CHEEKTOWAGA – Actor William Fichtner hasn’t walked the halls of Maryvale High School since he graduated many years ago. Friday, the school dedicated the auditorium in his name.
“I’ve got pretty good memories from high school – when I wasn’t sent home,” joked Mr. Fichtner.
Cheektowaga Chronicle spoke with the Hollywood character actor backstage at Maryvale during a small reception with family, friends, and past teachers.
“I’m beyond thrilled and honored to be here today. To have the performing arts center that I grew up going to being named after me today, it’s just hard to describe,” Mr. Fichtner said.
“My whole existence happened in this town right here. This is where I’m from, this is where I went to school,” added Mr. Fictner. “I had very influential teachers and counselors back then and really opened my eyes to future things that I would do and went to college because of great influences here at Maryvale.”
Anthony Vesona is a legal assistant in the town’s law department. He grew up on Betty Lou and Mr. Fictner on Lucy Lane – the pair are still best friends.
“We played hockey together, we hung out together, went to concerts together, he was the best man at my wedding and my son’s Godfather. We’ve just stayed close for 50-years now,” said Mr. Vesona.
“He deserves it. He’s been so dedicated to Buffalo, to Western New York and Cheektowaga,” added Mr. Vesona. “He has stayed close to all of his friends, he’s always plugging the city, he’s always plugging the town of Cheektowaga – it’s just perfect.”
Asked if Mr. Fictner had the acting bug in high school Mr. Vesona joked, “The only time I saw him act was when he was trying to get out of trouble.”
He says that Mr. Fictner not only accomplished everything he put his mind to but he excelled at them as well.
“He got to know karate so well that he taught me. The next thing he wanted to be was a goalie. He actually became an unbelievable goalie that in 1971-72 – the very first Cheektowaga house league – we were the Crusaders – we won the league championship and Billy was our goalie,” said Mr. Vesona.
They still chat and text on the phone and when Mr. Fictner directed his movie “Cold Brook” in Western New York this past summer – Mr. Versona got a part in it. “I’m actually up for an Academy Award for Best Featured Extra in a Diner Scene,” Mr. Vesona jokes.
The movie is just five weeks from completion says Mr. Fictner, “My commitment for years and years while working on the project was to bring it back home and probably the greatest achievement I’ve ever had is finally getting to the point to make the film.”
His advice to other movie producers thinking about filing in Western New York, “Do it! Don’t hesitate, come on, what other place has real chicken wings? Get here! What other town has the Bills – get here,” said Mr. Fictner.
During his time at Maryvale Friday, he met with drama students for an hour-long chat.
“I told them that you have to imagine it first before you can do it. Beleive in yourself, keep trying and set your goal high, you’ll get them.”
At the formal ceremonies later in the afternoon, he was lauded by Maryvale’s superintendent and inducted as a Maryvale distinguished alumni. He was also presented with proclamations from the state, county, and town. The town council declared December 15, 2017, William Fichtner Day in the Town of Cheektowaga.
“It’s just so exciting for the town. It took too long to recognize him and with the performing arts center to be named after him – it will inspire all the students in Maryvale,” said Cheektowaga Supervisor Diane Benczkowski.
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