By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Joseph LaRocca (actor)
Income $19,964 (1999)
Health Insurance covered by Screen Actors Guild
Joseph LaRocca's big dream is to stand around Tony Soprano's kitchen and poke his fingers in some guy's fat stomach and say "you fucking moron" and then maybe give the guy a hug. "A role on The Sopranos? You're talking $565 minimum wage for a day, maybe $2200 a week, on the hottest show on television," actor LaRocca, 36, says, speaking from his beige and white Tribeca apartment with a lot of stereo equipment and a game called Brain Warp. "One day I get the casting directors to see me. I get in just by persistence. There's a flashback of a father in a session with the psychiatrist. I would have been the father. But they used a lanky-looking guy. I felt better because at least they picked him 'cause he was taller or lanky. This past season I got a reel together. I was in a movie with Dom DeLuise called Wedding Band. If you don't have an agent, forget it. Fifteen agents are submitting stuff to The Sopranos with name actors. Then there are the friends of the cast members." LaRocca does a lot of commercial work. Once he was in a print ad for Bell Atlantic where he was holding a bunch of linguini, with the headline "My pasta's so popular, my phones can't keep up with it."
"Since the SAG commercial strike May 1, I've been doing census enumeration, $18.50 an hour. I've been acting professionally for the last 10 years. The first time was high school, Macbeth. I was so into it, though I'm not so adept at verse. I went to Syracuse for college, the London School of Economics for a summer. I studied the decline of the British Empire.
"Since I was 13, I worked in the fish market loading trucks, selling sardines, LaRocca Fish Company. My grandfather had the business in the '20s. But then my father was one of the casualties of the banks that had to pull their loans back in the '80s. That was the beginning of my money problems. I worked in the commodities exchange. I was just disgusted with it. I worked at my cousin's bar for six months, Paddy McGee's in Island Park. I see an ad, a community center is holding auditions in Long Island, a production of Joseph. I get into the chorus. I say forget everything else. I take classes at HB Studios, I do 10 plays in two years. I'm working the fish markettwo in the morning to 10 a.m., film sets and auditions by day. I'm working so much, I sleep right through a performance. We're doing a production of Agamemnon. I'm one of two in the chorus. One day some nice mullets come in. I say to my father, Why not come over for lunch? It's delicious. He leaves. I lie down for an hour. Before I know it, it's 11 at night."
He got a great apartment deal. "A few years ago my cousin moves to some luxury new building where they rent to middle-income. I say, any others? There's a new 80/20 [80 percent market-rate apartments, 20 percent for lower-income] one going up in Tribeca. There's a lottery. Four thousand will be allowed to compete for 80 out of 400 units. I fill out an application with my cousin who's in real estate to make sure I fill it out the right way. I figure I'll mail mine near the deadline so I land on top of the pile and be one of the first ones picked. I'm number 80-something. I go to the meeting, they say, You can't get the apartment 'cause you live in Long Island. I was living with my parents in Bethpage. I walk out the door, a broken man. Then something rings in my head. Hey, I pay city taxes. I had to fight. I get back in. Then they come to your house to make sure you're not a slob. I'm the first one to move inpool, laundry. I pay $465. When I signed the lease they said market rate was $2200. You sign a new lease every two years, the rents are stabilized. But they won't guarantee the program after 20 years. Me, I move in, I worryI better make it as an actor fast."