David Ippolito's remarkable journey has brought him to a place where many regard him as "the most famous person in New York that nobody knows."
David says, "It's simply not possible to live the life I live, in this day and age. But, somehow... I do. I am the luckiest man alive."
He was born the son of a New York City firefighter named Joseph, and a lovely woman from Queens, named Irene. The second of 6 children... (he has four sisters and a brother who died in infancy.) ... he was raised in a modest house on Long Island with lots of love, lots of support, and lots and lots of noise. His father asked him at age seven if he would like to play the guitar, and when David said, "Yes" he bought him a guitar for 24 dollars at a local music store. The lessons never made a whole lot of sense to young David, because he discovered very early on that he could simply hear a song and play it. His guitar just became an extension of him, as did the piano a few years later, never really learning to read or notate music. To this day, he really does not remember what it felt like not to play an instrument. He began playing at grammar school concerts and assemblies right away in second grade... playing Beatles tunes and whatever popular songs he would hear on the radio. But, by the time he attended East Meadow High School, the guitar and music had taken a backseat to basketball and the beach. He never stopped listening, though, to his first loves in music... James Taylor, the Beatles, Chicago, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Bob Dylan... and equally, Broadway shows like Pippin, 1776, Jesus Christ-Superstar... and film scores by composers such as Miklos Rosa, John Barry, Alfred Newman, John Williams, Maurice Jarre, James Horner and others.
He had always been gifted as a graphic artist as well. And so, when he realized that college was simply not for him, he got a job as assistant art director and illustrator for an in-house art department at a housewares manufacturer in New Jersey. He spent the years from age 20 to 27 behind a desk and a drawing board, but once or twice a week he would play music in local bars for extra money and kicks.
When his Mom, Irene, was diagnosed with cancer (when she was only 50 years old), he went through the first of what he describes as "the dark days". He came out the other side of that time deciding that he would leave the art department and drawing board to pursue a career in theater, film or television as an actor.
"Looking back," David recalls, "I really didn't know what the hell I was going to do. I just knew that I wasn't going to be in an office for the rest of my life. I realized life is way to short."
And so, he auditioned for and then attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan at night for a year or so. He did quit his job as an artist and moved into Manhattan, picking up all kinds of odd jobs to make a living.
As he flirted with modest successes as an actor, picking up day player and bit roles on soap operas and movies, he floundered for years in many other ways. He scraped out much of his living playing music in the bars on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, most notably The Red Lion and the Rock n Roll Cafe. Several life altering disappointments and the death of his mother weren't easy for him or any member of his family.
"Well, to make a long story a little longer... I eventually became a failure as a human being in every way", he recalls. "There was never enough of anything to fill up the 'love-shaped-hole' inside of me." He remembers years of heavy drinking, all night parties, drugs, sex...
"It wasn't pretty. I found myself in places I wouldn't wanna to fly over today. I wasn't acting, but I was still calling myself an actor. I wasn't writing, but was still calling myself a writer. I had a crazed desire to do both things, but had absolutely nothing of any importance to say to the world. I wasn't doing much of anything except slowly killing myself, and I really believe, at one point, the lights were almost out."
He was given a second chance, however, in January of 1992 when he stopped drinking and drugging completely.
"Those first few years were extremely difficult and painful. There was an awful lot of damage to repair. But, it was so worth every tear."
Part of his miraculous road back to life happened just 5 months later when he would become, as he would later be called, THAT GUITAR MAN FROM CENTRAL PARK.
In June of that year, David spent nearly all of his money (about $200) on a tiny "Mouse" amplifier and, with a microphone that was duct-taped to a stand, he went to Central Park on the next sunny, weekend afternoon. He found a spot by The Lake facing a small, grassy hill where 3 or 4 people were relaxing... reading newspapers or lying in the sun. He asked if he could play a few songs for them. And, when they all said, "yes" he played James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James". To a smattering of applause he replied, "Please don't do that. It's just us." He played song after song and, in about an hour, the small crowd had grown to about a hundred people. Feeling safe in this new moment, he invited the people on the hill to sing with him. For the rest of that afternoon that's just what they did, as the crowd grew even larger. By the end of the day, David had sung to over 500 people.
Unknown to David, one of those people was senior editor for the New York Times, Jack Rosenthal. The following Monday morning, a quarter page article about a spontaneous "Concert in the Park" appeared in the Times. That was all the validation David needed to know that he would have to return again and again to "The Hill", which is exactly what he did.
The rest, as they say, is history.
As the weeks and then years went by, David began writing and performing his own music in Central Park, as his audience began to number in the thousands and thousands. His life has been an amazing ride since that first day in the park. In 1997, a man named David Abramowitz happened upon him and offered to produce his first CD, which they named "The People on the Hill". To date, David has 5 albums to his credit... the most recent, a collection of his own music entitled "Crazy on the Same Day".
He has been covered by the New York Times on several occasions, the New York Post, The Daily News, Parade Magazine, PBS, CBS-TV, ABC-TV, WB-11 news... his song dedicated to the city he loves, "City Song", was used to close NBC's television coverage of the 2001 N.Y.C. Marathon. He's appeared on ABC's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire". As an actor, he's landed multiple national TV commercials and has done several regional musical theater productions.
Recently, backed by "some of the best session musicians and nicest people anywhere", David has sold out several concerts at Merkin Concert Hall, and is currently developing a series of weekly, concert/storytelling sessions at The Soho Palyhouse in New York City.
An amazing story... a work in progress... one of the "luckiest men alive"... he's still, "the most famous person in New York that nobody knows."