As the credits of William Friedkin's Cruising roll, you'll see the names of James Hayden and Ray Vitte, but you won't see them in the actual picture. That's because Hayden, tantalizingly credited as "Cockpit Coke Man," and Vitte, whose name appears in a block of performers with no assigned character names, appear to have been removed entirely from the final cut of the film. I suspect that both actors were part of the fabled 40 minutes that Friedkin excised from the film prior to its initial theatrical release by UA and Lorimar in February 1980. Sometime between then and Warner Bros.' purchase of Lorimar's holdings in 1989, those 40 minutes were discarded and seemingly lost forever. This is doubly tragic because not only does it deprive fans of the film of even more Cruising, but it deprives audiences of additional performances from Hayden and Vitte, two promising young actors whose lives and careers were cut way too short. I haven't seen James Franco and Travis Mathews' Interior. Leather Bar., a re-imagining of the missing 40 minutes, but I'd guess that Hayden and Vitte were not on their radar when they undertook their project. Thirty years ago, though, it would be surprising if an actor in Franco's place wasn't aware of Hayden and Vitte.
|Ray Vitte as he appeared in his biggest feature role, Bobby Speed, in Robert Klane's Thank God It's Friday.|
|James Hayden (middle) in his breakthrough role in the 1983 Broadway revival of David Mamet's American Buffalo, opposite Al Pacino and J.J. Johnston.|
|Hayden (middle), backstage with Pacino and unidentified friend.|
|Hayden (second from left), in his most significant film role, as Patsy in Leone's Once Upon a Time in America.|
|With De Niro on location in Italy.|
Hayden doesn't necessarily get any big, "look at me," moments in the Leone film (those belong to the stars, Woods, in particular), but I've always been especially fond of the glee mixed with cold-blooded efficiency that he displays as he surprises Burt Young's rather despicable mafioso, Joe. It's his chance to step out of the shadow of De Niro and Woods.
|On the underrated The First Deadly Sin with Sinatra.|
|As Rodolpho in Miller's A View From the Bridge (with Saundra Santiago) in a performance he dedicated to the memory of his late best friend Michael Kukul.|
|Jay Acovone, as Skip Lee, being threatened with the ominous-sounding "floating ball" test in Cruising.|
|As Bobby Speed in publicity still for Thank God It's Friday.|
|An early head shot.|
even the questionable circumstances of his death, following a struggle with the LAPD, are frustratingly murky and incomplete. On February 20, 1983, after what was described as some kind of mental breakdown in his Studio City home, in which Vitte was heard loudly ranting and "religious shouting" for some 12 hours, police officers were called to the residence by neighbors. In the process of being apprehended by the police and after a physical altercation, the unarmed Vitte died, a death officially attributed to "liver degeneration as well as heart failure." The Vitte family and attorney Johnny Cochran brought forth a lawsuit disputing that official story, but I don't the know the particulars of the case or what kind of resolution there was, if any. Vitte had spent time in the hospital earlier that month with a high fever, which may have contributed to his mental state on the day he died, but he had no drugs in his system at the time of death, and friends, including Donna Summer, and family attested to the fact that he was not a drug user. There was a struggle with police, but authorities described his injuries from the fight as "superficial." It certainly sounds like another well-earned black eye for the LAPD, but, as I said, details are scant. Times obit and Jet article on Vitte's death. Vitte was 33.
|As Geronimo, in Car Wash, with Richard Pryor.|
|Sporting a great look in Car Wash.|
|With Nick Nolte (as Neal Cassady) on John Byrum's Heart Beat.|