Bruce Campbell: Hail to the Chin

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The star of the Evil Dead series began his book tour on August 14, 2017. First stop: Ridgewood, NJ. Next stop: Long Island, New York – my neighborhood.

Hail to the Chin is a sequel to his first memoir, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor

Released in 2001, the first book became a New York Times Bestseller. It covers the early years of Bruce Campbell’s career, up till the end of the 20th century. It includes how he and his pals, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, accomplished the not-so-quick-and-easy task of making the original Evil Dead film. 

Metaphorically referred to as part two of a three-act story, Hail to the Chin picks up where If Chins left off.

Bruce managed to summarize his preceding “confessions” in the opening pages of his new book, which then brings the reader up to speed. This next batch of insightful rants span over the last 20 years – Bruce Campbell’s “maturing years” in the biz.

While 300+ local fans and I waited for him to speak at the Book Revue, here in good ole Long Island, his new pages kept me occupied. I read the first few chapters and laughed out loud in several parts. That’s Bruce for ya. Sharp, honest, and witty.

As a filmmaker, I find a lot of value in his anecdotes. The film business isn’t easy. It’s refreshing to see the reality from the inside out. 

Bruce explains his struggles with his post-Army of Darkness TV career. How Brisco County Jr. failed to renew after its first season, due to unsatisfactory ratings. How Jack of All Trades – shot in New Zealand – failed around the time Peter Jackson claimed all local film and television crew, to create that 3-part epic, Lord of the Rings. 

Then, it was just about showtime. I carefully closed the book, placed it in my messenger bag, and… 3, 2, 1…

The crowd exploded. Figuratively. 

Standing before us, in the far corner of the bookstore, was the Man of the Hour. And, he didn’t waste any time either. He dove right into the Q&A, which lasted no longer than 7-10-minutes. He knew he was in for a long night. 

Before the rapid-fire Q&A session, he prepared us for the forthcoming signing procedure. There were no personalized autographs; however, he was generous enough to allow one additional item get signed. That extra item could’ve been anything… Posters; action-figures; body parts… You name it, he’d sign it.

I managed to capture some video of Mr. Campbell, from my third row seat. Below are 2 clips that range from 40-75 seconds each. Or, if you’d like to watch the entire Q&A, please scroll down to the bottom of this post. 

Clip 1 of 2: Bruce Campbell on Ash vs Evil Dead

Clip 2 of 2: Bruce Campbell Gives You Some Sugar

You can find Hail to the Chin at your local bookstore, or on Amazon.com.

Stay groovy, my friends.

Mike Polizzi 

Here’s the full Q&A video:

Hamlet with Oscar Isaac

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(A Poe fo Show)

Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) stars as the title character in this well crafted, intimate production of William Shakespeare’s longest and most powerful play, Hamlet. A timeless tale of a troubled prince who plots revenge against his uncle, who murdered his father in exchange for the throne and his mother.

Directed by Tony Award winner Sam Gold, this 4 hour production of the life and death tragedy is performed at The Public Theater – a Shakespeare Workshop in New York City. It was founded in the mid-1950s by Joseph Papp. A place where up-and-coming playwrights and performers are able to showcase their work.

The Anspacher Theater, one of the chambers within The Public, is where Hamlet is featured. Although, you won’t find your typical, escalated stage here. Instead, there’s a small raised step in the background, primarily used as an actor “bullpen,” and for prop storage. The performance space is mostly the flat surface of the theater’s red carpeted floor, surrounded by a semicircle of 275 seats.

The space is tighter than what you might expect, yet very cozy. That’s what made this particular experience so special.

If you’re unfamiliar with the work, you certainly might recognize many of Hamlet’s poetic lines, recited in film and television. The original Star Trek, for instance, made numerous references to the play – usually spoken by Bones, and then called out by Spock. The sixth film was even subtitled The Undiscovered Country, which is said in the famous “to be or not to be” monologue (Act III, Scene I). Or, perhaps you’re familiar with that iconic image of Hamlet holding the skull of poor Yorick, a fellow of infinite jest.

Classic quotes and images aside, you might also assume the play is dressed with armored knights and such. After all, it does take place during the Middle Ages, in and around a royal palace in Elsinore, Denmark. Nevertheless, it’s been interpreted many different ways, using many different eras.

This particular interpretation of the Shakespearean classic, here in New York, is unique. It requires your imagination, as the actors project their superb talents in selected casual attire, while using limited props and no backdrop scenery. A sturdy folding table, flowers, dirt, wine bottles & glasses are the extent of what you’ll see. A 21st century sight with 400-year-old dialogue.

Hamlet (Isaac) is seen mostly in a black t-shirt and hoodie, an occasional gray sweater, and sometimes a dark pair of sweatpants. In the middle of the play, when his lunacy escalates, the troubled prince bounces off the imaginary walls in his black underwear. A sight all the ladies in my party certainly enjoyed; however, it portrayed the character in his appropriate idle state.

Horatio, portrayed humorously by Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele), wore a short sleeved polo shirt and jeans.

Claudius, the King of Denmark, played by Ritchie Coster (The Dark Knight), wore what appeared to be a light gray linen suit and black t-shirt. When he switched to play the ghost of Hamlet’s murdered father, he removed the blazer and t-shirt.

Ophelia, played by Gayle Rankin, wore a dark blouse and skirt. Her father, the king’s chief counselor, Polonius (Peter Friedman) was the most formal in a three piece suit and tie. He is also the father of Laertes (Anatol Yusef), who wore an open short-sleeve button down and t-shirt…

As for the remaining talented cast… Matthew Saldivar portrayed Guildenstern in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts; Charlayne Woodard wore a stunning purple dress as Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude; and Roberta Colindrez appeared to be quite comfortable in her jogging suit, as Rosencrantz.

To compliment all of the above was an original music score, composed and performed by Dutch musician Ernst Reijseger. Setup in the corner of that small raised platform, Ernst delivered subtle, eerie music from a cello and wooden pipe organ – with the occasional accompaniment of wooden pipes, performed by the cast. This also marked the first time I’ve witnessed someone pluck cello strings in a guitar-like fashion. Something Ernst displayed throughout the show, whenever the mood called for something more cheerful.

We may have missed him at Star Wars Celebration – most likely due to his preparations for Hamlet but, after a few moments of patience by devoted fans – mostly flailing fan-girls, like my girlfriend and her sister – we met the star himself. Oscar Isaac entered the lobby shortly after the show ended and, humble and kind gentleman that he is, greeted each and every one of us.

The sold-out show began its run on June 20, 2017 and is scheduled to end on September 3rd.

Within this wall of cyber flesh, there is a soul that counts thee its creditor very much for reading. In other words, thanks for reading.

Farewell for now,

Mike Polizzi

A Taste of New York on Four Wheels

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The following article was written & published in 2011:

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Steve Valentino, a New York native, relocated to North Carolina in 2009 with his lovely wife, a heart full of passion and a fist full of meatballs.

Inspired by his Italiano papa, Steve delivers an authentic flavor that Southerners have never experienced before. From the Steve-O Hero, his signature slow-cooked tomato-sauced meatballs on garlic bread, to his phenomenal Betty Melt, an amazing multi-cheese sandwich grilled on his one-of-a-kind “Shotgun Betty” beer bread.

Of course, this fantastic operation didn’t just transpire overnight. Back on Long Island, NY, Steve was a jack-of-all-trades. A painter, a sculptor, a chef and a special effects make-up artist with a day job. A young man in search for his calling.

For nearly a decade, Steve and his fiancee, Christina – a former student of East Carolina University – visited friends in Raleigh, NC on a regular basis. They fell in love with the pleasant city and decided to move there, shortly after their wedding in April 2009.

Christina was fortunate enough to have her job transferred to North Carolina. Steve, on the other hand, was not so lucky. He had lost his job in the midst of the recession and was stranded and unemployed, along with the millions of other Americans. But, being the go-getter that he is, Steve managed to turn a negative into a positive.

If nobody wants to hire me, he thought, then I will!

So, he pursued the food vending industry, with intentions on possibly running a hotdog cart in downtown Raleigh.

Steve did his research and inquired with the local zoning board. He advised them on how he wanted to include additional menu items on his hot dog cart, such has his home style Italian cuisine – which would have been a perfect idea; but, the board had to decline his proposal. According to regulations, in order for him to serve his own specialties, Steve would have to acquire an enclosed kitchen.

Unbeknownst to the growth of the food truck industry, Steve was on the hunt for four wheels and an engine. And, in February 2010… he found it!

A Grumman Step Van.

It was in terrible condition and reeked from the previous owner’s fish business. Nevertheless, Steve saw its potential and was fortunate enough to have his handy-dandy brother Frank in town at the time.

Frank was able to guide and assist his ambitious brother through all the rough patches and together, along with the support from his wife and local friends, they built the truck that stands today.

Valentino’s Food Truck was born!

But, where was he going to park and serve?

Being a beer enthusiast and a home brewer, Steve stumbled upon the LoneRider Brewery, home of the Shotgun Betty – a sensational wheat beer with an insignia modeled after the tap-room’s charismatic bartender, Jackie.

Just like an outlaw from the Old West, Steve stepped over the threshold of the LoneRider and caused dead silence. He gazed upon the bewildered patrons, as their eyes locked on his presence. They observed, as he slowly wandered to the bar, where Jackie courageously welcomed him.

He ordered a beer, and then had a thought for the bartender.

“I reckon you don’t serve food here, do ya, darlin’?”

“Sorry, stranger,” Jackie replied. “But, you can bring food in.”

“Well, what if I told ya I wanted to bring food and cook it here?”

“What do you mean? Like a barbecue?”

“No, ma’am. Like a food truck.”

Of course, Jackie thought it was a brilliant idea. So, she introduced Steve to the owners and they immediately embraced his proposal. They felt it was a suitable addition to their establishment and they gave Steve a place to go on a weekly basis.

On Thursdays and Fridays, Valentino’s Food Truck pulls up alongside their loading dock. Menus are placed at the bar, Steve fires up the grill, and then he takes care of dinner from 5pm – 9pm. Ales for outlaws and food for foodies – YEEHAW!

Valentino’s Food Truck eventually extended their services at Big Boss Brewery, where they serve lunch and late-night dishes to the patrons on Fridays.

Steve has certainly developed a symbiotic relationship between the breweries and his food truck. He even incorporates their beer in some of his recipes, such as LoneRider’s Shotgun Betty – the ingredient that encompasses the “Betty Melt” (UPDATE: Now called the “Lindy Melt”). He creates sauces and glazes with the beer, as well, and has been able to be quite creative with his cuisine.

In only a half year of business, Valentino’s Food Truck has already made an impact on the Raleigh community, with numerous followers from not only the breweries, but from a variety of special events, as well.

Steve manages his business with pride and, for the first time in his life, strongly believes he has found his calling.

Mike Polizzi 

The above article was originally published in the Raleigh Downtowner Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 4.

The following is a short video I produced in 2010, covering Valentino’s Food Truck.

Valentino’s Food Truck on Yelp!

Valentino’s on Twitter

Valentino’s Website