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Classic photo of Vinny Vella
The Story of Little Italy in New York
How Vinny got his start as an actor
Sarah: How old were you when you started acting?

Vinny: Say what?

Sarah: How old were you when you started acting?

Vinny: Ah man, how old are you?

Sarah: I am thrity-two.

Vinny: You are still a baby. I started acting long time ago.

When I first started out, they would always put me in the back. But I always worked myself up to the front.

They would tell me, "You were supposed to be in the back." But I would say, "That guy over there, told me to stay in front of the camera."

I just loved it. I really did. I was a milk-man. I used to deliver milk for $300 a week back then. I used to work five days a week.

I was at the right place at the right time. A guy comes up to me and says, "What's your name?" I say, "Vinny". He asked, "Do you know how to drive this truck?" It was a sanitation truck. I said, "Yeah."

Then he came and said, "Who are you?" and I said, "Who are YOU?"

He said, "I am the director" and I said, "I am Vinny Vella."

He said, "Do you wanna be in this movie?" I said, "What do you want me to do?"

He said, "You have to pretend like you are throwing garbage in the truck. See that patrol car on the back of the bridge? When you see that coming down towards the truck, someone is gonna be there on this side of the sanitation truck. When they cue you, just look to your right and yell out, "Oh shit". Then take the garbage can, throw it inside the garbage truck and run around and jump inside the truck and back it up.

I said, "Okay, fine."

After the act, the director told me, "That was very good. What have you done before?"

I said, "I did many things before this but you just haven't noticed me". Meanwhile, I did nothing before. So then I said to one of the crew members, "Do I get paid for this?" He said, "Go up to that guy and ask him." I would have been very happy if they paid me twenty-five bucks. Because back then in the 1970s that was a lot of money. They said, "Sign those papers and give it to that guy over there."

I went to that guy and I asked for money. He said "They are gonna mail the money." So, I said, "How much money am I gonna get?" He said, "You spoke right?" I said, "Yeah. Oh shit." He said, "$350."

That was principal pay back then but now it's like $1,000. I was like, "Do you want me to kill someone with this truck?" They said, "No, no you have done a great job."

I get another call 2-3 months later. They said, "Are you in Screen Actors Guild?" I said, "What the hell is that?" They said, "Screen Actors Guild. This way you are in the actor's union." I said, "Where do I go?"

So, I went down the World Trade Center. Oh no, it was $300. That's what they paid. I went down and I signed the paper and gave it to the woman. The woman said, "You can join the union once you paid $350."

I was like, "Something is wrong with this conversation. I thought I earned from this movie but you guys are shaking me down."

I went to my father and asked for $350. He said, "What do you want?" I said "$350" He said, "What for?" I said "I am gonna join the union." He said, "What union?" I said, "The actor's union." He said, "Go and take a shit" I said, "I really need the money." He said, "I'll give you the money and if you don't pay me back then you are not even getting five cents from me" So I joined the union.

I realized here I am making $350 in less than half an hour and I bust my ass carrying sour cream, butter milk, cottage cheese and orange juice, plus I have to take these boxes to the truck and deliver it to someone in Queens. I don't think I like doing this anymore. Soon, they started calling me in for 'extra' work.

Back then extra work was $25 per day. Back in those days, it was a lot of money. But now, it's $150. I said, "$25? I just made $350." They said, "Well, that's because you spoke." I was so naive in the business. I said, "Tell them I wanna talk."

So I was started doing extra work for few other movies. I told them, "I don't know if I like that too much." They said, "Vinny we like your work. When we work with you again, we will give you a line."

That's how it all happened.
Little Italy, New York, NY, USA
1970s
Vinny Vella's family photo albums, no. 2, page 14
photograph | Little Italy | Italy | New York City | family | street life | hustling | actors | hollywood | Vinny Vella | gangster films | The Sopranos
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