Aircheck: Goodfellas, 1990

With the passing of Frank Vincent on Thursday, I thought I’d do something just a bit different on this week’s Aircheck and show you one of the best scenes I think I’ve ever seen in the movies.

In the scene from Goodfellas, Vincent plays Billy Batts, a mobster from the Gambino crime family who’s returned to society from prison. Batts keeps needling Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci’s character) about how he shined shoes as a kid, much to Tommy’s embarrassment. Well, you’ll see how the scene plays out. Personally, I can’t think of a worse fate than getting beaten to death. (Or so we think. Batts was actually beaten into unconsciousness. When Batts regains consciousness and starts beating against the trunk of the car, then DeVito and his buddies kill him.)

DeVito is of course whacked himself later in the movie, because he violates a clear cut mob rule: a made man killing other made men isn’t usually permitted without the sanction of a capo or someone higher up in the chain of command. Violating that rule put the perpetrator at risk for his own death, which was exactly what wound up happening.

RIP, Frank. His book is on my Amazon Wish List, so I’ll have to get around to that in his honor.

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Aircheck: “Speaking Of Everything”, 3/13/1988

I’d really be remiss if I didn’t mention the passing of comedian Jerry Lewis last week at the age of 91. You see, I was born in Largo, Florida on the morning of September 6, 1971, which that year Labor Day. On TV that morning on one of the Tampa Bay area stations was the 1971 Labor Day telethon out of New York. Yes, I looked it up the local TV listings in the St. Pete Times archives one day. Hey, the Google can be a wonderful thing more often than not.

The telethon was its own brand of Jerry’s schmaltz on display for most of the 21 1/2 hours or so they’d occupy on Labor Day, beginning with the previous night. It did bring an iconic moment in 1976 when Lewis had a surprise guest in his former comedic partner of a generation past, Dean Martin. But most years, the telethon consisted of the story line of a chase: for MDA to raise a buck more than they did the year before. Unlike Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, Jerry was often successful, barring a bad economy, or a hurricane hitting or threatening a major area in the United States.

Thirty nine years later, it was another day where September 6th was a Labor Day Monday. I just had a feeling about seeing Jerry on TV the night before when the telethon started that this particular showing in 2010 was going to be his last one, and I made a donation. Not a big one, but what can I say? I had to respect someone who did good work as I came into the world. My hunch turned out to be a premonition, as he was replaced before the next Labor Day came around. The Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon went on a few more years, but without Lewis there it just wasn’t and couldn’t be the same.

This video is from Howard Cosell’s short lived syndicated talk program, Speaking of Everything, which was also the name of Howard’s weekend radio show of days gone by where he spoke of things beyond the sports world. If you’ve ever wondered if Howard and Jerry talked to each other, here’s some documentation of that.

Have a good weekend, everybody.