Benny Jay: Frank Serpico Goes to Penn State

November 15th, 2011

In search of a break from the unspeakable horrors of existence, I turn to Frank Serpico.

Normally, I’d turn to sports.

But in this case the unspeakable horrors come from the world of sports.

As in — Penn State!

Where one football coach allegedly saw a former football coach raping a ten-year-old boy in the shower room and then told the head football coach and somehow or other nothing happened. Leaving the former football coach free to allegedly rape other boys.

At this point, I’d usually provide a punchline. But, given the circumstances, I have no punch line to provide.

So let’s go back to Serpico.

I’m talking about the movie about police corruption in New York City. Came out in 1973. Stars Al Pacino. Directed by Sidney Lumet. Let’s give a shout out to the main screenwriter Waldo Salt — great script!

On my better days, I once looked like this — without the earring….


It’s been almost 40 years since I originally saw it, but certain parts remain clear in my memory.

Like the way folks say his name.  It’s Serpico — as in Sir-peh-ko. But a lot of the characters pronounce it: Soi-pah-ko. This being New York and all.

I have another memory of Pacino/Serpico pulling out a badge and saying: “Officer Frank Soi-pah-ko, I’d like to talk to you about a homicide.”

I’ve been doing that routine for going on 40 years — usually to my wife, though sometimes to the dog.

I’d pull out my wallet, like it was my detective’s badge, flash it at her, and say: “Officer Frank Soi-pah-ko, I’d like to talk to you about a homicide.”

Then I’d take her arm, like I was bringing her in for questioning. The good news is that she married me anyway.

So when I put the movie on the last night, I was looking forward to watching that scene unfold.


It never happens!

Serpico/Pacino never pulls out a badge. Never tells a suspect, I’d like to talk to you about a homicide. Never even worked homicide.

In other words — I made the whole thing up!

Please, don’t tell my wife.

Bruce must have watched Serpico before this photo shoot….


If you recall, Frank Serpico is the one honest cop in a squadron of crooked cops who take payoffs from gamblers and drug dealers.

At first his fellow cops look at him with amused curiosity, like: Is this square for real?

Then they get nervous, like: How can we trust a cop who don’t take money?

Then they get livid, like: This prick’s gonna fuck the whole thing up!

In the end, they try to kill — oh, I won’t spoil the ending. Though you probably already know it, since, as I said, the movie came out in 1973.

Serpico/Pacino winds up paying a price for his honesty. Loses his job, his girlfriend, his great life in New York City, including his groovy bachelor’s pad in Greenwich Village where he was making it with tons of gorgeous chicks.

Winds up in Switzerland, which, come to think of it, doesn’t sound so bad.

Great flick!

Watching it again, reminds me of how much I loved it way back when. Thought Serpico/Pacino was one of the world’s coolest guys. He wore a gold earring — who wore a gold earring back in 1973?

Plus, I liked to think I looked a little like Pacino/Serpico. On my good days anyway. Though I never wore a gold earring — or any earring for that matter.

But, here’s the thing — had there been one Frank Serpico in the athletic department at Penn State. Then maybe, just maybe, that former football coach would have been arrested years ago and countless kids would have been spared unspeakable horrors.

Guess that good-guy stuff only happens in the movies….

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