Friday, September 08, 2006

"Help Me Fillet This Fat Fuck!"

I NEVER LIKED the term character actor, or even supporting actor. You're either an actor or you're not. It somehow never fails to sound condescending, as if the person never quite really made it in the bizness. As in, he never really got the leading roles so he wasn't a success. That's a load of crap. But when Bruno Kirby passed away a few weeks ago from leukemia at the age of 57, that's what most of the obits emphasized, including The New York Times, which compounded the depreciation by singling out City Slickers as his crowning work. But anyone who saw him as the wise-cracking mobster Nicky in Donnie Brasco would prefer that performance stand as his benchmark, followed by his turn as Peter Clemenza alongside Robert DeNiro in another much more important work, Godfather II. More than holding your own with DeNiro in that film, plus sharing the screen with actors like Al Pacino, Johnny Depp and Michael Madsen in Donnie Brasco, one of the most quote-worthy movies ever (fuhgetaboutit; friend of mine, friend of ours; beaner on the outside, etc., surely overshadows being upstaged by the likes of Billy Crystal and Robin Williams. I also liked Kirby as the creepy gym teacher in Basketball Diaries, an otherwise forgettable movie, as most films featuring Leo DiCaprio usually turn out to be. Just one man's observation.

When I looked up his bio on, I was shocked to discover Bruno Kirby was in Room 222, a TV show from the early 70s I liked, mostly because of Karen Valentine playing an earnest public school teacher; I won't lie here and say I recall him. He also starred in Good Morning Vietnam and When Harry Met Sally. Born with the slightly Italian name of Bruno Giovanni Quidaciolu Jr., his father is TV actor Bruce Kirby (you know his face:, whose most famous movie role apparently was Catch 22. Catch 22, Room 222... You can see how it all comes full circle sometimes.

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