Ray Liotta — a Jersey Guy Who Made Good
Ray Liotta, the award-winning actor who enjoyed a full career in his profession, passed away this week at the young 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 a car parts store. Ray was raised in Union, he went to Union grade schools and graduated in 1973 from Union High School. He was athletic and participated in several extracurricular activities.
I got a chance to talk with Ray and I also had a quick conversation with a couple of his friends who were in attendance at Ray’s induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2016. I found Ray to be genuine, humbled, and grateful for the honor of getting inducted but cringing a little at the huge number of people that wanted to meet him. He also stated that he’s not a big fan of crowds and being in the spotlight of attention.
His camaraderie with his friends from growing up in Union was so genuine and his friends in turn were thrilled about his success, especially at his New Jersey Hall of Fame induction. Ray enjoyed being with them so much. He kept on saying to his friends that he needed to see them more frequently and they busted his chops by reminding him that he was a big movie star.
They were telling stories from the neighborhood and you could hear the laughter and back-slapping for miles. I got such a great feeling overhearing that as it reminded me so much of hanging out with my friends, you know the friends who you may not have seen or talked to in a while but the minute you connect it’s like you never left.
He talked of a simple, 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 at home allowed him to grow into doing a profession that he loved.
I asked Ray about his preparation for his roles in movies and TV, I had heard the stories of how intense and thorough he is. He said that the more he knew about the character and preparation for a role helped him concentrate on delivering his performance.
For instance, to prepare for his character in the movie “Goodfellas” he listened to many days' worth of tape that the feds had recorded with the actual Henry Hill, his character in Goodfellas. Ray was a little taken back by the way Hill spoke nonchalantly of the crimes and criminals he surrounded himself with.
Ray was asked to play Frank Sinatra years ago and turned the producers down, years later he was asked to play Frank Sinatra in another project that Frank’s daughters had some producer credits with. He at first 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 TV movie Rat Pack critics said stood out as a good performance.
He has done interviews but they have been far and few in-between. He was never a fan of premieres or any press tour of a movie that was being released. Ray didn’t like to watch his movies once they were made, he said that maybe he’s seen a third of them after production.
Ray Liotta was a down-to-earth guy who was nothing like the tough and conniving characters that he portrayed.
He had a tremendous passion for his craft, 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.