“You transform all those who are touched by you”

~ Rumi

Ric and Rick

by Dan Charnas

The Big PaybackSome of you, who read “The Big Payback,” will understand how important Ric Menello was in the early development of Def Jam and of its founder Rick Rubin’s aesthetic, namely “high-low”: art that seems aimed at the “cheap seats” but is executed with incredible intelligence and flawless form. He co-directed The Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right” with Adam Dubin, itself a high-low masterpiece. A stupid house party scene, right? Yet it was based on a similar scene from “Breakfast At Tiffany’s.” You can see Menello yourself in “Tougher Than Leather,” which he also co-wrote. Wish I could show you the hilarious promo videos he did for Rick in the early days of Def American. Rick loved that joke: Menello reading from a “prepared statement” by Rick (really, by Menello), while Rick stood behind him, mute, nodding.  I was lucky enough to spend quality time with Menello in the last few years — over split pea soup at Cozy’s, very appropriately. And I will honor the memory of the man by saying the wrong thing in defense of the right, refusing to do tepid things to please people who don’t care anyway, and loving how imperfect beings create art that attains perfection anyway.

Menello Monogatari, Part One

by Vincent Giordano

“Memory is a living thing – it too is in
transit. But during its moment, all that
is remembered joins and lives – the old
and the young, the past and the present,
the living and the dead.”
•    Eudora Welty

My memories of Ric are not fleeting but fluid and alive.  He has always been there, his loud booming laugh rising over everything in the room, the incessant, unquenchable thirst to learn and see every film he could, driving him until his final days. He is there and when he is suddenly gone, the room is no longer the same.  Someone once said, “Wherever there is distance, there is longing.” In the empty spaces now, there are only echoes. In the shadows, he dances away unraveling a ribbon of dreams that once were. Our lives are intertwined in so many ways that it is almost impossible to sort him out of the flow of my own life.
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Ric & Mel Daze

NYU Daze: College-ed Perps, Scene One, Take One…

by Mel Neuhaus

I FIRST MET RIC MENELLO in the Fall of 1972 (Jeez, I can’t believe it either…41 frigging years ago!).  I had just entered the New York University film program as a Freshman, and was in the incredibly boring throes of indoctrination and other introductory nonsense.

I was sitting in on what seemed the like 10,000th  speech in a packed auditorium, nodding off whilst wondering if I had made the right decision.  Maybe I SHOULD have gone to a film school on the West Coast.  This was a killer.

The dull monotone specimen on stage droned on; I made a comment to myself – or THOUGHT was to myself…a faux pas immediately brought home by quiet titters around me.  A couple in the row ahead of me stirred.  I at once pegged him as an affable lad of reasonable intelligence; I was particularly cognizant of his unruly mop of black hair appendixed by a handlebar moustache that could have been sanctioned by the Schwinn Company.  The woman next to him was a stunning brunette – kinda like a Seventies version of Kat Foster.  The moustache turned toward me and perfectly complimented my aside with a caustic one of his own.  The three of us laughed.  This seemingly inauspicious event was my initial contact with the person who would end up as my best friend on Earth, the man, the legend…the icon known as Ric Menello.  It was (so far) the best time I had at NYU.

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Memories of Menello

by Brad C

This is going to be a long document, but Ric was one of my best friends for over 30 years, and I have a lot of memories.  We met soon after I moved into NYU’s Weinstein dorm in the Fall of 1980.  I was a Cinema Studies major, and a few weeks after moving in I noticed the night shift desk clerk talking to a group of people and mentioning some film director’s name (probably Welles).  I moved closer to eavesdrop, and was quickly amazed at the level of critical discourse coming from this guy.  I started standing around the desk with the other people and putting in my two cents, which elicited comments or rebuttals from Ric.  Eventually, I found myself spending most of the night with him several days a week, watching films on the tiny B&W TV to Menello’s running commentary, interrupted only for a nanosecond as he handed some resident a light bulb or a roll of toilet paper.
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Richard and His Rocking Horse

by Julia Giordano

Ric_51 Ric_Horse

When Richard was young, he was always in motion. He loved the rocking horses that were popular at the time. His mother Lucille bought several of them because he would just ride on the horse wildly until it broke, and she would have to replace it with a new one.

When I first came to visit the Giordano family before marrying my husband Patrick, I would notice Richard riding endlessly on the horse. The only odd thing about it was that he seemed to be screaming “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” as he rode. At first I thought he was saying something else, but when I asked Lucille about it, all she would say was that he was mimicking the sound of the screeching springs of the horse, not cursing.

I listened again another time, and it was clear he was saying fuck! I asked Pat, and he just laughed and said, “Ask Richard.”

So after a long riding session, Richard came over to me, and I finally asked him why was he saying fuck as he rode. He just looked at me, smiling broadly, and said, “Because I like the word!” He was devilishly mischievous. The next time he jumped on the horse, he seemed to be screaming the word fuck even louder, as if he was proud of getting away with continuously yelling out a swear word.

Years later, the rocking horse would be replaced by a rocking chair. He stopped yelling out swear words but would rock endlessly in his chair while listening to music or watching television. Richard couldn’t sit still. Even when still, he was always in motion inside.

I never quite met anyone like him. His intelligence, energy, and quiet warmth will always be missed.

Losing Another Son

by Patrick Giordano

Richard was born to my elder sister Lucille and her husband Rocco at a critical point in my life.  The scars from serving in World War II both mentally and physically continued to haunt me.  The tragic loss of my first wife and son further sent my life into the dark places that saw very little light.  One of the great tragedies for a father is to see his own child die before him.

It was during this moment of great darkness that Richard came into my world.  He became a beacon of hope and promise for me.  My sister always looked out for me. At night, when I would walk the streets unable to sleep, she would come and find me and bring me home.  Now she had a family of her own and I felt very close to Richard as if he was my own son.RIc_Dad Continue reading

A Loving Soul

Gregory M. Giordano

Sadly, in life we take for granted so many people like my cousin [Richard Menello] who touched so many lives in a positive way and we assume that these people will always be around to support us. Richard’s untimely passing on March 1, 2013 was not only shocking to our family but to hundreds of friends and neighbors who loved and welcomed Richard into their hearts over the years. The people who truly knew Richard could honestly say he was an unpretentious man who cared very little about fame and fortune and how people would remember him after he was gone from our lives.
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Rikyu by Hannah Jones

Wall Of PrayersPicture this. You’re a Japanese film major fresh out of college and, on a whim, you’re heading through Midtown to attend a small reception in honor of an aged—but still great—Japanese film star. The impeccable, the unbearable Tatsuya Nakadai is being honored and you’ve decided to go. With your mom. Because, after all, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
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My Friend and Collaborator Ric

By Adam Dubin


Ric Menello’s legacy will be his filmmaking and not his apartment. It’s an enduring testament to Ric’s multifaceted humanity that he had many collaborators and I was fortunate enough to be one of them. From the time that we co-wrote and then co-directed the Beastie Boys videos and on through numerous writing experiences, Ric’s voluminous knowledge of film, literature and life were a treasure trove of inspiration. Continue reading

Last Stop, Brooklyn – by Michael Fiorito

“You’re a good guitar player,’” said Ric, after my set at Vox Pop, in his gruff Brooklyn accent. I noticed the crumbs on his shirt. He was typing on his computer, sitting across from my son, Theo.

I thanked him for the compliment. “What are you working on?” I asked.

“I’m working on a screen play,” said Ric. In New York everyone’s working on a screenplay, or a novel. Everyone’s a fucking star. I didn’t know if it was a “real” screenplay or not. But I didn’t care. I liked him right away.

Almost immediately, we started talking about film. I quickly learned that Ric knew everything: the directors, screenwriters, the back stories, the financing behind the film. Who fucked who. Eventually he’d quote lines from movies in the voices of the actors, or imitate directors shouting commands to the cast.

“Who’s this little guy?” Ric asked, referring to my son.

“This is my Theo,” I said. Theo blushed slightly.

“What are you eating, Theo?” Ric asked my son, calling him by his name.

Theo looked at me, not sure if he should speak.

“That’s the Vox Chicken Cordon Blu sandwich,” I said, speaking for him.

“That’s my favorite sandwich here,” Ric said excitedly. Theo smiled. Another crazy friend of dad’s. Ric never took his eyes off the sandwich.

“You must know a lot about film,” I said.

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