Little Johnny Becomes a "Big Player"
In January 2002 Albert Altieri, better known to the world as "Johnny Morris Jr." passed away in Tampa Florida, leaving behind a fame that blazed clear across the country. I happen to know very well two nephews of his. They both regale me with stories of Johnny with Hollywood Stars, Chico Marx and Lucille Ball, just to name two of the many heavyweights he met. An affable intelligent man, with impeccable tastes. He loved cars, women, and making people happy.
Albert Altieri, who was reported to be anywhere between 4'5" and 4'7" inches tall when he became the second "Johnny Morris" for the Philip Morris Tobacco Company.In fact, in a recent interview with a surviving brother of Mr. Altieri, I find out that at the time of his discovery he was approximately 3'7" At Eso Blog we are pleased to announce this for possibly the very first time. The first "Johnny" was a man by the name of Johnny Roventini, who was 4' foot tall. Just like Roventini, Altieri was born of Italian immigrant parents. Johnny Roventini enjoyed a life long affiliation with the company, as did Albert.
Let me hip you to a little inside scoop on the old news. Roventini's thick Italian accent came through and Alteiri was well spoken. He was going to school to be a lawyer. A smart cookie from the tough city streets of Bridgeport. He had charm and loved to meet people. A grade "A" schmoozer. Unbeknown to most, Alteiri was the "Johnny" that the Morris Company used for public speaking, personnel appearance events, parties, etc. He had the gift of gab. He was a great salesman. And I don't say that in a derogatory way. Because as we all know the sales business is hard.
Albert Altieri was discovered at the age of seventeen years old. Can you imagine what that most have been like? Especially at a time like that. The Depression years, hard times, people starving. Hey, that sounds like now. But anyway... imagine? On top of the fact that he had a lot of obstacles in his own life to deal with and then Fate smiled on a seventeen year Italian kid from Bridgeport. Which by the way is the home of a man who was much smaller than Albert. That man came to be know to the world as "General Tom Thumb".
I recall running down Madison Avenue when I was around eleven, or twelve. You would see "Little Johnny Morris", as us street kids unofficially called him, drive up in his big beautiful car, park and climb out. He walked around to the back trunk area, then stand on the curb and say, "Hey you kids? What brand Cigarette does your dad smoke?" with a the friendliest smile you ever saw. Then he would give us sample packs, which held three cigarettes in a box, to bring home to the house. Sometimes they never made it to the house if the older kids jacked us for them.
Johnny was always "clean". Nice suits, clothes, jewelry. Flashy guy. Class. Speaking of clothes, if you travel to the Smithsonian Institute you will see one of his "Bellhop" uniforms on display. They were especially made, and expensively made, for Albert, by the Philip Morris Company. He traveled the world, hung out with celebrities, he was at the ribbon cutting of the Hoover Dam.