Joe Bruno Actor And Lifelong Friend Johnny Cha Cha Passes Away

After being miserable all day yesterday morning the death of my lifelong friend Johnny Cha Cha, I decided to think back at some of the happy/fun times we had together.

In was in the early 1980, and I ran into Cha Cha in Atlantic City where I was covering a boxing match for the New York Tribune. He drove, I took the bus. He asked me if I needed a lift back to the neighborhood. I said sure. He said he was tired and I had to drive. I said okay. I forgot to tell him I had never driven to or from Atlantic City before. I always took the bus.

After the fight was over and I had filed my article with my newspaper, we went to a post-fight party. Cha Cha had a couple of drinks; I had about six Diet Pepsi’s to keep me awake for the drive. I was amped up when I started to drive.

We left Atlantic City about 4 am. Cha Cha went into the back, laid across the back seat, and fell asleep.

About an hour later, I saw a big sign that said, “BEN FRANKLIN BRIDGE – WELCOME TO PHILADELPHIA!”

W.C. Fields once said, “I rather be a fire hydrant in New York City than the Major of Philadelphia.”

I didn’t want to find out how bad Philly was, especially at five in the morning. So I decided drastic measures were in order.

The bridge was deserted and I figured I better make a U-turn, or I’d really be lost. Cha Cha was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake him up and tell him what had happened.

So, I made the U-Turn in the middle of the bridge where there was an opening. No cars were visible in either direction. As soon as I made it to the end of the bridge, a police car came out of nowhere; SIREN BLARING!.

The cop pulled me over. Cha Cha is still sleeping. I gave the cop my license and registration, and I also gave him my press credentials. I tried to explain I was lost and was headed to New York City and that I had a sick friend in the back seat.

Almost on cue, Cha Cha started moaning and holding his stomach.

The cop flashed his light into the back seat, and he could see Cha Cha was in obvious distress, moaning with his eyes closed and his body rolling back and forth.

The cop let me go without giving me a ticket. He even gave me directions to NY City.

As soon as I put the car in gear, and the cop was gone, Cha Cha lifted his head. He said in the slow clipped way he always spoke, with an emphasis on each word, “JOE……. BRUNO……. …….DON’T…..GET….. LOST….. AGAIN!

And then he went back to sleep, and he didn’t wake until I pulled in front of Knickerbocker Village, where I lived. It was now about 8 am.

Cha Cha then got out of the back seat and got behind the wheel of the car.

Then he said to me, “JOE….. BRUNO…… THERE’S….. NEVER….. A…..DULL….. MOMENT….. WITH…… YOU.”

And he peeled away without saying even goodbye. 😉

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