Chicago Sun-Times

Hee-haw, not ho ho, for ‘Don­key’

- Kara Spak

This song will shat­ter the most silent of nights. One of the most re­quested tracks on the Hol­i­day Lite, “Do­minick the Don­key,” tells the story of a lively, sure-footed beast of bur­den who helps Santa nav­i­gate the Ital­ian hill­side that is — chingedy ching! — too treach­er­ous for rein­deer.

Recorded by Lou Monte in 1960, the song features more cheese than Nonna’s lasagna and the ul­ti­mate ob­nox­ious ear­worm, a manic “hee-haw, hee-haw” in the re­frain.

Santa’s gift-laden don­key isn’t part of a tra­di­tional Ital­ian Christ­mas, said Do­minic DiFrisco, pres­i­dent emer­i­tus of the Joint Civic Com­mit­tee of Ital­ian Amer­i­cans and Chicago’s watch­dog against Ital­ian stereo­typ­ing. DiFrisco said his fa­ther called him “Do­minic the Don­key” if he didn’t bring home straight As on his report cards, but he still likes the song.

“Trav­el­ing by don­key was uni­ver­sal in south­ern Italy, as it was in Greece,” DiFrisco said. “[Monte’s] play­ing easy with his­tory, but it’s a cute song and Lou Monte was at that time one of the hottest singers in Amer­ica.”

DiFrisco de­scribed Do­minick as a “lovable, not threat­en­ing an­i­mal” that, like many Ital­ian don­keys, was part of the peas­ant house­hold.

“He was es­sen­tial to their work,” DiFrisco said.

The song, be­lieved to have been fi­nanced by the Gam­bino crime fam­ily, rose to No. 2 be­tween Dec. 19-25, 2011, on the Bri­tish iTunes chart, part of a hol­i­day sea­son cam­paign by a Bri­tish DJ.

While DiFrisco called “Do­minick the Don­key” part of the “spirit of Christ­mas,” it wouldn’t be his top hol­i­day ra­dio re­quest.

“We’ve got beau­ti­ful Ital­ian Christ­mas mu­sic,” he said. “‘Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle’ — that would be fan­tas­tic.”

DTwice in re­cent years my hus­band has bought a gift for him­self for Christ­mas, wrapped it, put it un­der the tree and then opened it on Christ­mas morn­ing, glee­fully ex­claim­ing that it was a great gift and just what he wanted.

The first time he did it, he wrote my name on the gift card as the giver. The sec­ond time he didn’t bother. When I asked him why, he said it was some­thing he saw in the store and wanted. When I asked why he didn’t just ask me to get it, he didn’t have an an­swer.

He has also bought cards for him­self for Valen­tine’s Day. On both of them he wrote, “To Larry from ‘Hon,’ ” his pet name for me.

I was flab­ber­gasted and up­set and asked him why he would do such a thing. He said he ran across the “per­fect card” for him while look­ing for one for me.

I don’t know what to make of his be­hav­ior, but it is

 ??  ?? Lou Monte
Lou Monte

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