Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"TWO FAMILY HOUSE": WHO WAS THE REAL BUDDY VISALO?

twofamhouse

The main character in the film "Two Family House" (and our new musical "Buddy's Tavern") is a kind of mid-century, outerborough everyman named Buddy Visalo. Oddly, ever since I made the film, people have asked me if I "knew the real Buddy"--as if there was something about him and his story that couldn't have just been made up.

And I always answer thusly: yes, I knew Buddy. He was my uncle. His name was Dan (birth name: Donato--meaning Donald, which he apparently didn't like) but always, familiarly, "Buddy". Or, to me, "Uncle Buddy". Buddy was an Italian-American, born in the Bronx and destined for a life of manual labor--my grandfather was a housepainter and early on he hired his second born (age 10? 12?) to be his assistant and helper. Never finishing school, Buddy kept working--doing construction, working in factories, doing woodwork etc. All the while he had an intense need to express himself artistically--in his case it was an ambition to be an actor that simmered within him for many years. (He'd apparently had a taste of acting in theatrical productions that they put on when he was in the Navy during World War 2). Barring the ability to become a paid artist, his secondary ambition was to work for himself--to not work for "some guy with a sign that says 'supervisor' over his desk". (I'm quoting my own dialogue from the movie now--but I must have gotten it from somewhere and I bet it was from my Uncle Buddy).

This led him to attempt on a number of occasions launching his own businesses. And one of them that I heard about--it happened years before I was born--had to do with buying a two-family house with the intention of living in one half of the house and operating a business out of the other. Said business being a bar. The story of what happened when Buddy bought the house was a piece of family folklore I heard over the years; there were tenants. They wouldn't leave. To make it worse (assuming you were Italian in the mid 1950's) they were Irish. They were broke. The wife was pregnant. And when my Uncle and some of his thuggier friends went to physically evict the poor couple, the woman went into labor.

The baby being born slowed everything down. The humane and correct decision was made to wait for the couple to have their child and THEN throw their asses out on the street. Only once the baby was born, another issue arose--one that was truly unforseen and scandalous in a way that is hard to fully comprehend in this day and age: the baby was mulatto, clearly not the result of the Irish couple's union.

This scandal didn't solely reflect upon the Irish lady. In a sense the fact that it occurred at the place that my Uncle was trying to convert into his home and business--into his PLACE--meant that it reflected equally badly on him. The disgrace of the mulatto child's birth seemed to have taken the air out of my Uncle Buddy's business plans. I'm not sure how much longer he owned the place. But it wasn't long before he abandoned his plan and was back at the factory...working for that guy with the sign that reads "supervisor" over the desk...

My Uncle Buddy died in 1988 and I thought of him a great deal over the next few years. He--his life--was enigmatic, an unsolved riddle to me. In a sense his character and his unresolved issues were the perfect example of what a writer looks for when creating a character, unanswered questions and all: who was he...what did he want...what stopped him from getting it...what would it have taken for him to conquer his demons?

These are the questions that I thought about it when thinking about him. And ultimately this led to the idea to dramatize a segment of his life, to tell the tale of the two family house, the unfortunate Irish couple, and the stubborn landlord who had to face the scandal that he'd been unwittingly drawn into. I won't tell you what Buddy does in the movie (and now the stage musical) version of his life. Suffice it to say it's a bit different than what he did in his real life. But my decision as a dramatist was to give him the power, on paper, to make the kind of decisions that in life he wasn't able to.

Or perhaps that's arrogant and misguided of me. Maybe the decisions he made later in life--he married several times and attempted to start his own life over on any number of occasions--were indeed informed by events such as the one I've described. Life isn't nearly as neat as a three act script; but it does, in retrospect, oddly resemble a long novel in the rambling, discursive and oddly coincidental way that our "plots" meander along, making a kind of backwards-looking sense as we stumble along to the ultimate and unavoidable climax we all share...

Here's the theatrical trailer of my movie "Two Family House".




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19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Raymond, when are we getting news on the release of City Island? I am so anxious to see the movie.

Any Updates you can share?

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

After reading about your reason
for and watching the trailer.Its
a rough call but I have to go with
title ."Two Family House" even though Buddys Tavern sounds nicer
to my ears

Anonymous said...

This sound crazy. But yet for the
play it would be "Buddys Tavern"

Raymond De Felitta said...

RE: CITY ISLAND. Sit tight. A distribution deal is in the works. I'll announce it as soon as its ready...

RE: TITLES: Glad you like "Two Family House" as that's the title the film will be stuck with for eternity. I had a nice idea for the log-line for the poster as a result of that title. It went:

"Every House Has a Second Story".

Lions Gate rejected it. Instead they went with:

"The only way to find out what you love is to risk everything you have..."

Wonderful! Thanks, Lions Gate. For nothin'!

I think for the play "Buddy's Tavern" is a little more...musical.

Anonymous said...

"Every House Has A second Story"
Cool.....

Anonymous said...

I look at it again I like how yours
sounds But I do think that the public being nosey would tend to
want to see it more with there,
(risk every thing you have one)
Because of the suspense factor..

Distribution deal sounds great...

Allen Dwan said...

If memory serves, the entire management team of Lions Gate was replace some time between their purchase of Two Family House and its eventual, tepid, release. Except of course for Thomas Ortenberg, who brings new meaning to craven and subservient.

At least that's what I heard at the time.

Harry Lime said...

@Allan Dwan--

I heard the same. If only Raymond's movie had some death by power tools in it.

Raymond De Felitta said...

Allen Dwan--

Happy 126th birthday (or close to it)! Thanks for checking in. Are you Mark Urman? Sounds like you were around the business at the time. Yes, Mark who bought the film was on his way out by the time of its release (I like the term "tepid" release--perfect)...and the new management was puzzled as to why they were stuck with a period piece with no names in it...and a commitment to distribute theatrically.

On opening weekend, I opened the NY Times and noticed three things: 1) It was the subway series (Yankees/Mets) and that was what was of consuming interest to the public. 2) A movie called "Meet The Parents" took out the biggest ads in the world and seemed to have captivated the nation. And 3) Lions Gate bought the smallest ad in the world for my film and put it on the back page of A&L. I turned to my wife and said, "that's that". And indeed it was.

Does this sound bitter? I hope not. Well, it is and it isn't. "Two Family House" has proven stronger than that and found its audience over the years on cable and DVD. And that's another story which I'll get to in the coming days (weeks? months? years?)...

Allen Dwan said...

125 and counting! Take that, CB!
Here's to hoping Carl Icahn prevails and ousts Feltheimer and crew from their undeserved perches.
Someday the history of LG will be told and it will not be a story of vision and passion, but rather one of pure drivel and soullessness. Note that Ortenberg is now at the rapidly sinking Weinstein Company.

NOT Mark Urman.

Anonymous said...

Ray,
I just watched "Two Family House" this afternoon for the first time. Congrats to you...it was an excellent film. Being a kid that grew up in an Italian/Irish household in queens in the 60s, I can identify, and really enjoyed it. Im going to make it a point to see "City Island" when it comes out. Keep up the good work and may 2010 be an outstanding year for you.

Pete

Mario Aramburu said...

Dear Ray:

For your info DONALD, an Irish first name, is not the same as DONATO (the Italian for "given away as a present). I saw your film, a present from an Aussie friend of mine, and also I have read three books by your father. I also enjoyed THE THING ABOUT MY FOLKS. I am not certain if some days I will be able CITY ISLAND.

Best regards.

Mr Mario Aramburu Ugalde
Family Historian.

Imperare Iduna said...

Hi, I recently saw "Two Family House." It was charming, captivating, and so very soulful. I adored this film. Please know all your hard work is greatly appreciated. An those individuals who placed a microscopic ad on a back page would not know true art if it bit 'em in th tush. Thank you for this marvelous movie. I am still thinking about this movie days later. Congratulations on this masterpiece. Peace. :) Mary

Buddette said...

I was (am) captivated by the movie. It's playing back to back 1st time and 2nd time. The story probably requires more viewing too.

I cant say what I think yet! But, isn't that art?

:)

Buddette Jr.

Erick Chang said...

I just watched two family house, and loved every minute of it. I am a us army combat veteran, singer, actor, and, aspiring book writer, who came out of the army in 2003, as a married man and went through alot of the same things buddy went through, like being in a marriage where everything was always about the wife. Seemed as if this could almost be my story, having a wife that never supported me, and trying everything possible to start my own business and not have to work for the guy with the supervisor sign on his desk, while failing, time, after, time, again. This movie was pretty emotional to me from the beginning till the end. Not saying I condone infidelity, because really their is no excuse for it, but I clearly understand how someone could find that person, that seems to understand them, and want nothing but to make them happy. I guess what I'm trying to say is keep following your dreams in life regardless of if your so called friends, or family, don't agree, or support you. I think their is a buddy visalo in all of us. Thank you Ray.

jessica said...

loved the film...would really like to know what happened to the Irish mother and her interracial child (narrator).
Jessica

Jimi K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jimi K said...

I'd heard about this movie a couple of years ago and put it into my mental to-watch list and finally saw it a few days ago.

It's funny how there's at least a little bit of backward-facing recognition for this and a few other movies in the wake of the Sopranos. There are no fewer than 45 movies, it turns out, that make use of three or more Sopranos cast members.

I came for the familiar faces and stayed for the story, a simple tale of a man looking for where he belonged. I think that's why it resonates even still.

Thanks to Raymond De Felitta for a movie with some heart.

Jenea Moore said...

Two Family House is one of movies that I watch and have purchased. You are a great story teller. I went on line to see if this person really exited. Thank for your story telling.
Thanks,
Je`nea From Harlem,NY.