By TEMPLE LI
In a 1996 article profiling a then 27-year-old Ken Del Vecchio’s unique eclectic accomplishments, the Passaic County, New Jersey newspaper Herald News proclaimed that the young man had the “Midas Touch.” He can “turn anything into gold”, the newspaper reported, in writing about Del Vecchio’s successes as a published author, a prolific weightlifting champ, and being one of the youngest attorneys in New Jersey history to win a felony jury trial. In that same 1996 year, Hudson County’s The Observer first coined the phrase “Renaissance Man” to describe Del Vecchio, with dozens of media outlets headlining him with that same title. Twenty-three years later, nothing has changed – except that Del Vecchio has now written/produced about 30 major movies, authored some of the United States’ best-selling criminal law books (in addition to multiple novels), and he turned that winning seminal case into trying over 400 cases and handling in the neighborhood of 20,000 others as a criminal defense attorney, prosecutor, and commercial litigator. He also, at one point, served as a New Jersey judge.
Del Vecchio, still baby-faced in his late 40s, is in a torrid race to be the earth’s modern-day Renaissance Man. As part of that self-imposed competition, he founded one of the world’s top film festivals, Hoboken International Film Festival. Del Vecchio’s movies have been released through giants the likes of Sony Pictures, NBCUniversal, and E-One Entertainment. His books are published by top houses such as Pearson Education, Prentice Hall, and ALM.
If all of his professional accomplishments aren’t enough, Del Vecchio has won over 50 bench press competitions, at his best lifting 450 pounds while weighing just 165 pounds. See it here.
Empire State News has just joined a long line of major media who have covered Del Vecchio and his accomplishments over the last two decades. Some notables include the following highlighted feature articles and television appearances: The Daily Beast, FOX, CBS, CNN, NBC, “The Colbert Report”, Radar Online, The New York Daily News, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times, who wrote “As usual, Mr. Del Vecchio was larger than life.”
Legendary actor Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas; Nixon) called Del Vecchio “an extraordinary man.” Two-time Academy Award nominee Charles Durning (Tootsie; The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) exclaimed that “Kenneth Del Vecchio is an excellent filmmaker and would make a great leader!” Academy Award nominee Eric Roberts (The Expendables; The Pope of Greenwich Village) stated that “Kenneth Del Vecchio is the only judge I ever agreed with in personal conversation. He’s got some great views about freedom and liberty…and he’s a little bit nuts!” TV star Joyce DeWitt (”Three’s Company”) declared that Del Vecchio has “a vision and concept based on excellence and integrity.” Academy Award nominee Robert Loggia (Scarface; Big) said of Del Vecchio: “The man is honest. Hard-working. Talented. And oh so intelligent.” And U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer proclaimed, “Del Vecchio is a man you can see, with the movies he is involved with, with the friends he has, he has a great mind and he also has a big heart.”
The last line of Kenneth Del Vecchio’s first novel, the best-seller Pride & Loyalty, is “You can’t be loyal to everyone at once because then you’re loyal to no one at all.” Del Vecchio said, “That’s the definition of loyalty. You can’t be everyone’s best friend. Loyalty is the most important – and best – word in my dictionary.”
And what’s the worst? “Jealousy,” Del Vecchio said, “I don’t understand the concept of jealousy. It’s for insecure losers. I’m happy for others’ successes. And I hope for people to be happy for mine. People, out of weakness, often contrive battles with other people. Oddly, it’s rarely those who have big egos; it’s actually the people with no ego, with no confidence. I can figure out a jealous person pretty quickly, and I cut them out immediately. Jealousy usually goes hand-in-hand with disloyalty.”
Del Vecchio, a regular legal analyst for the major news networks such as i24 News and Fox News Channel and who has published for ESN, will make other commentators pay the price when jealousy creeps into the dialogue. Case-in-point: just a week ago, on star anchor David Shuster’s show “Stateside”, pundit Hamza Khan sought to personally attack Del Vecchio. Watch here, as Del Vecchio dismantles Khan with the skilled blows of not just a professional speaker, but of a very commanding, charismatic one. Viewers took to Facebook to comment on Del Vecchio’s verbal fileting of Khan:
Kathleen Healy, an attorney, wrote: “GREAT JOB!!! As usual, you shot back with quick, intelligent responses to that obnoxious moron.”
Eric Reyes, a high school friend, posted: “My man Kenneth Del Vecchio dressing the idiots down. Go Ken.”
John Bernieri, an actor, stated: “No contest. You murderised him! Eloquent, to the point, and very cool were you. Blabbering, blathering and pathetic was he. Bring on the next misfit!”
And Suhel Ahmed, a medical doctor, posted: “It was a great exchange except when he went personal against you…that’s a sign of weakness…he couldn’t intellectually beat you so he resorted to insults…you did great man…and remained composed. Very cool.”
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Ken has a huge ego. He does,” declared Del Vecchio’s longtime friend Mike Borao, an attorney and boxing manager who represents many Top 10 contenders. “But there’s a few different things about him. He can back it all up, exponentially, everything he says. He also will openly tell you what he’s not good at. And he will compliment others. It’s because Ken has true confidence. I’ve never met a more confident person. He’s afraid of no one. And it shows in everything he does. His writing, his TV appearance debates, his movies. And in court. Ken Del Vecchio is the last, the very last attorney, that you want as your adversary.”
Son Mario Del Vecchio has his own, growing list of Renaissance Boy accomplishments, and that title has now begun to stick with him. At only 10-years-old, he has already acted in 10 movies, just playing the lead role in a Christmas movie – A Karate Christmas Miracle – opposite multiple famed stars including Academy Award nominee Eric Roberts (Best of the Best; The Expendables), Martin Kove (“Cobra Kai”;The Karate Kid; Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), and Julie McCullough (“Growing Pains”; Sharknado). A year-round active athlete – he plays football, wrestling, baseball and, of course, karate – Mario is a straight A student at Highland Elementary School in his hometown Midland Park.
McCullough, who plays an eccentric psychic-turned-law professor in A Karate Christmas Miracle, had this to say about the child star of the movie: “I’m amazed at all that Mario has been able to accomplish by only 10-years-old. It seems this kid can do anything. I watched his football highlights reel and was stunned by his strength and athleticism. He also has the skills in karate to pull off the physical part of his role in this charming movie. But his personality and mind are what impresses me the most. He gets up in front of 1,000 people at the Hoboken Film Festival awards ceremony, tells a joke, and then presents an award to a filmmaker. And he has a photographic memory, so he had all of his lines memorized before the two adult leads. He has a ton of lines, and he flawlessly knows them all. It’s rather unbelievable. He’s also a really nice, cool kid, so it’s a pleasure to work with him.”
The movie follows precocious Jesse Genesis, who has created a “12 Days of Christmas List” of tasks, the list being triggered by the disappearance of his father who went missing during a mass shooting on Christmas Day one year earlier. If Jesse completes all the tasks, including teaching himself to become a karate black belt, he believes his father will return on this Christmas. Jesse’s sophisticated, workaholic mother, Abby (Mila Milosevic), believes her husband was lost in the shooting, but has a glimmer of hope through visions that Jesse reports to her. After Abby enlists the aid of the psychic played by McCullough, a roller coaster thriller ensues, where the trio unravel a mystery that no one expected – and maybe, just maybe witness the delivery of a miracle that can only happen on Christmas.
A number of media outlets have already covered A Karate Christmas Miracle and its young lead actor, including one of New Jersey’s leading daily newspapers, The Record, which published this article earlier this month: Midland Park’s ‘karate kid’ stars in sport-themed Christmas movie of his father’s making.
Mario shows his maturity and on-screen comfort in this video interview with The Record.
A Karate Christmas Miracle, written/produced by Del Vecchio and written/directed by Julie Kimmel, will have its worldwide premiere on May 17, 2019 as the Opening Night Movie at Del Vecchio’s Hoboken International Film Festival. Del Vecchio said that neither Kimmel, who is a vice chair at the festival, nor his own son Mario, got their positions in the movie because of their relationships with him. They got the positions “because of their talent only,” Del Vecchio said. “If Mario can’t act with great talent, he can’t play roles in my movies. Same with Julie as director. She has to be an outstanding filmmaker for me to hire her in that spot. Sorry, no favoritism. This is a business for me. And Mario needs to be more than just an exceptional actor for this role; he also needs the mixed martial arts skills.”
A standout out in karate who, in real life, is already up to his blue belt, Mario said the martial arts experience helped him realistically play the role. “I’m not a black belt yet. But I go to karate two to three times a week all year, so I will get there.” But he said that wrestling and football are actually his favorite sports. In football, he recently completed his third year. Playing in Montclair, New Jersey in the elite national American Youth Football League, Mario excelled this season, starting on both offense (guard) and defense (DE) – and was named the team’s “Lineman of the Year.” His football highlights reel shows it all.
“What’s particularly exciting in watching Mario play football is his physical strength and competitiveness,” said Borao, “I had a couple of my clients watch his reel, and they found pretty remarkable that a kid his size was basically manhandling much bigger and older kids. Mario’s also the fastest lineman, so that helps him.” With regard to the age, Borao was referring to the fact that Mario was in the middle age in his league; next year, he will be one of the oldest players on the team. “Mario earns the respect of his teammates and coaches,” Boaro added, “His dominance is a factor of course, but it’s also that he’s all business, no nonsense. And not afraid, like his father.”
Mario’s wrestling accomplishments and skills have grown substantially – and quickly – since first visiting with him in January. In five consecutive recent tournaments, Mario has medaled in all of them – earning a first place trophy, two second place trophies, and two third place trophies; he has won 11 matches in these tournaments while losing only four. This, quite an accomplishment for a first-year wrestler. Some of his victorious matches can be seen here: a 20-second pin, a 12 – 1 victory, a 48-second pin, another first period pin, and an 11 – 1 win.
In mid-January, when first seeing his wrestling, Mario and his father were at a high school in Glen Rock, New Jersey, an affluent Bergen County town, with a large rock right in the center of its upscale downtown. Del Vecchio actually had lived directly across the street from the rock when he was in third grade. At the beginning of fourth grade, he and his family moved to Westport, Connecticut, a top-tier beach town on that state’s coast. He said his family moved around a lot in his youth, with many different stops including the more blue-collar areas of Bloomfield, NJ (where he lived from birth through first grade) and Kearny, NJ (where he lived during his high school years). Although Del Vecchio reminisced momentarily about Glen Rock, his focus quickly shifted to Mario, who was at the high school for a wrestling match.
After being asked about getting a forfeit victory earlier in the day, Mario quipped, “That’s not a win. The other kid didn’t wrestle.” Then he asked, “Why are you reporters talking to me? You should be talking about E.J. [Cozzupoli] and J.J. Daniello and the other kids on my team who pinned kids today.”
According to Del Vecchio, who also serves as one of the coaches for Midland Park-Waldwick youth wrestling, Cozzupoli and Daniello are two of the best and most experienced wrestlers on the team. In explaining his role as a coach, Del Vecchio said, “I’m just a secondary coach. Paul Eliya and Jason Daniello are the main coaches at this level. They run the show and do it well, and me and few other guys just help out at the practices.”
Mario had his own points about his fellow wrestlers. “I’ve wrestled EJ in practice a number of times. He’s real good, fast and strong. I learn when I wrestle him. He’s also a real nice kid. Once. after I had a tough match, he told me what a good job I did and gave me candy that he had bought. That was classy my dad said, and my dad text his dad and told him about it. J.J., I just wrestled him once and he caught me in a headlock. I’ve watched him some as well, to learn. He’s real dedicated. He goes to our practice first, then to the dual team practice right after. What I like about him is the way he looks at his dad. It reminds me of how I look at my dad. Real proud.”
Del Vecchio explained that Jason Daniello, J.J.’s dad, is a motivating coach, who “has the right combination of knowledge, direction, wrestling abilities, and patience.” It’s important that the kids work hard, Del Vecchio noted, adding that “both Jason and Paul lead practices with extolling the right work ethic, but they also understand that these are young kids who need to learn and have fun. So they make sure that we have the right mix of instruction, drilling, and live wrestling. And then Paul comes in with his bag of dodge balls, where the kids can unwind at the end of practice.”
Del Vecchio then glanced off to one of the other matches going on, yelling a few congratulatory words to one of the Midland Park-Waldwick wrestlers, Noah Crowe, who had just won a match, and turned back saying, “Yeah, I agree with Mario. Since this interview is being done here, that’s who should get the headlines for this article. Some of these kids and coaches.”
Ken and Mario Del Vecchio, by all accounts, are a modern-day Renaissance Father and Son team. “People are in awe of them for their talents and accomplishments, no doubt,” McCullough said. “And most will appreciate their rare confidence, which allows them to put themselves aside at times and genuinely praise others who deserve compliments, but there will be some jealous joker who will read this article and have something negative to say. It goes with the territory.”
Temple Li is the news editor for Empire State News, where she frequently authors her own editorials (just because she feels like it). She graduated at the top of her class at a mediocre college, infuriating her professors with her conservative wit and sultry charm. Empire State News allows Ms. Li to make a living, and to have a platform to tell people what she thinks. What could be better than that?
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