Editor's note: This is an excerpt from Rick Cornell's entry "On the Duke Side" on the Independent's music blog, Scan.
With last year's graduation of Mistie Williams—a starting power forward on the Lady Devils hoop team and, more pop-culturally significant, the daughter of frequent Cameron Indoor Stadium visitor Chubby Checker—Duke basketball is a little less rock 'n' roll. But there's still Sal Amato one row behind the Duke bench, microphone in hand.
You know, Sal Amato. The guitarist in Eddie and the Cruisers. If you're confused, then you probably haven't seen the 1983 movie Eddie and the Cruisers, with Michael Pare as the eponymous Eddie, Tom Berenger as Frank "Word Man" Ridgeway, and Ellen Barkin looking beautiful. The flick's been gaining momentum for over 20 years, recovering after the setback that was Eddie and the Cruisers 2, but it hasn't quite reached cult status. I, on the other hand, heard "On the Dark Side," one of the Cruisers' premiere cuts, on Upstate NY radio in the mid-'80s more times than I care to remember. Still, I'm an unabashed fan of the movie.
The role of guitarist Sal Amato in Eddie and the Cruisers is played by Matthew Laurance, and he has one of the best scenes. The movie flip-flops between Eddie and the band's heyday and the present day; the latter finds Laurance's Amato still trying to get by on his Cruiser days courtesy of a nostalgic stage show. The act itself is a well-realized look at boomer-targeted rip-offs, but Laurance truly shines when Barkin's reporter, hellbent on cracking the Eddie case (he went missing a la Rimbaud, a name that gets dropped with the subtly of a falling major appliance a couple times during the movie), interviews Sal in his dressing room.
Anyway, Laurance has been a member of the Duke hoop family for several years now. He was the Director of Donor Relations for the Emily Krzyzewski Family Life Center before accepting the Director of Community Relations job for the Washington Duke Inn this past fall. And when a donor friend, no doubt initially directed by Laurance, took me along on a backstage tour of Duke b-ball, our guide was none other than ol' Sal. He led us through Coack K's office like it was Jefferson's study at Monticello, and even seemed amused when I stage-whispered to a fellow tourist, "You know, I don't think those paperweights were meant to be souvenirs."
However, his most visible, or at least audible, gig is the one that finds him eavesdropping on the Duke huddle during timeouts and then sharing Coach K's counsel with radio listeners—an idea that apparently came from the coach himself. It does make for cool radio.
So my recommendation is the next time you're at a Duke basketball game and you find yourself within range of a mic-wielding Laurance, just start singing, "On the dark side, whoa ooooh!" Because you know he's never heard that one before.