When 340-pound Louie ‘Whispers’ asked me to sniff him, I gotta tell you: Eye-talians have some strange customs. He smelled like my favorite animal: A steak! Then Louie offered: Life can taste good, but you’ve got to make it good.

Louie ‘Whispers’ – as opposed to ‘Louie duh lawyer’ – plopped his 340-pound, always smiling, battleship of a body onto a chair in the Twin Smoke Shoppe in South Philadelphia the other Sunday afternoon and asked me how I thought he smelled.


And Gary-duh-handsome-cop who has never seen a self-reflection he didn’t adore, egged me on.

“Go ahead, check him out, Drew. Give ‘em the sniff test.”

Am I missing something here?

As somewhat of a newcomer to this macho “greasy-dego-wop” South Philly territory my only real connection to Eye-talians is that I, too, as a “f—ing-bloody-Yid,” harbor very ‘strong’ feelings about the Pope.

These are the same guys who give me mucho grief when I sport a pink sweater or shirt. Do I need to remind youse they think black is the only car color, shoe color, pants color, shirt color – even on a bad hair-color day.

I laugh with dere goon humor because I have learned over the years, and  over the world, that when people are laughing they are generally not killing anybody. And South Jersey’s Pine Barrens, where a lot of ‘holey’ bodies have gotten unceremoniously dumped, are just a short, suffocating car trunk ride across Philadelphia’s Walt Whitman Bridge.

And here I am the bloody-Jewish guy in the corner who Louie ‘Whispers’ wants to sniff him.

Now Louie Whispers is the sweetest human compactor I know.

Except when he’s not.

He is right out of ‘Saturday Night Fever.’ Takes 35 minutes to jell up and blow dry his Italian hair that is blacker than my ex-wife’s lightbulb behind the bolted door of her mental refrigerator.

He has diamond stud in one lobe. A couple of gold rings on the stubby digits. A well groomed goatee beneath a faced shaved by clippers. And then there are those two Herculean forearms with tattoos of roses and such — roses too big to fit on Buddha’s belly. Or even on the forehead of his ex-friend who is dating his ex-girlfriend of nine years. (Believe me: You don’t want to know how things turn out when Louie ain’t whispering.)

Anyway, at Gary-duh-handsome-cop’s urging I went over and tentatively sniffed Louie’s neck.

“Whaddaya think? Like it?”

I didn’t even understand the question. What am I supposed to answer? A normal nose smells with something like 350 olfactors. Mine has two. Rest of them were punched out. Comes from being an old journalist and sticking my nose in people’s smelly business.

All I could say is Louie smelled like my favorite animal – a rib-eye steak. Rare. Sizzling. With Portobello mushrooms. And, kind of woodsy.

Then  Gary came over and smelled. And Louie, in turn, smelled Gary. Looked like a couple of dogs in a sniffing repartee to me.

At that Louie Whispers and Gary-duh-handsome-cop and a few others blowing smoke at the Twin Shoppe got into exhaling down the long and wafting road about aftershaves and men’s cologne.

I mean they were really into it. Knew their colognes, too.

Armani? Aqua di Silva? Mennen? What do I know? If it burns and stings, it’s my thing.

I always thought that if men have a smell, it’s usually an accident. And if a woman smells like bacon, I’m in luv!

Turns out that Whispers has some 150 to 200 fragrances back in a special closet at home. Selects the one de jour like a mood ring – to coordinate with his clothes, coloring, weather and smiling disposition.

And Gary even sprays cologne on his chest before climbing into bed at nite. His wife thinks it’s strange. But then again, I understand that stranger things have happened, and not only in Gary’s bed.

Now before I continue with this I feel the need to point out something: These fellows may seem a tad out of character to folks who may only know of them from those ethnic movies.

Needless to say you should never judge a book by its movie.

I have to tell you: Not many of my middle-class friends and Jewish landsmen engage so openly and forthrightly in these uncomfortable discussion arenas.

From their grooming and shaving — and even clipping their nose hairs, which I always thought you merely yanked out with your thumb and forefinger until your eyes stopped tearing – each of these manly-men is so in touch with his feminine side that they are practically dating. (I mean with his feminine side. But, of course! You knew that.)

Obviously ‘dese’ are not ‘dose’ guys that lesbians should typically include when they look for reassurances why they are glad not to be heterosexuals. You know, like what former tennis star Martina Navratilova responded years back when that pock-marked, over-suspendered, pot-bellied tennis writer smugly inquired: “Are you still a lesbian?”

To which Martina simply replied: “Are you still the alternative?”

Louie Whispers is definitely an aficionado in these men’s cologne and aftershave matters. It’s the same way he approaches his cigar smoking, his food, his clothes, his delicacies.

It’s an appetite he nourishes with a savoir faire that enables him to develop delicious desires for curiosities that rarely cross the thresholds of most of our primitive considerations.

Like many of my new Eye-talian friends I have dwelled among the last couple of years they have epicurean eyes and noses and mouths for good food, bold wines and Frank Sinatra — while most of our palates are simply satisfied with whatever Gertie at the diner slaps before us.

Indeed, they live to eat and drink.

And apparently cologne themselves.

Once I may have thought that guys like Louie Whispers confused charisma with aftershave. But I am so wrong. It’s the pleasure we take in the simple matters. It’s developing curious palates, a refinement for what’s enchanting, so that all our tastes aren’t merely in our French fries.

Every morning and night most of us dutifully perform our ablutions. We gulp down our meals. We slap on our apparel. We plop on divans and splash our walls with pictures we stop seeing. Some of us have developed sophistication and style and elan in such tasks of love. But most of us are still barbarians devouring life on the TV.

And guys like Louie just whisper, from between those mogul size cheeks, what he knows: “Life can taste good, but you’ve got to make it good.” He smiles with satisfaction, gesturing with his Rocky Patel Edge cigar.

From him I’ve learned the things I like to do best don’t have to be illegal, immoral or fattening. At least not ‘all’ of them. I still don’t get the Eye-talian thing about guys kissing each other’s cheeks all the time in greeting. And what is it with this hearty “pat-down” whenever they are hugging hello.

And they think my pink sweaters make me seem strange?

And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony…

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