In Memory

Michael Privitello

~a thoughtful tribute from Doug Valentine:

Mike Privitello and I met at Foley’s in the spring of 1972 and immediately became fast friends.

Mike was teaching tennis at a country club in Scarsdale. He played in local tournaments and had a ranking on the pro or semi-pro tour. It was incredible to watch him on the court, his combination of power and athletic grace. He was over six feet tall, strong, with long brown hair he usually tied in a ponytail. A very good looking, physically attractive guy.

We went to movies two or three times a week and talked and talked and talked. Mike was tremendous fun to be around, a natural raconteur with a great sense of humor that kept us in stitches all the time. His father was an adult art student, as was my mother, and Mike was interested in everything that had to do with current events and culture. His step-mother Margaret was a very proper, well read English lady. His family was a bit unorthodox; they had a donkey that Mike fed and cared for and held in his arms when it got old.  He was full of love and kindness. There wasn’t a mean bone in his body.

Sometimes we talked about Old PHS, but mostly we looked to the future, and in September 1972 we packed up my Rambler with camping gear (and a box full of Italian salamis, breads, and cheeses his step-mother assembled for us), and started driving to California. It was a memorable adventure that climaxed with the car getting totaled at 3:00 am on Route 66, in the desert outside the town of Shamrock in the Texas Panhandle. Undeterred, we hitched the rest of the way, with stop-overs in the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas.

Mike always had high spirits, a positive attitude, plus healthy doses of vanity and ambition.

He stayed with his sister in Southern California, teaching tennis while periodically visiting me in San Francisco. We corresponded after he returned to the East Coast. He was hanging out with a few PHS grads who had set about finding magazine and publishing jobs in New York City.

When I returned to the East Coast, Mike was teaching tennis to celebrities at the Manhattan Tennis Club, where, in 1977, Woody Allen filmed portions of Annie Hall. Mike was romantically involved with one of his students, Vera Wang, the now famous clothing designer. Back then Vera was a super wealthy accessories editor at Vogue. She had just finished a short career as a professional figure skater and was about to acquire, through a trust fund, $80 million and an estate in Bedford Hills.

Through her circle of high finance friends, Vera had introduced Mike to a group of wealthy young Manhattanites who ran an upscale real estate firm. It was a dream come true when they gave him a job. Mike lived in Midtown, but he loved the whole city and got to know it well, as only a real estate agent can. He and Vera were hanging out at Studio 54 and making weekend trips to Southampton to play tennis. There were lots of good times.

Mike was best man at my wedding in 1980, which Vera attended. We stayed in close touch through his break-up with Vera and his new romance with Debbie Alter, the woman he would eventually marry.

Mike did well in the real estate business. He had a lovely home on East 50th Street, and he and Debbie had three children. I’ve attached a Christmas card with a picture of Mike, Debbie, and two of the three kids.

It was always great fun visiting Mike, always a full day. On one occasion, we visited around twelve churches and cathedrals, went to an Andy Warhol book-signing, and saw an art film at some tiny theatre that served dinner. I was dragging my ass, but Mike was always out in front. He was always a little larger than life to me. I looked up to him.

Then in February 2005, Mike was told he had glioblastoma and only one year to live. He carried himself with immense dignity and no self-pity the entire time, until he passed away in February 2006.

I remember most the time Mike and I went to visit my parents in Briarcliff. My father had heart disease and got tired just walking up and down the stairs. But he was still alert and finding ways to have fun. He was sitting outside in the sun, wrapped in a blanket, talking with a neighbor. The neighbor asked if Mike and I were his sons. My father smiled and said I was, and that he would be very happy if Mike was too. 

Mike Privitello evoked that kind of love in a lot of people.


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05/09/17 12:23 AM #1    

Stephanie Visca (Treutle)

Beautiful tribute, capturing the essence of Mike.  Thank you for the beautiful tribute.

05/09/17 12:38 PM #2    

David Gallo

I didn't know Mike after high school but after reading Doug's tribute to him, I feel like I had known Mike as Doug did.  Thank you Doug for sharing..

05/10/17 08:12 AM #3    

Robert Bloch

I played on the PHS tennis team with Mike.  He was a good tennis player, a quiet but fun guy, someone who always seemed to march to his own drummer.  Thanks Doug for a really touching update and tribute.

05/12/17 09:11 AM #4    

David Reeves

Thank you for your tribute to Mike. He was kind, always generous to others and great with people. He was a terrific athlete. His passing is a sad loss for P 67.

05/19/17 06:25 PM #5    

Christopher (Kit) Weiss

MIke and I grew up together on Palmer Lane.  He was my best friend all through grade school and had many adventures as kids.  One thing I remember vividly was helping him with his chores, especially mucking out the corral, which was home to their horse Laddie and a very friendly burro whose name escapes me.  No job builds character more than shoveling manure and spreading it elsewhere.  We had our first cigarette together, at far too young an age, in the stable shed and, of course, coughed our guts out. We spent countless hours in the woods of the old Mastick estate, catching tadpoles and who knows what.  Most of my childhood memories revolve around Mike.  He was as kind, generous and fun to be around then as Doug described him later in life. Thanks Doug, for filling in the intervening years, and letting all of our classmates know what a truly remarkable friend he was.

05/27/17 02:59 PM #6    

Peter Vita

I would also like to thank you for the tribute to Mike, Doug. It's heartwarming to learn that such a great kid grew to be such a wonderful man.

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