, Salem, MA

November 22, 2013

Salem loses a home-grown Hollywood legend


---- — SALEM — We would be remiss if we did not mention the death last week of Al Ruscio.

The Hollywood actor was the pride of this city’s Italian neighborhood.

You may not think you know him, but you do.

Ruscio, 89, a character actor, was in movies like “Godfather III” and hundreds of TV shows — “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” “Bonanza,” “The Rockford Files,” “Gunsmoke,” “Lou Grant,” “Barney Miller,” “NYPD Blue,” and on and on.

In one famous episode still in reruns, he plays the owner of the restaurant in “Seinfeld” whom Elaine accuses of — how do we put this? — discrimination against medium-sized girls.

Ruscio was an altar boy at the former St. Mary’s Italian Church. His family lived for a long while on Prescott Street. His sister, Flora LaVecchio, still lives in Salem.

“He was in my father’s wedding party,” said Peter Ingemi at Steve’s Market. “We have his picture hanging up in the store.”

A member of the Class of 1941 at Salem High, he was in the drama club and encouraged to become an actor by a teacher. He used to come back to Salem a couple of times a year and attended high school reunions.

“He really loved Salem ... I want to stress that,” said his cousin, Regina Camarda.

Lyceum legacy

We come to you today with hat in hand.

A story on Turner’s Seafood at Lyceum Hall, which opened Tuesday night, mentioned that it is located in the same building where George Harrington ran The Lyceum restaurant for so many years.

That is correct, but what it didn’t mention is that The Lyceum was really the creation of Joan Boudreau, a dynamic local business leader who died of cancer in 2007.

Boudreau risked a lot in 1970 when she put her money into a rundown brick building on Church Street. And she took that chance at a time when downtown revitalization often meant razing buildings, not restoring them.

She saved the building, opened a great restaurant and made it a downtown dining landmark — a “symbol of Salem’s rebirth,” as our columnist Nelson Benton once wrote.

Harrington bought The Lyceum from her in 1989, but Boudreau put it on the map.

Immortality at the bar

The Turner family has been widely praised for retaining the “lyceum” name at Turner’s Seafood and for honoring the history of the building.

In one small homage, they have kept the original mahogany bar.

In a touching remembrance, they have also kept the tiny brass plates on the bar next to the seats of dear and departed patrons: Wayne M. McShay, 1949-2008; Claire Schneider, 1913-2010; Dean Cole, 1942-2006; and Bruce Linton 1941-2007.


Dinner destination

The big decision has been made.

Herbert and Leanne Schild, winners of the “Dinner for Two Anywhere in the World” raffle, plan to go to dinner on an island off Belize in Central America.

That’s why the Salem Education Foundation’s raffle is so great. It allows you to dream about the unimaginable.

House tour

If you need a reason to go on Historic Salem Inc.’s Christmas in Salem House Tour, here it is.

The 1804 Gardner-Pingree House is a stop on the Dec. 7-8 tour.

For those of you who don’t know a portico from a portcullis, it’s the big brick house across from The Old Spot.

This is one of architect Samuel McIntire’s masterpieces. Maybe it is his “masterpiece.” If you do nothing else while in Salem, walk through the doors of this house.

Better yet, do it while it is decorated for the holidays.

Hotel with a heart

The Hawthorne Hotel is holding a fundraiser Wednesday, Dec. 4, from 6 to 9 p.m. for the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines. There will be a band, food and door prizes.

All proceeds go to the American Red Cross for disaster recovery.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Call 978-825-4358 for tickets or information.

Riley recycling

While we’re on the subject of good deeds, how about dropping off all your old textiles — clothing, sneakers, boots, slippers, pillows, bedding, curtains etc. — tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Riley Plaza parking lot.

Where is Riley Plaza? Right across from the main post office.

This is all being done by SalemRecycles.

Just make sure the old stuff is clean and dry.

Chip off old Pep

If you watch a School Committee meeting on SATV, the name of the student reporting the school news should sound familiar.

Patrick Cornacchio is the grandson of the late Pep Cornacchio, who was so famous here they named a road after him. A little road, but a road nonetheless.

Tom Dalton can be reached at