Ever so passionate about his Big Apple roots, Michael Imperioli is a longtime Knicks fan. He remains loyal to the team, basking in the glory of The Garden each and every time he walks in. Moreover, it was there that the actor had a chance encounter with a hero whose work continues to inspire him, both professionally and personally.
“I met Lou Reed around 1993 or ’94 at a Knicks game. I caught him going down the escalator. I was about to do a movie called I Shot Andy Warhol and I knew he wasn’t really happy with us making a movie about the woman who shot his friend,” Imperioli told KnicksJournal.com. “But I thought it was a good way to start a conversation with a living legend. I told him I was a big fan. Lou said he thought the movie (idea) was despicable, but then turned back and told me my character was a very funny guy and I should just do my thing and enjoy it.”
“Lou had a big influence on me. His music touched me. He was someone who was always pushing the envelope,” the actor pointed out. “He was very kind to me and I had been in the studio with him. We did several benefits together.”
Fast-forward about 25 years later, and the essence of who Reed was is depicted as a central character in the actor turned author’s new book, The Perfume Burned His Eyes.
“I was writing a coming of age story, getting into the mindset of a teenager. When Lou passed [in 2013], I had the idea of bringing him into the story,” he explained. “The main character in the book loses two major role models, and Lou ends up becoming an impromptu father figure.”
Imperioli’s interest in writing was sparked when he co-wrote Summer of Sam, which was directed by Spike Lee and starred John Leguizamo, both fellow Knicks fans. Shortly after he began playing Christopher Moltisanti on The Sopranos, he received the type of access most fans only dream of.
“If you’re passionate about the team and have an opportunity to sit courtside and get to know people, it’s a big thrill,” he said. “I’m like a kid when I walk in there.”
Imperioli says he feels embraced as part of the MSG family, and with good reason. Though they’ve failed to reel in the big fish of their desire over the years, the actor has been enlisted to help the Knicks recruit some of free agency’s biggest stars over the years.
“After The Sopranos hit it big, the Knicks invited me and a slew of other celebrities to help recruit Grant Hill [in 2000]. We flew to Detroit and showed him this video basically begging him to come to New York,” he shared. “It was me, Chazz Palminteri, Matthew Modine, and other actors and athletes. I was also in a video taped for LeBron James [in 2010].”
While billboards enlisting James’ services are once again towering over the city, the Knicks are more likely to stand a fighting chance for the top free agents of the 2019 free agent class. After calling the experience “surprising and thrilling,” perhaps Imperioli wouldn’t mind being called to duty once more if and when the situation arises.
“The beauty of being a Knicks fan is you always have to look at the glass half full. You never know what’ll happen,” the actor exclaimed. “There’s hope for next year. If only a couple more ingredients were right, they’d be incredible. We’ve gone though tough times, but you can’t give up on your team.”
Imperioli can also be seen on Alex Inc., a new ABC comedy starring Zach Braff. Imperioli plays Braff’s cousin, a slick hustling investor who relies upon his Brooklyn know-how to help him succeed in an industry he otherwise knows nothing about: podcasting.
Embodying that type of spirit is something that comes naturally to Imperioli, both on camera and off.
“It’s a New York thing. You must have that energy to survive here. You’re surrounded by people all the time and just have to be confident,” he added. “That’s part of the deal.”