76-Second Travel Show: ‘Billy Joel’s Long Island’

Episode #034
S P E C I A L * 7 . 6 – M I N U T E * V E R S I O N

One of these days we’ll all go through a Billy Joel renaissance — making amends for the delay as a ‘Joelky’ and pour with fervor through his catalog to find the nuggets that didn’t reach MTV, like ‘Vienna’ or ‘Laura’ — then debate whether the Innocent Man record is even listenable? (It is.)

The problem with Billy’s legacy is that he’s a bit of a ‘shlubby guy’ — he said so himself at one of his two ‘last night’ shows at Shea Stadium. It doesn’t necessarily help that he touts a working-class area New York City likes to make fun of — Long Island, or ‘guyland.’ And unlike Bruce Springsteen, who successfully translates the wastelands of Jersey — a catapult shot over the Big Apple — into the enduring hearts of rock fans, Billy’s never been cool. And he never will be.

But that, as Chuck Klosterman writes in Sex, Drugs & Coco Puffs, never meant he wasn’t great.

I’m naturally inclined to the overlooked places in travel, and Long Island’s heartland (on/off the Long Island Expressway, in neither here-nor-there towns like Hicksville where Joel was raised) strikes me as something of ‘New York’s Kansas.’

Also, Joel seems like he kinda deserves a break too.

So the SSSTS staged a Billy Joel roadtrip contest, and three Brooklyn-based winners — Sherry Wasserman, Andrew Hickey (aka BrooklynNomad) and Matt Watt — shrugged off the B-Jo critics to join me on Billy Joel’s 61st Birthday Eve.

But where to go? Simple, just follow the ultimate Long Island guidebook: Billy’s songs.

As part of the exercise, we ranked each of the stops on a zero to five ‘fires’ system. The results, shown above, show a deep valley in places with no local interaction (eg ‘Miracle Mile’) while it peaks in places like Hicksville home to many Joel-linked characters. Says something about what sorts of ‘travel’ works best.

Now, ‘Billy Joel travel’ — ie, with devoted ‘Joelkies’ hanging out in suburban streets of middle Long Island — may not transform the travel landscape for good, but having done a Joel trip now, I can attest that I’ll never hear ‘Scenes from an Italian Restaurant’ the same way again.

Billy’s high school, where he finally got his diploma in 1992.

Is Syosset’s Christiano’s the ‘Italian Restaurant’ from ‘Scenes from an Italian Restaurant’? Many say it is. In the June 1977 concert in the bonus CD of the 30th anniversary edition of The Stranger, Billy dedicates the song to Christiano’s. Though some say, including David Fricke in that album’s liner notes! — that it’s based on the now-closed Fontana di Trevi in Manhattan. You decide, but my vote is with Christiano’s.

Billy’s former neighbor Bob Hess tells us Billy’s home (shown above) used to be red.

About Robert Reid

Robert Reid is a travel writer (Lonely Planet, New York Times, ESPN), travel expert (Today Show, CNN's Headline News), travel videographer (76-Second Travel Show) and travel artist (don't ask).
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12 Responses to 76-Second Travel Show: ‘Billy Joel’s Long Island’

  1. Andrew says:

    Amazing recap of Billy Joel Travel. I can not wait to do Bruce Springsteen Travel in Jersey this fall.


  2. Rutila says:

    Thanks a bunch for putting it together, Robert. Had a blast with you and the fellow BJ travelers.

  3. Trey Ravalli says:

    So little love for my hometown of Manhasset. BTW, I am still jealous that Cold Spring gets to be the subject of a Billy Joel song.

  4. Trey Ravalli says:

    I mean Billy Joel “album” not song. (Even if it is low in the BJ canon)

  5. Melanie Haiken says:

    Love this post; and yes, the Bruce guide to Jersey, please! I had fun trying to trace whether the Hotel California in Todos Santos, Baja is really the one named in the Eagles song (it’s not) in one of my posts recently. Let’s start a Baby Boomer nostalgia rock travel trend….

  6. Robert Reid says:

    Thanks all. Bruce seems like a good idea for a sequel. OR the Romantics.

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    Thanks so much for the post, very helpful info.

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