This past Sunday evening I was watching 60 Minutes on CBS; they had a special edition devoted to John Gotti Jr.
Gotti Jr. mentioned an interesting story to Steve Kroft about how he was once at a wedding and his wife wanted to dance. Junior wasn’t having any of it. You know those feelings; just want to sit at the table and drink. Junior’s dad, John Sr. told him to get up and dance or let his wife go and dance. Turns out, Junior was pissed.
A few minutes later the Teflon Don pulled the son aside and told him “life is all about memories; make as many as you can”. (I’ll never forget that line)
When I think of Forte Bellino, I have so many memories of him.
First time I ever recall Forte was when he coached basketball at Holy Name. He coached a team with Joe O’Boyle, Edgar Dela Rosa and a few others. I believe it was Holy Name’s 8th grade team or maybe their Tyro team. They had some sweet uniforms.
Forte reffing summer league games up in the schoolyard was classic. He was always good for a humorous exchange with a player or even fan on the side. My most memorable summer league moment involving Forte was the team he assembled named OTB. He was a player-coach. They had great chemistry which was key to their ability to win the championship against arguably more talented teams.
The trip to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield Mass. with Forte, Danny, Tom Brady, Edgar, and Ricky Ferro was memorable. We had a ball.
When I was a teenager Forte was working for the Big Apple Games in the summer out at Lafayette High School in Bensonhurst. I used to take the train out there to play basketball and play on his team. I had a great time. Forte gave me so much confidence in my game.
Forte loved the horses. OTB on 12th street and 5th avenue was one of his favorite spots. Like my man Sal C said, ‘he can go 9 for 9 at Belmont’.
In the early evening Forte could always been seen sitting on his stoop on Windsor Place. He was always good for great conversation. While I lived on Prospect Park SouthWest I always made it a point to walk around the corner to spend some time with him. I actually almost rented out his top floor back in the early 90’s. If he wasn’t on his stoop, I’d walk up the couple of concrete steps, peek through the screen door and see him sitting inside watching a sporting event. One night Forte wasn’t on his stoop so I approached his front door. His lovely mom answered the door and told me to come in. Forte came walking into the living room with a plate of food in one hand, a drink in the other and was surprised as shit to see me standing there. “MA, COME ON, I’M IN MY UNDERWEAR!” Mrs. B replied, “Oh stop, it’s just Red.”
I had to hold in my laugh as Forte was clearly embarrassed.
Everyone loved ‘B’. He had a way about him. He made you feel special and made you feel like you were a long-time friend. For the past 14 years living in Michigan, every time I go back to the neighborhood I always made it a point to see him.
No one ever had anything bad to say about him. Didn’t matter where it was but when you would see Forte he always called you ‘SON’ in a way that made you feel good. He took a sincere interest in you as a person.
Forte always gave me great advice on coaching. He spent many years coaching basketball at Bishop Ford. I recall always leaning on him for wisdom while I struggled during my first year with the freshmen team (we were 0-27). His basketball I.Q.was very high; plain and simple, he knew the game inside out. For the past few years since he got out of coaching, you could always find him at Bishop Ford sitting on the chair, at the front door watching the action.
I used to love hopping in his car and driving down to St. Francis College to see the Terriers play basketball. Pizza after the game and the stop at the 5th avenue newsstand was the norm.
One night after a Terrier game we were driving back to the neighborhood. I was sitting next to Edgar in the backseat and we were going over the the bridge on Smith and 9th street. Something smelled like smoke. On cue Edgar asked, ‘Yo Forte, what’s cookin’?
The last I saw him was a two years ago up at Ford. We had a nice chat. Even though our connection faded over the last couple of years, I want to thank the internet for allowing us to chat over AOL. Despite being 800 miles away, he was still just a phone call away-and if you knew Forte, you know he loved talking on the phone.
A good friend once told me, “Death teaches us how to live.” I’m going to try to live my life like Forte, he touched a lot of people in a positive way. And I’m sure the late John Gotti would’ve loved Forte, loved him because B was a ‘memory maker’.
R.I.P. Forte Bellino
Thursday – June 3 Duffy’s Funeral Home
9th Street, between 4th & 5th Avenues
Brooklyn, New York
2:00 pm – 5:00 pm and
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Friday, June 4, 2010
Holy Name of Jesus Roman Catholic Church
Prospect Park West, bet Windsor Place and Prospect Avenue
Brooklyn, New York