By Steve Vertlieb: I met Tommy De Noble in 1967 when I was working as an announcer at WDVR Radio in the old Reynolds Aluminum Building in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. Tommy was one of the most handsome men I’d ever met. He was a singer, recording artist, and actor. He might have passed for James Darren’s twin brother. Dick Clark wrote in his book that Tommy was “the most popular dancer in the history of American Bandstand.” Tommy had just returned from a stint in the Army on the West Coast, and was looking for work in the Philadelphia area. Tommy and his brothers, Vince and Lou, were all from Philadelphia, but Tommy had gone to Hollywood to make his fortune. He had won a gold record for “Count Every Star,” and appeared in several motion pictures and television shows but, after his required stint in the military, gigs out West had somehow disappeared.
Somewhere around 1975, Tommy landed a position as film director at WTAF TV 29 in Philadelphia. We had become best friends and brothers in the ensuing years, and Tommy offered me a job as a film editor at the television station. I accepted, and there began the happiest employment that I’ve ever known. I was with WTAF for twelve years, from 1976 until 1988. Fleshing out the remainder of the film department were a very gifted artist named Bill Levers, and Tommy’s younger brother, Vince. We soon became inseparable. We went everywhere together, and laughed from morning until night. Bill was one of the funniest men I’ve ever known, and Vince became like my own little brother. We were quite literally “The Four Musketeers.” I’d grow excited each morning when I left for work, and become depressed in the late afternoon when it came time to leave work and return home.
Our happiness was not to last, however. After a dozen years with the station, Taft Broadcasting sold us to a tiny, fly by night chain that set about cutting corners, and eliminating personnel. I was laid off, and never again returned to the field that I hoped would constitute my life’s career. Some years later, Tommy had a stroke, and passed away. Vince asked me to read the scriptures at his funeral service. At Tommy’s memorial, a group of us stood around, in disbelief, talking and remembering our friend and co-worker. As we prepared to leave, one by one, the room had grown silent. A CD of Tommy’s recordings had been playing over the loudspeaker. Tommy’s voice sang ever so sweetly across the room. The lyrics of that last song haunt me still … “For all we know, we may never meet again.” Tommy was singing goodbye to his many friends and loved ones.
About a year or so ago, I received a telephone call from Vince’s wife, Patty. She said that, like his older brother before him, Vince had suffered a stroke. I wanted to come and visit my old friend and co-worker, but Patty was valiantly protecting her beloved husband’s dignity. They wanted Vince to be remembered as we had known him in happier times. Vince passed away earlier this past week, joining Tommy in Heaven. As I left the funeral home and church this morning, I got into my car, and turned on the radio. I drove along the lonely streets in quiet disbelief, and softly cried. Nat King Cole was singing “For all we know, we may never meet again.”