Burt Young Lightly Spars on His Life From Rocky to THE LAST VIG

Gil Kaan

Writer, Registered Critic

Burt Young, universally known for his Oscar-nominated role as Paulie in the Rocky film series, will be starring in David Varriale's world premiere of THE LAST VIG beginning January 12, 2017 at the Zephyr Theatre. "Vig," for the majority of us who don't know, means the cut charged by a bookmaker for processing a bet. This actor/writer/painter took some time to answer a few questions for Better Lemons.

What initially attracted you to THE LAST VIG?
To me, it's a slice of life from our bottom fears to the top of our politics. Big Joe is in the middle of it all.

Had you been acquainted with David Varriale before?

If you were to comment on your experience with THE LAST VIG, what would it be?
Solid performances by all. A pleasure to be on the stage with this gang.

What can you tell us about Big Joe, your role in THE LAST VIG, without giving too much away?
Big Joe is a survivor, until he isn't.

Have you been back on stage since your Broadway debut in 1986 in Reinaldo Povod's CUBA AND HIS TEDDY BEAR, with Robert De Niro and Ralph Macchio?
Yes – did a one-man play called ARTIST FOUND.

What prodded you into acting in theatre now?
A lack of attention. And a very exciting true-to-life play.

Are you approachable or receptive to young creatives (writers, directors, producers) who want to work with you?
Of course.

How would you, yourself, define a cast breakdown description of “a Burt Young-type”?
Handsome, articulate, studious, refined. A pleasure to be with.

You've written two stage plays: SOS and A LETTER TO ALICIA AND THE NEW YORK CITY GOVERNMENT FROM A MAN WITHA BULET IN HIS HEAD. Any immediate plans to bring them to the boards?
I've had enough trouble with them before.

What memorable incident you experienced with Lee Strasberg studying at the Actors Studio can you share with us?
He laughed at me when I changed my name.

You were a professional boxer winning all of your 14 professional fights. Your boxing expertise must have come in handy in shooting the Rocky films. Were you the go-to guy for quick boxing technical questions? Or was there a separate boxing technical consultant?
No, but it was 17 pro fights. Stallone really choreographed all the movie fights like he had a camera in his brain.

You got to spar with Muhammad Ali for a charity event, becoming good friends afterwards. What do you remember of that once-in-a-lifetime night?
Just that it was a once-in-a-lifetime event for me.

Was your first passion acting or painting?
Painting. Acting was too far removed from me and the neighborhood.

What is on the near horizon for Burt Young?
I hope we take THE LAST VIG to New York.

What would you like your audiences of THE LAST VIG to leave with feeling?
That they saw something strong and honest and worthy of a two-hour visit.

For schedule, tickets and show info, log onto www.plays411.com/lastvig

Gil Kaan, a former Managing Editor of the now-defunct Genre magazine, has had the privilege of photographing and interviewing some major divas in his career, including Ann-Margret, Diana Ross, Faye Dunaway, Carol Channing, Shirley MacLaine, Catherine Deneuve, Liza Minnelli, Sandra Bernhard, Anna Nicole Smith, Margaret Cho, and three Catwomen—Eartha Kitt, Lee Meriwether and Julie Newmar. He had the fortuitous opportunity to conduct Lily Tomlin’s coming out interview. Gil has since reviewed movies and theatre for a number of local and national outlets.
A photo montage of Gil’s Halloween Carnavale photos through the last decade was recently included in the WeHo@ 25 juried exhibition.