Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 06-09-09, 07:52 PM   #1
Gerry the Artist
New Member
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 2
Smile EMERGENCY call for friends of Sonny Holliday!

Greetings All,

My name is Gerry Semola. I sort of accidentally stumbled upon this site yesterday while searching for info on the New Orleans busker Jimmy Talksalot (sleight-of-hand busker). I found his myspace site and his Facebook page, but I also got a link using the new "Bing" MSN browser, so I figured I'd look around here to see if any of you can help me. Upon doing a brief search here at, I see that some of you are indeed friends of my pal Sonny Holliday (real name is Rocky). And I also noticed that people were asking for him some time ago.

Well, I have some bad news about my friend Sonny. He is in very serious condition at a hospital in Camden, NJ (Cooper Medical Center). I just saw him yesterday. He was in the intensive care unit for something like 50 days!!!! They have tubes going in and out of him and a hole in his throat just so he can breathe and to remove the fluid "secreations" from his lungs etc. I just found out about all this two days ago when one of his sisters (who flew up from Florida) called me late at night to give me the news! I usually see Sonny doing his magic show down on South Street here in Philly on the weekends if the weather is nice and if he's not down on the Atlantic City boardwalk working. However I got a new phone and lost contact with him. I just found his home number again and began calling him a few weeks back to see how he was doing and maybe meet up with him for a beer or dinner after one of his performances. We often would hang out and people watch and chit chat about everything under the sun!

Well, I was not getting any return calls after leaving several messages for weeks! So I thought that maybe he was down in New Orleans or something since I know he likes to travel a lot etc. So you can only imagine how torn up I was to learn that he was in really bad shape in some hospital in New Jersey and with no way to reach out to his friends!

What I know is this! First, Sonny is alive!!! Second, he will eventually make a full recovery! Thirdly, he has lost some weight (he was already lean as you can get!) but surprisingly has good color in his face! He cannot talk At ALL! Although one of his two sisters that are up here keeping watch over him at the hospital says that she has heard him utter some words through the metal ring they have inside a hole in his throat (tracheotomy) while holding her finger over it. I tried it and heard nothing but gurgling of fluid in his chest (lungs)! Sad! Very sad! Sonny is in pretty bad shape. But the doctors and nurses say he will recover eventually but that it will be a long road since he has to basically learn to eat again, walk again, talk again, and use all of his muscles again! He was just moved to what they call the "Step-Down" unit which is a good sign and he is out of the ICU. He was in the ICU for well over a month!

Now, what I know about how this all happened (so far) is this: Apparently Sonny was riding his bike back to the bus stop in Philly after doing a hard day's work busking on South Street. His cousin who took him to the hospital initially gave the following account to Sonny's siters. She says that he (Sonny) claims that he fell off his bike and bruised his ribs real bad etc. So she (his cousin Terri who lives a few blocks away from Sonny's apartment) got a call from Sonny saying he was hurt in an accident and that he needed help etc. So she came to his apartment (or some strangers picked Sonny up off of the street in Philly and brought him to her directly) and took him to a hospital near him called Underwood! Now this hospital has a bad reputation apparently and Sonny knew that, so he was already sceptical going in there, but he was seriously hurting so he agreed! We know for a fact that some strangers did pick him up in Philly and offered to bring him home to Jersey. No one knows where his $1,100 mountain bike (Specialized) is or whether it was stolen afterwards, or wrecked in the accident, or if that was the reason for the accident etc. But its gone, so that's not important at this point.

Apparently, Sonny got into an argument with one of the doctors there at Underwood and started cursing and name calling etc. (everyone who knows Sonny knows how strong-willed and stubborn he can be, especially to an unreceptive audience!) and said that he wanted OUT of this hospital and walked (stumbled out of Underwood) with his cousin trying to carry him. Sonny is a big guy (tall) and he was also under the influence apparently too! Not a pretty picture. So she dropped him back at his apartment and he fell to the floor in pain and could not get up! So seeing that his injuries were much more serious than she initially thought, his cousin then took him to Cooper Medical Center/Hospital which specializes in trauma and cardio issues! the hospital is GORGEOUS and very VERY nice! So are the nurses and the staff!

Anyway, they x-rayed him and found he had multiple broken ribs, a broken collarbone, and a punctured lung....apparently all from the fall, since it was all on one side of his body! Keep in mind that Sonny already had COPD which makes it hard for him to breathe in bad weather, and he carries a vapor spray to help him breathe! He also has Hep C from his many years of being on the streets doing God only knows what and with who! LOL! He's sure paying for that now! My initial suspicion was that he got jumped or beat up or pushed off the bike etc. And for all we know that may have happened too! We don't really know! All we know is what he told his cousin before he became a vegetable in the hospital! And he said he "fell off his bike while riding on South Street" in Phiily! With Sonny, you just never know what really happened! I've been with him once when he was really drunk and its not pretty! He becomes another person and goes into a trance. I have heard that he has injured himself in the past on his bike, and so it is very possible that there was no foul-play involved. But then again, you never know! Where is his bike?

Anyway, when I walked into the room I almost lost it! I knew it would be rough, because Sonny is a close friend and he's been up there so long and NO ONE KNEW! I had to choke back the tears several times! But his sisterrs kept me strong and told me that he would be okay in time! They told me when I got to hsi floor that his face lit up when they told him I was coming to see him! Then, when I walked in and leaned over his bed, they told him I was hear to see him. His mouth is kind of locked wide open all the time, and he is breathing through his neck! He looked over and opened his eyes really wide and stared at me as he tried to focus his eyes on me! Then he started moving and lifted his arm to grab my hand! So I grabbed his had and held it! I was struggling to hold back the tears because I could not believe what I was seeing! Sonny is a very fit 57 year old. He is tall and lean genetically and very energetic and highly motivated! Not a person who sits around when he could be out working the streets! He's definitely a hustler and an amazing sleight-of-hand artist (Pretidigitator) and street performer. I have watched his act a hundred times! Amazingly smooth and always funny and insultingly good!

So I told him that everything was going to be allright and that he needs to listen to his doctors and nurses if he wants to get out of here soon! He began kicking his legs and moving as if he was trying to ride his bicycle or something. And he was trying to turn ot his side too. Keep in mind that they had his hands tied to the bed for weeks since he would often try to pull the tubes out of his throat and stomach. Sonny is a fighter and cannot take being stuck in bed for that long! They have to feed him through his stomach because he cannot eat through his mouth! I do not understand how it got that bad from some broken ribs etc. But whatever happened, he is now in really bad shape and unable to stay alive on his own! I'm told that he will begin physical therapy soon though! And that in time he will make a full recovery. Thank God! But man....if you could see him now, you would not recognize him! he does have color in his face, but his body is very thin and is all stiff. When he tried to bend his arm, the pain shot through his and he sat up in extreme pain and the look on his face was enough to scare anybody! His face turned beet-red and he was just frozen with that look of pain stuck on his face! I thought maybe he was having a heart attack or something! But his sisters called in the nurse and they said it was just a cramp due to inactivity! His muscles had atrophied from being bed-ridden for so long! Poor guy! Tears me up inside to see him like this! They did take him off of the oxygen machine while I was there so he can breathe on his own sometimes! They just have to keep sucking the fluid out of his lungs! Keep in mind that Sonny already had lung issues before he went in! Most people would never know this because he hid it well. But he already had Hep C and COPD (a breathing disorder) which made him carry a vaporizer device with him like asthma patients use! They also punctured his OTHER lung accidentally when they were putting a hose down into his chest when he first got there! His siters told me that. They apparently pinched it accidentally and had a problem with that too! So as you can see.....he's lucky to be alive at all, and he's really been through it up there in the hospital! he's frail now, but I think he'll pull through! his ribs etc are healing nicely they say! That's the first step! Next is rehab! That will take weeks and months! Say prayers for his recovery!

So anyway, if anyone out there sees this post and wants to contact his sisters or me or send a card or flowers to his room etc. you can do that and Sonny would greatly appreciate it I'm SURE! He really needs all the help he can get right now and his sisters told me that my visit was a blessing for him! they said he has not had any male visitors since he's been in there! His brothers do not get along with him apparently! No surprise there! Typical life of an artist! I can relate to that!

He is in Cooper Hospital in Camden, NJ in room 718. He is not allowed to receive flowers at this time but you can send cards to the following address: 1 Cooper Plaza, TSDU-9, Camden, NJ 08103. There is a phone in the room so he can get calls, but he cannot lift the phone or talk or anything! could call the hospital and patch through to his room and maybe get one of his sisters or a nurse to hold the phone to his ear or maybe just chat with his sister etc. or the nurse on duty! He has a 24hr nurse watching him! No kidding! So chances are if you call someone will be sitting there to answer the phone. Or you can just send a card or flowers or something just to cheer him up and give him hope! He has NOTHING in the room so far! As far as I can tell....I'm the FIRST friend to visit him or know that he is even in there!

As i mentoned earlier, I sent Jimmy Talksalot a message/invite from my facebook account, but no response yet! Don't know where he is or how to call him either. If anyone is in touch with Jimmy or ANY of Sonny's other friends.....PLEASE let them know what is going on so they can take some action and try to cheer him up! Its that bad! His sisters also asked me to contact as many friends of his as I could find! So I am! They have access to his apartment and belongings, but cannot find phone numbers to call people! Sonny never was big on the cell phones either. He had one for a while (a prepaid phone) but god only knows what happened to that! I have his apartment number and his sisters numbers! So if anyone wants to contact me, they can call me at 267-702-9698 anytime 24/7! I have unlimited minutes on my phone plan so don't worry about that. Or you can text me and leave your number and I'll call you back! I am very sad about this whole thing and its hard for me to sleep at night knowing that I am the only friend (outside his immediate family) who knows hes in there!

So please folks, if you know Sonny or even if you don't but are just a kindred spirit (and he is well-known worldwide in your field of busking) PLEASE< PLEASE, PLEASE consider reaching out to just say hi or something! I can put you in touch with his sisters if need be. On behalf of Sonny and his family, THANK YOU EVER SO MUCH for your kindness and concern! he is your family! He is a student of the famous Slydini and travels abroad to peform and visit his magic friends in Europe every year! This is a good person and a serious force in the magic world and inthe busker community! Thanks again! God bless you all and Sonny too! Pray for him because he really needs it now!

1 Cooper Plaza
Camden, NJ 08103
Attn. Patient: Rocky Kowalczyk Rm. 718

....or if you want to call his sister directly to wish him well and help them cope you can call: Roxanne at 407-529-5060 (cell) tell her Gerry sent you. And call in the morning between 9am and noon if possible. That's when they are up there with Sonny!

Gerry Semola 267-702-9698 (my cell 24/7!)
Artist/Musician/Former Busker (Cambridege, MA: Harvard Square '91-'92)
My E-mail:
My Facebook name - for anyone interested in seeing what I do is: Gerry Artist (profile picture of me in a white t-shirt and Phillies ball cap) Just specify who you are and mention Sonny etc. in your invite/message)
P.S. Thanks Jim for getting me authorized to post so fast! It is an emergency!

Last edited by Gerry the Artist; 06-09-09 at 09:50 PM. Reason: Forgot some important things about Sonny's health!
Gerry the Artist is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-09-09, 08:16 PM   #2
Your Host
Jim's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Boston, MA USA
Posts: 1,094
Blog Entries: 6

Gerry, I moved the thread to the more appropriate "Announcements" forum.

Sorry to hear about Sonny. Thanks for the information.
Jim is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-09-09, 08:29 PM   #3
Gerry the Artist
New Member
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 2

That's cool man. Just got a little confused. I'm still editing it. i forgot to mention a few things. Whatever you think the best place for it is is okay with me pal! Thanks for allowing me to post that! i'm so nervous because all the pressure is on me to get the news out man! And I'm not a magician or even a street performer anymore. So its hard. I do know that Jimmy Talks Alot knows who I am though! Sonny told him about me, and I sent jimmy a cool story about Sonny (who is Jimmy's teacher and mentor) a few years back for him to post on his myspace etc. So right now I'm carrying the torch to spread the word to all his magic buddies! Jim if you know how to spread the word faster by all means go ahead and do whatever you feel you have to do! I give you permission to cut and paste and/or quote or paraphrase or just pass it along to other sites that you think might help reach Sonny's friends....and I know he has many! The guy gets around! Not bad for a 57 year old with COPD and Hep C aye? Yeesh! The guy never stops! But now he's like totally stopped and just a shell! But he's trying to fight back I can see it! I witnessed it! he was trying to show me he is not done yet with life! Crazy man! I just still can't believe he's in that condition! Thank God his brain is not damaged. No coma or anything like that! Just bedridden and all hosed up with no activity! Bad! Thanks again Jim! Do what you can and move it to where you think it will do the most good! Sorry for the rush and sorry I do not know my way around the site that well! I have not had any time to navigate and explore it! So thanks pal! This is all last minute stuff!
Gerry the Artist is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-10-09, 11:07 AM   #4
jeep caillouet
Senior Member
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: keywest,fl.
Posts: 752
Default Sonny Holiday

Gary thanks for your post. Rocky is one of oldest and longest friends.I've been wondering why I haven't heard from in a while. I just sent Jimmy a fb message a few days ago trying to find out where he's at. This news really saddens me.
I first me Rocky in NOLA in the late '70's with Jim Cillini. Rockmore a very famous NOLA artist had just finish a very large panting of him sitting in Jim's lap in white face only(the entire head was painted white with one tear drop under his eye) He had a small monkey's derby on the side of his head with pointed ears. He looked like he was out of a Star Treke movie or at least from another world. Rockmore also did hundreds of pen and ink sketches of him,as he really liked to draw him. Rocky also taught me my first balloon sculptures some time about '80. We traveled from east coast to west coast, and north to south many times together over the years.And there are many wild and crazy stories to tell.He would always come to see me in Key West,and stay by me.

I was in a real bad car wreak some 20 years ago in Orlando. Rocky was there at the time. We had just performed the night before at Church Street Station. He was at a barber shop getting his hair cut and the guys there where just talking about this really bad car wreak that had just happened,it was on the front page of the Orlando Centinal news paper that day.He said oh my God that's my friend Jeep and came to the hospital and stayed by me for weeks while I healed up. Thank God for Rocky, and his sister Roxanne.

I just talked to Roxanne on the phone and she told me that he has taken a turn for the worse and they are not allowing any visitor's except immediate family.

Rocky I love you and hope you pull through this one. Jeep
jeep caillouet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-10-09, 11:40 AM   #5
Chad's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Ohakalaky
Posts: 18


Thank you for sending word. I'm very sorry to learn of this.


Thanks for contacting me. I reposted this on Sidewalk Performers Cafe (Jimmy's Forum) & Buskers Cafe (Danny Hustle's Forum).
Caution: I play rough
Chad is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 03:19 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.1
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.