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Jersey Boys: History vs. Hollywood

Starring John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Christopher Walken
based on the Broadway musical 'Jersey Boys'

John Lloyd Young
Born: July 4, 1975
Sacramento, California, USA
Frankie Valli (born Francesco Castelluccio)
Born: May 3, 1934
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, USA

Band Role: Lead Vocalist
Vincent Piazza
Born: May 25, 1976
Middle Village, New York City, New York, USA
Tommy DeVito
Born: June 19, 1928
Birthplace: Belleville, New Jersey, USA

Band Role: Lead Guitarist
Michael Lomenda
Born: 1979
Stettler, Alberta, Canada
Nick Massi
Born: September 19, 1927
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, USA
Death: December 24, 2000, West Orange, New Jersey, USA (cancer)

Band Role: Bassist
Erich Bergen
Born: December 31, 1985
Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Bob Gaudio
Born: November 17, 1942
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York City, New York, USA

Band Role: Keyboardist/Backing Vocalist
Christopher Walken
Born: March 31, 1943
Queens, New York City, New York, USA
Angelo "Gyp" DeCarlo
Born: September 2, 1902
Birthplace: Hoboken, New Jersey, USA
Death: October 20, 1973, Mountainside, New Jersey, USA (cancer)
Joseph Russo
Staten Island, New York City, New York, USA
Joe Pesci
Born: February 9, 1943
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, USA
When we were trying to get Jersey Boys off the ground, I'd get, 'The Four Seasons? Who's going to care? There's the Beatles, there's the Rolling Stones.' But people know those stories. Here was a story no one knew. -Frankie Valli (Parade Magazine, June 6, 2014)

Questioning the Story:

Did actor and fellow New Jersey native Joe Pesci really introduce Frankie Valli and Tommy DeVito to future Four Seasons member Bob Gaudio?

Joe Pesci (center) at the 2006 Tony Awards with friends Frankie Valli (left), Bob Gaudio (back), and Tommy DeVito (right).
Yes. According to the Jersey Boys true story, Hollywood actor Joe Pesci (Goodfellas, Casino, My Cousin Vinny) was a friend of group member Tommy DeVito. Pesci was around during the group's formation and was responsible for introducing DeVito and Valli to singer/songwriter Bob Gaudio. In addition to the Jersey Boys movie, Joe Pesci is also featured in the musical. Keep an eye out for the movie scene where the Joe Pesci character, portrayed by Joseph Russo, repeats the real Joe Pesci's famous line from Goodfellas, "Funny how?"

Was Joe Pesci's character from Goodfellas, Tommy DeVito, inspired by Four Seasons band member Tommy DeVito?

No. Despite Joe Pesci having been friends with The Four Seasons members, specifically Tommy DeVito, the character named Tommy DeVito that Joe Pesci plays in director Martin Scorsese's 1990 film Goodfellas is not based on The Four Seasons band member.

Did some of The Four Seasons members really have prison records?

Yes. Several of The Four Seasons members had been behind bars at one time or another, most notably Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. Tommy DeVito, portrayed by Vincent Piazza in the movie, was in and out of prison. "Yeah, I went to jail seven or eight times," says DeVito. "I'm not proud of it, but I'm not ashamed of it. My neighborhood was rough. If you come out alive, that's an achievement." -Vegas Seven

The media never caught wind of the group's sordid history, a detail that in the 1960s would have likely kept them from becoming stars. Instead, the band put forth a clean-cut image that mainstream audiences embraced without hesitation. "We were so afraid that if anybody found out we had members who'd done time, radio and record companies wouldn't have anything to do with us," says the real Frankie Valli. -Parade Magazine

Did they really change the name of their group to The Four Seasons after seeing the name on a bowling alley sign?

Yes. Like in the Jersey Boys movie, the true story reveals that they came up with the name after auditioning for a cocktail lounge gig in a large suburban bowling alley in Union, New Jersey in early 1961. They were turned down for the job but decided to use the name of the lounge as their new moniker.

The real Bob Crewe (bottom right) was perhaps most influential for his role in co-writing and producing The Four Seasons hit 1967 single "Can't Take My Eyes Off You". Actor Mike Doyle (top) portrays Bob Crewe in the movie.

Were Frankie Valli and Tommy DeVito really friends with mobster Angelo "Gyp" DeCarlo?

Yes. "I got to know these guys because they owned the bars," says Valli. "They didn't call me to say, 'Hey, here's what we're doing next week!'" Frankie says that while playing those bars he made more money in tips than from his pay. The biggest tips came from guys like Gyp DeCarlo, who Frankie says was like a father to him. "He always said, 'Stay out of trouble. Don't join any gangs.'" -Parade Magazine

"I was never part of the mob," says the real Tommy DeVito, despite also admitting, like Valli, that Gyp DeCarlo was a "really, really good friend" (Vegas Seven). "They might have asked me to play a private party or something, but they paid me for it. Mostly they asked me to do benefits. That was the extent of the connection, but naturally they put it in the play [and movie] to show I got into trouble." -Las Vegas Sun

Was Tommy DeVito really an uncleanly roommate who peed in the sink?

No. "Some of it is bullsh*t -- where I pee in the sink, and the dirty underwear. I was probably the cleanest guy there," says the real Tommy DeVito. "I don't even know how they come up with this kinda stuff." -Las Vegas Review-Journal

Did they really get busted in Cleveland for skipping out on a hotel bill?

This Frankie Valli mugshot was taken in 1965 when Valli, Bob Gaudio and Tommy DeVito were arrested for skipping out on a July 1964 hotel bill.
As you can see from Frankie Valli's mugshot, the 1965 arrest for skipping out on a hotel bill the year prior most likely took place. However, most people from Ohio will quickly point out that the arrest couldn't have happened in Cleveland since the Ohio State Fair is held in Columbus.

An Associated Press report that ran in The Plain Dealer describes what actually happened. On Labor Day Monday (not Friday), September 6, 1965, three of The Four Seasons, including Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio and Tommy DeVito, were arrested at the fair. The police transported them to Springfield. There they were charged with "defrauding [an] innkeeper" by way of leaving town without settling their $375 bill (not $120) at the Springfield Holiday Inn in July 1964. They were released later that evening around 9 p.m., each on a $500 bond. The charges were dropped on September 17, 1965, most likely because they had settled their debt with the hotel.

Did Frankie Valli's daughter really die?

Yes, like in the Jersey Boys movie, the true story confirms that Frankie Valli's daughter Francine died from a drug overdose in 1980, which the family believes was unintentional. What is not included in the movie is the fact that he lost two daughters that year. In addition to Francine, his stepdaughter Celia had died earlier that year. After discovering she was locked out of her New York flat, Celia fell from a fire escape while trying to get in. -Mail Online

Were the actors really the ones singing in the movie?

Yes. "The actors are singing. We did everything live," says director Clint Eastwood. "We had a small group playing offstage and a company that did everything live." -The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Top: The movie cast (from left to right): Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito, Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio, John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli, and Michael Lomenda as Nick Massi. Bottom: The real Four Seasons (from left to right): Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio, Frankie Valli and Nick Massi.

Did Tommy DeVito really run up a large debt with the mob?

Yes. In the movie, Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) racks up a $150,000 debt with a loan shark named Norm Waxman (Donnie Kehr). In real life, Tommy DeVito did run up enormous gambling debts, in addition to a huge tax bill like in the movie. Bandmates Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio assumed the burden of DeVito's debts as the cost for buying him out of the group.

Was Tommy DeVito really kicked out of The Four Seasons and forced to go live in Las Vegas?

Here, the Jersey Boys true story contradicts the movie, at least according to the real Tommy DeVito. The movie depicts the mob forcing Tommy DeVito to go live in Las Vegas, in turn kicking him out of the band. According to Tommy, he left for other reasons. "I had had it up to here with the traveling and changing clothes three times a day, and taking two planes and then driving 100 miles to do a date," says DeVito. "Getting on stage and doing the same stuff -- I just had it." -Las Vegas Review-Journal

During an interview with The Star-Ledger, DeVito commented on the movie's depiction of his departure. "You're going to force me to have a great life in Las Vegas, in the sun, and if I was a gambler, why would you send me to Las Vegas?" DeVito did move to Las Vegas in 1970. Yet, he maintains that he did so under his own free will, while the movie instead reasons that the mob could keep a watchful eye over him there. The movie fails to point out that DeVito did have several siblings living in Vegas at the time.

Did all of the actors in the Jersey Boys movie also star in the musical?

No. Vincent Piazza, best known for portraying Lucky Luciano on the HBO TV series Boardwalk Empire, had not starred in the Jersey Boys musical. Piazza portrays Tommy DeVito in the movie, the band's guitarist. "Initially, I was terrified," says Piazza, "and realistically questioning that I would be so deluded [as] to think that in 30 to 45 days, I could suddenly acquire this hidden talent [to] hang with a four-part harmony with these incredibly talented guys. So I was a little fearful at first, but I embraced the character I was playing, Tommy." The remaining three actors who portray band members in the movie, John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen and Michael Lomenda, had all starred in the musical.

Jersey Boys movie actors (from left to right) Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Vincent Piazza and John Lloyd Young with the real Frankie Valli, June 2014, courtesy Parade Magazine.

Does director Clint Eastwood have a cameo in Jersey Boys?

Yes, well, sort of. Though he was urged to take part in a big end-credits production number, Eastwood opted for a more subtle way to insert himself into the movie. Following the suggestion of actor Erich Bergen, who portrays band member Bob Gaudio in the movie, during one scene Bergen's character can be seen watching Rawhide, Clint Eastwood's 1959-1966 Western TV show. "That," says Eastwood, "was my sneaky way of making a Hitchcock appearance." -Parade Magazine

The Four Seasons Music Videos & Frankie Valli Interviews

Take a closer look at the Jersey Boys true story with this collection of Frankie Valli interviews and The Four Seasons music videos. Listen to the real Four Seasons band perform their hit songs, including Sherry, Walk Like a Man and Who Loves You.

 Frankie Valli Jersey Boys Interview

Frankie Valley explains how the writers came up with the concept for the musical, which is told from four different points of view (or seasons). Frankie talks about sharing the true story while making sure not to offend anyone involved. Early footage of Frankie Valli and his bandmates is shown.

 The Four Seasons "Big Girls Don't Cry" Live Performance (1962)

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons perform their hit song "Big Girls Don't Cry" live on TV in 1962. Valli performs alongside bandmates Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio. Like in the Jersey Boys movie, Gaudio says that he came up with the song while watching the 1955 Rhonda Fleming/Ronald Reagan movie Tennessee's Partner. In the movie, Fleming's character is slapped in the face, to which she replies, "Big girls don't cry."

 The Four Seasons "Walk Like a Man" Music Video (1963)

Watch The Four Seasons "Walk Like a Man" music video from 1963. It features the foursome singing at a dance hall overlooking an interesting variety of energetic fans unleashing dance moves that could have only come out of the 1960s. During the recording sessions that produced the hit song, producer Bob Crewe would stop at nothing for the perfect take. After realizing that a fire had broken out in the room above the studio, he blocked the studio door and continued recording until firemen had to force their way in and pull Crewe out.

 The Four Seasons "Working My Way Back to You" Live (1966)

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons deliver a live TV performance of "Working My Way Back to You" in 1966. The performance comes following their 1964 label switch and the 1965 departure of bass player Nick Massi, depicted in the Jersey Boys movie. The song is about a man who cheated on his girlfriend and put her through emotional turmoil. After she leaves, he realizes that he still loves her and attempts to regain her affection.

 The Four Seasons "Who Loves You" Video (1975)

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons "Who Loves You" video featuring Valli on lead vocals, John Paiva on guitar, Gerry Polci on Drums and Don Ciccone on Bass. The "Who Loves You" music video was recorded in 1975 and provides a good look at how the band's appearance changed over the years. The song was used in the trailer for the Jersey Boys movie.

 The Four Seasons "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" Music Video from 1975

The Four Seasons perform "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" in 1975. Drummer Gerry Polci performs the lead vocals with Frankie Valli supporting. The song was written by band member Bob Gaudio and his eventual wife Judy Parker. It originally had the title "December 5th, 1933" and championed the repeal of prohibition. At the urging of Frankie Valli and Parker, Gaudio rewrote the lyrics to be a nostalgic song about a man remembering his first intimate encounter with a woman.

 Dick Clark Frankie Valli Interview on American Bandstand (1978)

Dick Clark interviews Frankie Valli on the American Bandstand TV show in 1978. Frankie talks about the future, how he has remained a success, switching labels, and his knowledge of the music business.

 Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons "Sherry" Live Performance

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons perform "Sherry", their first nationally released single and their first number one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. The 1962 chart-topper remained number one for five consecutive weeks. Here, Frankie Valli performs "Sherry" in concert.

 Jersey Boys Trailer

Clint Eastwood directs this adaptation of the Broadway musical Jersey Boys, which chronicles the rise and fall of the 1960s music group The Four Seasons. Broadway cast member John Lloyd Young reprises his role as Frankie Valli and Vincent Piazza portrays bandmate Tommy DeVito.

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