October 21, 2013

Wrapping Where It All Began

October 21st, 2013

John Lloyd Young posing with Lucille and Jimmy Cuomo at the Belmont Tavern. (Photo Credit: Audrey Rockman)

By JB Blog Special Correspondents, Audrey Rockman and Lulu Thompson

From the first rumblings about a Jersey Boys movie almost four years ago, it has been a winding path featuring potential directors and studios, as well as the suspense-filled whispers about possible cast selections. It’s been quite a journey for Jersey Boys fans and last Wednesday marked a celebratory step in the process. After a full two months of filming in the Los Angeles area, some of the cast and crew flew east for some authentic “old neighborhood” filming.

Last Tuesday, the area around Stephen Crane Village was rigged with lighting and miles of wires. Police and onlookers spent much of the day there while changes were made to the outside of Frankie’s childhood home at 35 North Pine Drive. The window screens and garbage cans went retro and a former neighbor of Frankie’s, still living there, provided a classic scooter to help complete the mood.

Angela, the home’s resident since 2000, said she was contacted just a few weeks ago about using her kitchen for a scene. (Hey production folks: She‘s still awaiting your return to put the curtains back up as promised and fix the damaged chairs!) Although Angela has not yet seen Jersey Boys, she’s heard Frankie Valli stories over the years from more than one long-time neighbor. Angela met Frankie and director Clint Eastwood and heard Frankie’s recollection of how the kitchen looked and where the wall phone hung by the front door. Daughter Toni Valli remembered spending hours on the phone – often stretching the cord out the front door and frustrating Frankie when he tried to make collect calls to his mother’s home.

Four Lovers historian Walt Gollender and Four Seasons Lane street-naming organizer, Jim Petrecca checked out the scene with a constant eye toward the historical accuracy. Also on hand were JB fans Marlene and Goia who seized the opportunity to see the filming (and especially Tony winner and original Valli on Broadway – John Lloyd Young!) just ten minutes from their home. They had front row seats for the brief scene which was set after dark. It consisted of a ‘60s car driven by Erich Bergen/Gaudio’s character with John Lloyd Young/Valli and Christopher Walken/Gyp in the back seat. Frankie got out of the car and went to Gyp’s side before running into his home for a minute. The scene was done a few times and filming at this location was finished.

After filming the next day in nearby Kearny (which included Gaudio’s and Frankie’s character arriving at an apartment in a classic, era convertible as well as a scene with DeVito played by Vincent Piazza), the final gathering for the cast was held at John and Jimmy Cuomo’s Belmont Tavern in Belleville. Perhaps it was at the suggestion of Jersey native, Renee Marino, the film and Broadway actress depicting Mary Delgado. Inside the Belmont, there was the usual lively atmosphere seen every night – only this night most were unaware of the history that was playing out in the private back room of this timeless setting. After all, it is right around the corner from the former Bellbrook where Frankie first performed on stage and just blocks from the childhood homes of three of the Four Seasons members. As dinner wrapped up, the group insisted Chef Norby and Annette take a bow to a big round of enthusiastic applause.

Cuomo reminisced about getting his hair cut from Pesci and the times when Pesci performed with his group, The Aristocrats, at the Belmont. Petrecca recalled DeVito’s story about walking down to the Belmont to play guitar for loose quarters and his father threatening damage to his teenage son’s guitar if he didn’t stay out of the bar. Cuomo intrigued listeners with some of the Belmont Tavern’s history first as a black church, then a Speakeasy during prohibition – all that before his family acquired it in 1965.

Chat among the locals, like Wally Price, former classmate of Frankie’s younger brother Alex, included recollections of people related to Jersey Boys in Australia, Singapore, a few London cast members and of course Broadway cast members on many occasions. Hosting in this neighborhood is a community event with Wally bringing the delectable pastries for the night’s celebration. Although the film group was sitting under the autographed picture of Frankie on the ‘Wall of Fame’ at the Belmont, Valli had slipped away to New York to see Dominic Scaglione, Jr. and the Broadway cast, allowing the film cast privacy on their final lap of this journey.

Clint Eastwood graciously posed for pictures as he departed. John Lloyd Young also stopped to pose with Lucille and Jimmy Cuomo as did Musical Director Ron Melrose, Erich Bergen and Donnie Kehr (Norm Waxman in film and in OBC).

Get ready to buy your tickets. The next stop – the opening night premiere.


  1. Oh What A Night its gona be!!! That’s one movie ticket I’ll be first in line for!!!…and the excitement mounts! Thanks, Audrey!!

    Comment by sharon — October 21, 2013 @ 6:07 pm

  2. Thank you, Audrey and Lulu, for keeping us updated! Wonderful piece. Very poignant and sentimental to reminisce about the creation of Mr. Valli and the Four Seasons.

    Comment by Jolene — October 21, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

  3. Well written account of a day of history with the winding up of filming for the soon to be Oscar winning film of the greatest American group of all time, and the greatest Broadway show I’ve ever seen, yes you can go home again!

    Comment by jim petrecca — October 21, 2013 @ 10:01 pm

  4. Can’t wait to hear when the film will be released !!!!

    Comment by Jerry — October 22, 2013 @ 9:17 am

  5. What a wonderful wrap to the movie and wonderful reminiscent of Audrey’s tours of several years ago! So thrilled to read about this! Thanks Audrey and Lulu!

    Comment by Howard — October 22, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

  6. Broadway Jimmy!!

    Comment by Bill — October 25, 2013 @ 6:20 am

  7. Wonderful article Audrey.We grew up with Frankie Valli so this brought back so many great memories. Right on target.

    Comment by Marlene Cetrulo — October 26, 2013 @ 6:30 am

  8. It will make Grease the number 2 movie musical of all time.

    Comment by Johnny Hornsby — October 27, 2013 @ 4:07 am

  9. I can’t wait! Does anyone have any information on the release date yet? I met JLY in May and also met Frankie Valli 2 yrs ago at Westbury. Both are wonderful and I have been following this musical since Thanksgiving Day 2005. Looking forward to the movie premiere.

    Comment by Diane Hernandez — October 30, 2013 @ 6:26 pm

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