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Father of the Bride

by Big Daddy Graham
Talk about, “It’s all in the timing.” I dialed up Pete, my editor, and asked him if this issue had a theme and he replied, “It’s our Super Women issue and Scarlett Johansson is going to be on the cover.” After groveling and begging to do that interview (with no luck), I at least took some solace in the fact that I was raised by a woman, married another, raised two daughters and am now a grandpop to Lucy, so I figured I had oodles to write about on that subject. Then throw in the fact that my daughter Ava was getting married this month and bingo, my October article would practically write itself.
Writing about Ava, however, would be another story. She has now become a member of Angelo Cataldi’s Morning Team at 94WIP (she took my radio surname “Graham,” instead of using our real name “Gudonis”), and so much is now known about her. 
So, here are a few tidbits about Ava that you might not know that other South Jersey parents will be able to relate to.
Clearview High School has an award-winning drama department and one year it was putting on The Sound of Music. The show called for a couple of very young girls who the high school itself could not produce. So, they put out the word about auditions to Harrison Elementary School and Ava scored the part of the youngest von Trapp girl. She was in third grade.
Since The Sound of Music is my wife’s all-time favorite musical, we were over the moon that Ava was going to be in the show, and it was a time period of our lives that we will never forget. We went to every performance and every cast party afterward including throwing one ourselves after the Saturday evening show.
When Ava was 10 years old, she would accompany me to certain shows that had a backstage area that she could hang in and watch me as I performed. Most of these shows were in smaller venues that sat about 100 to 200 people.
One night, I had been hired to open up for The Temptations at the Scottish Rite Theatre in Collingswood. (This is an amazing venue that I’ve written about in the past and if you have never seen a show there, go!) I would go on at 8 p.m., do my show, and have Ava home before 9. Perfect. Or so I thought.
On the drive over I said to Ava, “Maybe we should work on some sort of a bit where you could heckle me from out in the audience. That might be funny, a 10-year-old kid heckling a comic.”
So, what happened? We entered through the stage door and immediately Ava sensed it was a much bigger venue. She peeked though the stage curtain, saw the thousand seats, turned to me and said, “I wanna go on.”
“What are you talking about?” I replied.
“The bit that you said we were going to work on.”
“Yeah, but we haven’t worked on it yet. I haven’t even written it yet.”
“Well, let’s write it now.”
“Ava, I can’t write it now. I’m going on in a couple minutes. I’ll start working on such a bit tomorrow, OK?”
However, Ava couldn’t get those thousand seats out of her head and started crying.

“I wanna go on!”
Well, you can’t!”
Later on, the venue’s manager, Roland, told me that he had seen every imaginable type of backstage fight ever. “Fights between band members, fights over catering, fights over how many comp seats a band member would get to that show, but never an argument between a father and daughter over how much stage time the daughter is going to get.”
Most kids would see those 1,000 seats and get all nervous and run from that. For Ava, it was the exact opposite.
Anyone remember Clay Aiken? He had his couple minutes of fame from American Idol. Well, he once made an appearance for a concert at Washington Township High School, which has a huge auditorium. Turns out, Aiken had a neat little marketing trick (scam?) that he would utilize from town to town. He would choose a choir from a local high school to back him up for a couple songs and then he would “donate” a check to that high school. Of course, all the choir members’ parents would want to go to the show but had to buy their tickets. Neat, eh?
So, he ended up using Clearview’s choir of which Ava was a member. When the show was over, a man from Aiken’s entourage handed Ava an envelope with the check in it. Ava kept telling this man that he should be giving this check to an adult but he shoved the envelope in Ava’s hand anyway and split. 
Well, it turned out it was an empty envelope. There was no check. The story got a little bit of national attention and Ava made her first appearance with Angelo as a guest because he can’t get enough of any story where a deserving celebrity looks bad.
My wife Debbie and I have gone out to dinner with Angelo and his wife Gail many times over the years. When listeners have inquired about what Angelo is really like, I always truthfully tell them that Angelo is a great dinner companion. He’s a good listener, has a terrific sense of humor and always picks up the check. (Alright, maybe one of those statements is false.)
But at the station? Let’s just say that Ang arrives at work “loaded for bear,” as Ava found out one day when she showed up late. Not for the show itself, but for “show prep” time. After Angelo rightfully chewed her out, Ava turned to Ang and said, “OK, let’s hug it out.”
“Hug it out?” In over 25 years no one had ever said that to Angelo and probably never will again.
But that’s Ava.
I didn’t see this one coming.
Ten years ago, Ava told me she had a high school friend, Bill Matz, who wanted to intern on my show. Now, I work the overnight/early morning shift and it’s not easy finding interns, so I gladly took him on. He quickly became popular with my listeners and ended up as a guest on my show every Friday. (He now hosts a successful podcast of his own.) He’s funny and articulate, a real pro. 
So, what happened a few years ago? I received a very polite phone call from Bill explaining to me that he and my daughter Ava were dating and “was I cool about that?”
I was. And now they’re getting married this month.

And I am one very proud father of the bride.

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Published and copyrighted in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 17, Issue 7 (October 2020).

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