Meyer Lansky's Grandson talks about his famous relative

In today's issue of the Huffington Post, Meyer Lansky II, the grandson of  Meyer Lansky, writes about his famous grandfather and the actors who have either played him or played characters based on his grandfather:

In 1977 Grandpa Meyer and I were at Wolfie's in North Miami Beach, and I noticed two young boys in yarmulkes looking over at us. I was standing behind Grandpa when the boys walked up. One said, "Hey, Mr. Lansky, we'd like to get your autograph!" Grandpa paused for a moment. He looked seriously at the boys and said, "What did I do? Win an Academy Award?" One of the boys looked earnestly at Grandpa and said, "Well, we thought it would be worth some money someday." Grandpa then smiled and replied, "Sorry, son, I don't sign autographs."

As the years have passed, I have often remembered that afternoon in the deli. I wonder what Grandpa would have thought of the award-winning actors who have portrayed him, either as Meyer Lansky or characters based on Meyer Lansky. While Grandpa passed away in 1983 when I was 26, today, at 56, I watch. At times it's a bit shocking to hear his name (which is also my name) while enjoying a good story with great actors. I'm often entertained, and always appreciative of the casting, of Grandpa's appearances as part of the boys' legacy, including Charlie "Lucky" Luciano, Ben "Bugsy" Siegel and Frank Costello.

In every movie and television show featuring Grandpa, I listen for the voice, the inflection, and the vocabulary. I look for physical characteristics, the tailored wardrobe, and the Dunhill cigarette case. I compare. Every actor portraying Grandpa has proven exceptional in capturing a feature or essence, but I have my favorites, and I hope one day to see Grandpa portrayed in live theater.

Lee Strasberg as Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II, 1974

The most iconic film for Grandpa. He not only saw the movie but phoned Strasberg to congratulate and offer light criticism. In life, Grandpa spoke with his hands behind his back, and talked baseball (Yankees!), but could become irate quickly, as Roth suggests. Strasberg's acting emitted personal recollections of actual conversations, but I doubt Grandpa ever saw business guests in his home wearing an unbuttoned shirt. Roth's final scene in the Miami Airport is still haunting to me.

Robert De Niro as David "Noodles" Aaronson in Once Upon a Time in America, 1984

Reportedly De Niro requested an audience with Grandpa to prepare for this role but was turned down. Grandpa was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1982, passing on Jan. 15, 1983. However, De Niro clearly seized the role critically. The modest, humble demeanor and calm, steady articulation, only speaking when necessary, were familiar.   

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