Happy 75th, Bob!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy 75th, Bob!

Who'd'a thunk it, back when we first met near Pike's Beach Summer '58, that he would one day evolve into Robert W. Morgan Jr., 15th (and almost final) Mayor of Westhampton Beach?

I sure didn't! But then Bob was full of surprises, by golly!

Like New Year's Eve 1959 when my date with a sweet young Bellport gal began at the Patchogue Theater to see "Li'l Abner," only to discover that the $1.25 admis­sion tickets were $2.50 because included was a benefit stage show headlined by Virginia Payne, radio's "Ma Perkins."

With no advance notice, I was trapped... and me with only a $10 bill in my pocket for the entire evening!

But wait! Who was that song and dance man in the white dinner jacket, red tie and straw boater, opening for the soap opera staple?

It was Bob Morgan, fresh from a suc­cessful revival of "The Boy Friend" at New York City's celebrated Cherry Lane Theatre.

He was actually pretty good, and when we saw him in the lobby afterward and complimented his performance, he had no idea who I was.

Several years later, Bob opened his pièce de résistance, The White Cap Rest in the middle of what is now West{sic} Hampton Dunes.

Aside from serving food and beverages, it was a place where he performed nightly behind the counter... and Gawd help whoever was too en­grossed in conversation to applaud when Bob concluded one of his energetic routines.

Brandy & Benedictine

Then there was Election Day morn­ing 1972 when Johnny Shotwell and I arrived at Mechanic's Hall (then in its early "Scarlett's" mode) to cast our Presidential votes before turning in after an all-nighter of cribbage and B&B.

And there in the pre-dawn dark was Robert Morgan Jr. in morning coat and silk topper as Tricia and Eddie Cox arrived with their Secret Service protective detail to vote.

Bob looked splendid... but to this day I've never been sure whether he was acting in an official capacity, or he'd just dressed up and crashed the event without any portfolio at all.

(But for those who know Bob, the smart money is on the latter.)

Then came the run for Mayor in '84, and Gawd help me... and the rest of the Village... I actually supported him over Irwin Sherry.

Well, that honeymoon was over real soon!

Within five months it became apparent that his whole agenda was in service to a validation of his lifestyle... which Newsday coyly referred to as "flamboyant" when it ran a profile on him the next year.

It was the heyday of my seven year tenure as columnist "Waldo Lydecker" for the Hamp­ton Chronicle-News... incredulous readers couldn't get enough of what "Hiz­zoner" was up to, and some actually thought he was a myth­ical character.

But it was not an easy time for Trustees Pat Covello, Gary Phelan, Ridgie Barnett and Vic Levy as they struggled to do the business of the Village as the Mayor paraded about, a medallion hanging from his neck looking like a sommelier in a cheap Italian restaurant.

In 1986 we ran "Ham" Andon for Mayor and he ended Bob's single, non-productive term by a margin of 4½-to-one at the polls.

He garnered 140-odd votes, though, about the same number he's received... with a notable exception... each time he's stood for public office in the past 24 years.

(His campaign efforts were traditionally limited to standing, impeccably turned-out, an American flag and standard in hand, under the overhang of National Store... the entirety of Election Day.)

That exception occurred in 2004 when he lost to incumbent Mayor Bob Strebel by only 30 votes, 270-240, and when I saw the numbers, the reaction was "What were those additional 90 residents thinking???"

(It was the same election which brought the Village the brief, energetic term of Tim Laube, and far too lengthy tenure of Jim Kametler.)

I don't think Bob has stood for office since then, prefer­ring to dress up to vote on Election Day, and then hang out in the camps of the candidates and wave at passers-by, content to play the role of Senior Village Dignitary.

But as the Editor of the local paper, W. Michael Pitcher, noted during the time of "Hizzoner:"

"Bob has a remarkable ability to create his own reality, and live quite happily within it."

Still, he's made it to three-quarters of a century and that's something of an ac­complishment.

He's brought a lot to the area, some of it such as the "Morgan House" on Potunk Lane, an asset to the Village... Willikers!, where would young divorcées have stayed over the past 30 years?

There are many other things to add, of course, but mostly I wanted to just say Happy Birthday, Bob!


1. Hampton West said...


Was it Bob Morgan who owns (or owed) the old Mexican place near the track crossing on Old Riverhead Road?

Aye-up! It was the "Mexican Hut" for ages, then Bob had a little restaurant there for awhile, and when he wasn't serving dinners, he was selling flowers.

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