Wednesday, August 29, 2007

All In A Days Work - Still Working On It (Part 2)

Ciao a tutti,

This post is a continuation of my previous post of the same title in which I talk about some of the experiences I am starting to have as part of my profession. Or rather, more accurately, these experiences I am experiencing because of a combination of various circumstances including my profession, my ethnicity, my personality, etc.

In the last post I mentioned how I ran into the famous photographer, director, etc., Norman Seeff at after a meeting. This next situation that occurred is still new to me too and something I might be lucky enough to have to get used to. It occurred in the office of the IACCW (Italy American Chamber of Commerce, West) during a meeting with the Executive Director, Paola De Mari.

In the middle of the meeting she told me that she had seen my blog and all the events I had gone to and reported about, and wanted to know why I had not attended a single one of their events and reported on it? I told her that I didn't remember ever having been invited to one. The office manager Lucia Peretti Merritt proceeded to tell me the E-mail address they had listed for me, and indeed it was correct.

I guess I couldn't get out of this one. In all actuality, I think I had assumed that since I also receive many invitations for events in New York and Chicago, etc. that I am an not able to attend at the moment, that the ones coming from the particular E-mail address, were not local events. I told her that I would be happy to attend and report on one or more of their events and post pictures, etc. I promised I would be looking for the next event to attend.

Our meeting continued and something said within the meeting sparked a memory in Paola and she asked me if I had seen the pictures of me in a recently published book. I told her I didn't even know that I was in yet another book. I thought she might be referring to Richard Gruden's Book, The Italian American Crooner - A Bedside Companion," in which the author dedicates a whole chapter on me.

She immediately popped up and went to her office to get it and brought it back into the meeting room and opened up the pages to the pictures of me. It was not that book but another one called "Images of America - Italians in Los Angeles."

I was quite honored I must say, firstly that she thought so much of me to bring it to my attention, and secondly that only a handful of Italian-Americans were listed in the book as representing the next generation of Italian leaders and I was included right along with Jimmy Kimmel, of ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live Show and Doug DeLuca, producer of the show.

Above is a picture of the cover and below that are the pictures used in the book. You see the page listing Jimmy Kimmel and Doug DeLuca. And then here are the pictures with me.

Even though, the captions are incorrect, and I don't wear my hair that way anymore, thankfully, he, he, it was wonderful to be included.

The book is called "Images of America - Italians In Los Angeles," by Marge Bitetti and published by Arcadia Publishing. Thank you Marge for including me in the pictures. Thank you Paola for giving me the book so I could post it on my blog. And thank you Giovanna DiBona of Roman Holiday, with whom I am happily pictured, and Norman Panto.

You know, there used to be a saying amongst musicians, that started up after the accordion had "fallen out of favor" in the recording studio world. The saying was "Play and accordion, go to jail." When I first started to hire bands and asked around for accordion players for the ethnic sound I was looking for at the time, musicians would laugh and tell me those sayings and more. They were funny, but they didn't stop me from hiring accordion players.

It is interesting how now the accordion has come into favor even among some rock bands. Okay, it hasn't taken over the guitar, and you don't always see it in bands, but it is used in recording studios. And this man, Norman Panto, or Nunzio, as I know him has done well with it. Besides the usual Italian weddings and events, he has even been featured playing on TV commercials. Here's one accordion player who not only didn't "go to jail" for playing the accordion, he went to the bank.

Ciao for now,


P.S. In my last post, I featured a Cher video and mentioned how I would feature a Sonny Bono video next time, and here it is. Here is a video I found on of Sonny singing his song "Laugh At Me." Like his voice or not, you have to admit the message is timeless. (In English)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

All In A Days Work - Still Working On It (Part 1)

Ciao a tutti,

I intellectually know that my life is different than most people's but to be honest, it is still all new to me. Things don't go the way I was used to them going when I was working in the corporate world of IBM, for example.

For instance, last week we were in a meeting with Kassi Crews, Vice President of Digital Jungle, a post production house in Hollywood discussing the television version of the "Filippo and the Chef" show. When who comes to see her, but Norman Seeff.

Though many of you might not recognize his name, you would definitely recognize his work, guaranteed. If you saw the images that have defined our celebrities over the years, the images were shot by Norman Seeff. Say Ray Charles, Cher, Etta James, Frank Zappa, George Burns, Hugh Heffner, Mick Jager,... the list goes on.

All these people, and hundreds more have not only been photographed by Norman, but it is those photos that have been used to define them and we know these people best by the photos that Norman shot.

He not only has photographed celebrities and well known persons, but has shot for bands and album covers, and major companies, and directed for commercials, books, and is in the process of releasing two feature documentaries "Triumph of the Dream" and "The Sessions Project" this year. That's who was meeting with Kassi after we were.

Upon finishing our meeting, Kassi introduced us all, and me being the consummate blogger asked if we could have a picture all together, and with everyone's consensus here is the picture. The interesting thing is that in the meeting with Kassi were Chef Richard, Mike Spitler, one of our producers, and myself.

After the picture was taken Mike jokingly complained that he didn't get to be in the shot. But what I find funny is that Norman, who has photographed hundreds of famous people and who rarely gets photographed himself, was photographed by Mike. Now I don't think I have to convince him of how important that is.

In the picture at the top is Norman next to me and Kassi next to Chef Richard. Thank you Norman for agreeing to be photographed and posted on my blog and Kassi for introducing us.

That's what I mean. This never would have happened at IBM, and rarely happens anywhere except in Hollywood. Below the picture of us are a few of the Italian-Americans Norman has photographed, the first two are of Frank Zappa, including the cover of his album.

After that is of course is Alan Alda. And the one below him is the photo Norman took for the cover of one of the Aerosmith album covers. And in case you didn't know, Steve Tyler of Aerosmith is Italian-American.

See what I mean, this never happened to me before. I look forward to it happening again and again, because to tell the truth, if this is "all in a days work," I'm still working on it, but I can get used to it.

Stay tuned for Part Two.


P.S. Since Cher was married to, and made her career together with, one of the best known and loved Italian-Americans in the world, Sonny Bono, I felt that it was enough of an Italian connection to include here here in this post. The reason for the inclusion is that Norman Seeff photographed her for the cover of this album and this gives me an opportunity to honor him, her and Sonny. Maybe next time I will find something on Sonny and include him. After all, I remember meeting his parents when I was a child, but that's another story. Here is a video of Cher's "Knock on Wood," with pictures by Norman as found on (In English).

Friday, August 24, 2007

Party After Party - In San Diego

Ciao a tutti,

While in San Diego visiting family, my blood relatives I should say since I seem to call so many people family, I took the opportunity to stay the night and go to yet another party the next night.

In San Diego, I feel like if I wanted to, I could probably find a party every weekend. Actually, in the Italian community in San Diego, you could find a party, a wedding, an anniversary, or something every weekend for sure.

But this was not an Italian party and I didn't expect to see any Italians there, but I shouldn't expect anything of the kind anymore.

It was a party of business people that I had met in LA who, like is starting to happen more and more in my life, I became friendly with. I guess I just can't do business without turning everyone I am dealing with into family or friends. I have always said that I don't know about this "don't do business with family," saying. I figure if you could do business with people and enjoy them as well, you have it made.

The way I see it, if in the end when you die it is the people you spent time with that mattered the most, well, doesn't it stand to reason that since we spend so much time in business, shouldn't those people we do business with, matter?

That's how I see it, at least right now. And this is turning out to be the case with all my dealings, like in this case with Bill Clum. I don't know what kind of business dealings we are going to have yet, but it doesn't matter, whatever it is and whenever it is, it is going to be good. In the meantime we are all having fun.

And this was a reason for having fun. Bill was having a milestone Birthday. Now since I just put my two cents in about doing business with friends and family, I might as well put my two cents in about Birthdays.

Actually, I already mentioned some of my beliefs about Birthdays in a previous post when it was my Birthday we were talking about. But here is one more belief of mine on Birthdays. I think milestones are those that we cross as we learn things and grow in life and not just those that are number of years that pass.

So, we should be celebrating the days that we experience growth or have come to an understanding about life, not just the days in which we were born. Because in essence, by celebrating Birthdays we are just glorifying time. But when we celebrate achievements or successes or experiences, we are glorifying life.

Again, that's just how I see it right now, assuming I made my point clearly. That is until maybe someday I will see it differently, probably around the time I reach a "milestone" birthday, he, he.

I think Bill probably believes this too but it just happened to be a "milestone" birthday year; it happened to be a great time for his lady friend Patricia Murray Morgan to throw him a party at their place in San Diego; and it happened to be right in the middle of a beautiful summer.

It also turns out that there are two things I can count on when attending a party in California, one, meeting Italians and two, meeting Hollywood Celebs. I didn't know this until I met her but Patricia is an Emmy Award Nominated Make-up Artist for such big shows, and movies, (and the difficult make-up jobs), as "Battlestar Galactica," "Scary Movie," "Babylon 5," and many more.

In regard to meeting Italians, I was happily surprised to see my good friend David Johnson at the party who I haven't seen in a very long time. He is Italian-American and it was good to see him looking so good and doing so well.

Actually, the looking good part is not hard for him since he has been a print model for years, he could stumble out of bed and take a good picture. The doing well part, that's something I wish for everyone and glad to know he is.

That's David pictured here with me. The very first picture at the top of the post is of Bill Clum and I. I must say these pictures with Bill were taken after we had all done quite a bit of dancing to the live band you see behind us there in the backyard.

Directly below that picture of Bill and I is a picture of Patricia Murray and I, and then below that, Bill, Patricia, and I. And speaking of Patricias, the picture below that one is of my friend Patricia, or Tricia Wall, and a friend of hers and acquaintance of mine, Jon Corbisez.

Actually, in case you have noticed those beautiful crystals some of us are wearing, John is the one that makes them by hand. Since some of you have asked, when Jon gets a website up, I can share it so those of you who are interested will know how you can get one too, or learn about them.

Below that picture is Bill and a friend Moe Elhabbal, that I just happened to catch on my camera, as well as a picture of Bill, Patricia, and her Mother, all the way from Canada.

Finally, here is a picture of an interesting lady I met at the party who has an interesting business. Her name is Susie Walton and she specializes in helping people and communities to live harmoniously. I can't wait to hear more about that.

I think we could all use a little of that. But none of that was necessary at Bill and Patricia's party. Fun was had by all. Thanks for the invite and...

Buon Compleanno Bill (Happy Birthday Bill).


P.S. Speaking of friends in San Diego, I ran across this video on of some friends in San Diego. They are Tony and Giovanna DiBona who have a band and dance troop they call Roman Holiday. I heard from Giovanna today, she saw my last blog post of me and my family in San Diego and knowing I was in San Diego mentioned how she wished we could have seen each other. See, there was another party waiting to happen. What did I tell you? Every time I see them it's a party, with good food and good music, and no wonder, look what they do. (Non Spoken Video)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

La Famiglia E Sempre Famiglia - Family Is Always Family

Ciao a tutti,

We all live such busy lives, and time goes by so quickly, there isn't time for much other than what is starring us in the face. And yet, there is so much that we wish we could incorporate into our lives somehow, but we just don't know how to do it.

It is no coincidence that on our Filippo and the Chef show has a few mottos we like to say and live by, and the majority of them revolve around family.

"In Our Kitchen, You're Family."

"Join Our Family."

"We invite you to cook along with us, drink along with us, and enjoy life along with us, after all, we're family."

I truly feel that way about all the people we work with and the fans we are developing. And I try to live my life with as much family as I can. Ironically, when I am performing I truly feel like I am performing for family.

I have created a family of people that I work with on the show. I am really close to a handful of friends and to me they are family. And as far as my immediate family is concerned, I try to see them as often as I can. So, I have truly created my life around family and surrounded myself with family.

But when most people think of family, they think of their immediate family. But to Italians, family extends many generations far up, down and across the family tree, probably as far as you can imagine.

There are even names for the extensions of the family members. I hardly know them in English, much less Italian.

I am talking about first cousins, second cousins, first cousins once removed, second cousins three times removed, and so on. I don't know how it all works but I do know that family is family and that's all there is to it.

Well, all this to say that I have family all over, as I am sure we all do nowadays. The majority of mine is in San Diego, New York, Milan, Rome and Sicily. I got to visit with family in San Diego this past weekend and it did me good. And again, when I say family, I include fourth cousins, and beyond.

This weekend was special because there was family visiting from Sicily for the first time, and all of us that could, took the opportunity to get together to meet and spend time with them. We all gathered at my Uncle's house, otherwise known to me as "Parrinu," my Godfather, and we had a great time.

It was so exciting seeing how well everyone was doing, and how beautifully everyone got along, related and had a great time.

You know how there are parties when the adults get together and the kids keep to themselves, or leave early, or better yet, don't come at all.

Not in this case, all the kids hung around wanting to get to know us and spend time with us all too. All the generations were represented and we wouldn't have had it any other way. I guess that sense of "famiglia" is born in us and we cherish it.

I asked around if anyone wanted to be included in this special post on my

blog of a subject and a group of people that were very near and dear to me. All of them said yes. Now, not all the pictures came out good and because of that and because it would just be too many pictures, I won't be posting everybody in this post but I will hopefully have another occasion soon to post more.

As I am writing this post and uploading pictures and running out of space, I had to laugh that I don't think I got pictures of half the people there.

The other funny thing is that the people at the party are probably only one tenth of the family I have in San Diego.

That is not to mention all the people that I have known all my life or the friends and fans that I have made through the years there. The family just keeps getting bigger, and what could be better. I wouldn't have it any other way.

The family also is expanding in a big way and in many directions. We are all so different and yet all the same. It is interesting how through marriage some of us have married into other cultures and how their cultural differences have enhanced our living experience.

Interesting however when we get together it all seems very Italian however.

Even though most of us still are Italian, those that aren't feel Italian at times. And even if they don't live Italian throughout their everyday lives, it is fun to come together and party as Italians, with good Italian wine, Italian food, and lots of Amore, (Love). Now, that's Italian!

What can I say but "E Viva La Famiglia," "Hail to the Family!"


P.S. Speaking of family, I really like what Martin Scorsese did back in 1974 when he filmed his parents Catherine and Charles "living" family life, Italian style, whatever I mean by that. I say family because there is the interaction of him and his parents as well.

By the way, it is so New York Italian, just to listen to them, to hear what they talk about, the way they relate to each other, the cooking and everything. Now it is a little different from a Californian Italian interaction, but it is still Italian. How different? We can get into that another time.

I don't know what more to say but you'll get it if you watch it. I like this kind of thing. If you do too, then enjoy a slice of Italian-American family life as Martin Scorsese filmed it in "ItalianAmerican" and as I got off of (In English)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Marco Ierva - A Man of Many Names and Many Talents

Ciao a tutti,

Through my friend Marco Missinato I had the pleasure of meeting another Marco, in this case Marco Ierva. I had heard from my friend Marco that he was a man of many talents and was quite the man about town in Italy, more specifically Rome.

Fortunately I didn't just get to meet him, but actually got to know him by being able to spend some time with him during his recent stay here in Los Angeles. I love to speak Italian and to learn more about Italy any chance I get. So to be able to share this kind of time with a man who has done so much in Italy in so many fields was such a pleasure because we could talk about so many things, not to mention he is a really great guy.

In the end, I just had to interview him for the Filippo and the Chef radio show and have him share with our radio audience some of the interesting stories and experiences he shared with me.

The reason I titled this post "A Man of Many Names and Many Talents" is because the night before the interview I did my due diligence and went on the Internet to learn more about Marco so I would be better prepared for the interview. I was surprised to learn that for someone who had done so much, all of which I had believed was true, and was verified by many others that knew him from Italy, there was so little about him on the net.

I didn't quite know how to say this to him when I saw him the next day for the interview. But I found a way to tactfully broach the subject. He knew where I was going right away and laughed. Afterwards he told me that he used to go by the name Iervasutti, and that I would find much more information about him under that name.

But even better than that. Since his name starts with the letter "i," it is some times misread as a "j" and therefore both his names, "Ierva" and "Iervasutti" have been misspelled as "Jerva" and "Jervasutti" many times. The next thing I know we are on the Internet together proving his point. And right he was. He was everywhere under all those names.

He was listed as the winner of a singing competition as a young child in a rock band. I found listings of his winning the European equivalent of "Most Valuable Player," in the field of Water Polo (Pallanuoto). This of course meant that he was one of the top players in his day and the one that all the girls used to chase after and the one who had everyone wanting to be his friend. In Italy, that must be a fun life to live, even if it is only for a few years.

Of course, now that he is a husband and father he might not think about all that anymore. Nevertheless, I think about those things, he, he. Lets see, I didn't find listings of him as a husband and father but I found listings of him as an actor, a dance choreographer, a Physical Ed Teacher, a coach for the Italian Olympic synchronized swimming team, play writer, dancer, and the list goes on. This was big stuff, not just local theater but nationally televised stuff.

The thing that impressed me the most were the many articles that referred to him as a person who cared about people. For example he was the Stage Director for a theater event called "Sirene Per Una Notte," (Sirens For A Night), and as part of it he used a sign language translator. This had never been done for a national and televised event of this nature. One article praised his insistence on not wanting to leave anyone out and to be able to communicate with as many people as he could, including the deaf.

The article that got my attention in another respect was about his recent Artistic Directing of the Internationally televised "Ali della Vittoria" (Wings of Victory), which is like the "Oscars" of Soccer. And you know that in Italy a Gala night like that is the biggest night of the year, second only to the soccer championships themselves. And he was the Director.

Evidently, he is up for that honor again this year and I told him that when he gets it to let me know so I can book my ticket early. I want to go and interview all the best loved soccer players that those of us that are into it get to watch play their hearts out game after game. You know which ones I am talking about, and Marco knows all of them.

At any rate, the interview came out great. His English was good enough to understand and rough enough to make it exciting and keep you on your toes. Evidently, my Italian is like that too, at least so I am told by people in the know. We had a fun and interesting time together to say the least and I look forward to seeing him here or in Italy soon.

If nothing else, Marco, "see you at the 'Oscars!'"

A presto,


P.S. The pictures above are of Marco Ierva and myself, of Ierva with Marco Missinato, and of the two of us with Ornella, a mutual friend visiting from Italy, at a get together at my place. And speaking of a man of many talents introducing new things to theater, here is a new piece of theater structured by Italians and performed by Italians, in a way that I have never seen done before. It is using multi-media, mainly comic strip type visuals and live actors as characters. (In English)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Request I Couldn't Deny - From A Mother On Her Daughter's Wedding Day

Ciao a tutti,

I guess at the moment, my family is fresh out of weddings. Everyone in my extended family that is going to get married got married years ago and those that have children, they are still to young to entertain the thought. And contrary to popular belief, I have many friends that are non-Italian and so those that have gotten married, their weddings have not been Italian weddings.

And not that I am out there looking for Italian weddings, but when my friend Claire asked me to be her date at her cousin's wedding, I was quite delighted.

Of course I would have said yes, because it was my friends pleasure to have me there. On the other hand, her cousin's parents had been long standing fans of mine and don't miss the opportunity to tell me so each time they see me, which of course does make me feel good. On top of all of that, since I hadn't been to an Italian wedding in so long, I was actually looking forward to it.

And an Italian wedding it was, complete with real live, fresh Italians straight from Italy. Better yet, they were from Sicily. They had arrived there days before in droves, just for the wedding. And when I say droves, I mean 30 or so. And let me tell you, that is such an honor and a tribute to the family in the Italian tradition. Quite impressive I must say.

Claire had actually invited me a year or so ago to the engagement party and so I had met the bride and groom to be, at that time and gotten to know them as really nice people and seemingly a perfect couple. Although I have to say they seemed awfully young to me. Am I getting older?

So here they were getting married. And here I was at their wedding. And here I was, not the wedding singer. Come to think of it I was relishing in the fact that I wasn't singing, not in the church not at the reception. I have to say that in every wedding I sang at, everyone, I was never treated as the "wedding singer" but always as a guest. I don't know why exactly, it was other singers that brought that to my attention. Many times I was invited to sit at tables with other guests, I was always treated to the same food and party favors, or bonbonieri, etc. And even if I was only singing at the reception, I would often be invited to the church and be requested to attend.

Maybe because I always thought of people that I was singing for as family, after all, I was helping the most special day of their life be more special, I figured that they were honoring me too by asking me to be a part it all. You also hear of these horror stories about the bride's treating the band not so nicely. I usually ended up having a dance with the bride or her Mother who hired me.

I never experienced anything but kindness, except for one bride and one party in particular. I will never say who it was but I will tell the story someday because it is too funny. Yup, she was Italian, but I think her "meds" must have interfered with her "party drinking" or something. Of course I took it seriously, and it bothered me for a long time but she still loves me and if I look back it was a pretty funny situation.

So getting back to this beautiful couple and this wedding that wasn't my family and that I didn't have to sing at. I was enjoying myself just watching everything happen as I would expect it to happen in a typical Italian-American West Coast wedding. I make a distinction as West Coast, because I understand that the East Coast weddings are completely different. I have never been to an East Coast wedding. If someone wants to invite me to one, I just might come. I'd even blog about it, he, he.

All of a sudden out of no where Claire asks me a question that hits me like a ton of bricks. "Filippo, do you want to sing?" It was the last thing on my mind. For the first time ever I was actually at a wedding where I didn't have to sing. It had never happened before. Even if I wasn't the paid entertainer, I would always be asked by someone. But for some reason, maybe I have been in my Filippo and the Chef radio show host personality mode, I had forgotten that I was even a singer. As far as I was concerned I was just Claire's date.

So, being the good friend that I am, and I am a good friend, but I took her at her word, which is really interesting being that she is an attorney. Happily she didn't treat me as if I were on the stand because she could have gotten me good because she's good. But her words were "Do you want to sing." Well, the answer of course was, no. I didn't want to sing.

Now if she had asked me "Would you sing?" that is different, that is a question and a request on her part. Then it would have been harder for me to say no, if at all. Whew. I got through that. About an hour later, Claire's mother came up and asked me the same question, happily using the same wording. Now, yes, I knew what she meant, she meant, "Filippo would you sing for us?" But what she said was "Filippo, do you want to sing?" Again, my answer was "no, thank you." As if they were trying to do me a favor and satisfy my desire to sing or something.

Now, it is not as if I wasn't feeling the Italian guilt. Though they politely walked away after my answer, and I felt good on the outside, on the inside I was being eaten up alive. I knew I was going to hell for this but I wasn't sure why, because I truly didn't want to sing. But what I truly love to do is to make people happy and if that will do it, then I was considering it.

But what would I sing? I racked my brain and just decided, well, they accepted my answer so maybe I wouldn't have to sing after all. Until the bomb hit. It was a triple whammy actually. Within the span of about ten minutes, as if they had planned it, the bridal couple tell me how much of an honor it is for them to have me there. Then the bride's father comes up and tells me the same thing with tears in his eyes saying that my Uncle or someone in my family used to work with his brothers when they were all in Sicily and it was an honor to have me there.

Finally, the bride's mother comes up to me. Now she is the sweetest woman you ever want to meet, and her daughter takes after her. Actually, they are all nice people. She also stands four foot something, if that, so it felt like she was kneeling. She clasped her hands together as if she were praying to me and asked me how my mother was. My mother. You mention an Italian man's mother and you have him!

I told her she was fine and thanked her for asking and she told me how much she would have love my mother there. And after she had broken me, with love, she asked "WOULD you sing for my daughter?" "WOULD!" Oh no! She said "WOULD," while her hands were clasped in prayer and she looked like she was kneeling.

I said to myself. "Filippo, God has given you the gift that makes people happy, it is your duty to share it otherwise, now you will know why you will be going to hell!" "SI, SI, SI, of course I will sing for your daughter, IT WOULD BE MY PLEASURE!" But what would I sing?

So I thought about it for a little bit and I remembered that there were 30 Sicilians fresh from Sicily there, not to mention the ones that were not so fresh. What I mean by that is that they have been here awhile. There wasn't one Sicilian song represented that night and that just maybe it would be special if I sang them an old Sicilian song that my father had taught me.

Only, I couldn't remember all the words. So I excused myself and went outside and called my mother on the cell phone. Her first question to me was, "Did they ask you to sing yet?" I asked her how she knew. She replied with a question, "How could you not have expected it?" I guess she was right. I asked her the words of the Sicilian song "Sciuri, Sciuri," which for some reason I couldn't remember in the heat of the heat of the moment, and she helped me and then thanked me for singing for them. Boy I tell you, mother's know how to get you right in the heart.

I rushed back in the hall in time for the bride's father to introduce me with tears in his eyes. Not being in "the biz" he introduced me while half of the guests were still on the dance floor finishing up a dance.

So, in the middle of all these people I grab the mike and say a few words. A lady walking by stopped and looked at me and said, "I thought I recognized your voice." She proceeded to tell me how she had been at two of my shows in New York and she asked me how my mother was. Can you believe this. In that case I understand because I had brought my mother up on stage in my last show in New York.

In any case she proceeded to tell me many things, hug me, kiss me, all while people were watching and listening to all of this on the mike. It was really quite funny and very adorable. I spoke in Sicilian and in English and told them what I was going to sing and why and the next thing you know, since I was singing a Capella, without music, everyone clapped along and gave me the beat as the bride and groom looked on with glee. It ended up being so rewarding and the family came up and thanked me so profusely.

I was grateful for the opportunity to make a bright day even brighter and for have been given three chances to give the right answer.

Auguri a gli sposi, Bob and Crisitna! (Best wishes to the newlyweds!)


P.S. Growing up Italian-American, weddings were always a special time. Among other things is was a time for families. Of course, I wasn't there at my parent's, or aunts' and uncles' weddings, but we had pictures, and we used to enjoy looking at them from time to time. Though all the pictures I looked at from Italy were in black and white, this video I found on of someone's Italian-American wedding reminded me of looking at those old pictures and of a time gone by. I thought it most appropriate to include it here. (In English)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Confessions of a Romance Addict - No, Not Me, John

Ciao a tutti,

I was invited to see a one-man play called "Frank Sinatra F#*ked Up My Love Life!!! - Confessions Of A Romance Addict," by a young Italian-American actor John Ciccolini. The title alone had me interested. Then I read that the show had been nominated for the "LA Weekly Best Solo Show" Award, even better.

But what could John possibly have to say about romance and the Chairman of the Board that hasn't already been said?

I invited an Italian friend of mine, Luciana, who was visiting from Italy to go to the show with me. Since she spoke perfect English, actually, more "perfect" than I since she was educated in England and therefore speaks "The Queen's English," I thought she would enjoy the play. Come to find out she too was a huge Frank Sinatra fan.

It was funny how when we got into the theater, my name was on the press list and with my complimentary tickets was a press packet. Luciana immediately pulled the packet away from me and asked with delight, as she looked at John's picture, "is this who we are seeing tonight?"

When I responded affirmatively she squealed with excitement. Evidently, she wasn't just a big fan of Frank Sinatra, but a big TV fan and recognized John from some TV Series he had done that she had seen in Italy, NYPD Blues or something.

Then she noticed his name and noted that he, John, and her shared the same last name, only hers has another "o" in it as in "Cioccolini" where his is "Ciccolini." Boy did I pick the right person to bring to the play. John had all the cards stacked up in his favor for Luciana, and I to enjoy the play.

It turns out that John had all the cards stacked up even without all the coincidences. He and his play were funny, clever, well executed and quite unique. To look at him now you wouldn't have figured him a self-professed nerd as a child and so he describes learning how to "get along with the ladies" through Frank's songs that he listened to religiously, even in an era wherein all his friends were listening to rock and rap.

He even conjures up Frank, and plays him out as a figment of his imagination talking to him about romance and giving him tips while using real life examples from Frank's public life. In the end, John,... well, I don't want to give out the ending, but he cleverly ties it all up, figures it all out and "does it 'His' way." That much I can say.

Then at the end of the play, Cioccolini got to meet Ciccolini and found out they were brother and sister and that her long lost father had come to America and the "o" was dropped by accident and never recovered.

Now wouldn't that have been another play that Ciccolini could write? Only that part isn't true, I am just being funny.

Here I am pictured with Ciccolini wishing him well on the future of this and his next projects. Maybe someday someone will write a play about my music. Only instead of a "Frank Sinatra F#*ked Up My Life!!!" kind of title, maybe it would be "Filippo Voltaggio Saved My Life." Did I just make up that part too? Why not, it's my blog and I am going to write it the way I want.

That way, someday I can sing about my blog and say about it, "I DID IT MY WAY!"


P.S. Speaking of Frank "F#*king" things up for John, so he jests. Here is a video I bet hardly any of you have seen. In it Frank does right but a little boy about to get beaten up by a gang of children, he does right by Americans, and the right to practice ones religion of choice. He uses language and references that we happily don't use anymore, but that was the language of the day and thankfully the meaning isn't lost in it. This is a short film I found on Youtube. com that Frank did in 1945 that won an Honorary Oscar and Golden Globe. (In English)