Benefit planned on Sunday

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:48

    LAYAYETTE-After several difficult weeks, things are finally looking up for Paul Ordini, a Lafayette resident and local air show performer who was hospitalized and in a coma for several weeks following a June car crash in Wantage. Friends of Ordini have organized a fund raiser to be held on Sunday, July 25, at the Sussex Elks Lodge on Route 565 adjacent to the Sussex Airport. The event has attracted attention from a core group of fans of the now defunct "Opie and Anthony," radio show, as Ordini was a friend of the show and was frequently a featured guest on the program as "Paul the Pilot." Ordini endeared himself to the popular radio hosts by skywriting their slogan, "W.O.W," over New York's Central Park. Ordini is part of the Ordini clan of Paterson, who long operated a popular toy store in that community. The family changed the business to Joe Ordini Pools, where Paul Ordini was employed at the time of his accident. This Sunday's benefit event will start at 11 a.m. and run 4 p.m. It will feature a D.J. as well as music by "Forever Alone," a local band. All performers donated their services to the effort. Admission is $20 per person and $30 per couple, and the event is restricted to those aged 21 and over. There will be food, a cash bar and a $10 "bike wash by babes." Many items have been donated for a raffle, including airplane rides, haircuts and tanning sessions. Ordini was seriously injured on the morning of June 8, after his car struck a utility pole on Pelletown Road in Wantage. He suffered multiple internal injuries, including two collapsed lungs, according to Cathy Wright, a family friend who is the key organizer of this Sunday's event. According to the New Jersey State Police, no drugs or alcohol were involved in the accident. Ordini spent more than five weeks in a coma at Morristown Memorial Hospital, and according to Wright, his prognosis was very bleak. But in the past week or so, Ordini, 45, has been improving greatly and has been transferred to the Kessler Institute, the medical facility for physical therapy and rehabilitation where actor Christopher Reeves was treated following his spinal cord injury. "He's doing fabulous," Wright said. Ordini still has a tracheotomy tube and a feeding tube, but can communicate with his family and has high spirits. Wright said his family has been told that Ordini's prognosis for recovery is now "excellent." And while his recovery will be slow, and he faces many new challenges, Wright said the pilot longs to get back to flying. Ordini also enjoys riding his ATV's and dirt bikes according to Wright. Ordini has been flying acrobatically for about fifteen years, according to Paul Styger who manages Sussex Airport. Styger said Ordini performed at the Sussex show about four times, and that his act is unique in that few air show performers fly ultra light kit airplanes as Ordini does. His act in recent years involved a level of deception, as fans were led to believe Ordini's plane was being remotely operated by "Flip the Dummy," a robotic pilot who precariously zoomed toward the ground and startled fans. In fact Ordini was piloting while wearing a robot costume, while a look-alike accomplice on the ground worked fake remote controls. Styger said he was relieved to hear Ordini was improving, and that he wished the performer well as he continues to recover. Wright said she was initially surprised by the outpouring of community support for Ordini, but said she should not have been, as, "this community sticks together." She said she had heard that other Opie and Anthony Show regulars are planning to attend the event, possibly including the radio hosts, but she had no definite confirmation. Wright and others organized the event to benefit Ordini's wife and son, who are struggling to meet household expenses while their husband and father recovers. Mary Ordini works at the Franklin Wal-Mart. For more information on the benefit, Wright can be reached at 973-875-7115