Frank Vallelonga Jr. was found dead outside a sheet metal factory in the Bronx early Monday morning. Police were responding to a call of an unconscious and unresponsive body around 4 a.m. when they found a deceased Vallelonga lying on the ground. The 60-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.
Although no cause of death has been announced, authorities have confirmed that an investigation is underway as they await results from the coroner’s office. The autopsy report will tell all, but police also confirmed there were “no obvious signs of trauma” on the body – leaving more questions than answers.
As investigators attempt to uncover the story behind Vallelonga’s death, they already have one suspect in custody. Steven Smith, a 35-year-old who allegedly dumped the body in front of the factory, is being charged with the concealment of a human corpse. It’s unclear what role Smith played in Frank’s death.
Frank Vallelonga Jr. was the son of Frank Vallelonga, best known as Tony Lip. His father made a name for himself as a bouncer at Copacabana and private driver for pianist Don Shirley in the early 1960s. Some of his Shirley stories were portrayed in a 2018 movie titled Green Book – more on that below.
Tony Lip married the love of his life, Dolores née Venere, in 1958 and the two wasted no time in starting a family. Their first son, Nick Vallelonga, was born in 1959 and their second son, Frank Vallelonga Jr., was born in 1962. Dolores passed away in 1999 and Tony Lip passed away in 2013. Nick is the only one alive.
Between 1972 and 2008, Tony Lip enjoyed an illustrious acting career that mostly consisted of small roles in mob-related shows. For example, he appeared in The Godfather, Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco, and The Sopranos. He was a beloved fictional mob boss who excelled in roles only a few people could pull off.
As for Frank Vallelonga Jr., he would find himself earning small roles in a number of shows and films – including appearing in an episode of The Sopranos and an episode of The Neighborhood. He was also featured in several of his brother Nick’s projects, including A Brilliant Disguise and The Birthday Cake.
Frank Vallelonga Jr. Played His Uncle in the 2018 Film ‘Green Book’
Perhaps the biggest role Frank Vallelonga Jr. ever received was in the 2018 film Green Book. The movie was co-written by Nick Vallelonga and tells a story originally told by Tony Lip of his time spent with Don Shirley in the early 1960s. Frank Vallelonga Jr. portrayed his real-life uncle, Rudy Vallelonga, in the film.
Green Book, which starred Viggo Mortenson as Tony Lipp and Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley, received a lot of recognition and high praise from those who watched it – though it did receive some criticism for its depiction of racism. Nonetheless, Frank Vallelonga Jr. maintained that the story was how his father told it.
The film received five nominations at the 2018 Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali. It also received five nominations at the Golden Globe Awards, winning Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. It’s safe to say it was an instant hit.
While investigators try to pinpoint the cause of death for Frank Vallelonga Jr., they have reason to believe that an overdose might have had something to do with it – adding that he might’ve been homeless at the time of his death. More updates will be shared soon regarding his death and how it happened.
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