Here’s a thought: What if Brenda and Eddie from Billy Joel’s Scenes from an Italian Restaurant met Tommy and Gina from Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer? What? It could happen. Here’s what we know: Brenda and Eddie are from Long Island, the former King and Queen of the Prom who marry against all advice, get furniture from Sears and then split up (no, not because of the furniture). Tommy and Gina are from Jersey, two blue-collar kids working to make ends meet, Tommy on the docks and Gina in a diner, until the union goes on strike and Tommy’s out of work. I’m thinking that Brenda and Eddie have more money but that Tommy and Gina have more of a work ethic. Here, now, is my imagination at work:
The two couples make a date to go to an Italian restaurant in the City (New York City, where else?). Brenda and Eddie order a bottle of Mateus Rosé (you need to have lived through the ’70s to recognize that name) while Tommy and Gina go with beer. (“Bud if you got it, Pabst if not.”) Brenda is decked out in late-1970s Long Island style — Jordache jeans, Huk-a-Poo shirt (boldly patterned polyester), fake nails, platform shoes, and about a dozen bracelets. Eddie is showing some chest hair — and some neck chains, one with a good-luck horn charm — wearing his polyester shirt, designer jeans and Tony-Manero-Stayin’-Alive shoes. Meanwhile, Tommy and Gina both have the tight-Levi’s-and-t-shirt look with biker boots and big, big hair.
How these four met is complicated. Brenda’s brother’s ex used to date Tommy’s cousin’s brother-in-law who, as it turns out, manages a bowling alley down the shore where all four once attended a birthday party for little Frankie, who is somehow related both to Eddie and Gina.
So the twosomes grab a table at the Italian restaurant and order — meatball heroes with extra gravy all around, except for Brenda, who’s watching her calories and goes with the chicken parmigiana, hold the mozz.
Gina talks about her boss who’s always trying to make a move on her; Brenda advises her on how to make him stop — threaten to tell his wife. Tommy talks about how tough finding work is; Eddie tells him about his newest scheme to make a million without having to lift a finger. The girls compare engagement rings — Brenda’s is pretentiously large (she doesn’t know it’s not real — Eddie’s kind of cheap). Gina’s real diamond is tiny but she loves it (Tommy wishes he could have given her a bigger ring).
It’s 10 o’clock and Gina and Tommy need to get going — her shift at the diner starts at 6 a.m. and he’s got to hit the pavement early, looking for a job. They get on his bike and take off through the tunnel to Jersey, her holding on tight with one hand, waving Brenda and Eddie goodbye with the other. Brenda and Eddie stay for dessert (he orders cannoli, she just picks) and then they, too, call it a night, heading back over the bridge to Long Island in Eddie’s red Camaro with the tinted windows and chrome wheels — Movin’ Out blasting through the speakers.
My guess is that Billy and Jon have had better things to do over the years than put Brenda and Eddie and Tommy and Gina together to see what would happen. My excuse is that I’ve grown so fond of both couples over the years that I just can’t resist seeing them as a quartet. After all, I love a good song. Just sayin’.
ⓒ 2015 Claudia Grossman