Back in the late 1990s and early 2000’s I used to take my family to our local church in Yonkers, NY for mass every Sunday. An elderly couple used to sit in front of us all the time. When they arrived, I jokingly would whisper to my wife, “It’s Little Old Man” and then change the tone of my voice “that’s Lilloman, Lilloman,” lines I frequently quoted from Mel Brooks’ classic comedy ‘High Anxiety.’ I did this routine for months.
After a while, we would see the couple after mass and exchange pleasantries but never formerly introduced ourselves. Sadly, as time went by, ‘Little Old Man’ passed away.
After one particular mass, we saw the woman walking home alone on a hot New York Summer Sunday afternoon. We offered her a ride home and finally introduced ourselves. Her name was Mrs. Italiano. She accepted the ride home and this became a routine. Several weeks later, Mrs. Italiano invited us into her home. We accepted.
She brought us into her living room where she had a display case with various awards. “This is where I keep some awards my daughter received,” she said with pride. I spotted a gold plated statue award and asked, “Is that an Oscar?” “Oh yes, my daughter is Anne Bancroft. She won that for her role in ‘The Miracle Worker.’”
I was flabbergasted. I had no idea that Mrs. Italiano was Anne Bancroft’s mother, which meant, all that time, I was regularly and unknowingly calling Mel Brooks’ father-in-law “Little Old Man,” a movie line written and said by Mel Brooks himself.
“Would you like to hold the Oscar,” asked Mrs. Italiano. She handed it to me, and it felt wonderful to hold a historic, iconic, cinematic award, especially one that was won for a brilliant acting performance.
Fate and coincidences are indeed the miracle workings of the Universe. And yes, the Oscar was heavy.