Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Rockin' to raise funds for homeless services

In 1962 my brother Fred started a band called the Perfections. They were rockers. When the heat and the beat got up on a Saturday night, he brought the house down and the East Cost Swing dancers would take off and hit the moon.

I was a 15-year-old punk conscripted as an indentured servant, schlepping equipment for the band. They had a gig at Glen Island Casino, the biggest musical venue in New York. They were playing for a benefit sponsored by the New York Yankees, raising funds to refurbish Frankie Frisch Field on Mosholu Parkway in the Bronx.

All the rockers from the Bronx were there. People came for the Yankees and for Frankie Frisch Field, but mostly they came to dance.

With Fred's saxophone hanging around his neck, his hand on its keys, he grabbed the attention of the Perfections, shouting, “One, two, a-one-two-three!”

The sax exploded! Glen Island Casino was rockin'. The Perfections brought the house down.

It's been 51 years since the Perfections played the Casino. However, the allure of rockin' on a Saturday night for a worthy cause is alive in La Cañada. On Saturday, Nov. 2, Brad Schwartz is producing Rockin' for the Homeless III. He's raising funds for Union Station Homeless Services, the largest social service agency assisting homeless and low-income people.

Brad's a homeboy from Brooklyn. Consequently I understand his commitment to service.

“I remember where I came from,” he said. “In La Cañada we're blessed; we should give back. I want my children to realize, not far from here [there are] people much less fortunate than we are. The mission of Union Station is to help the homeless rebuild their lives and end the cycle of homelessness.”

A few years back, Brad and some guys were hanging out, brainstorming about throwing a party for their friends in La Cañada. At the end of the evening, it had evolved into a rock 'n' roll shoot-out with live music and a philanthropical endeavor. Great deeds have ridiculous beginnings. They are often born in a café over coffee.

“This is a La Cañada event.” Brad said. “It was invented in La Cañada, it will be at the Thursday Club, sponsored by La Cañada residents, attended by La Cañadans, and with a La Cañada band.”

Rockin' for the Homeless I netted $20,000. It was meant to be a one-time thing. However, people wanted it back, subsequently II was born, bringing $50,000 for Union Station. What will Rockin' for the Homeless III bring?

“This is a testament to La Cañada's affection for Union Station,” Brad said.

He and I sat over a cup of coffee, trying to intellectualize the essence of this town that speaks to its uniqueness. What drives us to love our town? Its schools, its dancers and its athletes? What causes us to bond and come together for fun and service? The answer to such inquiries was beyond our pay grade. But Brad brought it home when he said, “Whatever makes La Cañada a home is what will bring us together at Rockin' for the Homeless III. I believe when you try to intellectualize the magic, you lose it.”

Come to this event. Let your hair down. Go crazy. Howl at the moon. You'll have a great time and you'll help a bunch of homeless Americans just a couple miles away. Visit to learn more. The suggested donation is $45.

I'll never forget the night at Glen Island Casino. It was the first time I asked a girl to dance. After she said, no, I went to the bar and had my first shooter with Yankee Tommy Tresh, the 1962 Rookie of the Year. That night we even saved Frankie Frisch Field and I asked my second girl to dance and tore it up to the sounds of the Perfections.

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at Visit his website at

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