In the wake of the recent anti-capitalist, climate change march in New York City, featuring Hollywood notables Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, it’s refreshing to be reminded that progressives aren’t the only activists in showbiz.
As a former Golden Gloves boxer, the Brooklyn-born, Italian-American actor Tony Lo Bianco is known for tough-guy, blue-collar roles on both sides of the law. Probably best-known as Sal Boca in The French Connection with Gene Hackman, Mr. Lo Bianco is an Obie-winning, Emmy-winning, and Tony-nominated actor who still performs onstage, currently in The Little Flower as legendary New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia. He has starred in such films as City Heat with Clint Eastwood, Nixon with Anthony Hopkins, F.I.S.T. with Sylvester Stallone, and more recently, 2011’s Kill the Irishman alongside Vincent D’Onfrio and Val Kilmer. Some of his many television credits include The Rocky Marciano Story, the miniseries Marco Polo, Jesus of Nazareth, Law & Order, Murder She Wrote, The Twilight Zone, and Get Smart.
More importantly, His many humanitarian efforts have earned multiple awards including Man of the Year for Outstanding Contributions to the Italian-American Community from the Police Society of New Jersey; Man of the Year from the New Jersey State Senate; a Golden Lion Award; the Humanitarian Award of the Boys’ Town of Italy, and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Mr. Lo Bianco recently took time to talk a bit with FrontPage Mag about his activism:
Mark Tapson: Tony, it’s an honor to have you on FrontPage. Let’s start by asking about your participation in the protest last week against the opera The Death of Klinghoffer. What was your message about it and why did you feel strongly enough about it to speak out?
Tony Lo Bianco: With our country facing the biggest terrorist threat, it is not the time to be looking to justify the killing of a helpless, innocent man because he was a Jew. The decision to put this opera on is not only in the worst of taste, it is insensitive and irresponsible and lacks the understanding of who our enemy is.
Freedom to express your opinion is your right, but remember your enemy can hear you. It is your obligation as an American to make sure your country is safe. We are all warriors in this war. Israel and the Jewish people are our allies.
MT: Have you always been conservative? What’s it been like for you as a conservative during your many years in the acting game?
TLB: Following the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the laws of the land, caring about the human race, understanding history and learning the results of it, respecting your fellow man, trusting the American people to know how to spend their own money that they have earned, working hard to fulfill your dream, protecting your family, your friends and your country and to be allowed to practice whatever religion you choose and pledge allegiance to the United States of America under God. If what I just said labels me as a Conservative, then come and join the party.
I do not like labels. I think logic, common sense, facts and history make up my party. Putting labels on someone makes it easy to be a target to the less informed. If you see what has worked in the past, why not follow that example?
MT: You and I both know that there are more conservatives in left-leaning Hollywood than many people are aware of. Are you optimistic or not about Hollywood shifting toward more of a balance in the near future, about seeing more films and TV shows that reflect conservative values and sensibilities?
TLB: The more despair and proof becomes evident to the people, the hope is that the light will shine and they will be able to see. Yes, there are more people not only in Hollywood, but elsewhere, that are seeing what is happening to our country, and know for sure that we are going in the wrong direction. Let us hope that results in their voting in this next election. And yes, there is a strong feeling in Hollywood of enlightenment.
MT: These days Hollywood activists seem to focus on big progressive issues like climate change or Wall Street, but you’ve done a great deal of award-winning humanitarian work for actual people, like veterans and law enforcement and kids. Why are those causes meaningful for you?
TLB: I guess I'm a realist. Maybe being born in Brooklyn makes me so. I'm used to seeing things from the ground up and in dealing strongly with human issues. Our veterans deserve everything we can possibly do for them, given what they have done for us. And we must help our children, for they are our future. They must be cared for physically and mentally. They must be taught the history of our country and how to restore that history for their own future.
MT: You’ve done a lot of work in your career portraying former New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia, including, most recently, your one-man show The Little Flower. Tell us a bit about that show and why you think New York, and even America, needs him today.
TLB: He was a dreamer, a doer, a fighter, and a man who was not afraid to ride the tiger. He was a man who cleaned up this city of gangsters, crooks and especially political corruption. He was an honest man who thought of others, gave of himself and was a friend of the people. Fiorello's accomplishments in his twelve years as mayor of New York City were tremendous. What drives me to bring him to life is his vision that parallels everything that is going on in this country now. If we would only listen to history, we would be able to minimize our mistakes.
I have been able to do this show not only in America but in Russia where the American Ambassador said to me after a performance, “You have done more for our country in two hours than I have done in two years.” My goal is to perform The Little Flower in as many colleges as I can. It is extremely important to get to the young minds now.
[For more information about Tony Lo Bianco and The Little Flower, please go to tonylobianco.com.]
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 10/2/14)