SSTN: We are here with Dr. Rock Positano and John Positano, published authors of the fantastic book Dinner with DiMaggio. Doctor Positano, it is great to have this discussion with you. Thanks for coming to our blog.
You are welcome Paul. It’s great to have the chance to talk again with you.
Please begin by telling us a little about your book and how to purchase a copy.
Dinner With DiMaggio was a collaborative effort between my brother John and myself. We were a team throughout the entire process. In this book, we share stories about the Joe DiMaggio I knew…
Joe DiMaggio befriended me during the last ten years or so of his life, revealing many apects of his life including his relations with his family, his immigrant father, his disgruntled son, Marilyn Monroe, sports heroes from Gehrig, Ali, and Mickey Mantle, and also President Clinton,and the Hollywood Ratpack. Some of these revelations are historic and graphic, derived from Joe’s working class background, a background we both shared.
You were very fortunate in that you became close with one of baseball’s most famous players. In Dinner With DiMaggio you show who Joe DiMaggio was as a person. He, of course, was more than just a baseball player. What story best illustrates this fact.
Joe’s angst over his failures as a father and protecting Marilyn Monroe are perhaps the most revealing as to this “personage” question. Joe was powerless to affect his strained relationship with Joe Jr., His son was flunking out of Yale and he refused to help the son with the Yale administration.He essentially told the deans there to let Joe flunk out because Joe Jr. couldn’t get by on his name alone.
Joe DiMaggio had a profound impact on so many people. Can you briefly share the story of the time you and he were in Brooklyn and how he brought joy to an elderly person?
In Brooklyn, Joe was brought to the home of a dying old man that I knew as a patient and friend. Joe discussed, poignantly, life with this dying man, sharing the belief in God the two men had. Joe gave him a scapula, a religious icon, for the dying man to give the dying man hope. The man took the scapula to his grave. What triggered the religious rebirth was the old man’s photograph of Joe with his now dead mother displayed prominently in the old man’s room.
That is such a powerful story. I am sure there were so many stories that you could have told. You seemed to find the perfect balance though in putting this all together. The book flows naturally from one page to the next. What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?
Of course, my brother John provided outstanding writing and guidance in bringing it all together. This book was a true team effort.
The most challenging part of the book was reconciling Joe as my friend with Joe as a flawed icon.
This we think was done well enough to make the book the critically acclaimed, well-cited work it has become. It is a “warts and all” book which still encompasses Joe as a brilliant, benevolent, and courageous man who lived his last ten years as if he had no tomorrow.
The editing process for a book can be long and challenging. Looking back on that process, were there any stories about Joe DiMaggio that you wish you had included in your wonderful book?
There were post-publication stories…from third party celebrity NYPD detective Sonny Grosso on the real reason Joe and Frank Sinatra hated one another over Marilyn Monroe, based on an unfounded rumor Joe was profoundly affected by. There was also a story about how Joe hated the progeny of Robert Kennedy more than he ever merely disliked JFK’s family.
Do you have any other works in the process?
Yes. John and I are producers of the NBC/USA network “Grant’s Tomb” television series, a prospective movie on Joe DiMaggio presently going through various contracts, translations of Dinner with DiMaggio in Russian and other languages, a off-Broadway play also based on the book which is in partial draft based on a playright’s interpretation of the book, and other projects.
You have been a baseball fan your entire life. In the book and the movie The Natural, the main character wants nothing more than to walk down the street and have people say, “There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was.” You have been a baseball fan for many decades. Who was the best player you ever saw?
We loved Mickey Mantle but when he played one of his last games, he was a disappointing player.
Our final question is really just a collection of short answers:
What was your favorite baseball team growing up?
Our favorite team was the NY Mets.
Who was your favorite player?
Our favorite player was Mickey, but we were disappointed later.
What is your most prized collectible?
My favorite collectible was a photo of Joe DiMaggio and I that is still in my office. This photo is reproduced in the book. John says that it always seems like a father-son relationship in portrait.
Who is your favorite musical group or artist?
I have always loved Elton John and aspired to be such an artist. John loves surfing music like the Surfaris and the Beach Boys.
What is your favorite food (if it is pizza, what is your favorite pizza restaurant)?
Pizza and Neapolitan food, like spaghetti with white clam sauce, and soppressata and water mozzarella.
Please share anything else you’d like with our audience:
Just enjoy the book: critics say it was a joy to read and makes sometimes comical reading!
America needs a hero now and we hope that people will look at Joe DiMaggio as the true American Hero. He may not be here physically but his presence can be felt everywhere. Also it is so important that our youth be introduced to Joe DiMaggio. There is a whole generation that does not know who Joe DiMaggio is and what role Joe played in American history as well as sports.
Thank you so very much for your time – and for befriending me in the earliest days of this blog. You have always been such a class act and friend.
I look forward to a nice dinner together one day soon.