By Steve Svetovich
There was a time in Dunmore when New Year’s Eve was celebrated in November.
And it lasted for almost a quarter of a century.
That was when Dunmore’s Billy Weller celebrated his birthday and invited over 500 of his best friends, many from Dunmore, to his annual “Weller Bash” held each year in late November from 1979 into the early 2000’s until his passing.
Billy was in his early 60’s when he died suddenly in the early 2000’s ending an era of great kinship among close friends.
“It was like New Year’s Eve,” former Dunmore Councilman Joe Tomko said. “I never missed it.”
And once you were invited to the annual Billy Weller Birthday Bash, you were invited for life.
Weller, who worked in the dietary department of the Moses Taylor Hospital and was a statistician for over 30 years at Dunmore’s Schautz Stadium, would hold the annual event for himself and invite over 500 of his best friends at no charge. He expected no gifts.
He would hire eight rock bands who all performed an hour each. The rock bands performed at no charge and were considered his guests. A hot buffet, drinks, cake and all different kinds of pizza and wings would always be served to guests.
“It was like the Who’s Who,” said former Dunmore Mayor Patrick “Nibs” Loughney who attended every event since its inception.
“It’s something you start looking forward to in September,” he said. “People start talking about it. By October you really look forward to it. It was better than New Year’s Eve.”
The annual birthday celebration began in 1979 at the Steering Wheel, Moosic, where it was held through 1985. Then it was held at the old Palms, Keyser Avenue, Scranton, from 1986 through 1990 before moving to the old Gallagher’s, South Blakely Street, Dunmore, from 1991 through 1998 when the establishment closed. The last several events were held from 1999 until the early 2000’s at St. Stanislaus Hall, Old Forge.
“I never receive regrets,” Weller once said. “And if I invite you once, it is like a lifetime invitation.”
The initial gig began with about 35 people, but grew over the years to over 500.
Weller called it “a reunion of friends” and for his friends to meet and have a good time.
“Billy had so many friends from so many different walks of life,” Tomko said. “I would look forward to it every year.”
The guest list included Tomko, former Dunmore Mayor Loughney and his wife Donna, former Dunmore Councilman Paul Nardozzi, former Dunmore Councilman James McHale, Jr.; late Dunmore School Director James McHale, Sr.; late Dunmore School Director Al Frioni, Sr., former WBRE-TV weatherman Vince “Said it would be like this” Sweeney who always attended with his sister, local TV photographer Tony Ingargiola, former Dunmore Police Chief Sal Mecca, former Moses Taylor Hospital President Andy Anderson, local community activist Chris DiMatteo, Mike “Sid” Hallinan, Rose and William Grochowski, Michelle and Teddy Gresko, Billy Deininger, Larry Sykes, Steve Gall, Stella Nardozzi, Laurie Nardozzi, Mike Ducas, Matt and Rose Michalek, Dunmore school teachers Richie Sluko, Bill Ross and Bill McDonnell, John and Frannie Loughney, Mark Greenfield, Mike and Sally Celano, Atty. Joe Ferguson, Amy Witko, Tom and Alicia Hallinan, John Farris and various members of local bands.
The lineup of bands included East Coast, Kartune, Take Five, Jim Cullen, Deuce, Double Take, Dakota, Roy Propes and his Elvis Show, Weller’s niece Jennifer Taylor, Billy Sullenberger and his Stones show and Charlie Newcombe, an annual guest who provided the lighting and sound system. One highlight came in 2000 when a couple members of The Buoys,,a high profile rock band of the 1970’s, performed their signature hit, “Timothy.”
Weller was also a popular local disc jockey who loved music. He enjoyed reading off the list of musicians and usually had a surprise each year to mention during his annual pre birthday bash interviews with The Dunmorean.
His guests usually attended the annual eight-plus hour event from beginning to end, dancing and enjoying the food and drink while not wanting to miss the listed bands perform for an hour each. Billy would end the night with great enthusiasm, as was his nature, prancing, dancing and singing his signature song, “Teenager in Love.” No one wanted to miss that ending.
And if you thought the late Warren Zevon on was “The Excitable Boy,” you should have seen Billy Weller. Another signature moment would come mid way through the event when Billy did “The Twist,” with guests dancing around him.
Billy hoped to continue with his annual bash into his late 70’s and beyond. “I look at this as a gala,” he once said. “It it like a wedding, a New Year’s Eve event, It is quite an endeavor.”
Weller was the DJ for many years at Dunmore’s annual Crime Watch event. He performed at local weddings, special events and block parties in the Dunmore borough.
“He was the Dick Clark of Dunmore,” Nibs said.
“He was 62 going on 16.
“He was really amazing, very special. And he is surely missed.”
Today the annual Billy Weller Bash is just a great memory, gone for the past two decades with Billy’s passing.
But those who attended still smile and never forget.
Billy Weller impacted many.
It truly was a wonderful life.
And November will never be quite the same in Dunmore.