October 15, 2019

The Marquis

Written by my dad, Marc Steingart


In the early 1960's clubs were a part of the social fabric of Jewish life in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. In middle school I was in a club called the “Gayblades.” Feeling the need to branch out, I discovered the Marquis, a club that had been in existence as the “Falcons” in grade school at Minadeo. I joined the Marquis in 1962 as a freshman at Taylor Allderdice High school.

The Marquis had 26 members. We earned the reputation as the most popular club in high school. The Gayblades, Sigma Kap, Pi Tau, Fort Pitt probably thought otherwise.  We were certainly the most active club. We participated in the drama festival, a Greek sing, basketball, football, and softball leagues. Almost every Saturday we brought our dates to scavenger hunts, dances, and hayrides where we would sometimes get to make out.

Through the years the Marquis have kept in touch by email preceding each of our birthdays. We have attended each others' and our kids' weddings, and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Over the years four of the Marquis have passed away– Radio, Mort, Wayne, and Umbre . Fortunately, 17 of us, including our advisor, Bibsy reunited this summer to celebrate our 65th birthdays in Pittsburgh.

The Marquis are a unique group. We all had nicknames. Animal, our club president, was a porn star in the 70's under an alias. Houston is a well known political pundit and frequent contributor to MSNBC , Shemp was an entrepreneur in the health food industry. Barnie is a cantor.  While many of the Marquis are doctors and lawyers, there is only one social worker (me Stromberg).

Friday night we went to the Pirate game at PNC Park. We had our own private box where we watched the first place Pirates win in extra innings. Conversations flowed easily among the guys, catching up on the lives of Hymie, Worm, Stitchway, Mule,and others I haven't seen in a while.

After the game a large group of us went to the Hampton Inn where Animal held court telling stories of his porn career. After his first porn film he didn't have a name. He turned to the director and asked what his name should be to which the director in his thick Italian accent replied, “Richard Pacheco.”

Straight Arrow drove me home at 1:45 AM. I can't remember the last time I stayed up that late, or laughed so hard or felt such a bond.

The next day we met for a club meeting. In high school meetings were an integral part of the club as we met at the Jewish Community Center every week. We paid 25 cent dues at each meeting. Spud provided us with a Marquis t-shirt that we all proudly donned. We started the meeting with a moment of silence for those who died. We also agreed to send to Turtle, who has a brain tumor, a baseball, that we all signed, as well as our Marquis Angel to help with his recovery.

Many stories were shared during our meeting. Baron, the organic farmer, and biggest yet kindest and sweetest Marquis, started to cry as he talked about how meaningful it was for all of us to be together. After we all regained our composure, one of the more memorable stories that emerged was when a group of guys were at Polonsky’s Restaurant where my father also happened to be. As the guys went to present their bill, Weasel said “See that guy over there, he’s paying.”

Weasel waved to my father who recognized my friends and waved back acknowledging to the cashier’s satisfaction that my father would pay. Of course my father had no clue he was being set up! During the meeting Hymie surprised Ruby as well as all of us by returning the wooden Jack Kramer tennis racquet he won in a poker game from Ruby in High School. Although Hymie did not return the Ventures album which was also part of the bet.

After the club meeting, we continued on to our high school for a tour by the Athletic Director who was Weasel’s brother. What a trip going through the halls of the high school, seeing the new swimming pool, the grass covered athletic field that used to be dirt and oil covered, seeing the cafeteria and auditorium where our motto ”Know something, Do something, Be something” still stood proudly. Remembering home room where I would bribe Linda for being late- I charged her 10 cents not to report her tardiness; recalling turkey treat – pieces of pigeon meat [seemed that way] over a biscuit with gravy; remembering taking a short cut through the boiler room led by the janitor or otherwise you would need to go outside in order to get to the annex.

Later that night we arrived at Green Oaks Country Club for a sit-down dinner and more conversation. We Skyped Bianci, who was not able to attend due to chronic health issues, but felt part of our gathering.The highlight of this dinner, besides Goose’s generosity in providing the wine, was the appearance of Tommy, accepting his belated ”best athlete award”. Not officially a club member, Tommy was a stellar, naturally gifted guy whom we all envied for his athletic prowess and was brought in to help us win crucial games.Maybe not being Jewish had something to do with his athletic abilities. I recalled a time  after we ate at  Polonsky’s Restaurant Tommy took my check and money and told the cashier “This cheapskate didn’t eat”.

He just paid for his meal pocketing my money and check. When we were outside, I complimented him on the joke he played on the cashier, but the joke was on me as he kept my money.

The next morning we gathered at the Hampton Inn for a Champagne brunch generously provided by Spud and Mule. Some of the parents including, among others, my 91 year old father and step mother, and 96 year old mother of Spud joined us at the breakfast.

Without Animal, the glue that has kept this remarkable bunch of menches together through the years by way of e-mails, this reunion would not have happened. It takes an initiator to keep relationships going. When I came back from the weekend I got together with  Bianci and later Sleepy. I'm glad I did. We are already planning our next reunion at Hymie's in Maine. What are the Gayblades doing?