"AMERICAN GANGSTER" VERSUS "AMERICAN HERO"
In the U.S.A. November is known for Election Day, Thanksgiving and so forth.
November 2007 was the official release of the blockbuster film "American Gangster".
It was also Joe Torre's Safe @ Home Foundation charity event for victims of Domestic Violence.
But it is Veteran's Day that I associate November with.
"DONE WITH THE WIND"
A few days ago I had a shoot for the grand opening of a new restaurant called "Wise Guys" located in West Haven Connecticut. "Wiseguys" was the original name of a novel before it was made into a movie called "Goodfellas" which featured Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci as the shoe shine boy.
At the grand opening was Henry Hill. It was Henry Hill's life story that the film "Goodfellas" was based upon. Henry's character was played by actor Ray Liotta.
Also at Wiseguys was Don Metzger who happened to be the real life shoe shine boy at Maury's Wig Shop, "For Men Only". Maury was the character that got the ice pick in the back of the head. Don Metzger also photo doubled for actor James Gandolfini's Tony Soprano on the set of "The Sopranos" for two years
(Since this article was written "Wiseguys" the restaurant has gone up in flames)
"I'M NOT ROBERT DeNIRO"
Then there was Joe Manuella. Joe is a Robert DeNiro look-a-like who gained public attention in 2001 for being arrested for impersonating Robert DeNiro. The case which the judge found to be a baseless accusation was thrown out by the court. Joe has stated that he was falsely arrested and has never received an apology from anybody.
"THE REAL ROBERT DENIRO?"
Joe in real life was a firefighter with the NYC Fire Department who retired on May 2, 2000 prior to his sister company Ladder-118 being wiped out on 9/11/01. He served in the same firehouse with Vernon Cherry and Leon Smith both perished on 9/11/01. Leon even spun records at Joe's wedding which was held at the West Point Officer's Club. The wedding happened to be an inter-racial marriage just as DeNiro's.
Joe Manuella also happens to be a real life Combat Vietnam War Veteran 1970-71 as well as the Gulf War 1991. His wife holds the rank of Major in the Air Force and is also a Desert Storm Veteran.
Joe has even stunt doubled for DeNiro in such films as "The Fan" & "Great Expectations" (1995 & 1996).
Joe's life just seemed to resemble Robert DeNiro's both on and off screen except that Mr. DeNiro never served in Vietnam but his portrayal of a Green Beret in the film "The Deer Hunter" is considered one of Hollywood's greats. DeNiro also played a Vietnam Vet in the film "Jack Knife".
"ARE THEY GONNA LET US WIN THIS TIME?"
"WIN WHAT!? THE WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIP!!.."
How about that Sylvester Stallone who also played a Green Beret in "Rambo" Parts 1, 2, & 3 and the soon to be released #4. I wonder who he's fighting this time. In real life I heard he served his time Out Of Country teaching women's volley ball in Sweden or Switzerland.
Regardless I still enjoy his movies especially the "Rocky" Series & "Nighthawks".
(SInce this Article was written "RAMBO IV" was annouced to be released January 25, 2008. If the reviews happen to be correct this could be one of the hottest films of 2008. Though Rambo "I" & "II" became classics "Rambo III" was a disaster. Let's hope for the best in Burma(Myanmar).
"HOW ABOUT A BALONEY SANDWICH.."
How about Mel Gibson who believe it or not is originally from Rochester New York. Mel was Born in the USA but was taken faraway to Australia by his papa to avoid being drafted into military service during the Vietnam War however Mel got to portray Colonel Hal Moore in the film "We Were Soldiers". Moore commanded the first major ground battle of the Viet Nam War in the Ia Drang Valley. I guess if Lt. General Hal Moore doesn't mind Mel playing him in a movie why should I, besides "The Road Warrior" is still one of my favorite all time movies.
"I'LL BE BACK, JACK."
How about that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who always plays some type of special commando in his films.
I read that he had won his first Mr. Olympia title by duping the Cuban Born Sergio Oliva known as "The Myth". Story goes that Sergio was the present three time world champion in the prestigious Mr. Olympia bodybuilding contest. The judging was close between Sergio and Arnold. While posing repeatedly and frustrated by the judges undetermined decision Arnold told Sergio that they should walk off the podium together in protest. Sergio stepped off and Arnold stayed on. For that action Sergio was disqualified and Arnold became the new champ. Arnold even duped the entire state of California.
Sergio went on to become a Chicago cop for 25 years and Arnold went on to smoking marijuana in his film "Pumping Iron"... But it was Arnold who first appeared on the television waving the american flag shortly after 9/11. His inspirations even led my friend Jose Oliva (no relation to Sergio) to become the All Natural Body Building Champion of the World.
Arnold's accomplishments in the USA have been remarkable for a man who can't speak any english. I do like his movies even though I never understood what he was saying.
Arnold is now an American Hero with John McCain and aided during the Cold War by sinking an Austrian tank, his own, if there's any truth in that.
"SEND IN THE CLOWNS"
On the topic of "American Gangster" where I was selected to play an MSG Press Photographer covering the makeshift 1970's Ali/Frazier Fight. I had pre-maturely walked off the set after I found out the movie was based on the drug kingpin Frank Lucas which is why you won't see me in the movie. I despise movies that glorify drug dealers or feature Russell Crow. Besides any former soldier who smuggles heroin in the body bags of dead comrades is beyond despicable.
(In December 2007 at Middle School 143 in Brooklyn Principal Adofo Muhammad changed his mind about permitting Frank Lucas to lecture to students. Maybe I shouldn't judge a person so harshly. Maybe Frank could have done something good. Maybe his past could have saved some kid's future.)
Ridley Scott was a great director for making "Black Rain". "American Gangster" is not "Black Rain". It's just another predictable drug theme movie based on Brian DePalma's Rags To Riches "Scarface" or Michael Cimino's 1985 masterpiece "Year Of The Dragon".
I prefer a real New York Vietnam Vet movie called "Taxi Driver." Made by real New Yorkers when New York was real long before something called Hillary Clinton was elected senator.
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
Hollywood has been distorting history for it's own benefit such as was the case with another Denzel Washington film titled "The Hurricane". A movie based on middleweight contender Ruben "Hurricane" Carter who was directly involved in the brutal murder of innocent people. Bob Dylan or whatever his real name is started it all with his song "The Hurricane". Mr. Dylan or Dylan Thomas or whatever his real name is should limit his songs to what he has already borrowed from Woody Guthrie.
How about another Denzel Washington disaster called "The Siege" 1998 were despite constant bombings of a city bus, federal building etc.. by moslim TERRORISTS instead the U.S. ARMY led by a General played by that K-Mart imitation of Mickey Rourke called Bruce Willis turn out to be the bad guys captured by the brilliant efforts of the incredible FBI. Give me a break!!!
As for Russell Crow perhaps he can go back to that former penal colony called New Zealand. I remember when Mr. Crow hauled out of the USA right after 9/11 stating that America is a far too dangerous country to live in. Yet he has returned and has continued to make a nice living here. I read what a demanding financial burden he had been on the movie set of "American Gangster". It especially bothered me when Russell assaulted that hotel clerk. He should have had his visa revoked but because he wasn't a poor faceless mexican he wasn't deported. Anyway next time Mr. Cinderella Man decides to hit another poor slob I'll like to see him come up against some real American Gangsters, mate..
I won't even get into this Bruce Springsteen character and his make believe band.
THIS IS THE PART I CALL "BEYOND THUNDER ROAD"
BORN TO RUN!!! BORN TO RUN WHERE? TO CANADA..
It's okay Bruce. I still love your music. Your old songs that is.
"Oh Jose, Can You See" TWILIGHTS LAST GLEAMING
Where are the films that James Cagney or Humphrey Bogart use to make?
Most people didn't even know that Bogey served in the Navy during World War I which earned him the distinct scar on his face. How about Clark Gable or Jimmy Stewart, both served in WWII.
Even Athletes at the time such as Joe DiMaggio served his country and men like Ted Williams served both in World War II & the Korean War unlike today.
Pat Tillman is so alone... I won't even mention A Rod or Derek Jeter.
Some athletes today rather prefer to shoot steroids as opposed to military service or change their religion like Cassius Clay or Muhammed Ali who was no Rocky Marciano. Furthermore Ali was so much of a sell-out he even lost to Marciano, a US Army Veteran, through a computer generated fight. Also in the ali scenario was the story of Eddie Crook Jr. Eddie had been on the 1960 Olympic boxing team along with Cassius Clay earning a gold medal and unlike Muhammad Ali served two tours in Vietnam with the US Army earning a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts with the rank of command sergeant major. Eddie died in 2007. The New York Times announced his death in a one inch paragraph.
Even as far back as World War I real mobsters such as New York's Monk Eastmond (The Original American Gangster) served in the Infantry.
Difference is, these men are the true American heros, what Springsteen in his book "Born To Run" by Dave Marsh would describe as "good outlaws chased by bad cops" or "the hero in the form of an isolated individual running running always running".
HOW ABOUT THE TYPICAL HEMINGWAY ANTI-HERO.
Norman Mailer who died today was a World War II veteran. Norman wrote something I will never forget. He wrote "there was a message sent to us from the frontier that the outlaw is worth more than the sheriff".
I remember hanging out with writers Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. years ago in the Hamptons. Kurt was also a World War II Vet. He was a prisoner of war in Dresden and was there during the actual bombing. He wrote about it in his book "Slaughterhouse Five."
Joseph Heller flew in 60 combat missions during World War II. He wrote the incredible World War II classic which became the film "CATCH 22". It took him ten years to write it while taking the train to and from work but he did it after the war.
(Actor Roy Scheider was also a part of this vanished Hampton scene. He died on February 11, 2008. Roy served 3 years in the US Air Force)
As for Alex Baldwin. He was too young to have served in Vietnam but he seems like the type of guy that would have got fragged over there. I liked him as Colonel James Doolittle in the Film "Pearl Harbor". General Doolittle was known for leading the first bombing raid on Tokyo which was executed off the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.
I won't mention George Clooney, "The Peacemaker", or "Three Kings". I prefer to mention TOAD from "American Graffiti" or Jimmy Shine from "The Hollywood Knights".
Even that demented toilet paper squeezing fanatic known as Mr. Whipple, true name Dick Wilson enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force early in World War II serving as a fighter pilot against the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain in 1940. After the war, he moved to the United States and became an American citizen in 1954. (Wilson passed away on November 19, 2007 at the age of 91 in California)
Sometimes I confuse movies for documentaries. It's called The Discovery Channel or History Channel.
In the mass media world of today we often lose track of reality confusing actors and singers as true lies. Celebrities are placed on the upper echelon of society however they would find their proper place alongside the Court Jester of the Middle Ages as opposed to Knighthood..
AMERICAN GANGSTER, AMERICAN IDOL, AMERICAN PSYCHO, AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, AMERICAN ME.
AMERICA IS ONLY DOING A JOB WE ALL KNOW NEEDS TO BE DONE..
WHAT ABOUT OUR VETERANS?
TOMORROW IS VETERAN'S DAY IN AMERICA.
DOES ANYBODY REALLY CARE?
I'LL BE WATCHING THE PARADE GO UP 5th AVENUE FROM THE SIDELINES.
I would like to believe that a hero is more than just a sandwich
[On THE LAST DAY OF November 30, 2007 Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel, Jr. an American motorcycle daredevil, an iconic hero figure in the United States died. Evel Knievel had served in the US Army in the late 1950's but we expected that from him.]
ON THE FIRST DAY OF NOVEMBER 1, 2007 PAUL W. TIBBETS the man died.
On November 4, 2008 Senator John McCain will be running for president of the United States. John McCain is a Veteran. He is the ultimate American Hero.