Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Friday, 09 September 2011 00:00
Billy Joel of 20th Century Cycles museum just built a custom bobber for Bruce Springsteen. Austin Azzaretto, said, “They just delivered it, a gold metallic custom. Bruce Springsteen is a personal friend of Billy’s. Mr. Joel, and Alex Puls, the curator of the museum, designed the bobber together. It has a Kawasaki W-650 engine and is based on a 2000 Kawasaki W-650 – customized. They rebuilt the whole motorcycle.”
Austin Azzaretto has two volunteer jobs in Oyster Bay. One is on Tuesday nights when he chairs Cruise Nights, and the other is on Sundays when he is a regular at Billy Joel’s 20th Century Cycles. Mr. Azzaretto said on Tuesday, Aug. 23, Mr. Joel held a dealer’s conference for Moto Guzzi, a famed motorcycle company that started in Italy, after WWI.
“The Moto Guzzi dealer’s conference was held during the day with a public viewing of their work at 20th Century Cycles at night during Cruise Night. They gave out between 200 and 300 T-shirts and had tents and salespeople all out there. It was very nice,” he said.
Moto Guzzi enthusiasts and aficionados are called Guzzisti. Fans can be for the vintage or modern bikes. The company celebrated its 90th anniversary in March – it was founded on March 15, 1921. Their logo, an eagle, is in memory of one of the three original founders of the marquee.
Moto Guzzi, established in Mandello del Lario, Italy, created the first motorcycle wind tunnel and the first motorcycle eight-cylinder engine. The Moto Guzzi company was the idea of two aircraft pilots and their mechanic – Carlo Guzzi —serving in the Italian Air Corps, during WWI at the Miraglia Squadron based outside of Venice. The original partners were: Carlo Guzzi, the engineer; Giovanni Ravelli, a famous pilot and motorcycle racer, who was to be the promoter, but died before the end of the war in an air crash; and Giorgio Parodi who was the CFO. Carlo Guzzi’s first engine design was a horizontal single that dominated the first 45 years of the company’s history in various configurations. Through 1934, each engine bore the signature of the mechanic who built it.
“Billy Joel has about 65 motorcycles on display. They are Triumphs, Moto Guzzis, Hondas, Kawasakis, Suzukis, Ducatis, Indians, BMWs, Nortons, BSAs, Yamahas, Royal Enfields, Vespas, Harley Davidsons, a very rare 1952 Vincent, and multiple sidecars,” said Mr. Azzaretto.
Austin’s enthusiasm for old cars and motorcycles will make your visit to the museum very enjoyable. His full-time business is Green Acres Tire and Auto Center (1-800 50-tires) in Valley Stream for the past 35 years.
He has owned over 200 collectible cars over the years and is a expert in his field.
Mr. Azzaretto said “Mr. Joel comes in the museum when it’s quiet and no one is around. This is his private area; and private collection; He’s just a nice collector guy. He likes to relax and not to be recognized. For the most part, it works well,” he said.
The Museum 20th Century Cycles, is open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Tuesdays, from 5 to 8 p.m. until the end of September when Cruise Night shuts down for the season.
Mr. Azzaretto said, “Billy Joel feels at home in Oyster Bay. Most locals treat him like a regular and they respect him but treat him like a favorite son, but they don’t press him for photo ops.”
That was true when Hicksville residents Maureen Gustafson, her husband Ed and grandchildren Caitlyn, 4 and Eddie, 8 visited Oyster Bay on a recent weekend. [Hicksville is Billy’s hometown, too.] Maureen said, “We like to visit at Taby’s on Audrey Avenue for breakfast on the weekends. That day we went to Buckingham’s next, because my granddaughter Caitlyn likes to buy candy there. Then we walked over to see the motorcycle museum.
“When I walked in, at first I thought one of the men was Billy Joel but he wasn’t; but then I spotted him and I was happy to see him. He was in the back of the shop telling someone to move a bike.
“I didn’t say anything but my husband went over and said, ‘Hi Billy. This is my grandson Eddie.’ He didn’t even say, ‘I love your music’ or ask for a photo to be taken. As we left about six motorcyclists pulled up to the shop to come in.”
Maureen said they loved seeing Billy Joel and felt that he was really at home in the shop. It’s a nice memory now for the family, and that is just about the way Mr. Joel likes it. He is just part of the Oyster Bay landscape. He just makes people feel good when they see him.