All the Way: The Arthur and Alfreda Antignani Mausoleum

Arthur and Alfreda Antignani mausoleum, Allegheny County Memorial Park, Allison Park, PA

Arthur and Alfreda Antignani mausoleum, Allegheny County Memorial Park, Allison Park

The granite mausoleum stands alone inside a marquee plot surrounded by a thin circular cemetery road. A long stretch of musical staff wraps the perimeter with twenty-some bars of melody notation spelled-out; vertical fence posts serve double-duty as measure lines.

Two six-foot-tall ornamental saxophones flank the doorway; a third marks the crest of the roof. Palm to forehead, one can squint through the gauzy haze inside to the mausoleum’s stained glass window. There, a backlit treble clef symbol glows where one might normally expect the image of an angel or flowers[1]. The footpath out front is yet another gigantic saxophone, this one rendered minimally in two dimensions on red-brown granite tile. The entrance step is engraved “All the Way”.

detail of giant saxophone ornament on the Arthur and Alfreda Antignani mausoleum, Allegheny County Memorial Park, Allison Park, PA

Saxophone ornament, Antignani mausoleum

All the Way could–and should–be the title of Arthur and Alfreda Antignani‘s bio-pic. The couple lived large in a Hampton hilltop property they built for themselves and named Skyvue Estate. Our story on what remained of that shag-carpeted, double-bedazzled, rhinestone-encrusted, tchotchke-strewn, twenty-four hour party palace and its grounds [Graceland North: The Antignani Estate Sale, 4 Nov. 2015] is one of the most-read Orbit stories of all time. Though the Antignanis have left this particular stage, we thought it was high time to call for an encore and visit this fascinating couple in their final resting place.

stained glass window with treble clef symbol, Arthur and Alfreda Antignani mausoleum, Allegheny County Memorial Park, Allison Park, PA

Mausoleum stained glass window

That the Antignanis loved music should come as no surprise. Every inch of Skyvue Estate–from the guitar-shaped patio to the band of frog figurines jamming on the credenza–confirmed as much. So it is fitting that as Alfreda spent the very the last years of her life designing and planning the memorial[2], she’d want the imagery of music–especially Arthur’s tenor saxophone–featured prominently.

The touch to include actual musical notation on the small fence–as opposed to any old clip art approximation of stray notes on a staff–was an inspired design decision. If you haven’t guessed by now, the melody is, of course, “All the Way”.

detail of saxophone-shaped tile walkway at the Arthur and Alfreda Antignani mausoleum, Allegheny County Memorial Park, Allison Park, PA

Saxophone-shaped tile walkway

“All the Way”, the Sammy Cahn/Jimmy Van Heusen standard made famous by Ol’ Blue Eyes (among many others) is a classic tear-jerking ballad of life-long love. It may be a songwriting cliché, but a lyric like “Through the good or lean years, And for all the in between years” speaks not to the eros of so many pop songs and rom coms, but to the pragma and philia of a couple that spent over half a century together[3] in what we can only imagine as one of the great eccentric long run romances of our time.

To Arthur and Alfreda Antignani, may you rest in peace, all the way.

Arthur and Alfreda Antignani mausoleum, Allegheny County Memorial Park, Allison Park, PA

Art & Al, R.I.P.

Getting there: The Antignani mausoleum is in Allegheny County Memorial Park, 1600 Duncan Ave., Allison Park. The cemetery has very few above-ground average-sized headstones (possibly none?) so the handful of large memorials/mausoleums stand out really easily–you won’t miss it.

[1] For comparison, see Allegheny Cemetery: Mausoleum Stained Glass, Pittsburgh Orbit, Oct. 12, 2016.
[2] “In life and death, eccentric Hampton couple makes beautiful music together”,, Dec. 5, 2015.
[3] The Antignanis were married and 1959 and Arthur died (first) in 2011.


Ansell Regrettal: A Ross Township Donnybrook

Santa Claus lawn ornament with protest signs against Ross Township leadership

Merry Christmas from Ross Township

“A man curses because he doesn’t have the words to say what’s on his mind.” — Malcolm X

This grew-up-in-The-South-where-we-don’t-wear-watches-or-curse blogger has tacitly agreed with Mr. X, though it was mainly because he finds the habit so ugly…and uncreative…and put on. People who cuss a lot always seem like they’re play-acting clichéd roles they’ve seen in tough-guy movies, or they’re trying to impress or intimidate somebody. That said, it would be hard to suggest that Bill Ansell has any difficulty expressing what’s on his mind, and he uses plenty of four-letter-words to do it.

Regular readers of The Orbit will appreciate that this digital publication generally steers clear of both controversy and vulgarity. Perhaps it is fitting, then, that today’s post breaks with past rules, mores, and highfalutin standards with a story all about salty language, neighbor-against-neighbor suburban strife, Christmas gone bad, and one guy who refuses to play by the rules. Those easily offended should probably stop right here.

White pickup truck loaded with plastic lawn ornaments, children's toys, and a portatoilet, Ross Township, PA

“My other car is a sleigh”

In addition to not liking the blue language, we also hate to get scooped. But even though this story has been going around for years, it was new to us. It goes back at least to 2007 when Bill Ansell, a Ross Township electrician, began to have a series of run-ins with his neighbors, the municipality, and the local constabulary as documented in the William Ansell v. Ross Township suit. In a nutshell, the case seems to revolve around Ansell’s over-the-top holiday displays, ensuing complaints from his neighbors, and some amount of legal action. More recently, WPXI ran a report on Ansell re-lighting his uniquely-offensive string of lights. [More on this, below.] Seeing these reports with their blurred images of the offending words and vague reports of detritus in the Ansell yard, we knew we had to see the place for ourselves.

Plastic head on cross with "Security cameras in use" sign, Ross Township, PA

This guy is watching you

And what a sight it is to see! Tiny Fairley Road is really just a paved circle containing seven otherwise unremarkable residences. Bill Ansell’s is the only house sitting in the island formed by the looped street and as such, it has a large, awkwardly-shaped oval plot. About a third of the yard is covered with blue plastic tarps with an array of broken children’s toys and mangled plastic Christmas displays holding down the fabric. At the property’s edge are a series of plastic (mannequin?) heads on staked crosses featuring Warning: security cameras in use signs and hand-written inscriptions like “God’s country.” Ansell’s white pickup truck is parked on the street and comes loaded with a Santa-sized cargo of discarded toys, holiday lawn ornaments, and one portatoilet. The side yard has a chorus of headless carolers, each with a safety helmet over its empty neck hole, and a home-made light-up arrow sign that reads Neighbor is a thief.

Handmade wooden sign with arrow reading "Neighbor is a Thief" with choir member lawn ornaments missing heads, Ross Township, PA

“Neighbor is a Thief”, headless choir

If it ended there, this would just be an oddball story about somebody getting a little nutty with the lawn decoration. But it is the front of the house that really takes this story from News of the Weird to, uh, Village of the Damned.  There is more playground equipment, one Santa Claus that lights up to appear as if urinating electrons, and then there are the crazy-man banners. Nine large boards, each hand lettered in precise stencils, act as an open hail of rage against what appears to be everyone who’s ever questioned Ansell’s displays: the commissioners of Ross Township, Ansell’s neighbors (and their children), and the Ross police force.

Christmas lights arranged to spell "Fuck Ross Township", Ross Township, PA

The lights that started it all, lit up in the only decent photo we could find [photo: Brody Barbour]

If you’ve followed this story at all, you know that Ansell’s coup de grâce is a string of Christmas lights that spell out FUCK ROSS TOWNSHIP in giant letters that span the full width of the house. We went back at night to get a photo, but alas, they were dark–the township and Ansell seem to have reached some accord on this particular issue. Rest assured, everything else on the property was lit up like some weird prison holiday scene. Huge outward-facing flood lights seemed aimed to catch–or at least intimidate–would-be vandals and assailants. At the same time, bladder-control Santa, the carolers, one headless wise man, etc. had their eyes all aglow in the hopes that Uncle Bill might bring them a new cardboard screed to darken the new year.

Head of wise man lawn ornament, Ross Township, PA

Maybe not-so-wise man

The Orbit would love to get Bill Ansell’s side of the story, but frankly, we’re scared of him. The threat “there will be bloodshed” for “enter(ing) or touch(ing) anything on (Ansell’s) property” seems pretty clear. The arrest details from the court case list a number of loaded weapons stored in the house and kept at arm’s reach, including a shotgun and several pistols, so he certainly seems well-equipped for violence. We’ll do our reporting from the public space on the pavement, thank you very much.

handmade protest signs on house, Ross Township, PA

It is a strange, sad scene, indeed. Pittsburgh Orbit has made a theme of celebrating the rapidly-disappearing evidence of life actually touched by the human hand as well as endeavors at creativity and individualism in all areas–hell, that’s why we’re reporting this story. Bill Ansell certainly possesses all of these. But the untethered anger, armed threats of violence, and extreme paranoia are a lethal combination we sadly hear about all the time. These usually end with a candlelight vigil and a Republican call for prayer. Hey–maybe it will work this time! To the fine people of Ross Township, and especially those immediate neighbors on Fairley Road, we feel for you.

UPDATE (16 December, 2016): A previous version of this story included the FUCK ROSS TOWNSHIP photo credited to “unknown/The Internet”. The photographer, Brody Barbour has since alerted us to his authorship and we’ve updated the credit.



Graceland North: The Antignani Estate Sale

mirrored headboard against a very complex wallpaper pattern

It might get loud: mirror in the bedroom

If it could be covered in psychedelic shag carpeting, they did it: doors, bathroom walls, spiral staircase treads. If the mood called for fake leopard skin, or zebra, or gold lamé, you can bet that call was answered too. The master bedroom holds a half dozen legitimate feathered pimp hats. The living room features a six-foot-tall clear plastic aquarium in the shape of a bent palm tree. The kitchens (there are two) have tile work with images of sport fish and day-glo flowered wallpaper. You can believe if there was a wall surface, shelving, headboard, or light fixture that could possibly be mirrored, spangled, or bedazzled, that need was not taken lightly.

No, the Antignanis had a decidedly more-is-more, leave no stone un-decorated design sense that has unprepared eyeballs begging for mercy, mouths gasping for Dramamine, and visitors vowing to finally get serious about their own basements. Even just what’s left of the estate, which occupies an entire serene hilltop in Pittsburgh’s distant northern suburbs, makes Graceland look minimalist.

large plastic gorilla in the Antignani estate yard

(larger-than?) life-size gorilla: make offer

You know it’s going to be a good estate sale when the first thing you see is a life-size plastic lawn gorilla: make offer. The front-of-house alone contains a bevy of oddball riches we’re not used to seeing at suburban sales: a six-foot plaster saxophone ornament for a matching fountain suspended on giant golden musical notes; replicas of Italian statuary; a slide and ladders from a since-removed pool; a ’70s-era Dodge Ram pickup. Oh, and there’s a caged female mannequin, chained at the ankle, barely clothed in a headband, Mardi Gras beads, and torn hippie vest.

Lawn mower, chained, caged, naked, go-go mannequin, hose reel.

A sale for all your yard care needs: lawn mower, naked go-go mannequin-in-cage, garden hose with reel.

Any assumptions or prejudices about the lifestyles of older generations are quickly overturned with one step inside the Antignani estate. Their tastes were eccentric, loud, gaudy, and corny, but very clearly theirs. We know that Arthur lived into his 80s and it doesn’t appear that any accommodations were made for the couple’s advancing age. It’s wonderfully amusing to think of anyone traipsing around this crazy environment for forty years (?) let alone a couple my grandparents’ (R.I.P.) age.

framed black and white photograph of Arthur Antignani as a young man

Arthur Antignani

Of the many mysteries surrounding this sale, the most intriguing is the Antignanis themselves. Described as a “millionaire musician,” Arthur Antignani has left almost zero Internet trail. There’s no obituary from either of the Pittsburgh papers, one nearly-empty entry on the site, and some vague hits on various genealogical sites. That’s it.

Of Arthur’s wife Alfreda we know even less. The friendly estate sale agents told us she had been a cosmetologist and that the couple saved their voluminous love letters from Arthur’s time on the road. And that’s all we’ve got.

wall-mounted sound system including reel-to-reel tape deck, 8-track player, intercom, CD player, speaker toggle switches

Hi-fi command central

Arthur’s musical career is just as in need of clarification. The same agent had heard he was a frequent performer in Las Vegas who regularly entertained the “Rat Pack” in the early days of The Strip. We can assume he played the saxophone by the number of sax icons scattered throughout house, including the lapel pin on the above photograph. But again, it’s difficult to substantiate any of this.

poured concrete patio in the shape of a guitar, with additional paint to represent sound hole, saddle, and strings

The guitar-shaped patio

One thing we do know is that the Antignanis were crazy about music–or, at least, they liked the look of it. The imagery of musical instruments (especially saxophones) and musical staff notes aggressively played into the design and decoration of the house. Notes decorate the front entrance gate, the shag carpeting on the bedroom door, and metalwork throughout. A back patio was poured in the shape of a giant guitar, complete with the awkwardly long sidewalk-to-nowhere of the instrument’s to-scale long neck. Paint was added to supply details for the sound hole and hardware. There’s a bust of Elvis lamp.

Hundreds of tchotchkes render every variety of creature–mammal, amphibian, you name it–multi-instrumentalists in some nutty symphony. These figures, along with gilt candlesticks, shimmering pendant lamps, a mixed-species chest-of-drawers, and a pair of over-the-top rotary telephones, are now stacked so densely in the former great room that it’s difficult to imagine how they could have been displayed when the house was still in use.

[The photo gallery for this sale has many more detail shots than we’ve chosen to include here. Check it out while it’s still available.]

spiral staircase with psychedelic shag carpeting and gold-painted railings

Looking down the psychedelic psprial pstaircase

Although we have no concrete evidence, I think the other safe assumption here is that the Antignanis could party. The whole house is laid out such that no guest’s Greek-themed highball glass will ever go dry and its extensive sound system had speaker options that reached every room, patio, and even the “Zen garden.” There are only three bedrooms, but guests could pass out on their choice of several giant sectional sofas. The kitchen equipment is pretty standard stuff, but the barware is stocked with enough tumblers, martini, wine, and shot glasses to outfit several all-nighters without ever needing to do the dishes.

mural with naked male and female figures, tree with snake wrapped around its trunk, and a stag

“While you’re down there, my giant snake could use some attention.” Mural in the Antignani dining room.

The word from the sales agents was that one of their team had purchased the entire lot, house, and contents, and was emptying it for an inevitable demolition and redevelopment. On the one hand, that makes a lot of sense–it’s pretty incredible to have a property that covers an entire hilltop with 360-degree views (at least, when the tree cover isn’t too thick) and also has perfect privacy. The house itself is no great architectural marvel, so it’s likely any buyer in this market would want something different.

But at the same time, those of us who never knew the couple can feel the Antignanis’ spirits within the home’s eye-popping walls. The couple’s mausoleum (yes, a photograph proves it’s adorned with more musical notes and giant saxophones) may last much longer, but it’s in the soft-porn dining room mural and plastic fruit-shaped piña colada cups, the silver Queen of Hearts wallpaper and shiny clothes that they actually lived. And oh–if it’s not too trite to say–how they lived.


If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it. Statuary in the Antignani home entranceway.

lawn ornament of Mary with $40 hand-written price tag

Mary, cheap

Special note: We’d love to know more about the Antignanis. If you knew them, know more of the story, or if we got any of our facts wrong, we’d love to hear it. Please get in touch.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Alfreda as Arthur’s given name and Mrs. Antignani as first name unknown. Several readers have corroborated that Mrs. Antignani was Alfreda (see comments). We apologize for the error and thank you commenters!


The Pizza Chase: Sir Pizza

Sir Pizza storefront sign

Ross Township Camelot: Sir Pizza

“Good day, m’lord! What doth though requireth for thy after-noon repast?”

“Knave: bring forth your lordship a pair of this establishment’s esteemed ten-inch pizzas–and may they resemble the handicraft of the time-honored artisans at Totino’s in all possible ways!”

“Very good, sir! How wouldst thou prefereth to decorate thine pies and enliven thy spirit?”

“Adorn the lady’s with olives black and your finest banana peppers.”

“Of course. And for thou, sir? What extraordinary combination suits sire today?”

“Allow me to bloweth thy mind with coating true, twixt sausage and multi-colored peppers.”

“Such an extraordinary request your humble servant has never encountered! Raise the flag and open the hearth! An order from the king!”

O.K. Ordering at Sir Pizza wasn’t quite like that, but I think it’s fair to say we were treated like some demi-royalty.

Last month, when we introduced The Pizza Chase with Beto’s Pizza we made it clear we were looking for pizzerias that did things in some fundamentally different (though, not necessarily better) way. The people spoke, The Orbit followed-through, and below are our questions (if not yours) on Sir Pizza answered (and not) to the best of our ability.

Sir Pizza 10" pizza with black olives and banana peppers

Is Sir Pizza a chain?

Yes…wait: no…maybe? The Orbit‘s crack research team spent no small amount of time attempting to answer this seemingly-simple question and came to no definitive conclusion. As far as we can tell, Sir Pizza started in 1957 in Indiana as Pizza King and operated as a chain up through at least the early 1990s. From there it gets hazy.

Sir Pizza-Pittsburgh has three locations–all in the North Hills. We visited the “original,” started in 1975 in Ross Township. But a search for Sir Pizza reveals other similar shires scattered around the eastern half of the United States–two in Michigan, five in South Florida, some South Carolina chapters, an outpost each in Kentucky and Tennessee, etc.

There seems to be no central dominion to which the individual restaurants pay tribute. The marionettes appear to have cut their own strings, leaving independent fiefdoms that may or may not resemble each other, but certainly don’t acknowledge any connection publicly.

Sir Pizza crest logo

The royal crest of the Kingdom of Sir Pizza

What’s with the whole ‘Sir’ thing? Is this medieval pizza?

Another interesting ponderable with no clear answer. Sir Pizza’s commitment to the whole lords in sauce/knights of the round pie pan thing is shaky at best. There’s the calligraphic “Sir” in the signage, the crest/shield logo, and a smiling cartoony knight tipping his armored visor on the menu, but other than that you’d swear you were back in any old suburban pizza parlor in a squat New World strip mall. Black and white photos of “la familia” take up one wall and nods to various local sports teams are positioned around the dining areas. On decor alone, it could as easily be Italian Wedding Pizza, or High School Football Pizza.

close-up of Sir Pizza sausage and pepper pizza crust

“Good to the very edge”

The pizza

The only previous time this hungry blogger experienced Sir Pizza was years ago as payment for helping to move a giant 1970s-era recording console from Turtle Creek to the North Hills. “I almost died and you’re paying me with Totino’s?”, I asked. I don’t even remember if I got a beer out of the deal. [Bill: you (might) owe me a beer!] In retrospect, that assessment is a little harsh–but just a little.

The pizza is on a thin, cracker-like crust with a reasonable layer of cheese and toppings. Sir Pizza claims they use special smoked provolone instead of mozzarella, but these layman’s tastebuds couldn’t discern the difference. The meat toppings, as well as the peppers and onions, were minced into tiny morsels, which again gave it that joie de congélateur allée. The pizzas are cooked and served on cardboard discs.

Sir Pizza uses the tag line “Good to the very edge” which is a nod to the practice of running the sauce, cheese, and toppings all the way out to (and over) the pizza’s perimeter. It’s a nice gimmick, but I couldn’t help but think it’s really a mask for a completely uninteresting flat crust that wouldn’t survive on its own.

Our Pittsburgh-born Wisconsin-based correspondent Murphy informed us that all of these qualities–the cracker crust, the minced toppings, the hidden edge–are all hallmarks of a more general “midwestern pizza”.

The other great midwesterness of Sir Pizza’s product is the curious way the pie is cut. Instead of the familiar wedge-shaped diametric slices one expects, the pizza is cut on a loose grid: two cuts in one direction, three the other. But because the pizza is round, this makes every cut an awkward non-standard size. Murphy lays down the pitfalls pretty clearly:

Also and very important is the way they slice it, in little squares called “party style” though it doesn’t sound like a party to me when you have nothing solid to grab onto (like, you know, a CRUST). I would like to further note that using non-triangular cuts means that some people might get stuck with a dinky little side piece and others get a weird gloopy middle piece rather than beautifully uniform, foldable triangles.

Ouch! Ain’t no law like Murphy’s. Just like we said back in our report on Beto’s, when you bake a fresh pizza, even when it’s bad, it’s still good. That basic fact holds true at Sir Pizza. The legion of devoted “Sir-heads” who line up for the trademark pie and defend it with the zeal of South Hills’ “Betonauts” will disagree, but we’re glad they love their local(-ish) pie. The Orbit remains perplexed, but still curious. Mangia!

half-eaten Sir Pizza 10" pizza with sausage and peppers

Sir Pizza’s “party style” cuts