There are tough guys and then, there are tough guys. Veteran screen and television actor, Gianni Russo has made a career of playing guys you wouldn't want to mess with. He was Carlo in The Godfather a movie which could never have been made without Russo intervening between the studio and "The Mob"; he has appeared in TV classics such as Kojak and The Rockford Files; and has played the baddie in more than 40 films, including such hits as The Freshman, Rush Hour, Any Given Sunday and Seabiscuit.
But Russo believes it's his crooning that will ultimately separate him from the mob of other on-screen wise guys. His debut CD Reflections pays homage to such legendary singers as Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, who influenced both his private and professional life. The CD will be released through Triggerfish Entertainment on February 22nd. The CD also contains a bonus track where Russo dishes dirt on the behind-the-scene drama of how The Godfather got made.
Russo has had a life that movie scripts are made of. With no acting experience, he walked into his first acting job, which turned into one of the greatest films of all time. He counted among his friends some of the biggest names in entertainment and politics. He has romanced many of Hollywood's most famous leading ladies, including Marilyn Monroe, who Gianni met while working as a shampoo boy in a hair salon. "I went to her hotel room to wash her hair on a Saturday morning, and didn't leave until Monday night," says Russo.
Born in Manhattan and raised in Little Italy and Staten Island, Russo overcame polio as a child to start his first "business" at the tender age of twelve, selling pens and erasers on the street corners. At eighteen Russo made the first trip to Miami, and it was there that he first began to dabble in show-business. There, he started working in nightclubs and hotspots, before deciding to pursue acting and move to Los Angeles.
It was during his drive across country to LA, that he got his big break. Russo decided to take a rest stop in Las Vegas and the minute he set foot on the desert soil, he knew there were business opportunities there for a smart kid like him. He started first working in the jewelry business and later turned his skills to real estate.
In 1981 he opened the State Street Supper Club in Las Vegas which quickly became a regular haunt for members of The Rat Pack. Sinatra, Sammy Davis and Dean Martin actually did the opening commercial for State Street, which Gianni owned, and in later years, the club also showcased the talents of rising stars such as Eddie Murphy.
Through the years, Russo has formed friendships with Hollywood legends including Frank Sinatra, Jack Benny, George Burns, Shirley McLaine and Merv Griffin. Professionally he has helped the careers of artists including Dionne Warwick and even appeared on stage during the Grammy performance of the charity hit single "That's What Friends Are For."
Gianni continues to act in feature films as well as television while also making time to perform at sold-out performances in major clubs and casinos throughout North America and the world. Russo recently completed filming the TV pilot "Prison Break" (FOX), directed by the famed director Brett Ratner. He will also be seen in the upcoming movie Rush Hour 3. In addition, Russo is an avid chef, conducting cooking demonstrations across the country, and has completed nine volumes of a celebrity cooking DVD series, with guests including Paul Anka, Isaac Hayes, Patti LaBelle, Tom Jones and Ed McMahon.
In March 2005, Gianni Russo will be honored as Celebrity of the Year by the legendary Boys' Town of Italy association. Previous honorees include: Perry Como, Joe Di Maggio, Tommy Lasorda, Steven Seagal and Danny Aiello.