For forty years the HFPA has audio- taped famous and celebrated actors and actresses. The world’s largest collection of its kind is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Li brary.
The audios are fascinating. To veteran stars, our HFPA journalists are family; they banter with them and they speak openly and frankly about themselves and their artistry.
I grew up in a neighborhood like the one we see in my film GoodFellas. Except it was a tenement in Manhattan, not in Queens. I was one of the kids playing in thestreet. Some people were nicer to us, others were nastier, but we grew to know them as people first. They used Irish and English nicknames, nothing to do with Italian names, like Don.
I started to be aware that certain people were treated differently. You could gather how powerful they were by the way people moved around them. They sat quietly but you could feel the presence of power emanating from them.
Later on we thought that the ones who were boisterous, wore loud clothes, and were more openly brutal, were the wiseguys. But we found out later that it’s the quieter ones, who control things from the backrooms of coffee shops, who are the real GoodFellas.
And in the area where I grew up, many of the young boys aspired to become gangsters like them — or, like me, to be priests. Our heroes were either one or the other.
In America there are twenty million Italian-Americans, among them Supreme Court justices, governors, senators, doctors, scientists. Of the twenty million, maybe only four thousand of these are GoodFellas, organized crime members, according to the FBI. So it’s a very small aspect of the community.
We can argue about the extent of the phenomenon, about the constant portrayal of them in books and films, but we cannot deny their existence. Twenty years ago there was an attempt to deny it completely, but it failed.
—-Edited by Jack Tewkesbury