Growing up none of us really know what we are going to do the rest of our lives for a living. Maybe that is why young men become religious fanatics or criminals or just plain bored. This is a story about an ordinary guy who wore many hats during his lifetime. Somehow he managed to always find peace and ambition with whatever he chose to do. I am talking about Danny Aiello and you say, “Who the hell is he?”
You know him. He’s the guy who played the pizza place owner in Spike Lee’s movie called Do The Right Thing. If you don’t remember that movie he played the guy who proposed to Cher in the movie Moonstruck. Ok, you still don’t know him well. It turns out that he only knows who he is when he is somebody else. That is also the title of his new Memoir. He says life is a lot easier when he is acting and playing someone else. He played a mobster in the 1974 movie The Godfather II. He has had a 4 decade career in the movies and had played more than 90 different roles. This guy has no time to be himself he is always acting.
At 9 years old he was a shoe shine boy at Grand Central Terminal to make money since his father took flight before he was even born. In 1942 he was shining shoes for lots of soldiers. 18 years later he joined the Army too and managed to get a great job during the Korean War playing baseball to entertain the soldiers. After his service he met his wife and has been married for over 60 years. In 1955 they got married and went on to have 3 sons and a daughter. When their relationship began, Danny was a hustler who took other people’s money playing pool. As his family grew he knew he had to have a steady paycheck. He got a job being a baggier man for Greyhound Bus Lines. Yeah, he picked up people’s luggage and put the bags on a bus for a living to feed his family.
He spent 10 years there first as a baggage handler then promoted to the microphone as the bus station’s announcer telling people where to go and when for a bus. The stops are still burned in his memory. Give him a microphone now and he can rattle them off. The point to this biography guys is that, you can lead a long and happy life not having to be anyone or anything in particular. Get off the booze and drugs and just do something no matter how mundane it is however, it does help if you have a good wife and beautiful children as a motivator to do just about any job for money. Motivation is the key.
He was also a Union Leader but was fired after organizing an unauthorized strike. He then went to a life of crime and safe cracking by picking up safes and throwing it out of windows and taking whatever was in the broken safe. Somehow he never got caught. No, this is not the script for one of his movies, he said he really did this stuff. Danny does have that tough guy persona. He hated himself for doing that and eventually he got a job as a bouncer in a comedy club called The Improve. He filled in as an introducer and MC and found that he had a knack for performing. At the age of 36 Danny started acting.
Three years later he got his first movie playing baseball with Robert De Niro in a movie called Bang The Drum Slowly whose acting talent was far greater than his baseball skills to Danny’s delight. Bobby simply couldn’t throw the ball. Great roles kept coming and in 1990 Danny got an Oscar Nomination for best supporting actor in Do The Right Thing. He did not win and doesn’t think he should win anything since he never studied a day of acting in his life. I think he acted all his life and that is why he never found himself and what is wrong with that? Nothing!