When I put the "Bellmore Folk Legend" poll on the blog, Nunzio by far got the most votes with a whopping 73%. Nunzio's the semi-retarded (maybe autistic) guy who used to hang around the 7-Eleven on Newbridge Road. He was always there drinking his coffee...lots of it. I don't believe Nunzio had a steady job so he'd often beg for money. But he was also willing to work for it...Nunzio took requests. He'd sing a song for a quarter – The Flintstones Theme being a favorite. Nunzio loved his coffee.
"One time my brother, mother and I were traveling upstate by car to Lake George when I was about 10 years old. At one of the rest stops on the NY thruway, we saw Nunzio standing near the door. I asked him what he was doing there and he said, "Getting some coffee." No other explanation as to how he got there." – Joe Kollar
Nunzio's other claim to fame was that he remembered birthdays. If you told him your birthday back in junior high, he'd remember it today – didn't matter how infrequently you saw him. This Rain Man-like quality is what makes me think he was autistic. Need proof? When we were filming the closing of Ground Zero – for Bellmore: The Unscene – Nunzio walked by and Jim Muscarella stopped him. (Unfortunately, by the time I focused my camera on him, Nunzio was half way down the street so you can't really make out his face. But it's him...no doubt.) Jim asked if he remembered his birthday? (He told it to Nunzio when he was 15 years old)...
WHERE IS HE NOW? Nunzio moved out of Bellmore and is believed to be living in Florida...drinking coffee at a nearby 7-Eleven.
Here's a little something that's unrelated, yet totally related... When I was at a record fair a while back I came across a soundtrack to a 1978 film called NUNZIO. It's about a borderline mentally challenged man in his 30's who lives with his mother in Brooklyn. Sound familiar...except for the Brooklyn part? It also co-stars a young Glenn Scarpelli...a name Rat Bastard fans should recognize. So it's all connected. For those reasons – and being a Lalo Schifrin fan – I bought it.
So recently – when I thought about doing this post – I just had to track down the film, which was never released on DVD. Luckily, you can find just about anything with a Google search and I found a bootleg copy. As I watched it I imagined our Nunzio in the title role (played by David Proval of THE SOPRANOS fame). In the movie, this Nunzio is infatuated with Superman and walks around with a shirt he painted a large "N" on – like Superman's "S" – with a makeshift cape safety pinned to it. Here's the opening scenes...
Nunzio...we salute you.