Being Ray Liotta

Plus: Finding Himself

Being Ray Liotta

Ray Liotta's list of characters has run the gamut, from tarnished baseball immortal Shoeless Joe Jackson to mobster-in-hiding Henry Hill to, well, whoever he was in Operation Dumbo Drop (didn't see it, sorry). He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in Jonathan Demme's Something Wild and remains beloved by the hausfrau for his stint on the soap Another World. Now, he's a hero to the PlayStation 2 set: Last month, Liotta made his video-game debut as the voice of Grand Theft Auto Vice City "star" Tommy Vercetti, a drug dealer run amok in 1980s Miami, or close to it. Liotta was in town last week to discuss his performance in the forthcoming film Narc--in which he plays the kinda cop who'd bust Tommy in the head, then shoot him, then kick him again.

Have you played Grand Theft Auto Vice City yet?

Naw. Never even seen it. I hear it's great, a pretty fun game.

It's cool, if a bit disconcerting, being you.

I have a feeling I'm gonna get more attention from this than anything, and I think it's because people spend hours with it, and they spend hours as me. It doesn't look like me, but if you wanna say, "Fuck you," it's gonna come out in my voice. I just wanted to get under the radar with it. They asked me to do it, and I like taking on different challenges, trying something like this. That's why I did Major League Baseball's Memorable Moments at the World Series a few weeks ago--just something different. They could show I could say a sentence without cursing. "And here's Ted fuckin' Williams." No.

But that would have been funny.

Yeah, right, that would have been. But, no, I have not played Vice City. But it just came out, and it's unbelievable how many people come up and ask me about it. That's it--they're me. It's really weird.

You weren't familiar with the earlier incarnations of Grand Theft Auto?

Not a thing. I didn't know anything. I heard it was really popular before, and I heard it was violent. I said, "Well, if it's violent, I dunno," and they said, "No, no, no, no. It's the same thing as a movie. It's rated. You can't buy it unless you're of a certain age." So I figured, "You know what, let those people have it." Actually, I kinda made it more cartoony with my voice. It wasn't as nasty. I never saw what they were doing, because what they do is have a bunch of actors running around in blue-screen stuff, and the guy who did [me] was, like, the worst actor I've ever seen. And I said, "This is such an extreme thing, let me do it with a certain sense of fun, like overdo it--like what Bob [De Niro] does in Analyze This, where you're making it extreme as opposed to real." And it was a blast. I just had no idea it was as big as it is, and it's gonna be huge.

A cultural phenomenon.

It's unbelievable. It's unbelievable. I've gotten more reaction from this than the scene I did with Miss Piggy in Muppets from Space. --Robert Wilonsky

Finding Himself

Amber had really had it with Mario. There was his Camry, parked on a snowy night in Chicago outside some skank's house. Amber scrawled big angry words on a scrap of paper and jammed it under the windshield. "Mario, I fucking hate you," she wrote. "You said you have to work then whys [sic] your car HERE at HER place?? You're a fucking LIAR. I hate you, I fucking hate you. Amber... P.S. Page me later."

The note fell into the hands of Davy Rothbart, a part-time ticket scalper and occasional This American Life radio essayist whose Toyota was mistaken for the philandering Mario's. For Rothbart, Amber's bitter message with its touchingly hopeful coda was a jolt of inspiration. "I thought, wow, I want to share this," Rothbart says.

A lifelong collector of lost love letters, diaries, snapshots, to-do lists, office e-mail and other ephemera, Rothbart, who says he's never had a real job since graduating from the University of Michigan, included Amber's screed, along with other items from his catalog of accumulated scribbles, in his first self-published issue of Found magazine. He started with 800 handmade copies. Demand for Found grew so fast, he ended up printing 16,000. The little anthology of litter-lit has been written about in The Washington Post, The New Yorker, GQ and London's Independent on Sunday.

With the second issue of Found just out, Rothbart is on a 50-city tour to promote the 'zine and collect items for future issues. Turns out lots of people are obsessed with other people's throwaways. At Found parties in Pittsburgh, Boston and Brooklyn, Rothbart has been handed piles of kids' notes ("meet me down by the big bush--from the kid with the green backpack"), de-Dumpstered journals and, oddly, a small eel preserved in a jar with a Post-It note attached saying "flaky and self-conscious." By mail he's gotten "finds" from as far away as Hawaii and Bangladesh. (Found is on the Net, too, at

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