I had the great pleasure of seeing the one-woman showcase Italian Bred by Candice Guardino recently and meeting her afterward. Amusing cameos by people “in the biz” such as comedian Mario Cantone who pop in to Candice’s various vignettes, made for some funny stuff. My favorite through line in the show, however, is Candice’s running impersonation of her family members, especially her grandmother, who was moxy personified, as only women of her time and place were and could be.
I had a similarly strong “force” of a grandmother on my paternal side, who was a pioneer indie retailer of the hot item of the 1950’s: appliances. Panasonic and Zenith were the brands that lined the walls of her store, and General Electric featured my Nonna, Lena, in their promotional materials to their sales force. She was quite cute and personified not only the moxy of the roaring 20’s generation women, but also ideal look of her era: five foot two, eyes of blue. Yep! She was a well-off retailer who designed, built and paid for her own home in cash, and a stage mother to my father to rival the likes of Gypsy Rose Lee.
She would commute in to the City with my father when he was just three years old (and BEFORE the NJ Turnpike was even built!) for his voice lessons at the Royal Associated Studios on 52nd Street and his weekly radio appearances on NBC Radio Children’s Hour with emcee Ed Herlihy, sponsored by the great but gone Horn & Hardart automat.
I don’t want to give anything away about Italian Bred so in the meantime, I’ll share an anecdote about Italian mothers. Recently, I was having lunch with mine at Cafe123 before seeing Farinelli and the King (for the second time!) We were never weight obsessed being naturally thin with fast metabolisms and we always ate well, so were talking about nutrition, etc., over our crêpes. I remarked that I didn’t think I was eating very well lately due to a hectic schedule and that maybe I was eating too much fat in my meals. I continued that maybe I should scale back on fats a little, to which my mother leaned over the table and asked me in a hushed tone, “But you’re not going to give up olive oil, right?!” As if it’s a sin! Well, to Italians, Greeks, Spaniards and probably many more Mediterranean cultures, it probably is! My reply was of course, “No, of course not, Mom!” to which she sighed a breath of relief and proceeded to further enjoy her crêpe.
And that’s my “Italian Bred” in a nutshell! (all pun because Italians—at least my Italians–are nuts for nuts, also–there was a perennially full nut bowl on our teakwood table my entire childhood, like something out of Harry Potter–but that’s a WHOLE other story for another day!)
GO SEE ITALIAN BRED!
photo of Candice and Carolyn by B. McDonough — above photo by C. McDonough