Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bella Firenze - The Light in the Piazza

Ciao a tutti,

This week I got to go see the Tony Award winning musical "The Light in the Piazza" which had been receiving rave reviews in the press. I was interested in seeing it for many reasons. First of all the story takes place in Italy, Florence Italy to be exact, with a scene in Rome.

Secondly, I heard that there were songs sung in Italian as well as spoken Italian in the play. Finally, I was interested in interviewing one of the lead actresses, Elena Shaddow, who plays the part of Clara Johnson, because I was told that she is Italian-American.

Well, the musical lived up to everything I had read and heard about it. It was wonderful to see Italian spoken and sung in a theater here in the States. The scenery depicted very well the mood and feel of Florence streets and squares, excuse me, Piazzas.

I enjoyed the music very much. The music reminded me however, of when I was minoring in vocal performance at the University of California, San Diego. The music department there was very much on the forefront of experimental music and I was not only exposed to many new styles of music but was encouraged to learn and sing some myself. I remember inviting family to the recitals. Granted, some of the music was hard to grasp, but I remember them always commenting on how they missed not hearing a melody.

Well, though I am very educated and open to all kinds of music, I have to agree with certain family members on this one. I missed a good melody. Especially since the musical takes place in Italy the Country of romance, and especially since the story was so romantic, I would have enjoyed leaving the theater with a romantic theme running through my head.

Don't get me wrong, the music was wonderful, but even in Italy today, melodies are still very strong and memorable and I missed that in this show. Still the music, the story, the costumes, the sets, and the acting did make for a very enjoyable and worthwhile musical to see, worthy of praise.

I went to see the show with a friend of mine who is a romantic as well and I enjoyed watching her swoon during parts of the show. Since she doesn't understand Italian, I expected her to be nudging me asking me what they were saying or singing about during certain parts of the musical. But the truth of the matter is that I might have enjoyed not understanding the Italian too because it added to the drama and the effect of being in a foreign country. That part was well done indeed.

Still, like I said hearing the Italian spoken, though some of the accents and hand movements etc. may have been a tad bit exaggerated, was very fun. I would recommend this musical to anyone. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet or interview Elena Shaddow for our Filippo and the Chef Show, and find out if she really is Italian-American, I hope to catch up with her another time.
She was very good by the way and so was Christine Andreas in the part of Margaret Johnson, Clara's Mother.



P.S. Here is a clip from of the Television Broadcast of the Tony Awards performance of "The Light in the Piazza."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Is it Christmas already? - But we haven't celebrated Thanksgiving yet!

Ciao a tutti,

With all the hustle and bustle of the Holidays, and by Holidays, I mean Christmas, already in the air, and in the stores, and on TV and, and, and, I feel like Thanksgiving has come and gone already. It didn't make matters any better when I myself went to go see a Christmas play before Thanksgiving with a group of fourteen Italian-American friends, all of us in the Holiday spirit. Actually, get fourteen Italian-Americans together for anything and it's a holiday, even if it's a wake.

We all went to a restaurant for dinner first, of course, we had to EAT! And then we went to see an Italian-American Christmas play on the opening weekend. The play was "Buon Natale" Christmas Eve Italian Style written and directed by Rita Andriello and produced by You & Me Productions. By the way, my Mamma was my guest that night.

When I saw the picture on the postcard invitation, I knew I had to see this show, the picture itself is so funny. Here is the cover of the program which has the same image as the postcard did, see what I mean? And for those of you who don't know, that is a Baccala, he's holding in his hands, no pun intended.

A Baccala is dried and salted Cod fish. The Italians salt the Cod Fish and then when they are ready to eat it they soak it in water for a few days to a week or so and then cook it in various was, usually for the "Cenone," the big fish meal on Christmas Eve. Interestingly enough, one of my Argentinian Italian friends was with us and he said that in Argentina, the Italians eat the Baccala on Easter, not Christmas.

And by the way, he said that in Argentina, Argentinians of Italian heritage don't distinguish themselves as Italian-Argentinians or Argentinian-Italians, he said, "We are just Argentinian, that's it!" Spoken in his heavy accent. When I asked him why, he answered that "since everyone from Argentina is from somewhere else, why differentiate?" Well, I should have answered him with "everyone from America is from somewhere else too, except for the Indians, and even THEY call themselves, American-Indian. How about that?"

And oh, incidentally, this friend of mine's name is Alberto Defilippi, now if that is not Italian, I don't know what is. And his two beautiful daughters, who also came and loved the play are named Bianca and Tea, (pronounced Tay -ah). Now tell me he isn't tied to his Italian roots! These are his two girls pictured here with Rita Andriello and I on the set of Buon Natale. Aren't they the cutest little Argentinian-Italian-Americans you've ever seen?

I have yet to explore this Argentinian thing further, but back to the play. Now ironically, after I had gotten tickets I was telling a friend of mine about the show who evidently had seen it last year when it premiered. As she listened to me she exclaimed, "you are taking your Mother?" I told her, of course, it should be funny, my Mom would make Baccala every Christmas, and..., and she interrupted me and told me about the play. Then I panicked. So, I thanked my friend for telling me and then proceeded to call several more friends tell them what I had learned and how I was in a dilemma as to what I was going to do, and they all told me to just not take her.

So I called my Mother and told her the bad news. Guess what? She said, "so what, lets go see it!" Wow, I was so impressed, you go Mom! We all ended up enjoying the show after all, and talking about it for days afterwards and even learning from it. It was well written and it was funny and touching and had so many great elements, my compliments to Rita. Here is a picture of Rita and I and the cast on the set of Buon Natale after the show. The gentleman on my right is Rita's husband, the co-producer, and also an actor in the play, Patrick Feren.

So what was the big deal? Well, the play dealt with some real issues in some Italians' and Italian-Americans' lives, for that matter the lives of many people of many different nationalities. Thankfully, the funny parts were part of my reality, and most of these particular nail biting parts were not. But we do know these problems have existed. For example, the main "problem" is the father, played by Roberto Branco, actor and a singer, who is standing behind the couch in the picture, and who reminded me that I followed his act on stage at a festival years ago.

So, the father, throws out one son on Christmas Eve because he divorced his wife and came to dinner with someone he considers a "bimbo." Though bimbo is the Italian word for little boy, that's not what he means. Then he throws out the second son because he comes to dinner with his "partner," another man, and then realized his son is gay. And as for the daughter, he hasn't spoken to her in I don't remember how many years because she married a man he didn't approve of.

However, the gut wrenching parts were cleverly woven with the humorous parts like everything being about the fish that night, and cleverly woven with sentimental parts, which I won't give away. All in all I am glad I went.

I think what would have made everyone happy is if maybe it wasn't called "Christmas Eve Italian Style," because thankfully, though everyone may eat fish that night, and though there are traditions that most everyone can agree on and relate to, all these particular experiences don't necessarily happen to every Italian-American. Besides, the Mother wasn't even Italian, she was Jewish, so it might have played out completely different had she been. But it certainly added to the humor with the Mother's Jewish sister played very adeptly by Sandra Kinder.

Oh, and the part that says "A Holiday Gift Wrapped in Love and Laughter," that part can be changed too, it gives you the feeling you are going to see something warm and fuzzy, and it is not necessarily so. However, that shouldn't stop you from seeing the play, or bringing your Mother, in fact, I do recommend it as a play about a particular fictitious family's Italian-American-Jewish Christmas Eve experience.

There is much you can laugh about, and learn. In fact, I learned of a tradition that my Mother never taught us, and that is the tradition of writing notes to your parents telling them how much you love them and placing them under the dinner plate before dinner. My mother and I had a great conversation on that and how she used to do it as a child and had forgotten about it. I rather like it. Grazie Rita, and Brava! Thank you also for including and my name in the program under "So Many Angels to Give Thanks For."

Happy Thanksgiving,


P.S. Ironically enough, here is a video I found on that a family put up last year of their Italian Christmas Eve experience. Quite the different experience and quite interesting too. Who is this beautiful family? (In Italian)

Monday, November 13, 2006

We Are Not Alone - The Canadians Are Coming

Ciao a tutti,

They're everywhere they're everywhere, and they are just like you and me! I couldn't be enjoying this more, connecting with Italian's of every walk of life and from every part of the world. And there is a thread that binds us all.

I am not talking about Italian, Italians. I am talking about "Something"-Italians, or Italian-"Something." You know what I mean, like "Italian-Americans," "Italo-Canadians," "Australian-Italians," "Argentinian-Italians," etc. We are a breed unto our own, a culture within a culture, within a culture. We are all different and yet very alike in so many ways.

This week I was invited to a screening of the "Italo-Canadian" Platinum Image film "Looking for Angelina." The story is based on a true story about an Italian family, the Napolitano's, who emigrated from Italy, lived in New York for a few years, and then immigrated into Canada.

It goes through this particular family's trials and tribulations, especially the racism and discrimination they encountered. The story unwinds tragically, with an ending that made world news at the turn of the Century and a judicial ruling that was overturned due to worldly, and mainly American intervention.

The film was made by up and coming Italo-Canadian film producing team, Sergio Navarretta, as Director, and Alessandra Piccione, as Screenwriter.

They are quite they dynamic duo and are bound to make waves, both in the Italian communities around the world and in Hollywood, if this film, their first major venture together, is any indication.

"Looking For Angelina" is due in theaters in the US market sometime in Spring '07 and stars two rising actors Lina Giornofelice and Alvaro D'Antonio, also Italo-Canadians.

As a matter of fact they play husband and wife in "looking For Angelina," and will play husband and wife again in a film still to be titled in which they co-star with Whoopi Goldberg, also due in theaters next year. The two of them have such chemistry, I wouldn't be surprised if they play husband and wife for many more films to come.

And what I was getting from the beginning of this blog, is that as soon as I met these people I felt like I had known them all my life. We had each other laughing and we carried on and had a great time.

Here is a picture of us before going into the theater, myself, Claire Ambrosio, actor, Manuel (Manny) Urrego, and the films leading actors Lina and Alvaro. You probably recognize Manny from HBO's "Six Feet Under" or CBS's "Robbery Homicide Division."

This is actor Michael Desante, his lady-friend, Noelle Perris, and myself. You probably recognize Michael from Showtime's "Sleeper Cell," the film "Soldier of God," or maybe even his soap opera days on NBC's "Days of Our Lives."

It was interesting how laughing and talking loudly we then all went in to see the movie, which ended up being no laughing matter. The acting, storyline and direction brought the audience to tears a couple times. When we exited the theater I looked at all of them differently, the actors, the director, the screen writer, etc.

Now that is the power of good writing, directing and acting, and good old fashion Italian passion. Here these are fun loving people, huomorous and jovial, but when it got down to the desire to tell a serious story, boy they told it. After a few minutes of seriousness, we were partying again.

I actually had a bottle of homemade Limoncello, that Chef Richard Lombardi, my CO-Host on the Filippo and the Chef Show had made and wanted me to bring to our mutual friend Claire, who I would be seeing that night.

But after I had met my new "cousins" from our neighbor to the North, I waited until the crowd had thinned out and then went and got the bottle from my car and served everyone Chef Richard's Limoncello. Above are Claire, Alvaro and Alessandra toasting to Richard.

I don't know if it was the Limoncello, but right after that they invited me to the after party at the famous Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, in Beverly Hills.

With the group that I saw that was going, like Ron Gilbert, a well respected Producer, among other things, actor, coach, etc., actress Dina Morrone, Stephen Rivkin, sought after film editor for such movies as "Pirates of the Caribbean," Claire Ambrosio, entertainment attorney, etc., I just knew we were going to be talking "shop," movies, distribution, release, etc.

But no, surprise, what did we talk about? We talked about the contrast and similarities between growing up Italian-American and growing up Italo-Canadian. That is what I mean, there is this binding thread that bound us to each other and to "The Old Country."

It was a very satisfying evening and I am so glad to not only have meet them but of having meet them later on in the week a couple more times for interviews for a future airing of the Filippo and the Chef Show, and for fun.

Boun Viaggio e Felice Ritorno, Sergio, Alessandra, Lina, e Alvaro, e in bocca al lupo con il film. Keep us posted!

Above is a picture of Alvaro D'Antonio, myself, and Ron Gilbert, who by the way, you saw die on My 13's "Desire," the new American Telenovela.

And finally, here is a picture of me with Dina Marrone and Stephen Rivkin. I haven't caught her show yet, but Dina has a one woman show called "The Italian In Me." See what I mean, it's in all of us!


Out of the blue I get invited to this party at a Penthouse in Beverly Hills in honor of Carushka. I had plans to interview my new Canadian friends that night, so I had to pass on it. But when we finished early because they had plans themselves for the evening, I rushed to the party in time to take this picture. I would say it was worth it, he, he.

Okay, what is the Italian connection? Well, I started out the blog by saying, they are everywhere, everywhere. Here I was going to a party thinking this would be just for me and for fun, when the host of the party, Shawn Sullivan the designer of Etu Couture, sees me come in and literally exclaims "I can't believe you made it, hey everybody, this is Filippo of Filippo and the Chef."

Of course I was flattered and very surprised, but of course he blew my cover. The next thing I know, people are happily asking me, what is Filippo and the Chef,and then telling me their Italian connection stories, or that they were Italian-American themselves. Nothing could have made me happier than to have such conversations and I was glad it happened that way.

Above is a picture of me with model Wrenna Monet, who has a four page spread coming out in Maxim next month as well as being the cover model for next month's Street Trucks Magazine. She is a principle on the TV car show "Skid Marks" and is host of "Fashion TV" on the Fashion channel. She won Miss Alaska Hawaiian Tropics and, a, oh, a, that's right, we were talking about the Italians, reluctantly moving on. Pictured with us is Dean Walker, the first British-Italian, or is it, English-Italian, I have meet, that I know of. He is a rock and roll singer/songwriter but can, and actually has been requested to sing, "Nessun Dorma," from Puccini's Opera "Turandot" in a public appearance.

This is Tommy Bruno, a fellow Italian-American with great stories to tell. With my mouth open like that it looks like I was in the middle of one of my stories myself. And judging from Mel Grayson's smile, it must have been funny.

Mel is not Italian, he, he. He is however a celebrated Art and Fashion Director at the Fashion Institute and an Image Designer, or Creator, for a lot of stars you would recognize.

Tommy on the other hand not only tells his stories, he expresses them through his art. Among other things, he is a graphic designer and creates art work for magazine covers, like Boulevard Magazine.

He also touches up photos and not only make the stars look good in photo shoots, but brides too on their wedding day, aahhh, how sweet.

Finally, I had to include this picture. This guy made me laugh. He said, in his own words, "I'm not Italian, but I play one on TV." Guess what, he is Jewish. What is it with the Italian parts going to Jewish actors?

He was funny and he liked my Gucci shoes. Well, he didn't know they were Gucci, he just told his girlfriend that he liked them and she told him they were Gucci. So obviously, he has good taste in shoes, women, and acting roles. He is Jason Slavkin and she is the beautiful Kristina Friend, and with that sense of style, and good humor, he should go far. Don't steal too many Italian roles.

Per adesso, basta (That's all for now),


P.S. Speaking of Italian immigrants in the early 1900's, the time that "Looking for Angelina" takes place, here is another example of those of us who carry the torch for our heritage, and yet another way of how we do it. A new acquaintance of mine, Nick Romano, is doing some very interesting things out in Temecula, CA. He is building an Italian Villa and a vineyard, to be called Villa Romano.

I am planning on interviewing him on our Filippo and the Chef Show so I will be sharing more about him and his dream. In the meantime, I thought this clip was very apropos this week. Here is a video clip of the story that started it all for him.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

From Party to Party - It's An Italian Way of Living

Ciao a tutti,

The week started with an Italian-American Birthday Party. This party was for a dear friend of mine, a very important CEO, and as a matter of fact, the youngest CEO I know.

His company is Nathan Anthony, and he is the Nathan Anthony, and he is five years OLD! He is the sweetest o gentle and good mannered and he treats his employees with so much respect, most of the time, especially his designer, Tina, and his President, Khai, otherwise known as, Mom and Dad.

Here he is on the right, with his cousin on the left, who you may recognize as the character Barbara Jean Hart's son, Henry Jesus Hart, on the hit TV show "Reba." In real life his name is Jon Paul Defabry. Look at the smiles on these two, aren't they too cute.

Click on the picture to make it bigger and just enjoy their sincere desire to give us the best picture they knew how. This could be the future of Italian-Americans. And they are off to a good start too. They are both grandchildren of a very prominent lawyer, Fred Calabro, member of a law dynasty, Calabro, Calabro, Calabro and Calabro.

It is the only four brother law firm in the Country and for that matter the most noted Italian-American law firm in the country, made up of lawyers, judges, and a designer. Yes, Tina Calabro, Nathan's mom, happens to have followed in her father's footsteps and is a lawyer too, though her heart is in designing hip, chick furniture for her son's company.

But back to Fred, I hadn't seen him in a long time and we had a lot of Italian-American community goings-on to catch up on. Then Fred blew me away with something I didn't know about him. Fred is an author and has published several things, from articles, to books, to greeting cards, etc.

But the thing that got me the most was that he is a poet. He recited to me over a dozen poems he had written over the years, like poems he wrote to pretty girls in Italy,... so Italian, and poems he has written about his Italian immigrant parents and his life growing up.

Oh, and he has taken on the task of rewriting Shakespeare in American-English, in rhyme. So far he has finished "rewriting" three complete works of Shakespeare. What a project. By the way, I read somewhere that Shakespeare was probably Italian. Anybody want to comment on that?

Fred also takes quotes from Shakespeare and writes poems around them. Here is an example of such a poem. I hope you enjoy it. And Fred, thanks for letting me print it and I look forward to the published book of poems.

All the world's a stage
Upon which we act each day.
With entrances and exists
And each something to say.

The actors we encounter
Each plays his separate part.
All strut and fret upon the stage
in the display of his art.

The scene is ever changing
From the present to the past.
Me thinks the plot's improving
But the play's been poorly cast.

Fred Calabro


After years of knowing comedian and now radio host Mike Marino, I finally made it on his "A" List. You see, Mike holds an Industry Mixer with top professionals from Film, TV, Music, etc., and mainly Italian-Americans, because, that's just how it is, he, he. Well, I finally got invited to one. It's more like I finally was available to go to one, but I gotta tease him, because he is a funny, funny guy and knows how to take a joke.

"But seriously folks," it's an amazing thing how many great people there are in this business, and how many Italian-Americans make this Industry go round. I got to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones, and right away it felt like we had known each other a hundred years. Nice people!

I will just let the pictures speak for themselves for now and I am sure the stories will soon follow. Let me introduce you to some of these characters.

Like directly above we have the lovely Charissa Saverio, otherwise known as DJ Rap, a DJ artist, being her lovely self, and Clay Heery, would you guess, a comedy writer and producer for Laugh Factory, etc., being his lovely self. Pretty funny huh? He is a two timer, Emmy Award Winner that is. And things just got funnier from there, at least for Charissa and I.

Below we have two funny, funny guys, both the kind of characters from the neighborhood you could hang out with for hours, just cracking jokes. They are comedy writers although they both are working as Producers right now. Not a bad gig.

On my right is Tommy Caprio who produces Tavis Smiley for PBS, and occasionally the Larry King show and shows like that. On my left is Chris Risucci who is a Sr. Production Coordinator and Production Management for PBS with a long list of shows that he works on.
Below is yet another one with a roster of shows he has produced that is too long to mention, but you can click on his name and see some impressive titles. And speaking of his name, don't let the name fool you, he is indeed Italian-American. He is Emmy Award winning Christopher Debiec, but you can call him Chris.

Next we have the ever serious Fred Bartolone, part Napolitan, and part Sicilian, gotta love it. He is a Writer, Director and Artist, with hair longer than mine. I wish I could tell you about his upcoming project because it is going to be great, but he said it wasn't time to publicize it yet. But I think it is safe to say it is Italian themed.
And finally, we have an honorary Italian-American and, one that we are working on. The honorary Italian- American is Bill Boyd. He gets his honorarium after having worked with "The Man Show's" Italian-American hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Corolla, and with producer Doug DeLuca, and for hanging around with them even after the show ended.

He has even volunteered for years at the Los Angeles San Gennaro Festival. And hey, he is a musician, actually, of the "Cracker and a Coaster" Band, so he's gotta be a nice-a guy. And the young lady is TJ Myers, another Producer. Beauty and brains, what more could you want?


Then came the Dr. John Demartini lecture. Now I wouldn't call this an Italian-American event. But he is Italian-American and I am proud to be able to write about him on this blog as such.

Italian-American or not, I would still go to hear him. Hear him, read his books, listen to his CDs, watch his videos, etc., etc. He has some amazing things to say and since learning about him from watching the movie "The Secret," I have been all ears.

He rarely gets to Los Angeles, so this was quite a treat. The topic of his lecture this time was "The Secrets of Life Mastery" Basically he spoke about the Law of Attraction and creating abundance in the seven areas of ones life.

I mentioned him in a previous post after I had watched him on CNN's Larry King, where he was part of panel that focused on this same subject. I have posted a clip of him at the end of this post. Lets see, what else can I say and keep it under 324,697,663,410,975 words, he, he? Actually, I really like something I read about him recently
because I think it is right on, so I will print some of it here.

Dr. John F. Demartini is an international speaker, author and consultant who breathes new life into his audiences with his enlightening perspectives, humorous observations of human nature and practical action steps. For thirty years his words of wisdom have been inspiring minds, opening hearts and motivating people to action.

His understanding of human behavior is reshaping psychology as we know it, and his revolutionary personal transformation methods have enhanced millions of lives around the world. His heart-felt and energizing presentations are informative, inspirational and invigoration.

. Demartini's books include "Count Your Blessings - The Healing Power of Gratitude and Love," published by Harper Collins, "The Breakthrough Experience, a Revolutionary New Approach to Personal Transformation, "How to Make a Hell of a Profit and Still Get to Heaven," and "You can Have an Amazing life in Just 60 Days," published by Hay House.

Oh, have I got a great and inspiring personal story about Hay House and Louise Hay herself. I don't know if there is a connection, but if I find one and when the time is right I would love to share that.

In the mean- time, here is a picture of Dr. Demartini, Amanda of the Thank God I... book series, and I at this weeks seminar. I actually may have a story in the first "Thank God I..." book due to be released in a few months. There is an Italian connection there, namely John Castagnini, co-author of the series. I will probably be writing more about them in the future.


Finally the week ended with yet another party. This time a gallery premier of some beautiful functional art pieces at Utopia Design, a high end boutique which carries functional art from top designers from Italy to Istanbul. In this case the hoopla was for Ebru Cereczci, a Turkish artist, who calls her collection "Hiref."

The mayor of Los Angeles, Mayor Villariagosa, even sent a proclamation welcoming the artist on her United States premier.

Now you may recognize the young lady in these pictures as Laura De Leon, the opening act singer from my show in Long Island just two months ago. Yes, it is her and she is still singing, even more so than ever, in fact she is in the process of writing more songs for her debut CD that she is in the process of recording. She however, is multi-talented, and has varied interests and passions, and engages in as many as she can, especially those that relate to the arts.

In this case, she is the President of the wholesale division at Utopia Design where she travels around the world discovering unique and talented artists and giving them an opportunity to be seen in the United States, like "Hiref," for example.

Which is by the way how she discovered me, he, he, just kidding. I discovered her, he, he, just kidding there too.

These pictures are self-explanatory, but just in case, Laura is the one in this picture on the left. As a matter of fact, Laura is standing in front of the Alessi Design Section of the Boutique. Alessi is an Italian designer of functional art that is not easy to find in the United States.

Above you see Laura and Ebru, the Turkish artist, holding the proclamation from Mayor Antonio Villariagosa. The other gentleman you see in these pictures, besides myself, is Darren Frank, the owner of the boutique, who by the way, is an artist and designer in his own right, of jewelry and more.

There were a couple other parties this "party" week, but they had nothing Italian to report, though I tried. So, needless to say, I am party'd out for the week.

The party is over for now,

Ciao a tutti.


P.S. Here is a Youtube video clip of Dr. John Demartini as interviewed by (In English)