Trying To Walk Like A Man; The Chris Wiehl Playbook. Interviews with Chris Wiehl and John Turner

Trying To Walk Like A Man; The Chris Wiehl Playbook

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Christopher Wiehl is an American-born actor and filmmaker.  A native of Yakima, Washington, Chris graduated from the University of Washington in 1993 with a major in Dramatic Arts; he migrated to Los Angeles in the summer of ’94, and quickly booked several major ad campaigns, for Old Spice, Coors, Ford, and Coca-Cola, among others. He soon appeared as a Guest Star on numerous popular television series, and by 1997 he became a series regular on shows like Bull, First Monday, Playmakers, and CSI: Las Vegas.
In 1998, Chris added writer, producer, director to his bio when he formed Yakima Productions. The company has released three films and currently houses over a dozen scripts.
In 2009, Chris’ life took a real turn when he received a brain tumor diagnosis. With his baby boy only a month old and a marriage already on the rocks, Christopher’s life was in peril. He had a successful surgery to remove the tumor, but had major complications during recovery. It’s been a long climb back to relevance in the entertainment world and redemption in his personal world. 
Today Chris is healthy and happy again, working in Hollywood and living at the beach, and living a life he thought was out of reach just a few years before.
Trying To Walk Like A Man, The Chris Wiehl Playbook is a wonderful autobiography by the actor/ filmmaker Chris Wiehl, written with ex-actor/writer John Turner; it has sensitivity, honesty and a true account of overcoming apparently insurmountable difficulties that will grab the heart of the reader and will keep it prisoner until the end. In it, the author gets a brain tumor removed, leaving him partially deaf. It’s not only a story of a man prevailing over the aftereffects of a brain tumor, though, but it’s in reality two stories, one of them unwritten in this book: John Turner was also an actor when he was brutally assaulted and left with traumatic brain injury. After that incident, John no longer had the capabilities to perform, so he established a career as a writer.
Their book is therefore more meaningful because of the experience that Mr. Turner had, which allows him to capture Christopher Wiehl’s true feelings and passed them to the reader fully unaltered.


Tiziano T. Dossena: Do you feel you are a better person because of this unfortunate event of your life? That is, in what ways has ‘being a survivor’ changed you psychologically?
CHRIS WIEHL: I definitely have more empathy. Physically, I’m really not “better”—I’m deaf in my right ear, I have balance issues—but psychologically, you bet. I think I’m more patient, more empathetic, and being near death can really change your perspective. I definitely value the little things more. I don’t take nearly as much for granted as I used to. Being able to stay healthy and fit—a lot of those “little things” are more important to me now.

Tiziano T. Dossena: From every page of your book transpires your view that nothing really positive can be achieved without hard work and perseverance. Do you feel mental stamina is hereditary? Is it part of one’s personality? Can it be built upon? 
CHRIS WIEHL: I don’t know if that kind of stamina is hereditary, as much as it’s passed down through generations. You kind of learn it by example. I was really fortunate to have parents that worked very hard, and they showed me the benefits of long-term perseverance. Unfortunately, in the acting business nobody showed me how to keep going when times got tough—not directly, anyway. I did have lots of support from my friends and family, but I kind of had to rely on myself. One thing that I’m glad I did early on—and still do, to an extent—is to make sure and do something positive every single day. So when I’d put my head on my pillow each night, I could say I did something to help myself. And when my breaks finally came, I had a positive attitude about things, and that helped me keep moving forward. So perseverance is a learned skill. It’s like a muscle—the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.

Tiziano T. Dossena: Your book tells about your having to survive an unexpected ailment and its consequences and how you came out of it, but if you had only a paragraph to express your feelings, what would you tell someone who has to confront a similar situation as the one you lived through?
CHRIS WIEHL: Several things: first, that it’s okay to be sad. There’s a great line in Hamlet where his mother says that they need to get up and get going, and Hamlet says, “First, I must bleed.” In other words, take the time you need to work through it, and you’ll be better off in the long run. And depending on the problem you’re facing, try to live day by day—or even minute by minute. Don’t concern yourself with tomorrow, or next week, or even next month. Try to live in the moment. Before you know it, those moments add up to days, weeks, and months. And finally: don’t be ashamed to ask for help! Having your loved ones on your side will go a long way.

Chris Wiiehl

Chris Wiehl

Tiziano T. Dossena: When you returned to your acting occupation, after the operation, was deafness or lack of equilibrium the hardest to deal with, in that context? 
CHRIS WIEHL: I think the toughest thing was that I suddenly had to strain to listen a lot more. Doing that would tense my body up, and by the end of a 12-hour day of shooting I would just be exhausted. Luckily the first couple of roles I had weren’t too physically challenging, so I made it through all right. And the good thing was that I’ve become a much better listener when I act–and listening is just as important as speaking. So in that sense, being deaf in one ear has been an improvement.

Tiziano T. Dossena: Living in New York City just out of college was, as you mentioned in your book, “one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made—but it was also one of the best.” Do you feel that if you would have gone to NYC at a different time of your life, with already enough experience for example, the results would have been different? 
CHRIS WIEHL: I think the timing was perfect my first time there. I was a small-town boy from Yakima, Washington, and dealing with all the adversity I did really helped me as I moved forward in my career. I love New York; I think it’s one of the few cities in the world that genuinely has a heartbeat. I’ve been back since and worked on shows like Bronx County and Love Monkey, and really enjoyed my time there. But when I lived in NYC the first time was exactly what needed to happen for me—I learned so much!

Chris Wiehl in one of his TV series

Tiziano T. Dossena: You refer to the “Hollywood grapevine” being “just vicious” and that if “words get out that you have (or even had) a medical issue, then you’re marked as damaged goods, and you’re essentially done for…”? How have you overcome this problem and kept afloat and successful in Hollywood?
CHRIS WIEHL: I compare it to being a player on a sports team. If you’re injured and can’t play as well, you’re written off. And it’s the same in Hollywood. Competition is fierce, and you need every advantage possible. I just basically worked really, really hard to rehab myself so that now, I’m not physically handicapped and my health isn’t in question.

Tiziano T. Dossena: Which one was the acting part that gave you the most satisfaction?
CHRIS WIEHL: Wow. It’s tough to just name one. I honestly go back to when I played John Merrick in The Elephant Man in college, because that part really opened up the whole world of acting for me. But also the first pilot I got called Bronx County was great, and my first series to go to air, a show called Bull, was great too. As an athlete, I loved being on the ESPN show Playmakers, when I got to play an NFL quarterback. So it’s hard to break it down to just one favorite.

One of the movies scripted, produced and directed by Chris Wiehl

One of the movies scripted, produced and directed by Chris Wiehl













Tiziano T. Dossena: What is your next project as movie producer and/or director? 
CHRIS WIEHL: We have several scripts under our veil right now, but the one I’m most excited about is a film that’s still untitled that my writing partner Danny Kolker and I are working on. It’s about Ironman triathlons, and is sort of a coming-of-age story about two guys competing in Ironman.

Tiziano T. Dossena: Are we going to see you in any TV series or movie in the next future?
CHRIS WIEHL: I’m actually reading for several TV parts and a couple of film parts. I don’t really want to say what they are—I’m superstitious about that!

Tiziano T. Dossena: By meeting you and John together at the New York Book Show, I had the immediate sensation that yours was a deep friendship and not only work collaboration. How did you meet John Turner and decide he was the right person to help you with your book?
CHRIS WIEHL: I met John through Barbara Terry at Waldorf Publishing. Barbara gave me a list of names of people to interview to be my co-author; John and I had lunch, and we hit it off right away. We had many things in common: John was an actor, he’d had some brain trauma too, and we’re the same age. Plus, I really enjoy John’s “Southern sensibility,” him being from Mississippi; I recently shot a movie there, so we have that connection as well. I think John is very kind and is a great listener, so I thought he was perfect for the project. And we’d like to work together in the future adapting or writing an original screenplay.



John Turner is a native Mississippian currently residing in Los Angeles. A 1997 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi (BFA, Acting/Music), John relocated to New York in 1999 to begin his acting career; in 2002, he was the victim of a brutal mugging and assault, and suffered a traumatic brain injury in the attack. After that incident John no longer had the physical capabilities to perform, so he established a career as a writer. John recollects the terrible mugging (along with other life lessons) in his first book, a collection of humorous short stories called “Confessions of a Gimp” (2014). Since then, John has released two more non-fiction books and has had numerous stories published in national magazines. Learn more about John by visiting his official Facebook author page at In 2014 John relocated to Los Angeles to be with the love of his life, his girlfriend (now his wife) Kari.


John Turner's book published in 2014

John Turner’s book published in 2014

Tiziano T. Dossena: Did you somewhat re-live your experience with trauma by helping Chris writing his story?
JOHN TURNER: Oh, sure. One thing I liked to do with Chris while we were doing interviews was to talk about my own experiences with my brain injury, and see if he related to them. That way, when I would transcribe the interview, it would be more organic and honest for me as a writer, and it would help me tell Chris’s story in ways I understood and could relate to.

Tiziano T. Dossena: Did you ever think, when you started as an actor, that you could have become a writer? Was this something that would have happened anyway, with time? 
JOHN TURNER: Well, I read a whole lot as a kid, and had entered some writing competitions in junior high and high school. So I kind of already knew I had the skill. After I suffered my brain injury and could no longer act, turning to writing was just a natural progression. And if I’m being honest, I think I’m a better writer than I was an actor. So where my professional life is concerned, my brain injury turned out to be a good thing.

John Turner

John Turner

Tiziano T. Dossena: What is your next book project?
JOHN TURNER:  I’m planning to start a fiction novel early next year. Thus far my books have been non-fiction, but I think I have a pretty good sense of story, so I think I’m ready. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’ll be a bit autobiographical, about a guy who suffers brain trauma—but a side effect of his injury is that he gets a sort of “moral super-power.” Stay tuned for details!

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Book Expo America (Part 4)

Article by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Part 4 of 4

More children’s books at the Book Expo America 2017 attracted my eyes for their value as teaching life lessons while entertaining the child. One of them is Hey Mom, Can I Be Big?, an appealing story aimed at toddlers or early readers by Cari Pointer and illustrated by Hazel Quintanilla. The tale is simple and to the point: sometimes it’s easier being small and let someone big take care of you or protect you.

Erik Orejel and Jennie Wren

Erik Orejel and Jennie Wren

Another great writer for children was present with her last effort, Slicker McQuicker and the Rescue, where she emphasizes that friendship and safety are important. This book, written by the well-known Jennie Wren is one of the Slicker McQuicker series, deftly illustrated by Erik Orejel. An appealing character that has found great success among children, Slicker will be appearing in many more books…

In Rockstar Monkey, a great new book by Tiffany and illustrated by Alonzo, the main character Charlie dreams of being a rock star! Unfortunately, the other monkeys didn’t believe in his dream and discouraged him. Thank goodness he had a friend that encouraged him to believe in himself and know he could be anything he wanted to be! Rockstar Monkey encourages its readers to “Push to Achieve, Even When Others Don’t Believe!”

Julian Lennon’s (yes, that Julian Lennon) Touch The Earth is a marvelous story aimed at making kids 3-6 years old  aware of the importance of water and how the lack or the poor quality of it may influence people’s lives. Excitingly illustrated by Smiljana Coh, the book is written at four hands with Bart Davis and it also contains a poem by Julian Lennon. A portion of proceeds from book sales will go to support the environmental and humanitarian efforts of The White Feather Foundation.

Geoph Essex

Geoph Essex

Geoph Essex’s Lovely Assistant is an offbeat adventure of modern magic and mayhem, in which a reluctant magician’s assistant discovers the secrets of life and death, slowly and awkwardly, just in time to save the world from the oncoming apocalypse: a program into itself. Readers will love its quirky humor and outlook on life.

Written with a different perspective, The Curse Of The Werck Family, a series of two books, claim to have been given to the author by the spirit of a woman who accompanies her as a guardian angel. Written originally in Portuguese by Valeria Lopes, the books are quite interesting, especially for readers who like mysteries, and follow the events unleashed by the killing of a whole family during the French Inquisition.thecurse

New York Times Best-selling author Jennifer Probst reveals her path to success, from struggling as a new writer to signing a seven-figure deal in Write Naked, in which she intermingles personal essays on craft with down-to-earth advice on writing romance in the digital age. This book will teach you how to commit to your current work-in-progress, get focused, and complete it on schedule, overcome writer’s block and also how to reveal raw emotions, develop themes, and write the most difficult elements of romance with skill and style. It’s practically a manual on writing romance novels, and a good one at that.write_naked

Another manual of sort is What You Need To Know to Go Global, A Guide to International Trade Transactions, by Stephen Creskoff. Obviously aimed at a limited readership, this book is a valuable implement to comprehend all the insights of international trade and could easily be used as a textbook in that subject.whatyouneed







A thought-provoking book that answers very thorny questions regarding the use of fossil fuels and its damage to the environment, offering simple strategies to help you reduce your carbon footprint without abandoning common sense is The Carbon Code, How You Can Become A Climate Change Hero by Brett Favaro. The author claims that people don’t need to be climate change experts to be part of the solution, and that he will show you how to take ownership of your carbon footprint and adopt a lifestyle of conspicuous conservation that will spur governments and corporations to do the same. A great book for people who believe the Earth is worth saving. Bravo Brett!!

Lost dreams is a collection of short stories that were winners of a contest requesting nonfiction portrayals of loss in less than 4,000 words. The book wants to illustrate that dreams are lost in many ways and each will produce its own manner of grief, and by collecting these stories the editor, Dawn M. Bell, wants to encourage compassion for all types of loss, no matter the measure. She claims that ‘all loss is the loss of a dream. The dream is the path thought their life would take, how they envisioned their future. The path is irreversibly altered by the loss. While some losses may be deemed less painful, the first loss is ground zero for the sufferer. It’s the worst pain that person has ever felt and should not be minimized.” These stories offer a brief but significant view of how it is to walk in another person’s shoes.lostdreams

Another three days of scrambling through the booths to discover the hidden gems of the Book Expo America has gone by, but they were fruitful (though really shortened to two, thanks to the organizers) and these four articles proved it. Some authors’ interviews and book reviews will follow in time, but in the meanwhile I leave you with the recommendation to read and read again, because books are precious and so is your mind.

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Book Expo America 2017 (Part 3)

Book Expo America 2017 (Part 3)

Part 3 of 4

Article by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

A definitely pleasant surprise was meeting Marvin Scott, the legendary journalist from WPIX Channel 11 who has left a deep imprint upon us all in the news field with his flawless and emotionally charged reporting. Looking exactly as I remembered seeing him on TV through the past thirty years, Mr. Scott confirmed himself to be a true gentleman and a pleasant conversationalist, offering us a summary of his book; a brief interview will appear on a separate article.   His nonfiction book, titled As I Saw It; A Reporter’s Intrepid Journey, is a reflection on the stories  that have stuck with him personally over the years, and the people who gave them life. From Dr. Martin Luther Kings’ marches to a tense interview with Yasser Arafat, from bringing Christmas to our troops to conversing with Marilyn Monroe, his more than 50 years adventure in reporting, which has brought him eleven Emmy Awards, is offered to us in passionate glimpses of the most heartfelt encounters and situations. This is a book that will be enjoyed by everyone.

Roe De Pinto

Roe_DePinto_ANewLifeBegins1There was a sizable presence of children’s authors at the BEA, mostly presenting brightly illustrated books with a learning message, but some of them deserved special attention on our part because of their high quality of content or presentation.  Roe De Pinto’s series of books on Zealy, a little seal pup with sparkly eyes and beautiful, silky white fur, and Whubba, a precious baby orca whale, are visually pleasing and teach about friendship among different individuals. These are books to be praised for their sturdiness, an advantage for early readers, besides their content. A ‘bravo’ for the author’s as well as the publisher’s choices.

Dael Oates and Stephen Beck

A really great visual experience can be lived by your children turning the page so The Adventures Of Cloud Girl, a smart view of a girl’s vision of the ever-changing images that can be found in clouds, when she lets her fantasy run wild… The illustrations are sweet and extremely well-conceived and drawn (Dael Oates and Stephen Beck, the authors and illustrators, are also professional cartoonists), making this a great choice for a young child…

James McNally’s two books, Of Ducks, Dogs And Children and The Shepherds’ Story, are marvelous gems of children’s books, with great stories, illustrations and moral teachings.

James McNally

Aimed at people who want to improve both their career chances and their life, Take Charge Of Your View, Career Advice You Won’t Get From Your Boss is a brilliant manual that can really be useful if followed attentively. In it, Lisa Prior will teach you how to develop new skills for career and life, analyze various aspects of your life and behavior, and how to pitch to your boss without creating a confrontation. Charts, lists of useful tools, and plenty of examples enhance the book and make it even more enticing.

Annie Baker

A superb work of drama, Annie Baker’s John is a play that received its Off-Broadway world premiere at The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York City. Theater lovers have now the opportunity to purchase the book with the play by this awarded playwright.

There were two books that touched me deeply for their content and the courage of their writers in approaching the subject. The first, Sleepwalker by Kathleen Frazier, is a compelling tale of the author’s terrifying experience with her somnambulism and her long travel to achieve freedom from this condition. Ms. Frazier bluntly describes her struggles, attempts and failures to find a solution and the final epiphany that brought her recovery from being a sleepwalker.

Kathleen Frazier

tryingTrying To Walk Like A Man, The Chris Wiehl Playbook is a wonderful autobiography by the actor/ filmmaker Chris Wiehl, written with ex-actor/writer John Turner; it has sensitivity, honesty and a true account of overcoming apparently unsurmountable difficulties that will grab the heart of the reader and will keep it prisoner until the end. In it, the author gets a brain tumor removed, leaving him partially deaf. It’s not only a story of a man prevailing over the aftereffects of a brain tumor, though, but it’s in reality two stories, one of them unwritten in this book: John Turner was also an actor when he was brutally assaulted and left with traumatic brain injury. After that incident, John no longer had the capabilities to perform, so he established a career as a writer.

Their book is therefore more meaningful because of the experience that Mr. Turner had, which allows him to capture Christopher Wiehl’s true feelings and passed them to the reader fully unaltered.

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Book Expo America 2017 (Part 2)


Book Expo America 2017 (Part 2)

Article by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

PART 2 of 4

… So, as the day went by, the encounters with the authors revealed themselves to be exceptionally interesting. The hilarious J.P. Sears presented his How to be Ultra Spiritual, 12½ Steps To Spiritual Superiority, a book that claims to contain expert-level master training in competitive spirituality, dreaming up your awakening, mindfulness, merciless meditation, how to be nonjudgmental and much more… With 100 million views on his YouTube channel, Mr. Sears has proven that he can deliver great humor and I believe this book does just that….

JP Sears

JP Sears

A different kind of humor, based more on the absurdity of real life is the type found in Sucktown, USA, a well written novel by first=time author Craig Dirkes. His main character flunks in college due to too much partying, so he decides to ‘redeem’ himself by taking a job in tiny Kusko, Alaska, and promises to stay a year. Soon he is lonely, low on cash and desperate to leave. It’s a rough, raw, harrowing and hilarious story…

Craig Dirkes

Three more debuts offered visitors and readers alike attention-grabbing topics. The first was The Rule of Half, a novel by Jenna Patrick. It explores what it means to be an atypical family in a small town, mentally ill in the wake of a tragedy, and most importantly, who has the right to determine both. The second was To The Stars Through Difficulties, a charming history of the birth of a cultural center in the Plains by the No Guilt Quilters, a group whose foremothers built 59 Carnegie libraries in Kansas a century before. Gayle Brandeis called it a “wildly inspiring love letter to libraries, to art, to Kansas, to community.” A memoir that the Washingtonian Magazine called “…as riveting as a mystery and as filling as a feast,” was the last of these first-time authors’ book, I’m The One Who Got Away, by Andrea Jarrell. The book, which will be available September 5th, reads like a thriller, but it’s a true chronicle of the author who, as a child was a fugitive with her mother from a man as alluring as he is violent, and as an adult she has an epiphany when a woman she knows is murdered, and she realizes that it’s her mother’s choices she has been trying to escape all along.

From the left: Jenna Patrick, Andrea Jarrell and Romalyn Tilghman

bakingMelissa Palmer’s delightful Baking For Dave is a novel that addresses the fears that people with autism, or Sensory Processing Disorder, of any level confront in doing every day’s tasks. It does so with delicacy and a pleasant style, describing the ‘road trip’ of an adolescent who runs away to compete on a national bake-off. To get there, she will need to “borrow’ her mother’s car, cross stateliness, and do the most terrifying thing of all, interact with actual people! Ms. Palmer stated that she created the world and characters in the book building it on her experience with her two daughters.

Melissa Palmer

Detroit Lions’ Don J. Carey III made an appearance, to the delight of football fans, so as to present his It’s Not Because I Am Better Than You!, a motivational and inspiring book that is aimed at providing a plan of sort for a successful life despite the odds and the environment in which one grows. This book may turn out to be a useful tool for people who want to overcome the habit of letting others decide what they are capable of…

Don J. Carey III with our Journalist Nicoletta Mita Dossena

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Book Expo America 2017 (Part1)

Book Expo America 2017 (Part1)

Article by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Part 1 OF 4

BEA’s annual encounter in New York (which by the way has missed a step last year by exhibiting in Chicago instead) started under a bad auspice on Wednesday, May 31st. Our journalists encountered uncompleted booths, unreliable directions and basically no real Show, leaving the premises after a useless attempt to make sense of the disorganization they stumbled upon, a first for this usually magic exhibition. Fortunately, BEA partially redeemed itself on the two following days, although some lagging problems puzzled me. What happened to the beautiful organization behind the previous years, when at the autographing boots you could confirm the identity of the book to be signed also by photographs? What about their APP giving you some information about the book and author you are attempting to retrieve? And the missing information on the pamphlets about the books’ content? Well, life is not perfect, and I guess mishaps happen, but I do believe that the much smaller number of exhibitors was tied to last year’s abandonment of the City that never sleeps.


Thomas Jerome Wright Sr.

Regardless, there were still plenty of great surprises that made up for the disappointments. One of these was the large number of first-time authors assembled in an easily reached common area.  There, you could find Thomas Jerome Wright Sr. presenting to the public his spiritual guide to finding themselves through the awareness of “technology’s many lies”, Ninety-Nine Lies and One Truth. This is a book about awakening mass consciousness.

Carmen Ashe

Carmen Ashe

Another ‘spiritual’ uplifting author/book was Carmen Ashe with her I Have a Purpose, the riveting and uplifting story of her life, in which the lessons learned are used to pass on to the readers her understanding that ‘we all have a purpose.’

30yearAn interesting book from that section was also The Thirty Year Diet: The Journey Of Me, Fat Girl and My FOPA by Robin Nutter, a hilarious recollection of her 30 years battle with diets and her long standing identification with the ‘fat girl’ persona.

Interestingly enough, in the proximity of these writers there were also two other fascinating authors with their books.

The first was Fred Clark Sr., born December 1930, who was studying abroad in Cuba when the revolution broke out and the university closed. He stayed and wrote a murder mystery inspired by his time there, The Door Of Death. Clark went on to become a lawyer and work for Prentice Hall as a senior legal editor. The manuscript laid dormant for over fifty years and was finally published on Amazon with the help of his son in 2015. Clark is likely the oldest first time author at BEA 2017.

Fred Clark Sr.

Fred Clark Sr.

The other pleasant surprise was the 16 years old Harley Zed Mona with his Our Guardian Renegade, a science fiction saga with a huge cast of vivid characters and factions into the fray. An Art Book with colorful illustrations of the various characters and symbols is also available. I am certain this book will be followed by others, since it opens a new world (Senia) to the lovers of Science fiction….  Mona may be the youngest first time author at Book Expo America 2017.

Harley Zed Mona with Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Harley Zed Mona with Tiziano Thomas Dossena

favelaKidnemecene1In the same exhibit area there were also previously published authors who have truly original titles to offer, such as Alex Alico (the author has previously published 35 books!) with his The Favela Kid, the first of a three book series about the epic struggles and triumphs of a young man  in the Favelas of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and in Queens, New York., and Kaz Lefav with her NEMECENE saga of Science Fiction about a toxic future flooded by dead oceans and poisonous gases… Great marketing tools came with the books, such as a canvas book to hold them and greatly illustrated bookmarks and tarot cards…


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The French Connection: Oldies But Goodies Movie In Yonkers With Real Stars

On November 14, Alamo Theaters in Yonkers presented, on the 45th anniversary of its release, the Oscar winning film The French Connection, which played to a large audience of enthusiasts, a rather unusual occurrence for a Monday night. The reason for the large crowd was also the presence of Randy Jurgensen, an actor and Police consultant for the movie.

french_randy-512x252The spectators were not disappointed. After the experience of viewing this wonderfully directed film, which offers a realistic and endless car chase among the many thrills, Mr. Jurgensen, a retired police detective, spoke about the little known unusual features of this movie. Some of these will surprise the reader as much they surprised me.french_connection-512x718

In a scene in which drug dealers are making a purchase, for example, the money in the briefcase is actually real money, or at least the visible bills are… The drug that is being tested by the dealer is real and there are no computer effects in the car chase; what you see is all real. The collisions, obviously, were staged, all but one, but when you see the car driving at 60 mph under the el and missing other cars by an inch or two, well, those were real stunts performed by Randy himself, except when Gene Hackman was visible in the car by the camera; in that case, Mr. Hackman was performing the stunt himself. Once, the famous actor hit a telephone pole and crashed the car; he was brought to the hospital for that incident… A subway train wreck was achieved by placing the two cars next to each other, backing one of them away from the other at high speed, film it and then reverse the film; simple, no?french1

In another scene, the detectives enter a bar full of apparent low lives; well, in reality most of them were real undercover cops and not actors. Would you have guessed it? The night club in which the duo goes to have a drink is the Copacabana and the performers are really the Three Degrees, and not some unknown act….

The music in the movie was purposely dissonant to raise the tension of the narrative, but there was no music whatsoever during the car chase and all you could hear was the sound of the car engines, the screeching of the tires, the bangs of the smash-ups, all 100% real sounds; no sounds were prepared in the editing booth.french2

Another interesting fact was that when acting in his scene, staged in a garage where towed cars were brought, Randy was told to just act as a cop who wanted to waste time, allowing the reassembly (or replacement) of a car which had been taken apart; be natural, that’s all! He did just that, and what came out was the only humorous scene of the movie! It was another great choice by the Director, William Friedkin.

Mr. Jurgensen also explained that he had strongly objected to the scene in which Eddie Egan (A.K.A. Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle) shot the unarmed French killer in the back, because that would have been a murder, but the Director told him not to worry and reminded him that he was just a consultant and not the Director. At the opening of the movie, the audience stood up and cheered after that shooting scene, and at that time Mr. Friedkin told him playfully, “I told you so…”

img_0084Mr. Randy Jurgensen (third from left) and a group of retired detectives from the Bronx at the event.
Randy Jurgensen (left) in a scene from the movie.

Randy Jurgensen (left) in a scene from the movie.

There were many other interesting facts that Mr. Jurgensen and Mr. D’Antoni (son of the producer and a producer himself for other movies with Mr. Jurgensen) offered to the excited public, but I will leave the reader with just one more: the movie was turned down by Movie Studios three times and it was finally when Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation was practically bankrupt that they offered $2 Millions to start the production of the film, a mere small change left over after their enormous and disastrous financial loss with the historical movie Cleopatra; the movie at the end cost $32 Millions.

Watching the movie, with its hair raising scenes and frenetic rhythm, rediscovering visually in it the old ’70s New York, and also listening to the commentary by Mr. Jurgensen and Mr. D’Antoni was a tremendous, unmatchable experience, and I wish more of these anniversary film projections were undertaken with similar results. Certainly, knowing that in the real French Connection sting, $489.000 and plenty of drugs were recovered by Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso, the two detectives in charge of the case, and meeting some of the heroes of that story made it even more rewarding.

A moment of the presentation

A moment of the presentation

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Exclusive interview to Michael Bacarella, author of “Lincoln’s Foreign Legion: The 39th New York Infantry, the Garibaldi Guard”

 Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

lincolnYour book “Lincoln’s Foreign Legion: The 39th New York Infantry, the Garibaldi Guard” is now available on Kindle. What brought you to investigate this type of topic?
From my earliest memories to quite recently is that to be an Italian American can mean being commended with honor in one extreme or face deplorable rejection at the other extreme.  I learned that the source of that public perception of Italian Americans was and continues to be fomented through the eyes of the media, by motion pictures, television and the news. Italian Americans have been experiencing macro and micro aggression for at least 120 years. The result is every Italian American experiences at some time in their private or public life an ephemeral bias directed toward them that has caused them to be overlooked, ignored, discounted, or singled out to be maltreated and even aggressively punished.
Many years ago my grandmother’s brother gave me a book by the Italian American writer and researcher  Giovanni Schiavo entitled “Four Centuries of Italian American History. “  This one book gave me a whole new look at how greatly Italians contributed to American history. This book is what prompted me to get to the truth, and then if the truth could be brought out that there would be change in public perception and attitudes toward Italian Americans.



I believed I could prompt this change through writing and the cinema.   Schiavo did some of his research at the Newberry Library of Chicago, so I began my search there.  Using Schiavo’s book as a reference I began to look up all of the men and women he had written about.  At the Newberry I discovered a treasure trove of information about them, the migration of Italians to America prior to the Civil War, where they settled, lived and how they participated in the events of American history, and in particular a regiment that participated in the Civil War, the “Garibaldi Guard.”  Theirs was a story based in historic fact that was an exciting topic, a great deal of information on them was there ready to be looked at. Of course this information was not written in a series of book, or even one book, that it had to researched, assembled, and written, and I was the one who was going to write it.  The result was the book “Lincoln’s Foreign Legion.”  I always hoped this would influence the public to see Italian Americans in a new way. If it were adapted to a script, then produced as an epic motion picture it surely would have an impact and lead other creative people to create many more projects.

Garibaldi Guard recruitment poster

Garibaldi Guard recruitment poster

Were you more interested in the subject as a New Yorker or as an Italian American?
As an Italian American.  I am not a New Yorker.
Could you give us a brief explanation of what the Garibaldi Guard was and why it was called that way?
At the outbreak of the Civil War this regiment was a regiment of infantry assembled in New York City from the many immigrants living in their ethnic neighborhoods.  There were ten companies of soldiers with 110 soldiers and officers in each company.  There was an Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese, Swiss, 2 companies of Slavs and Hungarians, and 4 companies of Germans.  They saw action for all four years of the Civil War and fought from Bull Run 1861 to Appomattox 1865, in 50 battles, engagements and skirmishes which devastated the ranks and reduced their numbers.
During its period of service, 5 officers and 62 enlisted men were killed in action; 3 officers and 49 enlisted men died of wounds received in action; 1 officer and 158 enlisted men died of disease and 1 officer and 99 enlisted men died while captured by the Confederate forces.
There is a history behind each and every man in the regiment.  Their lives in Italy, the reasons they left Italy for a new life in America, their lives and the lives of their families,  their presences on the battlefields of the Civil War, and if they survived, their lives and the lives of their children afterward.

Drawing of the officers, soldiers and a vivandiere

Drawing of the officers, soldiers and a vivandiere


Antonio Arrighi, Iowa Troops

Antonio Arrighi, Iowa Troops

What interesting facts have you unearthed in your research that made you decide to write the book?
The predominant details I want your readers to know and use in their studies, research and writing. There were many thousands of Italians and Italian Americans who served in the Union and Confederate armies and predominantly in Louisiana.

The information used about Italians in America are now completely outdated and obsolete. With the advantage of using the internet there is much more information about Italians recorded in American history than was previously known or presented to the public; one need only to search on the internet.

We all owe a great deal of thanks to the Mormons’ Church of Latter-day Saints, which offers over 16 billion records online that we can search.  Their sites are, RootsWeb, Fold3, Find-a-Grave, the United States Federal Census records from 1790 through 1930,, and   Other search sites include  Chronicling America at the Library of Congress website, and  The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS)  a database at the National Park Service website. For example just type in the name GIOVANNI and you will be amazed to see all of the  men with that name in the database.


Captain Schwarz, Swiss Company Garibaldi Guards

Captain Schwarz, Swiss Company Garibaldi Guards

Do you feel that there is a lot more presence of Italians in American history that has really been shown in the past?
No, because there has not been support to investigate, research, and write about the lives of Italians throughout American history.  I have learned a good deal about the media through my many attempts to publish the book, or to produce it as a motion picture.  There is no interest in the Hollywood status quo to change their perception of Italians, so the same images they have always used to portray Italians will continue.   Italians and Europeans are history minded and have made the film epics that have presented history. This is why I know that  it will have to be the Italian motion picture industry that will produce the historic epics to  re-write Italian American history.     It will be the Italian and perhaps other European studios who will be producing history events,  while American studios are cranking out films about zombies, monsters, crime, space aliens, dinosaurs, and comic book super heroes. Which is why Italians and Italian Americans must begin the task, using the tools I mentioned to write The Comprehensive Book on Italian American History.

Colonel Enrico Fardella

Colonel Enrico Fardella

Are you planning to publish this book in a non-digital fashion in the near future? Did you publish other books prior to this one?  
I do not plan to publish the book in hard copy. I have another book that is published on Kindle about Italians in motion pictures entitled “Italactors: From Don Ameche to Louis Zamperini: Italians in Motion Pictures and Television from 1895 to 1996”

Are there any other topics that have popped up in your research that you feel deserve more attention, and eventually another book?
There is so much information can be used that writers, historians and genealogists will be very busy looking into all the periods of time in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
Before the American Revolution, Italians were coming to French Canada, the Spanish South West and Florida, along the Mississippi River, throughout America’s Southern states, and of course in the cities of the North. There are the alliances between America and Sardinia, Genoa, Venice.  And the most notable  of all the alliance of America with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies against the Barbary pirates. This is something we can do, it is all there if you take the time to look for it and write about it.

Here follows the review of the book by B. Keith Toney:

Lincoln’s Foreign Legion: The 39th New York Infantry, The Garibaldi Guard, by Michael Bacarella, Amazon Kindle The Irish and Germans are the two nationalities that spring to mind whenever the subject of immigrants or foreigners serving during the Civil War arises. Most buffs are familiar with the Irish Brigade and the heavily Germanic Union XI Corps, both of which served in the Army of the Potomac. Others can name units and individuals of Irish and German heritage who served on both sides during the conflict. One of the most famous regiments in the North in the early months of the war, however, had its origins elsewhere–in fact, its roots ran back to at least 52 different places–and when its members marched down Broadway in New York City in answer to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops, they proudly bore the name of a famous Italian patriot. That regiment was the 39th New York Volunteer Infantry, known familiarly as the Garibaldi Guard. When war broke out in 1861, General Giuseppe Garibaldi was one of the best-known military men on the European continent. As a result, it was Garibaldi’s name that a foreign language tutor to New York’s rich and famous used to recruit a regiment of men from 14 different states and 52 European principalities. The tutor, Frederick George D’Utassy, would be elected colonel of the regiment despite his somewhat shadowy past. It would not take long for the men of the Garibaldi Guard to realize that they were being commanded by one of the most outrageous, thieving rogues ever to wear the uniform of the Federal armies. Michael Bacarella, author of Lincoln’s Foreign Legion, does a creditable job of detailing the outlandish activities of D’Utassy. The roster of the regiment is also very well-done, giving insight into the many different countries and walks of life from which men came to answer the call to arms during the Civil War. For someone interested in learning more about the role of foreigners during the war, Lincoln’s Foreign Legion: The 39th New York Infantry, The Garibaldi Guard is certainly worth a read.

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