Sunday in October, in New York, we arrive on the train from Washington to Penn Station, in the heart of Manhattan. Summer has ended a while ago but the temperatures in Rome and Washington are good. But in New York, as soon as we climb the stairs of the station onto 8th street, a freezing wind welcomes us. Cold but the sky is clear Vanessa and I go straight to the hotel and then we grab a cab, destination Greenwich377. The appointment was at 3pm; we are on time like always. We walk in the hotel and ask for Mr. De Niro’s assistant.
While I wait I think to myself, I can’t wait to show him the sculpture of his hand. I’m curious maybe this time I’ll be the one to give him some emotions instead of the other way around. I gave it my all; I did things the right way. The wax hand was retouched to perfection, on the inside, in the wrist part; I gave it a hint of a filmstrip that reads Robert, and the welding done by Roland, my caster friend in Arezzo is perfect. A wooden color gives the bronze some warmth, almost human. I want to touch it; but the thing I love the most is something else, it moves me, is the hand. A little golden hand that will rest on Mr. De Niro’s hand.
It is Helen’s hand, Robert De Niro’s youngest. In this sculpture he will truly be the father of a 3-year- old. I interpreted it in gold as a good omen for a happy life, held but pushed by her father. De Niro didn’t want the hand sculpture of an actor; we could have done more than a hundred. They wouldn’t have been as real as the hand of a father, who holds and protects the hand of his daughter. Here is when I understood that Mr. De Niro interpreted my idea of the hand sculpture perfectly. His hand and his daughters, forever together guarded in their home, precious and unique like their lives.
Nell arrives, De Niro’s assistant, she apologizes but today we will not be able to meet with him. She had sent me an e-mail letting me know ahead of time, which I hadn’t read. My disappointment was strong; I knew that Mr. De Niro had many appointments and that it would be hard to meet with him in the two days we had left in New York. Although Nell told me I could come back the next day around 5pm, same place, because Mr. De Niro is very excited to see me, I pretend to understand the situation but I go back to my hotel extremely disappointed. Almost like those kids that wait all day to play soccer and then it rains and you can’t play.
Yes, maybe the child inside of me wants everything and wants it now, a setback can always happen, but I wanted to play, with Mr. De Niro, like if he was my little friend and excite him with the sculpture of his hand. But I don’t think that’s going to be the case, at least not for now. Thank God for Vanessa who supports me and bears with me. She bears with all my distress; I could have never done all of this without her encouragement. But when I went back to the hotel, despite her reassurances and attentions, go to bed at 7pm like I’ve never done in my life. The tension consumed me and I fell asleep. Tired and disappointed in the arms of my wife.
I woke up at 7am and to be truthful I had no fear of not being able to meet with De Niro, thinking back to his assistant’s words, they sounded sincere and if he didn’t want to meet me he wouldn’t have set me another appointment. Also I am so in love with this sculpture, the time to show it will come and also my satisfaction in showing it. So after walking around New York here I am again at Greenwich 377, today the weather is warmer but both De Niro’s secretary and doorman freeze my bones, worse than yesterday’s storm.
Mr. De Niro has so many appointments during at this moment, with actors and actresses up in his office. I can tell by all the paparazzi standing outside his office ready to take pictures. I begin to think it will be really hard to meet up with him. Nell asks if she can call me as soon as he’s done. What answer can I give to that? Off course!! (Like my friend Barillari would say). I’m waiting in the hotel lobby next to De Niro’s office until someone calls me, even if I have to stay here all night. I am like those players that never give up, even if the negative result is inevitable.
Vanessa tries to console me, but her words go thru my head with no meaning. I take her advice, we take a walk thru Greenwich and I shop compulsively for useless things just to make time. Nell calls me, is he done? No, we have to wait, De Niro apologizes, he will call me back as soon as possible. Asks me again if I can wait. Absolutely!! I am still waiting in the lobby, it’s 830pm, and I’ve been waiting for over three hours on a very comfortable sofa. I look around; I know every corner of this lobby. Suddenly Nell appears in front of me. “Come on in, Mr. De Niro is very tired but he will see you now”. He’s tired? I’m exhausted.
We seat outside of his office for a moment underneath an Orson Welles poster, Vanessa laughs. She teases me, maybe she’s right I’m such a pessimist. The door opens up, Nell walks us into a beautiful wooden office, 20’s style, and finally in front of us Mr. De Niro. He apologizes, almost mortified; he tells me that this days have been hard, shoots a movie in the morning in Long Island and in the afternoon he works on another one at his office. Actors, producers that come and go, he’s exhausted but curios. Grabs the case and opens it…then he places his sculpture hand on an antique wooden counter together with Helen’s, his daughter. There could not have been a better base for it…silence…this time is not his actor’s face, the emotion is true, sincere, Vanessa and I are also very excited. It was what we wanted. I would love to immortalize this emotion but he asks me not to take photos nor video because he’s very tired and not presentable. We will do it next time…what next time? I ask. “Dante I would love for you to come back, I want to commission all of the De Niro’s, kids nephews, if you are okay with that obviously”. I won!! Like those kids that wait for the sun to come out and score a goal, like those kids that dream of playing with De Niro for just a moment. I played and this time it’s for real! Thanks Mr. De Niro we will see each other soon.
…I almost forgot, his most sincere hug at his office, I will never forget it!!!