My conversation with a great man


The thing about doing a column on celebrities is, right away you come off looking like a name-dropper.

So at first I was a little reluctant to reveal my recent conversation with Danny Aiello. But then people said: "Oh, you've got to tell that story," and I said "You think so?" and they said "Absolutely."

So I changed my mind and, in a moment, I'll tell you what Danny Aiello and I talked about, which is pretty cool, you just wait.

Whatever you do, don't look at me with a stupid face and say: "Who's Danny Aiello?"

Because I'll smack you so hard, they'll be picking up pieces of your head with a vacuum cleaner.

Fine, let's assume you really are that dumb.

Danny Aiello is a big Hollywood star. His most recent film (I think) was "The Professional" and he's appeared in lots of other movies such as "Hudson Hawk," "Radio Daze," "Purple Rose of Cairo" and "Fort Apache: the Bronx."

He also starred in "Do The Right Thing" with Spike Lee, and his portrayal of a volatile pizzeria owner absolutely stole the film, if you want my opinion.

So the man is a bona fide star. Plus he seems like a very nice man and we had a nice chat, which, as I said, I will detail in a moment.

This conversation with Danny Aiello, by the way, took place at a Nets-Knicks game at Brendan Byrne Arena in New Jersey.

I was at the game because my brother-in-law is a season ticket-holder, and I was able to leech onto him and sit in one of his great seats, three rows from the floor.

Anyway, we were sitting there during the warm-ups when suddenly I noticed that the burly guy in front of me was . . . Danny Aiello.

God, he looked like a million bucks, too! He was wearing a black leather trench coat that probably cost more than my car, and an olive suit and white silk shirt with no tie, which is very cool.

Plus he was wearing those little round shades that only cool people like Yoko Ono and Keanu Reeves wear. For example, you would never see the guy who does your home termite inspection wearing those little round shades.

Frankly, I was dazzled, and I am not some rube who just fell off the turnip truck. Oh, I've been around plenty of celebrities.

Look, I shook hands with Jesse Jackson once at a picnic to benefit the homeless.

Unfortunately, since I was eating a hot dog at the time, I also managed to smear mustard all over his hand.

Mr. Jackson was very nice about the whole thing, though. He could have made a big scene. He could have pulled his hand back and screamed: "Man, what are you doing?! What is that, Gulden's?"

At which point, I would have had to wrestle the knife away from the guy cutting the pit beef and killed myself.

(Yes, yes, the conversation with Danny Aiello. It's on its way, I promise.)

Anyway, I also met Mick Jagger years ago.

OK, I say met. Actually, I was a sportswriter at the time and attending this big soccer luncheon at a New York hotel. Mick was an investor in one of the teams and was also at the luncheon, during which he apparently consumed more than a few cocktails (I know, Mick Jagger getting loaded, it's hard to believe).

Shortly after dessert, I went out to the hallway to use the pay phone.

Which is when I noticed this skinny guy with long hair staggering down the hall toward me.

As he came closer, I could see it was the lead singer for the Rolling Stones, the Greatest Rock 'N' Roll Band in the World, who promptly rapped on the phone booth and mumbled: "Where's a bloke find the men's room 'round 'ere?"

In any event, I promised to tell you about my conversation with Danny Aiello, and now I will.

At the end of the third quarter -- the Nets were getting waxed by 30 points -- Danny Aiello suddenly turned around in his seat.

This is it, I thought. The great man wants to speak. He senses I'm a big fan. He feels a sense of noblesse oblige and has deigned to shoot the breeze.

This is what Danny Aiello said: "Seen the beer man?"

And I said: "Gee, he was just here."

And he said: "Huh."

Memories like that . . . they last a lifetime.

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