New York City’s hustle and bustle is at a standstill. Times Square, the busiest intersection in the world, is empty. There is nowhere to go, nothing to see or do with everyone sheltering in place in order to flatten the curve and stop the spread of the coronavirus.
That means there is no one for yellow taxi driver Mr. Ferrarii to transport, either.
“The city is a ghost town,” he told InsideEdition.com. He’s been home and without work for over a month, a hard adjustment for a man who thrives on interaction.
For the full interview with Mr. Ferrarii, check out the video at the top of the page!
Mr. Ferrarii, who’s real name is Manny Anzalota, became somewhat of a local celebrity after giving a ride to America’s dad, none other than Tom Hanks. The New York native left such an impression on Hanks that the “Toy Story” star gave him his number and dubbed him “Mr. Ferrarii,” a nod to the outfit Anzalota was wearing that day.
“It's with two ‘I’s because it's easier to find me [online.] You spell it with one ‘I’ you get 1,000 Ferraris,” he joked of his moniker’s particular spelling to InsideEdition.com while driving in Manhattan one rainy February afternoon.
The story of how he met Tom Hanks is one for the movies. One day in 2013, while Anzalota was on the job, Tom Hanks got into his taxi.
“I didn't even know it was him,” Anzalota recalled. “After him talking, I recognized his voice and when I recognized his voice, I actually screamed out, ‘Wilson!’ He was a real nice guy about it. He was like, ‘yeah, that's right. That's me.’”
The two hit it off and became friends. Hanks, who was starring in the Broadway play “Lucky Guy” at the time, invited Anzalota to see his show and come backstage.
“Within those six months that I drove him, I started getting people that were in his Broadway show. I kept relaying the message back, ‘Tell Tom Hanks Mr. Ferrarii says hello.’”
Hanks is one of countless celebrities that have gotten into Anzalota’s taxi. Carrot Top, Drew Barrymore, Billy Zane and Peter Dinklage are some that come to mind when Anzalota is asked who he’s driven. Even an Inside Edition producer and InsideEdition.com’s managing editor got into his cab separately.
“Eight-point-five million people on this island, it's just random,” Anzalota said. Inspired to document that randomness, he created a Facebook and Instagram account to share stories of the people he meets and the experiences he has.
“I like putting a smile on their face,” he said of his passengers. “So anything that has to do with Tom Hanks, most people smile. And then when I let them know I was the cab driver that drove him around ... they somehow want to take a selfie with me. And, I don't know, I feel really good about that.”
He’s a roving psychiatrist of sorts, offering advice and wisdom from the driver’s seat to anyone who wants to listen. And he’s a good judge of character, too. “Sometimes I could feel the energy, whether it's good or not, you know?”
To be listed among his favorite passengers is an honor, and one that isn’t based on celebrity. Anyone in “good spirits, got good energy and that’s very polite,” as well as happy couples after a night out on the town are a pleasure to drive, he said.
Check out the video at the top of the page to see inside Mr. Ferrarii's cab.
“They seem to be fun, especially when they're coming back from having some wine or dinner and they're heading home and we start interacting with my stories,” he said.
The interactions typically begin when the passengers see a huge sign on the plexiglass window that reads, “Google Tom Hanks & Mr. Ferrarii.” And most do; about 80% of passengers ask him about Tom Hanks, Anzalota said.
“Once they Google me, they feel very comfortable with me,” Anzalota said. “It's a good conversation piece.”
Nothing is off the table for Anzalota, whose personal backstory is also a conversation piece. Prior to becoming a taxi driver, he used to work as security for the Sotheby's auction house. He’s leased his taxi medallion for the last twelve years after a friend suggested when he was out of work for two years to drive a yellow cab because of his great personality.
“He says, ‘You know, a lot of good things come out of that, you got great opportunities,’ and boy was he right!” Anzalota said.
Since their meeting, Anzalota said he’s maintained his relationship with the nicest actor in Hollywood, noting the two talk often. After Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, announced they had the coronavirus, Anzalota reached out to express his concern for the Hollywood couple.
He shared with InsideEdition.com his heartfelt message.
“There’s no crying in baseball but the world is very emotional today hearing the news of you and your wife,” Anzalota wrote in an email to Hanks. “Many blessings your family is in our prayers. HERE’S TO A GOOD MAN THAT TOLD ME It doesn’t matter how much money you have or fame always treat people with respect. I SAID A PRAYER FOR YOU AND YOUR WIFE TODAY THAT GOD WOULD TOUCH YOU WITH HIS HEALING HAND AND GIVE YOU AND YOUR WIFE THE COMFORT AND PEACE YOU NEED TO GET THROUGH”
Hanks’ assistant replied to Anzalota with his message back: “Ah! So many good smiles to your miles!! Take good care of yourself.”
These days Anzalota is without work and self-quarantining alone at home in Queens. Since he leased the taxi for $900 a week, he gave it back to its owner indefinitely. “It didn't make any sense to drive and make no money,” he said.
Anzalota’s work not only put a smile on his face, but food on the table. Now, he’s without a game plan for how to provide for himself going forward.
“It's horrible because I was working seven days a week,” he said. “I haven't had a vacation in probably about seven years. I was working paycheck to paycheck. And now that this happened, it feels so surreal just being stuck home and not being able to go nowhere, especially not even having a car at the moment.”
For someone who is used to being all over New York City, schmoozing with passengers all day and night, the pandemic has certainly affected him. But Anzalota is holding onto a driving force of optimism.
“I like to inspire people and push people forward, no matter what the situation is,” he said. “... I'm pretty strong. I've been that way for a little while already. Whatever circumstances, I deal with it.”