Goodfellas came out in 1990. That was 21 years ago, and I don’t think anyone who ever saw the film will ever forget actor Frank Vincent’s line as Billy Batts to Joe Pesci’s character Tommy DeVito, ” Go home and get your shinebox.” Just hearing that line, and knowing Tommy’s hair trigger temper sends chills through most people. Billy Batt’s paid for that line with his life.
As Phil Leotardo in The Sopranos, Frank got whacked in the last episode, standing in a gas station kissing his grandchildren goodbye, and fell under the wheel of his daughter’s car, which rolled over his head. Another Frank Vincent scene indelibly etched in the minds of whoever saw it.
Frank Vincent’s presence on the big screen is so powerful that of all the guys who play gangsters, to me he stands out as one of the scariest. ( A definite compliment! ) So to find out that he started out as a comic was both startling and thrilling to me. He actually did stand-up with Joe Pesci. Pesci killed him in Goodfellas and he returned the kindness, and killed Joe Pesci in Casino.
Frank was honored by the Soho International Film festival in a fantastic evening produced by award-winning film director John Gallagher, who will be working with Frank in an upcoming film called Fickle, written by Ryan O’Callaghan who was there to walk the red carpet with John and Frank.
All of Frank’s friends came out to support him including some of his Sopranos cast members. There was John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia, sometimes known as “The Mayor Of Little Italy”, who played Albie Cianflone, (and who couldn’t believe I remembered the name of his character), Tony (Paulie Walnuts) Sirico, and TV and film actress Sharon Angela, who memorably played Rosalie Aprile, on the hit HBO show, where during the 6th season she was elevated from a guest star to a series regular.
There were also lots of beautiful women there from all over the world, in the film business and not. I met two from The Philippines, Ida and Lisa, who were there to honor Frank and also had their own film in the festival.
And just to play it safe, I brought my own beautiful woman, (LOL) Lauren Francesca, the internet sensation known for playing Lady Gaga in The Key of Awesome films, ( www.thekeyofawesome.com) and who starred in two short films I created for her, “Besame Mucho’s Academy of Oral Skills”
and “The Magic Of Transforminol” about a magic pill that guys can take called “Transforminol” that makes their girlfriends look like Lauren.
The thing about Frank Vincent is that he’s nothing like what he looks like which makes his performance even more powerful. In his own words, he’s a nice guy, and he is. But he told a story that was so chilling it affected everyone in the audience.
He was saying how many people think they’re really gangsters when they’re really just Italian-American actors, but one night he walked into a restaurant and there was a real mob boss there who called him over to his table to say hello.
Frank’s group was then seated near this mob boss close enough for Frank to hear him mention something about Hollywood, which caused Frank to toss out a remark. With that the mob boss called him over to the table and in front of everyone there told Frank he had a lot of nerve barging in on his conversation, and as Frank phrased it, “He’d leave him standing right where he was, if he ever did that again.” Frank’s point in that story was well taken.
Frank is a good actor which is why he knows how to act like a gangster. A good actor has feelings. Real gangsters don’t.
John Gallagher is on the advisory board of the Soho International Film Festival and works directly with Sibyl Santiago, the director of the festival, who was incredibly helpful to me in getting this story done. She made sure that I got to speak to everyone I wanted to see.
Aside from directing John also teaches acting, and among other places taught for five years at the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse on East 54th Street in Manhattan, the school where Sanford Meisner taught for more than 50 years. I even took the summer program there one year because as a director, I thought it behooved me to understand the acting process as much as possible. It was a fantastic experience.
I’m hoping that John will be directing a film that I wrote that he fell in love with called “Men of Violence.” It’s a gangster/martial arts/action film with lots of comedy.
The comedy is real, as is the violence, in the style of Pulp Fiction. It’s about a plastic surgeon who is obsessed with violence. He studies martial arts and carries a gun. When he accidentally kills a mob boss’ son protecting his wife during a mob hit in a restaurant, he has to become the baddest man on the planet in order to save his own life and the lives of his family.
All we have to do now is raise the money! ( Maybe Kickstarter?) The cast we don’t have to worry about. Between John and myself we know every gangster/actor in the business!
Check out Jeffrey on the red carpet for Frank Vincent!