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Essay: A 1960’s hit still carries a message

Opinions writer Pat Collins, right, with her husband,

Opinions writer Pat Collins, right, with her husband, Paul Glasner, and their son, Joshua, in 1988 Photo Credit: glasner family

‘Runaround Sue” by Dion was the biggest single of 1961. Well, actually, the song about a disloyal lover hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart for two weeks and was No. 46 for the year. But among everyone I hung around with, it was No. 1.

Years later, I met Paul Glasner from the Bronx, who had known one of the members of Dion’s former group, the Belmonts, and who didn’t give in to the British invasion until the Beatles came out with “Revolver.” He took me to an Eric Clapton concert and we discussed the graffiti all over London and New York at the time that said, “Clapton is God.”

“Clapton can’t be God,” I said firmly. “He’s Church of England. Dion is God.”

Ever try explaining to a nice Jewish boy the difference between Irish Catholics and the C of E? But anyway, he liked my idea about Dion.

I moved into Paul’s apartment in Queens, mainly because my apartment in Gramercy Park, Manhattan, was too small for my cat, his dog and two humans. At the time, there was punk downtown, disco in midtown and hip-hop starting out in the Bronx. Paulie and I thought nothing outranked rock and roll. He left his job as a banker at Manufacturers Hanover Trust and opened a record store called Downstairs Records Up in Bayside, and I worked as a secretary at a law firm in Manhattan. Whenever we went into the city, I’d point at the skyline and tell Paul, “I gave that up for you!”

We moved to Massapequa in 1985, got married, our son was born, and then Paul got skin cancer. He hated to admit there were things his illness kept him from doing, such as working at the store or going to Yankees games. One day when he was very weak from chemo, he hauled himself up from his chair, limped across the kitchen and turned up the radio because “our song” was playing on the oldies station.

“There has to be a limit to the number of times you can play ‘Runaround Sue’ in a row,” my sister, Jean, told me after Paul’s funeral in 1990.

“If there were,” I said, emphatically and grammatically, “I’d be dead by now.”

So now Paul is on the other side, Dion DiMucci became an award-winning born-again Christian artist, and I’m still trudging along.

One recent day, I was driving home and thinking about stopping smoking and how I really didn’t want to stop but it was so bad for me but it was something I really looked forward to but there ought to be something else in life to look forward to — and “Runaround Sue” came on the radio. So I looked up at the sky and said, “OK, I hear you.” And I finally stopped smoking.

My sister is a born-again Christian. I asked her once whether she thought the dead could speak to us through rock and roll.

“I’m not sure,” she said. “But I believe Paul can speak to you through rock and roll.”

She’s always right.

Reader Pat Collins lives in Middle Island.

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