The Chicago skyline was obscured by a mercurial thunderhead of uncouth words by early noon on November 12, 1911. Preparing to alight from their porches clad in the light, easygoing cottonware appropriated for the previous day’s spring-like weather, the city inhabitants were instead met by a wintry thirteen-degree blast of frigid air at their collective front doors, a disparity of sixty-one degrees that had occurred over a twenty-hour period. Its result must have been a multiplicity of blasphemous words, the resounding claps of slamming doors, and hesitancy over whether to dress for an unseasonably warm afternoon, or for a frosty precursor to the Christmas season. Not a single soul was impervious to the chill, nor to doubt.
There is always respite for those affected by a wintry afternoon’s iciness. Street cafes perpetually brew fresh pots of Arabica bean coffee and are staffed with people who fill ceramic mugs and thick, brand-name emblazoned paper cups as if they were programmed. Restaurant heaters blaze invitingly, and platters heaped with comfort food seemingly float by their front windows in the hands of attractive waitstaffs. Inescapable, though, is doubt, which nags like an unhappy, yapping puppy at one’s heels, dissatisfied until it is either petted or fed. One simply cannot be affected by it, whether he is a hardened skeptic, a hopeful artist, or, even, Joe Pesci.
“…Joe Pesci…” sighed Rosebud partner Danny Miller, sitting with me at a front-window table at Rosebud On Taylor, established in 1973. ” Joe Pesci told me he was a waiter at a restaurant in New York before the first movie [that he] was in, Raging Bull.”
The 1980 film, starring Robert DeNiro as embattled middleweight-boxer Jake LaMotta, concerned a man whose life replicated the destructiveness of his ringside matches. Although the film was critically acclaimed and nominated for several Oscars in 1980, world-weary audiences of the time thought a good story’s warmth to be as comforting as a sweater was to a shivering, cotton-clad Chicagoan shivering waiting for a bus in 1911. Thus, Mr. DeNiro was the only beneficiary of the laudable award. The lion’s share of statuettes that year were handed to Robert Redford and the cast of Ordinary People for their efforts in the film adaptation of Judith Guest’s sensitive, family-oriented novel.
“He was trying to get an acting gig, and I guess he’d auditioned for the part,” continued Danny.” They called him three times for the part, and he thought it was one of his friends making a prank. He hung up on them [twice]. He believed it after the third call. That started his career.”
Reaching full stride in the early to mid-90′s, the thespian would receive an Oscar of his own for his portrayal of “Tommy DeVito” in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, then go on to receive top billing in 1992′s My Cousin Vinny. Currently, Mr. Pesci continues operating under the camera’s watchful eye, playing a supporting role in 2006′s The Good Shepherd, then opposite Helen Mirren in 2010 arthouse film, The Love Ranch.
Considerably, the jury could still be out smoking their cigarettes and pontificating as to Fate’s hand in deciding Mr. Pesci’s thirty-year career. Still, he serves as a perfect example of how facing the gusty winds of Uncertainty can lead to remarkable events- even when you do not have a sweater.