OR, being great at being yourself, with a little nudge from your father
I always knew what he was capable of. Constantly surprising us kids, never shunning hard work, constantly “going for it,” and upping the game of life. Growing up with Joe Pagliei as my Dad, life with this “man from nothing” was really “something.”
He let me puff his cigar at 8 years old after I begged him to try (yes, it was horrifying… but that didn’t keep me from taking up smoking a number of years later… but he got me out of that soon enough by having his doctor scare the bejezzuz out of me. Big thanks for this Dad!).
Then there was the goat incident. Dad brought one home from the racetrack in the middle of the night (don’t ask). We called him “Elmer” and gave him old shoes to gnaw on in the backyard. Soon, Elmer was on the shed. Surprise, this one didn’t last long (the neighbors were the thankful ones this time).
Dad was always destined for one thing: whatever it was that he wanted to do.
Larger than life, my smartly dressed high-school hall-of-famer, NFL championship team member, much smarter-than-he-looks papa (known as “Big Joe” to the neighborhood kids) also made an excellent fried-egg-n-grits breakfast, taught me to jitterbug, and dressed in drag as “The Godmother” for Halloween (his Italian Mafioso mother version of Brando, with knee-high stockings, hairnet, and an automatic in her grandmotherly purse, was spot on). And a million other hilarious, awesome, embarrassing, and brave things.
He was always on to great things, with each and every little thing, creating his remarkable story the whole time.
It took 3 years, but really a lifetime. I can’t say it was a total surprise, Dad writing his autobiography, because he has been telling these sometimes outrageous stories for YEARS and people have been urging him for YEARS to write and share them. But when he actually put it out there, when he said “I’m writing my book” we were all sort of like “wow, is Dad really writing a book?”
Yes, he was and he did. And it is GREAT. And I am so proud of him.
As I said earlier, I always knew what he was capable of, because if he had the passion and discipline to become great at fatherhood, football and the casino business, he could become great at other things, like being an author.
But it isn’t just passion and discipline. His real secret? He has always just been great at being himself.
Dad can say, do, be anything he wants, always (despite a humble upbringing and starting with very little, and many other obstacles) because he is a believer in instinct, the voice inside, his “gut.” He doesn’t look outside of himself for answers. He makes his own. He is, truly, self-made and self-reliant.
My dad understands, and taught me, the secret of being unapologetically oneself. He took this secret and created a colorful life, multiple careers, a family, amazing friends (both celebrity and non-celebrity) and now a book.
Dad, the world needs that special thing that only you have- thank you for being YOU. You have roasted, hobnobbed, rallied, danced, competed with, loved, cared for and blessed all of us who know you in one way or another.
Oh yes, and about that “nudge” from his dad. Big Joe says, “ If I were making my own decisions at the time, I would have stayed behind as a Clairton Bad Boy and not taken advantage of the ticket out that football was offering. I had this girlfriend at the time, and even with 105 colleges vying for my services, I had no interest in college. It was my good fortune that my father, Alberto, who arrived in this country 30 years earlier with no job or language skills, had the good sense to tell me, ‘You no go to-a-college; you no-a my son.’
Pop, thank you, and I’m glad I listened. I would have missed out on all of these memories if it weren’t for you.”
A real-life Zelig, Joe’s story starts in during the Depression Era, in a humble a steel-mining town in Western Pennsylvania, where he lived under the same roof as the local neighborhood numbers runner, and from there he never stopped surrounding himself with colorful characters. Going on to a professional football career, he has taken his natural-born ability for being everyone’s buddy and woven it into a narrative that covers much of the “back nine” of the 20th century.
As one of the top casino hosts during the Golden Era of Atlantic City, Joe entertains with how he was personally recruited by Donald Trump as the first employee hired by the future president when he decide to get into the gaming business. While working at the casinos, Joe found himself moving with an A-list crowd from sports and entertainment, including Sammy Davis, Jr., Rich Little, Don Rickles, Bobby Rydell, Charo, Chuck Norris, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, Joe Namath, Billy Martin, Lawrence Taylor, Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Torre, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, Pete Rose, Julius Irving, Willie Mays, and Tommy Lasorda, along with other NFL hall-of-famers, and an assorted cast of high-roller types.
Friends, you can find it here!
At the end of the book, Dad says, “Being truthful with yourself and those around you makes it possible to go through the day with a winning attitude. I think I’ve been successful at relating this, because no man can be more blessed with a positive family than I am.”
Thank you for instilling your positivity in me, and for your many gifts Dad, this book being such a special one. When they make the movie, I will be buying the first ticket! I love you!