Home » Joe Mantegna Co-Hosts National Memorial Day Concert

Joe Mantegna Co-Hosts National Memorial Day Concert

Just a baseball toss from his Burbank eatery, Taste Chicago, actor Joe Mantegna runs his Acquaviva Productions Company out of a nondescript house on Hollywood Way. No gates, no guards; just an American flag flying near the front porch steps, as patriotic and unpretentious as the actor inside.

Mantegna seems relaxed and content with himself and his career, which has spanned over 45 years. Tonight, for the eleventh consecutive year, Mantegna will be hosting the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS.

The show is one of PBS’ highest-rated annual programs. The concert will air live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building tonight from 8:00 – 9:30 p.m. on KOCE. The National Memorial Day Concert is also broadcast to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network.

Returning as Mantegna’s co-host for the evening will be fellow Chicagoan Gary Sinise. Neither Sinise nor Mantegna served in the military, but both are highly committed to serving our nation’s veterans now.

“Nobody in the entertainment industry does more for our veterans than Gary,” Mantegna said of his co-host, who runs the Gary Sinise Foundation that helps build functional homes for disabled veterans.

The National Memorial Day Concert is a non-political event that in no way endorses any political or military point of view. Rather, the event reaches out with remembrances and tributes to veterans, their families, and our troops in active service.

Mantegna, who had five uncles who served during World War II, became involved with the National Memorial Day Concert in 2002, when he was asked to do a reading by his friend and fellow actor Charles Durning, who served as an Army Ranger during the D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II.

“They asked me to do a reading from the writings of four families that had lost firefighter family members in the 9-11 attacks. I did another reading the next year, and then when Ozzie Davis, who previously hosted the concert, passed away, they asked me to host the concert,” Mantegna said.

Each year after the concert, Mantegna and Sinise make a point to visit the most severely wounded warriors and Gold Star families who watch the concert from the Speaker’s Balcony of the Capitol. Mantegna also visits wounded warriors at the Bethesda Hospital. “I definitely get more than I give,” Mantegna said about meeting the disabled veterans.

Hosting the National Memorial Day Concert is yet another accomplishment in Mantegna’s multifaceted-career that started in Chicago in the late 1960’s.

He got his first big break in the national touring company production of Hair in 1969. His talent grew and blossomed in the fertile theatrical fields of America’s Midway during the early 1970’s. Steppenwolf, Second City, and his home base at the Organic Theater Company produced dozens of the biggest stars including John Malkovich, Bill Murray, and his concert co-host Gary Sinise.

Mantegna made his Broadway debut in the play Working in 1978. He earned his “closer’s coffee” by taking home the Tony Award for his role of Ricky Roma in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross.

Mantegna, a life-long Chicago Cubs fan, conceived the idea that would eventually become the stage play Bleacher Bums. Staying true to his hometown roots, he will again be throwing out the first pitch at the Cubs game on May 31st. He’s done it several times before, always from the pitching rubber, and sang “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” (How Many Times?) during the seventh inning stretch, a tradition started by legendary announcer Harry Caray.

He is currently starring in the CBS series Criminal Minds, where Mantegna portrays David Rossi, a Marine Corps combat veteran turned FBI profiler.

“The acting is free,” Mantegna says, “they pay us for the waiting.” Mantegna spends his downtime on the set watching the Military Channel in his trailer that decorates with various pictures of family and friends from his life and impressive career that consists of over 200 TV and film appearances.

Mantegna has appeared on many iconic shows and movies including hosting Saturday Night Live, voicing Fat Tony on “The Simpsons”, and joining the Godfather trilogy as Joey Zasa.

In 1999 he was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Dean Martin in the HBO movie “The Rat Pack.”

“I love Dean Martin, and I’d never do anything to tarnish his memory, so before I played the part I contacted his kids to let them know what was happening, and to give them a chance to read the script or talk to me,” Mantegna explained.

All of these successes eventually earned Mantegna his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011. It’s located on Hollywood Blvd., directly across the street from the legendary eatery Musso & Frank. “You’re allowed two speakers to induct you,” Mantegna said, “I chose David Mamet and Lt. General Willie Williams. I bet it’s the only time a three-star general has spoken at a Hollywood Walk of Fame induction.”

During his Walk of Fame induction speech, Mantegna thoughtfully and eloquently dedicated his star to dreamers and heroes.

“In Hollywood, we build boulevards with the names of stars who live their lives portraying heroes. In Washington D.C. they build walls with names of men and women who died being heroes. So to you, the men and women in uniform, regardless of the uniform you wear, for your service to us all, I also dedicate this star to you, the real heroes.”

Join Joe and Gary and our thankful nation tonight for the National Memorial Day Concert as we collectively honor “All who gave some, and some who gave all.”