2001-04-19 / Top Stories

Canarsie D.J. Rubs Elbows With The Rich & Famous

Canarsie D.J. Rubs Elbows With The Rich & Famous

Canarsie D.J. Rubs Elbows With The Rich & Famous

Canarsien Jimmy Diele - also known as "Cousin Vinny" - helms his own show on weekends at Y-107.Canarsien Jimmy Diele - also known as "Cousin Vinny" - helms his own show on weekends at Y-107.

By Jeff Pearlstein

At some point in our lives, many of us dream or desire to meet celebrities we admire. Canarsie native Jimmy Diele has not only met the "rich and famous," he’s become one of them.

Diele’s fascination with celebrity started many years ago with the determination to become a professional radio disc jockey. He started out as a mobile disc jockey, playing at local parties and events, never losing sight of his goal. A spur of the moment call to radio personality Ray Rossi (then of WPLJ) got Diele on the way towards reaching that ultimate goal to be heard on the radio.

Having been a die-hard Elvis Presley fan, Diele made contact with Memphis radio personality George Klein, one of Elvis’s loyal and best friends.


If you're collecting photos of famous people, you just have to have a shot of Regis Philbin, Here's Regis with Jimmy and girl friend Gina Guilano.If you're collecting photos of famous people, you just have to have a shot of Regis Philbin, Here's Regis with Jimmy and girl friend Gina Guilano.

"I found the radio station that Klein was working at and he was the nicest guy," said Jimmy. "He sent me an autographed photo, along with some advice on my voice and how to get into radio."

Heeding Klein’s advice, the two formed a long-standing friendship that remains to this day.

However, before he had the opportunity to ply his craft as a radio deejay, Diele took a job working for noted TV personality Robin Leach, who was known for his columns and TV shows chronicling "the lifestyles of the rich and famous."

Diele was thrilled to have worked with Leach.


Tony Bennett received a nice gift from Jimmy.Tony Bennett received a nice gift from Jimmy.

"I was making about five bucks an hour, but it was just the passion I had for doing this," he recalls. "It was cool meeting Robin, and great being around him, but I still wanted to be on the radio."

Diele soon left Leach’s employ for an internship at WPLJ Radio. "I started as an intern doing research, and wound up on the air," he says.

It was through radio deejay Rocky Allen, that finally got Diele on the radio, and with his own show, no less.

"The next thing I know, he’s got this idea for a celebrity show," he said. "Now I’m meeting people that I could never imagine I would ever meet. I grew up with idols like Adam West ("Batman") and William Shatner ("Star Trek") and having them on my show and interviewing them, was an amazing thing."


Diele with former boss Robin Leach.Diele with former boss Robin Leach.

From his work on the radio talk show Celebrity Spotlight, Diele had the chance to live out his dream of meeting various movie personalities and thus began his hobby of collecting memorabilia. "I have a tremendous collection," he points out. According to Diele, who has "tons of celebrity pictures," every photo tells a story, such as the time he met and interviewed legendary singer, Tony Bennett.

"When I met Tony Bennett, I bought a little cable car that when you wind it up, it plays ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco,’ which he signed for me," Diele says, smiling. "That’s one piece of memorabilia that I just love."

Recently Diele added a special item to his ever-growing collection. "I used to love Happy Days, and Henry Winkler was one of my idols growing up. I recently met him, and he knows I’m a big fan of him as Fonzie. He signed a bunch of classic Fonzie stuff for me, including a lunch box."

Over the years, with each celebrity he met, his collection of memorabilia grew. "I probably have more stuff than the Hard Rock Cafe and more authentic too," Diele boasts. "Maybe one day I can open up a little celebrity-type restaurant and have all of my memorabilia plastered all over the place."


Jimmy and his buddy "The Fonz."Jimmy and his buddy "The Fonz."

Not only has Diele encountered many notable entertainment personalities, including Frank Sinatra and Regis Philbin, but in the New York area, he’s sort of become one. For the past fourteen years, Diele, with the love and support of his family, has been living out his dream as a radio disc jockey on several New York-based stations.

Currently, under the stage name "Cousin Vinny," Diele can be heard every Sunday night, spinning out the oldest and newest hits in the area’s only country music station, Y-107. Despite his success, Diele has remained in the Canarsie home in which he grew up - and along the way found a very interesting and rewarding hobby, as well as achieving his original goal of becoming a radio personality.

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