The same year I opened Danny’s in 1970 the Garden State Art Center also came into being. It appeared as a great flying saucer with seats underneath. As these centers were built over the coming years the performers referred to them as “sheds.” Some shed; they held thousands of people and gave raise to performances for mass audiences. The Art Center was one of the first and drew the top musicians worldwide.
I did all my own cooking back then and called the Art Center to let them know that I could stay open late if any of the performers would want to dine after the show. That was how I met my best friend of 35 years and future star of All my Children, Mark La Mura. He and two other men came to Danny’s to see what I offered. As a traditional Italian restaurant my food was basic and home-style good, that and the fact that I was willing to stay open and cook until all hours made me a success with them.
My first famous guest came in on my birthday August 2, 1970. It was Mitz Gainer, singer, dancer, and actress and poster girl of the armed forces. I remembered her from the movie South Pacific and was indoctrinated into the world of show business tours and the back stage of the Garden State Art Center.
In those days the greats of the industry would perform for two to four days at the Art Center and then move on to the next venue. Danny’s became a home away from home for many of the acts. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and became a place to stop for these artists on tour. Dinah Shore, Burt Bacharach, Anthony Newley and Henry Mancini became regulars.
I would stay open late every night they performed and would listen to tales of the tour. I became friends with most of them and was invited back stage during most of their stay at the Center. I simply turned my restaurant into place to eat and hang out in. I protected their privacy and got to know the crews that traveled with them.