March 5, 2008

Jersey Boys, Brickman and Elice, and the Mob

March 5th, 2008

Rhoda Koenig from The Independent notes that while other jukebox musicals have taken the route of hagiography (Buddy) or fantasy (Mamma Mia), Jersey Boys is a little bit different. Instead of using The Four Seasons’ catalogue to illustrate the triumph of talent and persistence, or a fictional romantic romp, Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman fashioned what The New York Times called “a no-holds-barred band biography”. Not only is it frank about the quarrels, betrayals, and sexual rivalries of the early Sixties doo-wop group, it also shows, for the first time, that Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi, Bob Gaudio, and Frankie Valli (né Castelluccio) had their brushes with the Mafia.

The boys whose soaring harmonies propelled “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and dozens of other songs up the charts were not unusual in this respect among the citizens of New Jersey, the most notoriously corrupt of the 50 states. Organized crime may permeate Jersey life at every level – DeVito recalled that he would come across three or four craps games on the way to church, and there would sometimes be gambling in the church basement too – but the wealth does not trickle down to the mainly working-class populace. So, as DeVito tells us at the outset of Jersey Boys, “If you’re from my neighborhood, you’ve got three ways out – you could join the army, you could get mobbed up, or you could become a star.” But you could not become a star in New Jersey nightclubs without the cooperation of the Mafia, which ran not only the clubs, but the food, drink, and linen companies that supplied them.

Read the rest of the story on The Independent website.

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