Well I’ll be goddamned.
Meatballs will be flown at half mast throughout New York and New Jersey today, for Mr. Shinebox himself, Frank Vincent, has finally been whacked by the Grim Reaper. Strangely, even though this tragedy happened a few months ago, I didn’t hear about it til just now, which is as Phil Leotardo himself would say, is “A fuckin disgrace.”
Although he played nothing but a dirty Eye-ti in every single role, those were still some memorable wops. The best version of his film catalog I can muster would be:
Raging Bull – It all started with the Vincent’s role as Sally Something-Or-Other, a half-assed wiseguy from Jake LaMotta’s mob-controlled boxing world. Vincent doesn’t have a ton of scenes in this film, but every one is a stand-out, from his introductory conversation with Pesci, to his teeth-gritted cowering at Jake’s “joking” suggestion that he would simultaneously beat Sally along with his highly-touted upcoming opponent so bad that, “Then youse can both get in the ring and fuck each other.” Vincent’s main highlight though is undoubtedly the iconic ass-whupping Pesci puts on him outside of a nightclub, complete with car door-swinging brutality. Even more importantly, this underappreciated and largely overlooked role would begin what was to become the most legendary and violent rubber match saga in cinematic history. As of now the tally was Pesci: 1, Vincent: 0.
Goodfellas – Until the Italian Wire known as the Sopranos, Vincent’s biggest standout role was unquestionably as drunken mobster rapscallion Billy Batts, where he provided one of the most random yet memorable insults ever filmed. Of course, we all know how well such a seemingly mild insult was received by the psychopath he hurled it at. Either way, the joke was good while it lasted. But even though he had only one scene essentially, he stole the fuck out of it as usual. And now after two all-time great films and two all-time great whup downs, it’s Pesci: 2, Vincent: 0.
Jungle Fever – One of Vincent’s most tender turns as a character actor was the loving portrayal of fatherhood he provided in Spike Lee’s giant “Fuck you” to white America. I believe his most fatherly scene was after he beat the shit out of a future Gloria Trillo with a belt to the point he had to be restrained by his sons—a young Christopher Maltasanti and of course Italian Guy McGee—when he gave the impassioned explanation, “You coulda went with a Jew, or an Irishman, but you picked a fuckin nigger!” Other enlightened statements include his exclaiming out the window as she scurried away, “I’d rather stab myself in the heart with a knife than be the father of a nigger lover!” Ahh, father truly knows best.
Casino – Well well. Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold. Via baseball bat. As Pesci’s right-hand man throughout what is essentially Goodfellas Part II, Vincent finally gets his long-awaited payback on his old door slammin’, trunk stabbin’ pal with what many film critics consider one of the most vicious ass-whuppings in ass-whupping history. Final tally from the judges, Pesci: 2, Vincent: 1.
The Sopranos – Just when you thought he was out, they pulled him back in. Vincent made perhaps his greatest acting turn ever as mobster Phil Leotardo, the Puerto Rican whore-hatin’, fag killin’, running behind the wheelin’, backdoor dealin’ son of a gun. All in all, this was probably the man’s best work and overall undoubtedly the most memorable role of his career. And I still don’t know what the hell, “There’s no scraps in my scrapbook,” means, but it sure sounded cool in his trademark gravelly voice.
Anything Else – Besides the many I’ve already mentioned, who can forget all of this true acting legend’s other iconic roles? Like, ah…ummm. Well a bunch of different random Italian people basically, including most memorably as I sit here and think about it, a dirty politician in Cop Land. Although rumor has it he was the first choice for the lead roles in My Left Foot, The Passion of the Christ, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Book – Although he clearly didn’t write it, unless it was with spaghetti sauce, Vincent’s Shakespearian tome “A Guy’s Guide To Being A Man’s Man” is truly top notch toilet bowl reading material. Not to mention it doubles as spare toilet paper quite nicely.
Now if that isn’t a legendary career than I don’t know what the fuck is.