With the second season finale of “Pit Boss” coming up Oct. 23, star Shorty Rossi is awaiting word on Season 3 of his reality show. The fedora-wearing, 4-foot tough-guy talent agent, who runs a pit bull rescue operation, definitely wants to continue with the popular Animal Planet series, though in some ways, it sounds as if it’s turned his world upside down.
“Our workload has quadrupled, so that’s a hard thing,” observes Rossi. Also, “It’s amazing how many people watch Animal Planet. We’re recognized everywhere we go. I don’t have a private life no more; that’s over. I live part time in Mexico. That was my solace, but now the show is being aired in Mexico and I’m getting recognized there. I just came up from there. Even the toll road inspector said, ‘I saw you and the dogs. I saw you on cable.’ I went, ‘uh-oh.'”
Rossi, in case you didn’t know, has a seriously improbable back story — including leaving his unhappy home by age 15, living with a friend’s family in Watts, Calif., becoming a gang banger, getting convicted of attempted murder (among other things) and doing 10 years and 10 months of hard time in Folsom Prison. The little person ex-con’s first post-prison gig was in an Alvin the Chipmunk costume at the Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood.
Recent episodes of his “Pit Boss” have taken him back to his old juvenile detention cell and other haunts, and have been hinting at a reunion with his estranged parents, who stayed away when he was behind bars. How has it felt to revisit so much personal pain?
“Some of it brings catharsis. Some of it just says, ‘Get over it, go on with your life.’ The future is not bound by the past,” stresses Rossi, who’s been seen trying to talk sense into wayward teens from time to time — and stays in touch with a few of them.
He gets loads of fan mail letters and e-mails these days, from “nine-year-olds to 90-year-olds,” he says. A little girl recently sent in her dollar allowance to help with his dogs, which Rossi admits he found touching.
Ahead on “Pit Boss,” he tells us there are confrontations coming, “and, as a matter of fact, we go to Mexico.” Ahead for Rossi himself: ongoing advocacy for the controversial dog breed he knows as loyal and loving companions, and possibly a book. “There’s a lot about what it was like to get from there to here that hasn’t been covered,” he says.
AT THIS STAGE: Patricia Wettig reports, “There are a handful of off-Broadway theaters” considering mounting her “F to M” play, now that it scored solidly as a reading in New York. “I’m pretty positive it will be seen again,” says the actress/playwright.
“F to M” refers to a transgender, “but the play is more about identity than about transgendering,” says Wettig. “It’s about how a person is able to hold onto their deepest, truest self against the pressures of society and what the world wants them to be. Transgendering is really a metaphor.” However, the play has, not surprisingly, evoked much interest within the transgender community, and one of the cast for the reading was a transgender woman.
COMING AND GOING: Swoosie Kurtz tells us that her “Mike & Molly” situation is a dream — and not only because she likes the show and her role. They shoot the show “at Warner Bros., first of all, which is 3-and-a-half minutes from my house. I feel like I spend half my life at Warner Bros. And then, the half-hour comedy is like the dream job as far as scheduling is concerned. It’s my favorite process in TV because it’s most like theater. You have rehearsal, then you get all dressed up, hair and makeup, the adrenaline starts pumping and you do it.”
BRINGING THE MUSIC: With Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah due to start shooting their “Joyful Noise” movie in Atlanta the end of January, casting is under way for a clutch of supporting roles — including those of Latifah’s teenage children, Dolly’s husband (who must depart this earth early on, since she’s a widow through most of the story) and a child choir soloist. “Noise” has the country and hip-hop queens as competing to lead a gospel choir that’s fallen on hard times.