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Annie Rachele Lanzillotto (January 16, 2014)
Annie Lanzillotto, photo by Anthony Caliendo
This photo is of my high school softball team, the Roosevelt Indians, Yonkers, NY. Photo by Coach Anthony Caliendo who was also our photography teacher. The author, is the one in the shorts, up in the tree.

The commodity of authenticity. Being a New York accent for hire



One of my students from Portland, Oregon came to me before his audition in John Patrick Shanley's "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea."  This young actor needed a Bronx accent, and not just any Bronx accent, but a 1960's Zerega Avenue accent.  So he came to me.  I am from Zerega.  From the sixties.  This wasn't the first time this happened to me.  Actors had imitated me lots before.   One won a prize in Kentucky - being me.  My accent's on the endangered species list.  I like watching old Cagney movies and listening to that way the New York voice used to be portrayed, "Hell Doll, what's it to ya, seeeee?"   The vowel twirls in my father's speech -- you don't hear that anymore on the streets, the 'earl' in 'oil' -- is gone.  It got educated out of our speech.  I don't mind teaching the Bronx accent, or having actors mimic me, but I do mind when it rings untrue.  I hear it even in celebrated actors.  Nobody says "neighborhood" right anymore, right in the Bronx voice way. What went first?  The neighborhoods or the way to say it.  Actors may drop their voice, get the guttural tone, let the first syllable swallow back in their throat, but the midwestern 'or' always rears its ugly head in the middle of the word.  As if we bastardized that syllable too much for others to bear.  
/NAY-bah-huhd/  left when the butchers retired and the boutiques took their places.  The middle syllable suffers from youth watching Mr. Rogers too much.  

I think I know what I sound like.  I know what my friends sounded like.  All those tough girls sitting up in the tree.  DiMella, Spota, Cardascia, Colosimo, all of them.  To my softball buddies!  To how we used to tawlk!  To our Bronx Italian paesans!  Our lost tongues!  To our high school janitor Enrico Caruso!  To our uncensored selves for better or worse!  To 'playing' Italian American!  To 'playing' Bronx!  To teaching Bronx accents!  To being born into a sexy creamy culture!  Madonn!  So few ever know what I'm talking about.  To being imitated!  To imitations of imitations!  To making a career of authenticity!  To playing Italian American and to sell tickets to the show.  Come one Come all.  Hear the accent that's been captured in film and television.  Come see the real people first hand, who have been imitated for your entertainment pleasure.  Say neighborhood.  Say water.  Come learn how to sound authentic.  I'll give you a private lesson in authenticity but you better hit your syllables right.  Bronx phonics for sale.

copyright Annie Lanzillotto 2014

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1) YO LANZO- Am I like NOT in this photo.... cause I'm afraid of heights so I wouldn't climb the tree...or what? Or was that OUR freshman year, the ONE season I didn't make the varsity team? BTW..I have some AWESOME softball photos circa SENIOR championship season '81. I'll send 'em to ya... 2) I just LITERALLY noticed something I never realized about myself before & it has to do with the "music to my ears" bona-fide YONKERS accent (what I describe to these KY folks I reside amongst, as a "watered-down BRONX accent").... I virtually, though not ENTIRELY...apparently make mine disappear when I am being interviewed for radio or camera. I'm thinkin' MAYBE some of that college education stuck, cause I spent my first two years absorbing as much RADIO training & public speaking type courses as I could, stuffing that knowledge in the pipe(dream) of being an FM ROCK D.J. I FIRST noticed this strange phenomenon maybe a year or so ago, listening back to a podcast of my buddy, BLYTHE's program featuring yours truly, recounting my musical career (75% of which WAS in the EAST VILLAGE) & PROUDLY turning the LOUISVILLIANS onto the best of underground NYC ROCK-N-ROLL from the 70's/80's/90''d think I'd do a LANZO & flaunt that bad-ass/ wise-guy natural inflection of mine...NOPE...nada. Last night I found a feature film clip from 1992 where I am being interviewed about women in rock & my idol, JOAN JETT, specifically. So there is a vibrant, youthful BIG MAMA FREAK gesticulating wildly...hammering home each point.....relaxed, but striving to be taken seriously. I always tell these Southerners who comment on my shall we say, active hands, that " I can't help it...I went to an ALL-ITALIAN HIGH SCHOOL just north of the BRONX". HA! Once again, hardly a noticeable regional accent!!! Discovering this was so bizarre for me....just "clicked" for me last night when I posted that film snippet to my FB page....and just EXACTLY the opposite of YOU & your ability to exploit the GOD-given old school BRONX accent you are so blessed to have...and to my ears, my old friend, music to my ears.... xoxo ANDREA