In person, Dennis Farina was the same as he appeared on TV and in movies: a "neighborhood guy" who embodied both Chicago and Italian, according to a local entrepreneur who knew him and now intends to honor him with a six-figure tribute.
Ron Onesti said he was crushed when he learned of Farina's recent death from a blood clot in his lung. But with his 8th annual Little Italy Fest-West coming up in Addison, Onesti also knew he had the perfect platform to send Farina off with a bang, literally.
Onesti, who owns the Arcada Theater in St. Charles, met Farina through a family connection. His younger brother and sister went to elementary school with Farina's children. Onesti also coached them in softball.
"So over the years, there were little events where everyone would just hang out," Onesti said. "He was who he was on screen. He was a neighborhood guy. A lot of the guys who became stars change. Dennis never forgot where he came from. He was always generous with his time whether it be with the Italian American Association or just making appearances."
Onesti said any memorial for Farina must be "larger than life" because he has no doubt Farina will be watching. That's why he's planned what he's billing as "one of the top three fireworks shows in the area." The $125,000 fireworks display will accompany a an Italian-themed entertainment lineup of the Bronx Wanderers, a New York City band that performs the hits from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to Dion and the Belmonts. Also on the bill will be The Eurorhythms from Columbus, Ohio; performances by Chicago "Jersey Boys" cast member John Michael Coppola; The Chicago Rat Pack tribute to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.; former Dean Martin "Golddigger" Joyce Garro; local favorites Tony Ocean, Vito Zatto, Diva Montell, Johnny Maggio, Pat Capuzzi, Jack Miuccio and Vince Amore. The Rock Stage will round out the party with Motown from The Moods, dance favorites from the HiLine Band and Legends Band.
Newly elected local Italian-American mayors will also be honored -- including Franco Coladipietro from Bloomingdale, Richard Veenstra from Addison, Nunzio Pulice from Wood Dale and Angelo "Skip" Saviano from Elmwood Park.
Members of Farina's family are also expected onstage for a special memorial tribute to Farina.
The festival begins at 5 p.m. Thursday at Centennial Park in Addison, just east of Rohlwing Road on Lake Street behind the Marcus Theatre. Events will run through Sunday evening. The Farina tribute is slated for Saturday.
For more information visit: www.oshows.com or calling (630) 962-7000.