Tribute to Ricky Ricardo Sordo † 1958-2015
Rafael Román Martel
(Originally a note for FB it became an article published on July 25, 2015)
As I write this my friend Ricky Ricardo Sordo will lay in his wake in Miami tomorrow. I am sorry I can’t be there. Now he is in a better world because he is a good soul. I met him in my High School years, at the now legendary Emerson High School, where two generations of Cubans were americanized by mostly Italian-American teachers. They were tough but they taught us the American way. And we took off and did something meaningful out of our lives. Ricardo was a hard working kid since I met him. Honest, a good friend, and over all kind and gleaming with joy.
He always took care of himself and his family. I met his parents: great people like his brother.
Ricardo had a special love for cars, and he always had a great looking car-with white bands on its wheels and impeccably clean. He loved big cars with presence, like a Buick he had in the late 70’s, a sort of light greenish car which he always kept in excellent condition. He took special pride in his cars.
He had an affable personality and he always tried to be nice to everybody he knew. Like his ex-wife Michele wrote: “He never met a stranger”. Never. He would stretch his hand and shake it and made you feel you were his friend, and in his purity of soul he was.
He would be betrayed later in in life by some of those he trusted the most but he never looked back. He always kept grudges and hate far away from him: he just moved on.
He loved to dance when the disco era created the NY Hustle, and he was very good at it. Just like he took care of his cars he did with himself, always dressed with taste and elegance. He was graceful in his manners, paused, controlled, always had a smile in bad times: he was a believer in Christ, and like all true believers he reflected that in his behavior.
In the turbulent late 70’s they shot and killed his cousin in NYC, and he was hesitant to go to the clubs in the city for that reason. It was a crazy time in NYC, specially late at night yet Ricky drawn by the best dancing in the world went with us to the best discos in New York and stayed until 7 am, when at starship Discovery 1 the crowd slammed their feet so hard in the dance floor for the DJ not to stop the music he would play James Brown’s records to get everyone exhausted.
Ricky would not stop dancing.
He loved a club in NJ: The Soup Factory, where we used to go sometimes two times a week. Fridays was Cameo, Saturdays New york City: Starship Discovery 1, Sundays Strawberry’s. It was 1976 to 1978. There we saw The Tramps, Gloria Gaynor, and many others when they presented their hit records in 1976 early 1977. On weekdays the admission was $3. Imagine? Gas sold for 45 cents a gallon regular. As a dancer Ricky became a regular in a local TV program the Soup Factory aired locally featuring the best artists of the time.
It was a unique era. People were sick of Watergate and the War in Viet-Nam, and they just wanted to dance, to get away from all of the craziness of the early 70’s. So Disco became the answer. It was the place “where the happy people go”. Ricky enjoyed all to the max. He wasn’t interested in politics. Probably he had had enough in Cuba. And unlike me never became involved in the struggle. He never even talked about it, except to say the obvious: that Fidel Castro was the devil.
He would calm us down. I clearly remember coming out of Starship Discovery 1 on 42 St. and 9th and starting to do push ups in the middle of the street and starting to take my shirt off. My friends Ricky Sordo and Tony Ehlers would take me to the car while the parking attendant said: “What did he take man! Give me some of that shit!” Truth is that I only drank a couple of shots in a time when drugs in the form of anything were easily available. For those who did not lived the late 70’s in the New York night scene, lines were easily seen in tables, some people probably got high just from the smoke of pot. Alcohol was included in the admission ticket of $15 at Starship, no limits. I was 18. Tony was even younger. Our thing was to dance… and we liked women. Where is the crime? The late 70’s were the ultimate high of the sexual revolution, the epitome of social freedom in our society. Ricardo enjoyed it to the fullest.
He was always calm and collected. He was always friendly and likeable. He had a good mind for electronics. In Englewood he worked assembling the electronic parts of the wrapping machines.
I never in those years, saw him get angry or resentful or hateful towards anyone.
On the contrary, as a true friend he was a balance to my aggressive personality. In those days I was restless. I was many times lucky and I felt protected by Christ. Or both. Ricky would always hold me back. When he couldn’t he would be there like in September 1977 when I fought a guy much taller and older than me at Journal Square in Jersey City. I ended up with a bloody face. A dozen stitches in my left eyebrow and ended up in what was then Hudson Hospital on Park Avenue in Union City where it was Ricardo who took me in his car. I fought back hard and the other guy ended up with a broken nose and all bruised up. I guess some people are afraid of their own blood, and I had him. He was mine. He started stumbling back and seconds from falling and I remember the calls of Ricky, Idania, and Conchi-her sister: “¡Dale Rafi!”. I threw another left hook and he was almost down when his friends jumped in and one of them said “You’ve done enough brother, I got him!”. Ricky jumped in and said “This is also my brother!” The guy back down. That was Ricky. Not violent at all but all friend. The cops came in but I did not have to fight that other guy who’d most likely hurt me thanks to the fact that I had my friend with me. I always love him and respect him for the courage and loyalty he showed that day.
Ricardo Sordo was a man of peace. A man of God.
He had a special respect for Leandro Pineda and Jesús Ferrer, and also ‘Santiagito’, the dancer. In the Summer of 1977 we all worked at a company that built huge wrapping machines for refrigerators. Leandro and Jesús are great hustle dancers and real stand-up guys. Santiago, anoher Cuban-American who was probably at the time one of the greatest hustle dancers in NY.
On July 13 1977 the lights went out in New York City, Sordo, his cousin who was visiting from Miami and myself were in Times Square, in an Burger King , out of all places, whose management threw us out-the New York way-as soon as they realized what was happening. We managed to get to the Port Authority bus station through the chaos on 42nd Street. Luckily Port Authority had its own plant, we felt saved and thankful as we took the next bus to New Jersey.
He had a passion for cars, nice clothes, music, food, jewelry and women. And he rejoice in them all. He enjoyed his thirst for live and was always willing to share with his friends generously. His father and him owned a dealership in the 80’s. The perfect business for a car lover.
His personality draw many young ladies. He befriended and dated many specially in the dance clubs. Paradoxically he would meet the “woman of his life”-as he told me many times-in a hospital. He was visiting his mother who just had surgery when he met the girl who shared his mother’s room. Blonde, beautiful and vivacious Michelle Padua captured his eyes right away, his heart soon after. It was 1981.
In 1982 they were married. Two years later Richard Jesus Sordo was born. He loved them dearly. In 1986 they moved to Florida where they established themselves. Always working, Ricardo owned a few companies.
In 1988 his mother Marcela passed away. It was a tough blow for him and his brother Barbaro, and their father Wenceslao. The couple had escaped Castro’s Communism and had established themselves in Union City with their two sons. Through their hard work, like most Cubans families, they bought their first house on 28th Street, in Union City in 1978.
In 1990 he bought a home in Kendall and moved in with Michelle and his son Richard. In 1997 they divorced. They had grown apart yet they always maintained a cordial relationship. Both always respected and loved each other. He leaves a six year old granddaughter: Madison Lynn Sordo.
He moved on and met his girlfriend Ada whose family embraced him like a father, a friend. One of her sons, Christopher even tattooed Ricardo’s face with a truck in his arm. For the last ten years of his life he drove around the United States with his truck. Traveling to all states, he would post photos of the places he drove back and forth on FB. Out of the whole country he would suddenly die in New Jersey.
His life was peaceful, a peace he transmitted through his unforgettable laughter and his kind ways, a peace that molded his life and my tribute to a man who loved and appreciated life.
God gives and God takes.
Many gifts He granted you my friend. Now, under the Huge Disco Ball in Heaven may you dance your way to eternity.
Union City, July 25, 2015.