of Central New York”
When evening fell on Sylvan Beach, Hollywood stars would light up the nightlife. In the 1940s and 50s, many big-named entertainers would play to crowds at the once popular Russell’s Danceland and other resort hotels on the lake. Eddie’s Restaurant was at the center of it all.
Through the years many celebrities had the pleasure of dining at Eddie’s including Frank Sinatra, the Ink Spots, Harry James, Dagmar, Desi Arnaz, Nat “King” Cole, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Liza Minnelli and George Foreman. Most recently it was rumored that Oscar-winning actor Adrian Brody was spotted at Eddie’s.
“When the wonderful Big Bands played at Danceland, it was a special time. We loved the sounds of Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and all the other wonderful bands. I remember talking to Frank Sinatra when he appeared with Tommy Dorsey. As the years passed, the bands stopped coming, but Eddie’s was always there for us. Some people and places touch our hearts, and Eddie’s wraps around our hearts, and makes us happy.”
-Michael A. Perretta (customer)
The following are accounts from Eddie, Sr., taken from “The Beach To Brewerton-Stories of Oneida Lake”
“Jack Palmer was a trumpet player with the big bands of the 30s and 40s. I knew Jack all my life. In fact, he lived across the street from our house in Rome when he started playing with Harry James’ Band at Russell’s and, after they closed, he brought the band members to the restaurant. With them was a young vocalist named Frank Sinatra. Yes, Sinatra…at Sylvan Beach.
Frank was a skinny kid then, just starting out. He was an unknown, traveling with Harry James, trying to make a name for himself. I’ll never forget him, though. While the rest of the band came in and ate, Sinatra sat on the old wooden curb, our railroad tie curb, just looking at traffic along Main Street. Times had to be tough for him. I could have invited him to eat with the rest of us, but the idea never occurred to me.
Every once in a while Frank wandered in, bought a nickel candy bar, and went back to the curb. Finally he walked up to me, pointed to the curb, and asked, ‘Why do you guys use railroad ties for curbs in this town?’ He had a big smile on his face. We shared a good laugh. Then I decided to make him feel better. I asked him for his autograph, I couldn’t find a piece of paper, so I took a Dentyne Gum Poster off the wall. The poster had a big picture of Roy Rogers riding his horse, Trigger. Frank signed his name in big letters-right across Tigger’s rear! The two of us had another good laugh.”
“We met all the big band musicians. Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Paul Whiteman, Cab Calloway, Lou Prima. All the big names. Dagmar, Desi Arnaz, and Nat “King” Cole. They’d walk around the Beach during the day and stop here, get a coke or ice cream, relax in our screened dining area. After playing at Russell’s they’d come back for coffee, dinner, sometimes just to talk into the morning hours.”
“Lou Prima was funny. He came into our kitchen and put his arms around Fifi. He sang ‘Angelina, My Angelina’ to her. Fifi shook her head and corrected him. She said, ‘My name is Florence, not Angelina.’ He just laughed. Then he saw a big round bread and asked for it. We gave it to him. He dipped it into our sauce, took a bite, and said, ‘Wonderful.’ He asked if he could cook his own spaghetti! We were happy to let him do it. He sang the entire time that he cooked.”
“Russell’s was still open in the early 1950s when my son Eddie Jr. was a little kid. He liked to sneak over there and get the performers’ autographs. One night he came running back into the restaurant and yelled to me, ‘Hey Dad, I brought the singers back from Russell’s!’ In came the ‘Ink Spots,’ a pretty famous group. Eddie ran behind the counter, grabbed a handful of cigars, and gave one to each singer. We gladly fed them-they were nice guys. They appreciated our generosity and, in return, they stood in the middle of our dining room and sang a few numbers. Then they walked around the room and sang as they walked. A funny thing happened after they left. Several people came up to me afterwards and asked if I was going to be hiring entertainers on a regular basis! I had to laugh.”
“Liza Minnelli made a movie called ‘The Sterile Cuckoo,’ back in 1968 and they shot scenes in Union Chapel and Oudin’s Court [now called Sunset Cottages]. She came by several times while she was here, but she wasn’t overly friendly. The movie company hired Eddie Jr. as Liza’s chauffeur and one of his duties was teaching her how to drive a Volkswagen. She had never driven a standard shift car. She made Eddie nervous and he advised her to pay more attention to the road. Guess what? He got fired for saying that!”
“The largest celebrity that walked through our doors was ex-heavyweight champ George Foreman. He was being inducted into the boxing hall of fame in Canastota and came down with his whole crew for dinner. Lord, he was big! My son’s big. My grandson Rick lifts weights and he’s even bigger. George was larger than the two of them combined!
We took him into the kitchen to see how we make sauce. He looked at our sauce, kept looking, looking. He saw all the big chunks of beef and pork in it and said, ‘Eddie, what I could do with a loaf of Italian bread!’ I told him to take a loaf off the rack and help himself. He said, ‘No I can’t do that because when I go back into the dining room, I want another piece of pie.’ That man was one tremendous eater.”