Cousin Vinny’s Cousin Angela
Anthony Paolucci, an actor friend of mine, calls me to
interview Angela Peri, Director of Boston Casting. He
pushes me with an enthusiasm which borders on urgency.
“You’re gonna love her,” he says. “Call
her.” So I pick up the phone and call her.
|Boston Casting’s Angela Peri in her bustling office at
119 Braintree in Allston.
|Author and Subject, they’re old friends the first
time they meet. Photos by Vin Fraioli.
Angela? This is Vin Fraioli, I’d like to…”
Fraioli? With a name like that you must be Italian?
Hey, I need Italians for this movie I’m
explain that it is not as an actor that I’m calling,
but as a writer, to do an interview.
I am Italian,” I say.
know, I lived in Rome for five years.
kidding. Allora, parliamo italiano…”
there is a cultural kickoff of memory and we are off,
like two trains onto our common track of Italian
American food, language, things we hate and love, our
family quirks, real estate, kids, parents. Eveything
else but casting and film.
sentences later, I stop her.
me, are we related?” I ask.
have to be. She talks like one of my cousins. She’s
obsessed with the same things. She, like me, would
invite someone to dinner within three minutes of
have to get together, hon,” she says. “But I
don’t want to drive all the way down there. Can you
come to Boston?”
do I already know she wouldn’t like driving “all
the way” down here? How would I know so many things
about her in the first four minutes of our
conversation? Like signs between Freemasons, we
Italians have this thing between us.
be there,” I say. “When?...”
I drive to Boston, I listen for the fifty-ninth time
to a CD of Sergio Laccone, a singer from Italy who is
coming to the States to visit. I think about Angela
and this Italian thing we share, but I also confess
something to myself. My Southern Italian background
(and there are distinct differences, from that of the
North, believe me) was pretty much watered down by my
parents who were uncharacteristically reserved. For me
to tap into those strong, unmistakable stereotypes, I
have to reach out to distant cousins, or run into
aunts and uncles at weddings or funerals. It’s a
part of me that comes out with someone like Angela.
And, as for those deep rooted,
dark and compelling cultural fears and propensities
associated with the Southern Mediterranean, I have it
on the other hand, my father? He doesn’t like
don’t get me goin’…
a warehouse, just over the bridge from Cambridge, I
find Boston Casting. I peek into a large, brick wall
room its original use long forgotten and used now for
a curious industry: of finding the right face, voice,
or “look” to match with a certain character. Among
stacks of papers and photos, three young people are
sitting and sorting with the quietness of auditors.
Hey, I’m over here!”
she is, in the corner behind a small desk, Angela Peri,
the director of Boston Casting. She stands and gives
me a kiss. I check her out. She herself is a perfect
cast for the Mediterranean with her striking face and
high cheekbones, a theme and variation of black, black
hair, dark eyes, black sweater. I would cast her as
Medea in a minute.
a minute. I have to make a couple of phone calls,”
left to take in the place, the posters on the wall,
the stacks of head shots and resumes covering desks
and tables, their faces looking at the ceiling,
thousands of them, being filed or reviewed quietly by
the three young people. A missing persons bureau, I
think, until the right role comes along.
on the phone.
this is Angela from Boston Casting. We’re looking
for a much younger teenager, a little on the heavy
notice the posters on the wall. MATCHMAKER, CELTIC
PRIDE, MOONLIGHT MILE, SPARTAN, ALEX
AND EMMA, THE BLACK BOOK…
are some of the films we’ve cast,” she explains as
she hangs up the phone. “Not all of them are on the
wall. Oh, by the way, are you hungry? Can I get you
something? Tea? Coffee?”
you going to have something?”
No, I have to lose some weight. I’m on a diet.
Listen to this. The other day, the love of my life
walks in. This guy was gorgeous and I immediately
thought, ‘I wish I were thin.’ He wanted to take
me out to lunch. You know how it is when you’re a
Casting Director, people want to kiss your ass.”
But it killed me. I love to eat.”
have that feeling with her, of being invaded with
champagne bubbles on the verge of popping. She makes
me laugh. She embraces stereotypes, those junior,
overused cousins of Archetypes, the way she talks. But
what’s wrong with that?
about this time you spent in Rome?” I ask.
God. I spent five years there. A friend of mine, Rose,
who lived there told me to come over. She said,
‘Here, you’ll find out what you’re all about.’
She was right. When I arrived, the food was fabulous.
I tasted food I hadn’t tasted since my grandmother
died, all her old recipes. And I noticed the way
Italians got hysterical, yelled and screamed and then
it was over. I realized I was raised Italian. Hey, I
got a funny story…”
announces the story to everybody in the room and by
the way they don’t look up, I know they are used to
such interludes. From the pulpit of her desk, Angela
tells us a story. We die laughing.
don’t print that,” she says.
then, the olive oil over there was fabulous,” she
says. “I love olive oil, I can’t get enough of it.
Over here, I polish my shoes with it, my hair, my
skin, I go through buckets of it.”
you say you knew Benigni?”
I met him at a café. He was a friend of the owner.
‘Hemingway’s,’ it was called.
hung out for a year, every Thursday night. One day, he
asks me if I wanted to go with him to the States.
‘Where?’ I said. ‘To a place called North
Carolina,’ he said. ‘North Carolina?! I don’t
want to go all the way back home to go to North
Carolina!’ That was when he was making JOHNNY
STECCHINO. Stecchino means toothpick, you know. That
was Sofia Loren’s nickname because she was so thin.
I do my eye makeup just like hers…But, Anna Magnani.
I love her. I wanted to be her ever since I saw the
movie, THE ROSE TATOO? Do you want some more tea?”
calls to Mike, one the guys.
hot water for him, please,” she says. “And not
from the sink. I hate that water. From the bubbler.
Rome, I worked with Tornatore, you know the director
of CINEMA PARADISO. I love that film. I loved working
with Nicola Di Pippo, my buddy. Every Sunday, we would
go to mass at the Vatican, of course. That was my
local parish. Then, in 1990, I opened this…”
being the pile of headshots, the filing cabinets, the
bustle, the phone, the agency. I notice a tinge of
regret which I assumed was her leaving Rome.
I was wrong.
why did you leave Italy?”
did I leave Italy? Because I got sick of the Italian
guys cheating on me. I had this Italian boyfriend and
I caught him at it. I asked him, point blank, ‘Do
you have a girlfriend?’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I
have a girlfriend. ‘Then, who am I?’ I said.
‘You’re my other girlfriend,’ he said.
also, I was sick of starving. There wasn’t enough
work for us actresses. I did meet Lina Wertmuller, by
the way. I helped her translate a film into
know, you should be an actress. You look…”
I’ve acted. I loved it. But I couldn’t get very
far with this accent of mine. And, maybe I was too
ethnic. My mother, you know, told me not to get too
ethnic. ‘Johnny Carson doesn’t like ethnic,’ she
said. Look, here’s a picture of her. I just lost her
turns a photo on her desk to face me. A small,
attractive woman elegantly dressed looks at me from
was a stand-up comic, too,” Angela says.
am I not surprised? I think to myself.
did that for years and loved it,” she says. “But I
could never get my mother to come to hear me, God rest
her soul, because I talked about her in my act. She
was agoraphobic, you know. She didn’t leave the
house. The only way we could get her out was by buying
a trailer and making it look exactly like her living
room, with the same furniture…”
kidding! What is it about Italians, not liking to go
outside? You know, I have this selective
That story about my mother was part of my act. But,
‘selective agoraphobia,’ I like that. My mother
was something else. I miss her. She had red hair, you
know, but she dyed it black with these high
cheekbones. She loved to cook. She loved making
lasagna and when she served you a piece, it was the
size of a brick. I had this friend, this ninety pound
thing, who came to dinner once. My mother put a piece
of lasagna in front of her but she just ate the corner
of it. When she left, my mother said, ‘I don’t
want her here anymore. She’s just a little bit of a
thing.” I said, ‘Ma, she weighs ninety pounds. She
doesn’t eat like us’”
mother was afraid of birds,” I say.
Mine, too. Birds were bad luck. We couldn’t have any
figurines of birds in the house.”
Hunchbacks bring good luck. If you see a hunchback,
you’re in good shape.”
always tell people that our religion was superstition
with a spice of Catholicism thrown in,” I explain.
me about it!”
surprised I left home. If it weren’t for my
My parents wouldn’t let me ride a bike until I was
seventeen. I used to think to myself, ‘how would
they feel if I hurt myself?’”
am I not surprised? I think.
back to casting,” I ask. “How many clients do you
About twenty thousand. But thanks to technology, we
can keep track. I’m tormented by technology…”
me. How do you cast someone?”
read the script. And the first person who pops into my
head is usually right for the part. We don’t do
celebrity casting. Just the local pool for New
sit. I feel that silence after a long meal, although
we haven’t eaten anything. That we will do later,
another time over a full table with lots of wine. I
will see her again, soon.
give her a CD I of the singer, Sergio Laccone.
love this,” I say. “One of the best albums I’ve
heard in years. I just got this in Italy.”
I used to go out with a drummer in Italy, you know.
Hey, it’s too bad I can’t go to lunch with you.
This damn diet…”
worry. We’ll get together soon.”
exchange hugs and kisses and I go on my way.
the way home, I listen to Sergio Laccone’s album for
the sixtieth time. When I get home, I have a message
from him asking me to call. He tells me he’s coming
to the States and will be landing in New York in two
not Boston?” I say, “it’s closer.”
Boston,” he says. “I was in love with a girl from
I just interviewed a woman from Boston. She used to
live in Rome. Her name was Anglea. Angela Peri.”
Peri! I know Angela!” (Pub Note: A good friend
of the girl Sergio was in love with.)
am I not surprised?...
Fraioli, born in Providence, is an author of numerous
articles and the book, “Change of View.” He still
lives in Rhode Island with his wife and two kids when
not traveling around the world giving lectures and
concerts as a classical guitarist. He is also a