Anzalota’s interaction with actor Tom Hanks has been well-documented, resulting in a post on the popular Humans of New York Facebook page; a two-page spread in InTouch Weekly; television appearances on the “Today” show and “Good Morning America”; and countless interviews in print, television and radio outlets all around the world.
After declining to give Hanks a ride at the end of his shift, Anzalota had a change of heart. He quickly recognized Hanks’ voice in the back of the cab and, mimicking Hanks’ character in the movie Cast Away, jokingly yelled out, “Wilson!”
He received a nickname from Hanks — Mr. Ferrarii because of the car logo emblazoned on his hat and shirt.
When Brandon Stanton, founder of the popular blog Humans of New York, also happened to enter Anzalota’s cab, the cabbie told Stanton his story, and Anzalota received requests for interviews from all over the world.
“The day that I went viral, everyone was calling me,” Anzalota said. “I was home for two days, my stomach was turning. I was getting lots of followers. My Facebook page went from 100 followers to about 7,000 in a matter of hours and I’m reading all the nice things people are telling me.”
Anzalota is now using his newfound fame to raise money for several organizations. Lifeline Energy, a nonprofit that designs, manufactures and distributes solar-powered and wind-up media players and radios for classroom and community listening, is teaming up with Anzolata to spread the organization’s mission. The ambassador to the nonprofit is a good friend of Anzalota’s — Tom Hanks.
“I managed to get the project guy in my car that works with Tom Hanks,” Anzalota said. “I get a lot of people to go to the site and contribute.”
Anzalota has lent his name to anti-bullying organizations, childhood cancer foundations and Girl Scouts selling cookies.
“Every time I see something going on I stop my car, come out with my [InTouch Weekly] magazine, explain to them who I am,” Anzalota said. “They love me right away. I engage with people walking and I sell out all the cookies in a matter of minutes.”
Anzalota is also working with Jack Giambanco, creator of Friendship Lights to spread “peace, love and unity” through glowing LED charms.
The cabbie is also working on creating a coffee table book with pictures and anecdotes from his passengers. He has been documenting his passengers’ stories for a while, he said, but has just started posting his collection to social media in the past few months.
“I just started learning social media in the last eight months,” Anzalota said. “I’m not that savvy tech-wise.”
His most ambitious plan is to install cameras into his taxi and conduct mini interviews with celebrities on their way to talk shows.
“That’s my goal and basically, if things work out and I’m making money, I definitely would like to buy an antique car, have pro cameras, drive people for free in the city and get their stories and donate the money to a great charity,” Anzalota said. “Every week will be a different charity.”