Freudian Slips: October 2008

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

October 30, 2008

Winning One for The Whimper

By raising me and giving me his last name, my stepfather earned the name of father. After he pitched Southern High School to the city championship in 1948, Connie Mack signed my father, Gregory Tornatore, to play for the Philadlephia Phillies. Like his tested life, injuries debilitated his playing career. He remained a diehard Phillies fan though and his zest for the game of baseball undoubtedly rubbed off on my brothers and I.
I have always wondered the more life-changing event for my father, devoting his life to athletics as a vocation then not being able to play baseball anymore or walking into a hospital for back surgery then leaving paralyzed from the waist down slumped in a wheelchair. As my father’s life sunk into clinical depression from his immobility and cardiac problems over the years, I hoped he would live long enough to see one more championship by a major professional sports team in the city he grew up in. This was not to be. Teary eyed, I placed a baseball with loose laces in his coffin after he died of congestive heart failure in 2001.
This same fallible organ remembers who taught me the game of baseball when the Philadelphia Phillies won the National League pennant earning a spot to play in the 2008 World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. I trust that there are more important things to do in the hereafter than checking out your favorite team back on earth but this mortal son of his devoted this World Series to him rooting and ranting for the Philadelphia Phillies to win.
During the early innings of game three of the World Series, my younger brother Anthony suffered a significant heart attack. The crushing news and following commotion shot me back like a cannonball to the same hospital my father died in. The shot returned me emotionally to the relationship with my infirmed father. Staring at my brother’s prone unconscious body in an intensive care unit during the past couple of days, I could not help to think that the suspended play in the deciding game five of the World Series mirrored both my brother’s induced coma and a life put on hold.
While every story in roller coaster life cannot hold a fairy tale ending, from God’s ear to the strings of my heart I hope to soon say to my recuperating brother what inevitability denied me from saying to my father….The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series and that we finally won one for the whimper.

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October 28, 2008

Presidential Race Heating Up

Talking to the developmentally disabled can become a language of its own even after supplying a straight forward question.

“Are you registered to vote?”

The moderately retarded female pushed up her glasses before answering. “I is.”

“Excellent. Now voting is a private matter so you don't have to answer this next question aloud. Have you decided who you are going to vote for?”

“Barrack Obama.” A big gulfing smile swept her face. “I think Barrack Obama is oh so sexy!”

“Now that your choice is clear, what positions do you and Barrack have in common?”

She winked, “I hope to one day find out it is all of them.”

By no means was her reference to aligning political positions. I commented, “The Presidential Race is definitely heating up for you.”

She shook her crutches over her head like erected signs at a political convention. “With me it is! Barrack for President!”


October 22, 2008

Anatomy of a Cold Case Picture

Lead actor Danny Pino with Joseph Tornatore

The iconic orange frontage of Geno's Steaks became the backdrop of a scene on the popular television show Cold Case. Hired as a background extra, I was there raising the steaks on the set with the principle actors.
I asked, “I understand that your character is wrapped for the day but I would love to get a picture with you for my scrapbook.”
Talented actor Danny Pino remarked, “I don’t mind but you really should not have a camera on the set.”
I tried to ignore his heed to caution. “Understood. Thanks for being so congenial.”
As we maneuvered our shoulders side be side, it felt like he was following my lead. I still needed someone, anyone really, to take the picture. I handed it to a bespectacled man wearing a jogging suit. I had not seen him on the set all day.
Like a ventriloquist, Danny spoke under his breath through his toothy perfect smile. He was considerate not to ruin this picture but he wanted to convey the gravity of my camera-happy last action. As my loaner camera got raised to take our picture, I heard the following two statements bing bang and I do not need to identify the speaker here.
“I know a good picture when I see one.”
“You just handed your camera to the director.”
Gulp! The director, who just arrived on the set to shoot the second episode, snapped this photo. We had all taken direction from director Holly Dale all morning. I became the first picture the arriving director framed all day.
Epilogue: I made the final cut as a pedestrian on this episode of Cold Case, which aired last Sunday. In actuality, I got more camera time in this KWY news broadcast, which aired to promote the new season of Cold Case. I’m behind lead Katherine Morris in a lime green shirt talking to my agent.


October 19, 2008

My Big Phat Greek Acting

I received this wonderful invitation to a movie I worked on for three days in 2007. The director has assured me that my character made the final cut and he speaks dialogue with the main characters just like a regular actor. Horay! This is like graduating from diapers as an actor growing up on film.
Gus, the Bartender delivered five lines during production so it will be interesting to see what of my straight-up character made the final cut. What I am looking forward to most is seeing Kenneth Mcgregor's stylish acting in this movie. Keep your fingers crossed, Sundance Film Festival is reviewing the movie now.


October 16, 2008

Miles High

Twenty eight year old mildly retarded Miles Cavanaugh stood with his arms grasping the metal handrails of his four-prong walker outside of court. Miles, his probation officer, and I waited for a second violation of probation hearing to commence. Miles’ recent violations got me, his social worker, subpoenaed to testify before the judge on my agency’s umbrella of services and the level of support that could be offered.

Dressed in a dark three-piece suit with a folded handkerchief showing white, the probation officer addressed Miles. “You missed your last two probation appointments with me. Seeing your probation officer is court-ordered. What is the problem? The last time your drug levels were drawn, you were high?”
I moved in between them to not only clarify the Freudian Slip but advocate a bad situation turning worse. “Him or his levels were high?”
“Same difference.” replied the probation officer. “He was high on marijuana!”
Unflinchingly, Miles asked the better question. “How high?”
“Real high, like 192. That's a drag on a roach short of 200. Miles, you have been on house arrest for the last two months, your levels got to be clean by now. Let’s see how it goes in there but before recess, I may recommend to the Judge a urine test.”
“For me or the Judge?”
“Wipe that smirk off your face. This is your future we are talking about.”
Miles became spitting mad, banging the four tips of his walker against the floor like an angry horse. “Man, don’t make me pee in no bottle. Not today. It’s going to come back dirty.”
“How dirty?”
“Real dirty?”
The three of us traded nebulous stares. I looked around for his Public Defender but not before the probation officer continued questioning. “Do you mean using or abusing dirty?”
Miles let the truth slip. “Ugh, like the skunk water after removing a pool cover following a long winter.”
"That's tainted." I answered aloud.
Back from the bathroom, the glassy-eyed grandfather responsible for providing close supervision for Miles during his house arrest asked, “What did I miss?”
The probation officer sighed. “I got to go speak to the Judge.”
We were Miles apart over him pissing his life away.


October 14, 2008

Recession Proof?

With this past Monday a holiday from work for me, I scheduled contractors to come out and give me estimates on unfinished projects around the house. I also booked a landscaper to come out and perform sprinkler winterization. Nobody showed up!
I went back to work and a colleague lamented not being able to find a builder interested in putting on a screened in porch to her home all summer and it is now autumn.
I thought to myself, this is some economic recession.


October 11, 2008

An Actor and Hitman for Hire

-Joseph Tornatore as Victor the Hitman in action.

From award-winning director Zhenya Kipperman comes the tentatively titled movie short called Sketches from Moscow and Philadelphia. It can be viewed at For maybe the hundred and twentieth time of his illustrious film career, talented Giancarlo Esposito steals the show here. I try and hold my own chasing pedigree talent in five scenes as a hitman.

Of cinematic value only to me, this link shows the first time I die on film. Wielding a Beretta handgun, I try to go out with a bang. I have one line in the short and a couple of guttural responses while getting clobbered over the head with a cinderblock. On death and dying on film, a hardheaded guy like me was bound to take his lumps.


October 10, 2008

-Joseph Tornatore grabbing sultry actress Alexandra Morton.


October 08, 2008

The Happening on DVD

-Joseph Tornatore second from left with all eyes on Mark Wahlberg.
The Happening
is out on DVD and the movie trailer is playing on the On Demand channel of Comcast Cable on an endless loop. I restrained myself to house arrest so that I would not buy this movie that I am in on the first day of its release in stores on DVD. Make no mistake, I had the purchased DVD cued up on the television by the evening of the second day.
If I have the gumption to identify myself as a non-union actor to someone in public, their first reaction is what juicy lines in what scenes of what movies have you done? Then I am left derailing their starry eyes without looking foolish by providing the following critical inside information.
Non-union actors dream in Technicolor of being given speaking parts on film but the odds of being upgraded are astronimical on a major motion picture set. Instead, the realistic goal for non-union talent is to be appreciative if we are discernible in the distance of the final version for time rounded up to the first full second. The next tier is to be a featured extra and be recognizable in the foreground with the camera focused on your actions slightly longer than a camera pan in the distance. The next tier is to be stuck in frame in focus with a principle actor in a movie. The next hierarchy is to be in frame in close-up action opposite the lead character. Important scenes like this predominately involve SAG actors, union dues, multiple auditions, and speaking parts.
Once in what could be a lifetime of acting, a non-union actor lands a pivotal scene of a movie. This is what happened to me in The Happening as a train conductor opposite lead Mark Wahlberg for about ten seconds of close-up prosperity. If anyone has ever heard me tell this complete story, it is happenstance that put me in the middle of a huddle of train conductors in rural Pennsylvania. I take my acting seriously but I would be a windbag if I told it any other way.
I studied my scene tonight in freeze frame and I could not be happier with my body language and gestural acting. To date, my signature scene in show biz involves no speaking lines. I look capable wincing my eyes, grimacing my face on cue, instilling calm with my hands as directed, and looking forlorn alongside an Academy Award nominee. If anyone buys the DVD, I am in the still image for the Chapter 8 tab in the scene called The Last Stop. It is the scene that played in the trailer on commercials and helped me earn an IMDB credit. I wish I could say something here but again the line escapes me.


October 06, 2008

Rocky Road

As I pedaled my bicycle down the middle of a familiar neighborhood street, I caught goose bumps. A bone chill shot down my back. Although traveling alone on the road, I felt as though someone was watching me on a side street near open land dedicated to an underground gas pipeline.
I heard the sound of loose gravel kicking up by the side of the road. I figured that my bike tires had catapulted pebbles on top of the loose gravel. I became concerned once the noise traveled along with me in the direction of my bicycle. I took a few more revolutions of my bike chain but could not shake the noise. My head shot over to the source hoping to find a jogger running by the roadside. This was not to be. I knew I exhausted logical explanations and could be experiencing the inexplicable.
I watched in horror as the deeply bedded gravel formed footstep impressions whose strides followed the trail of my bicycle down the road another ten yards. Some invisible force ran beside me.


October 04, 2008

Running...from the Law

Two former football Stars are back in the headlines.
OJ Simpson, Heisman trophy winner and former pro football great turned actor. On the 13th anniversary of the acquittal in the murder trial of the century of his ex-wife, he was recently found guilty of robbing dealers of all things....autographed sports memorabilia at gunpoint. In 2006, he authored the book If I Did It and now the book has been thrown right back at him. He was jailed in Las Vegas, as unlikely as probable a place for your luck to run out.
Lawrence Phillips, the former 1990’s standout Nebraska Cornhusker running back, whose troubles with the law exposed his character flaws and imploded his professional football career had his day in court.

The sixth pick in the 1996 NFL draft proved to be a statistical bust and as his football career spiraled downward from missed practices, acts of insubordination, and lackluster play, Phillips continued to struggle to be an upstanding human being. In 2000, he was charged with domestic abuse of a woman at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

In a movie scene Hollywood could script and OJ Simpson could play, Lawrence Phillips was arrested for the following in August 2005. While professional football teams prepared for the upcoming season, Phillips turned his vehicle into an assault weapon after losing both his anger and a pickup game of football to a bunch of youths with the Los Angeles Coliseum in the background. The former football great now faces the “three strike your out” imprisonment penalty for Californian repeat offenders. Striking out in life seems an ironic baseball label for a running back used to running over people.


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