Two Italians (and a Jew who was pretending to be an Italian).
We all know that America's the "great melting pot" and that every ethnic group that made its way to this land of promise has enriched our still young culture to varying degrees, but today I have to give a special shout-out to the Italians, an ethnic group that has frequently been described as not being all that different from American blacks. Having grown up among a lot of the spawn of "the Boot" I have to agree with that assessment and I relate to Italians in a way that I don't share with any other group, (occasionally even my own, sadly). Some of the warmest, funniest, and most downright genuine human beings I have ever known have been of Italian descent and just thinking of some of them is making me teary with love as I type this out:
- Tom Petrone, a fellow misfit in the fucking elitist hellhole that was Westport, Ct. back in the days, a guy I met on the first day of junior high school thirty-five (!!!) years ago, and one of the handful of people I would step face-first in front of a bullet for without hesitation.
- Chris Gazelli, another Westporter of a like mind whose unfailing friendship is one of the things that keeps me going on a daily basis.
- Anthony Bua, an incredibly talented sculptor and one of the most hilarious guys I've ever known. He was like a brother to me during college and our bromance was such that many in our campus' very large gay community assumed he and I were a couple. (And considering some of the whackjobs I got involved with during those years, I definitely would have been better off with him.)
- John Bligh, an exceptional reprobate after my own heart who understands and appreciates the myriad juvenalia and potty humor that makes me laugh my ass off.
- Adam Cataldo, the dark and brooding member of my extended family whose dour demeanor masks a kindness, intelligence, and caring matched by very few.
And then there are those giants in Italian-American culture who have enriched the very fabric of our nation, a couple of whom are actually straight-up from the Old Country but are so familiar to us that international boundaries amount to naught:
Fabio, who'd be starring in Hercules/peplum movies if the Italian film industry was still cranking them out like they did in the fifties and sixties.
Sophia Loren, one of the first women who made the wee Bunche "stand at attention."
Annette Funicello, so innocent yet so smokin' hot. I don't normally go for wholesome, but holy shit!
Annette again, with her frequent co-star Frankie Avalon, god of the hair helmet.
Giada De Laurentiis, a terrific cook and total cutie despite her enormous head.
Luciana "THUNDERBALL" Paluzzi, the red-headed S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent who was so fine that James Bond just had to fuck her, even though it was completely obvious that she was a bad guy. And she even had the nerve to tell him he wasn't all that afterward! (This woman is singlehandedly responsible for my love of Italian females and redheads manifesting when I was still a pre-teen, and I am forever in her debt for that.)
Victoria Vetri (the blonde in the middle), who gave me my first taste of my cave-chick fetish. (Sadly, she's currently serving a nine-year stretch for the attempted manslaughter of her husband.)
Tommy Iommi. Born in Britain, this paisan is one of the founding members of Black Sabbath and is easily my favorite member of the band.
Ronnie James Dio, the only vocalist who could step in for Ozzy in Black sabbath and not be driven from the stage by a hail of rocks and garbage. The 1981 "The Mob Rules" was written and sung by this rock 'n' roll munchkin and it does exactly what its title says, which is rule. Allegedly died from stomach cancer in 2010, but I say he went out fighting a Balrog with a flaming claymore in hand.
Did I mention Sophia Loren? (Jesus H. Christ...)
John Travolta, technically Italian-Irish, whose Tony Manero used to be a stereotype to me...until I went to college and later moved to Brooklyn, thus encountering real-life "cugines."
Stallone. (No other words are necessary.)
Chef Boyardee, the genius who weaned generations of Americans on shitty, canned "Italian" food made from vermin-infested vagrants, stray animals and medical waste, an unsung act of heroism that prepared us for being able to accept the horrendous offerings at the nation's legion of sub par restaurants, which only made us appreciate the good shit when we finally got it.
Monica Bellucci, my vote for the most beautiful woman currently making movies.
The Fonz. His impact is impossible to underestimate, influencing a generation to wear leather jackets and make people forget he was really a Jew.
Plus he traveled through time with a hot "future chick," and his anthropomorphic canine analog, "Mister Cool" in the execrable animated series THE FONZ AND THE HAPPY DAYS GANG (1980-1982).
And, lest I forget, Sophia Loren.
So to all you paisans, guidos, and guidettes out there, I freakin' love youse guys. Don't ever change.