When I first saw the coming attractions for the film Jersey Boys, I thought, who cares? Just another film about New Jersey. They never get it right, why should I bother? But then I learned that it was directed by Clint Eastwood, and my interest was piqued. Everyone knows that Clint always gets it right. Who could forget such memorable films as Mystic River, Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, even Grand Torino? And what about Play Misty for Me? Each new commercial I viewed left me with that nagging sense that maybe I ought to see it after all. So I did.
It was the afternoon of my wife’s birthday, and a group of us “old farts” drove to the local multiplex theatre to attend the matinee showing. As I staggered up the stairs to the highest row of the mini-theatre (Becky and I always sit dead center, top row), I was struck by the number of older patrons already in their seats. Their average age was probably in the late 60s or maybe even early 70s. Like us, they had come to pay homage to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the subject of the film, and to recapture some old memories of “Jersey” (FYI, nobody ever says Joisy—at least nobody I know). Like us, they had nothing better to do on a Monday afternoon. We were definitely in friendly company.
Right off the bat, I “dug” the opening scene, filled with—what else?—lots of vintage cars: Fords, Chevys, Oldsmobiles, even a Studebaker or two. There wasn’t a Japanese automobile in sight. It was the Fifties, arguably the best time this country and the world has ever known. Everything about the film reeked of authenticity and the memories of my childhood in “Jersey” came flooding back. “Hey! There’s my first car!” I whispered loudly to my wife, Becky, pointing out a 1950 Ford, the exact color of my first vehicle. Each new song triggered images of old girlfriends (really old by now) for me and old boyfriends (even older) for Becky.
“I remember that,” said my wife, noting the tiny 12″ black-and-white TV displayed in the living room of the Casteluccios’ living room (Frankie Valli’s real family name). “Yeah,” I agreed, “we had an Admiral. Hey, remember how all the TV stations signed off with the Star Spangled Banner?” We laughed and, together, reeled off the call letters of the four or five TV stations we remembered from “back then.” At some point, the name of the little town of Bergenfield was mentioned, which sparked more memories, especially of nearby Palisades Amusement Park in Fort Lee, located just blocks away from where my wife grew up.
During the credits, we sang along with the music, “Sherry, Sherry, baby! Sherry, Sherry, baby…” Then, we got up and danced in the aisles like a couple of teenagers—okay, maybe not quite like teenagers. But it was fun! Most of all, Jersey Boys reminded us of what we are: a couple of kids from Jersey—and proud of it!
Anyone else out there from Jersey? Have you seen the movie? Got some old Jersey memories you’d like to share? We’re waiting.
NOTE: Joe Perrone Jr is the author of the highly-successful Matt Davis Mystery Series: As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day (a 2012 Indie B.R.A.G. medallion winner), Twice Bitten, and Broken Promises. All four are available in paperback and E-book from Amazon.com. As the Twig is Bent and Opening Day are also in audiobook from Audible.com, with Twice Bitten and Broken Promises currently in production. If humor is your cup of tea, consider Joe’s rip-roaring, coming-of-age novel, Escaping Innocence: A Story of Awakening, set in the tumultuous Sixties. It, too, is available in print, E-book, and audio book editions.
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