“Goodfellas,” likely, would always have been the first thing Paul Sorvino was remembered for – no matter how many roles he played on stage, screen and television, no matter how many other careers, from opera singer to painter to poet to pasta sauce entrepreneur, he explored in a rangy public life.
But the sad, striking coincidence that Sorvino, who died Monday morning at age 83, died almost two months to the day after his “Goodfellas” co-star Ray Liotta unexpectedly died on May 26, is likely to put Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster classic in the forefront of everyone’s mind – if it wasn’t already.
Local residents, however, who know that Sorvino’s ties to Scranton and Poconos date back to the 1980s, may beg to differ. They remember better his kindness and larger-than-life personality than him.
“He was right out there,” said Bob Schlesinger, executive director of the Scranton Public Theater, who first met Sorvino in 1982 when the actor came to Scranton to film “That Championship Season,” an adapter of the 1972 Pulitzer Prize and Tony- winning play written by Electric City native, Jason Miller (also known as Father Karras in “The Exorcist”).
“During the making of the movie, when they closed down some of the streets, he’d walk down the street singing an opera aria… He had no problems opening up his lungs. He had asthma (in his 20s) and in order to fight the disease, he had to open his lungs, so he sang a lot impromptu. “
Schlesinger, who co-founded the Pennsylvania Summer Theater Festival with Miller in 1978, had a small role in the movie staring Sorvino, Robert Mitchum, Bruce Dern, Martin Sheen, and Stacy Keach as a group of former high school basketball champs who return home for a reunion 20 years after winning the state championship.
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Sorvino was applauded for his work on “Law & Order,” “Men with Guns,” “Once Upon a Time in Queens,” “Kill the Irishman,” as the real-life mobster, Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno.
He was also a mentor to up-and-coming Hollywood hopefuls.
Over the years, Sorvino, who was close friends with Miller, would stop in the Public Theater while in town.
“Whenever I would ask him to talk to a young person, who aspired to be an actor, he would always say,” I have no problem with that, “Schlesinger recalled. “He’d take some of the students aside and share his experiences di lui .. I found it was a good thing for him to do.”
In 2008, Sorvino took the stage in one of his last off-screen performances in Scranton – to attend the unveiling of a sculpture he made of Miller, who died in 2001. The statue stands in the Piazza dell ‘Arte in Courthouse Square.
A home in the West End
When it came time to trade in city life for something slower paced, Sorvino asked another friend, Bill McAndrew, for assistance. McAndrew, a publicist and historian who died in 2018, convinced Sorvino to be sworn in as an honorary deputy sheriff of Lackawanna County in the 1980s.
In 2000, he bought his Gilbert home for a mere $ 325,000.
“I like the area very much, ” Sorvino told the Record at the time.” It’s good for the nerves, ”he added of the West End’s quieter backdrop.
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Sorvino, along with this daughter, Amanda, ran a horse and dog rescue on the 58-acre property, which had three barns and a breathtaking view of the Pocono Mountains.
He sold the house shortly before the real estate crash of 2008, and after staring and directing the movie, ”The Trouble with Cali,” shot primarily in 2006 in Lackawanna and Monroe counties.
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Shari Hamil, who worked as a realtor then, was among those who had shown the house to prospective clients.
“He was polite. A real gentleman. I didn’t realize how tall he was until I had met him. “
Man about town
Indeed, it was hard not to notice the
6 “4 6-foot-4 actor when was out shopping or running errands, locals say.
Along with dining at Scranton eateries such as Preno’s and Farley’s Eatery and Pub, Sorvino would also frequent Pocono restaurants such as Sarah Street Grill in Stroudsburg and the former Peppe’s in Eastburg.
Among his favorite spots were the now-closed Rizzo’s Italian Deli in Brodheadsville and Piccola Venezia Ristorante, where he prepared an Italian-style Christmas dinner for his family in 2000.
Not unlike boss-man Paulie Cicero in ”Goodfellas,” Sorvino had no qualms about taking over the kitchen of any restaurant – perhaps in search of the perfect sauce.
“Paul Sorvino was well known among employees in a handful of Italian restaurants in Scranton because he would show up unannounced, go back to the kitchen and cook on the line for the night,” @Real_JoeNathan wrote on Twitter.
Many Record readers say Sorvino, despite his no-nonsense onscreen persona, was in fact a sweetheart.
Lisa Rowe once met the Hollywood star, who was accompanied by a younger relative to class, at Melody’s Dance Studio in Lehighton.
“He was such a sweet man, down to earth. He sat with us mom’s and dad’s waiting for the class to end and engaged in conversations like any ordinary guy, ”she said.
Theresa Neyhart got a peck on the cheek from the actor when she worked at the AAA Motor Club in Stroudsburg.
“He would come to the travel agency to book his trips and I took his passport photos a few times. The first time he came in and I recognized him I ran to one of the girls, I was so excited, ”she recalled. ”As soon as he sat to have his photo of him taken, I jumped on his lap of him and had our photo taken together. He was such a good sport about it, we laughed and he gave me a smooch on the cheek. Paul was so kind and always had a smile on his face than him. When I saw him at a few other places he would come up to me and say hello. He is sadly missed by many I am sure. “
Sorvino, born in 1939, grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and studied voice for several years before making his Broadway debut in 1964.
He started his film career in 1970, and appeared in Al Pacino’s breakthrough film, “The Panic in Needle Park,” in 1971.
But in Schlesinger’s eyes, it was his starring role on Broadway in “That Championship Series,” (Sorvino was nominated for a Tony in 1973) that catapulted his career.
“He was a gifted performer. [Sorvino] molded his craft to the point where he was able to create a very well-known career in show business. ”
Jim Beckerman contributed.
Micaela Hood is a features reporter with the Pocono Record and the USA TODAY Mid-Atlantic Region features team. Reach her for her at firstname.lastname@example.org