Body of ‘Green Book’ actor Frank Vallelonga Jr. dumped in Bronx


The final scene for a Bronx-born actor and restaurateur came with a heartbreaking ending.

Frank Vallelonga Jr., 60, whose corpse was brutally dumped on a sidewalk in the Bronx, was identified Thursday as the eponymous son of a one-time Copacabana bouncer played by Viggo Mortensen in the Oscar-winning movie “Green Book” and the brother of a two-time Academy Award winner.

Vallelonga was the son of the late Frank Sr., known as “Tony Lip”, who accompanied famed black pianist Don Shirley as a bodyguard on a tour of the Jim Crow-era South in the early 1960s before an unlikely transformation from doorman to actor – and a recurring role on ‘The Sopranos’.

The suspect who was arrested for abandoning the lifeless body apparently loaded the corpse into a vehicle rented by the victim’s acclaimed brother, Nick, for the Nov. 29 drive to its final concrete resting place, it is alleged.

“That guy was already dead,” driver Steven Smith told police, according to an indictment. “He overdosed. I had nothing to do with that.”

The death car would be used in the shooting of a John Travolta movie in New Jersey, police sources told the Daily News. Neighbors said filming on the streets of Franklin Lakes, NJ, was scheduled for last month, with Frank announcing he was directing the shoot that never happened.

The dead man was discovered at 3:51 a.m. Monday following an alarm call of a body outside a Hunts Point factory, and police said video surveillance and witnesses confirmed that the New Jersey-plated car stopped before pulling the corpse from the passenger seat and leaving behind. .

Vallelonga’s cause of death remains officially unconfirmed, with a spokeswoman for the city’s medical examiner saying an investigation has been launched, but it could be some time before the results are confirmed.

“I loved the man. He was a great guy,” Sopranos star Vincent Pastore told The News. “The last time I saw Frankie he came to one of my acting classes in town about six months ago.”

The body was found without any identification, leaving the victim’s name a mystery at first. Vallelonga Jr. was the owner of Tony Lip’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, named after his famous father, until the eatery in Franklin Lakes, NJ closed during the pandemic.

Vallelonga Jr.’s own attempt at an acting career spanned nine credits, including “Green Book,” where he played his Uncle Rudy, and an appearance on “The Sopranos.”

An Instagram photo from 2019, when “Green Book” won the Best Picture Oscar, shows a tuxedo-clad Frank Jr. embracing Lady Gaga.

Christine Lepporino, 43, whose father owned a nearby Jersey barbershop, recalled how excited Vallelonga was by the film’s release.

“He was so proud of it,” she recalls. “It was so exciting… I think he celebrated it here too. We congratulated him on it.”

From left: Tony Lip, Nick Vallelonga and Frank Vallelonga attend a screening of "Harry... A communication failure" at the Chakra on November 26, 2008 in Paramus, New Jersey.

Smith, 35, arrested a day after the body was discovered, faces eight charges, including concealment of a human corpse, possession of a stolen vehicle and grand larceny. He was released without bail following his indictment at the Bronx Criminal Court.

The gray 2021 Hyundai Elantra that transported the dead Vallelonga was tied to his Academy Award-winning younger brother Nick, according to the court. He had not given anyone permission to use the vehicle.

The veteran Hollywood filmmaker co-wrote the screenplay for ‘Green Book’ and bagged a pair of Oscars as his movie star ascended.

Smith lives in a homeless shelter in the Bronx, according to police.

A spokesman for Legal Aid told The News that Smith had no role in the death, as evidenced by the Bronx’s criminal indictment and charges filed against him for dumping the remains.

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According to Smith, a woman named Pam told him that someone had overdosed in a car. Smith admitted to driving off in the vehicle and leaving the body behind, it is alleged.

“I got the body out by pulling it out of the car onto the ground,” Smith reportedly told police. “I don’t know that man at all.”

The father of the Vallelonga brothers was perhaps best known as an actor for his role as New York mob boss Carmine Lupertazzi in “The Sopranos,” along with minor roles in classic organized crime films such as “Goodfellas,” “Donnie Brasco,” and “The Godfather.” ‘. .”

The patriarch of the family got his job with musician Shirley during a renovation at the Copa and spent 18 months on the road with him. Shirley, who died in 2013, requested that no film be made until after his death and the story remained known only to the Vallelonga family.

An employee of a nearby truck and tire shop recounted the scene when police arrived to find the body.

“They found the body next to the bulldozer,” he said. “Some workers found his body there and called the police.”

With Nicholas Williams

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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