Officer Victor S. Ciana
Pittsburgh Policeman and Traffic Cop

Vic Cianca

Brookline resident Vic Cianca was a policeman assigned as a traffic cop in downtown Pittsburgh, a position he held for thirty-one years. During those years, Cianca elevated the work of a traffic cop to a choreographed art, captivating motorists with his comedic repertoire of gestures. He became known world-wide as Pittsburgh's "Dancing Cop."

Victor S. Cianca was the son of Italian immigrants, born in Pittsburgh on January 5, 1918. He graduated from South Hills High School, where he played basketball, baseball and football. After graduation, he worked at Republic Steel before joining the Navy during World War II. When he returned from the war, Vic went back to work in the mill.

Cianca met his wife of sixty years, Anna Marie Berberich, in a drugstore in Carrick. In 1951, he took the exam to become a police officer. After acceptance, he assumed his position as a traffic cop in early 1952 and quickly developed his characteristic routine.

Vic Cianca in 1961
Officer Vic Cianca directing traffic at the South Portals of the Armstrong Tunnel on May 29, 1961.

Wearing his customary white gloves, Officer Cianca used as many as three limbs at once to hurry people along. When someone drove too slowly, he would rest his cheek in his hands, miming sleep.

If a driver tried to explain away a traffic violation, he played an imaginary violin. He took slow, silly bows, and blew whistles so hard they broke. Showing his sweet-side, he often ushered women and children across busy downtown intersections.

Soon, people were coming from all around just to watch Officer Cianca direct traffic. They marveled at his theatrical antics and his balletic calm during traffic jams. Motorists who regularly encountered him brought him gifts.

Vic Cianca
Officers Vic Cianca and Al Castriota at the dedication of the Resurrection Activities Building in May 1965.

"I have a reason for every motion or gesture," Vic reported in the September 9, 1962 Pittsburgh Press. "Few motorists can mistake my intentions, and they gladly follow my directions. Some of my antics are amusing, but all have a purpose".

"Motorists, particularly during rush hours, have short tempers," he continued, "so I control mine and that helps them to control theirs when something happens that neither they or I expect. Most seem to like my methods, and many wave and honk their horns when passing."

His flamboyant style of directing traffic led to appearances on the television program Candid Camera in 1964. Producer Allen Funt was so impressed that he invited Cianca to direct traffic in New York City's Times Square. In 1965, viewers chose him as the second-best performer ever on the program.

Vic Cianca    Vic Cianca
Officer Cianca directing traffic at the 10th Street Bridge in 1962 (left) and downtown in 1982.

Vic Cianca    Vic Cianca
Officer Cianca along Smithfield Street (left) in 1982, and visiting with passengers on a PAT bus in 1987.

Cianca directed traffic at football and baseball games, aided motorists who suffered heart attacks, helped fix flat tires, put drunks in cabs and buses, helped retrieve lost children and even broke up fights. Through it all he always retained his suave demeanor and contagious humor.

Vic Cianca loved his job, and he loved the people he encountered during his daily duties. "Pittsburghers are the greatest people in the world," he said. "Where else can you go and have people call you by name though they don't even know you personally?"

Cianca later appeared on Charles Kuralt's CBS News documentaries, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Real People. He also appeared in Budweiser commercials and was featured in the movie Flashdance, playing himself.

Vic Cianca
Officer Cianca directing traffic as a crowd of onlookers watches.

Upon his retirement on January 4, 1983, The Pittsburgh Press said that "A Downtown traffic jam without Vic Cianca is a traffic jam with no redeeming qualities."

Vic Cianca retired to the comfort of his Brookline home on Birtley Avenue. In his later years, he worked at a gas station on Greentree Road. He came out of retirement frequently for guest appearances at local parades, even ushering a procession of antique cars in 1986, remaining active into his nineties.

Vic Cianca
Officer Vic Cianca was one of the distinguished guests at Brookline's Autumn Moon Festival in 2000.

Over his many years in Brookline Vic became endeared to so many people, young and old, throughout the community. He was a Pittsburgh kind of guy who became a legend in the city and was beloved by an entire nation.

Vic Cianca passed away on January 24, 2010, at the age of 92. He may be gone, but Officer Cianca, in his signature white gloves, lives on in the hearts and minds of everyone who had the pleasure to witness his magic.

Vic Cianca    Vic Cianca

Vic Cianca    Vic Cianca

Vic Cianca    Vic Cianca

Videos of Officer Cianca, Pittsburgh's Dancing Cop

Click here to see Vic Cianca in action.
Click on the above link to see Officer Cianca in action at the corner
of Sixth and Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh.

Click here to see Vic Cianca in action.
Click on the above link to see Vic Cianca's part in the movie Flashdance.

Click here to see Vic Cianca in action.
An image clip from Vic Cianca's Candid Camera appearance.
Unfortunately, the video is no longer available.

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