Thursday, August 7, 2008

George Naame RIP

I first met George Naame at a Cape May County Bridge Commission meeting in a small board room in a government building somewhere off the Parkway near the Court House.

The Bridge Commission board was deciding whether or not to allow the Maloney's Bike-a-thon to ride their bicycles across the Commission's bridges.

It was a heavy issue at the time, as whenever something good happens, there's always someone to compain, and I guess it's a sure sign you are on to something when a group of administrative bureaucrats try to stop you from riding bicycles across a bridge.

George was making the case that bicycles have as much right to use the bridges as cars or pedestrians, but the commission was balking at the idea of 2,000 bicycles using their bridges at the same time, causing a public hazard, they said.

And while the other suits on the board nodded their heads and looked approvingly at one another, the room was full of avid bicyclists who were afronted at the idea of bicycles being banned from the bridges, when after all, they don't pollute the air, take up parking spaces and are healthy to ride. What's the issue?

After a while, about an hour or so of bickering back and forth, the Commission decided to ask their attorney's opinion, and all looked to the old man to the right of the chairman, who had to be politely awaken from his slomber, and who could blame him? I forget the guys name now, but they named the toll both at the base of the Ocean City - Longport Bridge after him, an old time Ocean City lawyer, probably a Republican.

They woke him up with a tap to the shoulder, and Mr. Esq. asked to have the question repeated, and then, after the recording secretary repeated the question, said, "Insurance." And then went back into his trance.

And the end result was the bike-a-thon could use the bridges of Cape May County if they paid their way, just like cars, a quarter a piece at the time, I think, get insurance for all the riders and anything untowed that could possibly happen to them enroute.

Done deal. The Maloney's Bike-A-Thon continued, then an for the next twenty or twenty five years there-after, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the local American Cancer Society, getting tens of thousands of healthy participants to ride the 30 miles or so, and have a real good time doing it.

After that, I'm proud to say that me and George became good friends, and Maloney's was always a stop on my return trip from Atlantic City for a number of years.

I'd always write a Bike-a-thon preview in the SandPaper and George would always thank me for "being in his corner."

Maloney's was a great bar and restaurant, and should still be there, instead of the quaint, cold, empty, for-rent, condos that replaced the heart and soul of the Margate community.

Maloney's was a great Irish bar before George bought it, and kept it's name, knowing it worked. The son of Judge, George Naame, Jr. was of Lebanese extraction, and was set up in the bar business by Stumpy Orman, the old racketts boss from the golden age of the mob in Atlantic City.

I think George worked at first with Don Dunleavy (Now at Maynards, God Bless Him), at the Mug, formerlly O'Byrnes on the Somers Point - Longport Blvd. in EHT, just on the other side of the bay bridge. O'Byrnes became the Mug, and then the Purple Villa, before Andrew Cornaglia, of the Anchorage, bought it and created Mothers (named after the bar in the Peter Gunn TV show).

George then took over the Elbo Room in Margate, with Stumpy Orman's blessing, and then the bar at the Lafayette Hotel in Atlantic City (Where the Beatles stayed when they were in town), before buying Maloney's.

You would think with all his connections, his dad being a Judge and his former partners being with Stumpy Orman, he could expand Maloney's without too many problems, but they fought him at first but George expanded Maloney's into two buildings, the original bar on the west side, and the beef & beer on the east side, which became a nice resaurant with really good food.

The original bar was always a shot and beer bar(s) with a little bumper pool table and some pin ball machines and great juke box. It was also a good sports bar and had weekend DJs that spun sing along songs the girls would get drunk and sing to, like "Sweek Caroline," etc.

I liked the old hard wood of the beef & beer and the food, which was good for under $10, seafood and steaks. There was the bar along the west wall and a two rows of tables and an upstairs they opened when they got really busy in the summers. A big moose head hung above the juke box was a the end of the bar towards the kitchen. George went to some of the auctions for the furniture of the old Atlantic City hotels before they blew them up, and filled the place with antiques, as well as a few garages.

Sean Donnally was George's main man and general manager for decades, until he missed an insurance payment and they got hit by a DWI lawsuit that George had to settle out of his own pocket. Sean then went to Yesterdays in Marmora and the Mays Landing Country Club, where he worked for the Frasers.

Timmy was another guy who was always at Maloney's, bartending at night and living upstairs in a room during the day. He stand six foot ten, Ikabod Craine thin and bones guy with a good sense of humor, and knows everybody in town.

After one particularly busy summer in the early 70s, George Naame and a few of his friends and regular customers decided to take a bicycle trip on the Saturday after Labor Day, their first real break after a successful summer. They would ride from Maloney's south to Ocean City and down Ocean Drive to Cape May, where they would meet their wives and girl friends at Carney's and have dinner before driving back.

They had so much fun it became a yearly trip they started to look forward to, and they increased in numbers to a dozen and then a few dozen and after three years they had to get a friend with a truck to bring all their bikes back.

When one of their numbers got sick, and died of cancer, they decided to make the bike-a-thon a benefit for the Cancer Society, in their friend's name, and by then had a few hundred riders, and raised thousands of dollars.

That's when the Cape May County Bridge Commission got suspicous, and stepped in, but didn't stop them, now with 2,000 riders, and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.

After a few years of bringing the bikes back in trucks, they made a round a bout route, that was about the same distance, but went through Somers Point, Upper Township, down Route 9 to Sea Isle City causeway and back Ocean Drive through Ocean City to Margate, where they had a big barbeque chicken block party.

Billy Rafferty, USMC, and former Mack & Manco pizza waiter, worked the door at Maloney's for a number of particuarly formative summers, and before him, Tom Murphy worked carving the beef & beer while in law school.

Maloney's was just a real good pub and restaurant, a real asset to the community, one of the things that made it a community.

I don't know what made George sell Maloney's to the developers, some guys who came to town from Philly and lived in their car for awhile. But before they closed they had a few parties, one I attended, when Tom Murphy was the guest bartender for a few hours, and a lot of the old timers came buy to pay their last respects.

I'll try to dig up the Nightbeat I wrote on that last call at Maloney's.

I guess that was the last time I saw George.

He looked good then, and I think he felt good about getting out of the business, but I could never understand why Maloney's had to disapear, just like the Longport Inn, Moylan's and the wood clapboard joint that jutted out into the Longport Bay that was owned by Kelly Voght that reminded me of Bayshores.

Even though both are gone forever, George Naame and Maloney's will be forever linked together in the memories of all those lucky ones who were there.

God Bless George Naame.


Photo

NAAME, GEORGE T. JR., 76 - of Egg Harbor Township, died suddenly on August 1, 2008. Born in Atlantic City, he was a lifelong local who owned and operated the famous "Maloney's" in Margate. George's 30 plus years hosting his annual "Bike-A-Thon" enabled him to contribute to the American Cancer Society along with many local charities. George had a great appreciation and lust for life. He will be sadly missed by his loving wife of 46 years, Barbara Naame; daughter, Renee Swain and husband Jerry; sons, George T. Naame III and wife Chrissy, and Damon Naame and wife Robin; grandchildren, Chelsea Burns, Katia and George Naame, and Kaden and Kyle Naame; sister Magorie Cook and husband Howell, predeceased by sister Nancy Miller; along with many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends like family. Friends are invited to call at the George H. Wimberg Funeral Home, 1707 New Road, Linwood, Wednesday August 6, from 5pm to 8:30 p.m. Services to follow at 8:30pm. Donations in his memory can be made to the American Cancer Society, 626 N. Shore Road, Absecon NJ 08201.

Published in The Press of Atlantic City from 8/4/2008 - 8/5/2008