Danny Aiello admits that he backed into his acting career by mistake. That’s easy to see when you begin at the beginning: Raised by his loving and fiercely resilient mother in the tenements of Manhattan and the South Bronx, and forever haunted by the death of his infant brother, Danny struggled early on to define who he was and who he could be. Shoeshine boy, numbers runner, and pool hustler were among the first identities he tried on.
After getting into trouble on the streets, he enlisted in the army at seventeen, served in Germany, and was honorably discharged. Later, as an unemployed high school dropout raising a family of his own, Danny was burdened with serious depression by the time he landed a job as a bouncer at a Hell’s Kitchen comedy club. Taking to the stage in the wee hours to belt out standards, Danny Aiello found his voice and his purpose: He was born to act.
He write about all that and more in his new memoir, I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else: My Life on the Street, On the Stage, and in the Movies.