THE SOPRANOS star – actor, playwright, director, and singer – Vinny Pastore and His Gangster Squad perform Fri, Feb. 27 at Bayonne’s Masonic Lodge. (Photo: Zee Zee Photography)
Soprano’s Star swaps Wiseguys for Sidemen in Upcoming Bayonne Show
By Sally Deering
When David Chase, Executive Producer of THE SOPRANOS cast the show’s first season, he picked Vincent Pastore to play Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, who got bumped off in second season off after Tony Soprano discovered he snitched to the FBI.
After Soprano and his wiseguys whacked Big “P” on a boat off the coast of Asbury Park, Pastore went on to star in a series of films, formed a theater company in New York City, starred in the Broadway musical “Bullets on Broadway” and kept on plugging after fighting a bout with cancer.
Unfazed and cancer-free, on Sat, Feb. 27, at Bayonne’s Masonic Lodge, Pastore will show the musical side of his many talents in “VINNY PASTORE AND HIS GANGSTER SQUAD” a night of live Rhythm and Blues, Rock and Roll, Funk, Soul, and Reggae hits. Pastore shares the spotlight with some pretty intense musicians including Frank Pisani on keyboard and vocals, Al Orlo playing lead guitar, Eddie Denise on bass guitar and vocals, Charlie Powers on drums and vocals, Baron Raymonde playing sax, and Tommy ‘Blues Buddha’ Dudley on vocals.
Filming in Connecticut on a recent Thursday afternoon, Mr. Pastore took a mid-afternoon break to talk with River View Observer (RVO) about his career as an actor, playwright, and singer; and how he believes saying yes to new projects keeps your hand in the show biz game.
RVO: Where did you grow up? Where were you born and raised?
VP: I grew up in New Rochelle, New York. I lived all over New Rochelle, till I was 50. That’s where I grew up and that’s where I had my nightclubs.
RVO: You started out as a club owner before becoming an actor?
VP: I owned a club in New Rochelle called Crazy Horse.
RVO: Did you ever hang out in Jersey before filming the Sopranos?
VP: I would go to Hoboken a lot because in the 1990s, [worked with playwright Louis LoRusso who lived in Hoboken. And I got to Asbury Park. We filmed (The Sopranos) in Kearny, Harrison, and then we filmed the rest at the Silvercup Studios. Kearny was our home base.
RVO: Do you remember the early days of The Sopranos? When did you know it was a hit?
VP: I was really really lucky. When we were doing those early episodes, there was nothing about the show on TV. We knocked off 13 shows and then HBO aired it. I was with Dominic Chianese and Tony Sirico at the Left Bank (restaurant on 42nd Street) in Manhattan. Someone asked us, did you see what they did at the corner? So, we walked to Times Square and there was a billboard with The Sopranos on it. That’s when things started to change for all of us. Then we had a premiere at a small venue on Broadway, and we went to the after party at John’s Pizzeria. Bruce Springsteen was there hanging out with us, I met Bruce then, and you say to yourself, my life is gonna change. Then we went to L.A. for the Emmys, then for the SAG Awards
RVO: Before acting, you were a nightclub owner?
VP: Before I became an actor, had a club called Crazy Horse and I was doing theater—stage work. I would hire kids from the community theater to tend bar, do my lights. Way back then at the Crazy Horse we had that feeling of theater. Film work started for me with TRUE LOVE with Aida Turturro and we both ended up on THE SOPRANOS.
RVO: How important are connections when building your career?
VP: You need somebody to give you a break, that’s the name of the game. Danny Aiello, who I knew through Louis LoRusso, gave me my first break. He brought me to Canada for THE LAST DON. I did a lot of Indies with Danny Aiello. And Tony Sirico, We were friends way back in the 80s. We ran night clubs together; he was always in my corner. Frank Vincent, another friend, I met him when he did RAGING BULL.
RVO: Since you played a “wiseguy” on THE SOPRANOS, are you typecast?
VP: Not really. I just did a movie in Connecticut with Tom Sizemore and I played a bar-owner, so I don’t always play ‘wiseguys’. I’m shooting a move next week in Harlem. I’m playing a Latin drug dealer. I play a gangster when it’s offered to me.
RVO: You played a musical gangster in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY based on Woody Allen’s film?
VP: Yes. I remember, we were having a read0through of BULLETS OVER BROADWAY and I’m sitting next to this kid Nick Cordero who’s playing Cheech. He’s sitting next to me, and he says, this is a pretty good experience, I hope I make it to the next level. And I said to him, I don’t know if they’re going to keep me, either. I got cancer. I don’t know if I’m going to make it. Well, I never missed a show. I was singing and dancing up there. And Nicky got nominated for a Tony Award for Cheech. He’s doing A BRONX TALE now. He didn’t know his future; I didn’t know mine. And now, I’m cancer-free.
RVO: And now you’re singing in a band?
VP: The Sopranos to me was 15 years ago. That’s why I run around with my band now. These guys played at my club Crazy Horse. And when I play with my band, I get a big SOPRANOS following who come to see me perform.
RVO: You’ve been a nightclub owner, an actor, and now you’re singing? You seem to have re-invented yourself several times. Why?
VP: You gotta reinvent yourself, or else you go nuts, I was a nightclub owner for 30 years. I just finished a movie last week, I have a theater company called Renegade in New York City with Maureen Van Zandt, the wife of “Little Steven” Van Zandt. Our next production is March 29th at the Crane Theater in New York City. It’s a week of one-acts, and one is a play I wrote called, MAMA’S CHAIR. It’s about a son who confronts his father about his mother’s death. I also wrote a play called CRAZY HORSE, based on my life in the 80s, in New Rochelle running bars. What we do as entertainers, we try to take all that in from our experience and we develop things.
RVO: Any thoughts of retiring?
VP: I’m not going to sit home and just watch soap operas. As soon as I get up in the morning I’m constantly busy, putting shows together, auditioning for a TV show. When I hang up the phone, I have someone coming over who runs lines with me for my movies. I also try to have fun.
RVO: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming actors trying to break into show business?
VP: A lot of the movies up for Academy Awards, these are special movies from 2015, That’s why they got nominated. As an actor you gotta find something special. I was lucky with The Sopranos, but yours ship can sink if don’t go out there and get work. What am I doing today? I’m producing directing and writing one-acts. I’m working with a rock-and-roll band once or twice a week, and I’m looking for work as an actor. You say yes to everything. You say, let me try to get this done in my life. If you say no, they’re not going to ask you again.
If you go
Sat, Feb. 27, 8 pm
VINNY PASTORE’S GANGSTER SQUAD
“Catch a Rising Star” at the Masonic Lodge
999 Ave “C”, Bayonne
For tix: www.catcharisingstar.com
For more info: www.vincentpastore.com
Sun, Mar 20, Roseland Public Library, 20 Roseland Avenue, Roseland, NJ. The Baron on Sax
Fri, Mar 25, Bayou Restaurant, 580 Gramatan Avenue, Mount Vernon, NY.
Fri, Apr 8, Ranchero Cantina, 214 Kinderkamack Road, Emerson, NJ. Opening Act: Nick Wey
Thurs, Apr 14, Resorts World Casino, 110-00 Rockaway Blvd. Jamaica, NY. Bar 360; Guest: Killer Joe and Batman
Fri, May 13, Joe & Joe Restaurant, 65 E Central Ave, Pearl River, NY
Sat, Jun 25, Red Zone Tavern, 1 Wall Street, Cromwell, CT
Thurs, Jul 14, The Cutting Room, 44 E 32nd St., NYC – Vinnie’s Birthday Bash. Tix: $20. Doors open 6:30 pm. Special musical guests all night