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Sal Capozucca, Rock Drummer with a Real Estate Gig, Dies at 65

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This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

The Rousers, a rock band formed by a couple of high school buddies from Connecticut, once veered close to stardom when a young Madonna opened for them at Max’s Kansas City in 1981, right before that incubator of downtown Manhattan cool closed.

That same year, the band released a single, “Party Boy.” “Psychedelic rockabilly” is how the critic Robert Palmer of The New York Times described it.

After the release the band switched out their drummer for Sal King — born Salvatore Michael Capozucca — a handsome, powerful player with a sparkly 1960s-era Ludwig drum kit and a florid, swing-inspired style. Like his new bandmates, Tom Milmore, the lead guitarist, and Bill Dickson, the bass player, Sal had been playing since he was a child. In his case, since age 3, when an uncle gave him a drum set.

Fame may have eluded the band, yet as the decades wore on and their hair turned gray, the Rousers continued playing. They rehearsed every week and performed year round, though some years less than others as family responsibilities and day jobs demanded more of their time.

Mr. Capozucca — or Mr. Cappi, as he called himself at work — became a successful real estate broker, with a specialty in Brooklyn brownstones. He married his longtime girlfriend, Veronica Griffith, in 1983. She had spotted him across the dance floor at Club 82, a storied drag bar on East 4th Street, 11 years earlier. On that night, Mr. Capozucca — always a flashy dresser (David Bowie was his hero) — was peacocking in blue satin pants and a white satin scarf.

Mr. Capozucca died on May 13 at N.Y.U. Langone Health hospital in Manhattan where he had spent the last two months being treated for Covid-19, his wife said. He was 65.

Mr. Capozucca was born on April 28, 1955, in Brooklyn. His father, Tony Capozucca, was a salesman, his mother, Betty Jean (Gibbons) Capozucca, a legal secretary.

As a teenager, Sal played at proms, weddings and street festivals. He loved Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, and made sure to work a drum solo into his performances. In addition to his wife, Mr. Capozucca is survived by his daughter, Victoria; his brother, John, and sister, Vera.

“Things happen for a reason,” Mr. Capozucca told The New York Times in 2017, in a story about a new New York City club scene for aging rockers and their arthritic fans (early sets!). “It wasn’t meant to be. That life, that rock ’n’ roll life, is a life of heavy partying. So being famous might have led to my early demise.”

In late February, the Rousers played a gig at Bowery Electric, with a set that featured songs like “Old Man Band,” a sendup of the Rousers’ demographic (sample lyric: “older and slower than we were before/you should listen as we rock some more”). They played so well, said Mr. Milmore, they surprised themselves. “Sal called me the next day and said, ‘What the hell happened to us? How come we were that good?’”

Less than a month later, Mr. Capozucca was hospitalized.

“The band was always a celebration of our friendship and our long time together,” said Mr. Milmore. “We were just brothers, and it was always about that before anything else. Of course, Sal was always mad we weren’t famous.”

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How a saucy local side-gig led to an extra kick for food everywhere

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PITTSBORO — Around the turn of the century, Page Skelton was working a corporate job at a telecommunications company in Research Triangle Park. In his spare time, though, he was concocting the recipe for a sauce that would eventually be tasted around the country.

He bottled it in Mason jars and sold it to his office buddies.

“I was doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing, and that was working my way up the corporate ladder,” Page said.

One day, his wife Caroline, who was working on her Master’s degree at UNC’s Kenan Flagler Business School, told him that maybe it was time for a change.

“I just picked up the phone one day and said to Page, ‘Hey what if you left your corporate job and did this full time?’ and he quit the next day. So we never looked back,” she said.

Now Page and Caroline, along with their son Harry, 13, are running the hot sauce business Cackalacky out of a warehouse that used to be a Chevrolet dealership in Pittsboro. Made up of just the three of them, the company fulfills internet orders to sauce-lovers all over the country, and Page attributes much of their luck and success to their decision to settle down in Chatham County.

“It felt really organic, the way the business community and the local community at large just really seemed to get what we’re doing,” he said.

“It didn’t require any explaining,” added Caroline.

Back in the days when Page was still making and bottling the sauce himself, he took a few jars to a party to share with his friends.

“We’re standing around the fire pit and one of my buddies is like, ‘Hey man, pass me some of that Cackalacky sauce.’”

Page froze. “What’d you call it?” he responded.

The name stuck, and the family trademarked it soon after that. Years later, Page now sees Cackalacky bumper stickers on cars while he’s stuck in traffic, and thinks about how lucky he is that Caroline convinced him to leave that telecommunications job.

“We’re not just some multinational conglomerate putting some stuff in a bottle or on a t-shirt or wherever, saying ‘buy our stuff and your dollars go somewhere,’” Page said. “You’re actually supporting our family.”

The company’s flagship product, Cackalacky Spice Sauce, is made with sweet potatoes and the brand’s “secret spice.”

“It’s not incredibly hot, which is kind of the whole point,” Page said, but then added, “A lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, you got anything hotter than that?’”

So they worked up the Cackalacky Hotter Sauce, with Carolina Reaper peppers that provide an extra kick.

When Page decided to devote himself to his new business, he spent years hustling around the country at trade shows — in Baltimore, Austin, Houston, New York and other cities — where he would pitch his sauce to customers. They were asked to cook for the Panthers Super Bowl tailgate party in 2004, and were able to start selling their products and merchandise at the then-popular, but now-closed Chapel Hill food store Southern Season.

Page credits Caroline and her business savviness for the brand’s explosion. She once offered him a piece of advice that would go on to define their route forward.

“Caroline said to me years ago, if you want to stay in business, you’re gonna focus on selling locally,” he said.

And so they did. They moved the operation from Chapel Hill to Chatham County, where they’ve been stationed for nearly a decade, and Page said he’s proud of the ties he has built with the community.

“I don’t know if it’s a case of Pittsboro aligning with fate or providing more opportunities for us, or both. It felt like people here really got what we’re doing,” he said. “People recognizing each other and lifting each other up, and that’s what’s been great about Chatham County. It just feels right here.”

A few years ago, Page said he launched an expansion with “a big box chain” that put him in 13 locations across a few southern states, but when that led to him and his family not seeing each other as much, they decided that bigger is not necessarily better.

“Part of our success is knowing when to say no,” he said. “It’s a balance between taking advantage of opportunities, and not just jumping on any opportunity that comes along.”

Page started Cackalacky as an adventurous side-gig. It soon became his career, and now, for Caroline and him, it’s a generational pursuit. Their son Harry is involved in the business, pitching ideas for products and helping with social media outreach, and they look forward to the day when they can pass the reins to him.

“It went from a kind of whimsical idea,” Page said, “to this adventure seeking quest, to a little more humble ends, to now —”

“Now we’re looking at it as, ‘Could it be generational?’” Caroline added.

Harry completes the team of three, who by themselves handle most of the business’ needs.

“I’m looking forward to eventually taking control and actually running the company one day once I’m an adult,” Harry, a rising 8th-grader at Pollard Middle School, said.

Cackalacky has defined its place in the community by teaming up with other local businesses. Together with Bear Creek Brews, they make Cackalacky Hot Red-Rye, and donate a portion of the sales proceeds to CORA, the Chatham Outreach Alliance, which provides food to those in need in the county.

With Cheerwine, they developed a “sweet ‘n savory ‘tomato based’ dipping-grilling sauce & marinade,” made with both the Cheerwine formula and the “secret Cackalacky spice blend,” according to the company’s website.

In the executive boardroom of Cheerwine’s headquarters in Salisbury, Page pitched the soda brand on a one-time collaboration, but left the meeting with an agreement to start a longstanding partnership.

“We just really hit it off with the folks at Cheerwine,” Page said.

Both companies are family-owned N.C. businesses. He said when the deal was struck, that was the moment in which “we went from having big dreams to realizing big dreams.”

Cackalacky collaborates on a coffee blend with Aromatic Roasters — located next door, just north of Pittsboro — and the “Cackalacky Chop” sandwich is available at 22 Biscuitville locations.

The company’s sauces and nuts are available at Lowes Foods, Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Wegmans and Publix. Locally, Cackalacky products can be found at a number of locations throughout North Carolina, like the Chatham Marketplace, Carolina Brewery, Carolina Cravings and Pittsboro Feed. Products can be bought online at cackalacky.com.

Despite the economic effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on county businesses, Cackalacky has managed to power through the changing times. Their business model is widely built around internet orders and deliveries, so it’s been able to withstand the pressure.

“We’ve definitely seen an uptick in the grocery business since people are eating at home,” Caroline said. “We’ve been O.K. We haven’t had too much of an interruption, just some changes.”

Despite his transformation from selling mason jars of homemade sauce on his lunch breaks, to collaborating with Cheerwine and other staples of N.C. business, Page likes to think humbly about his business, and above all, he just loves to make sauce.

“I don’t know if I had the idea to start a business, or if I just wanted to make a really good sauce,” he said. “I’ve never taken the time to analyze our customer data, but it’s a pretty broad spectrum of people, and I feel the same way about Chatham County.”



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Sonic Youth, Desolation Center 1985: 500 tabs of acid, one life-changing gig | Music

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In 1983, 20-year-old promoter Stuart Swezey was sick of his gigs getting shut down by Los Angeles cops. On a road trip across Mexico he had an epiphany: move them out to the desert. Under the name Desolation Center, he booked local post-punk bands Minutemen and Savage Republic, hired some school buses and drove people out to the uninhabited windswept landscape where the bands played on a dried up riverbed with socks over their microphones to keep sand out. The following year, the German industrial outfit Einstürzende Neubauten played in a more sheltered location in a canyon; there was also an explosive performance from Survival Research Laboratories who decided to make bombs and blow up the discarded fridges that had been fly-tipped there.

By 1985 Swezey had achieved all he set out to with these unique shows – attendees had described the intensity of the Neubauten performance as akin to a religious experience – but he decided to throw one last party with experimental guitar outfit Sonic Youth, the psych-punk band Meat Puppets, local glam-punkers Redd Kross and Psi Com (fronted by a pre-Jane’s Addiction Perry Farrell).

That date of 5 January was selected because it was the first full moon of the new year. About 300 people turned up in downtown LA, where they were given directions to the secret desert location or could hop on a school bus and be driven there.

“It was a desolate and really confusing location to get to,” remembers Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo, “driving down all these barely existent dirt roads.” Support band Redd Kross got so lost that by the time they arrived they had to perform last.

Sonic Youth and the Desolation Center crowd



‘We were kicking up dust storms as we played’ … Sonic Youth and the Desolation Center crowd. Photograph: Alan Peak

“It was completely makeshift,” Ranaldo remembers of the set-up. “We were nestled in between some sort of rocky mountain walls and they just demarcated an area where the bands played. We stood right on the sand, kicking up dust storms as we played. There was no backstage. I don’t even remember there being toilets.” There was also no food, no bar, no merch stall, and people had to sign a liability disclaimer so that they wouldn’t sue the promoter if they got hurt. “It had an element of danger that normal events never have,” says Ranaldo.

Anticipation was high for the New York band who had never played a show on the west coast before. “We really didn’t know what it was going to turn into,” Ranaldo recalls. “We had no expectations of what was going to go down.”

It was dusk as Sonic Youth started, and Ranaldo felt a palpable intensity from the audience. “The crowd was completely absorbed by what we were doing,” he says. People gathered around the band in a circle, with everyone on the same level in the sand. “The exchange was really intimate. Plus, nobody had seen us play before and what we were doing at that time was pretty unique. A lot of people were kind of stunned by it, with us using screwdrivers to play and the strange tunings on our guitars.”

As the band hurtled through their set, with frenzied guitars buzzing, screeching and ricocheting off the mountainous backdrop, the audience became even more transfixed. It turns out someone had brought 500 hits of LSD – enough for everyone in attendance. “Aside from the four of us in Sonic Youth, everyone else was tripping,” says Ranaldo. “Everybody I’ve ever met who was at that concert was dosed.”

The combination was a potent one as the furious assault of tracks such as Death Valley 69 surged into the now pitch-black and icy-cool desert night. The band knew something special had happened. “There really was no show like that that we ever did again,” says Ranaldo. After Sonic Youth finished and the Meat Puppets came on, they asked for the lighting to be switched off and performed by moonlight as hundreds of revellers pulsed along to the music in hallucinogenic synchronicity.

There’s a long-lasting legacy to that night. A year later, in 1986, Burning Man started, with co-founder John Law citing the shows as an influence, and Perry Farrell was inspired enough to later found Lollapalooza. In 2018, Swezey made a documentary about it all, Desolation Center.

But, even though these events turned out to be a blueprint for other American festivals, Ranaldo says they connected on a deeper, more significant level. “This was much more of an art event,” he says. “It was completely guerrilla style. These days festivals are all so sanitised but this was an anything-goes situation. The legacy of that night is a bit like when people claim to have seen the Velvet Underground. It has that kind of legendary quality to it.”

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Ringo marks 80th at online gig with Beatles hits, celebrity tributes

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Ringo Starr, performing here in 2019 during the Woodstock 50th anniversary, is holding an online birthday party to fete his 80th year
Ringo Starr, performing here in 2019 during the Woodstock 50th anniversary, is holding an online birthday party to fete his 80th year

LOS ANGELES – Ringo Starr held an online 80th birthday bash Tuesday with a little help from his celebrity friends — and a number of classic Beatles songs — in aid of causes including Black Lives Matter.

But fans hoping for a virtual reunion between Starr and fellow surviving Beatle Paul McCartney were left disappointed, as the celebration concluded with an archive clip of the pair performing “Helter Skelter.”

Normally Starr marks each passing year with live performances that include fellow musicians and hundreds of fans, but the pandemic forced a rethink this time.

“As most of you know, I’m fond of a good birthday party… but this is a bad year to host a get-together of any kind,” said the British musician, sitting behind a drum kit wearing a colorful face mask adorned with the peace sign.

“So I’m celebrating with my friends in a new way this year — we’re going to have to keep our distance due to the coronavirus.”

Famous pals from musicians Sheryl Crow and Kenny Loggins to filmmaker David Lynch recorded vocals and video tributes, as Starr introduced hits from the Beatles’ back catalog as well as his own.

“Come Together,” “All You Need is Love” and “With a Little Help From My Friends” were among the tracks aired in an eclectic mix of archive concert footage and home recordings watched live by some 130,000 fans.

At the end of the festivities, Starr announced “We’ve got Paul… and I’m even playing with him!” — before introducing footage of the pair shot in Starr’s adopted hometown Los Angeles last year.

But with McCartney seemingly billed in advance promotions as the show’s top guest, some Beatles fans took to social media to vent their disappointment.

“Where were you Paul? Very disappointing. #peaceandlove” wrote Chris Durso.

“Very very disappointed. Now we know. Ringo is the God,” tweeted Ann Olsson.

McCartney did send a tweet earlier in the day wishing “Happy birthday SIR RICHARD alias RINGO. Have a great day my long time buddy!”

The duo still play together on occasion, including at the Dodger Stadium gig last year as part of McCartney’s “Freshen Up” tour.

– ‘Peace and Love’ –

Ben Harper, Dave Grohl and Sheila E. were among the celebrities who recorded musical segments for Starr’s online party.

The event encouraged donations to the Black Lives Matter Global Network for the fight to “end all this racist violence,” Starr explained, as well as The David Lynch Foundation, MusiCares and WaterAid.

Documentary footage reflected on the Beatles’ refusal to play before a segregated audience in Jacksonville, Florida during their famous 1964 US tour.

“Black Lives Matter. Stand up and make your voice heard,” said Starr, before noting the major influence of Black artists including Little Richard on the Beatles’ sound.

Ahead of the bash NASA’s Curiosity Rover tweeted Starr birthday wishes from space.

“Happy 80th, Ringo! Here’s my view of Earth (and Venus) from the surface of Mars where I’m thinking about your message of Peace and Love, and how in good times and in tough ones, we all get by with a little help from our friends,” it said.

Known for his easy-going personality and humor, Starr rocketed to global fame in the early 1960s and helped change the face of pop music forever as part of the Beatles — still perhaps the world’s most famous band.

After the group’s break-up, Starr emerged as a band leader in the late 1980s with his All Starr Band.

In an interview with Rolling Stone published Tuesday, the newly-minted octogenarian talked about his recent turn to health as he heads into his ninth decade.

Starr said he works out anywhere from three to six times a week, goes for long walks and maintains a vegetarian diet — eating “broccoli with everything and blueberries every morning.”

He said he hasn’t really left his Los Angeles home in some 11 weeks during the pandemic, inviting an engineer over just once for a jam session.

“I do a bit of that and I have a paint room, a little art room. And I’m going in there, painting and doing stuff. And I love to sit in the sun. I love LA. I love the brightness and hanging out.

“That’s all we’re doing.”

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