Monday, September 1, 2014
CHAZZ PALMINTERI: A BRONX MAN WITH A TALE
In the midst of this devastating encounter, Chazz's eyes met those of the stranger's, who turned out to be Sonny, the capo di tutti capi, or "boss of all bosses" or godfather if you prefer. The young impressionable lad soon found himself swept into a different and exciting world that Sonny commanded, into a fancy club, fetching coffee and cutting lemons and limes, rolling dice and collecting tips. Chazz's father, a hardworking bus driver, did not approve of his son's new associates and when Sonny tried to give him a lucrative job he refused. Soon "C" as he was called became Sonny's "penance, something good to leave behind."
Chazz was now influenced by two father figures. His dad Lorenzo gave him a card that stated "Don't waste your talent," while Sonny taught him life lessons like "It's better to be feared than to be loved" and "Never underestimate your enemy." Fast forward several decades and Chazz Palminteri, the aspiring actor, a dream he had harbored since he was ten, called out his memories of that long ago harrowing image and translated it into a ten minute monologue for an acting class. He had been at the Actor's Studio in New York City where he studied under Lee Strasberg and now was in Los Angeles looking for his big break. In between stints on television shows like "Hill Street Blues," he had a job as a doorman/bouncer at a high rollers club. A man was rude when he tried to enter and Chazz refused to let him pass. The patron exclaimed, "I'll have your job in 15 minutes." The boss suddenly appeared and hugged Swifty Lazar,a talent agent and deal maker to the stars, and, true to his word, Chazz found himself unemployed a quarter of an hour later.
Searching for a good role and not finding one, the inventive actor set to work creating his own. The ten minute monologue about his early Bronx life grew minute by minute until it peaked at an hour and forty minutes long. Embracing eighteen different characters, he made it a one man show, "A Bronx Tale" that "exploded" when he produced it in a small club and suddenly became the hottest property since "Rocky" to hit the theater circuit.
Offers of $250,000, $500,000 and, ultimately, a million dollars were offered to make it into a movie but never with Chazz in the main role as Sonny. With only $200 in the bank, it took a lot of chutzpah to stay focused on his dream.
That dedication paid off when weeks later Robert DeNiro walked in one night and saw the show. He told Chazz at their second meeting, "If you make it (the film) with me, I'd make it right." With DeNiro directing his first film and playing Chazz's dad Lorenzo and Chazz as Sonny LoSpeechio, "A Bronx Tale" became a strong, witty, poignant coming of age tale by a master storyteller.
Chazz recalls his early years as an "outrageous time to grow up. I had a great childhood in an Italian neighborhood with happy times, sports and some violence." Writing about it has proven therapeutic, "a transference of energy from negative to positive." He is grateful his father lived to see his success and his mom, now 94, can look forward to his upcoming appearances on "Modern Family" and "Legends" on television.
To witness this classic performance, book your tickets ($75) for one night only, Saturday, September 6 at 8 p.m. when Chazz Palminteri will recreate his iconic "A Bronx Tale" at Foxwoods Resort Casino, at the Fox Theater, 350 Trolley Line Boulevard, Mashantucket. Call 800-200-2882 or online at www.foxwoods.com. A special three-course dinner package is available at Cedars Steak House or Al Dente for $130, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. that night only. Make reservations. Tax and tip are included.
Chazz Palminteri is a man of many talents, none of which he wastes, as his father had warned. A veteran of 50 films like "Analyze This" and "The Usual Suspects," he also runs classes three or four times a year "One on One Auditions" and the website www.chazzpalminteri.net to "give back" and help young actors as well as hosts a new Baltimore restaurant "Chazz A Bronx Original." There his cold fire oven pizza cooks in 90 seconds, "sweet and fluffy on the inside, crispy and caramelized on the outside."
As for those life lessons, Chazz Palminteri also has learned "family is important" and "stay close to the things you value." Come see him put all these lessons to good use.