Friday, January 09, 2009

"Little Stevie" Luncinski of Chiller Theater, A Pittsburgh Original, Dies

Sad news today. "Stephen the Castle Prankster" is dead.

I said, "What?" when my 14-year-old son told me the news about an hour ago, at 8:00 p.m. I was dusting off the "new to me" Saturn I bought last weekend, directly because of "Stevie."

I spoke to my friend Steve Luncinski just last week. I needed a bunch of work on my vehicle. He, his son, brother and staff at Pinnacle Auto Sales in Carrick did their best to help me, but it was time for a new ride.

I called Steve a few days later and he said he didn't have any vehicles, but told me to go see "Mike T." I did, used Steve's name, and got a fairly decent deal.

The last time I saw Steve face to face, I asked him, "So, how did you like 'Chicks with Dicks'?" His always surprised brother Victor sprang from his nearby seat. "Did I hear that correctly?"

Steve was one of the most handsome and charming men I've ever seen, despite being well south of five feet tall. He always had one of the most gorgeous women you'd ever seen on his arm. The day I saw Steve at the downtown performance of "Chicks With Dicks," he was with another one. I still remember the brunette from about 15 years ago. Breath-taking. The play, part Russ Meyer, part Quinten Tarantino, all goofball right-up-my-alley nonsense, didn't entertain Steve as much. He and his blond date left halfway through. He said his date had to get up early.

We had a good chuckle about that one at the garage.

I can't remember the first time I met Steve, but we hit it off right away. In fact, I can divulge it now...I wrote press releases and speeches for him when he ran for state Senator years ago. In return I got a car battery for the Jeep I drove at the time and various other automotive services. I was a cheap scribe.

When we were at the play, he told me that his mother kept a scrap book of his local celebrity clippings, a good many of which had my byline. I was always proud of that.

Steve of course received his claim to fame on the old Chiller Theater program with Chilly Billy Cardille. I was even interviewed once on the radio, as "President of the Chiller Theater Fan Club," promoting a then-brand new Gateway Clipper Fleet Halloween event. In all actuality, I was the "President of the Stephen the Castle Prankster Fan Club." I got to ride the boat with another friend...Terminal Stare. I guess Bill Cardille just tolerated me, as I never received much more than a cursory glance.

Steve got me on the Labor Day Telethon once as a "behind Billy Cardilly" phone back guy. That was a highlight for a young community newspaper editor. Bill looked at me once and said, "move three seats over there." I think he put Miss Pennsylvania in my seat. Why wouldn't he?

Steve never had a cross word for anyone. His father, also named Victor, wouldn't expect anything else.

Steve's two sons...Steve (all near six foot of him) and Zachary (another small of stature charisma machine) are excellent men. Both remain active in the family auto business. They tried their hands at two dollar stores, but ultimately closed up the retail shop.

On at least one occasion, I've pointed out the family auto establishment to female companions and identified the celebrity that was most likely inside. Steve was quintessential Pittsburgh.

I already miss my friend Steve. God bless his family.


Anonymous said...

Steve was my brother-in-law or more like a brother. He would do anything for anyone at anytime. Pittsburgh should be thank full they had such a great man.The kids are heart broken that not only did they lose a dad but also a friend. The kids Just lost their Grandfather on Monday Dec.30 and laid hime to rest on Jan.3 now they have to deal with the lose of their dad.

Marcy L. Costa said...

I am shocked at the news of 'lil Stevie's death! OMG! Pittsburgh weekends will never be the same without him! I knew and loved Stevie like a brother and have sooo many memorable times out with him! Especially our halloween parties on the Majestic! My heart goes out to his surviving family members. May God be with them through this tragic situation. I will really miss you Stevie! I love you! God has a new angel for sure!
With Sympathy,
Marcy Costa

Screamin' Sam said...

I'm John Lutz AKA Screamin' Sam, Steve was a Little Man, with a BIG Heart, we had great times hanging out, you will be missed Steve.
Your Friend
John Screamin' Sam Lutz

Mark Rauterkus said...

Thanks for the post Tom.

Sad news, indeed.

PRINCE said...

Steve,you will be sadly missed by all.My prayers go out to all of his family. GOD BLESS

Andy Maul said...

My condolences to the family, friends, and many others who loved Steve. I really only knew him when I first moved to Pittsburgh a few years ago and needed a good man to work on my car. Steve was very kind and fair when looking after my car, and I referred others to his business, where Steve treated them very well. But what first drew me to his business was his clear love for our Mother Mary and for his Catholic faith. There aren't many people who place many signs of their faith, such as Blessed Virgin Mary statues, crucifixes, and beautiful pictures of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, all over inside and even outside their places of business. Especially in an environment which can be so hostile towards people of faith, Little Stevie showed Big Faith by not subduing his beliefs. As I mentioned, this clear profession of his faith, both visibly and through his Christian action, is what drew and kept me and many others as his customers. It was only later where I saw other areas of his wide-spread involvement with our community, supporting Amen-Corner and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Our community, stretching widely, will miss Steve's kindness and smile. A towering figure Steve was, but now Steve will be even higher in heaven to watch over and pray for us all. God bless you Steve. We love and will miss you...

Andrew Maul, Pittsburgh 15210

Jill said...

I only met Steve once, at a gala last month, but he made quite an impression. He was so charismatic, with an amazing confidence and attitude toward life.

He approached me to take some photos of him and his date at the event, and I was happy to oblige. My husband grew up watching Chiller Theater, and he graciously posed for a photo with him. I spent much of the night talking with him, and taking photos of him and his friends. They had a great time, and so did I. (Normally, I'm a wallflower at those kind of events, but his enthusiasm was contagious.)

He seemed like a really great guy, full of life and energy, and younger than his years. So few people ever really live life to the fullest, but he did. He was a shining star!