Author: Christina M. Abt
As the creator of the successful CSI Franchise, Anthony E. Zuiker has spent his adult life crafting and producing television programming that is enjoyed around the world. It is his talent for writing good stories and sharing them in compelling ways that recently inspired him to honor Western New York Restaurateur and Philanthropist, Russell Salvatore, in a tribute he imagined, directed and produced.
“I met Russell when I came to Buffalo to donate 2,500 graphic novels for teens from Zuiker Press to libraries throughout the Buffalo Public School System,” Zuiker said. “I knew of his generosity in supporting community-based projects. That’s why I requested a meeting to tell him about our company’s mission to print and distribute books to help teens learn from the pain and heroics of our authors and find hope, change, and happiness in their own lives. What happened in that meeting is that I learned about a gentleman with a deep connection to his father that has motivated him to help others in so many ways throughout his life. That story encouraged me to pay tribute to Russell, who does so much for so many.”
Zuiker’s tribute took the form of a gathering of Salvatore’s closest friends at his own restaurant. With the help of the restaurateur’s long-time partner, Mark Jerge, the two men managed to keep the event under wraps so that it was a complete surprise to Salvatore, who has planned and hosted events from Buffalo to Miami.
Escorting the guest of honor to a table in the center of the room, Zuiker unrolled his production, which included a number of musical selections performed by tenor, Teo Riccardeli, flown into Buffalo specifically for the tribute. In the midst of the music, Zuiker unveiled his grand tribute in the form of a color portrait of the Salvatore Family. The life-sized artwork was a reproduction of a black and white photograph taken 80 years ago in which Russell Salvatore is seated on his father’s knee.
Acknowledging the tribute, Salvatore joked that he’d just witnessed a preview of his funeral. He then turned philosophic as he acknowledged the influence of his father in his life. He gave thanks to all who gathered in tribute stating, “I feel so respected,” and made a promise to the man who hosted him in his own restaurant to find a place of honor for the family portrait.
A compelling story of a life well-lived, expertly crafted and produced.