Joe Pesci is an odd guy. Not a freakish kind of odd, it’s
just that he goes completely against the grain of the
public’s perception of him. One day he’s a
guitarist, whose dream is to become an east
coast lounge singer. A couple of years later he’s
playing opposite Robert De Niro, and Scorsese
fans are instantly all-in on this five-foot-three
ball of energy. Today we are going
to explore why Joe Pesci has led
one of the most interesting lives of any actor. But before we get
started, subscribe to our channel, Weird History. Leave a comment and
let us know who you’d like to see us cover next. Now go get your shine box. [MUSIC PLAYING] Joe Pesci was never
supposed to become an actor. He dabbled with acting, but
it wasn’t his life’s pursuit. Pesci really wanted
to be a singer– acting was something
that just paid the bills and helped him stay visible
in the entertainment industry. Funny enough, he sort of ended
his career as a lounge singer. But we’ll get to Vincent
Laguardia Gambini Sings in a few minutes. The truth is that
Joe Pesci’s life has been anything but ordinary. Having grown up in some
seedier neighborhoods of New York and New
Jersey, the Four Seasons were formed, in
part, by Joe Pesci. Frankie Valli, the
Four Seasons singer, used to get his hair by Joe. According to Valli, the
two were pretty close. They’d known each other for
quite a while before the Four Seasons even formed. Valli even said that if
Pescii didn’t become an actor, he would have joined
the mob on some level. So how did Pesci single-handedly
make the Four Seasons happen? He also happened to be
friends with Bob Gaudio, the 15-year-old keyboardist
and wunderkind songwriter for the Royal Teens who
co-wrote Short Shorts. Pesci introduced Gaudio to Valli
knowing that the keyboardist was looking for a new band. Gaudio joined the Four Seasons
on a handshake with Valli, and a year later,
Sherry was recorded. The band skyrocketed from there. The members of the Four
Seasons considered Pesci such a valuable element
to their success, they invited him up on stage
when they accepted the 2006 Tony award for Jersey
Boys, the Broadway musical about their band. While it’s hard to imagine
Perry standing in line for It’s A Small World, Pesci
got some of his greatest inspiration from Disneyland–
a Disneyland employee, to be exact. Pesci based his performance
as police informant Leo Getz on various Disneyland employees
he encountered over the years. The way Pesci explains
it, he encountered a specific Disneyland
employee’s odd speech patterns one afternoon. Pesci asked a Disney cast member
directions to Fantasyland, and to paraphrase him in an
interview, they look at you and go, OK, Fantasyland? OK. OK. OK. OK. OK. OK. I got it. They give you 6,000
OKs, Pesci said. This unusual but
brilliant choice kept Pesci around for a total
of three Lethal Weapon movies. As mentioned earlier,
becoming an actor wasn’t Pesci’s main
focus– he really had his eyes set on
becoming a singer. He sang standards
and scored gigs in small local pop bands
covering novelty pop music like The Peppermint
Twist and Run Around Sue. To further his
career, Pesci started looking for acting jobs. In fact, he already had
a little screen time. When he was 10, he was
a non-speaking extra on a television variety
show called Startime Kids with Connie Francis. It wasn’t until he was 37 that
he got his first real feature role– the 1976 movie was called
The Death Collector. It was low-budget and
didn’t win any awards, but Robert De Niro
happened to see it and was impressed with
Pesci performance. Although Pesci
moved to Hollywood in hopes of more movie success
after The Death Collector, the mobster movie
didn’t boost his career, so he went back east to manage
Amici’s, a popular Bronx restaurant. Three years later,
Pesci got a phone call from Martin Scorsese and
Niro complimenting him on his work in The
Death Collector and offering him a role in
Raging Bull as Joey Lamotta– Jake’s brother played
by Robert De Niro. After that phone call,
Pesci quit Amici’s. Pesci’s father, Angelo
Pesci, was a forklift driver for General Motors with a
part-time job as a bartender. Pesci’s whose father was
also insistent he did not lead a life of hard
labor the way he did. Instead, Angelo pushed his
kids into show business in hopes of forging a
path out of poverty. Although it wasn’t
his first love, Joe began to get roles and
plays at the age of five. Pesci then found himself on
the Startime Kids variety show at 10. He looked back on the experience
of getting nudged into acting with mixed feelings. “I don’t know if
it’s the right thing to do, push your
kids into something and then stay on them
until they do it.” He also remarked that
if he had more freedom, he’d have found
“something more calming, in a different area where I did
not have to use my emotions.” Sometime around the
middle of his adventures in the entertainment
business, Pesci formed a small nightclub act
with the late Frank Vincent. Vincent, as you’ll remember, was
whacked by Pesci in Goodfellas, then whacked Pesci
in Casino, and then was whacked by Tony Soprano’s
crew on the Sopranos. The duo called themselves
Vincent and Pesci, and they based their act a
little on Laurel and Hardy and Martin and Lewis– a little comedy
and a little music. They did get one
chart-worthy hit with a novelty song
in 1972 called, Can You Fix The way
I talk for Christmas? It’s cringe-worthy, like
most novelty songs eventually become, but they
redeemed themselves with an instrumental single
called Little People Blues, it’s got a funky groove. Along with being
a gifted singer, Pesci was also a
skilled guitar player. Again, listen to
Little People Blues and say he’s not
a funky guitarist. In the 60s, Pesci put a lot of
guitar time in local New Jersey bands, most famously with Joey
D and the Starliters, a group known for their tune
Peppermint Twist. Pesci was in and out of bands
during this period in his life, so he didn’t stay with the
Starliters for very long. When he left the
band, Jimi Hendrix took over on lead guitar. While Hendrix’s tenure
was also short-lived, It’s a strange
connection you probably hadn’t heard of until now. Eventually, Pesci
scored a record contract for a solo album. His debut, Little Joe Sure
Can Sing, was released in 1968 and got very minor attention. The record is something
of a collectible now. It was never reissued after
its first small pressing, but Little Joe’s rendition
of the Beatles’ Got to Get You Into My Life Is
worth a minor amount of internet searching. Here’s a weird one– Pesci had a small part in
a pretty messy murder case. Pesci is notoriously
tight-lipped about his past
marriages, we know he was married at least twice. Once, to an unknown woman in
1964 when he was 21 years old. There are even
unconfirmed reports that say Pesci had a daughter
born around 1967 with a mystery woman. The other time we
can confirm is when he was married to Claudia
Haro from 1988 to 1992. Not much is known about
Pesci and Haro other than they had one daughter,
and he bailed Haro out on a $1.25 million bond. In 2000, Haro was convicted
of hiring a hitman to whack the guy she married
after she divorced Pesci, Hollywood stuntman
Garrett Warren. Haro allegedly hired a
hitman ambush and kill Warren in his apartment. But when Warren
survived the attack, she allegedly hired another
hitman to finish the job. The second attack never
took place and Haro was arrested in 2005. Pesci not only bailed Haro out
on a $1.25 million dollar bond, but he even showed up
to her murder trial. It should also be noted that,
during the preliminary hearing, a witness strongly implied
that Pesci paid for the hits that Haro put out on Warren. Pesci always wanted
to be a singer, and even though he took a few
shots at the musician life, he never became
known for his music. But that didn’t stop
him from trying. In 1998, six years after
starring in My Cousin Vinny, Pesci leveraged his
role as Vincent Gambini and recorded an album as the
fictional personal injury lawyer. The album was titled,
Vincent Laguardia Gambini Sings Just for You. The album wasn’t well-received,
and Pesci took more than a few hits from critics. With Lethal Weapon
4 already filmed, he would announce his
retirement from acting less than a year later. Following his publicly declared
retirement in 1999 from acting, Pesci has remained elusive to
the general population both on and off-screen. He’s only made a
few appearances– a couple of movies done as a
favor for his friends Scorsese, De Niro, and Meryl Streep. That said, he seems to have
caught the acting bug again, having appeared in an
offbeat Snickers commercial and playing a key role
in Scorsese’s Netflix film, The Irishman. According to De Niro,
both he and Scorsese he needed to be extremely
convincing to get Pesci back into film. As you watch this, Joe
Pesci could very well be entering the third
phase of his acting career. There’s no doubt Pesci
lived the lives equivalent of 10 mere mortals
like you and I. What do you think of Joe Pesci? Let us know in the
comments below. And while you’re at it, check
out some of these other stories from our Weird History.