From the Sarasota Patch
By Marc Maturo
Joe Bruno is perhaps one of the most direct people I know. When he speaks his mind, you know precisely where he stands – just as he has done for many years in epistolary fashion with a local newspaper columnist.
This should not be surprising perhaps for a transplanted New Yorker who, he clearly recalls, was ripped from the outset for his accent. Ripped or not, the former parking lot owner and writer hosted his own radio show—"In the Know with Joltin' Joe -- on WQSA (1220) from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. each day. He did that for about two years without a co-host. "That wasn't easy -- and I can talk," Joe noted, with an obvious but unintended understatement.
One of his early guests was an 11- or 12-year-old Russian tennis player, Maria Sharapova, who was taking boxing lessons for her conditioning on the advice of Floridian Harold Wilen.
Bruno – who served in Vietnam aboard the USS Constellation in the Gulf of Tonkin -- also sold commercial real estate as well (bars and restaurants) and kept writing, kept writing and kept writing.
Bruno's latest novel, Find Big Fat Fanny Fast, is the second he has had published; the other is Angel of Death.
So, Joe, can we now call you a novelist? To which the 63-year-old Atkins diet proponent – he works out five days a week at Lifestyle Gym – bellowed in his patented staccato-like manner: "Novelist! I've been a novelist for 30 years! I had two in the 80's, but didn't get published; you don't have to be published to be a writer."
Bruno relocated to Sarasota in 1995 following the breakup of his marriage to be near his children Nancy Cason, an associate at the Ringling Blvd. law firm of Syprett, Mishad, Resnick and Lieb; and his son Joe Jr., a preacher with the Church of Christ in Charlotte, N.C. – "Can you imagine this!" Bruno the Elder exclaims, himself in amazement.
Bruno had met a gal named Jeanie in 1988 and, lo and behold, they formally tied the knot this past April.
"Now they can say, Joe Bruno finally did the right thing," Bruno pontificated.
But, Bruno still feels like an outsider. "Accepted? Yeah – no," he says. "Not really. When I sold bars and restaurants I was out almost every night. What abuse I took. When you're from up north, especially a New Yorker, you're an outsider. I hide in my house. I'm the only guy in Sarasota with a baseball bat near every door."
On a sign attached to his front door are various messages. Among them:
* Don't knock unless you are leaving a package.
* If you knock, I won't be very happy.
* If you want a friend, get a dog.
"Even the post office is afraid to knock on my door. Let's face it I'm a fish out of water. I've been here 15 years and never met anyone from New York City … just one guy from Brooklyn. I have one good friend and he's not from Sarasota, he's from Scotland. He lives outside London now. He comes here on a visa; comes after Thanksgiving and stays six months. He was the best man at my wedding and I can't understand a word he says."
What then, would keep Joe the Patriot here in Florida despite the drawbacks, perceived or otherwise.
"Where am I going to go?" asks the Patriot, who spent his pre-Sarasota years in New York at Knickerbocker Village on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. "It's like paradise here. I have a house with a pool. I'm 63 now, can't drink every night and my wife works. I have four dogs, one cat and a bird. We have to take separate vacations because someone has to watch the animals.
"They're going to have to carry me out of this house in a box. If I was younger, I'd be back in New York. But if I went back, it would cost me $4,000 a month for two bedrooms. And at my age, No. 1, the cold is no good for me; No. 2 it's paradise (here). The only problem is, all my friends, my real friends are in New York. "
Although he's "still a maniac in a cage," – his own words – Bruno keeps pounding the keyboard, producing 800-word essays on American mobsters, dating back to 1825. One book of excerpts is his next project, and then two more volumes will focus on New York. "Another book I'll be doing will be on 'rats', informers -- you know, like Sammy The Bull (Gravano)," Bruno rattles on, relentlessly. "I'm tied up with book deals for the next five years, and I have a screenplay that will be turned into a novel."
And with that, abruptly, the stream of consciousness ends. "Got enough? If you need more, let me know."
The print version of Find Big Fat Fanny Fast is available here