Things That Got Lost in the War

Posted: December 27, 2012 in Acting, Life, Mom, Russ
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Mom’s delusions had now spun into an all out “war” between two rival Mob gangs – supposedly the New York and Philly gangs were fighting over who got to “make us”. As a kid, I believed this wholeheartedly – believed I must be very important, in fact. Mom believed this, and why should I doubt her? Today, though, I don’t believe this any more than I believe I am the Pope (which I don’t, in case you’re wondering). This stuff never happened, but it might as well have. Because since it “happened” to Mom, it happened to me.

Hits were ordered. We were tailed. Our phones were tapped, and would ring at odd hours. Messages 4 feet high appeared on billboards and marquees, and every thing I booked or didn’t book was important. I remember going up against Elijah Wood for Radio Flyer. I don’t remember how far I got, exactly, but I at least got callbacks – enough that they were taking a more serious look at me. Just to give you an idea, there are further steps, sometimes – 3rd or 4th callbacks, screen tests if necessary. I remember leaving Russ’s to sit in the car and read – the lesson was well over, and Mom had waited through the next person’s lesson to try to catch Russ and talk to him. Tim and I protested the waiting as usual – we felt the waiting was asinine, but Mom insisted. I asked for her keys and sat quietly in the car reading. She came out, looking very serious.

Mom: Danny, I just had a big conversation with Russ.

I reluctantly closed my book.

Mom: We got offered a slot.

Me: A slot?

Mom: Yes, a slot opened up and they wanted to make you. But they wanted to make you as a movie actor. They wanted you to give up music.

Me: And what did you say?

Mom: I told them no. You wouldn’t want to give up music, would you?

Me: Not really.

Mom: Well, that’s what I thought. So I told him to go ahead and give the slot to someone else.

I started to stress a bit.

Me: But will another slot open up?

Mom: I don’t know. Maybe not anytime soon. But you’re young, we can wait. Besides, you’d have had to give up music.

Me: Well, can’t I get a slot where I get to do both?

Mom: That’s what I told Russ to look for.

Naturally, I didn’t book Radio Flyer – the role went to Elijah Wood. I got a callback, but heard nothing further – that’s the way it works. If they’re interested, they call you. If not, you move on. I moved on. When the movie came out, and was widely acclaimed, Mom insisted that Elijah Wood was the one that “took my slot” and they were going to use this movie as a vehicle for his career. 25 years later, she still brings it up.

Anyway, around that time, I booked a huge commercial. It was about as up my alley as it could get – I was supposed to play an energetic kid singing and dancing. Well, I sang better than a lot of kids, and I certainly had stage presence. It was the equivalent of Babe Ruth getting a big, fat pitch down the middle. I hit a home run, and I booked it. It ran really, really well – in fact, there was talk at the time of expanding the ad to encompass billboards and maybe even other commercials. It didn’t happen, but it was still a major win for me (For those interested, the commercial can be found here).

It was also a major win for Mom – she saw this as a slot opening up. Ross Perot was waiting in the wings – she even assured me that he was on the set somewhere. Possibly even several of the Russes were there, disguised. After a long day of taping, Uncle Carlo took us out to dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant. The food was awesome – I can still remember how the penne with meat sauce tasted – it tasted like success. Without all Mom’s nonsense and delusions about finally getting everything we’d ever hoped for, it was still a high – would have been for anybody. With the feeling that I was being given a blessing by a shadowy and mysterious organization, however, that high was elevated to epic proportions for both Mom and myself.

The long and (supposedly) bloody war continued – sometimes Mom would assure me there had been progress, that the two sides were agreeing, or sometimes she’d tell me elaborate tales of a Mexican standoff (although since we were talking about the Mob, I guess it was an Italian standoff). Even as sharp as I was, I had a hard time following the ever shifting details and reasons for “The War” (and when she would say it, you could hear the capitalization in her voice), but I got the general idea. One side (I think it was Philly) wanted to back someone else. New York wanted to back me. Both sides needed to agree for some reason, and somehow it spiraled into a massive war.

Uncle Carlo saw many, many famous people during my time there – some I even got to meet and sing for. Sometimes he even saw royalty – I remember meeting a Saudi prince once. He was a really nice guy. He told me he had a pet tiger, which instantly intrigued me. Anyway, Uncle Carlo once told us he wanted to take us to dinner (a frequent occurrence), but that he had some stuff to do. He asked us to wait in the back room (it was really a waiting room with a small black and white TV – I still remember the knobs, and how they clicked when you turned the channel). He told us to be quiet. Mom was instantly paranoid – why did he want us to be quiet? Why didn’t he just have us leave and come back later? She wouldn’t even let me watch TV, even at low volume. I sunk into a couch and started to read. Mom nudged me and pointed to the wall.

Me: What?

Mom: Pay attention. See if you can listen to what’s going on.

I tried, but the room was pretty well insulated – made sense, considering he was teaching music and probably wouldn’t want neighbors to hear or complain. Mom tried to listen too – I doubt she heard anything, but she insisted she did.

Eventually, Uncle Carlo emerged and took us to dinner. Unfortunately, this event spun Mom off into orbit and she added it to her arsenal of fantasies and delusions. She believed a Meeting (again, you could hear the capitalization in her voice when she used the word) occurred, and Uncle Carlo hosted. She believed, for whatever reason, that Philly and New York met there and came up with an Agreement (again, the capitalization). The Agreement was that they would come together and back me. Mom found further “proof” of her story in the fact that both PA and Texas plates were plentiful on the block. I have no idea why we would need to be waiting in the back during an underworld meeting, but I guess it made sense to her.

The events may not have been real – or real only to Mom – but the emotion…the extreme high of winning, of being “chosen”, the fear and paranoia, being in the middle of a gangland war – all of that was real to me.

  1. Reed says:

    GREAT performance in that commercial!

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