We called him Vinnie Portobello. He was christened Arturo Vincenzo Antonio Benza, but he was a man of many nicknames, depending on who knew him and what crazy shit he did to merit the new name. For example, he got Vinnie Portobello for his love of mushrooms. I have personally seen him eat a bag of mushrooms all by himself in one sitting. That’s two pounds of s’hrooms, man, and that’s on top of the huge Porterhouse steak and pan fries he had on the other burner.
Some of his other names were Artie V, Tony Benz and Tony the Tits. He hated Tony the Tits though, and nobody and I mean nobody called him that to his face. Vinnie was about three hundred and twenty-five pounds of hard muscle. Just slapping him good-naturedly on the back was like slapping a whole side of beef. There was just no give. And he had that infamous Italian temper to go with all that power, but along with that immense bulk, Vinnie also sported huge boobs. I suppose it went with the real estate, but unless you had a death wish or were in love with your dentist, you had better not call him Tony the Tits to his face.
He got Tony Benz not because of his last name like we told everyone, no sir. He got Tony Benz for jackin a Mercedes Benz one night when we all got drunk on the five bottles of wine we stole from his folks; I’m sorry Mr. and Mrs. B. We were just walking down the street, bottles in paper bags, and looking for something to do. There she was keys in the ignition and just begging us to take her for a spin, so we did. When he shoehorned himself behind the wheel of that car I thought for sure he wouldn’t be able to steer the damn thing. He finally figured out the button for the electric seat control, but even with the seat all the way back, the steering wheel still touched his huge belly. Man that was a night to remember and we didn’t wreck the car or nothing like some hoodlums, no way. We just drove that fancy coupé around, finished off the wine and returned the Benz back to where we got it, like we were taught to do if we borrowed something. We even locked it up too, but I bet the owner was scratching his head the next morning wondering where the hell all the wine bottles had come from. To this day I still wonder if he had a spare set of keys.
Artie V. he got once over a pool game with some guys from Upstate New York. We were all showing off our driver’s license pictures, and one of these guys said Vinnie could be in the TV show The Sopranos and his name could be Artie V. We all had a good laugh over that one, but I think Vinnie liked the idea of being a movie star. He stood there like a freakin wall, with this big assed grin on his face and a faraway look in his eye.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s who I knew as Vinnie Portobello, and it is with a heavy heart I say good bye to my buddy. Rest well Vinnie, and may God Bless.