I was good, really good, but he was better for the part. It was the cold winter of 1956. We were both out at the old NBC studios in Brooklyn, auditioning for the part of an Italian brother in a new hourlong drama.

After I read, I stood in a far corner with others while he read. He said his name was Vito. That’s all I remember, except that he was perfect for the part. He had obviously studied the script carefully and did the scene without looking at the pages. He was really good. He gave a taut, powerful reading.

As I rode home on the subway to Manhattan, I spotted Vito in the next car. I joined him. We chatted. I talked more. Vito was polite but quiet. He had a lot of anger in his face, a face that looked like Bobby DeNiro would look at that time.

He didn’t get the part. We did the small talk about the pain and unfairness of casting and then fell silent. Maybe 10 minutes of silence passed, and then he got up as the train rolled into a station.

He turned to me, “I’ll tell you something,” he said. “Never let them see you sweat. And when it gets really tough, don’t ever let them see you cry.” He patted me on the shoulder, smiled, and the doors slid open and he was gone.

I was in Manhattan for a couple more years and went to a lot of auditions, but I never saw Vito again until “The Godfather” was released. There, in a scene in the middle of the movie, playing a musician, was Vito. He was wearing thick glasses that made him look older and tired. He had no lines, just a couple of moves, and he was gone.

I’ve seen so much talent in my time just fade to black. I could give you a couple dozen names, men and women, lovely talented people, names that appeared near the top on the crawls, but that would mean nothing to you because they never became big stars. Show you a picture, and you would know them. I won’t spell their names out because some are dead now, and the others may be old and sitting in a nursing home in New Jersey or out in the San Fernando Valley, teaching acting to pretty people for a couple hundred bucks. It’s not where they want to be, and not a day goes by that they don’t know that.

Sometimes I will see one or two of them on a commercial, not a bad gig. Commercials are a gold mine. They bring in a lot of cash, and some people have used them buy a house or a bar or just a comfortable chair. It’s not a bad life, but it’s not what they planned on; and not a day goes by that they don’t think of that.

One day in Hollywood, just as I was thinking of leaving the money, the Spanish house and the orange skies and coming here, I took the car out for a ride down Sunset Boulevard.

At Sunset and La Cienega the light turned red, and I stopped in front of a bus stop bench. There was Vito. Time had not been kind to Vito. He was grayer and gaunt, he wore thick glasses and he was holding a hamburger in a greasy wrapper. His clothes were tired, his shoes unpolished. The bus had passed, and I knew that Vito wasn’t there to take a bus, because he had no place to go. This is where Vito sat every day.

I have a nice car now and a good house, a wonderful wife and a sweet life. Each day I sit and write and count my blessings. It’s not where I thought I wanted to be, but it’s a good place, and I have no regrets; because I can tell you that not a day goes by that I don’t think of Vito on that bench.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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