DANNY AIELLO

(June 20, 1933 – December 12, 2019)

Beloved Academy Award nominated actor Danny Aiello, who imbued the screen and stage with commanding ferocity and a larger than life presence has died at age 86 after a brief illness.  Mr. Aiello passed away Thursday evening, December 12th at a medical facility near his home in New Jersey.

Mr. Aiello is predeceased by his mother, his six siblings, and his son Danny Aiello III.

He is survived by his wife Sandy Cohen Aiello, his sons Ricky Aiello (Arlene) and   Jaime Aiello (Debbra), his daughter Stacey Aiello Poppe (Will Poppe), his daughter- in- law Cindy Aiello,10 grandchildren: Dawn, Allison, Brielle, Ricky Jr., Tori, Sydney, Gabrielle, Zac, Jake and Willie, and many cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends.

Born in Manhattan, Aiello moved to the South Bronx when he was 7 years old, taking a job as a shoe-shiner at Grand Central station when he was 9; his working class New York City upbringing often cited for contributing to his streetwise charisma and renaissance attitude toward life.

Danny enlisted in the Army in 1950 at the age of 16, lying about his age and serving for 3 years before returning to New York City, and in 1955 marrying his teenage sweetheart Sandy Cohen. Danny and Sandy were due to celebrate their 65th year of marriage on January 8th.

Danny’s passion for acting didn’t consume him until he was in his mid-30s, making his film debut at the age of 37 as a baseball teammate of Robert DeNiro and Michael Moriarty in the film Bang the Drum Slowly. The personable actor worked for Greyhound prior to his acting career, first as a baggage handler, then as their public address announcer, eventually becoming president of the Amalgamated Transit Union. He often told interviewers it wasn’t until he lost that job and got a gig as a bouncer/emcee at a New York City comedy club that his life took a different path. He was chosen to be in the play “Lamppost Reunion,” which would go on to Broadway and earn a Tony nomination in 1976, kicking-starting the affable star’s acting career.

Well known for his Oscar nominated role as pizzeria owner Sal in Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do The Right Thing, Danny received unanimous acclaim and many awards for a career that spanned over 5 decades. Alongside his Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor he was a Golden Globe nominee and won awards from the Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago Film Critics Associations,

He had memorable roles in more than 100 films, including The Godfather, Part II, Fort Apache the Bronx, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Once Around with Richard Dreyfus, Holly Hunter, Gena Rowlands and Griffin Dunne, Hudson Hawk with Bruce Willis, 29th Street with Anthony LaPaglia, Ruby, Mojave Moon with Anne Archer and Angelina Jolie, Dinner Rush , City Hall, opposite Al Pacino; Two Much with Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith; The Professional, directed by French film maker Luc Besson; Robert Altman’s Ready To Wear; The Cemetery Club, opposite Ellen Burstyn, Olympia Dukakis, and Diane Ladd; Mistress, with Robert DeNiro, 2 Days in the Valley with Glenne Headly, Lobster Farm with Jane Curtain, Lucky Number Slevin with Bruce Willis and Morgan Freedman and Stiffs with Lesley Ann Warren, just to name a few. Danny was recently featured opposite Andrea Martin in the 2018 romantic comedy Little Italy alongside Emma Roberts and Hayden Christensen. 

He also starred as ‘Joe Lieberman’ in the romantic comedy Lieberman in Love. Directed by Christine Lahti, the film won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 1996. In 2014 he won an Emmy for his voiceover work on the Yankees 2013 season launch promo entitled Blessed and in 2016 released his autobiography entitled “I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else.” (Simon & Schuster). 

Alongside his film career, Aiello was also appreciated for his stellar Broadway resume garnering him an Obie as well as an L.A. Drama Critic’s Circle Award for productions that included David Rabe’s Hurlyburly, Gemini, Knockout, Woody Allen’s The Floating Light Bulb, John Guare’s The House Of Blue Leaves, Wheel-barrow Chasers, and the Off Broadway two-act drama The Shoemaker, among others.

TV productions include “Family of Strangers” (in which he received an Emmy Award), “Tales of the Darkside,” “Lady Flue,” “The Preppie Murder,” the miniseries, Mario Puzo’s “The Last Don”, and the film version of The Shoemaker, called “A Broken Sole” with Judith Light.  He also starred in and executive produced the award-winning detective series Dellaventura.

When he was not acting, he was touring with his swing/jazz band he affectionately referred to as “Joe Geary & the Guys,” gracing the stages of  the monumental Apollo Theatre, the legendary Blue Note, the breathtaking Rainbow Room, performing with the Boston Pops Orchestra, and in LA at the House of Blues, to name a few.

He released five albums including his critically acclaimed Billboard charting debut  I Just Wanted To Hear the Words, and his Christmas album My Christmas Song for You.

In addition to his film and music credits, Danny Aiello has received many awards for his numerous philanthropic endeavors including his work with Major League Baseballs’ Stand up to Cancer Campaign, The Lustgarten Foundation on behalf of pancreatic cancer research (his son Danny III passed away in 2010 of pancreatic cancer), his PSAs for various police and fire organizations, including post 9/11 events, and his work with Veterans, HeartShare and Public Television as well as various local charities.

A memorial service will be held on Thursday, December 19th at 2:30PM at The Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 West 76th Street, NYC.

Services will be open to the public.

Contact: Tracey Miller/TMA Tracey@TMAPublicity.com

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