"I liked the job. I really liked it," he writes. "I liked
the passion of the crowds. I liked the bullshitting with the guys, the
Spanish rice and chicken dinners after the game on 161st Street, the countless
numbers of big, sold-out series against the Red Sox, the old-timer's games,
the records being broken, the bases stolen, the new hot-shot pitcher from
some also-ran team coming in to New York to face the big, bad Yankees.
And, of course, the excitement of a pennant race's final days, the playoffs,
and World Series games...all of it."
Zully also liked the freedom of the job. It was essentially part-time
work, but lucrative enough to earn him a living--and leave him with enough
time to pursue a second career in show business.
What makes MY LIFE such a unique book is the author's split personality.
One side of him, the vendor side, is street-wise, tough and pugnacious.
The flip side, though, the side that makes him want to be an actor and
director, is sensitive, artistic and imaginative.
"We all seem to strive for balance in our lives," he confides.
"How can we fulfill our needs, be they financial, creative, or both,
and still maintain stability?"
this balancing act--vending at Yankee Stadium and chasing stage and TV
work--wasn't easy. "Fortunately for me, most weekday games took place
at night. I would tend to have an audition during the day, so I rarely
had any conflicts, especially since audition times are often flexible,
leaving a large window of time for the meeting...It's when I got a callback,
the second round of auditions when the acting job is closer to reality,
that there was virtually no wiggle room for my appointment time, and I
often had to sacrifice a game when my agent told me I had a callback for
Toyota at 4.40 pm. I had better be there at 4.40 or I would have no chance
of booking the job."
Over the years, Zully has managed to work regularly in theater, film and
television. Among his movie credits are "Vice," "Wolf,"
"Malcolm X" and "The Bonfire of Vanities." He has
also guest-starred on "The Sopranos" and "Columbo,"
and was a regular on many of the "Law and Order" shows. In 2003
his Citibank identity-theft commercial won an Emmy.
What also makes MY LIFE such an engaging book is the way the author writes
about his personal life: growing up in the Bronx (not too far from Yankee
Stadium) with two working parents and three older sisters. A sports lover,
he became obsessed with baseball statistics...and a game called Dice Baseball,
played with a pair of dice, a pencil and a piece of paper to keep score.
New York in general shaped his character. "I tell people New York
city is a place you either love--or you're dead. To me, having grown up
in New York, the rest of the country is just a train set."
job was working in a stationery store near the Empire State Building.
He then found other work: handing out fliers for a massage parlor, driving
around the Bronx selling uniform jackets to barbers and beauticians. He
also worked as a waiter at various borscht-belt hotels. But he found his
true calling at fifteen when he started vending at Yankee Stadium, working
there for six months a year, sometimes in 100-degree heat (he put ice
cubes in his wrist-bands and socks to keep cool), struggling to sell peanuts
in a half-empty ballpark, ducking the water bottles that fans occasionally
threw at him...and generally learning the tricks of his unique trade.
When selling beer, for example, instead of uttering the usual cry of,
"Hey, beer here!" he realized he could sell more by shouting,
"Hey, get your carbohydrates here!" And, late in a game, it
made sense to ask, "Who needs a beer besides me?" If the Yankees
had just given up a home run, he'd cry out, "Fuggetabout it, have
As the price of beer went up over the years, hitting a peak of ten bucks,
Zully has had to cope with a variety of cranky remarks:
"Hey, buddy, I didn't ask for the whole case."
"What did I do, break a window?"
"Do I get a lap dance with that?"
One of the perks of the job came when he was able to serve celebrities
like Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson, and an unnamed blonde starlet
who had been his fantasy girl as a kid, his generation's equivalent of
was sitting with a few people and when I saw she was there, I went down
to offer her a beer. She looked a little worse for wear, to say the least.
It had been over twenty years since I'd last seen her dancing and singing
in her prime on television, so I shouldn't have been surprised.
"Before I had a chance to speak to her, she blurted out in extremely
slurred speech, "Ya got any martinis, honey?"
MY LIFE is spiced with tasty stories like that--and also with cogent observations
on baseball's new era and new stadiums, "with their high-priced luxury
boxes, elite service and exclusive bars and restaurants for the Fortune
500 companies to be able to pamper their clients...
"Baseball used to be a sport, but now, of course, it's a business--a
huge business. Players take steroids to have better statistics, get an
enormous multi-year contract, and then, years later, admit it to it with
little, if any, penalties for their transgressions. The age of innocence,
which perhaps was simply in my mind, is over. Players used to love the
game. Now they love the money."
When asked what was the important takeaway from his forty years as a vendor,
Zully replied: "It can be difficult to come up with a finite answer
for that question, but I know the stadium taught me that the fans, whether
in the bleachers or behind home plate, were no better than I was. A high-salaried
doctor, politician, or celebrity actor may be a big shot in their personal
life, but when there's no vendor in sight he or she still must wait on
line like everyone else for a hot dog and a beer.
Allen, who was the Yankee broadcaster when I was growing up and who was
there through good times and bad, had this to say about Yankee Stadium.
'This was the place. The number one place. The Empire State Building or
the Grand Canyon of baseball. And every time I stepped inside of it I
had to pinch myself.'"
Zully added, "From the age of fifteen until I was fifty-five, except
for home and school, I spent more time at Yankee Stadium than anywhere
else. And I am forever grateful."
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