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AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH GUY GILCHRIST, CARTOONIST, OF "NANCY" AND " THE MUPPETS" FAME
by Milano52
Aug 03, 2014 | 4150 views | 1 1 comments | 132 132 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

GUY GILCHRIST: FROM THE MUPPETS TO NANCY, A SUCCESS STORY.

Written By:  Tiziano Thomas Dossena on July 28, 2014; as it appeared on L'IDEA Magazine (www.lideamagazine.com)

GUY GILCHRIST: FROM THE MUPPETS TO NANCY, A SUCCESS STORY.
 
Guy Gilchrist

Guy Gilchrist

Guy Gilchrist is a renowned writer and illustrator of children’s books (42 titles to his name, of which the acclaimedNight Lights & Pillow Fights also appears in comics and games versions) and a celebrated, syndicated cartoonist, with strips such as “Mudpie,” “Screams,” “The Poetry Guy,” “The Rock Channel,” “Today’s Dogg,” and, since 1995, the classic “Nancy.” Guy won the prestigious Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society in the Best Book Illustrator category in both 1998 and 1999, and 3 Children’s Choice Awards by the International Reading Council for best books of the year. His work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the globe and is permanently preserved at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. In 1981 he created the daily comic strip The Muppets with his brother Brad Gilchrist, which was printed worldwide in over 660 newspapers from 1981 to 1986. In 1997, Guy founded his own international publishing company, Gilchrist Publishing.

Attitude of Gratitude

NANCY, Attitude of Gratitude

L’IDEA: Guy, you have been drawing “Nancy” for 19 years now; it has probably become part of you, almost as if you created it, although the strip appeared for the first time in 1938 and the Nancy as a character was first drawn in 1933. How different is the experience of creating a strip from scratch, creating a strip based on someone else’s characters, as you did for “The Muppets,” and drawing a strip that has been around already so many years, as “Nancy” is?

GUY GILCHRIST: Nancy really has become a part of my life and a part of my heart; you know, writing and drawing something for 19 years, every single day of your life, has that effect. I’m certainly not the same person I was when I began or anywhere in the middle. And I look back now at 19 years and can see the effects of the different things that were going on in my life at the time. When I was writing and drawing for Jim Henson and the Muppets I was trying to please Jim. Also, I was very scared; I was just a kid starting out and I was given a worldwide stage to either succeed on or fail. No pressure, you know. The Muppets definitely all had incredibly wonderful personalities, which were already very well evolved. Basically, my job was to take these wonderful, crazy characters with all of this life and color and music and warmth and try to find a way to translate that into a daily comic strip. Sometimes it felt like I was trying to get a 100 piece orchestra into a phone booth! When you’re doing your own comic strip, characters that you’ve created all by yourself, then it really is a totally different thing. You truly are like an eagle flying endless skies with no barriers to your creativity but your own mind and talents.

guyThese days, of course, I have the little panel, Today’s Dogg, which is very fun and free, but also, after 19 years really and truly Nancy and Aunt Fritzi and the entire group are really and truly mine. Now, the characters will always be the creations of the great Ernie Bushmiller, and he is always my inspiration, it’s really important for me to be honest and funny in my own way in the comic strip each day. The best way to honor Ernie Bushmiller and his wonderful characters is to keep them alive and romping through the newspapers and the Internet for as long as it is my blessing to do so!

L’IDEA: Do you believe that the continuing success of classic strips, such as “Blondie,” Gasoline Alley” and “Nancy,” which seem to live well beyond their expected natural life, is tied to the “nostalgia” factor, with its simpler times and situations?

GUY GILCHRIST: I believe it is a combination of two things. I believe that nostalgia of course is extremely important in our continuing success. Many of our readers have been Nancy Fans their entire lives, since this trip is been around for over 80 years! They may remember it from when they were children, and now as parents they are reading it to their children! There has always been the Stasia, that longing to touch something from my past that has touched our hearts. My job as the Cartoonist is really twofold. I want to present our readers with a product that will please them and remind them of the characters that they so loved when they were children, but also breathe life into these characters and make them viable and entertaining and engaging to today’s generation!

NANCY, Keeper of The Keys

NANCY, Keeper of The Keys

L’IDEA: Do you feel that the messages and the humor in “Nancy” are as valid today as they were in 1938? Has she been modernized, both in thinking and/or communicating, or is she still the same mischievous 8 year old? GUY GILCHRIST: That’s really my job, isn’t it?! I certainly hope I’m doing that! While the cars and machines and electronics around Nancy and her gang have changed, she really hasn’t! She may live in a slightly smaller town then perhaps she did early on in the 1930s, since her author these days lives in a slightly smaller town… but that is probably about it. I think the small-town feeling of Nancy is one of the things that make her so successful around the world. You know, little children still pretty much act and react the same way that little children acted in the decades before. They are both angels and brats. One moment you want to scold them, the next moment you want to hug them and hold on for dear life! These are the fundamentals of human emotions. They will never change.

arturoezoe

The Italian version of “Nancy,” “Arturo e Zoe”

L’IDEA: I used to read “Nancy” when I was a little kid (I read it in Italian as “Arturo e Zoe,” which appeared as full stories in the comics magazines “Il Monello” and L’Intrepido”), and I am sure most of our readers have been exposed to it one way or the other. What do you feel are the most appealing characteristics of this strip?

GUY GILCHRIST: Nancy is still very popular not only in America but all around the world. Our COM X are read in over 80 different countries and by 57 million people. That’s a pretty scary thought. It makes me want to check my spelling a hundred times before I send things out. I wouldn’t want to make a mistake in front of that many people in that many languages! Honestly, what I have always tried to do is keep Nancy’s wants and desires and her daily life simple. By that I mean that if you read the comic strip for a little while you will realize that the characters never do anything that would be expensive. They do things that really don’t cost any money. They go for walks they play in the park they climb trees they ride bicycles and skateboards. The most expensive things they ever buy are ice cream cones and comic books. They spend a lot of time outside, playing. They have television sets and computers, but I don’t have the children sitting in front of them all that much. I keep them also away from too many video games. I do this because no matter what generation you are from, and where you are in this world, these are common things that we all can enjoy and can remember. I was poor growing up and the comics were something that were a thrill for me. When I would see those two or three pages each day of the funnies, they were really a treasure to me! I want the same feeling for children who cannot afford much around the world, that if they see the funnies in the paper with Nancy and Sluggo in them, they will be able to identify with them and to smile.

L’IDEA: If you had any suggestions for Nancy, the little girl who is main character of that strip, what would it be?

GUY GILCHRIST: She wouldn’t listen to be! I’m a grown-up! Believe me, I’ve had daughters and a granddaughter and I know! That’s what’s so much fun about Nancy! We see our own children in her and her friends!

L’IDEA: When you started drawing “Nancy,” the person in charge of the stories was your brother Brad, and that went on until last year. What made you take over completely the strip?

GUY GILCHRIST: When I started drawing Nancy, my brother Brad and I shared the writing duties; after about seven or eight years, my brother Brad began to work on another project. He’s always been very involved with the environment, recycling and ecology; that is his passion. It was then that Brad backed away from the Nancy comic and I began to work on it on my own. And so, I have actually been writing and drawing the strip on my own for quite a few years. I consider myself a writer first, And an illustrator second, so the transition was not a difficult one for me. Brad’s name had been left on the byline by the publishers! That was okay with me and still is! A terrific way to honor my brother!

nancy4L’IDEA: What is the illustration work you are the most proud of and why?

GUY GILCHRIST: That is a really difficult question. You know, I’ve had a very long and very blessed career. My favorite project is always the exact thing that I am working on at this moment. That is the way you must always be as a writer and artist. You don’t look toward the future and you do not look toward the past. You concentrate all you have on that scary blank white piece of paper in front of you and pray you have something to offer! In regard to highlights of my career, certainly the artwork that I did for Pres. Reagan and the White House back in 1984 that was preserved in the Smithsonian would be a blessing. I have been so blessed also to have met many people who have been touched by my story books as well as my comics. And when they share with me how much a certain book or a certain character meant to them, that becomes a very important work for me. I thank my Father in heaven every single day for the blessing that He has given me to be a writer and an artist and to be able to reach out to people in the ways that I am privileged to do so.

nancy3

L’IDEA
: You are also a popular children’s book’s author and illustrator. Are your books all independent of each other, as stories and characters go, or do they carry common themes, locations and characters? Which one is the character of your stories that you like the most and why?

GUY GILCHRIST: There have been common themes and common characters throughout many of my books. However, each book can be read independently and enjoyed on its own, apart from whatever series it may be a part of. The Tiny Dinos Series with Warner Books still seems to be very popular with many, many people. My Mudpie  character Has been published by several different publishing houses and was also of course a comic strip. Then there are the Night Lights and Pillow Fights and Just Imagine books . Those were full of poems and pictures and brand-new little fairytales that I concocted! I’ve written so many, and each one of them is a wonderful memory!

Batotom Lotshaw

Batotom Lotshaw

L’IDEA: Were you always interested to be an illustrator? How did you get to where you are now? If, hypothetically, you could be working in any job position in the world, what would you be? nancy2

GUY GILCHRIST
: I don’t consider myself to be an illustrator. I consider myself first to be a writer. You see, whether it is a storybook, a comic book, a comic strip, or a song or a speech… the idea and the story always comes first. Even as a little child when I was drawing cartoons, while I was copying Superman and Mickey Mouse and Woody Woodpecker and Popeye, I was making up stories for them! How did I get to be where I am now? First you have to tell me where that is! I hope I’m still right in the middle of a wonderful adventure! I hope I’m not near the end! I hope I’m right in the middle. I feel like I’m learning every single day. I certainly feel like the comic strip and the songs and the stories that I am writing now are the best of my career. Really, the success that I have had is not based on talent. I know that there have always been more talented artist and writers than me applying for the projects that I’ve had over the years. I believe that the secret to success is to stick to it. To never quit and always keep your promises. Be a person of your word who can be counted on to get the project finished. If you stay busy, you will eventually get better and better and better at everything that you do. Repetition helps to pull the genius out of you and put it down on paper! It also helps if you remember that you are a professional, and therefore it is your job. A mortgage and a lovely spouse and children are wonderful igniters for your muse!!! And never forget the power of prayer. Don’t ever forget to thank God every single day for all that you have. Oh, and hypothetically, if I could have any job in the world, I’ve got it!

L’IDEA: You founded the Guy Gilchrist Studios, and opened also a branch in Tokyo. What is their function?

GUY GILCHRIST: Back in the early 1990s, I was exploring the market for my cartoons and writing in Tokyo. We opened a branch office at that time and were quite successful with it! We were able to produce some Japanese versions of some of my children’s books and also work with the Japanese baseball clubs and the national soccer league on some cartoon mascot projects! My agent over there, Maseo Maruyama, keeps a desk there for me, although I have not been back in quite a few years. This now Nashville cat is looking forward to getting back over to Tokyo sometime soon.

nancy1

L’IDEA
: What are your projects for the near future? And for the long run? GUY GILCHRIST: We’ve got some fantastic projects going right now! By the way, everything that I’m working on and I can show you is over at www.NancyandSluggo.com. For instance the brand-new Nancy comic book that we just published! It’s the first brand-new Nancy book in 20 years! We plan on putting out an entire line of all of the cartoons that I have done I’ve Nancy over the last 19 years. Also there’s a figurine line called Bearly Angels. They are sweet little statuettes of angel bears that have sayings to motivate you and to fill you with God’s love. We are working on a set of children’s books featuring these characters. We also have a Nancy Broadway show and a project with Dreamworks in development. It’s a very exciting time! My incredible wife, Teresa, is my partner in Nancy Entertainment LLC. I have a full engagement calendar as a touring Motivational speaker. Traveling all over this country and being able to connect with people of all ages is probably my favorite thing to do! It is such an incredible joy to be able to share stories of my life with the Muppets and Nancy and all the cartoon characters that I have worked on, as well as tell the personal side of my life and how I started out as a poor child without a college education and eventually wound up as a guest of honor at the White House and beyond. It is always a great honor and blessing to be able to speak in front of audiences and connect that way. I am so, so lucky; so, so blessed. I’m hoping for a very long run.

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Manuran
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January 22, 2018
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Book Expo America 2014 Part 1: The Italian presence…
by Milano52
Jun 15, 2014 | 33706 views | 0 0 comments | 1154 1154 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

 

Originally Written By:  Tiziano Thomas Dossena for L'Idea Magazine

Book Expo America 2014 Part 1: The Italian presence…
 

GameForFive1Italia2Book Expo America 2014 has brought a wave of foreign authors, either in the original language or in translation, and among them a few Italians. Italian American authors, instead, were present in large numbers. At the Rizzoli booth, large, luxurious and full of beautiful books but void as usual of any promotions (other than their catalogs) and samples for librarians and press, the visitors walked through slightly puzzled, attempting to figure out whether this publisher was there to impress or really do some work;  like I said, beautiful but disappointing.

Pirandello1A surprise the presence of author and publisher Adolph Caso who, among the books of his Branden Publishing Company products, displayed many Italian books in translation and, gem of it all, the only translation of Pirandello’s Tales of Madness. Kudos for his work and his attempt to keep alive the name of our Italian authors in the USA.

Italia1The official Italian booth, run by the Italian Trade Agency ICE, had many titles and publishers, as always interesting, but also void of any promotional materials from the individual companies. Thank God the Italian Trade Agency had beautiful brochures and free paper bags at the entrance, bringing some attention to the area. A signing by known author Marco Malvaldi, present with his book Game for Five, turned out to be a great choice, bringing a lot of visitors, and the author Cosimo Scarpello, with his tome Stressbook brought attention to the booth by describing the content of his book to all visitors. You may see and hear both of these authors and Adolph Caso speaking about their work at the following link:

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donarld
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November 20, 2016
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Book Expo America 2014 Part 2: The Authors Speak…
by Milano52
Jun 15, 2014 | 32551 views | 0 0 comments | 1112 1112 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Originally Written By:  Tiziano Thomas Dossena for L'Idea Magazine

Book Expo America 2014 Part 2: The Authors Speak…
 

LandauJavits Center was the center of attention for all American book lovers for four days at the end of May, with a series of events, lectures, seminars and a ton of exhibitors at the annual Book Expo America. Our staff collected books for reviews, filmed authors’ comments, took a thousand pictures, but most of all enjoyed the company of famous and little known authors who autographed their books and posed for our photographers, in a climate of friendship and love for learning for which this show is renown for.

BigNateAuthorAfter visiting the Italian booths (see Part One of this article), we ventured at the signing booths, where we filmed some of the authors’ comments on their own work. We hope our readers will enjoy them as much as we did.

In Part Three of Book America we’ll show the marvels of the show: magic tricks, special products, special guests, etc… Here is the video with some of the authors…:

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Interview to author Tony Napoli.
by Milano52
Jun 15, 2014 | 40924 views | 0 0 comments | 1465 1465 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Recently I published a review on the popular book “My Father, My Don,” A Son’s Journey from Organized Crime to Sobriety, and I am now pleased to offer our readers an interview to the author, Tony Napoli. (as appeared on L'Idea Magazine on February 13, 2014)

L’Idea: What made you decide to write this book? 

Tony Napoli:  I decided to write this book with the encouragement from my mother and other family member’s when I was 26 years old; that was 52 years ago. As I got older, I gathered more and more material and I outlived most of the characters mentioned in my book. When I decided I had enough material, I hired a co-writer to help me put all my excerpts of about a 1,000 pages, into story form. My book was released on Sept.18th 2008, when I was 73 years old.

L’Idea: When you were seventeen, you were approached by the Boston Braves to play in the summer time for one of their Minor League Clubs. Your mother said “No way” because she did not want you far from home. You also were training for the US Air Force boxing team and there were talks about participating to the 1956 Olympics. This time it was your father who intervened and said “No”; and that was it. This is all recorded in the chapter titled “The road not taken”. Do you feel regrets for not pursuing those dreams? Were you ever even tempted to disobey or at least try to convince your parents? Do you believe your parents were justified in their requests? If so, why? 

Tony Napoli:  My father never said NO to my boxing as an Amateur in the Golden Gloves and on the Air Force boxing team. He said NO after I was Honorably Discharged from the US Air Force and I wanted to turn Pro as a Boxer. He said I was management material, and he only wanted me to learn the art of self-defense to protect myself in the streets of Brooklyn. He also felt that a strong mind needs a strong body to accomplish and get things done the right way. I continuously disobeyed my parents when they tried to make decisions for my future. I loved my mother dearly and I listened to her when she asked me not to travel with the Boston Braves Minor league Baseball team in the summer time when school was out, because I was only 17 years old and I didn’t want her to worry about me traveling across the country on a broken down bus.

Jimmy Nap Napoli – Tony Napoli

L’Idea: You name quite a few entertainers who you had the opportunity to meet, for good or bad reasons. Who was the one who impressed you the most and why?

Tony Napoli:  The entertainer I was most impressed with was Frank Sinatra. I liked the way he hired former athletes to travel with him. He made them earn a living in an honest way by putting them on his payroll and use it as a tax write-off. They traveled all over the world with him, not only as bodyguards, but mostly as close friends who had no other way of making a living due to their lack of education. I became Sinatra’s drinking partner on many occasions, especially when he entertained at Caesar’s Palace, in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was a Casino Host in charge of entertainment at the time. Frank was very generous with people he was close to. He never wanted to get close to strangers. He was very rude to those who tried to overpower him with autographs. He had his men get the names and address of his fans who wanted his autographed picture. He’d rather mail them a picture with his autograph when he spent time alone in his room. He always traveled with a bookkeeper. As a matter of fact the last wife he was married to, Barbara Marx, was also his bookkeeper before he married her. Frank was also an Amateur boxer before he became a singing star.

L’Idea: What was, in your opinion, the difference in style between Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Roselli?

Tony Napoli:  Frank Sinatra, whose birth name was Francis Sinestra, was  flamboyant, with great magnetism in public and on the stage. Jimmy Roselli, whose birth name was Michael Roselli, first worked for me when I was 24 years old. My father bought me a night club in Union City, New Jersey in 1959. The name of the club was “The Club Rag Doll.” I paid him $300.00 to sing on weekends. His very first song was “I’m Alone Because I Love You.” I was supposed to go to contract with him and be his manager. My father put a stop to that immediately when Roselli asked for a loan to cover his part of the deal. Before Roselli died, he called me from his home in Clearwater, Florida. He read my book, I mentioned him in Chapter 17. He remembered the night I was locked up after working over that crooked cop; Roselli was singing on my stage the night it happened. He complimented me for pulling no punches and giving the reader everything in detail the way it happened. Roselli was very independent when it came to promoting himself. He never reached the level of stardom like Sinatra because he wouldn’t cooperate with the Wise guys; and, in those days you had to deal with the Wise guys, to get anyplace in show business. The Wise guys were behind all the top clubs and were very influential with Hollywood Producers, The Wise guys controlled the union (SAG) Screen Actors Guild. If you wanted to get high paid jobs as an entertainer, you had better cooperated with the Big Guys.

Tony Napoli as a Boxer

L’Idea: Why was your father’s nickname “The torpedo?”

Tony Napoli: When my Father was a young teenager, he was the leader of a neighborhood gang called “The Lorimer Street Boys” In those days there was a Gang in almost every Italian and Irish neighborhood, in the Brooklyn area. The Lorimer Street Gang was located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. To be the leader of a gang you had to fight and beat up the leaders of the other gangs. About three nights a week, boxing trainers used to put on boxing shows at the old Military Armories that were built during World War One for Military training. Folding chairs were used for seating arrangements. They would hold up to 1,000 people in the Armories. The gang leaders would fight against each other. If one gang didn’t like the decision, they would throw the folding chairs into the air to show their disagreement with the official scorer (the referee). When my Father (Jimmy Nap) fought, he always knocked his opponent out with a straight right hand. That’s how he got the nickname “Torpedo.”

L’Idea: You present your father as a perfect gentleman, a great father and at the same time an assassin and a made man. How do you feel that can be possible and how does a person involved in such a complicated life manages to retain his human side?

Tony Napoli: When my father was a young man, at between 16 and 20 years old, he wanted to be like the guys who were always dressed up in suits and ties, wearing Fedora hats. He didn’t want to work as a bricklayer like his father was. As he grew older, he managed to get involved with the Wise guys by being one of their collectors and becoming a strike buster to discourage laborers not to strike by using bats and crowbars to beat them with. He worked for the companies who didn’t want to have their men striking. It was at a young age when he was considered an assassin and a bully. After getting out of jail in 1945, when he was 34 years old, he came back to my mother and turned over a new leaf. My mother took him back because he showed her a sense of responsibility to support the family. He got involved in the Numbers racket, which in those days was considered non-violent as a business. She saw him get respect from clean-cut-looking men; some he met in jail. My mother was only concerned about keeping the family together. She allowed my father to travel all over the country to do his business for all five organized crime families in the New York Area. My mother was not familiar with that part of my father’s life. She only saw in him a business man earning money, and lots of it, for people he called investors. At 34 years old my father was considered by those men in his way of life a standup guy with respect, integrity, dignity and honor. A man they could count on to give them a fair shake from their investments in his gambling enterprises all over the country. My father changed his ways from being a bully and Assassin for love of his immediate family and a great love for my mother, like I changed my ways from being a bully and Alcoholic when I found Sobriety.

L’Idea: In one of your chapters you seem to show a lot of anger at Giuliani. Could you explain why it is so?

Tony Napoli: In Chapter 27 of my book, I denounce Rudy Giuliani as a hypocrite. He tried to get me to talk against my father in the way he makes a living, knowing that his Uncle was Mob connected. Giuliani convinced President Reagan to send him to the New York Area as a US Marshall to infiltrate into the five Organized Crime families. By doing so, he was to be considered a crime buster, when all the while Giuliani was politically minded. He wanted to show the Government he would even lock up his own mother and father if he had to, and gain recognition as a future GOP candidate for a high elective office, with the backing of the Republic party, and gain the NY votes when he finally decided the right time to run for Mayor. Giuliani is Sicilian, and most of his relatives came from the Sicilian Mafia in Sicily. When I was indicted in 1985 on the RICO act and Giuliani was the US Attorney, the key witness against me in court told the jury that he was one of the gang that shot and killed a federal judge in Texas. He was sentenced to life in prison in Lewisburg Penitentiary, in Pennsylvania. He said that Rudy Giuliani offered him $30,000.00 to testify against me and he would get a reduced sentence. I was finally acquitted and when I was walking out of the courtroom, Giuliani said to me “I’ll get you the next time, Napoli”  I thought how can he possibly make such an outrageous deal with a scumbag who killed a federal Judge just to put me away for gambling. I was facing 25 years in jail before I was acquitted.

Jimmy Nap Napoli

L’Idea: There is a movie being produced on your book. Could you tell us something about that?

Tony Napoli: The movie you talk about is called a 20 minute short. About 50 hours of shooting 32 scenes. This pilot was made by me, I paid all expenses so I can present it to the film people in the Film Festivals all over the country. It shows the Highlights of my story played out with real actors who play the main characters in my book. It will also be presented to potential investors leading up to a feature film or TV series. The filmmaker I hired is Hussain Ahmed, from Iraq. He’s also the Director and makes his home in Louisville, Kentucky.

L’Idea: You now have a lot of activities, which you defined as “giving back to society”. Could you tell us what they are?

Tony Napoli: For the past 19 years I’ve been a Veterans Advocate, helping disabled veterans with compensation for their service-connected injuries. I’m also a recovering alcoholic helping other alcoholics find sobriety like I did nineteen years ago, when I left the Mob life behind me. I also help indigent boxers with their medications, when they can’t afford it because they retired from boxing with brain and physical injuries and unable to work to support their selves. The spirit of my father lives on through me.

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The Tenor, A Novel by Peter Danish, revisits Maria Callas wartime years
by Milano52
Apr 06, 2014 | 41041 views | 0 0 comments | 997 997 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
 

thetenorcover  

THE TENOR

A novel by Peter Danish

Based partially on a true episode of Maria Callas’ life, The Tenor is the riveting story of a young Italian man with   a spectacular knack for music and a voice to match, who saved the famed singer’s life under daunting circumstances during WWII. The chronicle embraces a long historical period, starting from the pre-war years, continuing through the war, and ending in 1964.

Peter Danish is effective in conveying the proper feelings of those pre-war years in Italy, charged with promises of a better society and eventually delivering only chaos and destruction. The narrative is well-paced and full of all the necessary flavors that allow it to portray this young man’s growing years, ripe with twists in the rather dynamic existence of Nino, the main character, and of the surrounding residents of his wonderful little town in the Emilian Apennines, bursting with delightful descriptions of regional culinary treats as well as operatic references, satisfying music enthusiasts while explaining every one of the passages for the untrained readers. The balanced usage of all these elements and the sapient inclusion of many Italian expressions, just as in Marianna Randazzo’s book Given Away, A Sicilian Upbringing, make this book more than palatable, offering the reader an experience that only few authors are capable of generating. Whether one likes opera or the Italian landscape, history or entertainment, The Tenor presents such a sensible, realistic account that it is bound to please.

Pino is a pleasant and gifted young tenor who will mesmerize the readers with his formidable determination, his understandable expectations and his early successes, and will move them with his wartime misadventures as a soldier of the Italian invading army in Greece during the war years. His love of music is the main impetus of his life, directing all his actions and thoughts, keeping him sane in a world which had lost its sense of decency, bringing all the ingredients that define his encounter with the then-unknown but already brilliant soprano, keeping his soul alive even through tragedy.

All the characters are well-developed, with a profound analysis of their thoughts and desires and a detailed physical description that allows the reader to visualize them and get involved in their ventures; the locations are the clear product of a thorough research that will impress any reader who has visited Northern Italy and Greece.

mariacallas

The soprano Maria Callas

Although the central theme is music and the climax seems to be the episode that involves Pino with Maria Callas, there are many topics in the narrative that will capture the readers’ attention, ranging from the Duce’s betrayal of his early promises to his nation to the Nazi-backed Final Solution, from the interaction of the Italian and German armies to the suffering of the invaded Greek population, and from the development of NYC’s Little Italy to the glamorous life of Maria Callas, but most of all the continuous adoration of Pino for the soprano  that brings a second chance of a meeting with her and a surprise ending.

There is no repose or standstill in Peter’s smooth and untiring prose and the final effect is a novel which fascinates and engages the reader.

peterdanish  

The author Peter Danish.

Click to see a book presentation by Peter Danish.

To purchase the paperback: http://www.amazon.com/The-Tenor-Peter-Danish/dp/0991099346/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1396923512&sr=8-2&keywords=peter danish

To purchase the Kindle version: http://www.amazon.com/The-Tenor-Peter-Danish-ebook/dp/B00ILT68L2/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1396923512&sr=8-4&keywords=peter danish   

  

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"Given Away, A Sicilian Upbringing"
by Milano52
Feb 09, 2014 | 57913 views | 0 0 comments | 1029 1029 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

"Given Away, A Sicilian Upbringing"

 

Sicily, 1935: Sarina, a young woman with three children, gives up her young daughter Tina to her aunt Vittoria, who lives in a different town, with no apparent explanation. The child, just four, at first is intrigued by the move, which she believes to be a summer vacation, but slowly reality settles in and her journey into abandonment begins.  

"Given Away, A Sicilian Upbringing" is the chronicle of a lost childhood, written with a tight, journalistic style, reminiscent of a diary; and of the diary it also has the structure, having 97 chapters that are but  glimpses into particular events of Tina's life from kindergarten to adolescence to her final trip to America at sixteen, as a promised bride. This division into small chapters, which normally would irritate the reader, is actually successful in portraying the developments of her life seen almost as snapshots or frames from a movie.  I laud the author, Marianna Randazzo, for such an unusual choice.

The constant throughout the book is the feeling of being rejected and the deprivations that living with the aunt are every day's norm. The arrival of the war certainly does not bring any more comforts and Tina realizes that her stay with Vittoria is a stable one. The aunt loves her deeply, just as she loved her mom Sarina, and uses every occasion to show her, so she is not shortchanged in that aspect, but the awareness of  being left behind by her own family and the resentment of not knowing why, always double guessing the reasons behind such a dramatic move, permeate the book. The brutish attitude of Tina’s uncle, who constantly physically abuses his wife, adds ever more to the internal struggle that Tina undergoes.

The war is also a protagonist and Ms. Randazzo does justice to the atmosphere that surrounds such events, introducing various episodes with charm and a perfect rhythm, allowing the reader to be aware of it without being distracted by the real tragedy of this story: the unexplained desertion of the child by her loving family.

The tragedy unfolds in a well-paced narration and it is both heart wrenching and interesting, bringing images from a time gone by but not forgotten, a time when children had no rights and the world was upside down, a time that many did not survive and that left a mark on those who did.

Marianna Randazzo was able to capture the feelings that this little girl experienced in such a masterful way that at times one forgets that this is not an autobiography but a novel based on true events. The reader will live Tina’s struggles, experience her shattered expectations, her fears, her deep melancholy, her want for her family and her disappointment at her American aunt in first person thanks to the ability of the author to portray Tina’s emotions so vividly.

"Given Away, A Sicilian Upbringing" deserves the attention of the public for its accurate and sensitive description of the life of a child “given away” and seemingly forgotten for a long time. Obviously, the story is seen through the eyes of the victim and it is seen subjectively, but the author does not pretend to have all the answers to the reasons of the triggering of this tragedy; she does, however, offer all the information necessary for the readers to make their mind up on their own.

Available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Given-Away-Upbringing-Marianna-Randazzo/dp/0989481921/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391984223&sr=1-2&keywords=given away a sicilian upbringing by marianna randazzo

and on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Given-Sicilian-Upbringing-Marianna-Randazzo-ebook/dp/B00DH2ZIJ6/ref=sr_1_2_title_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391984223&sr=1-2&keywords=given away a sicilian upbringing by marianna randazzo   

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CAN LOVE FOR BOOKS AND OPERA KEEP YOU YOUNG?
by Milano52
Jan 29, 2014 | 32423 views | 0 0 comments | 1207 1207 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

CAN LOVE FOR BOOKS AND OPERA KEEP YOU YOUNG?

In 1912 Italians won the war against the Ottoman Empire, a forecast of the underlying colonialism that brought the Great War, the Titanic revealed itself not to be unsinkable and vitamins were first identified. It was a year of turmoil and of great hopes, with Woodrow Wilson taking the presidency, a fanatic attempting to kill Theodore Roosevelt, China becoming a republic, and stainless steel making its debut.

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Many famous and infamous historic characters were born that year: Hitler’s companion Eva Braun, the artist Jackson Pollock, the entertainer Danny Thomas, Italian movie director Michelangelo Antonioni, and Pope John Paul I; among the not-so-famous, on January 25th of that year, a Yonkers denizen, Teresa Mautone-Tortora. The father Eugene and the mother Grace (Grazia) Gatto-Mautone were both born in the province of Salerno, Italy. Grace was brought to USA when she was two years old, while Eugene emigrated at twenty-one, in 1905.

Teresa loved opera since she was a little girl, and her parents, who only spoke English and their original dialect, hired a tutor for her to learn Italian, so that she could reads librettos and enjoy the operas at the most. Her love for classical music was enhanced even more by her family’s activities: her Aunt Louise Gatto-Creston was a famous dancer with the Martha Graham’s Dance Company and owned a dance studio, and the Uncle Paul Creston (Giuseppe Guttoveggio) was a famous classical composer.

Apart from a four-year period spent in Brooklyn, Teresa has been a lifetime resident of Yonkers. Her recollection of how this city was when she was young is charming and her descriptions are like postcards from the past. Yonkers was a very friendly town, where everyone greeted you and it was safe to walk even at night. The CrossCountyShopping Center was a swamp upon where she used to ice skate in the winter and she hiked every weekend to White Plains by way of the Bronx River Parkway walking path (18 miles total). Kimball Avenue was in a golf course and she used to sleigh ride from its hills in the winter. It was all clean fun!!!

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From left: Teresa Mautone-Tortora with two friend and her husband Vincent, circa 1952

Teresa lived in South West Yonkers, on top of a hill overlooking Mount Vernon, where she walked to when she needed to shop for food; only after WWII a bus line was established for the local residents. Her original house was one of two buildings in her street and it took 4 years for the workers from the WPA (brainchild of FDR and part of his New Deal) to remove all the heavy stones so that it could be paved. There was a well and a cesspool, but neither indoor piping nor electricity, and as a toilet, just an outhouse. Her father built the house in which she now lives over the week ends in the early 1930s, with the assistance of Saunders HS boys, so they could have all modern luxuries (running water, toilet, electricity and sewage service).

teresa

Teresa Tortora with the composer
Robert Russell Bennett, 1954

She worked at FARAND, a bomb-sights factory in Mount Vernon, during WWII and went back to her job during the Korean War, a “Rosy the Riveter” of her won; she then worked ten years at Litton, an electronic firm, always in Mount Vernon.

Teresa married Vincent Tortora, who passed away in 1976, and has two sons, Eugene and Mark, now 75 and 67 years old respectively.

Teresa travelled through United States and she is an avid reader; as a matter of fact she believes reading made her different from a lot of her contemporaries, more tolerant and somehow out of the ordinary in the way she envisioned the world. She owns more than two hundred books and the entire collections of fifty tomes of Western stories written by Zane Gray. She read the Bible few times over because she was always fascinated by the stories in it, the struggles of those early people and their daily lives. Teresa believes strongly that her life would have been quite different without books.

She confesses that there are no good reasons for her longevity, genetics apart, since she lived a normal life; certainly it helped a bit not to be a drinker or a smoker, but that is all.

She misses attending the opera performances, although she believes that nowadays they are too formal; she recollects when the people used to holler and stood up cheering whenever the performers sang well. “They were more relaxed and fun times, then…,” she declares with a soft but firm voice that does not betray her age, “people are too ambitious now and money has become too important. People forget that good times and good friends do not come with a tab, but are free.”

She believes that American ingenuity in improving products is what made it competitive and that is the direction we have to take again, since relying on China for just about everything is destroying the texture of this country.

Teresa Tortora is a happy, smart and alert 102-years-old lady who knows what she is talking about! Was opera or her exposure to literature the reason for her longevity? We'll never know, but for sure they kept her brain young and flexible...DSC00757 

Mark and Teresa Tortora  

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         Tiziano Thomas Dossena with Teresa Tortora                                                  

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“My Father, My Don,” A Son’s Journey from Organized Crime to Sobriety
by Milano52
Jan 12, 2014 | 47037 views | 0 0 comments | 1120 1120 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

“My Father, My Don,” A Son’s Journey from Organized Crime to Sobriety

myfather_cover    tomb

“My Father, My Don,” A Son’s Journey from Organized Crime to Sobriety

By Tony Napoli with Charles Messina 

Tiziano Thomas Dossena, As appeared on L’Idea Magazine, January 10, 2014

As a reviewer I found myself in a predicament while reading Tony Napoli’s outstanding  biographical recollection “My Father, My Don”: should I dare to compare it to another book I had previously reviewed, “For the Sins of My Father” by Albert DeMeo, or would that be inopportune, since the two writers’ lives had quite a different turn-out?  Well, I really had to, since both children of notorious members of the organized crime had in common quite a few sentiments.

DeMeo’s stated that “no one could have asked for a better father,” clearly positions the loving relationship between the mob boss and his child, but so does Tony Napoli’s “it was during these days spent in San Paolo, just sitting there eating our meals, laying cards, and talking, that I came to really know my father. Far from the maddening crowd – and the business that had taken us all over the world and back – we were able to connect as people, man-to-man, father-to-son.”

Another similarity was the slow-but-steady awareness that both writers had of their father’s criminal activities. Tony Napoli remembers when he was 14 years old and his father would get up early in the morning and take out of the freezer a dozen stacks of bills, and then he declares that as a youngster he knew that his “father was not your average father,” but “something else, something special.” DeMeo’ attempted rationalization of his father’s actions was to ignore the evidence, because if his “father was doing it, it must be all right.”

jimmynap    Jimmy1952

B
oth fathers taught their sons to respect the elderly and the women and to reward loyalty, and regardless of their slightly different approach to their initial discovery of their fathers’ illegal feats, their world was very similar, and certainly unlike any other of their contemporaries. Even their involvement with crime is tied to their father. It is actually at this point, though, that appear to surface the differences between the two experiences. DeMeo is introduced to the crime world at an early age (around 14) by the father, who uses him as a messenger, while Tony Napoli has a normal youth, graduating high school and performing his tour of duty in the Air Force, as a Military Policeman none the less, before he settles on illegal activities.

There could have been more similarities in their life stories, if not for the early demise of DeMeo, killed when the son was only seventeen. The two books may appear at first, because of these parallels, to be constructed on comparable feelings, but they are not. While DeMeo’s life straightens up when he realizes that his father had created a sordid group of slaughterers who had a morbid taste for blood, Tony Napoli’s life continues on the road of dissipation, conflicting with his own father, who continuously ‘fixes’ his son’s misdeeds.

twoTonys     tonyBoxer

“My Father, My Don” is a dual book, aimed at showing the stature of Jimmy “Nap” Napoli’s presence within the Mafia as well as his defects and merits as a man, and how this man influenced his son’s life mostly in a positive way. Tony Napoli’s narration is not a defense or a series of excuses for his father’s actions, but a direct description of events that he either witnessed or learned through family’s conversations, without any attempt to minimize them nor render  them legendary. It is really and truly a son’s chronicle, recounted as if the reader is in front of a fireplace, with a hot chocolate on the side table and a dog on the lap. There are no gimmicks nor attempts to change the reality of the two men. Tony Napoli does not apologize for being who he is, nor for his father’s deeds, which he does not condone nor condemns, but merely accepts.

The story of Jimmy Napoli is one of intrigue, but not of deception, one of crime and murders, but not of needless brutality. The tale start with his father (the writer’s grandfather), a just and honest man who wanted his son’s life to be like his and was not able to ever control Jimmy’s strong predilection toward easier money, to continue through the early years of his criminal, but not lawless life, with remarkable characters as Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel as protagonists.

This is all you can imagine it to be: an exciting and breathtaking saga of two men, father and son, deeply involved with the crime world, but at the same time living a normal family life, to the dismay of the observers. Tony Napoli’s continuous battle with alcohol contrasts well with his ability to fight in a ring, just as his father’s successful exploits stand out against his own recurrent fiascoes with the handling of his father’s criminal ventures.

Tony has no shame to admit his failures and show that it is through them that he has been able to redeem himself and become a respected member of society.

This is a complex book, presented in an apparent simple manner (my compliments to Charles Messina for his ability to retain Tony’s informal, almost intimate language), ripe with stories that will satisfy any reader interested in the mob life, but also the ones who want to understand the life of the casinos, the night clubs and the performers of that era, such as Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Roselli. It is also the story of a son who is proud to carry his family name, while recognizing the father’s and his own failures, or, as the writer himself states, “ it is a “son’s journey from organized crime to sobriety.”

The book is available on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/My-Father-Don-Tony-Napoli/dp/0980238056/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389421104&sr=8-1&keywords=my father, my don

and Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/My-Father-Don-Charles-Messina-ebook/dp/B004MPRLBU/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1389421104

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TROY'S LITTLE ITALY
by Milano52
Jan 07, 2014 | 23914 views | 0 0 comments | 910 910 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Troy's Little Italy
Troy's Little Italy
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TROY'S LITTLE ITALY

A book by Michael A. Esposito, published by ARCADIA PUBLISHING

When I picked up this book at first, I was thrilled by the cover, and having read other books belonging to the Image of America series by Arcadia Publishing, I expected the content of the book to be ripe with old and new images of Troy’s Little Italy, with a focus on their comparison. To my surprise, a significant share of the photographs portrayed Italians and Italian Americans carrying out their daily routines of attending school, playing, acting, working, going to war, gathering socially, parading, etc…

At first, I confess, my reaction was not particularly positive. I felt as if I was standing in someone’s living room, gazing through their family’s portraits and memorabilia without ever meeting the hosts. It almost felt as if I was intruding. It only took few pages of reading to realize that it wasn’t so. The “neighborhood” came alive through the images of the people who had lived there and contributed with their presence and actions to its existence per se. The pictures in the book were always rationally tied to each other and Little Italy by a detailed description and, little by little, I found myself absorbed by the “story” that was developing before my eyes. I’s a story mostly of common people who have lived for their families and sometimes died for their country, attended school or sold fresh produce with a stand, but most of all it’s a story of Italians who have proven through their hard work that they were as deserving, if not more, as any other ethnic group and consequently earned their neighbors’ respect and sometimes admiration.

The accounts of everyday’s events, such as the opening or closing of a store, the departure of a soldier to war, the weddings, the graduations, the building of a church or of a school, the meetings of the local associations, allowed me to experience the true components of the environs that make it a true neighborhood and not just a city living area. More significantly so for a neighborhood in which the predominant residents were Italians, whether by birth or by blood, an ethnic group that venerates family values, work and education, making them the most important references in life. Their presence, which yielded the creation of Troy’s Little Italy, for that reason had to be presented and elucidated, through images and words, so that this enclave could be appreciated not only for its architectural or historical characteristics, but also for its social texture.

The pictures and their descriptions, therefore, allowed me to witness the birth and growth of this well-knit community of Troy as well as appreciating the physical development of this characteristic Little Italy, which has deserved three paintings by the famous artist Norman Rockwell. I can safely write that Michael A. Esposito has produced a compelling story of this neighborhood and its book deserves our praise, as well the attention of all the Italian Americans who are interested in discovering their most recent history.

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FOR THE SINS OF MY FATHER: A Mafia Killer, His Son, and the Legacy of a Mob Life
by Milano52
Dec 31, 2013 | 50476 views | 0 0 comments | 873 873 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
For The Sins of my Father
For The Sins of my Father
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“FOR THE SINS OF MY FATHER: A Mafia Killer, His Son, and the Legacy of a Mob Life” by Albert DeMeo



We all live with some kind of legacy that has molded our minds and directed our actions. Sometimes this legacy is one of honesty and respect for other people’s lives, sometimes it’s just a series of material things and very little else. Most of us, though, are lucky and can look back to our early years with a smile and find, among the many recollections, many fond memories of our parents, relatives, friends and neighborhood. Not everyone has that luck, though. There are people who have only horrible memories and fight all their life to forget the past and to avoid the trap of insanity. There are also people that have mostly good memories of their early years because life had masked the reality of the world around them. Albert DeMeo is one of them. In his For the Sins of My Father, he examines his life and shows us how his father was capable to be a loving parent, husband and son while running a series of illegal enterprises. What really surfaces is the conflict between the love for the father, and the attempt to rationalize his actions, and the realization that his father was not the man he thought he knew.

It is the story of a Mob child who thought “no one could have asked for a better father” than his because “he spent more time with me [him] than any of the other fathers in the neighborhood spent with their children”. He soon discovers, though, that not everything is what seems. He starts wondering about the strange conversations between his father and the numerous “uncles” that pervade his life. His father never avoids the questions and tells it to him as it is. Albert then tries to make sense of the newly discovered facts: “Uncle Vinny a thief? But he seemed so nice, and I could tell my father liked him. If my father liked him, he must be all right.”

The doubts grow with the years, but the justifications are ready made, as expected from a very young boy: “Did this envelope have money in it? A small knot grew in the pit of my stomach. I ignored it. If my father was doing it, it must be all right.” and “In spite of the things I heard and saw on my outings with him, the line between legal and illegal was blurry…” Little by little, however, the pressure builds up and the knowledge becomes involvement. He learns about guns at the age of six, owns one by nine years old and starts collecting his father’s loan payments by the tender age of fourteen. He is a criminal without the full realization of being one. He has been so absorbed in attempting to justify his father’s life and actions, and to be like him, just as most children do, that he has erased in his mind the line between right and wrong. His conscience works nevertheless and he develops an ulcer and the inability to sleep through a whole night.

The story progresses steadily and mercilessly through his adolescence, reaching the apparent apex at the kid’s seventeenth birthday, when his father gets murdered. The reality becomes at this time of his life more fantastic than fiction. The book covers many topics regarding the life of the infamous Roy DeMeo and his “Murder Machine”, but most of all shows us that “Bad guys are not bad guys twenty-four hours a day” and that even bad guys have their own apparent set of rules: “My father taught me to have respect for old people” and to “always treat a woman with respect, for she is somebody’s daughter, mother, or sister.”

A world of pretense, a “glass bubble” that eventually shatters and leaves everyone traumatized and outraged at the deception. The survivors will have to reconstruct their lives, trying to overcome the mental confusion that a revelation such as the one from this book carries.

I thought that the author said it all when he states that “Whatever else he had done, whoever else he had been, he had been my father, and I loved him more than my own life. And he had loved me. Whatever the world thought of either one of us, I had to hold on to that truth. I also had to grasp a new truth. I was not my father. I never had been.”

The book is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sins-My-Father-Killer-Legacy/dp/0767906896/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387698002&sr=1-1&keywords=for the sins of my father

and on Kindle:http://www.amazon.com/Sins-My-Father-Killer-Legacy-ebook/dp/B000FC1I4K/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1387698002

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