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As a film, seeing politician rescue wife

Let's turn the Grisanti incident into a movie.

In other words, let's -- just for now -- understand that superb, hardworking journalists and lawyers and law enforcement officials are continuing in the real world to try to get to the bottom of it. But for the moment, let's synthesize what's known, simplify it radically (oversimplify it, if necessary) and make the tale and its impact appropriate for the moviegoers' mind-set.

What we know, thus far:

State Sen. Mark Grisanti and his wife, Maria, change their plans for Feb. 10 so they can watch her daughter, Ashlee Amoia, substitute at the last minute for a sick singer in the Scintas performing group at the Seneca Niagara Casino. She's going to perform with the Scintas at the Chairman's Ball of the Seneca Diabetes Foundation, an annual black tie event.

After the performance, Grisanti and his wife are in the lobby, where there's a bar. Grisanti buys celebratory wine for his family.

An argument between two Seneca men threatens to escalate beyond verbal fireworks. Grisanti goes over to try to prevent that. As reported by Maki Becker and Dan Herbeck in Sunday's Buffalo News, Grisanti says, "Guys, guys, guys. This was a great event. You guys are both here with dates and let's not start a scene."

Such behavior is not out of character, after all, in the movies for someone who actually believes they're in public service.

When Grisanti identifies himself as a state senator, according to him, he's punched in the ribs by one of the men. As he walks away, a woman hits him on the side of the head.

It's claimed by some watchers at that moment that Grisanti was most put off because the contentious twosome didn't know who he is. The trouble with that is that it's familiar folklore about all celebrities, especially of the local variety -- the moment when, supposedly puffed up with self-importance, they invariably ask someone giving them a hard time, "Don't you know who I am?"

I've probably heard that tale a dozen times about different people in my life. I do, in fact, believe that it happens in the real world -- especially in bars (when I heard it about a Buffalo Bills football star, it absolutely seemed in character). As an attitude, though, struck by someone in an active peacekeeping mode, it isn't nearly plausible enough to make it into our movie.

Maria Grisanti comes to the aid of her husband, whereupon she's somehow thrown to the floor. Whatever happens underneath a pile of people, Mrs. Grisanti winds up with a very real concussion.

She tells other people later that her head was repeatedly slammed to the floor.

When Grisanti finds out what is happening to his wife, he runs to help her. Casino security guards try to restrain him. He admits doing a "clothesline" maneuver to get to her to help.

There is a contrary version, of course, including allegations of racial epithets. Anyone who has ever witnessed a real bar fight -- not the movie version -- knows it's hard, if not impossible, for most people to recall anything in detail.

Now then, remember we're making a movie here. We can put that into the script or not. Just as we can believe it's all true or not. In a movie, though, whatever we do, our understanding of the human species needs to be at its simplest and least complicated.

To most of us, a man who discovers that his wife is on the bottom of a pile of people being pummeled would be forgiven for doing just about anything short of murder to stop it from continuing any further.

Who among us -- black, white or Native American -- wouldn't erupt in irrational outrage and fury when our wives were physically attacked?

Who wouldn't punch whoever had to be punched to rescue her?

But where this becomes incredibly interesting is in our movie version, which is likely to be the take-away for most people following the story.

Grisanti's State Senate seat is immensely important. In a Frank Capra wrinkle, he won against an unpopular candidate and an unfavorable registration edge and became a hugely important figure in undoing a Democratic majority.

His most important -- and justly famous -- vote was to be one of the deciding votes for New York State's gay marriage law. Because of Grisanti's sudden importance in "the big picture," I've even heard it speculated by political paranoids that he was somehow "set up."

Which would be quite a movie plot wrinkle indeed.

So now, it's thought by pols that Grisanti's involvement in all this badly besmirches him as a candidate when his seat comes up for re-election in November.

Maybe so.

Not in the movie version, it doesn't.

In that one, Mark Grisanti is played by a young version of Al Pacino, Maria is played by Marisa Tomei, and he's known as a state senator who voted his conscience, Frank Capra-style.

And then he's known as the kind of barroom peacemaker who will, nevertheless, do and say just about anything to rescue his wife from under a pile of angry people when she's in the process of getting a concussion on a casino floor.

We see a montage, in our movie, of signs with campaign slogans. One reads: "Mark Grisanti. He fights for what's right. He fights for his family. He'll fight for you, too."

It seems to me, this movie has already opened to serious box office.

The case on the other side needs to come up with a better movie than his, come election time.

So far, it seems to me, the movie that's playing in the majority of minds is a hit.