The Bard of Braddock

Sep 09, 2019 196

BY: Steve Macfarlane

Tony Buba’s 1979 black-and-white documentary Sweet Sal opens with a stream of trash talk. The film’s namesake, middle-aged wise guy Sal Carulli, leans against the exterior of a bar on the main drag of Buba’s hometown of Braddock, a declining suburb of Pittsburgh. Sal is talking about his favorite subject, himself. “The real name is Sal-va-to-re,” he explains, drawing out each syllable for maximum pizzazz. “It’s a beautiful name! It means savior. Savior. Am I a savior? I’m a killer! I’m a killer, I’ll pop somebody in a second! Savior.”

I called up the filmmaker one afternoon at his home in Braddock Hills, where he’s lived since 2001, after his childhood home in Braddock proper was pulled down. Buba, who is featured in the Topic documentary series Braddock, PA, has chronicled the lives of the people he’s met along the way in his own dozen-plus films. He describes Sal as a “mafia wannabe,” always decked out in alligator shoes and silk suits, who had apprenticed at his grandfather’s cobbler shop before running a bookmaking joint.

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