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Killing Time with Frank Vincent

The Sopranos' actor has a knack for portraying wiseguys who clip—and get clipped.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Vegas, Mar/Apr 2006

(continued from page 2)

Vincent does say that in one scene in the upcoming season, he's a bit drunk and smokes a cigar. "Great scene," he says, smiling. He refuses to say any more. "Wish I could tell you. I dont want to tell you. Itll spoil it."

Vincent began smoking cigars as a teenager. "I always smoked cigars," he says. "I [also] smoked cigarettes, but cigars were always something I could enjoy." He began with machine-made smokes, Garcia y Vegas, following in the footsteps of his father, Frank Vincent Gattuso (Vincents birth name). His father was a Camel smoker who puffed on cigars on special occasions and at family get-togethers.

Vincent was once the face behind a cigar brand called Public Enemy, which Nick Perdomo made for the Cherry Hill, New Jersey, cigar retailer Lou Silver. Alas, the timing was bad. It was launched near the end of the 1990s cigar boom, with a $10 price tag, and 20,000 cigars later, it was retired.

Nevertheless, the experience of having his name and face on a cigar brand "was terrific," says Vincent, who prefers his smokes big and mild. The Davidoff Double "R" is a particular favorite. After a lunch of thick steak, he puffs happily on an Avo 77, savoring the flavor. When hes not at Davidoff, he typically smokes with his sons-in-law, Tommy DeFranco and Jimmy Pomponio, in the backyard, and more often during the summer.

March is a big month for Vincent. Along with "The Sopranos" season premiere, his movie This Thing of Ours comes out on DVD. The month also marks his debut as an author, as his recently penned A Guys Guide to Being a Mans Man, with Steven Priggé, goes on sale. The tongue-in-cheek how-to book offers men advice on the finer things in life—how to dress for success, how to date, even a few pointers on cigars, etc.—all filtered through a wiseguy sensibility.

"Guys need help," Vincent says. "They don't know how to dress. You see a couple out—the girl's dressed up, the guy's got a shirt hanging out with ripped jeans."

Think of it as the anti-metrosexuals bible that eschews the "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" mentality, as Vincent puts it. Vincent also explains where to get and how to cook great Italian food, lists his favorite gangster films and singing heroes, and gives pointers on how to enjoy a fine cocktail.

Interspersed with the advice are a few anecdotes from Vincent's life. One of the most memorable recounts the time he brought a young lady home for Sunday dinner, a feast centered around meatballs, pasta and red sauce. The girl—who wasn't Italian—didn't want to eat, which perturbed Vincent's father. Finally, convinced to take a meatball, she looked innocently at her hosts and asked for a condiment. "Do you have any mayonnaise?" she said. Vincent's father flew into a rage, pointing at the girl, and at Vincent. "You and you—OUT!"

Vincent's close to his Italian roots and is aware that some of his paisans don't appreciate mobster stereotypes in many of his roles as do the fans who shout "Get Your Shinebox" to him when they see him in public. "I know some people say it makes Italians look bad," he says, but "every character you play is only a person. Mobsters are people. There's political mobsters, there's cops that are bad, there's priests that are bad—anybody can be a mobster."

He takes another puff on the Avo, blue smoke rising to the ceiling. "People come up to me and say, 'How does it feel to be a wiseguy?' I say, 'Im not a wiseguy. I'm an actor.' This is entertainment."

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