This past Saturday, Woodhaven welcomed home Brian Hyland, the local boy who had the number one hit in the world at just 16 years old with “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” He went on to have a long career in music, but never forgot his old hometown.
It was a great party, starting at Geordie’s Joint where a group of fans and supporters attended a meet and greet with the singer, which raised the money needed to purchase a plaque to put in front of the house where he grew up.
Geordie and Trish Robinson set the tone for the day, decorating the joint especially for the occasion, complete with spinning 45’s from the ceiling, framed pictures of Brian, and even a yellow polka dot tablecloth.
Phyllis Inserillo of Howard Beach heard about the party and donated a yellow polka dot bikini cake that was the hit of the party.
Everyone cheered when Brian came into Geordie’s. For the next 90 minutes, people had their picture taken with him and got coasters with his picture on it autographed.
Names were thrown into a hat and people won some old albums and magazines, which Brian happily signed. Artist Madeline Lovallo presented Brian with a print of her painting of the Forest Park Carousel to join her painting of Lewis’ of Woodhaven, which he already owns.
It was a fun party and a nice way to welcome home one of our own.
Later, the entire party spilled out of Geordie’s for an impromptu parade down 80th Street, turning right at 87th Road where friends and family were waiting.
At the house, we heard from Councilman Robert Holden, who presented Brian with a Proclamation from the City Council.
We also heard from Laurie Ennd, who runs a Woodhaven page on Facebook and who first brought up the idea of putting up a sign to me during a trip back to New York a few years ago.
We heard from Carol Rogers, who traveled from Pennsylvania for the day. Carol has been president of Brian Hyland’s Fan Club for 61 years. Deborah Camp, a founding member of the Woodhaven Art Circle, presented Brian with a painting she did of him for the cover of the program we handed out at the ceremony.
And then we unveiled the sign, which would not have been possible without the blessing of the homeowner and his family that lives there now. This brings me to a moment that really summed up the entire day for me.
After the ceremony, the homeowner invited Brian and his wife into his home to look around. The last time Brian had been inside this home was 1960, the year “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” hit number one.
Brian looked around and commented how it had been renovated so nicely. He walked into the kitchen and turned around, placing his hands out in front of himself, palms down.
“This is where our kitchen table was,” he said, his hands still resting flat where the table once sat.
For just for a moment it wasn’t 2021 anymore, it was 1960 and he was home with his entire family.
And that’s what the whole day was about: coming home and family. Brian was joined inside by his brother Jack, who at 92 years old has difficulty with stairs, but fought his way up the front steps and walked into his old home.
Afterwards, Brian hung around for quite a while, talking to people, many of them neighbors of the home where the sign bearing his likeness now hangs.
One neighbor has lived on that block going back to the 50s and remembered Brian as a boy. Another neighbor brought her two young children over to get Brian’s autograph. Tears from now they’ll look up him up online and remember the day they met him.
The party moved to Neir’s Tavern, where Brian was able to enjoy a nice quiet lunch with his family, several of whom traveled home for the reunion.
It was a great Woodhaven day, full of warmth and good feelings and great friends and neighbors and one that will be remembered for years to come.