The Cuomos, ‘The Godfather’ and the ‘Fredo’ Insult

[Want to get New York Today by email? Here’s the sign-up.]

It’s Wednesday. ?Brooklyn Public Library’s BookMatch event is from noon to 8 p.m. today. Living, breathing bibliophiles will be at the Central Library to suggest reading materials to bookworms.

Weather: Cloudy and cooler, with a chance of rain and possibly thunderstorms all day. High around 80.

Alternate-side parking: In effect today, suspended tomorrow (Feast of the Assumption).

Mario Cuomo, the son of Italian immigrants in Queens who supporters said could have sat in the Oval Office or the Supreme Court, spent years wrestling what he called the stereotype of Italian-Americans as gangsters and thugs.

When a mob boss was shot and killed in Manhattan in 1985, Mr. Cuomo — then in the first of his three terms as New York’s governor — urged reporters not to use the word “mafia” in describing the crime.

To make his point, Mr. Cuomo invoked a movie he said helped perpetuate that stereotype.

“The conservatives who attack me,” Mr. Cuomo said at the time, “they want to write a piece that’s negative, it almost always mentions ‘The Godfather,’ always mentions ethnicity.” “Mafia,” he added, was “an Italian word, and every time you say it, you suggest to people that organized crime is Italian — it’s an ugly stereotype.”

This history came flooding back this week when a video on YouTube showed a conservative provocateur using a “Godfather” reference to taunt Chris Cuomo, one of Mr. Cuomo’s sons.

In the video, a man is heard calling the younger Mr. Cuomo, a CNN anchor, “Fredo.” Mr. Cuomo curses and is eventually pulled away from the man by bystanders.

[CNN’s Chris Cuomo threatened a man who called him “Fredo.”]

An angry Mr. Cuomo is heard threatening to throw the man down some stairs and saying, “Fredo is from ‘The Godfather.’ He was that weak brother. And they use it as an Italian aspersion.”

The name is tantamount to “the N-word” for Italian-Americans, he said.

The movie

“The Godfather” and its two sequels are based on a novel by Mario Puzo about the rise of a Mafia figure in New York. He is succeeded by his youngest son, Michael, who initially wants nothing to do with the family business.

The oldest son, Sonny, has more temper than intellect.

The middle son, Fredo, is a hapless twig who is sent to a Las Vegas casino to do business under the tutelage and protection of another crime boss.

The Cuomos

Mario Cuomo graduated with honors from St. John’s University School of Law in 1956, but said he couldn’t get jobs at white-shoe law firms because he had a vowel at the end of his name.

When he eyed a presidential run in 1992, his rival Bill Clinton likened him to Mafia hoodlums.

Mario Cuomo’s oldest son, Andrew, is the current governor of New York and has also bristled at references to mobsters in pop culture. Like his father and brother, Governor Cuomo has complained about Italian-American stereotypes in media. Then last year, Joseph Percoco, the governor’s former close aide, was convicted in a bribery scheme. During the trial, it came to light Mr. Percoco had been perpetuating the stereotypes.

Prosecutors said Mr. Percoco referred to bribery payments he sought as “ziti,” a term also used in “The Sopranos,” the HBO drama about a mob family in New Jersey.

On Tuesday, Chris Cuomo wrote on Twitter, “I should be better than the guys baiting me.” A CNN spokesman defended him, as did Sean Hannity of Fox News.

The video

Brandon Recor, who runs the YouTube channel that posted the video of Chris Cuomo, told The Times he was sent the footage on Sunday by the man involved in the confrontation. Mr. Recor said the man requested anonymity because he lived in New York and was worried about retribution from the governor.

Mr. Recor said the man was at a bar in Shelter Island when he approached Mr. Cuomo. The man, according to Mr. Recor, “listens to Rush Limbaugh a lot, and for whatever reason, Rush Limbaugh refers to Chris Cuomo as Fredo. So the guy was like, ‘Hey, Fredo, can I get a photo?’”

As the video made the rounds on Twitter, President Trump criticized the CNN host, writing: “I thought Chris was Fredo also.”

From The Times

This carnivorous plant invaded New York. That may be its only hope.

Jeffrey Epstein’s death: Two guards slept through checks and falsified records, officials said.

Another New York police officer killed himself yesterday, continuing a rash of suicides that has claimed eight lives this year.

He says a priest abused him. Fifty years later, he can now sue.

New York City libraries’ Culture Pass signed up 70,000 in its first year.

[Want more news from New York and around the region? Check out our full coverage.]

The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.

What we’re reading

A cyclist said he got a ticket for riding his bike on Fifth Avenue, where there is no bike lane. [Alex Goldmark, a senior supervising producer of “Planet Money,” on Twitter]

A K-8 parochial school serving Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Park Slope will shut on Aug. 31. [Bklyner]

Alec Baldwin is “The Hamptons’ Mr. Everywhere Man!” [Hamptons.com]

Aggressive squirrels can be a problem, especially if you’re trying to feed them. [Wall Street Journal]

Coming up today

A Beatles-inspired evening in Queens begins with a printmaking workshop at Little Pulp, a children’s print shop, and continues with an outdoor concert. 4:30 p.m. [$25]

Press flowers and make a framed display with the Brooklyn Brainery. 5:30 p.m. [$35]

The author Jess Row discusses his book “White Flights: Race, Fiction and the American Imagination” at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. 7:30 p.m. [Free]

Join The Baffler magazine on the Bad Society Cruise, departing from Manhattan and sailing the East River with the bands Girlpool and Masters of Fright. 7:30 p.m. [$30]

— Vivian Ewing

Events are subject to change, so double-check before heading out. For more events, see the going-out guides from The Times’s culture pages.

And finally: The smaller gathering before Flame Con

In 1970, fans of comics, movies and science fiction met up in San Diego. Forty-nine years later, that gathering is the international entertainment extravaganza known as Comic-Con.

In 2015, a gathering similar to the 1970 meet-up took place in Brooklyn; it was for L.G.B.T.Q. fans and creators. Today that event, Flame Con, bills itself as the world’s largest L.G.B.T.Q. comic convention.

Flame Con, which is this weekend at the Sheraton New York Times Square, has now inspired a smaller convention: the first Bluestockings Queer + Trans Comics Fest, at Bluestockings, a bookstore, cafe and activist center in Manhattan.

The festival is running from noon to 6 p.m. through Friday.

The Bluestockings festival caters to a range of fans: people who can’t wait for Flame Con; those who want to see artists in a smaller venue; and readers who are new to the genre, according to its creator, Joan Dark, an event coordinator at the center who uses the gender-neutral Mx. in place of Ms. or Mr.

The event will highlight “Grease Bats,” the latest book from the cartoonist Archie Bongiovanni. Mx. Dark compared the book with the critically acclaimed “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel, who pushed the boundaries of the memoir and the graphic novel.

The Bluestockings event will also feature “A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities” by the artists Mady G. of Kingston, N.Y., and J.R. Zuckerberg of Brooklyn. The book is good “for people not familiar with the scene or just starting their journey,” Mx. Dark said.

“For a lot of our local artists, independent folks, they can’t really afford to sell their stuff at larger conventions,” Mx. Dark said. “It matters to me that other queer and trans creators are represented, that we get to support each other in ways that are tangible.”

To artists, tangible support often means buying their work.

“It’s one thing to say we should support queer and trans folks who are struggling,” Mx. Dark said. “It’s another thing to go out and say, ‘I’m buying your work. I’m supporting your livelihood.’”

Metropolitan Diary: East River ride

Dear Diary:

I was on the upper deck of a ferry on the East River at around 8:30 on a sunny June morning. A casually dressed young man with a brown beard held up a doughnut and, with the Williamsburg Bridge in the background, took a picture with his cellphone.

He ate the doughnut and, laughing, started to tap the phone’s keyboard with his thumbs. He paused to read what he’d written, laughed again and tapped some more. I started to laugh, too.

When we got off the boat at Pier 11, I approached him.

“Someday, you will look back longingly at the picture of your departed doughnut,” I said.

He smiled.

“I sent the picture to my family in Ireland and told them America is the place to be,” he said. “The doughnuts are as big as bridges.”

We laughed and went our separate ways.

On the walk to my office, I stopped at a coffee cart and ordered a doughnut.

— Robert H. Tembeckjian

New York Today is published weekdays around 6 a.m. Sign up here to get it by email. You can also find it at nytoday.com.

We’re experimenting with the format of New York Today. What would you like to see more (or less) of? Post a comment or email us: [email protected].

Source: Read Full Article