Monday, June 4, 2012 | 1:44 p.m.
Joe Pesci just finished doing a little freelance bartending, mixing a couple of Oscar Goodman-strength martinis, when asked if he could talk for a couple minutes.
“Ah, I don’t do interviews, really, Johnny,” he said, setting down the carefully mixed cocktail. “I am very bad at this, especially after a martini.”
The man who won an Academy Award for 1990's "Goodfellas" did say that: Johnny.
So I asked for just one tale. A first or favorite visit to Vegas, maybe? He paused and said, “OK.”
Pesci was just 21 when he met the Rat Pack. Two Rat Packers, actually.
“I was a young man, and it was the first time I got married. I’ve been married three times, but I’ll never forget my first trip as a young man, on my honeymoon, with my new wife,” Pesci says at the end of the celebrity pairings party at Milano Ballroom at Caesars Palace for the Breath of Life Celebrity Golf Classic. “We were both very young, it was very exciting. We got to meet Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, and it was really very sweet.”
This was at the Sands, in 1964.
“I was 21, and my bride was 18 or 19,” said Pesci, now 69. “Sinatra, he didn’t say much. But Dean Martin had a great repartee with us. He called my wife Little Miss Polka Dots because she had a polka-dot dress on. So she fell in love with Dean Martin, like a lot of women did. It was a lot of fun, a lot of fun.”
Pesci took a winning bid of $5,000 for a round of golf in the tournament played Monday at Cascata Country Club in Boulder City. The event was a benefit for National Jewish Health, which specializes in the research of, and care for, lung, heart and immune diseases. The two-day event was hosted by, among others, Pesci and Four Seasons founding member Tommy DeVito.
Also on hand at Sunday’s event was Christopher Knight (forever known as Greg Brady from “The Brady Bunch”), Jerome Anthony Gourdine (forever known as Little Anthony from the Imperials), Broadway star Paige O’Hara (the voice of Belle in “Beauty and the Beast”) and her husband Broadway star Michael Piontek (who, Vegas entertainment scenesters might remember, performed in “EFX” at MGM Grand when Tommy Tune was the lead); and Leslie Easterbrook from the “Police Academy” film series who also played the buxom neighbor on “Laverne & Shirley.”
Knight was once featured on VH1’s “Surreal Life,” and Sunday’s assembled celebs sure felt like a reunion party for that show. Any time Greg Brady and Little Anthony are in the same room -- surreal.
It did make sense that DeVito and Pesci would convene at a party. Pesci has known DeVito since both were kids; Pesci's Academy Award-winning performance in "Goodfellas" was for portraying a gangster named ... Tommy DeVito (actually based on "Two-Gun Tommy" DeSimone). In Four Seasons lore, Pesci helped bridge the connection between DeVito and Frankie Valli, two men who, as DeVito says, still speak every couple of weeks. And Pesci and he are still friends, too. The Pesci subplot plays out in the stage version of the Four Seasons story, “Jersey Boys,” which plays nightly at Paris Las Vegas (the “Jersey Boys” cast showed up for a quick photo op with the celebrity invitees).
Asked how much of “Jersey Boys” is true to the Four Seasons story, DeVito said, “There’s a lot that’s not in it. There’s a lot of stuff that is too graphic to put in the show, and people probably wouldn’t accept it, you know what I’m saying?”
Yes. Care to be specific?
“There are so many things, you know?” DeVito said. “We came from the wrong side of the tracks and brought up in really tough neighborhoods, and we were not like normal people who grew up and went to church every Sunday and stuff like that. Things were kind of rough in the neighborhood.”
Are there any amendments or tweaks he would enact in the current “Jersey Boys" script? DeVito is fine with holding a great hand.
“It’s such a good show, why change anything now?” he said. “It’s such a promising show financially, artistically, every which way. I would not want to touch it.”
In golf (and poker) parlance, it’s an ace.