Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be in the mob, La Cosa Nostra, the greater family; and I was well on my way to fulfilling that dream. The only drawback was, once you’re in you can never get out. As you read on you’ll witness a series of events that will prove that nothing is impossible. Nothing, Yes, I flunked out of the mob and trust me, no one ever tried to pull me back in. But I learned that failure breeds opportunity and I realized that I had some other hidden talents.
This book is based on the true stories of my life, many of which you’ll identify with through the eyes of a wise-guy flunky; it contains short stories from my personal library that introduce where I came from, the experiences that shaped me, and the colorful characters I encountered on the way! They are, quite simply, several incidents in my life which took me from being a stand up guy to a stand up comic.
- Frank D'Amico, author, comedian, actor
About the Author:
Frank D'Amico was born in Mt. Vernon, New York. A true New Yorker to the core! He grew up in a blue collar, middle class, multi-cultured neighborhood where he and his father Frank Sr. were always referred to as Stand Up Guys by the local wiseguys! Frank started his career by entertaining his fellow workers on a picket line for the Teamsters (Local 456) in Westchester, New York. After honing his onstage skills he quickly became a national headliner and opening act for many major artists.
Frank went on to land many roles in film and television.
Frank loves his role in Hollywood as a character Actor which gives him the opportunity to meet and work with some of Hollywood’s top players.
His body of work ranges from comedy to dramatic in both film and television.
Over the past few years Frank decided to pen his book “Stand Up Guy” after having the great fortune to tell some of his stories to a few of Hollywood’s brightest stars in the privacy of their own homes; Will Smith, Robert Davi, Ryan Stiles and Lucy Liu, (just to drop a few names...)
Seeing them genuinely laugh and enjoying his stories with exuberance convinced Frank to share them with the world.
Hence: This book.
Frank will always be a neighborhood, knock-around type guy who never forgets his roots.
Frank Sr. once told him, every man judges his own success differently, according to the values he embraces in life
Relaxing on his boat with a glass of Guinea Red in one hand and a full-bodied Camacho cigar in the other while sharing stories with friends about the ones that got away ... that's how Frank spells success.
Like Father, Like Son
I learned at a very early age how to spot a potential score from listening to the candy store gangsters and local wiseguys as they told stories about the scores they pulled over the years. I sat silently in the background taking it all in while my father finished laying down some action on his daily number 505 ... (How's that for a tip?)I sat in the smoke filled room, laughter echoed up and down the bar as all eyes were focused on the T.V. Every one in the joint had big money bet on the All-Star game, except me. I had bigger ideas. I had plans on ripping off the local wiseguy and his crew who sat at the end of the bar adjacent to the booth where I positioned myself. I waited for the right time to beat them at their own game by using the wealth of devious knowledge I picked up listening to them tell their stories. Joe Torre and Willie Mays assisted me by hitting home runs in the 1st inning, they distracted everyone long enough for me to steal the piles of cash they had laying on the bar. Once the deed was done I snuck off to the men's room to tally up my take, unaware that my father had seen it all from the back room
I was counting my first score feeling proud that it went so smooth, when all of a sudden this huge hand grabbed the money and asked, "Where do you get the balls to ... "
"From you dad, give me the money, its mine."
He made a motion like he was gonna give me a backhand with the money, then half way through the swing he aborted to stash the cash in his pants then pushed me out the back door.
"Cheech (that's what he called me), when you steal off the bar, in the eyes of everyone it's me stealing too. Gaa-beesh?"
"Okay dad, but it's not stealing, it's called making a score."
"When you take from friends ... it's called stealing! Gaa-beesh ... That's dishonorable, you understand .."
"Yes ... Gaa-beesh ... I understand."
When I got home and told my mother about my score at Lefty's, she went off the deep end yelling at my father that he was turning me into a little Al Capone. After the scolding she then told him to bring me back and return all the money. My mother walked us across the street to Lefty's bar to make me apologize and return the money back to everyone (which broke my father's heart more than mine). They all laughed and got a real kick out of me. Lefty even offered me a job after school (as a joke). My mother got pissed and ran out, my father and I turned to leave when the local mob boss said, "Wait a minute, I'm not gonna just let this kid leave after what he did." The laughter stopped.
I was scared. The mob boss waved all the other wiseguys into a huddle, whispering like a football quarterback calling a play. I'm thinking to myself ... "Help me God". This isn't good; my first sitdown. They finally broke the huddle and the mob boss, Salvatore Brutta handed me five new one hundred dollar bills and said, "Here's a reward kid from uncle Sal for giving us back our money ... Now that's respect." I was in awe of them as they squeezed my cheeks, rubbed the hair on my head, hugged, and kissed me, like mob guys do at funerals. At that moment I decided I was gonna become a wiseguy.
That night I received lectures from both my parents, one after the other. My mother came into my bedroom and had a heart-to-heart to instill in me her values - Always be a good catholic. Be moral, honorable and make us proud. Trying to keep the peace with my mother, my father came in after her to establish his values - Don't do as I do, do as I say ... and stop getting me in trouble with your big mouth; Oh yea ... and always believe in GOD.
Both my parents lived by two very different sets of virtues each one made a strong impression on me. So, at the age of nine I set out to find a balance somewhere in between both of them. As a kid I loved the weekends. That was when we went on our family outings. Everyone would jump in the car and off we'd go ... my parents, two sisters, Barbara, Maria, and me. Our first stop was always White Castle hamburgers on Allenton Avenue in the Bronx. We got five of those little burgers each. I was never satisfied, so I'd con or steal some of my sister's burgers to hold me over for a couple of hours. Maria was easy, simply getting aggravated and throwing them at me as if I was a seal at Marine Land. But little Barbara was work. Sometimes I had to just muscle them out of her but I always got them, which made me a happy little fat kid! My parents never yelled at me, content that I didn't take theirs.
Then we'd go to a place called Glen Island - a beach, picnic and fishing area. That's where we went our separate ways. My mother and sisters went to the beach, my dad and I headed to the fishing pier! I always thought my sisters were the lucky ones, because when the burgers wore off my mother would buy them anything they wanted at the snack bar. My father, instead, had this saying called "roughing it up," which means we would run to the store and buy bologna, ham, cheese, and big loaves of Italian bread, along with a couple of pieces of cooked chicken. For the same price my mom spent on hot dogs and drinks at the snack bar, we'd end up making our own sandwiches.
He'd say, "This is how real men eat ... like gods!"
I looked around at the other fishermen and their kids as they ate hot dogs, French fries, and ice cream. "Looks like we're the only gods here, Dad!"
My dad wasn't cheap, he was just brought up during the Depression and always tried to get the best deal for his buck... Okay, so maybe he was a little cheap.
He would eat the meat off the chicken leg and then put it on my hook and say, "Go get'em Cheech!"
I asked, "What about the worms?"
He'd say, "At two dollars a dozen, worms are for Sherms. We'll save them for later. You'll catch the big one with this bait!"
The other kids looked at me like I was Captain Quint on a Bounty Hunt for Jaws when they saw the half-eaten chicken leg dangling at the end of my fishing pole! I didn't catch my first fish until I became a paperboy and bought my own worms! I started seeing the beauty in having a Dad like this when I realized I was having a better time than most other kids.
I remember when I was nine years old and playing Little League. I was the slowest little fat kid in the world. Sure, I could hit like Babe Ruth, but my problem was I ran like him too; little footsteps, one after the other. It would take me three minutes to get to first base. I could hit the ball into next week and still get thrown out! I just hated not being fast enough to get to first base.
I'd complain to my father, "I'm never gonna be a Yankee if that umpire at first base keeps calling me out. Don't he understand that I need more time?"
My dad agreed. We had a heartfelt talk and he said, "We'll work on it together for tomorrow's game! You'll make it there ... just believe in yourself and never give up."
The next day we got to the game and he called the first base umpire over. My father proceeded to grab his own wind pipe and said, "These are the signals. If I grab my throat it means I'll kill you if my son isn't safe. Get it? He's losing confidence and you're not helping the situation any, so have a heart. The kid wants to be a Yankee someday!"
I remember my first at bat that morning; I stepped up to home plate and stared down at first base mumbling to myself, "I can do this!" The pitch ... and CRACK! I hit a long fly ball into the outfield. I dropped the bat and started my slow journey, step after step, toward first. I looked up as the ball careened off the outfield wall, running with all the speed I could muster up. The outfielder grabbed the ball and threw it in. I was still only halfway there! As I slowly galloped toward the elusive bag, I peer off into the stands and saw my father grabbing his throat, staring at the umpire. The umpire stared back at my father, horrified and unsure, as the first baseman put his glove up to catch the ball.
I kept repeating under my breath, "I can do it. Here comes the ball. Here comes me. The ball. ME." ... In a last ditch effort I dove three feet shy of the bag and BANG, the ball got there first. The umpire went to call me out ... but hesitated. He looked at me, and then at my dad who was now intensely clutching his own throat. Everyone - teammates, coaches, families, all waiting in what seemed like a slow-motion eternity, as, belly-down, I'm still crawling to touch the bag. The first baseman was confidently holding the ball up in his glove. I finally touched the bag and looked up at the umpire. He looked at my anxious, fat little face, then one last time at my father and made the call ... "He's ouuuuuu ... safeeeeeee!" then he fainted.When he regained consciousness, my father was standing over him saying, "Good call. Hang in there, the game's not over yet," and winked.