The great entertainer

ASSOCIATED PRESS The late funny guy Thomas "Cozy" Morley had long been known for his entertaining acts that were fit for the whole family. Some say his shoes can never be filled.
ASSOCIATED PRESS The late funny guy Thomas "Cozy" Morley had long been known for his entertaining acts that were fit for the whole family. Some say his shoes can never be filled.
Posted: August 30, 2013

"AN ERA died with him." You hear that kind of thing a lot. Sometimes it is true.

An era died with Thomas "Cozy" Morley. There are no more like him, because when he died at 87 he had outlived most of his peers. There likely won't be any more like him, because America has changed. This is proof that not all change is progress.

Yes, an era - of vaudevillian politically incorrect and corny comedy - passed with the man who sang "On the Way to Cape May." But is it forever dead?

A seven-foot bronze statue of Cozy Morley now stands in North Wildwood where his Club Avalon once stood. Morley owned the club from 1958 until 1992, and a grateful town chose to remember him this way.

Like others who knew him or saw him perform, I choose to remember a sunny man with a smile on his face and a kind word on his lips.

"Cozy was the first comedian I ever saw live in a nightclub. He's the reason I became a comic," says veteran Philly comic Tommy Moore, a fan and friend of Cozy's for more than four decades.

Through the gossip column I used to write, I met local legend Cozy and liked him instantly, which is not something I can say about most celebrities. Generous with his smile and his time, Cozy loved his audience as much as it loved him.

Jerry Blavat met Cozy nearly 60 years ago at the Erie Social Club, at Bridge and Tulip. Back then, social clubs - such as Erie,the Randolph on Roosevelt Boulevard and Scioli's at Reese and Pike, all long gone - offered live entertainment.

Cozy's genius lay in more than just comedy, his calling card.

"He was not risqué, he told jokes, played musical instruments, wore a little hat," says Blavat. "He was more than a comic; he was an entertainer."

His show was not just an act, "it was a party for the whole family," Moore says.

Dressed always in a jacket and tie (he changed jackets several times during the show), he would tell jokes, play instruments, lead a sing-along and emcee three or four acts. The show could last up to three hours, and he filled the 1,100-seat club six nights a week during the summer, recalls Moore.

His specialty was ethnic humor and he would reminiscence about growing up in South Philly.

He owned the club, but also booked the acts. He could do it all. He did do it all. He was his own retinue.

One time, Moore opened for Cozy, and the audience was great, but the sound system at the Comedy Cellar in Frank Dragoni's Champagne Room in the Northeast wasn't, so Cozy asked the emcee for a 15-minute intermission. Cozy went to his car, "pulled out his own sound system, set it up himself," Moore recalls, saying he always wanted to give the audience his "best."

His best was a large collection of familiar gags that he recited with an unvarnished lack of embarrassment.

The question is whether an era really died with Cozy: Could another entertainer step up and fill his shoes?

Blavat thinks not, because "there is no venue for that." Cozy is "not what comedy turned into - foul language."

Moore disagrees, pointing to Cozy's show always being entertainment fit for the whole family. "His act was timeless. His act was a good-time show," says Moore. "Who doesn't like to have a good time?"

He brought his then-15-year-old nephew to see Cozy, and "this kid laughed his head off," says Moore. "He had never seen anything like Cozy."

Clean comedians such as Bill Cosby and Jerry Seinfeld found a mass audience.

But they don't book shows, emcee, play musical instruments and carry a sound system in their cars so they could always give their "best."


Email: stubyko@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/Byko

Columns: ph.ly/StuBykofsky

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