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    Backstage with Danny Aiello

    When I was living in New York City and working as a waitress while I looked forward to my “break” into acting, I waited on and became friends with Danny Aiello.

    Aiello has been in nearly a hundred TV and feature film roles, most notably as a police chief named Aiello in “Once Upon A Time in America,” “The Godfather, Part II” where he ad libs the famous line, "Michael Corleone says hello!" during a hit on a rival gangster and in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” where he received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor. My personal favorite was his role as Johnny Cammareri in the off-beat comedy “Moonstruck” where he ineptly proposes to Cher.

    At the time I knew him, he was doing a play on Broadway, I think it was “The House of Blue Leaves.”

    I remember him calling me from backstage before he went on and in the intermissions.

    Danny was a seasoned actor by then and took me under his wing. I even used to call him “Uncle Danny.”

    He’d call and say something like, “I’m backstage and go on in about five minutes. What are you doing?”

    I was usually getting ready to go on shift as a waitress, and sometimes he’d say, “I’ll see you after the show.”

    After his show was over, he’d come into the restaurant for a meal and drink along with his entourage.

    I was working at Columbus restaurant and bar back then, and Danny would come in like a regular guy.

    At the time I didn’t realize what a great voice he had. He has released some albums of big band music and he has a great Tony Bennett sounding voice.

    Herman and I researched his albums on the Web and listened to some cuts from his albums and I immediately ordered one.

    Thing is, instead of showing concern or boasting about his own career, he was concerned about me and my career, such as it was.

    I remember he told me to “Look out for the vultures. They’ll eat you up.”

    Good advice in any career.

    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