The Danny Aiello Look-a-Like Story
by Bob Jandoli
For my Sharing Sentimental Stories this month, I’ve chosen to relate a story to my readers about both an incredible and beautiful memory I share with my daughter, Michele.
It happened about fifteen years ago at “Lead East”. For anybody who doesn’t know what Lead East is, it’s billed as “The Largest 1950’s Party in the World”. And I might say it is. It started thirty- plus years ago as a simple “Antique Car” show and has grown into an five-day extravaganza of somewhere in the neighborhood of two-thousand cars displayed, with twenty-six or so bands playing, Oldies concerts each night. Sock hops, a formal-style prom, drive-in movies every night, Doo Wop groups performing constantly and thousands and thousands of people from around the country coming to set up tents and barbecues galore. It’s a sight to see. I have attended – with the exception of one or two – each show.
Now here’s my little story. My friends and I, along with my daughter Michele, were barbecuing, and as we sat down to enjoy our food, we noticed that of the hundreds and hundreds of people who passed by our site, at least one in every group was a ringer or look-a-like for a famous person. There was a guy who looked like Jack Nicolson, one that looked like Sean Penn, a guy that looked like Jimmy Durante (nose and all), and a girl who was a spitting image of Angelina Jolie (I followed her around all weekend, I think I tripped over my tongue a few times, lol).
My daughter Michele, who knows movie stars as well as I do (a chip off the old block) suddenly calls out and says “Look, that guy sitting over there looks like Danny Aiello.” I had to put my hand over her mouth, because I didn’t know how the guy would react. He may know who Danny Aiello is and may not like it. For anyone who doesn’t know who Danny Aiello is: he has starred or co-starred in movies like Moonstruck, Do the Right Thing and was nominated for an Academy Award for 29th Street.
So after I calmed Michele down, and explained to her that we were only playing a look-a-like game, we all continued to notice more look-a-likes as they passed by. After a few minutes, I turned and noticed that Michele wasn’t sitting with us anymore. I jumped up and looked around our barbecue area and noticed she wasn’t there. I panicked. Then I looked over and I saw her talking with the “Danny Aiello” look-a-like guy. I had no idea what she was telling this man, but I was very embarrassed thinking a million thoughts of what she was saying. As I’ve mentioned before, in some of my past stories, that my daughter Michele is a mentally challenged Down syndrome child, and is the treasure of my life. I wasn’t embarrassed because of her special needs. God knows, I am more proud of her than any father could be. But Michele, being a truly sincere person, could be telling this man that we have been playing a game and that we were making fun of most of the people who were walking by or sitting near us. I slowly proceeded to walk over to make my apologies and explain what we were doing. As I started to explain myself to Michele’s new friend, I was shocked! It WAS Danny Aiello. Michele had picked out the real one. She won the game and made fools out of all of us. The first thing he said to me was that he thought the world of Michele. She had told him, that she was a big fan and actually knew his character names in all the movies she saw, he was amazed. He then asked if Michele could hang with him and his family, who was there with him, and have lunch with them. I said yes and when I came back later in the day, Michele had a few gifts that Danny had bought for her at the gift shop. Another true professional and genuine good guy.
There isn’t any of my ending morals to this story, except never under-estimate the intelligence of a “special needs” person. Way to go, Michele, and thank you, Danny Aiello!