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Oldies a big draw at Delmont landmark

| Friday, March 20, 2009

The Oldies will live on ... as long as local dancers can help it.

Entertainment has been a tradition at the Lamplighter on Route 22 outside Delmont since the "golden era of entertainment," Daniel Ferri said.

Pat and Bobbi Sullivan have shared 30 years of dancing and 37 years of marriage. To make marriage work, Bobbi Sullivan said a couple must share "mutual respect, similar values and a willingness to put the other before yourself."

"Oh please," said Pat Sullivan. He thought a moment. "Money helps too," he said.

Bobbi laughed.

"We dance at least two times a week," she said. "It keeps you moving. It keeps you young." She recommended that young couples find something they both like to do. She said every Friday night is date night for her and her husband.

"You need time for yourselves," she said.

The Sullivans are regulars on the Oldies circuit. Bobbi Sullivan said the DJs rotate between venues. She said it's become increasingly difficult to find places like the Lamplighter.

"You find a little bar that has a little dance floor and bring in a DJ," Bobbi Sullivan said.

Nancy and John Yakim have been coming to the Lamplighter since dances started there, and they've been dancing together for 10 years.

"We used to baby-sit," said John. "Our son said when we started dancing, he couldn't get a baby sitter. Our son decided we were dating again."

"It's almost like family," Nancy Yakim said. "You know everyone, they know you. We've made some really good dancing friends."

The managers at the Lamplighter appreciate the dancers.

"It's a really nice crowd," said Andrew Ferri. "They're friendly, they like going out and having a good time. They like having the same waitress, they come for the Oldies. The waitresses know what they want. They set everything up just like they want."

The venue was built in 1957 and switched owners three times before the Ferri family made its purchase in 1967.

Owner Daniel Ferri said that during the "entertainment era," the Delmont restaraunt presented live entertainment every night.

The Oldies music nights -- both via DJ and live bands -- have been successful for years.

"There's been an Oldies theme for the last 10 years," said Debbie Crissman, manager.

Bands such as Johnny Angel and the Halos, The Vogues and Pure Gold perform in the ballroom space that seats 400.

Crissman said the Lamplighter presents about five live Oldies shows per year, always near Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve.

"He and I book the entertainment, although he would say I book the entertainment," said Crissman of Daniel Ferri. "He books the big entertainment."

"The majority of people are 50 and over, 60 and over," Crissman said.

A statue outside is of a literal "lamplighter" holding a flame toward a classic lamp. About the size of a 4-year-old, generations of children have measured themselves against it.

The Lamplighter remains a popular destination for those seeking to be entertained.

"It keeps going like a maze once you're inside," said Andrew Ferri, a manager at the restaurant. "From the street, it just looks like a '50s building."

"Business has been good since the road reopened in September," said Crissman of Route 22, which was under construction for six years. The Ferri family owns the Lamplighter as well as several supermarkets in Murrysville.

Crissman was hired at the Lamplighter 37 years ago as a 14-year-old busperson. In the '50s, it was called Beatty's Restaurant, and it was bought in 1962 by Penn Machine Co.

"When we bought this place in 1967, we had live entertainment every night," Daniel Ferri said. "It was the entertainment era; we always had live bands."

Ferri has been working at the Lamplighter for 40 years.

"We've tried to keep it up," he said. "I think we've done quite well."

Ferri works in the kitchen every day, and said his involvement with operations is a "hands-on deal." He still works seven days a week.

"Let me say why I do this, because I think it's rather interesting too," said Ferri. "We've had several offers of chains trying to buy us. We've listened to everyone with absolutely no intent on selling, because I have several people working for me with 20 years of service, 30 years even. I'm 66 years old and I will never make nearly what I could sell for. It's a love for the business, and good help."

Music played on a recent Friday night at the Lamplighter:

"This Can't Be True," Eddie Holman

"Hey There Lonely Girl," Little Anthony

"Tears on My Pillow," Little Anthony

"Two People in the World," Little Anthony

"Long Lonely Nights," Lee Andrews & the Hearts

"Tear Drops," Lee Andrews & the Hearts

"Sincerely," Moon Glows

"When I'm with You," Moon Glows

"Ten Commandments of Love," Moon Glows

"Could This Be Magic," The Dubs

"Don't Ask Me to be Lonely," The Dubs

"Since I Don't Have You", The Skyliners

"Earth Angel," The Platters

"I Only Have Eyes for You," The Flamingos

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