Do you remember payphones? 74-year-old Bruce “Buzzy” Bertucci certainly does, and one of his favorite Highwood stories features the one that stood across from Sandy’s restaurant, a man named Wild Bill and former President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
“Wild Bill,” Bertucci begins, “used the payphone to call the White House one day. He wanted President Johnson to end the Vietnam War.
He also threatened to harm the president if Johnson refused to do so.
“Someone at the White House asked Wild Bill to stay on the line,” Bertucci continues. “And he did. Then he was arrested, right in downtown Highwood.
Bertucci, born and raised in Highland Park, where he still lives with his wife of 25 years, Lynne, will continue his stories in Highwood each of the remaining Wednesday evenings in August. This is when Highwood’s second historian (his late father, Bruno, was the first) serves as a guide for the Highwood History Cocktail Tour.
“We stop at bars, restaurants and other buildings in Highwood,” says Bertucci, who entered the bar business in 1976, as co-owner of the Hideout in Highwood, and left the industry in 2014. , when it closed Bertucci’s (formerly Rainbows) in Highwood after a 24-year run. “I tell stories about Highwood’s businesses and history, as well as the town’s characters. This town had, and still has, many colorful characters.
“Teddy Roosevelt visited Highwood before and after his presidency,” adds the former Highland Park taxi dispatcher and former manager of Carousel Linens in Highwood. “He called it ‘the toughest city in America’. But it’s the most real town, with people who are real, that’s what I love most about Highwood.
Decades ago, more than a few Highwood bars opened at 6 a.m., Bertucci notes. Bar fights? They reached gallop level in the 1950s and 1960s. But the establishments also served as packed venues for musical performances by the Ramones, Platters, Koko Taylor and other headliners.
It costs $20 to take a ride; each trip to the town dubbed “Whiskey Junction” begins at 7 p.m., from the Celebrate Highwood stand at the Wednesday Night Gourmet Market, and includes four stops. Bertucci made the first tour on June 15, with eight people in tow.
Visits on July 27 and August 3 are full (limit: 15 people per date). Celebrate Highwood has added a Wednesday (August 31) to its original tour schedule. Eric Falberg, co-owner of 28 Mile Vodka & Distillery in Highwood, came up with the idea for a cocktail tour. And he couldn’t have chosen a better tour guide than Bertucci, who is part historian, part actor, and has a better memory than a herd of elephants.
“I love trivia, especially sports trivia,” says Bertucci, a movie buff (he’s seen Casablanca at least 40 times) and an avid Chicago Cubs fan who worked security at 52 games at Wrigley Field. in 2018. “I remember everything, just like my dad did, although I wasn’t very good at remembering things in algebra and science class. Dad owned Sun Valley Dairy, and he knew everyone’s address.
“Friends would call me at 2 a.m., sometimes 3 a.m., before the invention of the Internet, and ask me questions like, ‘Who won the World Series in 1968?'”
Answer: Detroit Tigers.
Ask Bertucci about the trivial question involving a former Major League Baseball MVP and a former Super Bowl MVP. It’s his favorite.
Ask him about the turtle races he advertised for nine years, starting in 1982, at a Highwood bar and the hilarious response to the order – ‘You can’t race turtles here’ – pronounced by a health inspector. Or better yet: Join a historic Highwood cocktail tour this month and listen to Bertucci, storyteller extraordinaire, recount the startling details of slow sprints while walking backwards.
“I came home from touring on a Wednesday, reached into one of my pockets and pulled out a $100 bill,” Bertucci recalled. “It was a tip. I also pulled out a $50 bill that same night.
“I spent all that money on golf balls,” he adds. Son of Bruno and the late Lena Bertucci (née Mazzetti), Bruce was a 4-foot-9 Highwood Little Guys point guard who played in front of a crowd of 15,000 in a youth basketball game held on an outdoor field in Puerto Rico. The Highland Park High School graduate attended Miami Dade College in Florida for two years.
Bertucci obtained his doctorate. in All Things Highwood sometime in the 1970s, possibly earlier. Continuing education in the field continues… on a daily basis. And the man is a huge fan of Celebrate Highwood and its mission to foster a great sense of community and spirit by producing ongoing events and festivals that meet the wants and needs of citizens, businesses and visitors.
Upcoming Celebrate Highwood events and festivals include Pumpkin Fest, Margarita Night, Garlic Fest, Nashwood, Bloody Mary Fest and Taco 5K Run, Walk and Stroll.
Originally a collaboration between the Town of Highwood and the Highwood Chamber of Commerce, Celebrate Highwood established itself as a separate entity and gained non-profit status in 2016.
“Celebrate Highwood has transformed this town,” insists Bertucci. “The organization has united Highwood and made its residents proud of their hometown. Highwood Mayor Chuck Pecaro has been supportive from the start and fully supports what he sets out to do each year.
“Highwood is lucky to have an organization like this,” he adds. “I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in the bar and restaurant industry in Highwood for almost 40 years. I met a lot of good people. »
For more information on Historic Highwood Cocktail Tours and to sign up for Bruce “Buzzy” Bertucci’s Hidden Secrets of Highwood, visit celebrationhighwood.org.