Ray Liotta, the award-winning actor who enjoyed a full career in his profession died this week at the age of 67.
He was born in Newark, NJ, an orphan abandoned in an orphanage, he was adopted by Mary and Alfred Liotta. Mary was a clerk in Union and Alfred owned an auto parts store. Ray grew up in Union, he went to Union elementary schools and graduated in 1973 from Union High School. He was athletic and participated in several extracurricular activities.
I had the opportunity to speak with Ray and also had a quick chat with a few of his friends who were in attendance at Ray’s induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2016. I found Ray genuine, humble and grateful for the honor of being inducted but cringe a bit at the large number of people who wanted to meet him. He also said he was not a big fan of crowds and was in the spotlight.
His camaraderie with his friends growing up in Union was so genuine and his friends in turn were thrilled with his success, especially during his induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. Ray loved being with them so much. He kept telling his friends that he needed to see them more often and they broke his chops by reminding him that he was a big movie star.
They were telling stories from the neighborhood and the laughter and back-slapping could be heard for miles. I had such a good feeling hearing that as it reminded me so much of hanging out with my friends, you know the friends you may not have seen or talked to in a while , but the minute you log in, it’s like you never left.
He spoke of a simple and enjoyable time growing up in Union and he believed that the people he met and knew on the streets and the support he received from his parents and sister back home helped him. allowed him to become a job he loved.
I asked Ray about his preparation for his film and television roles, I had heard stories about his intensity and thoroughness. He said the more he knew about the character and preparing for a role helped him focus on delivering his performance.
For example, to prepare for his character in the movie “Goodfellas”, he listened to several days of tapes the Feds had recorded with the real Henry Hill, his character in Goodfellas. Ray was a bit taken aback by how nonchalant Hill spoke about the crimes and criminals he surrounded himself with.
Ray was asked to play Frank Sinatra years ago and the producers turned it down, years later he was asked to play Frank Sinatra in another project Frank’s daughters had producer credits with. He initially said no but then agreed. In order to perfect New Jersey’s own Sinatra he studied hours of Sinatra’s music, interviews watched movies and it paid off as his Sinatra in the HBO made for Rat Pack TV movie reviews stood out as a good performance.
He did interviews but they were very rare between the two. He was never a fan of premieres or the press tour of a movie that was coming out. Ray didn’t like watching his films once they were made, he said he may have seen a third of them after production.
Ray Liotta was a down-to-earth guy who had nothing to do with the tough, conniving characters he portrayed.
He had an immense passion for his craft, a deep love and respect for his friends and family, and a place in his heart for New Jersey, his home.
Ray Liotta will be missed.
The above post reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. All opinions expressed are those of Big Joe.