By: Scott RossPublished: August 20, 2022

Ric Menello

During Rick Rubin's time at NYU, when he was helping lay the groundwork for rap music's takeover of mainstream culture, he met a guy named Ric Menello. Menello was born in Brooklyn on August 20, 1952, grew up in the city and attended NYU, earning a bachelor's in dramatic literature and cinema, then went the professional student route, sticking around to pursue a master's and work on campus, at the front desk of Rubin's dorm. Menello was always up for a chat.

In time, Menello got dragged into Rubin's shenanigans and soon found himself co-directing one of the great videos in rap history, the Beastie Boys' 1986 hit "Fight For Your Right," which was allegedly inspired in part by the party scene from Breakfast at Tiffany's.

"It was kind of a dumb video, but it was done in a very sophisticated way visually. I often say the style of the video is 'stupidity done in an intelligent way,'" Menello said later. "If I knew that people were going to be looking at them 26 years later, I would've done better!"

(Because lawyers and scolds ruin everything, we can't embed the video here--it's age-restricted, even though there's no nudity or violence and all the bad words have been bleeped out. Fortunately, our censorious overlords have deemed the party scene from Breakfast at Tiffany'ssafe for viewing)

“We almost wrecked the place,” Menello said. “Two older Japanese men came to observe and one of the guys came up to me and said, ‘You are a very great director. Do you also do porn?’ I should have said yes. I could have ended up in Japan doing porn films that get respectable notices in the West."

Rubin reached out to Menello again the following year to direct the Beastie Boys' video for "No Sleep 'til Brooklyn" and 1989's LL Cool J video "Goin' Back to Cali."

In addition to directing videos, Menello also wrote the screenplays for two films directed by James Gray, The Immigrant, starring Marion Cotillard, and Two Lovers, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix, as well as the rap epic Tougher Than Leather, starring Run-DMC, which the Washington Post hailed as "vile, vicious, despicable, stupid, sexist, racist and horrendously made."

Menello died of a heart attack March 1, 2013, not far from his home in Brooklyn. He was 60.


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