We can’t tell you what it’s because of. But we can tell you what it’s in spite of. His age: 84.
“I think I just have a gift,” says D’Alessandro, a Lake Parsippany resident. “I’ve never seen anyone in their 80s who can move like me. I don’t even know the song. I just move. The young ones, they say, ‘Where do you get your energy?’ I say, ‘That ain’t nothing,’ sweetheart.’ ”
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Most Friday nights, he can be seen boogieing to the beat at Mount Holleran Towne Tavern in Parsippany, 15 minutes from his home. Everyone knows him there: the bartenders, the bandleaders, and the women — of all ages — who count on Andre to dance with them when their husbands and boyfriends won’t.
“He loves to dance and he’s full of life,” says Donna Gauss of Lake Hiawatha, one of Andre’s frequent Towne Tavern dance partners. “He’s got the moves.”
It’s not unusual for the bandleader to ask Andre up on the stage with a request to “bring your ladies with you.” Once, Andre even jumped up onto the bar and began to dance up a storm, à la Pee-wee Herman. Management, for insurance reasons, has discouraged him from repeating the experiment.
“People took pictures of me,” he says. “They couldn’t get over that I jumped off the bar. Everybody was worried that I was going to get hurt. I’m very active that way.”
Even without the gymnastics, D’Alessandro is Towne Tavern’s resident trend-setter. “People saw me with hats,” he says. “Now I see them wearing hats. And they never wore hats before.”
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A song that Andre doesn’t dance to is a song the band will probably drop from its set list, says Mark Halatin of Montville. He’s drummer for the JM Band, one of the regular acts in rotation at Towne Tavern. And they all know Andre well.
“You don’t realize he’s that old,” Halatin says. “You wonder what he did when he was younger.”
Actually, when he was younger, he was kind of shy, D’Alessandro says.
“I used to be very bashful,” he says. “One time (my wife and I) were doing the jitterbug, years ago, and they made a circle around us two, and I saw these people looking at me. I spun my wife around and I left her on the floor. I walked away. And she said, ‘Don’t you ever do that to me again.’ ”
It was his wife, Ann, who died in 2010, who first encouraged him to strut his stuff, D’Alessandro says. Towne Tavern isn’t the only hot spot where he’s been spotted since he first started stepping out around 2011. But it has become a sort of home base. “At my age, I don’t feel comfortable going far and getting lost,” he says. “I go to the Towne Tavern because my car knows how to go there.”
Looking for a relationship
D’Alessandro, a retired mechanic, is the youngest of 13 children from Newark. Apart from Andre and an older brother, no one in the clan (there are four remaining, himself included) was especially notable for their pep, he says.
“I would say the one brother — he’s 93 now — was always strong and active,” D’Alessandro says. “Me and him have a lot of energy.”
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Needless to say, the John Travolta of Morris County is not at a loss in the dating department. Only, he says, he doesn’t really want dates.
“I can get dates every day, that’s not my problem,” he says. “I tell them I want a relationship. That’s my big problem right now. I’ve been married too long. I loved my wife, I had a great marriage, I have two sons. I want a relationship. I want somebody that, if I’m sick, they’re gonna give me soup or something.”
This is not just a story about a remarkable guy who has the energy of a man half his age. It is also, says his friend Marilyn Trauth of Parsippany, a more universal story, about seniors, and what they’re capable of, and how the world looks at them.
“People think old people don’t have a life anymore,” Trauth says. “They don’t think they like to dance. They don’t think they like to date. They do. I think that surprises younger people.”
Frankly, when it comes to moxie, the younger guys at the tavern don’t usually give D’Alessandro much competition.
They need to get up, get out, exercise like he does, D’Alessandro says. That’s why he gets all the girls.
“I tell all the guys, you’re lazy.” he says. “You guys, you’re either watching a baseball game or a football game, and you’re too lazy to get up and get your own beer. You’re sitting on a couch. I’ve never done that.”