Jerry Blavat Finds the Fountain of Youth
He’s 67 but still rockin’, with a new WXPN audience for his doo-wop oldies. Our writer spent an exhausting week together drinking wine, learning about Indians, meeting Connie Francis, watching him hang upside-down on an inversion board — and finally figured out what keeps the Geator with the Heator snappin’ away
“Yo man, it’s the Geator! … I just got out of the hospital, but I’m dancing and doing my thing! … Yeah, why don’t you come out to dinner with us? … Modo Mio, 2nd and Girard … I bring my own wine … You’ll love the guys, the group of guys we hang with … Doctor Razor’ll be there … oh, you’ll flip over the food at this joint, you’ll flip.”
I only know the Geator by his legend. The Geator with the Heator, the Boss with the Hot Sauce: peripatetic founding father of rock-’n’-roll; breaker of countless hit records; deejay/performer/tastemaker whose influence on the shape of American music rivals Wolfman Jack’s; close personal friend to Dick Clark, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Sidney Kimmel, Bob Brady, and half the famous mobsters in Philly. And it sounds like he’s still got some sort of brat pack. So here we go. I’m in.
Wine’s on the table, as promised. The Geator snaps his fingers, beckons me to sit down to dinner at Modo Mio. It’s just the two of us for now. “The guys” are on the way. The Geator grins. Light glints off his white teeth. He’s five-foot-five and 67 years old. Tonight he’s wearing a kangol-style hat, brim rotated to the back, and a skintight black shirt and skinny black jeans — the uniform of a 22-year-old Brooklyn hipster pasted onto a guy who was born when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. The Geator starts to pour me a glass of barbera, from Italy. I decline, politely. His eyes flash with surprise, concern, pity. He leans forward and whispers — whispers — “You don’t drink?”
No, no, I do, but, ah, I’m basically on the clock, I just met you, I’m not supposed to take free stuff from —
“Don’t you like to drink a lot of wine? That’s what I do. I have dinner and I drink wine.”
The Geator is still technically recovering from heart surgery last week, although to hear the Geator tell it, he barely had to recover at all. Thirty-six hours after doctors inserted a long plastic tube through his groin and up into his heart, plugging a hole the size of a quarter in his atrium (“Next thing I remember, they’re shaking me … this beautiful assistant by the name of Dee. Beau-tee-ful”), the Geator was back at work, doing his weekly radio show at Philly Park Casino. “Incredible,” he says, “amazing.”
And now he’s here, with the wine, and with “the guys,” who’ve arrived — there’s a lawyer, Carl Poplar, who was once Jim Florio’s law partner and is a dead ringer for actor Ian McKellen, and another lawyer, Joe Pozzuolo, who has curly hair and apple cheeks and handles the Geator’s estate, and of course Doctor Razor (a.k.a. David Raezer, urologist), who is the last to join us, fresh off the operating table, in a rumpled suit. (“I’m starting with dessert, goddammit.”) The food has come streaming out of the kitchen in discrete glorious flights, ricotta and wheat bread, agnolotti, anisette cookies, and we’re all eating and talking, mostly about age and youth and death, on account of the Geator’s recent ordeal, and I start learning things.