APAC Honors Dito Montiel
Astoria Performing Arts Center’s annual gala took place on March 15, at the newly renovated Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. The night’s entertainment began with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres from 6:30 to 8; then guests were ushered into the museum’s state of the art theater for a presentation in honor of Astoria native son, filmmaker, musician, writer and former model, Dito Montiel. After thanking the many sponsors and supporters of the event, as well as APAC’s board of directors, Executive Director Taryn Sacramone introduced Montiel, and a short movie that highlighted his many successes. The piece, produced by Justin Adler, summarized Montiel’s remarkable life so far: Montiel is the director of four films, all of which were filmed exclusively in New York City and Astoria, including Empire State, currently in pre-production, and A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, based on Montiel’s novel of the same name; he has worked with actors on the level of Robert Downey Jr., Rosario Dawson, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes and Channing Tatum; his band, Gutterboy, was signed with Geffen Records in the late 80s, and released the hit song, “Growing Up Under the RR”. Montiel even boxed in the Golden Gloves, and modeled for Calvin Klein and Versace. Eddie Krumble is the Clapper is the name of Montiel’s second publishing success, released in 2007. With so much still to learn about this remarkable artist, attendees were then treated to an interview with Montiel, conducted by founder of the Why Leave Astoria Web site, Ran Craycraft.
Craycraft first asked Montiel what he thinks of Astoria now, and how he thinks it’s changed. The filmmaker replied, “I love it here, I really do,” while he went on to say that he still has friends in the city, and doesn’t think it has changed that much. When Craycraft asked what it was like working with some of the greatest actors on the planet, Montiel admitted to being starstruck. About his films, Craycraft asked: “We recognize the places, but would we recognize the people?” Montiel replied that his characters and situations are basically a compilation of the people he knew and the things he used to do. When asked which character was most like him, Montiel joked, “Whoever does the least.” Finally, Craycraft presented the artist with a series of rapid fire questions requiring one-word answers: Clippers or Lakers?…Knicks. Best film of 2011?… [The documentary] Bill Cunningham NY. Best Pizza?…Rosario’s. Favorite Queensborn celebrity?…Tony Bennett.
Sacramone then introduced 2011 APAC honoree Peter Vallone Jr., noting that it is because of Vallone’s commitment to the arts that the diving pool in Astoria Park is being renovated into an outdoor theater. Vallone talked about his first experience with Montiel, which was when the director asked him to stop the N train for a scene he was shooting. Vallone said he finally agreed to do it because of the fact that his mother taught Montiel in elementary school. “She’s so proud of you…” Vallone added, “I’m proud of you, Astoria’s proud of you; you are truly a gem to us.”
The evening wrapped up with a musical medley of well-known songs from favorite films, arranged and directed by Jeffrey Campos, choreographed by Christine O’Grady and featuring singers Sevan Greene, Nicole Mangi, Emmy Raver-Lampman and Stephan Trafton. The upbeat presentation peaked with a four-song compilation from West Side Story, and a stunning melding of the songs “Home”, from the Broadway show, The Wiz, and “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”, from the Elvis Presley film, Blue Hawaii. Finally, guests were treated to dessert, a raffle, a chance to peruse the museum’s exhibitions of movie memorabilia, and a reminder not to miss APAC’s upcoming spring musical production of The Secret Garden, directed by Tom Wojtunik and opening in May.