Here is the March 12, 2004 interview with Tony Lip, by Soprano Sue, who plays the character of Carmine Lupertazzi the head of the New York Mafia on The Sopranos. Tony Lip also shared some photos from his personal photo album.
What day is your birthday?
Your real name is Frank Vallelonga, how did you acquire the name Tony Lip?
When I was born, in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, I was named, Frank Anthony Vallelonga. Although it was a long standing Italian tradition to name the first born child after the grandfather, my mother preferred the name Tony. As for being known as Tony Lip, as my brother would say, I could out talk anybody. I would talk people into doing stuff they didn’t want to do, and I could talk us out of any mess we got ourselves into. So, everyone started calling me “Tony Lip” and the name stuck.
Where did you grow up?
Shortly after I was born our family moved to 215 th Street in the Bronx. John Gotti’s childhood home was located across the street from us. Bobby Darrin also lived in the neighborhood and that’s how I originally meet him.
You were the Maitre D at the world renown of the Copacabana in New York City, do you have any memorable stories to tell about it?
Other than the fact, that when Tom Jones performed one of part of my job description included was picking up his panties (that the girls that threw him), (what would I want with his panties). The other thing that happened was one time when Tom Jones was performing, there were always 2 maitre d on stage, the other being a very close friend of mine, Bobby Ryan, who was positioned on right him, and on left was my side of the stage. The purpose was to keep the women from rushing Tom Jones on the stage while he was performing. Behind us, on the stage was a piano, which was part of the orchestra. All the sudden, someone from the audience started motioning to me, and pointed to the piano. I turned around and there was a girl standing on the piano. All the sudden she leaped towards Tom Jones and I caught her mid air. The audience went nuts. The girl was really excited and how she ever got up on that piano, I’ll never know. Bobby Ryan and I had worked together for several years and knew each other so well, that if their was ever a problem at the club, all we had to do was look at each other, and we know what to do. It was similar to telepathy.
Tell us something that people don’t know about you?
I’m one the nicest people you’d want to meet (I agree)
The egg salad, you were eating in Episode 1 season 5, were the eggs from free range chickens?
How the fuck would I know?
Do you ever eat egg salad any more?
I like egg salad, especially on toast with lettuce, yummy
You die in the episode, "Rat Pack", how is it like to be at your own funeral? Do you do this often or not often enough?
That’s a tough question. It’s part of acting my work, I didn’t feel anything at all when I did the scene (most people don’t). While filming the scene, the part where I was in the coffin, I feel asleep. I started snoring and they had to stop filming. I don’t do this very often. I die in most of my movies anyway I’m used to dying.
Anything unusual or funny happen when you filmed your funeral?
Other than Vinny Villa grabbing my balls, no.
What was your most memorable acting job?
Working with The Sopranos. It was exciting to work so close to home, and the food was great on the set. Mike does a fabulous job.
What types of roles do you find the most challenging?
All the different roles I have done over the years have been exciting
If you were stranded on a desert island and only had the choice of 2
musical compacts disks, what would be your choices?
Anything by Bobby Darrin and Dean Martin would be my favorites. I was a close friend with Bobby Darrin, my wife used to make stuffed calamari for him
What other unusual jobs have you held in the past?
When I was a kid I worked in a beauty salon, oh did I hate the smell of the
dyes and cleaning the hair that was left on the floor after the hair cuts
What charities are you involved in?
I support Cancer charities, Church, Diabetes foundation, and anything
concerning helping retarded children. Every year, I lend support to the
You are a talented dancer, what is your favorite style?
I was especially enjoyed doing the lindy hop. Sadly, I don’t dance any more
What was it like working with Telly Savalas on the set of Kojak?
It was great Telly was a great guy. We used to play, between scenes, a card game called knock rummy. One time when we were playing, in the first hand he picked up a card, and I said “that card was going to give me straight rummy” (I had a fabulous hand). Telly said, “you want it, here take it” and he threw the card at me. That card gave me straight rummy.
What hobbies do you have?
Playing poker and being very lazy
What do you have in your future?
Whatever comes my way. I am doing a show named “Questions that were never asked” that will air on cable television.
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