reigns pure evil and greed for power and control has its own life-force, as if it has a linear direction and thinking ability of its own, breeding destruction at every turn, feeding upon un-suspecting people all over the world…cosmo dog 1977

You hear about it in the news, disguised as something other than the truth, a small war?? Somewhere, usually in some S.A Country, Guatamala.

Cosmo Goffredo’s funeral ceremony and cremation were sublime yet spiritual. We know his soul and spirit will remain with Venice forever…
Photo captions:
Marcia Stone Tanck with Cosmo Goffredo during his final, luxurious and happy days at St. Annie’s, March 30, 2016. The “Wish Card” of Cosmo, from the 2000’sCosmo-4 (1)

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