Last month I had a chat with comedian Tim Krompier who was the grandson of Dutch Schultz Lt. Martin Krompier. This month I was able to chat with Greg Vaccariello a descendant of New York's crime boss Paul Kelly. Like Tim, Greg is also a comedian and actor. I've known Greg for a ten years or so, and like Tim, when I first learned his last name I thought to myself, "I wonder if...nah, what are the chances." Just like with Tim they were good. Some day I will learn.
Greg is based in L.A. and took a few minutes to answer a few questions.
Q: How exactly are you related to Paolo Vacarelli and when did you first become aware that he was actually the infamous Paul Kelly?
A: Uncle Paolo is my great uncle. We always knew that there was a connection but we never really talked about it. Mostly because my dad didn't talk about much of anything.
Q) There is a slight mispelling in your names. Why is that? Any idea if this was done a hundred or so years ago by your family to disassociate yourselves from Uncle Pauley?
A) The misspelling is simply a mistake made at Ellis Island. The correct spelling is 'Vaccariello'. Most of my relatives use that spelling. I don't think there was ever a desire to disassociate from Uncle Paulo at all. I get the impression that back in those days it was kind of an honor to have someone in that line of work in your family. My understanding is that although my family worked hard to make a living, it didn't hurt to drop a name or two in case of anything...if you know what I mean.
Q) When speaking with gangster descendants I find that two or three generations have to go by before anyone is willing to discuss said gangster. Is that the way it was with your family or was he discussed openly? If the latter were any family stories handed down?
A) We never really discussed Uncle Paolo. I don't think there was any reason for that other than the fact that my dad wasn't close to many people in his family. My dad was a cop so maybe that was part of the reason too.
Q) Were there any other Vaccarelli's involved in organized crime or would answering that guarantee us both a free trip to the bottom of the East river?
A) The East River is very very cold this time of year. But seriously, I don't think so. As far as I know it stopped with Uncle Paolo. As a matter of fact, my family has gone legit. At least that's what we're telling everyone. Some of my relatives have become quite successful, having careers in medicine, politics (both NY City and NY State), sports, on Broadway and as entrepreneurs. I think I'm actually the white trash of my family. One of my relatives was a professional boxer and was mentioned in Raging Bull, but as far as I know the name was changed to 'Baccariello' in the movie. I'm not sure why they changed it but I heard a rumor that they were 'asked' to. Another relative was the sanitation commissioner under Mayor Koch and later worked for the governor on NYS.
Q) Do mobophiles ever see your name in the paper and approach you at your shows for some gangster talk?
A) A few times over the years I've had people come up to me after shows and asked if I was related to Uncle Paolo. That's a weird situation. I usually respond with 'And you are?' The last thing I need is for someone to say''And this is for Monk and then blast away, especially after I just had a great show and didn't get a chance to sell my CDs. It's only happened a few times but I really think they were just descendants of business associates of my uncle. Curiosity more than anything. I did have one guy come up to me in Vegas and say, 'If you ever need anything, ANYTHING, call me.' Nice guy.
Q) Speaking of Monk, do you ever have an inexplicable urge to beat up anyone named Eastman?
A) Eastman, no. Downey, yes.
For more info on Greg and to see if he is performing in your town soon check out: