My Italian Buddy, Paul Sorvino by Tony Piazza

   Paul Sorvino and my mother in 1976.

   My Italian buddy, PAUL SORVINO (Goodfellas, Law and Order), and accomplished actor who has appeared in numerous roles on television and feature films. He was born in April of 1939 to an Italian American family whose descendants came from Naples. Raised in Brooklyn, New York, he  completed his schooling and eventually found a job in an ad agency. While attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy he decided on a career in theatre.  In 1964 he appeared on Broadway and transitioned to films six years later in the motion picture “Where’s Poppa?” I’m behind the camera in this photo (above) of him and my mother (who stopped by for a visit). They posed for the picture just inside the studio entrance of Quinn Martin Studio’s soundstage.- a converted warehouse located on Kearny Street in San Francisco. One memory of this Italian actor that I have, has to do with Paul and I having lunch one day…he a salad (he was always on a diet), and myself roast beef, which he was eyeing with envy. I thought he was joking and laughed…only to realize to my embarrassment that he was serious! He was a good sport about it, but I can’t eat roast beef to this day without thinking about him.

   Paul now has his own line of food (notice the sauce).

   I should have added that this photograph was taken during the filming of the detective show “Burt D’Angelo Superstar”  (1976) in which he starred. It was a spin-off from “The Streets of San Francisco” and lasted just as a summer replacement. It wasn’t picked up by the network for the Fall season.It was a good show, but too much like “Streets”…in fact the police headquarters set was the same, just re-dressed. I was Bob Pine’s (Chips) stand-in on the show… he was Paul’s detective partner, much as Michael was Karl’s.

   My father (left) with Bob Pine (center).

   Paul also enjoyed singing opera…he would do so in-between takes. He wanted to do a bio. film on legendary opera stars Enrico Caruso or Mario Alonzo, but it hasn’t as yet come to pass. He shared that dream with both KARL MALDEN and myself during the filming of the pilot. He took voice lessons for 18 years, which I find incredible because he suffers from severe asthma.  He later started his own organization, The Sorvino Asthma Foundation to find solutions to combat the disease.


   His daughter MIRA SORVINO, is also an accomplished actress. I met her as a little girl back in the 70s. In 1995 she won Best Supporting Actress for her role in the Woody Allen film, “Mighty Aphrodite.” Paul was extremely proud of her.

 Paul and his daughter, Mira Sorvino.

   I was a good friend of Paul. Recently I was watching him in the film “The Brinks Job” with Peter Falk (another actor I knew personally) and suddenly remembered an amusing story that Paul once told me. When he was going to marry his first wife Lorraine, he told his Neapolitan family, and immediately uproar broke out amongst its members. You see, Lorraine was an Americano (definition of “Americano” is anyone who isn’t Italian), and it was considered very radical back then when an Italian married anyone who wasn’t also of Italian descent. During all the screams, protests, and tears, his grandfather leaned over and whispered into his ear, “Tell me, Paolo, is she economical?” In which Paul replied, “Yes, Nonno, she is.” The old man padded him on the arm, and then nodding his head stated, “Then you got my blessing!”


   His first wife Lorraine was an attractive woman, and an excellent mother. I remember when she would bring the girls, Mira and Amanda onto the set. They were dressed like little ladies, in long wool coats, hats, and gloves! Very East Coast, but refreshing.


Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His second novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” was released this last January.  He was an actor/extra during the 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.