I first met Mo Pagano at an exhibition at the Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts. I was on the board of directors of the foundling community arts center. The only thing I knew about Mo at the time is that he was a contemporary of Pat Witt.
Mo’s wife, Elizabeth, had recently passed. She had been very ill, and he had devoted his life to taking care of her. That was a full time occupation. With Elizabeth’s passing, Mo was lost. His entire life had revolved around her, and he had lost contact with old friends, outlived others, and had all but forsaken his first love of painting.
This entry into the exhibition was the first in a long time, but not to be his last. Mo fit in with our eclectic band of misfits – artists and musicians, ages 18 to 80 – and we began to invite him out to our soiree’s. Mo entertained with stories of his life and of the early times at PatWitt’s Barn Studio – much of which he later admitted was apocryphal. He enjoyed spinning a good yarn.
Mo touched the life of everyone he met – and he relished the role of “dirty old man” which he played up to the hilt. He told me often how much he like being old, because he could get away with saying things that a younger person could not say, and be excused due to his age. Liz ad I called him “Old Man”, and he promised me that one day he would “piss on my grave.” That probably won’t happen.
Fast forward many years:
I had begun publication of a local underground arts newspaper. I was recruiting a stable of writers and contributors willing to work for the privilege of having their name in print. mo was a regular with his feature, “Mo Knows”. He wrote abut art, jazz, Greenwich Village in the 50’s, Atlantic City during the heyday of jazz, and whatever he felt like writing about. That series of articles eventually morphed into a book, “Mo Knows”.
Mo put us all to shame with his work ethic, spending entire nights in his studio, producing a prolific output of paintings. Somehow he found time to continue writing. Short stories, memoirs, and they became two more books. “Everybody has a Book” was his autobiography. The book is written as if he were sitting there, telling you. I can still hear his cackle when he said something he found humorous.
“Short Stories – some shorter than others” is an amalgam of anecdotes and tales where he really cuts loose. Many of the themes are adult in nature, and the language less reserved or cautious. All three books are available on Amazon.com.
Two years ago, Mo began work on a third book. I have three of his stories intended for the new book, a book which unfortunately will not see light of day. I will post his last three stories here in the future. He wrote them to be read and shared. Mo is in the hospital. A recent surgery led to complications, he is on morphine to keep him comfortable. He has had a lot of visitors, and even though they say he is asleep, I sense the old man hears them and appreciates them. And if he had anything to say about his life, he would say “Good times!”