Alexander Margaritas, 72, played piano in nightclubs

March 05, 1998|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Alexander Margaritas, who played piano in Baltimore nightclubs and saloons for more than 40 years, died of emphysema Friday at St. Agnes Hospital. He was 72 and lived in Irvington.

"He was a real character who was known in bars from Highlandtown to West Baltimore and back again, and always managed to show up to play on St. Patrick's Day at Kelly's on Eastern Avenue," said "Turkey" Joe Trabert, a former Fells Point saloonkeeper.

"There he'd be with a cigarette dangling from his mouth and a Rolling Rock sitting on the piano while playing the evening away," he said.

Mr. Trabert and Mr. Margaritas met in the 1950s as students at Baltimore Junior College and had been friends since.

"He was a delightful yet very taciturn individual. Always immaculately dressed, he considered himself something of a ladies' man," Mr. Trabert recalled.

Mr. Margaritas was born in Darkwater, Pa., where his mother was visiting relatives. He spent all of his life in the Irvington house where he grew up. He began studying the trumpet and piano as a child, and played the accordion.

He graduated from Forest Park High School and served in the Army Quartermaster Corps in Japan.

After he was discharged in 1945, he briefly traveled with USO shows, earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Maryland and joined the merchant marine.

Later during the 1950s, Mr. Margaritas found his niche as a piano player and performed in the legendary Charles Street nightclubs -- the Club Charles, the Chanticleer and the Blue Mirror, favorite haunts in those years of Baltimore's haute monde.

"He played jazz, swing and be-bop back in the days when Charles and Eager [streets] really jumped," said his brother, Nicholas Margaritas of Ten Hills.

"But actually, he really liked playing best of all in the more intimate, out-of-the-way places," the brother said.

"His repertoire went from classical to popular and even included old familiar standbys and ethnic music," he said.

"All he wanted was an upright with all the keys working" when he worked in bars, Nicholas Margaritas said, but at home his brother had a Steinway grand.

rTC Mr. Margaritas retired in the early 1990s because of failing health.

"He was a Renaissance man who spent his days going through used book shops and reading. He enjoyed horticulture and was an amateur geologist. He had a grape arbor and even made his own wine," Nicholas Margaritas said.

Mr. Margaritas also researched and wrote a history of his Irvington neighborhood and sponsored a softball team for area youths.

"He liked the simple things in life such as a good book, cup of coffee, a walk in the woods or visits from good friends," the brother said.

Mr. Margaritas was a former member of the Musicians Association of Metropolitan Baltimore and the Karabourian Society.

He was a member of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, where services were held yesterday.

In addition to his brother, he is survived by two sisters, Mary Margaritas Tuz and Peggy Margaritas Koenig, both of Irvington; a nephew; and a niece.

Pub Date: 3/05/98

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