Photo: John Marchut - July 4, 2020
Yep, It's BILLY JOEL relaxing in Bayville, Long Island, N.Y., four miles down the road from his estate, on July 4, 2020. For many years (July 4, '2012' blog) BILLY JOEL has held a huge catered barbecue on this date at his mansion on Centre Island, L.I. N.Y., attended by 150 friends, celebrities and dignitaries, such as, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, Howard Stern and wife Beth Ostrosky, comedian Kevin James, his band members, as well as, BILLY JOEL's oldest daughter, Alexa Ray! And five years ago, during his annual 4th of July party, he surprised guests by having a wedding and married Alexis Roderick! (Governor Cuomo officiated) Happy 5th Wedding Anniversary Bill and Alexis! Because of the day, I asked Billy about his annual 4th of July barbecue, (because he should have been home preparing) and he told me because of this COVID-19 pandemic, ''it's been canceled''. He said... ''social distancing, the threat of the virus, it just wouldn't be the same or safe''. And as he was looking at me, he said... ''people like us'' (age 65 or older) ''are in the zone''. Well, since he was just relaxing and wasn't doing anything, we spent the next 20 minutes talking about various topics. He was real friendly and super nice! Our conversation and what was said is posted further down the blog.
Photo: John Marchut - July 4, 2020
BILLY JOEL poses in front of my car with BILLJOEL vanity plates. He
Curious, he asked me, ''How'd you get those plates''? (that's New York talk)
Then after talking to BILLY JOEL for about 20 minutes, a lady comes out of the Greek Souvlaki Place in Bayville and looks at BILLY JOEL, then looks at me, I'm wearing a BILLY JOEL t-shirt, looks at my car plates, sees BILLY JOEL's motorcycle, then asks Billy... ''Are you BILLY JOEL''? Billy doesn't say anything, but I say, looking at Billy... ''too many clues''. He smiles. Then the lady asks Billy to take off his sunglasses, which he does, to see if it's really him. It then becomes apparent to her that she's indeed talking to BILLY JOEL. Well, having Interrupted our conversation, she started asking Billy questions and I could see he was starting to feel uncomfortable. So Billy felt this was a good time to make his exit, explaining to me and this lady that he had to go and pick up his wife and kids. (After all, today is his 5th Wedding Anniversary, and he should be home with his wife). I was pained to see him leave, but grateful that I got to spend the time that I did with him. We had a good long chat. I got some pictures. And in this, once again chance encounter, I also videoed his motorcycle departure for memory sake.
Video: John Marchut - July 4, 2020
Before I tell you about our conversation, there's a backstory on why I developed this BILLY JOEL website, and why I'm such a huge BILLY JOEL fan. You see, I was raised in Syosset, Long Island, N.Y., and back in the 1960's there was a band called 'The Hassles' (1964-69). Members John Dizek, Jon Small, Rich McKenna and Harry Weber were all from Syosset, and I knew them being from Syosset myself. When Harry Weber got kicked out of the band for excessive drug use, BILLY JOEL replaced him. The band produced two albums on United Artists and were semi-successful. But when the band eventually faded, BILLY JOEL and drummer Jon Small formed a duo band called Atilla (1969-70). Well, BILLY JOEL had an affair with Jon's wife, Elizabeth (Weber) Small, from Syosset, and that was the demise of Atilla. Fast forward, Elizabeth and Billy move in together and BILLY JOEL went solo with his first album, 'Cold Spring Harbor' (1971). The record was recorded at the wrong speed, BILLY JOEL had signed a dreadful recording contract with producer Artie Ripp, and fled to L.A. for years trying to void the contract. To make ends meet, BILLY JOEL became Bill Martin at a 'piano bar' and Elizabeth would waitress. In 1973, Elizabeth (Weber) Small would become BILLY JOEL's first wife! While in L.A., BILLY JOEL would record his second and third albums, 'Piano Man' (1973) and 'Streetlife Serenade' (1974), which were semi-successful. Coming back to Long Island, N.Y. in 1975, BILLY JOEL formed a new (Long Island) band and hired Doug Stegmeyer (bass guitar) and Brian Ruggles (sound engineer), both from Syosset, who I knew and know. Besides Billy Joel (Hicksville, L.I.) other members included, Liberty DeVitto (Seaford, L.I.) Richie Cannata (Garden City South, L.I.) Russell Javors (Plainview, L.I.) and Doug Stegmeyer (Syosset, L.I.) With this band, BILLY JOEL releases 'Turnstiles' (1976). Eventually, Elizabeth Weber's brother (Frank) and sister (Mary Sue) from Syosset, would also come on board. Frank Weber would became BILLY JOEL's mananger, and Mary Sue Weber would became the hairstylist for the band. Not yet famous, but popular on Long Island and the Tri-State area, BILLY JOEL was slowly gaining national attention. Well one evening, in the summer of 1977, I was at the Syosset Italian restaurant 'Christiano's', and who strolls in, BILLY JOEL! He walks up to the bar near take-out, and stands right next to me! Since I knew all the Syosset people BILLY JOEL knew, and he was starting to get national air-play on the radio, becoming more popular, I was starstruck! Because you just knew, because of his talent, that one day he was going to make it big! I asked him for his autograph (which he signed for me on a beer coaster) and that was the first time I met BILLY JOEL (and that was 43 years ago when we were both in our 20's!) Then in the autumn of that year, BILLY JOEL releases his 5th album, 'The Stranger' (1977). This album would finally become his commercial breakthrough, (and Columbia Records biggest selling album!) and made BILLY JOEL an international rockstar! Hence this website, and still a starstruck BILLY JOEL fan!
So here's my BILLY JOEL 4th of July story. Coming back from my daily two mile walk, a motorcycle zooms by and I noticed it was BILLY JOEL (his goatee is a dead giveaway) You see, I live in Bayville, Long Island, N.Y., and BILLY JOEL's primary residence is four miles away on Centre Island, N.Y. People that live in this area see him around all the time. Well, sometimes BILLY JOEL goes on his joy ride, and other times he goes down to the strip by the beach to hang-out and chill. Being a huge fan, I was going to jump into my car and follow him. But from my walk, being all sweaty and such, I really had to shower first. When I finished, and on a whim, I put on a BILLY JOEL t-shirt and went down to the strip hoping he was there chilling out. Looking for his motorcycle, I spotted it and saw him sitting in the shade, on a bench, all by himself! The place was deserted, nobody around. So I pulled into a parking space right in front of where he was sitting so he could see my car plates. And that was the icebreaker I needed to start a conversation. As I got out of my car I said... ''Hey Billy, you like my plates''? He looked at them and said... ''Sounds like a doorbell''. Meaning, (BILLJOEL - DINGDONG) Then he asked me... ''How'd you get those plates''? And I said... 'It was pure luck''. (All conceivable DMV combinations that you can think of pertaining to Billy Joel, such as, joelfan, bilyjoel, bjoelfan etc... are all taken) But this started our conversation. I stated how I was one of he's biggest fans, and started to drop names of people that we both knew from Syosset. He instantly knew that I wasn't just another ordinary BILLY JOEL fan. Most fans would not know what I know about these people from Syosset, and Billy seemed to acknowledge that. This wasn't the first time I meet BILLY JOEL, and I reminded him of all the times we ran into each other back in the day. Rienhard's in Bayville, The Tiki Bar in Bayville, Cagney's in Oyster Bay, Head's & Tails in Syosset, and Christiano's, also in Syosset. All but one of these establishments are no longer in existence, and BILLY JOEL knows what I know. These facts gave me genuine credibility, and that's when he opened up to me. He says ... ''I just came back from Florida, and just in time, because the virus is exploding down there''. Looking at me, he said ... ''People like us (65 and over) are in the zone''. He also mentioned, prior to the Florida trip, that he took his family to Austria to visit his half brother, Alexander Joel, an Orchestra Conductor. I said 'Vienna'? He laughs and says... ''No, Alexander has since moved to another city in Austria''. He then noticed the t-shirt I was wearing and said chuckling ... ''Hey, your wearing one of my shirts!''. (It was a BILLY JOEL 'Last Play At Shea' 2008 t-shirt) I then asked him about his annual 4th of July barbecue bash, and he said ... ''It's been canceled''. Continuing, he says ... ''The virus, social distancing, it wouldn't be the same or safe''. ''But today is my wedding anniversary''! (Billy Joel married Alexis Roderick five years ago on July 4th, 2015) Then I said, matter-of-factly, ''I think you finally found the right one this time Bill''. And he says, half jokingly... ''I hope so''. (Billy Joel has been married 4x times) Getting back to the pandemic, I asked him about his concerts. The next four concerts this year are at his monthly residency at New York's Madison Square Garden, which are all SOLD OUT. They haven't been canceled as of this writing, but Billy anticipates they will be and rescheduled. But the rescheduled 2021 concert calendar could also be in jeopardy, unless Billy says ... ''They develop a vaccine''. (Sadly, medical experts rank activities posing the greatest risk for contracting COVID-19 as ... attending a large concert venue, where social distancing is virtually impossible, or going to a packed sports arena) So I say... ''You not performing is going to make you rusty''. He responds... ''I already am''. (Billy Joel's last concert was five month's ago in Mexico City on March 2, 2020) Well BILLY JOEL, and most celebrities, don't like to step onto a political soapbox to express their views publicly. It creates controversy. But BILLY JOEL did express his concern to me about this country (USA). It's a mess. The corona virus, the economy, people are out of work, unemployment is at an all time high, and now, civil unrest. So privately, BILLY JOEL says to me ... ''Trumps gotta go''. (Some people might disagree, but BILLY JOEL is entitled to his opinion just like everyone else). Anyway, some of you may be wondering why there's no selfie's of me and Billy? Well, as you know, its advised during this pandemic to stay six feet apart from one another. So I asked a young passerby to take some pictures of me and Billy together. Needless to say, he F'd up. I don't know what he did, but no pictures. I took back my iPhone without checking to see how the pictures came out. Never assume. So disappointed. Then that lady approaches us, starts asking questions and interrupts our conversation. Feeling uncomfortable, that's when Billy decided to leave. But I did get to chat with him for quite some time, took some pictures, and I videoed his departure on his motorcycle. And since BILLY JOEL is also out of work, I'm sure I'll run into him again soon. (If I do, I'll let you know!) I hope you enjoyed my story meeting BILLY JOEL once again, but this time, on his 5th wedding anniversary and America's 244th Birthday, July 4, 2020!
A short video clip of Billy Joel's July 4, '2016' barbecue party, with 'live' music by...
Other encounters / stories / autographs from BILLY JOEL on this website in Photo Album 3 and Fan Photos!