Recalling my time on “The Godfather” set.
This is my annual Oscars column. Actually, it’s my first Oscars column. Who knows if I’ll write another?
Obviously, the Oscars for 2022 have already been awarded. The only reason I’m writing this is because it also happens to be the 50th anniversary of “The Godfather,” a famous Academy Award-winning film to which I have a personal connection. (I’m pretty sure I won’t be around for the 100th anniversary.)
There are tons of “Godfather” reminiscences, but I think mine are unique.
I was a reporter for the Staten Island Advance (which every local not in Pampers read back in 1973) when director Francis Ford Coppola brought his crew to Emerson Hill (one of Staten Island’s many posh enclaves) to film several scenes of the movie.
The location was at the dead end of Longfellow Avenue, and the film’s staging area — where equipment, costumes, and the like were stored at night — was about a mile away at what was then Staten Island Community College.
I was very familiar with Longfellow Avenue because one of my pals, Ed Maloy, lived almost adjacent to the compound where “The Godfather” wedding scene was shot. The Maloy lawn was commandeered by the film crew for equipment brought up from the college. The family was heavily compensated for the length of the shoot, which I recall lasted a full week.
Also, a year earlier, I had attended a real wedding reception in the “Godfather” house and compound when another pal, Tim Turvey, married Jane Norton. Her parents then owned the house, a now-coveted real estate icon that recently sold for many millions of dollars. (By the way, the imposing wall fronting the compound in the movie was made of papier-mâché.)
The cast and crew were fed by Demyan’s Hoffbrau, a local restaurant frequented by the borough’s judicial elite. Jack Demyan, who was also a locally renowned artist (I have a couple of his paintings), can be seen in one of the wedding scenes. He’s the guy with the handlebar mustache standing at a food table. I believe he also plays a chauffeur who is shot during an assassination scene near the end of the movie.
The catering of the Corleone wedding was terrific, much superior to the food at the real wedding I’d attended. And every day on the set of “The Godfather,” the food was freshly prepared. It was a great assignment — one I lorded over my fellow reporters back at the paper.
Now, “The Godfather” was a closed set. No reporters were permitted. So, how did I manage it? I was young and fearless!
Actually, I knew Jack Demyan and snuck on as part of his catering crew. I tried to take photos, but my little camera was confiscated by a sharp-eyed assistant. That was not the only mishap. I was chosen to be an extra in the wedding scene but balked at shaving my 1970s sideburns for a scene that was supposed to take place in the early 1940s. (Apparently, Jack’s handlebar was okay.)
In my tepid defense, I was romancing a girl at the time and thought I looked cool with sideburns. I got neither the girl nor the bit part. To this day, friends still mock me about my choice. Apparently, turning down a chance to be in one of the most famous movies of all time was proof that I was never cool.
But I still have, and cherish, all the “inside” stories I wrote (my mother kept boxes of my Advance pieces), which drove the movie’s producers nuts. I was never caught.
And I had a blast. I met Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, and Diane Keaton before they became superstars. And I spoke to Marlon Brando! He was a regular guy who kept everyone loose. He once even mooned the dancers in the wedding scene, dropping his tux pants to reveal brightly colored boxer shorts.
Boy, I wish they hadn’t confiscated my camera…
Lawrence De Maria just published The Drone, an Alton Rhode mystery which somehow mixes an alleged political assassination with an alleged Tong war with an alleged pregnancy. Only one of the “alleges” has a ring of truth, by the way. Confused? Think how he felt writing it.