By Ellen Sterling
Special to Long Islander News
The adjectives – tough, gentle, tender, intense and fierce, among them – that have been used to describe Robert Davi reflect his talent and versatility.
But, in the end only two adjectives are necessary – passion and pride. And he’ll bring both to The Paramount stage Nov. 23 as he performs selections from the Sinatra songbook.
“I’ve performed on Long Island before,” he said, “but the Paramount is a real homecoming. It’s my first time in my hometown.”
Davi is defined by the passion he brings to his work and his life. A true hyphenate, Davi is a skilled actor (The Goonies, Licence to Kill, The Iceman and 130 other film and television credits), screenwriter, director and singer. At the Long Island International Film Expo, where he received the Long Island Filmmaker Achievement Award in July, he observed, “The creative roots for me were on Long Island.“
His maternal grandfather came from Naples to Connersville, Penn. to Southampton, where was a bootlegger with Marshall Field and Joseph P. Kennedy. He moved to Corona. His paternal grandfather came from Sicily to Astoria.
“I’ve been back here a few times, but not for anything major,” Davi said. “I stayed away because my parents died young – at 55 and 56 years old – and my sister Yvonne was murdered by her ex-boyfriend at 20. I stayed away, but the creative roots, the energy that is here in the trees, the smell of the air, the generosity and the spirit of the people that are here, and the encouragement I remember and the America I grew up in were all so important in making me what I am today.”
Those creative roots began at home where music was a constant.
“I was raised in an Italian Catholic home,” he said. “We looked up to two people – the Pope and Frank Sinatra. Not necessarily in that order.”
His first performances came in Half Hollow Hills schools. Miss Alexander, his fourth grade teacher at Half Hollow Hills Elementary School, cast him in his first play and suggested his parents encourage him in the arts.
Davi went to Seton Hall High School where he was a member of the award-winning forensics team. That skill with language and advocacy is evident today in his writing and in his many TV appearances discussing current affairs.
His pride in his Italian heritage is clear when he performs his show, Davi Sings Sinatra, a show he put together after his CD of the same name was released. He is absolutely not an impersonator. He is himself putting his stamp on the Sinatra songbook. He performed for more than 20,000 people in concerts the last two summers in Eisenhower Park. On Nov. 22 he’ll be at Foxwoods in Connecticut.
His pride in his heritage was recognized when Davi was asked to be a grand marshal of this year’s Columbus Day parade in Huntington and, in August, was honored by the Lt. Det. Joseph Petrosino Association in America.
“I marveled at and was intrigued by a guy who lives in the world of acting, TV, stage and who never lost touch with his roots and his rich history,” said Robert Fonti, an official in the Petrosino Association. He has so much pride and honor in what being Italian means. I admire him. He carries his heritage as a badge of honor, not as a scarlet letter.”
Davi is set to play around the world - he was very well-received in Australia last summer. He continues making films but, now, is most looking forward to performing back home.
He says, “Long Island is a unique place. I live in California. But, here, there’s a loyalty and directness, a sense of a tight-knit community that I love.”