The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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March 8, 2011

Comic’s autobiography references Ashtabula

ASHTABULA — He has worked with George Burns, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Bobby Darin, and was married to an Ashtabula girl, Patti DelPrince.

Pat Cooper, a Brooklynite with a smart mouth, was introduced to national television audiences on the Jackie Gleason show in 1963. His career took off after that, and Cooper played top nightclubs with the biggest names in entertainment.

In addition to his brash, irreverent views of life, Cooper was known for playing up his Italian heritage. He recorded several comedy albums for United Artists Records in the 1960s, including “You Don’t Have to be Italian to Like Pat Cooper” and an “Italian Wedding,” which endeared him to Ashtabula’s large Italian population.

A new autobiography of Cooper, “How Dare You Say How Dare Me!” has been published by Square One Publishers. Promoted as a “hilarious memoir,” the book was written by Rich Herschlag and Steve Garrin based upon Cooper’s retelling of his life.

There’s little in the book about Ashtabula and Patti, except for how they met and how she died, and the reader has to wade through a lot of verbal muck to find it.

Patti DelPrince, sister to Roger DelPrince of ElGrande Steakhouse fame, came across Cooper in the Bronx, where she was working at a little club. Cooper was her opening act.

“Patti was petite, pretty and sang her --- off,” Cooper recalls in his book.

Cooper was married at the time, but as his friendship with Patti grew, Cooper arranged for a divorce junket in Mexico.

“Eventually I went to Ashtabula, Ohio, to meet Patti’s family,” Cooper writes. “They were wonderful and very religious. When she brought up the subject of marriage with her parents, they were against it. Her mother said, ‘You can’t marry this man. This is a divorced man with kids to support. You’ll be starting your life at a big disadvantage, and you don’t know what the future holds.’”

Cooper and DelPrince married, despite her mother’s objections. They adopted a girl in the 1970s and named her Patti Jo. Cooper dedicates the book to his late wife; their daughter and her husband, Robert Weldenfield; as well as the grandchildren and his brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Roger and Eva DelPrince.

However, this is not a book about family, although there are several pictures of Patti in the book. It is a book about Cooper and the people he’s worked with, from Billy Crystal to Jerry Lewis, who wrote the short foreword.  His brand of humor is evident on every page.

So is Cooper’s affinity for the f-word and other locker-room language that quickly wears thin and poorly obscures the lack of underlying comedy.

Patti Cooper died of cancer — as with the rest of the book, Cooper does not provide a timeline. And he eulogizes her ever so briefly.

“She came into my life when I had nothing and gave me everything, including my masculinity,” he writes, and then gets on with the story about himself.

“How Dare You Say How Dare Me!” is $24.95 in hardcover.

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