Michelle Obama, Chazz Palminteri, A Bronx Tale and the American Dream all collided yesterday during opening night of Palminteri's one-man show.
A Bronx Tale, based in part on Palminteri's life, shows a kid named Calogero growing up in a tough New York City neighborhood during the 1960s. Pulled in one direction by his honest, hard-working father, and pulled in another by the local mob boss, the kid has some hard choices to make. One choice, however, seems to be pretty easy for Calogero: He falls in love with a black girl, Jane. That's where Michelle Obama comes in.
In the 1960s, an Italian teenager from the Bronx falling for a black girl from another neighborhood, was, to most folks, scandalous. Even Calogero's usually fair-minded father asks, "Couldn't [he] find any white girls to go out with?" Twenty years ago, when Palminteri was first performing the show, there was still enough risidual racism around to make most audiences gasp when he got to that part of the story. Bottom line, in the 1960s a white boy holding hands with a black girl, walking down the street in the wrong neighborhood would get his ass kicked. Once Calogero falls for Jane, everybody knew something very bad was about to happen. That was twenty years ago.
Today, a very beautiful, strong, intelligent and - oh, yeah, black - Michelle Obama is living in the White House with her equally beautiful, strong, intelligent and - oh, yeah, semi-black - husband, Barack.
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Last night, when Calogero falls for Jane, not only did the audience not gasp, a few people looked around as if to say, "And?"
Sure, a few of us knew what Calogero and Jane were in for, the taunts, the ass-kickings, the rejection by family and friends. But -- and here's the wonderful part - a few of us didn't.
Yeah, it makes for less umph! in Palmiteri's show, but it also makes for a much nicer America. We're sure Calogero doesn't mind.
-- Olivia Flores Alvarez