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September 28, 2012

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POST-GAZETTE, SEPTEMBER 28, 2012 Page 13 00annct 00Babb'00onno by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance To continue ... After re- turning to Boston and set- tling in, Hollywood seemed like a million miles away. The last audition I under- took was for a part in a gangster film being done at Paramount. Art Jacobs, who had booked me for several projects, told me that a production company was casting parts for a film being done at the studio. He called the head producer, and men- tioned that he was sending someone to audition for the role of one of the sons of the leading character in the film. I was given the location of the producer's office and headed there. Once in the producer's office, he handed me a script and told me to read a certain character's part. I looked over the page, glanced at the cues and the words I was to say, and followed the instruc- tions to the letter. When I finished the page, the pro- ducer stopped me saying that I read the part rather well but he actually had someone else in mind for that particular part. A man whom I hadn't noticed at first due to his location at the back of the producer's office, called out, "AI, that's just what I want for that character." The producer yelled back, "You know who I want for the part, maybe we can use him (pointing to me) for some other parts." I didn't know what was going on and I decided to act out the emo- tion described for the char- acter, hoping it would help out. I began yelling and swearing at the producer, claiming he was wasting my time if he didn't have some- thing for me. The man in the back of the office was the first of the two to realize I was acting and not ready to clobber the two of them. He pointed toward me and said, "That's exactly what I want." I yelled back, "And, who the &%#* are you?" He yelled back, "I'm Mario Puzzo, and I wrote the book." You see, the producer was Albert Ruddy and the film was The Godfather. The role I read for was the part of Sonny, the middle son who had a hot temper. As soon as Mr. Ruddy real- ized that my tantrum was acting, he too complimented me and said, "I want to be honest. I have James Caan in mind for the part of Sonny. A recent film with John Wayne (El Dorado) had made him a Hollywood star and you're a bit player." We left off that he would contact me when they were casting for lesser parts. As I was about to leave, I ran into A1 Martino, who was audi- tioning for the role of the Godson-singer in the film. In Italian, I said to Martino, "Be careful, this guy is tough." Fast forwarding it to about five years ago, Loretta and I were invited to a dinner party in Cambridge and AI Martino was the guest of honor. We both agreed we had met at Paramount de- cades earlier. He stood back, looked me over and said, "You've put on weight." A few weeks later, I was back home teaching in Bos- ton and playing music nights. By this time, Babbononno was in a nursing home in East Boston. He was heading toward his late '90s, but still had a handle on reality. I brought him copies of the Italian newspapers he liked and an assortment of cigars. We talked and after I detailed what I had been doing the past couple of months, he had a few things to add in. He offered an opinion that in- cluded his overall view of the parts that were offered me due to my appearance. He mentioned how the Ameri- can public categorized Ital- ians due to the way Hollywood depicts us, and he added in, "You know, many of us have been fighting that image for decades. We are a lot differ- ent than those gangsters that are portrayed in movies. My generation couldn't do much about it as we really had no political clout. Your father's generation began to change our image publically because they were the first born in this country and could say things a lot better. And, now it's your turn to tell the world who we really are in spite of how we look physically. It's up to you and your generation to tell about our work ethic and the family way of live we have. I agree that there are undesirables with Italian last names, but there are undesirables with Jewish, Irish and an assortment of ethnic last names. We've been singled out more than they have because ... could it be that our people have a strong sense of business or a strong sense for organiza- tion ... a strong sense of commitment? Your genera- tion is going to have to prove that those talents are posi- tive for our advancement. It's too late for me and your father is getting older. So, it's up to you or those parts you -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST -- THE WWW.BISTONPOSTGAZETTE.COM MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 ii described in the new movie will just continue a negative image most of us have fought against but have had to live with due to ignorance, preju- dice and intolerance." I silently applauded my grandfather, saying to him, "Babbononno, Nanna would be proud of you if she was here." For a man in his late 90s, he still had it all to- gether. Later that night, I told Dad about the conversation with Babbononno. My father said, "Your grandfather is right you know. Lots of guys in my generation have tried to wipe out that gangster image that Hollywood has labeled us with. The few Italians that have been gangsters sell newspapers that the rest of us do not. Most of us are craftsmen, tradesmen and businessmen who are profes- sionals and some of the gen- eral public is gullible enough to believe we're all gangsters or buffoons the way the mov- ies and even TV commer- cials depict us. After that conversation, I had a lot to think about when I added in what two genera- tions of my family had to say ... words coming from two people who guided me since infancy and were partly i-esponsible for the successes I experienced up to that point in my life. As a result of realizing who I was and the small parts I was offered that stereotyped me or us from that point on, Hollywood was put on a back burner. I realized that what I was doing back home had more importance than what the film industry offered, so it was back to teaching and playing the music I loved. That summer, I went on the road with a Motown group that happened to be passing through Boston minus a bass player. We headed for Caribou, Maine and a hotel show room that catered to the military and civilian workers from Loring Air Force Base, which wasn't even on the map. It was a SAC base, and our eastern most point of defense for the east coast of the United States. I left the group around Labor Day knowing that I would be returning to the Boston Public Schools within a few days. They were able to get another bass player to come in from New York and I headed to Cape Cod for the Labor Day weekend. During that weekend, I met Dean Saluti, who was working on a Doctorate at Boston University. He convinced me that I should apply to B.U. and begin working on a doctorate. I did apply and was accepted. From that point on, my life headed in a dif- ferent direction that included studying, teaching and music only oil weekends. But, that's a story for next week. Within the year, Babbononno would pass away, the last of his generation in my family. GOD BLESS AMERICA Thinking Out Loud (Continued from Page 4) other forms of government entitlements, but instead he gets caught on tape saying, "My job is not to worry about these people" or that he'll "never convince them they should take responsibility for their lives." Instead of sounding hopeless, Romney needs to sound more like Ronald Reagan and talk about getting people off entitlement programs, get people jobs, educated and get people to become part of America." Romney should be talking about lowering that 47 percent mark as low as humanly possible. He should be advancing a re- birth of the independent spirit of America where people control their own lives and destinies. Mitt Romney needs to assert himself and not let his political enemies define him for voters. Republicans need to start refuting claims that they just want to help the rich get richer and at the expense of the poor or they are courting defeat on Elec- tion Day. It is time to take on those Democrat talking points. Today, we have a president who has created a great class warfare strategy that seems to be working. It's the masses versus the rich and powerful. Today, the Democratic base is about 47 percent of the vote and many of them are collecting gov- ernment entitlements. To- day, the Republican base is also about 47 percent of the vote, the people who voted for McCain four years ago and the people bankrolling the entitlements. Recently, I wondered along with a friend of mine in my age group about what we were. One time we would have called ourselves the children of the working-class who always aspired for the middle-class dream. Today the best we can call our- selves is the "Upper Poor" getting squeezed by every- one around us. We work too many hours, pay too many taxes and get absolutely no respect from our govern- ment leaders because we take care of ourselves. If I were Mitt Romney, I would walk out of my cam- paign headquarters on Commercial Street in Bos- ton, walk over to the inter- section at North Washington Street to those homeless, vet- .'ll ,, erans holding cups ancl ier them much more than the handouts they are looking for. I would offer them a chance to get back into so- ciety. I would offer them help with their addictions, find them job training and hous- ing and I would make them no longer dependent on any kind of handouts. I would, in fact, make them full Ameri- can citizens once again. Liberal Democrats don't own compassion because if they did they would not be saying about EBT card hold- ers that it is their money they are spending. Keeping people down and out may get Democrats more votes at election time but that's not what America should be in the 2P t century. If Romney can't deliver that message, he deserves to lose! Profiles in Vision (Continued from Page 5) photo essay, "Redefining Beauty." Peter Ash, Founder & CEO, Under The Same Sun A passionate entrepreneur and philanthropist, Peter Ash has committed his efforts and resources to serving and protecting chil- dren with albinism in Tanzania. During one of Peter's recent pilgrimages, 250 children with this com- plex congenital disorder re- ceived their first eye exam. More than half the children were in need of and received prescriptive glasses. Each child was also provided with a low vision magnifier and sunglasses. W