Happy Birthday to French Connection‘s Sonny Grosso Spinning Amazing Tales with Joe and Marilyn in that Great Restaurant in the Sky
How about meeting your boyhood hero for a birthday present as an adult? And what if you were a famous NYPD detective/producer and your hero was the Yankee Clipper, Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio? Well, that’s exactly happened when Sonny Grosso’s physician, Dr. Rock Positano, and his partner and casting director Christina Krauss arranged a special birthday party (July 21) for Sonny at Manducatis restaurant in Queens.
The French Connection’s Sonny Grosso passed away in 2020, after living an unforgettable life in both law enforcement and in the entertainment business. His birthday was on July 21, so to celebrate that date, here’s an excerpt from his upcoming and posthumous memoir, Harlem to Hollywood, My Real-to-Reel Life by French Connection Detective Sonny Grosso, in which he talks about that once-in-a-lifetime evening. As Sonny would say, “Fuggedaboudit!”
“They took me there to Manducatis to celebrate my birthday. As I was walking in, I was looking at this elegantly dressed man and thinking, Jeez, ‘I recognize this guy.’ And I look over at owner Vincent and he says, ‘Yeah, okay?’ I look back and it’s Joe DiMaggio crooking his finger telling me to come on over. I go over and sit next to him and say, ‘Mr. DiMaggio, glad to meet you, I’m Sonny.’ He says, ‘I know who you are.’ They started to bring the food and I say, ‘Well, you guys eat and maybe I’ll stop by later on.’ He replies, ‘Sit down, I came here to meet you.’”
Grosso, who became an award-winning producer of TV series and movies after he retired from the NYPD, said that DiMaggio never disappointed him “on the field or as a human being.” He continues his memorable birthday tale:
“DiMaggio and I had a memorable conversation. And, just so you know, there were three subjects you didn’t talk about with Joe: Marilyn, Frank Sinatra and JFK. If you did, he’d say he was going to the bathroom and then he wouldn’t come back! So, we spoke about everything else and about me wanting to produce his movie biography.
“When Joe left after dinner, I said to him, ‘Joe, I’ve waited my whole life for this. So how about a little hug and kiss?’ He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, ‘Well, if you have to.’ So joking I said, ‘On the lips?’ He replied, ‘Hey, c’mon, take it easy!’ We laughed, I hugged him and then Joe said, ‘Me and my lawyer are writing a book and I told him that if anybody films this book it’s going to be Sonny Grosso.’ Joe left and I’m floating on air. I rushed back in and told my friends he’s writing a book and he wants me to produce his movie.”
As a token of remembrance for that unforgettable evening, Grosso had the chair the legend had sat on engraved with his “#5” and with the names “Sonny Grosso and Joe DiMaggio.” Grosso adds:
“When I sent Joe a photo of the chair, he wrote back thanking me but then asked, ‘Hey, Sonny, who says you get top billing?’ Not long after, the Yankee Clipper took ill and passed away. But that famous chair still floats around Manducatis today and the story behind it helps me keep Joe DiMaggio’s memory alive.”
Happy Birthday to Sonny, and thinking of Sonny, Joe and Marilyn who must be spinning tall tales in the Great Italian Restaurant in the Sky.
Click on “Marvin Scott Remembers” on PIX 11 News, talking with Sonny Grosso and Eddie Egan of The French Connection.