The men who work on it call it 'The Hole'. A $4 billion gash in the landscape around Second Avenue, Manhattan. The Hole is long-delayed New York Subway extension, an unwelcome new NYC landmark emitting a constant stream fumes and noise that regularly drives local residents potty. Until recently, that is, when one man emerged from The Hole with a twinkle in his eyes and a song on his lips, bringing forth from the noise pollution his own sweet music.
The Singing Construction Worker
Meet the guy who sang his way out of his construction routine and into New Yorkers' hearts
A lifelong construction worker, Gary Russo had spent 30 years hardhatting his way around in places like The Hole. But in all that time, he'd never plucked up the courage to tell his pals about his private passion. Outside of work, of course, was a different story. “I loved to sing. I'd drive my family crazy with singing. I'd sing in the shower, in the car, everywhere.” His favourites were the old standards like Sinatra. But that was for off-duty; at work, his rich, fruity baritone voice remained unheralded.
Then one fine day August day, Gary had an attack of the super-obvious about how he could combine his routine job with his thirst for creative expression. He got exactly thirty minutes for lunch. That was probably enough time to drag his personal karaoke machine up onto the street, set it up, and rattle through a half-dozen Rat Pack classics. All it would take was a little courage. When he announced this intent, his colleagues were naturally keen to rib him about it. “Tough guys are going, 'What? You're going to sing at lunch?'” he confesses. “I was like, 'Yeah.'”
With a sign pinned up behind his machine saying: “Enjoy the music. Hard hats and microphones,” Gary made the Avenue the biggest concert hall in the world. The public loved it. “This 80 year old guy just grabbed this, like, 25 year old girl and started dancing with her,” reports David Fischer, an Upper East Sider who filmed Russo's show, and put it on YouTube. “It's awesome. He puts everyone in a good mood.”
“We're trying to give back a little bit,” Gary told the throngs. And pretty soon, the previously jokey other hardhats were streaming out of The Hole and joining in. “Y'know, I'm not a Frank Sinatra fan. But since he's been singing, I've been singing myself,” one co-worker confessed.
Putting just one little detour on his everyday schedule has changed Gary's life forever, and just thirty minutes shifted public perception of a $4billion enterprise. For his part, Gary's philosophical about how he's managed to transform his working routine. “I have always felt there was a true artist hidden inside of me. Don't be afraid to share your talent with the world. You never know what life has in store for you.” After all, sometimes you may be in The Hole, but you can always be jamming with the stars.
QUESTION: What was the last bit of street performance that made you stop and stare?