Chazz Palminteri is running his one-man show A Bronx Tale at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. through March 8, and he "says about 80 percent of his solo show . . . about growing up in a Mafia-run neighborhood in the early 1960s -- is true." The play was an off-Broadway hit in 1989, and later was adapted into a movie in which Palminteri co-starred with its director Robert De Niro:
Most people are familiar with the film, in which Palminteri played the gangster, Sonny, who befriends little Cologio, much to the chagrin of the boy's bus-driver dad (De Niro). * * * In the play, Palminteri shows how he became fascinated as a boy by the local mobsters and their ways. He hung out at their bar. "I would get them coffee and cake and throw the dice for them and cut the lemons and the limes," he says. Sonny, the top gangster, had a particular hold on the boy. "He read Machiavelli and he was a pretty interesting guy. I would put him on one side and my father on the other." That moral tug-of-war is the heart of Palminteri's account of growing up at the corner of 187th and Belmont Avenue. "My father used to say it doesn't take much strength to pull a trigger," says the actor, but "to get up every morning and work" took a will his father wanted the boy to appreciate. He says his play "is a tribute to the working people."
Lillo Brancato Jr., the young actor who played Cologio, was convicted last December by a Bronx jury for attempted burglary in a search for pharmaceuticals after a night of tomcatting at a Yonkers strip club with washed out Genovese associate Steven Armento, and sentenced to ten years.
The lure that the Mafia offers to young boys in the neighborhood certainly was at the forefront at yesterday's racketeering trial of Charles Carneglia at which Kevin McMahon testified:
Kevin McMahon never had a chance. Both his parents were junkies. McMahon was born addicted to heroin, he said Tuesday in Brooklyn Federal Court. Then, when he was 6, Mommy and her boyfriend killed Daddy. Mommy went away. Grandma took little Kevin in for a few years, but she couldn't handle him in their rough East New York neighborhood, so when, he said, he was 12 or 13, she threw him out into it. He slept in alleys and yards, and one day, he found a cabana and went inside. He was discovered by the owner. The good news: The owner and his wife took Kevin into their home, and over time, they essentially adopted him. The bad news: The owner was top John Gotti hit man John Carneglia. And he took Kevin right under his gun-bearing wing. A teenager. Perfect chum. Just the age when kids with not enough love or luck are feeling the most vulnerable. And McMahon isn't the only one the Mafia grabbed at this impressionable age. Peter Zucarro, ho also testified at the ongoing trial of mob hit man Charles Carneglia, John's younger brother, said that he was about 13 when neighborhood mobsters started giving him money for doing errands, sucking him in. "I wanted to be just like them," Zucarro said. One problem: The mob is like a Roach Motel. You crawl in, but you can't crawl out. Both Zucarro and McMahon and other informants have referred to themselves as "property." The capos owned them. In this democracy, they volunteered to live in a military dictatorship. They obeyed any order. Anything to feel like they belonged.