Station Break: Italian-American Culture late 1950s-early 1960s

Some of these artists were mentioned in posting No. 2-Growing up Italian-American in Dyker Heights.  I’ve added these YouTube videos and music to bring to life some of the feeling that was part of my childhood growing up in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, NY which was still predominantly Italian-American during the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s.


Connie Francis was born Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero and grew up in Newark, New Jersey.  “Lipstick on your collar” was one of the first pop tunes I remember hearing on the radio when we went out with my Dad for a Sunday afternoon drive.



Bobby Rydell’s real name is Robert Louis Ridarelli.  He was born into an Italian-American family from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and still performs.  He appeared on the “Perry Como Show” when this taping was made.  Perry was a very popular Italian-American entertainer who also had his own variety show on TV.  I think the background dancers and balloons are so strange and detract from Bobby’s performance.  An indication of how far we’ve come as a society in terms of sensitivity to cultural and racial stereotyping was brought home to me in that I did not find the impersonation near the end of the video very funny.  When I was a very little girl this was typical of the humor of the day, as was Peppino the Italian Mouse.




As a child I thought Lou Monte’s “Peppino the Italian Mouse” was just fantastic, much to my parents annoyance.  Now I can see why they would wince when hearing it.  It feeds into every stereotype there is about Italian people.  The Italian spoken by Lou Monte and Peppino consists of insults and challenges made to each other.  If I’m right, Lou is also singing about how drunk Peppino gets.



Annette Funicello was a childhood favorite of mine.  She appeared on the “Mickey Mouse Show” as a child.  When she grew up she starred in many beach themed movies.  Annette always won her boy by the end of the movie and sang some sweet, light hearted pop-tunes in each film as well.  Annette is singing with Frankie Avalon, another Italian-American pop-star of the early 1960s.  His real name is Francis Thomas Avalone and he is still performing today.


Note:  Annette is not wearing a hat.  In the early 1960s girls often added elaborately curled or braided hairpieces into their own hairstyle.  In Dyker Heights this kind of style could be seen as late as 1968.



Further Reading

Connie Francis:

Bobby Rydell:

Perry Como:

Lou Monte:

Annette Funicello:

Frankie Avalon: