Beloved local entertainer Thomas "Cozy" Morley died this week at the age of 87.
Morley was a staple along the Jersey Shore, the former owner of Club Avalon, once a popular nightclub in North Wildwood.
North Wildwood Mayor Bill Henfey said Sunday that Morley and his sense of humor would be missed.
“Cozy absolutely brought a lot of good publicity to North Wildwood,” Henfey said.
A statue of Morley, erected in 2003, sits outside Westy’s Irish Pub in North Wildwood, where Club Avalon once stood.
North Wildwood Council President Patrick Rosenello said Sunday that he grew up around the corner from the club.
“I would stand outside listening to his show through the open doors,” Rosenello remembered. “Sometimes, he would come out and crack a few jokes for us. He was as much a part of the Wildwoods experience as the tram cars and the Fudgy Wudgy men. He was a great personality who will be missed.”
In 2002, as the statue was being made, Morley spoke to The Press about his career.
“I don’t know what I do,” he joked as he recalled his early days as a performer.
During the years, thousands visited Morley’s former Club Avalon, which once sat at the corner of Spruce and Olde New Jersey avenues. The club brought some of the biggest entertainers of the 1950s and 1960s, such as Joey Bishop and Al Martino, to the island and made Morley, singer of the famed tune “On The Way To Cape May,” a household name from North Wildwood to Philadelphia.
“It was ramshackle. The roof leaked,” Morley said as he described the club.
Westy’s sits where the 1,100 person-capacity club once stood. All that remained of the old place was a red step that led into the club.
The 6-foot-tall statue of Morley was crafted by artist Zenos Frudakis.
As the statue came closer to completion in 2002, Morley said, “This is an honor. I was shocked when they said they wanted to do this. In my wildest dreams, I never thought this would happen. I’m just a kid from South Philadelphia.”
Morley was a shy musician who took on his funnyman stage persona to cover up the shyness, he told The Press. He received his first instrument, a banjo, in 1936 and went on to study the clarinet and saxophone. After graduating from high school, he entered the music business at age 18 and eventually found his way to Club Avalon.
Philadelphia entertainer Jerry Blavat remembered Morley Sunday as being “from the old school.”
“He represents a time when you entertained people and you didn’t need to entertain them with risque material. He was a family comedian,” Blavat said.
Blavat knew Morley for more than 50 years.
“He did impressions, made jokes, played the ukulele and the guitar. There’s no one to replace guys like this,” Blavat said.
In 2002, then-Mayor Aldo Palombo called Morley “Mr. North Wildwood.”
“Cozy is an institution,” Palombo said.
Henfey said that a tribute to Morley is being planned for Mummer’s Weekend, the weekend after Labor Day.
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