Editorial > One-of-a-kind Cozy will be welcomed in heaven

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The saints came marching in for Cozy Morley on Friday and he had them laughing all the way to the great audience in the sky.

The curtain came down on the life of Thomas Francis Morley at the age of 87, leaving behind a heritage as a comedian, a musician, a nightclub owner and a benefactor of seashore culture. For many of the legions he entertained since he was 17 years old, Cozy Morley was to the Wildwoods what Bob Hope was to the nation.

While funeral services were held this week in Marlton, close to Haddon Township where he had a home in addition to North Wildwood, a big tribute for him is planned in North Wildwood on Saturday, Sept. 7, the day of the annual string band parade in that city. Plans are still in the works but the event is scheduled to take place near the life sized statue of him on the sidewalk of Westy’s Restaurant where Cozy’s popular Club Avalon nightclub once existed.

Tributes and recollections of the charismatic entertainer continue to emerge. Probably the first on the island to hear of his demise was the crowd at North Wildwood’s Lou Booth amphitheater where city entertainment director Joe Quattrone made the announcement on Saturday night. Quite coincidentally the attraction was the Fralinger String Band and, Quattrone pointed out, Morley was a great supporter of the Mummers and the string bands, sometimes performing with them on the clarinet or banjo.

Former North Wildwood Mayor Aldo Palombo, who knew Morley well, said he last saw him about 10 years ago when he attended the wedding of Morley’s house band leader Howie Reynolds at Westy’s. Morley was the best man. During Palombo’s administration, Cozy competed three times against singer Al Alberts of Four Aces fame in North Wildwood’s annual tram car race. When Alberts won the first two races and Cozy the third, the comedian quipped the third race was fixed.

Alberts died a few years ago, and his mourning widow Stella about a year later. The deaths of Morley and Alberts mean the end of a colorful entertainment era in the Wildwoods.

“Cozy was important to the Wildwoods,” recalled Palombo. “He was something special here.”

So too did present Mayor Bill Henfey elicit praise for the entertainer.

“He brought so much good publicity for the city of North Wildwood,” said Henfey.

Morley entered the nightclub business in the early 1950s when he first did a single act at ex-boxer Eddie Suez’s club, which he later bought for $60,000. He recalled that he made a $15,000 deposit in cash banked in his shoe. While hardly enjoying the posh of some of the nation’s glamorous clubs, Morley’s club still became popular and he booked many big name attractions among them Johnnie Ray, Joey Bishop , Carmel Quinn and Julius LaRosa. It was at the Club Avalon that Morley met his ebullient wife, Bobbie, who was a cocktail waitress there and who now survives him.

Jack Hallett, who went on to become a Broadway actor and is planning to start a dinner theater in Middle Township perhaps next summer, remembers Morley’s Club Avalon when he was a kid in North Wildwood.

“He used to leave the outside doors open because there was no air conditioning, and I watched the shows from the outside,” Hallett recalled. “He knew I was there but he never stopped me. There was nobody like Cozy. The town has lost a lot.”

A product of South Philadlephia, Morley acquired his nickname after friends saw him helping home a man called Cozy Dolan. “Oh, there go Cozy and his son,” they would say as the two passed by.

By his own choice, not wanting to travel far, Cozy confined his bookings to South Jersey and the Philadelphia area. Occasionally he performed at the Atlantic City casinos for seniors on bus trips from outside the area.

“I never heard of him. He is so funny. Where has he been?” one audience member asked.

Eventually the bookings in Atlantic City disappeared. He attributed it to the fact that the casinos entertainment directors were then young and preferred comedians who used obscene language. Today he will no longer have that concern because the saints have marched him to a heavenly place to the accompaniment of a distant string band.

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