I have a special place in my heart for Danny Aiello. When I was waitressing at Columbus Restaurant on the upper west side of New York City I used to wait on him all the time. He was very personable and friendly and even introduced me to his agent.
He eventually got a Broadway show while I was working at the restaurant. I remember him calling me from backstage to see what was going on with me. I think he always had a paternal fondness for me. I think he'd still recognize me today twenty years later.
He made a definite impression on me and was far removed from the glitter of stardom. The owners of the restaurant had a special table set up for V.I.P.'s. It was considered special to be able to wait on those tables.
Often the stars would request a specific waiter of waitress. And I have to say Danny was one of the nicer guys to wait on. When I was getting yelled at by the bosses, he would stick his nose in and stand up for me. This really had more of an impact on my bosses than anything I could have done. I've never worked for a restaurant owner that was particularly nice. In their eyes, waiters/actors were very dispensable.
I don't recall any specific incidents, he was just a regular guy and a real friend who went to bat for me. He also gave me acting advice and was very sympathetic to my inability to successfully secure an acting job. He had been there and done that.
Upon researching Danny on the Internet, I couldn’t really find a breakout movie listed, although he was in the Godfather trilogy and has been in dozens of movie parts.
I especially liked Danny when he played the character of Johnny Cammareri in Moonstruck (1987). He actually played Nicholas Cage’s character of Ronnie’s older brother. He was also in a lesser known film called Once Around (1991) with Richard Dreyfus and Holly Hunter where his character was Dreyfus’ father-in-law who gradually accepted Dreyfus’ character into the close-knit family.
When I think of my acting struggles back in New York City, Danny is one of the bright spots. I dealt with a lot of stars in the restaurant business and I have to tell you that Danny was one of the most down-to-earth of them all.
Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com