Ray Faiola Lives A Life All His Own...
WAWARSING – What's that car zooming out of town towards the center a little after 4 a.m. every morning? And what about that celluloid flicker emanating from a barn just off Briggs Highway a stone's throw out of Ellenville?
Welcome to the life of Ray Faiola, actor, Director of Audience Services at CBS, new president of the Noonday Club, longstanding mainstay of the Sons of the Desert's Them Thar Hills fan club chapter, expert film and film soundtrack restorer, Shadowland Stages board member, Radio Night producer/director, and the man behind the current Matinee at Shadowland film series that continues this Saturday at the venerable theater on Canal Street in his beloved adopted home town.
"I love living in Ellenville/Wawarsing," Faiola says during a recent afternoon talk at his film poster-festooned barn. Most people don't commute this far but I enjoy driving. I have a great life!"
Faiola described how after growing up in Westchester County then moving with his family to Florida, he moved to New York City for acting, and then a CBS job, in the late 1970s. For 25 years he and his wife lived in a loft they renovated, and raised two children in, on 27th Street in Manhattan. Eventually, they decided to get a large house in the Bronx, where she still lives much of the time because of her successful work selling real estate, coming up on weekends.
"I was familiar with this area from having come up for Passover at the Nevele years ago," he adds. "I wanted something with land and an extra building and then I read about Shadowland and Richard Benjamin doing 'All My Sons.' We went to a realtor in Rock Hill who showed us a tear-down, and then this."
Faiola explains how his home was built in 1939 on the property of the former High View Hotel, then had its barn built to house an electrical business in the 1950s. Talk about perfect for a man who, by the time he moved up here in 2006, had collected dozens of old films on 16 mm, and was looking to get more.
He put in a theater, set up a studio where he can restore old films and work on his business restoring and releasing classic film soundtracks, while also spending what vacation time he enjoys each year acting in Shadowland productions.
How did this all get started?
Ray Faiola starts by pointing out how the different aspects of his life — work, acting, film collection, family, and so forth — are all separate. But then he gets excited about his start collecting old Blackhawk 8 mm versions of classic comedies when he was a boy of five. By his teens he sold that collection and moved on to 16 mm, holding onto only Stan and Ollie's classic Sons of the Desert.
"As a kid I loved Universal horror films, Abbott & Costello. Then my attention span widened quite a bit," he says. "Now I've got everything from Georges Melies to things made this century, although the bulk of it remains classics from the 1930s and 1940s."
He then notes how he began working with Shadowland in a Halloween production of War of the Worlds... which led to the radio plays and matinee series and board membership. Noonday membership came about through a guest invitation; then he found he liked the organization, its dinners and sense of fellowship.
How about his work with restorations and film scores?
Faiola answers by noting how he started at age fourteen, splicing together copies of Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman and then adding a sound score he pulled from television... all on 8 mm film. And long before home video was even an idea.
As for family — Faiola's daughter is a painter with various side businesses in Chicago, where everyone tends to go for Thanksgiving each year. His son works in music production in Pelham Bay, downstate.
"I feel most comfortable here and now," he says when asked whether his love for older films and soundtracks reflects a deeper nostalgic bent, countering with a paean to modern technology and knowledge. "I leave for New York at 4:15 each morning, listening to the music I'm working on on my drive to and from work. I leave my garage on the west side at 3. It's stress free."
What about vacations, we ask? Does he ever get away, besides his work world and Chicago in November?
"My wife goes everywhere," Faiola replies. "I go to Shadowland."
Coming up, Ray Faiola will be on hand this Saturday for the Matinees at Shadowland screening of his print of the Sherlock Holmes classic The Scarlet Claw, plus a full program of shorts, cartoons and serials also from his collection. In early April comes his hosting of the Sons of the Desert's next meeting.
And then it'll be the acting season.
Talk about a busy man...