O.J. Simpson was invited to the Mulligan's Reunion Party Sunday afternoon at Templeton Landing Restaurant near Erie Basin Marina.
"He couldn't make it," said Michael Militello, looking tanned and toned as he greeted guests to the VIP party in the restaurant's rooftop club.
"His parole officer declined," Militello said. "He's with his children and they are planning a family reunion next weekend in San Francisco.
"He's worked his life out," Militello added. "I saw him a couple of months ago, and he's happy – as much as you can be happy with the circumstances as they are. That's behind us. He still must live with it."
Former professional football player, broadcaster and actor O.J. Simpson lives in Las Vegas, where he moved in 2017 after his release from prison.
Many alumni players from the Buffalo Bills were listed on the reunion party's VIP guest list. As were a dozen of the major automobile dealership owners who had planned to arrive by boat, according to Militello.
"This isn't your grandfather's reunion here, this is a full-out party," said Militello, who hosted it with his wife, Marilynn, and children, Marilynn, Stephanie and Michael Scott. "If you want to do this, you have to do it right, and it took me this long to find the energy to do it right."
In 1963, Militello and Ronald Adymy started in the entertainment business throwing high school dances at the former Mount Major Banquet Hall at West Ferry and Herkimer streets, Militello said.
They were 16 years old. Militello attended Lafayette High School. Adymy attended Grover Cleveland High School. Militello grew up on Vermont Street and Normal Avenue on the city's lower West Side. He was a junior studying sociology at the University at Buffalo when he was drafted in July 1968.
Militello opened Mulligan's Brick Bar on Allen Street in January 1970 after he returned from serving in the Vietnam War and being wounded in Cambodia. There often were lines of patrons winding around Allen to College Street waiting to get through the doors.
"I was on crutches; I didn't have a job, so we bought an old bar for no reason," said Militello, breaking away often to greet former patrons, some of whom he had not seen for more than a decade.
"Any boats in yet?" he asked "doorman" Giardina from Mulligan's Café and Night Club on Hertel Avenue, open from 1972 to 1986. Its VIP Club located in the back was private and reserved for high-rolling regular clientele and the occasional celebrity, including professional athletes and touring rock musicians.
"I found a place on Hertel for sale, and it was a dream come true," recalled Militello about the night club. "I was an amateur architect, and we borrow from Maxwell's Plum, which was a destination club in Manhattan in the '70s."
In between Mulligan's Brick Bar and the Mulligan's on Hertel, there were the Sunset Bay Beach Club in Irving and the Pierce Arrow Bar and Grill in West Seneca. Each venue was represented at the reunion Sunday. The dressed-up crowd from Hertel glistened on the roof under the hot sun. They paid $100 each. Brick Bar's casual following gathered downstairs, where admission was $30.
Attending the VIP party were members of the former Rick James band, including brother Leroy Johnson and Aaron Dublin, the band's road manager and security chief.
DJs returning to play songs from the '70s, '80s and '90s were Anthony Caruso, Keith Perla, DJ Dovi, Tom Angelo and Maxwell Collins.
A portion of the proceeds will go to the Seneca Diabetes Foundation, said Militello, who is vice-chairman of the organization.