“We went to Vietnam to fight for the government. At one point in the war, we realized we couldn’t win the war. So we ended up fighting for each other when it was all said and done and we came home, the government wasn’t there for us. We end up having to fight for each other, even today. That’s why we are so strong, they don’t like the Vietnam Vets cause we fight for everything we have”
... Richie Castellano
That is one strong statement. How many of us knew this or were even aware of this, not many. I certainly wasn’t aware of this. Sure, I had visited my Uncle in the Veterans Hospital , but what did I know? I walked in and went directly to his room to visit. My Uncle was one of the lucky ones, he had a huge family who visited him, but many of our proud Veterans do not. Friday, January 13, 2006 , turned out to be a very lucky day for me. I truly met some dedicated people who have committed much more than their time, but their hearts to helping a forgotten segment of our society. These people are our heroes. The bountiful lives we live, are because of the sacrifices they have made, Our Veterans.
My destination today is the Kingsbridge Veterans Hospital in the Bronx . Meeting me today is Vincent Pastore, who played the most loved and missed character, Big Pussy Salvatore Bonpensiero. Killed off in season 2 in The Sopranos episode “Funhouse” for being a rat, one of the top asked questions I get is “Is Big Pussy coming back?” This has just showed me over the years how much we just loved the guy and want him back on the show. Meeting with me today are Richie Castellano from the Disabled America Veterans, Kingsbridge, New York and Joseph Penass (to be referred to from now on as JP), the head of the Throgs Neck, NY, American Legion, (which Vinny is also a member of) and of course Vincent Pastore. They are here to tell me about what a tremendous asset Vinny has been to their organization.
Sue: “So Vinny, what have you been doing?”
Vinny: “We’re having Sopranos nights, which consists of coffee, cake and then we watch an episode of the show. The episode we are probably going to watch is the one where I get killed. The first one we are doing will be with the Veterans of St. Albans; I’ll give an introduction before watching it. Then we’re going to do the same thing Saturday, January 21, here at the hospital. This will be sponsored by Richie’s organization, which is the DAV. His organization is also going to show the DVD to DAV Chapter 23. We’re also going to show ‘The Sopranos’ following the next meeting. Richie’s group has meetings once a month for the disabled veterans. These are a couple of things we are doing that links in with The Sopranos.”
“We also have a possible trip to the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington , DC , with Ron Tocci. Ron Tocci works for the New York State Veterans Administration. I am trying to get some other celebrities to go with me. He’s going to be a guest on ‘The Wise Guy Show’ to talk about this in February. Something I am really excited about is we’re working on is going to Iraq , Richie, JP and I.”
“These are things that are in the planning stages. This is what I want to do. As far what I’ve done so far, my philosophy is ‘out of something bad comes something good’. I’ve been doing my time here. I’ve been getting more and more involved with the Veterans.”
“We’ve already been to Montrose, St Albans and Kingsbridge. We’ve also been talking about branching out to different areas of the country. Presently there are discussions about visiting Hartford, Conn., West Palm Beach, Florida, and maybe somewhere in California. We want to take the idea of a Sopranos night and do it in other locales. Coffee, cake, and watching The Sopranos, guys who are in wheel chairs and disabled, really get a kick out of it. You wouldn’t believe the fan base that is in the Veterans hospitals. Another thing we’ve done is given the paraplegics a complete set of ‘The Band of Brothers’. They watch it from their beds. These are the things we do, that make a difference in their lives.”
Sue: “Your time is almost up and you are going to continue on with the Disabled Vets?”
Vinny: “I was involved with the Veterans before, through JP, Richie and Ron Tocci. They helped make this my community service. It was their idea. They said ‘if you are going to do something, do it for the Vets. You’re there anyway’. It became, like I said ‘out of something bad it came something good’”.
Sue: “I understand you are a Vet also?”
Vinny: “I served from 1964 to 1967. In the Navy, I served in Washington . They don’t want me to talk about the Navy around Richie, because these guys are Marines. I can’t talk about the Navy because JP was in the Air Force. Guys in the Navy and Air Force never got along.”
Sue: “That’s why you choose to sleep with the fishes?”
Vinny: “Cause I like the water?”
Sue: “How has the general morale been since Vinny’s has started helping out?”
JP: “Pretty good, they are all glad to see him. They are shocked that a star will come and see them. No other movie stars come to the hospital. They don’t see anyone.”
Sue: “I don’t know if I should trust you with this one. Do you have any funny stories that have gone on with you and Vinny, here helping out around the hospital?”
Richie Castellano: “We had one guy come in and when he saw him he said to him ‘I know who you are, do you know who I am?’ The next thing I know they are like best friends on stage and you had to be there. Everyone gave Vinny a hat. He made a big fuss over it. We took him from table to table. He’s done a million pictures with the guys. They want to know when he is coming back. They love him. If we could do it again, we would, they would really appreciate it.”
Sue: “Are you looking forward to Vinny helping you out in the future?”
JP: (in a deep voice) “I got to ask Uncle Vito, hey Uncle Vito do you want Vinny to help out?”
Richie Castellano: “Yes that would be nice, he could come up to St. Albans and see the old timers up there.”
Sue: “You have a lot of vets here and some I am aware do not get visitors. What can an individual do to help the Vets?”
Richie Castellano: “Let me first say this, when Vinny first came here he came based on obligation. The first thing he said to me was he wanted to do this after his time was up. I have to say that everybody who has met him so far has felt the warmth from his heart. They want him back. So when we go into a home, the same thing happens. Some of the guys don’t know what to say, they are so overwhelmed by it. It’s a very important thing because these people don’t get to see people that often.”
Sue: “But what can an individual do to help? Like what can I do?”
Richie Castellano: “You can promote the DAV for one. Get the word out.”
Richie Castellano: “Number 2, anybody who helps will get self satisfaction from doing it. It will go from their head to their heart. Promotion is probably the best thing. Word of mouth helps.”
Sue: “Does the DAV have a web site?”
Richie Castellano: “Yes, we have national website” http://www.dav.org/default.html
Vinny: “I think what people in my position should do is start realizing that the Veterans do need to be paid attention to. Celebrities enlighten these people’s lives; they put a smile on their faces. If you’re in a wheelchair or laying in bed for 5 months or 5 years and somebody shows up and from ‘The Sopranos’ or ‘Law &Order’, these guys have a memory for the rest of their lives. That’s what’s beginning to happen and that’s what we need to do."
"When we first got involved with 9/11, we were going down to Ground Zero and encouraging the cops and the firemen to come help out their brothers. The Vets are our brothers too. When we show up at a Veterans hospital, we’re helping our brothers out. It doesn’t matter whether you were in the service or not. Doesn’t matter whether you are a male for female, it just doesn’t matter. We put smiles on people’s faces. That’s what I need to do as a celebrity, is to start bringing more people around. What the average citizen can do is contribute money to the DAV to bring more awareness, write to their congressman.”
“There are a lot of cut backs in funding. Just pay attention about what’s going on with the Vets. They want to close down some hospitals because of the war. They should be opening up more hospitals. Richie and JP could tell you these things; I’m beginning to find out more about it now. You know it costs the government a billion dollars a day to keep this war going? And do you know because of the war they are cutting back on medication for the guys here in the hospital. So guys can’t get their medication because there is a war going on. What about these guys who need their medication? They’re cutting back in the wrong places. Richie can provide you this information. You should come to one of our meetings, Sue.”
“You should come and hear the guys speak out. Then we’re going to do the Soprano thing after the meeting that same day.”
Sue: “Do you have a pop corn machine?”
Vinny: “We’re going to have cannoli’s”
JP: “Italians don’t eat popcorn”
Vinny: “I eat popcorn”
Sue: “How come you guys only eat cannoli’s”
JP: “We like the cream inside”
This is a two part interview here is the second part which was completed a few days later. Ivy from Sopranoland has graciously provided some questions. Thanks Ivy!
Ivy: “Do you have any hobbies?”
Vinny: “Hobbies, I’m a film buff, especially those from the 60’s and 70’s”
Ivy: “Do you work with any charities?”
Vinny: “Charities, many and any. Presently working with the Ronald McDonald Foundation” http://www.rmhc.org/rmhc/index.html
Ivy: “What new projects are in the works?”
Vinny: “Well, there’s Guy Richie’s movie, ‘Revolver’, ‘Vegas Baby’, Paul Borgese’s ‘Foodfellas’ and a Louis Larusso play ‘40 CPS ’ that I am producing and appearing in, with Joe Lisi, Ernie Mingione and Tony Ray Rossi.”
Ivy: “Tell us about your favorite Sopranos memory?”
Vinny: “My favorite Soprano memory was when I was shooting the episode, where I die. Everyone, especially James Gandolfini, Tony Sirico and Steve Van Zandt were so bummed out. They didn’t want me to leave the show.”
Sue: “You are featured in the Guy Ritchie movie, ‘Revolver’ which opened in European theaters in September 2005. When can we expect the movie to open in the United States ?”
Vinny: “It will be a spring release, as an independent film. Eurocorp owns film, they are is talking with American distributors”
Sue: “Tell us a little about your character Zach, in ‘Revolver’?”
Vinny: “Can’t, he’s a bad guy, good guy, bad guy”
Sue: “What challenges did you have in portraying the role of Zach in the movie ‘Revolver’?”
Vinny: “I didn’t know whether he was good guy or bad, I had to figure it out as I went along. It wasn’t clear whether he was good or bad.”
Sue: “You previously worked with Ray Liotta in ‘Goodfellas’, what was it like to meet up again, 14 years later in the filming of ‘Revolver’?”
Vinny: “He didn’t recognize me at first. We connected and became close. We didn’t do any scenes together. We went to the Premiere in London together, but I wasn’t his date.”
Sue: “I recall, when you were filming ‘Revolver’ on the Isle of Mann, off of the coast of the British Isles, you would periodically fly back to work on your ‘Wise Guy Radio Show’, on Sirius Satellite Radio. You talked a lot about the gourmet food, that was provided on the set (I think it was something in line with ‘one of the horses is missing’). Having been on the set with you in the movie ‘Return to Sleepway Camp’ and having sampled the fine cuisine provided on the set there, how who you compare the two?”
Vinny: “There is no food like on the set of The Sopranos, it’s like ‘after you’ve been to Paris , how are you go back to the farm’. The best catering is Premiere Catering that The Sopranos uses.”
Sue: “You also completed a horror movie. In 2003 you star as the owner of the summer camp in ‘Return to Sleepaway Camp’ in which I was an extra in. How has participating in a film in the horror genre different from all the previous mafia genre movies you have done in the past?”
Vinny: “Horror films are different, the character was different, but people are still getting killed. They use lot of special affects which make it fun. They don’t take it as serious, as a television production, where you move on to next scene.”
Sue: “Do you approach your preparation for the role in a different way?”
Vinny: “I took it on a lighter note, than serious. I try to enjoy it, the situations aren’t really real, and it is beyond realism. You can’t take it serious, unless your doing like a classic or Stephen King. How can you take ‘Return to Sleepaway Camp’ seriously? You’re entertaining people. The same girl has been murdering people in 4 movies, when is she going to get caught?” To see some photos from production click here .
Sue: “Filming in Northeastern Pennsylvania, at the fictional Camp Manabe, we both encountered some unusual challenges on the set. I personally remember the torrential monsoons that the area experienced, trying to film during these storms, the washed out dirt roads, wearing shorts (it was supposed to be summer) and it being just plain cold. These were not the best of conditions for production. What unusual conditions did you experience?”
Vinny: “I couldn’t stop laughing. I just couldn’t stop laughing because of the ridiculous situations, wearing short sleeve shirts, the movie is set in the summer and it’s freezing. The character that played the sheriff, the fake nose kept falling off during filming, it was funny.”
Sue: “When can we expect a release of this film, I’ve been waiting a long time. The movie was filmed in fall of 2003.”
Vinny: “No idea, your guess is as good as mine.”
Sue: “The Sleepaway Camp series consisted of 3 movies. Each was done separately from the original, which was written and directed by Robert Hiltzik in 1983. The 1983 film has a huge following. Jeff Hayes, in the year 2000, convinced Mr. Hiltzik, that the first ‘official’ sequel to the original classic was long due. How does it feel to be part of what is destined to become a legend on the horror movie genre?”
Vinny: “I don’t know. I haven’t been there yet.”
Sue: “Tell me a little about Paul Borgese’s ‘Food Fellas’?”
Vinny: “’Food Fellas’ is a pilot television program, which Paul Borgeses is going to be producing. Tony Darrow, Joseph R. Gannascoli and I will travel across the country interviewing celebrities at various restaurants. It’s like an Italian dinner for 5. The first stop will be Rao’s owned by Frank Pellegrino from ‘The Sopranos’.”
Sue: “You also have another movie being released this year, ‘Vegas Baby’. IMDB doesn’t have a character name for you listed. What is your character?”
Vinny: “I was a pimp”
Sue: “When can we expect a release on this film?”
Vinny: “This summer”
Sue: “You’re also going to be producing a new play by Louis Larusso, named “40 CPS ”. What other plays have you performed in besides, “Golden Boy” with Maureen Van Zandt and Robert Funaro?”
Vinny: “‘Marlon Brand Sat Right Here’, I produced that. ‘On the Waterfront’ by Bud Schulberg, and ‘Painting X’s on the Moon’ by Richard Piteri”
Sue: “’40 CPS ’ is the second Louis Larusso play you will have done, what is your attraction to his plays?”
Vinny: “His work focuses on the working class; many of his plays are about life in Hoboken , New Jersey . Louis wrote plays for Danny Aiello and Paul Sorvino in their early careers. I would like to revive some of the plays Danny and Paul appeared in. ‘40 Central Park South’ hasn’t been produced yet.”
Sue: “What actor has been your inspiration in your career?”
Vinny: “Danny Aiello and Frank Vincent, who are both very dear friends of mine.”
Sue: “What’s your favorite food?”
Vinny: “Spaghetti and clams”
Sue: “I know you enjoy a huge range of music, what are you listening to this week?”
Vinny: “This week it’s Dion’s new cd ‘ Bronx in Blue’”
Follow up question, I received
I received a email from Capo Sooks, regarding the IMBD listing for the Vincent Pastore, “Rampage:The Hillside Strangler Murders” casting Vincent Pastore as the character of Angelo Buono, why it wasn’t mentioned in the interview with Vinny. I contacted Vinny and his answer was “don’t believe everything you read; it’s not always true.” I also couldn’t resist asking about the listing on his page on IMDB, which has him filming something for season 6 of The Sopranos. I didn’t get a yes or a no as an answer, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
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