How to Shoot a Mobster
If you’ve ever wondered where casting directors find the tough guys who play the wiseguys in gangster movies and on HBO’s series The Sopranos , well, on the night of Jan. 10 most of the fellas were at an art gallery, looking at photographs of themselves that were a vast improvement over the mug shots some of them had sat for in the past. The party at the Glenn Gale Gallery on East 36th Street was for an exhibit of photos taken from photographer Adolfo Gallela’s new book, Cinema Wiseguys. Gesturing toward the black-suited men filling the gallery, Mr. Gallela said, “These are the guys you gotta have to make a mob movie. The background guys.”
The crowd, dressed in a combination of wiseguy black and downtown black, seemed pleased. “He caught the essence of our personalities,” said Dominic Chianese, who has a role in The Sopranos .
An Ozone Park, Queens, native, the 50-year-old salt-and-pepper goateed photographer, who has his fiancée’s name, Heather, tattooed on his arm, said he had told his subjects before taking their pictures, “Come as you are–not as a caricature of a wiseguy. If you want to wear a suit, fine.” He said most the photos were “as real as I could possibly get, which is only so real with these guys, because they’re living in that kind of fantasy world. Most of them have been in jail.”
Mr. Gallela said several of them were just boys in the Italian ‘hood when they were signed up for an instant shot at stardom. He said that David Chase, the creator-producer of The Sopranos , helped things along by “deciding to have East Coast actors instead of doing the Hollywood thing. It’s like, one of them becomes a plumber, one becomes a wiseguy, one becomes an actor.”
The party attendees included Frank Vincent, Mike Starr and Gaetano LoGiudice of GoodFellas ; Joseph Rigano of Casino and Analyze This ; and Vito Antuofermo of The Godfather: Part III . The Sopranos cast was represented by Michael (Scuch) Squicciarini, Mr. Chianese, Vincent Pastore, Tony Sirico and Tony Rossi.
“I’m the first guy you see Tony Soprano kill,” boasted Mr. Rossi. “But I still got a shot at coming back to life. In dreams . He has nightmares of me already. And then they might do a flashback of who I was before I ratted everyone out.”
“I’m a hairdresser, really,” said Mr. Rossi. “I am.” He handed over a business card from a salon on 57th Street.
One man, who identified himself as Charlie the Hat, said he got into show biz after he got out of prison. “I used to sell cars that weren’t mine,” he said. All his life, he said, he was around the mob aura. “I always hung out with them type of looking people,” he said. “Some were real, some weren’t. And that’s how it went.” Anyway, one day, “I was at the races, just walkin’ by. They asked me to wave, so I waved. Another guy didn’t show up for the movie, so they pulled me in.”
Mr. Gallela said most of the subjects were photographed at his apartment, which he said was located in “an old fur place” near the garment district. The décor is bovine. “I have this thing about cows. My sheets, pajamas, curtains, computer covers, rugs,” said Mr. Gallela. “Everything’s cow. I have a ’70 Dodge convertible–all-cow interior.” He said the cow theme helped bring out the unique facial expressions in his subjects: “When they walked in, they were like, ‘Whoa.'”
“It’s mob night!” announced Frank Adonis, who was in Raging Bull , GoodFellas and Casino . He was asked if this is how mobsters really dress. “These are my rings. This is what I wear,” he said. “All Italians dress basically the same, whether they’re wise guys, actors or lawyers.”
Mr. Antuofermo, a former middleweight boxing champ, said, “After all those years breaking my butt boxing, I get more recognition from The Godfather than any of my fights.” To achieve the menacing look in his portrait, he said he had imagined his wife cheating on him. “I’m really jealous.”
Mr. Squicciarini, who plays Big Frank Cippolina on The Sopranos, said he was born and raised in Brooklyn. “Now I reside in Queens, right by Kennedy Airport,” he said. “The planes fly right over the house. You gotta hold stuff down to keep it from shaking.” He said he was discovered two weeks after getting out a jail, while working the door at a bar. “Today, I put all my tough-guy stuff on the screen,” he said. “I work, then I wanna go home, put on my fat pants and relax.”
–Jean E. Herskowitz
Toobin Tied Up
Jeffrey Toobin was standing in the middle of the large clubby lounge at Patroon, greeting guests who came to celebrate the publication of his A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President , just out from Random House. ABC president David Westin and his wife Sherry Rollins padded across the checked carpet.
“Millennium! Millennium!” Mr. Toobin shouted to his network boss. (In addition to his gig as a New Yorker staff writer, Mr. Toobin is ABC’s legal analyst.)
His other boss, New Yorker editor David Remnick, was there with a posse from the magazine. In a little lounge area hung with blinds, George Stephanopoulos, wearing a pair of brushed copper spectacles, was chatting with New Yorker staff writer Rebecca Mead. Around 7:30 P.M., Nation media columnist Eric Alterman approached and took a dramatic look at his watch. Mr. Stephanapoulos left with Mr. Alterman; they were off to their monthly lefty journalist meeting. Meanwhile, International Creative Management agent Esther Newberg chatted with Random House Trade Group president Ann Godoff over by the fireplace.
Back in the big lounge–where posters of the book jacket reminded guests of the good old days, just last year, when book parties had actual books one could take home–some guests speculated as to whether or not Mr. Stephanopoulos was dating Bebe Neuwirth, as had been reported.
But where was Lucianne Goldberg? She had R.S.V.P.’d–but that was before Mr. Toobin’s book was published. After she read the book, Ms. Goldberg sent Mr. Toobin an e-mail that read, “I’ve just finished reading your book, and it’s going to piss a lot of people off.” Mr. Toobin e-mailed Ms. Goldberg, telling her to let him know if she was one of those people. He learned from the Drudge Report on Jan. 9 that she was. “War: Lucianne Goldberg Calls Toobin Book ‘Malicious and Defamatory,’ Threatens Libel Suit; Lawyers Demand Random House Pull All From Shelves!!” read the headline. Among other things, the book claims Ms. Goldberg committed adultery.
A little after 8 P.M., Mr. Toobin sat down in a beige velvet mohair banquette and talked about his tie. It was an Emengildo Zegna with a red, white and blue abstract pattern, a Christmas gift from his in-laws. “It’s like the love tie,” he said, referring the famous tie Monica Lewinsky gave to President Clinton. “I have tried over the past year to get one of the famous love ties. It’s like a historical artifact at this point. I learned it was only for sale by Zegna in 1996 and discontinued after that. I called various department stores. My result was total failure.”
Hurricane at the U.N.
Publicists for Universal Pictures expelled a sigh of relief when United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan waltzed into the Jan. 10 screening for The Hurricane in the United Nations’ Trusteeship Council Chamber. “We didn’t know he was going to come,” said one flack. “We had hoped but weren’t sure. He is the head of the United Nations.”
But Mr. Annan was already in the house–he was at the United Nations that day for an event with Al Gore–and thus it was easy for him to introduce the cinematic life story of Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, the New Jersey boxer who was wrongly accused of triple murder and spent almost 20 years in jail.
“We deal with some very painful issues here. It’s not every day that we have the chance to have this kind of occasion,” Mr. Annan told the assembled mix of Hollywood and human rights types.
Mr. Washington and Mr. Annan slipped out before the screening, the former because he needed a good night’s sleep before taping an episode of CBS’s The Early Show and then flying to Chicago to do Oprah, and the latter because, well, he is the head of the United Nations.
Lesra Martin, who helped free Mr. Carter after reading his autobiography The Sixteenth Round as a boy, said, “I could never imagine that the first book I ever read would land me in the United Nations.”
After the film, Mr. Carter addressed the group. He said he’d been having a great time being portrayed by Mr. Washington. “When I walk down the street now, people come up and say, ‘You don’t look like Denzel Washington,'” said Mr. Carter.
At 11 P.M., the guests piled onto buses–the A-list got limos–and vroomed to a buffet dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria.
Mr. Carter momentarily bypassed the buffet in favor of offering some political hors d’oeuvres. “Since we’re in the forum of the U.N., we want to say something, say something that’s important,” he said. “Like: The U.N. should create a youth congress where young people can debate these issue that these old people can’t solve–the death penalty, the writ of habeas corpus, wrongful conviction, literacy. You guys, young people, ought to be dealing with that, not these old farts. Their lives are finished, your lives are just beginning.”
Frank DiGiacomo is on vacation .