My Mom-Mom loved Cozy Morley.
If your grandmother, or Mom-Mom or Nanie or grandma was, like mine, a Depression-era Philly kid who vacationed in Wildwood or Atlantic City or Cape May, maybe she loved Cozy, too. Maybe, like my Mom-Mom, she saw Cozy perform at his Club Avalon, and at the casinos in Atlantic City, and even up in the city, at places like Keenan’s in Roxborough, where he told jokes well into his 70s. Hers, too.
The jokes and stories, like the man himself, were always impeccably rendered, heartfelt and strictly family-friendly, though not what we would now call “politically correct.” There was the one about how back in his youth, kids didn’t get fancy Christmas presents — they were grateful to get something called a “toot-toot,” which was a horn made out of empty toilet paper rolls.
Or the affectionate way he referred to the Club Avalon, which sat on the corner of Spruce and Olde New Jersey avenues in Anglesea, as “the toilet,” or “the dump,” when it was clearly his pride and joy. He sounded like your favorite uncle, wisecracking about Catholic school nuns and getting older and growing up poor but happy and oh these kids today…
Saturday evening, news came that Cozy Morley had died at age 87, touching off a wave of nostalgia on Facebook and Twitter, mostly from people who remembered having seen Cozy perform when they were little kids.
My mom reminded me of the days when you went out to a “nightclub” for dinner and a show, kids included and everybody properly and fully dressed. In the clip above you can hear Cozy talking about that: “You know what makes me laugh about the kids today? They dress like we had to … they go out and buy the things that we were ashamed to wear!” I’m pretty sure I can hear my Mom-Mom laughing along with the audience.
With his passing, another whiff of the 20th century Jersey Shore is gone. It was Cozy who first popularized the original Jersey Shore anthem, “On The Way To Cape May,” which was sung in living rooms and taprooms long before Bruce Springsteen ever picked up a guitar. From the Press of Atlantic City’s obit:
Morley was a shy musician who took on his funnyman stage persona to cover up the shyness, he told The Press. He received his first instrument, a banjo, in 1936 and went on to study the clarinet and saxophone. After graduating from high school, he entered the music business at age 18 and eventually found his way to Club Avalon.
A statue of Cozy stands outside Westy’s, near the old Club Avalon.
His legend lives on outside the Shore, too. In this post about him on Sheckymagazine.com, a site about standup comedy, the writers recall hearing tell of him performing back in the ’90s:
We don’t remember the circumstances, but we do recall that the audience was mostly seniors and the material was jaw-droppingly incorrect, politically– jokes about Irish, Jews, Italians, African-Americans, Poles, etc. And it was KILLING! Also sprinkled throughout were “naughty” gags about sex. It was a real throwback.According to the Cozy Morley Facebook page, fans are invited to pay their respects to Thomas “Cozy” Morley at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, at Bradley’s Funeral Home in Marlton.