His real name was Robert M. Cicalese, but everybody called him Bobby Chic — pronounced “chick.”
And a lot of people knew Bobby Chic before he died last month at 76. He made his name and reputation playing the 88 keys of pianos from Atlantic City to Las Vegas and points between.
Bobby Chic was a South Philadelphia boy who headed to Atlantic City as soon as he had a choice and lived for years in Margate. But his music career took him around the country when he was young, and he was a regular in Las Vegas when it had the country’s only casinos.
Still, he could find steady work in Atlantic City, too, playing some of the town’s top clubs. And he led his own band in the 1950s — Bobby Chic and the Chicklets, although they were called the Honeycones when they played on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.”
Johnny D’Angelo, of Ventnor, another local fixture on piano, was Bobby Chic’s friend since 1957.
“He was a good player, a good singer, he was good-looking, he always made a nice appearance,” D’Angelo says. “The girls loved him, they used to swoon over him.”
When casinos started opening in Atlantic City in 1978, musicians were busy. Bobby Chic played in two rooms at Caesars Atlantic City, but his steadiest casino gig was in the Steakhouse at Harrah’s Atlantic City.
Jerome Robinson, of Pleasantville, was the Steakhouse maitre’d and Bobby Chic’s friend. Robinson says his buddy always stayed sharp — even in an era when tuxedoes were standard, the two tried hard to out-dress each other. But the piano man could back up his look with his sound, too.
“Bobby was a standout from the very beginning,” Robinson says. “Bobby’s songbook was all the classics, all the standards, all the romantic songs. And he had this dirty left hand, man — kind of like Fats Waller. It was in his blood: He wanted to swing. ... People would say, ‘I know that song, but I never heard it that way before.’”
Linda Cicalese met Bobby in the 1970s, and the two dated but drifted apart. They got back together almost 30 years later, and by 2004, they were married.
She says Bobby worked hard on being healthy. He’d walk the boards from Margate to Atlantic City four days a week in his 70s. And he was a good golfer, even if he never played until his 40s. He tried once and was so bad, he wouldn’t step on a course again until he practiced for months. Once he did that, he was good enough to have some fun and win some bets.
His health went downhill in the last few years, but Linda says that golf story shows how Bobby Chic approached everything — his music, and his whole life.
“He wasn’t going to play until he learned how to do it right,” she says. “Anything he did, he was on the top.”
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