Star Trac owner Michael Bruno had a rooting interest during Sunday night's Emmy Awards. His friend, actor Ed O'Neill, was a nominee for best supporting actor in a comedy for his role on the Emmy Award-winning "Modern Family." And although O'Neill didn't win the individual Emmy, the ties remain strong among Bruno, O'Neill and fellow Youngstown, OH, native Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini.
O'Neill, who initially gained fame for playing Al Bundy on TV's "Married… with Children," is a couple of years older than Bruno, and both grew up on the north side of Youngstown, Bruno says. The two became friends through O'Neill's college roommate, George McKelvey, who later became the mayor of Youngstown.
"Eddie was incredibly popular, especially with the ladies, and you just knew he was destined for something special," Bruno says. "But I can say no one expected this."
A standout defensive lineman, O'Neill played football at Ohio University and later at Youngstown State University. He was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969 but was one of the last players cut in training camp, Bruno says.
"This was one of those deals where what you thought was the worst thing that ever happened to you turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to you," Bruno says.
That summer, O'Neill worked briefly for Bruno's construction company. O'Neill approached Bruno as he was debating whether to continue working for him or go to New York to wait tables and study acting. Bruno had recalled seeing O'Neill's first part as a Roman centurion in a Youngstown playhouse.
"We all know he made the absolute right decision," Bruno says. "It was obvious he would be a star."
Now for the connection to "Boom Boom" Mancini, the former World Boxing Association lightweight champion: Not long after he bought Irvine, CA-based Star Trac, Bruno had dinner with O'Neill and Mancini in Los Angeles. The three Youngstown boys had made good—the boxer, the actor and the fitness equipment company owner.
Bruno says Mancini will be in the Star Trac booth at the Club Industry show next month in Las Vegas promoting his just-released biography "The Good Son." You can read a fascinating excerpt of the book that ran in The New York Times. Las Vegas was the site of Mancini's most memorable and tragic fight 30 years ago this November.
Mancini also will be promoting Star Trac's new boxing product, the BoxMaster. Although Mancini will not have books at the booth, Bruno says, he will sign books for those who bring a copy. Mancini is expected at the booth both Thursday, Oct. 11, and Friday, Oct. 12. As more details become available, we'll pass them along here and on Twitter and Facebook.
No word on if O'Neill will be at the show, too, but if not, we'll see if we can get his TV wife, Sofia Vergara.