Hamill: Danny Aiello tells it like it is in memoir ‘I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else’

By DENIS HAMILL

Danny Aiello’s memoir details his life on the street in Manhattan and the Bronx and on the stage at the Improv. The Oscar-nominated actor also mentions his work with legendary directors, which never included Martin Scorsese.

Danny Aiello’s memories race across the pages of his new book like the cops are in pursuit.

The actor did a lot of running from the police growing up in Manhattan’s West Side and the South Bronx, making money shining shoes, running numbers, shooting pool and even robbing safes.

“My father was rarely around,” Aiello says. “So I was raised with my three sisters by my wonderful mother, Frances, who never badmouthed my absentee father. I did things I’m not proud of to bring money into the house.”

Maybe the pages turn so fast because Aiello has spent a lifetime running from himself, which inspired the title, “I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else.”

“I joined the Army in 1951 to fight in Korea after being investigated for a murder I didn’t commit,” he says. “They sent me to Germany, where I basically played baseball for 28 months after the Army learned I’d been scouted by the New York Giants. Baseball would play a big role in my life.”

Aiello came home, married Sandy Cohen, his wife of 61 years, and worked as a baggage handler at the Greyhound bus terminal in Manhattan.

“I graduated to the job of announcing buses on the PA system,” he says. “It was my first public performance. Then I became a bus drivers union leader, and after work I often went to the nearby Improvisation comedy club run by Budd Friedman — before I got fired for calling a wildcat strike.”

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