Talking with Marc Myers from The Wall Street Journal, Dion Dimucci reveals how his parents’ fighting saved his life.
My father, Pasquale, was like Tarzan, except we lived in the Bronx. He never had a real job, but he could walk a block on his hands and climb trees effortlessly. When he and my mom weren’t fighting over the $36 rent, he taught me to dive off the City Island Bridge and took me to museums.
Today I live in Boca Raton, Fla., with my wife, Susan. Our three daughters are teachers and live nearby. I moved here in 1968 to get away from the drugs. Florida also was warm—a big difference from the winter of 1959. Late that January, I went out on the Winter Dance Party tour with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, known as the Big Bopper. It was minus-30.
On Feb. 2, after our show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, the four of us were in the dressing room when Buddy said he had chartered a four-seater plane to Fargo, N.D., near our next stop. Flying would be much faster than freezing in the yellow school bus that we were using.
We flipped a coin a few times and the Big Bopper and I won. When I asked Buddy how much it was going to cost me to fly, he said $36. I froze. It was the same amount as the rent my parents had fought over when I was a kid. I felt guilty about spending that much, so I gave my seat to Ritchie. That night, the plane crashed just after taking off, killing everyone. It was heartbreaking.
Years later, my mom, who is now 102, apologized for fighting so much with my father. I said, “Don’t ever feel bad, Ma. Those arguments saved my life.”