At Gene Scala's 106th birthday party, guests watched in awe as the former East Islip resident danced, cut the cake and glided around the room to greet friends.
They wanted to know his secret.
Scala's niece Betty Cianbrone, 73, of North Merrick, said the secret lies in his even temper. "He never gets mad at anyone. He never argues," she said.
His nephew, Phil Anolfo, also 73, said it was his fear of germs -- Scala never wanted to kiss anyone, even family members.
"He would always say, 'Don't kiss! Kissing spreads germs,' " Anolfo said.
Scala sat with his family and more than 50 guests in the sunny auditorium of The Arbors at Westbury Assisted Living Community, where he lives, and clapped along as a sultry singer named JC belted out songs by Etta James, Patsy Cline and Barbra Streisand for his birthday. During her rendition of "Big Spender," he stood up and joined JC for a dance.
At 106, Scala isn't shy -- he's famous for the sequined caps, ties and bedazzled belts that he sews and proudly wears with a black suit. He loves talking to people and making friends, evidenced by the packed auditorium that huddled in to sing "Happy Birthday" to him Monday afternoon, a day after his birthday.
He isn't tired, either. He goes bowling every Wednesday in Syosset, and is the second-oldest bowler in the United States Bowling Congress. An accomplished saxophone player, he still practices two to three times a week. A hair stylist and tailor for more than 80 years, Scala still alters his own suits and stitches his funky garments.
Scala said he keeps himself so busy he doesn't really have time to sleep -- and that's fine by him. "Even in my dreams, I'm awake," he said.
Scala was married twice and had three children and one grandchild, all of whom are now deceased. At 106 his biggest health problem right now, family members said, is that his hearing is starting to go.
His grandnephew, Phil Sabino, 45, remembered admiring as a child the huge garden and greenhouse that overtook Scala's backyard -- he said the secret is the man's extremely healthy eating habits.
But Scala, who said he quit smoking at age 40 and never drank, said there is no secret. For him, it's much more simple: God hasn't called his number yet.
"When he wants me, I'll go," Scala said. "But as long as he wants me to stay here, I think I'll go bowling."