Musicians pay tribute to legendary Red Hook barkeep Sunny Balzano

The Sunny side of life: Musicians pay tribute to legendary Red Hook barkeep

Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Photo gallery

Good eats: Susan Povich of the Red Hook Lobster Pound shows off a healthy serving of lobster mac ‘n’ cheese that she donated to the event.
Warming up: Guitarist Pete Matthiesen warms his hands at the backyard fire pit outside Pioneer Works.
Old friends: The night featured performances from Sunny’s regulars, who got the crowd up and moving.
Sing a song: Sunny’s widow, Tone Balzano-Johansen (right) performed with her band the Luna Sisters during the festivities.
On camera: The late Sunny Balzano was honored with a memorial concert on April 14. The bar owner was the subject of numerous film projects, which played during the tribute.

It was a Sunny night in Red Hook.

Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the life of legendary Red Hook barkeep Sunny Balzano on April 14, paying tribute to the his life with an evening of music and dancing at local arts venue Pioneer Works that his widow said would have made the spirited spirit-slinger proud.

“It was amazing, everybody got so into it,” said Tone Balzano-Johansen. “It’s just the character of the people who come here, what can I say. They have a love for life and that’s what Sunny embodied too.”

Balzano-Johansen performed with folk band the Luna Sisters and crooned a solo rendition of Billie Holiday’s “Back in Your Own Backyard” for her late husband. The night also featured performances from famed touring guitarist Smokey Hormel’s Western swing band Smokey’s Roundup — which has played the bar every Wednesday for the last decade — and other Sunny’s regulars, who got the 300 attendees up and moving.

“Everybody was just letting loose and dancing, it was really fabulous,” said Balzano-Johansen.

The sold out event raised more than $15,000 — enough to cover the cost of Balzano’s funeral.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: