Collinwood Movie Opens in Theaters March 11th
Last week I thought I'd shoot off an email to Rick Porrello to see if he would be willing to be interviewed regarding the soon to be released film, "Kill the Irishman". He graciously agreed and we met up Saturday morning at Fotina's on East 156th near Waterloo. The movie is based on Rick's 1998 book "To Kill the Irishman," which chronicles the life of Collinwood racketeer, Danny Greene.
Rick, who grew up in Cleveland Heights, started out following in the footsteps of his father and older brother Ray, in becoming a drummer. At the age of eighteen he got the opportunity to take over for his brother as the drummer for Sammy Davis's band and traveled on the road with him for the next 2 years, which would include venues such as Las Vegas and The Tonight Show.
After returning home he decided to pursue another area of interest, law enforcement. He has since served 25 years with the city of Lyndhurst and is now their chief of Police. It was during this period he started researching his own family history and how his grandfather and 3 of his great uncles were murdered by the Mayfield Road Mob over control of the liquor trade during Prohibition. This then became the basis of his first book, "The Corn Sugar Wars." published in 1995.
"To Kill the Irishman" then became his second, which he said was almost like a sequel. Greene was raised by his paternal grandfather in the upper unit of a duplex at 438 East 147th Street south of Lake Shore Boulevard. He attended St. Jerome's and later Collinwood High School. The most notable neighborhood site in regards to the story would be that of his former second floor apartment above a store front at 15805 Waterloo Road. It was completely leveled in a bombing at 3:30 am on May 12th, 1975 while he slept, but failed to kill him. Now the empty lot has been commemorated by some local artists with a mural on the neighboring structure stating simply, "KABOOM!"
The movie's cast includes Ray Stevenson, Val Kilmer, Christopher Walken, Vincent D'Onofrio, Paul Sorvino, and Steve Schrippa. It is scheduled to open locally on Friday, March 11th at the Cedar Lee Theater in Cleveland Heights, the Cinemark 24 in Valley View, and the Regal at Crocker Park in Westlake initially. The film will also open the same day in New York and Los Angeles, and then the following week in Boston, Chicago, and Detroit. When asked if the film takes poetic license, Rick notes that are going to be people that will say that such and such didn't happen a certain way, or that an actor looks nothing like a particular person portrayed, but that the screenplay was inspired by the actual
story and does capture its essence.
A documentary, planned to come out in conjunction with the movie, is titled "Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the
Irishman" and is scheduled to premier at this year's Cleveland Film Festival on March 25th, 26th, & 27th. This production will feature actual film footage and photos from the period as well as interviews with some of those involved who are still living.
Tommy Reid, who directed the documentary as well also produced the movie, is credited by Porrello as the one who brought it to the big screen. A New Jersey native and brother of the actress Tara Reid, Tommy went to college at Ohio State University and would enjoy visiting the Flats with his classmates. It was here that he first heard stories regarding Danny Greene. Reid, being Irish and Italian, was drawn to tale of the ethic turf war. He will be speaking and answering questions after each of the showings of the documentary at the Film Festival.
In wrapping up the interview, I said to Rick that I assumed that at this point that he had seen the finished movie and wanted to know if he was happy with it. He smiled, laughing that I had assumed incorrectly and said he had not. Rick said he was waiting to see it after it was released in the theaters with family and friends on the big screen.
William McCulloch is an amateur local historian.
Amateur local historian