The party is over for “Uncle Vito.”
Gary Locatelli, 64, who entertained radio listeners for 30 years as classic rock and oldies fan “Uncle Vito” on Albany’s WPYX-FM (PYX 106), Wednesday announced his retirement.
Locatelli, who lives in Johnstown, said he hand-delivered a resignation letter to the station. An announcement later was posted on both the PYX 106 home page and Locatelli’s “Bionic Vito” Facebook page.
“A lot of thought has gone into this decision and although I know some of you are not happy about it I hope you are happy for me,” the announcements read. “I have seen too many people, including my own mother, keep going until it was too late and never get to enjoy life in their later years. I didn’t want that to happen to me and that’s why I decided to enjoy some much deserved time with my wife and family.”
The retirement becomes the latest part of what Locatelli described as a lifestyles change. He has recently lost 129 pounds from a once-400-pound frame and earlier this summer had successful knee-replacement surgery. During rehabilitation time at home, he thought more about leaving radio.
“I kept mulling things over and finally came to the conclusion I wasn’t going to wait any more,” Locatelli said in a phone interview. “It was time to retire.”
So “Uncle Vito” cracked his last radio jokes on July 22, the day before Locatelli’s surgery.
Shtick catches on
Luck — and some imagination — helped Locatelli land the PYX 106 gig during the mid-1980s. He was an avid listener of then-morning drive host Bob Mason, who was famous for his popular “breakfast club” gatherings at local restaurants. One of the gatherings was planned around Halloween.
“I knew there were going to be a lot of people,” Locatelli said, “so I said I needed to have some kind of edge. The Tuesday before the breakfast club, I called in and said, ‘Hey, this is your long-lost Uncle Vito from Bayonne, New Jersey.’ I kind of went back and forth and did some shtick with Bob on the air, and it went well. Well, Thursday I did it again and he had Curtis Sliwa (founder of New York’s Guardian Angels) and I went back and forth with the both of them.
“Sure enough, when I got to the breakfast club — it was at Coco’s (formerly on Western Avenue) — I think there were about 1,000 people and a line waiting to get in. He was with Cliff Nash and Nash comes up to me and says, ‘Are you Uncle Vito? Come on in, Mason wants to meet you.’ I was dressed up as ‘The Godfather’ with the sunglasses and the hat and all that.”
Locatelli kept calling in, and “Uncle Vito Masonetti” soon earned his own radio show. His “Uncle Vito’s House Party” ran on PYX on Saturday nights for 19 years. The “Masonetti” part of the gag eventually faded; for the last several years, “Uncle Vito” worked afternoon drive in the 2 to 7 p.m. slot. He also had a Saturday slot, but that was prerecorded.
Locatelli, who also voiced “Ranger Danger” and once briefly worked for WQBK-FM (Q-104), doesn’t think there will be any radio requiem for Uncle Vito. He said PYX management has never been big on farewell shows. But he wanted to reach out to fans.
“I’d like to say thank you for listening to me all these years and making me what I was on the radio,” Locatelli said. “I was just a normal guy who loved music, loved to have some fun and I was given that opportunity. I was very lucky.”
Locatelli can now finally explain his sign-off, which always included a “very special thanks to Knockers LaRue, wherever you are.” Part of the gag was a salute to comedian Jimmy Durante, who used to close his shows with a “Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.”
“That was my way of saying thank you to my wife,” Locatelli said. “It was our little thing without me saying her name.”