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Passenger: John Talignani

Sunday, October 28, 2001

Since retiring in the mid-1990s, John Talignani had ordered anything and everything from television, cluttering his cramped apartment in Staten Island, N.Y., with an endless variety of appliances and memorabilia.

John Talignani
dot.gif Retired bartender, 74, Staten Island, N.Y.
Stepsons, Mitchell Zykofsky, Glenn Zykofsky
He was going to California to claim the body of his stepson, Alan Zykofsky, who had died in a car crash

A retired bartender who schmoozed with the likes of Donald Trump and Dick Clark during his 20 years at a tony Manhattan steakhouse, Talignani just couldn't resist the pitches on QVC.

His home was filled with juicers, toasters, carpet shampoo, pasta makers, model cars, baseball memorabilia, a cavalry sword, chainsaws, and a pair of Woodstock tickets.

"The worst thing is, I don't know what to do with it," Talignani's stepson, Mitchell Zykofsky, said.

Like many bartenders, Talignani excelled at listening, to customers and to his family, which included three stepsons from his third and final marriage.

With his even temper, he took to his late wife Selma's children as if they were his own, practically raising them during the 20 years the couple was married.

Talignani hustled the youngest to tryouts with professional baseball teams, took pains to act as a sounding board for Mitchell, the oldest, when he wrestled with career decisions, and had boarded Flight 93 to head for California, where a car crash had just claimed the middle child.

"I credit most of whatever I've done to this day to his help," said Zykofsky, a New York City police sergeant.

The burly Talignani grew up playing stickball on the streets. He entered Japan after World War II with the Army, and never went to college.

He was crazy about the New York Mets and had a soft spot for women.

"Sometimes you go out on a date with a girl and say goodbye at the end of the date," his brother Armand recalled. "He used to say, 'Let's get married.' " But he was no wine-and-dine Casanova, his stepson said, noting the longevity of his final marriage.

Once, Zykofsky recalled, he visited the Palm Too restaurant, where his stepfather worked, to find Talignani talking to actor George C. Scott. When Talignani came home, though, he never crowed about the big shots he met.

His stories instead were always about the workaday regulars, whom he found more interesting.



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