by Davidson Gigliotti
A remembrance letter to the New York Times inspired by “The Bar That Has Fed SoHo for Almost a Century.“
Back in the early ‘70s the Videofreex, a radical video collective intent on reforming the TV industry with the ½” portable video equipment of that time, occupied the top floor of the building right next to Fanelli’s. We were regulars. Fanelli featured Italian cuisine back then, and a bowl of pasta e fagioli and a salad was a good lunch for us.
On March 8th, 1971, Mohammad Ali and Joe Frazier fought “the fight of the century’ at the Garden. There was a TV blackout, and we had been hired to provide video projection at one of the several closed-circuit locations in the city where fight fans could pay to watch. Although it was strictly forbidden, we took a line out anyway and recorded the fight on videotape. The next morning we set up a monitor in Fanelli’s and played the tape. Fanelli’s was soon jammed, wall to wall, you couldn’t move.
The crowd grew boisterous, animated by the copious flow of beer and whiskey, cheering and moaning as Ali and Frazier pummeled each other for fifteen rounds. It got to the point where some of the more inebriated patrons were making bets on the outcome, though the outcome had been decided the night before when Frazier put Ali on the deck in the last round. Mike, the owner, had to send out for an emergency beer delivery. We ate free at Fanelli’s for a month. Hey, those were the days.