In conjunction with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, TimesLedger Newspapers presents noteworthy events in the borough’s history.
Born on June 26, 1951 and raised in Astoria, Robert Davi is an actor, singer, writer and director perhaps best known for his vivid portrayal of a colorful assortment of Hollywood villains, thugs and tough guys. In a film and television career spanning over 40 years, Davi has appeared in TV series from “Charlie’s Angels” and “St. Elsewhere” to “Criminal Minds,” among the 130 films on the silver screen he has performed in alongside greats from Marlon Brando to Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis. The native Astorian is also a critically acclaimed singer, known for bringing his own unique depth and character to Frank Sinatra classics.
Born to an Italian-American mother and an Italian immigrant father from Sicily, the future actor grew up speaking his father’s native tongue at home. After graduating from Hofstra University, Davi moved to Manhattan where he studied under legendary acting coach Stella Adler. He made his motion picture debut in “Contract” on Cherry Street, a 1977 crime thriller starring Frank Sinatra. His film credits include opera-singing goon Jake Fratelli in the 1985 adventure comedy “The Goonies,” villain Frank Sanchez in the 1989 James Bond thriller “License to Kill,” and more recently, a New York mobster in the 2012 crime biography “The Iceman.”
Throughout his career, Davi has stayed true to his Queens roots, working alongside numerous other movie and TV luminaries with strong ties to the borough. In his Hollywood career, these include the legendary James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli and fellow actor Christopher Walken, both fellow Astoria natives, as well as Rodney Dangerfield of Kew Gardens. In his singing career, he has performed to sold-out crowds in Las Vegas with comedian Don Rickles of Jackson Heights.
In 2007, the seasoned actor made his directorial debut in “The Dukes,” a 2008 comedic parable of lost fame starring Davi alongside Chazz Palminteri as a washed up musical duo who attempt a bank heist. The film won awards at the Queens International Film Festival and the Monte Carlo Comedy Film Festival, and the new director Davi was also awarded Best First Time Director and Best Screenplay awards in the Monte Carlo Festival of Comedy.
The versatile Davi was first praised for his singing in high school, and as a teenager auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera and received classical voice training. Later in life, in 2011, the actor from Queens released an album titled “Davi Sings Sinatra -- On the Road to Romance.” The compilation of 12 Sinatra tunes was released to widespread positive reviews, with none other than Quincy Jones proclaiming, “I have never heard anyone come this close to Sinatra’s sound – and still be himself. Many try, but Robert Davi has the voice, tone, the flavor and the swagger.” His album reached No. 6 on the Billboard jazz charts.
Aside from his numerous recognitions as an actor, director and talented singer, Davi has received the George M. Estabrook Distinguished Service Award from the Hofstra University Alumni Association. In 2004, he was even recognized as Citizen of the Week by a radio station in Los Angeles for rescuing a young girl from a house fire. Davi has five children, and he spends his free time volunteering with numerous charities, including the Dream Foundation, the Humane Society and the Exceptional Children’s Foundation.
Compiled by Dan McDonald for the Greater Astoria Historical Society. For further information, contact the Society at (718) 278-0700 or visit our website at www.astor