By Anne W. Semmes
For 35 years, photographer Bob Capazzo has been recording Greenwich history with his camera, commissioned by his employer, Greenwich Magazine. In doing so, whether it’s US presidents, movie stars, high profile CEOs or tree lovers, Capazzo admits he’s having fun. “I love people,” he says, “and I love taking portraits of people and finding out what they’re talking about.”
Throughout his life, Capazzo has found himself in the right place at the right time, like the day he was taking pictures at that old Elm Street photo shop and meeting former Selectman Lin Lavery. “He told me how much he loved his job,” Lavery recalled, “but he wanted to grow his business.” Did he know that Donna and Jack Moffly and their new Greenwich Magazine offices were right next door? “They’re perfect for you,” she suggested.
“Bob came to our first little office above the shoe stores on the avenue looking for a job,” says Donna Moffly. “I told him we couldn’t afford to hire a photographer. A talented guy and future father, he said he couldn’t afford not to work. So we made a deal – one of the best I’ve ever made. We helped each other get started. She adds, “Over the years Bob has given me many names including Attila, but now it’s Mother, and to me it’s son #2. He served as usher at the memorial service. of Jack.
But this fruitful collaboration did not prevent other activities such as his love for music. Consequently, he was featured in a newspaper last weekend with his band Merlin playing guitar at the Greenwich Town Party. Prior to that, he was spotted at the Greenwich Tree Conservancy’s annual Arbor Day celebration weaving through thick crowds with a camera, eyeing his next portrait of people.
So, caught in these thick crowds, isn’t he afraid of catching Covid? “I got him a month ago,” he shares, “I just had a stuffy nose. I felt great. Since that Tree Party, he’s done six events.” I’ve come across thousands of people last week – the American Red Cross Party had 500 people.” But that hasn’t been the case in the last two years marked by the pandemic. “As a photographer and a musician, I I was dead in the water,” he says. “It was brutal.”
What’s extraordinary about Bob Capazzo is that in his nearly 61 years (as of June 22) he has consistently risen above what life has given him, endowed with a relentless sense of humor.
He traces his love of music – and surely that sense of humor – to his mother. “My mother prepared dinner every evening for my father, who came home regularly at five o’clock. And while she was cooking dinner – my mother’s biggest purchase was a stereo hi-fi – she was telling me what record to put on. It was everything from the Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis, to Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn. And I was a little kid and Loretta Lynn sings a song called Divorce. And the lyrics are “My DIVORCE is final today”. And I used to run around the house singing DIVORCE with no idea what the word meant.
He remembers that on Sunday evening, his mother announced in her garden to her playmates: “The Beatles are on the Ed Sullivan show in 10 minutes!” “Everyone got up and ran…we have to see the Beatles. She was part of a women’s bowling team, the Beatles. They had Beatles wigs on. That’s how quirky and funny my mom was. But, alas, he only has one photo of his mother. “After he died, they were just thrown away.”
His mother dies suddenly of a heart attack while he is in high school, and soon after his father sells their house and leaves for Florida “in pursuit of another woman”, leaving Capazzo and his sister without shelter, until a grandmother comes to the rescue.
From this episode, Capazzo creates a song called “Cadillac Man”. “It’s basically about my life growing up in downtown Stamford. My grandfather Joseph, my mother’s father, had an iconic white Cadillac…So if you had a Cadillac, you were fine. But my grandpa came to every baseball game I played I was a pitcher so I wouldn’t start the pitch until this Cadillac showed up The umpire was on top of him seeing him propped up on the pitcher’s mound “You’re expecting the white Cadillac, aren’t you? And as soon as he said that, we looked down the hill and here’s the white Cadillac.”
But it is the father of Capazzo’s father, Romeo Capazzo, from whom he feels cloned. “He was just such a funny guy. He was so interested in people and what they were doing…he was a taxi driver in Stamford. He’s called to pick up Howard Cosell who insists he’s the only passenger “My grandfather would lose a lot of fares because he would just have to take it alone. With his radio on, Cosell orders him to turn it off. “My grandfather parked the car on the edge of the road. road and turned around and said, ‘Fuck, I’ve got money on this race!’ So the next day, Howard Cosell said to the taxi driver, “I only drive with Romeo.”
On Halloween, Romeo (his twin sister was Juliet) would hide behind the bushes in his rented gorilla costume. “When the kids were coming down the path, he was jumping. I was just looking through the windows laughing hysterically. I couldn’t even breathe. I was just a little kid.”
Capazzo credits his journey as a photographer to a high school teacher. He took a photography course in 10th grade just to fill his schedule and was encouraged by the teacher to continue the course the following year, suggesting three possible schools to attend, to pursue a career in photography. No, protested Capazzo. “I’m going to pitch for the Yankees.” “What is your size?” “Five six.” “Did you grow up last year? ” “Nope.” “Do you really think you’re going to make the major leagues?
Capazzo chose the School of Visual Arts in New York. But after the first year, he says, “I ran out of money because I had to pay myself. Financial aid said we cannot give you money because you have a living relative who is working. I didn’t even know where he was.
He takes a sabbatical year to collect this money in order to continue his schooling and in walks Georgine, the girl whom he will marry. “I had heard about my wife for many years from my cousin at family gatherings who said you should meet this girl. She is creative. She is really cool. And there was Capazzo: “I rode a motorbike because that’s all I could afford. I lived with my two cousins in a converted dressing room.
But he returns to the School of Visual Arts for a second year and meets another teacher trainer. “He basically told me to leave because I was too talented to continue. You don’t need school and you know what you’re doing. Just go get a job and learn on the job.
It seems Capazzo’s talent runs in the family. Her daughter Ashton, now married and working in marketing for the Coca Cola Company, started to shine in kindergarten. His teacher calls his parents and tells him. “She is too advanced for kindergarten. She reads at the fourth grade level. “She just has a brilliant mind,” her father said.
And now there is grandson Jacob Thomas. “He is two years old now. He’s named after Jake Arrieta who pitched for the Chicago Cubs, because my son-in-law is from Chicago. He adds: “I was pushing for Romeo but it didn’t happen.”