He was my most valued rock ‘n’ roll journalist when I was Aquarian Weekly music editor in the late ‘70s to late ‘80s. Charley Crespo got into every single New York event whether he was invited or not. I never knew how he did it and I didn’t care. My ex-wife dubbed him “Everynight” Charley because he’d go out every single night of the week, oftentimes to two, three or four events in a single night. We used to joke how he must have some superpower that would permit him to walk through walls. At the same time he was getting Aquarian scoops for every issue since rock stars seemed to like to talk to him and tell him their innermost secrets, he was also writing for such national magazines as Grooves and Hit Parader. He got particularly close to KISS, Twisted Sister, Aerosmith and Ozzy Osbourne. Rick James flew him up to his Buffalo, NY home numerous times. Ted Nugent gave him a gun. (Charley refused the gift.)
Soon he started realizing how shallow so many of these big time musicians were. He’d go in for the human interest aspect and all they’d want to talk about was their new album. The future Father Charley, most of the time, couldn’t care less about their new album. It got monotonous night after night hanging with drunken and high crowds to the point where it overtook the joy of the music. It felt soul-deadening, like “Why am I doing this?” If the ‘70s were the party, the ‘80s were the hangover. The music itself became weak. Weren’t there any good new bands anymore? (That’s what I say today.) Sure, he’d catch a mind-blowing set by Metallica in a small club, but those kinds of discoveries were far and few between. The “hair bands” were truly awful. He started searching for meaning in his life.
One snowy wintry night he was looking outside his Bowery loft window and started thinking about the homeless men and women who weren’t as lucky as he. He had already been attending church Sunday mornings. He knew a change was in the wind. Despite the lower pay, he quit the rock gossip racket and was hired by Partnership For The Homeless as a caseworker. He found he was good at it. Real good. At the dawn of the ‘90s, he felt the calling, entering a seminary in New York State where he stayed for four years, completing his studies in Florida. In May 2001, he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest and assigned to a church in the U.S. Virgin Islands where he stayed for 11 years, administering to the needs of each parish he worked, taking confession, helping people heal and “bringing them closer to God,” as he says.
“Towards the end of my rock journalism career,” he explains, “I felt like I was giving people junk. It just was so trite!”
I consider Father Charley a friend. Always have. This gave me the latitude to get real with the man and play, uh, devil’s advocate. “But Charley,” I bantered, “a priest? That’s a shocker!”
Nothing if not patient with his parishioners, his mom, and his friends, he smiled and said, “Those last few years, it was a process of prayer for me. I remember I had a girlfriend who told me I was divided. She said I had to choose one lifestyle or another. Smart girl she was. She was so right. We broke up. I wound up giving up everything but my faith never wavered. I knew instinctively I made the right decision.”
Last year, he came back to New York City to care for his 95-year-old mother
“Caring for my mom now is the most important ministry I’ve ever done,” he adds. “When we play dominos and she laughs, or when she hugs me and wishes me a good night, it all makes sense now, even though this New York weather is miserable compared to the Virgin Islands!
“I’ve never lost my interest in music,” he concludes, “although many things have superseded it. I teach in the daytime, help mom in the evening, then go out, yes, every night again. I don’t want my life to be teaching, helping mom, going to bed and starting it all again the next day. I’m in the greatest city in the world. I need to participate in its rhythms.”
So out he goes. Everynight Charley again. Lately, he’s been at venues hearing Stone Sour, extreme metal band Hivesmasher, rapcore band Hollywood Undead, prog metal band Underoath and Soundgarden.
“I’ve always been into jazz, blues and folk,” he says, “but I tend to like the heavier stuff.”
Readers can see for themselves at themanhattanbeat.blogspot.com.