Vincent Pastore, who starred in “The Sopranos,” on the set of his new play, “Wild Children,” at the Nyack Village Theater. The show, directed by Richard Quinn, runs April 12-28. Photo by Seth Harrison/The Journal News.
Vincent Pastore — who came to fame as Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero on “The Sopranos” — took his memories of running The Crazy Horse Cafe in New Rochelle in the ‘80s and spun it into the play “Wild Children,” which premieres at the 49-seat Nyack Village Theater on April 12.
While not purely autobiographical, “Wild Children” is peppered with Pastore’s recollections of a time when he was presenting rock acts on a tiny stage on Center Avenue in the age of disco. There are references to New Rochelle destinations from back in the day, including Peachtree’s and Marty and Lenny’s.
The people in “Wild Children” — a collection of wiseguys, strippers, drug dealers and lonely folks — have long memories that don’t travel beyond what is right in front of them.
There’s Frankie Donato, determined to run a legitimate nightspot free of drugs, his heavyset partner, Wally, an Irish-American waitress named Maggie. And Frankie’s nephew, Bobby, and Jackson, a black blues musician. The cast includes “Sopranos” veterans Al Sapienza (who played Mikey Palmice) and Anthony J. Ribustello (who played Dante Greco), in a run that extends to April 28. Also making an appearance in director Richard Quinn’s cast is Sam Waymon, the brother of singer Nina Simone.
There are drugs and violence and plot twists in the play, which is produced by Tappan’s Paul Borghese and Nyack’s Brooke Malloy.
Pastore, who now lives in City Island, grew up in New Rochelle and ran the Crazy Horse from 1980 to 1987. He now runs Montauk Bar in New Rochelle. He took a break from seeing to rehearsal details to chat.
Q: Music is a really big part of “Wild Children.” You are very specific about the songs between scenes.
VP: It shows the time period. Takes you back to that time.
Q: You’ve got to feel for poor Frankie, who has a dream of running a clean rock club in New Rochelle in the age of disco.
VP: But all these guys from Peachtree’s are following him. He can’t get away from them.
Q: The play is dedicated to your dad, John D. Pastore, who died in 2006.
VP: My dad was 97 when he died in New Rochelle Hospital, with a gallon of wine by his side. But my mother died in 1990, so she was around when this play takes place, but she never saw my acting career. My mother had Parkinson’s so that’s why I got involved with Michael Fox’s Light of Day foundation.
Q: You’re also involved with the Lustgarten Foundation, fighting pancreatic cancer.
VP: That’s because Nancy, my ex-wife, her husband, Mitchell, died from pancreatic cancer, so I got involved with that. I’m also involved with Knightsbridge Veterans and World Hunger. We’ll be doing fund-raising shows for them here, on April 14 and 21.
Q: Is it weird to be back at The Crazy Horse, the bar you ran on Center Avenue in New Rochelle?
VP: It’s still there.
Q: Yes, but isn’t it weird to be back in this time and place with your play?
VP: Not so much weird, as….
(He is interrupted by a text from Nicky Clemons, son of the late E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons. He flips open his phone and dials the number, chatting with Clemons about an upcoming gig. That task complete, he returns to the conversation.)
A: This is my life. Clarence Clemons’ son. We’re working together on Saturday.
Q: So you owned Crazy Horse from 1980 to 1987.
A: Then I became an actor.
Q: What’s harder: Running a bar or being an actor?
VP: Running a bar.
Q: Is it like you depict it here? A constant grind?
(To answer the question, Pastore summons Steve Zarro, who plays Frankie.)
VP: Steven! What’s that line, when LuAnn asks you about happiness?
Steve Zarro: (reciting line) It depends on what your dream is. My dream was to own this bar with great music, but I have to make money to keep it going.
VP (to Zarro): And what do you say about all the people coming in?
Steve Zarro: (reciting line) I can tell you that as far as friends go, there’s only one person who’s the only friend I’ve ever had. Everybody else? They come in, they smile and they wait for me to buy them a drink. I’d like to see how many of them would come out for me if I was down and out.
VP: That line is true. It sums it up. This guy’s trying to run a legitimate rock ‘n’ roll joint like someplace downtown, in Westchester. He was the first guy to break through and do this. Now they’re all doing bands. Back then they were all disco: Peachtree’s, Marty and Lenny’s, Second Floor, Fudgie’s in Yonkers. They were all discos. You had to go to the Village to hear rock ‘n’ roll. Frankie wants to bring that to Westchester. But his struggle is every man’s struggle. This is about a bar owner who could be a bar owner downstairs. In Nyack.
Q: What was the Crazy Horse like? Take me there.
VP: It was kind of like this set, with a lot of wooden Indian pictures and the Heineken sign and the window. It’s kinda freaking me out right now. We had a stage that started small and got bigger and bigger. Shawn Colvin played there. The Chambers Brothers played there. Hall and Oates played there. David Ruffin played there.
Q: At the Crazy Horse? How big was it?
VP: It was as big as this theater.
(Producer Paul Borghese arrives.)
Q: Do you miss that part of it?
VP: No, because now I’m with Paul Borghese and we’re doing all this creative stuff. We’ve got a film coming out, “Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn.” (With that, Pastore summons Borghese: Paul! Get over here!)
Paul Borghese: I was just giving you privacy.
VP: I don’t want privacy.
Borghese: “Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn” will be released by Lionsgate.
VP: And Paul and I did a film in Paris. We were there 15 days. It’s by Luc Besson and it comes out in July.
Q: How’d “Wild Children” end up in Nyack?
VP: Paul Borghese showed his movie, “Alienated,” at Richard’s Nyack Film Festival and it won an award. I was in the movie and came to the screening and met Richard and I told him I had a play.
Borghese: It was a short film that Vincent starred in and it won best short film here. We had been workshopping Vinny’s play in the city and Richard asked to see it.
Q: When did you start writing “Wild Children”?
VP: Ten years ago.
Q: Is it much different than it was then?
VP: The play now is what I wrote 10 years ago. When I was on this journey, everybody was giving me all these ideas and it wasn’t working. So I went back to the original draft. There’s a scene in this play that I wrote in one instant and I havent’ changed a word. Other scenes I’ve really worked. It’s easy for guys like me and Paul to write about wiseguys than it is to write female characters.
Q: There are plenty of guys who can’t write female characters.
VP: It’s hard to write the female end. I wrote one character the way she is now but I had other people telling me she was too rough. But I’ll tell you, she’s drawn to money and power.
Q: The title is based on a Van Morrison lyric, “Wild Children.”
VP: I called it that because these characters, except for two, are all born in the ‘40s. The lyric goes: “We were the War Children/Born 1945/When all the soldiers came marching home/Love looks in their eyes.” This is the ‘80s and they’re all in their late ‘30s.
Q: At one point late in the play, Frankie has lost control of things at the bar and he says: “You can’t control anything.”
VP: You can’t control your destiny.
Q: He says that, because he has surrounded himself with people who make decisions for him. He kind of gives up.
VP: There’s a reason he gives up. You have to see the play to really understand, the way Richard directed it, with the music. It’s easier for somebody to be an alcoholic than to go to AA meetings once a week. It’s easier for you to go out and party and rock ‘n’ roll and sleep late and hang out in the discos than to have a normal job. It’s easier to be a wiseguy — like in “A Bronx Tale” — than it is to get up every day and bust your ass.
And Frankie makes bad choices, but it’s hard for people to deal with fame and success.
What I love about this play is that in act one, the characters that we see set up are not in act two. The smaller characters in act one, who are sitting around and you think they’re extras, they take over the play.
Q: Spoken like a guy who started out as an extra. The extras take over.
VP: I auditioned for Woody Allen a few weeks ago and I said, “You know? I used to be an extra o your movies.” And he said “Well, you’re not doing extra work anymore.”
Q: Must be cool to see your old life, your old bar on stage.
VP: The bar is still there, in New Rochelle. And we hope people like the story. And Paul and I will take it to New Rochelle — I already got the film permit — and make a movie out of it. We’re thinking of shooting it in the bar. We looked in the window the other night. It’s waiting for us to show up.
“Wild Children,” by Vincent Pastore. 8 p.m., April 12, 13, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27; 3 p.m., April 14, 21, 28. $25, $30 at the door. 201-694-0610. nyackvillagetheatre.com. With: Al Sapienza (“The Sopranos”), Anthony J. Ribustello (“The Sopranos”), Rocco Parente ( “Boardwalk Empire”), Peter Evangelista (“Once Upon a Dream”), Sam Waymon (“Ganja and Hess”), Steve Zarro, Dana Duff, Wes Laga, Jonathan Baldwin, Ted Odell, Shana Lin, Leigh Pupps, Vincent Cueva and Joe DeSpirito.