Photo: The man of the hour.
Today I'm going to tell you someone else's story. It has all of the elements a good story needs: action, adventure, laughter, tears, love, loss, drama, unicorns and snacks. This also serves as a very late Christmas gift to Manthony, because the story is his. And I guess if any of you people were as nice to me as Manthony is, I'd write a story about you, too. Enjoy ....
As a child, Antoine Ciccone Rothschild Soprano Callaway had it all. He was the product of an illicit affair between the smoky chanteuse, Peggy Lipton, and a half-caucasian, half-Native American descendant of Red Cloud the Warrior, named Pink Eye. They found out they were in a family way four months after they ended the affair. Pink Eye didn't want an illegitimate child with a woman he couldn't marry, and Peggy was already married to Quincy Jones. They decided to put their son up for adoption after he was born, and hoped their paths would never cross again.
At the orphanage, a six-year old Antoine showed signs of great leadership and talent. He fancied himself a unicorn wrangler, and made sure the snack situation was acceptable. The orphans would band together while cleaning the place from top to bottom, following his directions, and sing merry songs about their hard-knock lives; Antoine, with his choir-boy falsetto, moved the entire orphanage to tears one day when he sang the Ave Maria. This was overheard by a nice Midwestern couple interested in adoption, who snatched Antoine up within 24 hours. They were Catholic, and felt his singing was a sign from God. Antoine moved with his new family, the Ciccone's, to Detroit, Michigan; he was very excited, although it was not meant to be.
Antoine clashed with his new 'siblings' from the start; there were six of them, three of them living at home. The one sibling he felt a special affinity to was Madonna, but she was living at the university, and the rumors said she was moving to New York City. He fought with the others, and finally ended up biting the dog; the Ciccone's loved him, but had to send him back. He was just too angry. He lost touch with Madonna, but hoped he might see her again.
After a short stint at the orphanage again, Antoine was adopted by the Rothschild family, one of the most powerful families in the country. His upbringing was rich with private European schooling, worldwide travel, and opportunities most people can only dream of. He owned cars, horses, contemporary art and antiques before he reached his sixteenth birthday; he was a powerhouse by 18, when he bought controlling stock in his father's company through a shady business coup. In short, he had everything money could buy. But Antoine was dissatisfied with his life. He longed to know his biological parents and find out his true ancestry. Even with all of his resources, he just couldn't find any information on them. He fell into a deep depression.
During Antoine's 'Blue Period', he hit the lowest he had ever been. He voted for Bob Dole and donated money to the Republican party; joined Scientology; broke up with his many girlfriends, all of them international models; started smoking; cut off ties with his family; sold all of his stocks and antiques; and moved to an old hunting cabin in the woods. He isolated, and communed with nature. Antoine had been known for his three-piece suits and impeccable taste in overpriced shoes, but during his time in the woods, he went 'native' (ironically). The woods understood his hollowed heart. There was something missing, and he was going to find it in the forest.
After five long years of deep, predictable soul-searching (and the subsequent bad poetry that came along with it), Antoine returned to civilization a different man. He had hardened himself against any disappointment, problem, or ailment that might befall him. He changed his name, and his purpose. The resentment he'd had--over his life, his parents, and isolation--turned him into something hard and tough. He married a small-town girl, and joined the military. He went overseas to fight in the Great War, and came back a war hero; he'd risked his life many times to save the lives of others. He led many reconnaissance missions into the unrelenting desert, because he could not leave his soldiers behind. While investigating a cave in Saudi Arabia, he came upon Osama bin Laden playing Scrabble by candlelight, and captured him; Antoine and his team brought Osama home to the U.S. for some good-looking, old fashioned, unbiased American justice.
Congress passed special legislation to re-instate the Fidelity Medallion, a medal that had been long since forgotten. The Fidelity Medallion was created in 1780 for the soldiers who brought down Major John Andre, the British major who helped Benedict Arnold defect. It was awarded to three men and then forgotten, but because of Antoine's unusual gallantry in battle, combined with his extraordinary fidelity and essential services, he was awarded the Fidelity Medallion; he had the Latin inscription from the medal tattooed onto his lower back, in the tramp stamp area: Amor patriae vincit, meaning 'The love of country conquers'. He divorced his wife, refused to be interviewed, and moved to New York. He just wanted to blend in.
By this time, Antoine--in his mid-twenties and living in the meat-packing district--was going by the name 'Anthony', and playing up his assumed Italian heritage. Although he came home a war hero, he had no direction. He couldn't find work, because 'war hero' doesn't translate on a resume; he fell behind on his bills, and eventually wound up on the streets. He was found in a gutter, outside of an Italian restaurant, half-dead from the cold. The restaurant was Italian-owned and the food was good, but it always looked permanently closed. When he came to, he was in a gold-gilded room, in an oversized feather bed; a man in a suit came over to him and introduced himself as Tony Soprano. That was how Anthony became part of the Mob.
Anthony's years with the Sopranos were strange; on the one hand, he had a new family, but on the other, he was just muscle to them. He shook business owners down for money, followed the Mob's enemies, and orchestrated complex, international heists in the name of 'family'. He married Tony Soprano's daughter and took her last name. He organized the biggest art heist in history when he and an old friend, Bjorn Hoen, walked into the Munch Museum in Oslo, and stole the widely-famous paintings, The Scream and Madonna, in broad daylight. While Bjorn took the fall--conveniently, along with five other enemies of the Mob--Anthony's purpose began to reshape itself. He knew this wasn't his calling in life. He knew he couldn't keep doing this kind of work; he didn't even think he was cut out for "working". He told his boss that he was taking a vacation, and headed to Tibet. Spiritual cleansing was his only goal.
While in Tibet, Anthony took a vow of silence, shaved his head, and got down to the business of being kooky. He felt like an orange-robed retard at the airport, but he learned a lot about himself. He ran into Richard Gere, who became a spiritual mentor to him, and he slowly began to find himself. When Richard told Antoine that Madonna was making an unplanned tour stop in Tibet, he contacted her people, and they had a small, broken-family reunion. This was a key meeting for him, and he became more focused on finding his real family than ever before.
When Anthony went back to New York, he broke his ties with the Mob; he feared for his life, but Tony assured him of his safety. He divorced his second wife, took every penny he had, and began the long journey home. He went to the Rothschilds, the Ciccone's, the orphanage, the forest; he asked them questions, and asked their forgiveness. He hit a dead end in New Mexico somewhere, and could feel another 'Blue Period' coming on--perhaps this time would be a 'Cerulean Blue Period'--when Madonna called. She was in California and invited him to come stay with her. She thought they made a good team. He jumped on a Greyhound the very next day.
Anthony decided he needed a fresh start again. He changed his last name to Callaway, because he had always felt "called away" to a greater purpose: finding his real parents. Madonna was supportive throughout the process, urging him to find his voice through music. She introduced him around, and as a result, he joined a boy band called The Backdoor Boys. They gained notoriety through their tepid music and pelvic-thrusting videos on MTV, and suddenly Anthony was in the spotlight again. He married a girl from Danity Kane, the slutty one, and appeared in People magazine. He vowed to use his fame and success to find his parents, he just didn't know how, especially with so much cocaine around.
The Backdoor Boys were nominated for Best New Lip-Synching Artist at the Grammy's; Anthony and Madonna went together. At the after party, Anthony was talking to his future ex-wife, and a waiter caught his eye. He was surprised by this, because he was a ladies' man and always had been; but this waiter had something special, he could just tell. He started to signal the server--while the ex-wife stalked off--when Madonna came up to him and introduced him to old friends of hers, Miss Peggy Lipton and Quincy Jones. Peggy knew Anthony was hers the minute she laid eyes on him, but said nothing; he was the spitting image of Pink Eye, right down to the rugged Native jawline and dainty, artistic hands. She invited him to lunch with her the next day, and he accepted, not knowing how close he was to his purpose.
Over the next two years, Peggy would befriend Anthony, but couldn't tell him the truth. By this time, he had divorced his third wife, moved in with the 'waiter', gotten clean, and had become a well-known pastry chef. Bryn, the waiter, was actually a brilliant rocket scientist, but was also getting his PhD in social anthropology, so he worked on the side to surreptitiously study people in social situations. Under Bryn's guidance, Anthony became Manthony, in a show of LGBT solidarity, and to assure people he was really in to men. His life was much better at this point, but he still thought about his parents, and wondered how to find them. He became known for his artistic cupcakery, and, being a celebrity whore, was very proud when celebrities asked for his cupcakes specifically.
Peggy Lipton was being interviewed by James Lipton, while eating a bowl of Lipton chicken noodle soup, when she choked on a noodle and was rushed to the hospital. After being discharged, she went straight to Manthony's apartment in Chelsea and told him the truth. She vowed to find his father with him; she was racked with guilt over holding back from him for so many years. Manthony was angry with her, but called upon his Buddhist principles to guide him--and he decided to go for it. He began his journey, searching for the long-lost Pink Eye.
In the end, they found him in South Dakota, living on a small plot of land; he was not the mighty warrior Manthony had hoped he would be, but he was still alive. Pink Eye saw so much of himself in Manthony--the power, the self-awareness, the talent--that he decided to go back to the reservation and lead his people. He invited Manthony, six months later, to join them in a naming ceremony, to honor Manthony's heritage. During the ceremony, Manthony was introduced to the brown (or red) half of his ancestry, and shared cupcakes with his people. That day, Manthony was given his true Native American name, Thundering Cupcake. It was the best day of his entire life.
Now Manthony--man of many personalities, talents, words, and careers--is in design school at Cornish College of the Arts, living with the waiter-genius on the hill, and hopefully basking in the good life. Of all my friends, Anthony's true-life story is the most incomplete, even to himself. He also has the biggest, squishiest heart of them all, but I believe he was a warrior first; and I think warriors deserve a past, or at least the telling of their tale, so they can see their impact on the world, and know where they came from. This is the history I made for you, buddy, in case the real one never reveals itself.
I adore you, Merry Christmas!