By Phil Corso
You didn’t have to be at Frank Skala’s birthday party to know it was Frank Skala’s birthday.
Signs in front of Bourbon Street, at 40-12 Bell Blvd., pointed passersby in the direction of the restaurant’s front door, where tables of joke-cracking Baysiders celebrated 75 years of Skala.
But no voice was louder than the man of the hour, who delighted his guests with his unique brand of curmudgeon hospitality and humor.
“You have to work very hard to get to this,” Skala said, motioning to the crowd of nearly 100 who came out to celebrate his birthday Saturday.
Skala’s life was on full display from the first steps into the party all the way to the tables where guests enjoyed food and drinks throughout the afternoon. Numerous photographic displays of Skala’s life so far decorated the walls from the front door to the main dining room, each with its own title, like “Grandpa at Little League” or “Dad and his cats,” showing Skala with his beloved feline pals.
Another album showed Skala in one of his more locally famous states, dressed as Santa Claus during the holiday season with a bushy white beard.
The walls were decorated with “75 things you ought to know about Frank Skala,” including one anecdote about how Skala knows men don’t sew, they safety pin.
All of Bayside’s characters seemed to have stopped by the party to wish Skala a happy birthday and many more, but with the most sincere forms of flattery came in the form of off-the-cuff humor at the birthday boy’s expense.
“To know Frank is to know Frank. We know he will celebrate many more because, as they say, only the good die young,” said Jerry Iannece, chairman of Community Board 11. “We appreciate Frank for all of his outstanding service on the board and in the community.”
City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) brought a city proclamation as a gift to Skala to show thanks for the East Bayside Homeowners Association president’s special day. Before presenting the honor, Skala got the room to quiet down with his signature booming voice, dense enough to quiet a sports arena, adding that his guests were lucky he didn’t bring a megaphone.
“No one has been a more emblematic fighter for this area of Bayside,” Halloran said. “He is a curmudgeon, but he is our curmudgeon. There is nobody with his style in Bayside.”
Joining Halloran and Iannece was state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), who lives near Skala in Bayside. He also jumped on the bandwagon, adding some humor to the lighthearted festivities.
“I am proud to be here to celebrate with my neighbor,” Braunstein said. “For the curmudgeon that he is, I was surprised to see so many people come out. It is a testament to his character.”
As a souvenir for his guests, Skala urged everyone to take homemade Skala badges, with various photos of himself.
Skala said no matter how old he became, he hoped to never give up his service at Bayside’s All Saints Episcopal Church on 40th Avenue, where he gives sermons every Sunday.
“That is something I truly enjoy doing,” Skala said.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.