Oh what a night!
Harry, George, Connie and I stepped back in time a couple of weeks ago when we visited the Cultural Center in Scranton to see the production of "Jersey Boys."
"Jersey Boys" is the Tony-award winning musical about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Seeing their lives' stories on stage and in song was a trip down Memory Lane.
When they began singing their song "Sherry," almost everyone in the concert hall joined in. This was the music of our teen years. We couldn't help but sing along, tap our toes and chair-dance to old favorites.
You know how there are just some really special moments that stand out in your memories?
It was the summer of 1964. I was 13 years old. I was away at the Christian girls' Camp Hagan for two weeks. We lived in log cabins. They had no glass windows. Just wide openings that had wood shutters to close if it rained. They were open almost 24 hours, night and day.
We were allowed transistor radios and almost everybody had theirs tuned in to WARM when they were being played. That summer one of the hit songs was loved by all us teenage girls. And it created one special magical moment.
Picture a perfect hot summer afternoon. Girls milling about outside, some involved in afternoon activities and some enjoying free time in our cabins. "Rag Doll" by "The Four Seasons" began to play. Radios all over the place were tuned in and turned up. Someone started singing along.
As her voice carried to the next cabin, another voice joined in. Soon there were voices from all over the camp in what became a giant sing-a-along. As we were singing, we all felt this one shining moment of complete harmony and comradery in our world.
Though we heard it again and again, we never duplicated that one perfect moment in time.
Fifty years later, whenever I hear, "When she was just a kid, her clothes were hand-me-downs, (hand-me-down), They always laughed at her when she came into town, Called her rag doll, Little rag doll, such a pretty face should be dressed in lace, Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh ..." I sing along and remember that cool moment when I was 13.
In "Jersey Boys," Bob Gaudio, who wrote the song, shares how he was on the way to a recording session and his car was stopped at an extremely long traffic light in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. Often, kids would wash the car windows during the long waits and ask for some change. In Gaudio's case, a scruffy little girl washed his window.
When Gaudio went to give her change, all he had was a $10 bill. After a moment's hesitation, he gave her the bill because he had to give her something. The astonished look on her face stayed with him and inspired the song.
It was the summer of 1965. My mom and dad, Diane, Connie and I went to Wildwood, N.J., on vacation. One day it rained and as an unexpected treat, my parents took us to Atlantic City to see The Four Seasons in concert at the Steel Pier. To make the day even more exciting, we actually saw them get out of their car while we were waiting in line. It was almost enough to make big girls want to cry.
Connie and George were high school sweethearts. We were all at a PV school dance in 1966. George only slow danced so they were in the middle of the dance floor as the beginning of a slow sounding song began. "There ain't no good in our goodbye-in', True love takes a lot of tryin', Oh, I'm cryin,'" started playing. There they were, wrapped in each other's arms looking all lovey-dovey. I can still see George's face break into a look of panic when The Four Seasons broke into the more fast-paced, "Let's hang on to what we've got. Don't let go, girl, we've got a lot. Got a lot of love between us, Hang on, Hang on ... to what we've got."
They broke apart and George "walked like a man" and went to sit the rest of that one out. When the "Jersey Boys" sang it, I leaned over in my chair and Connie leaned over in hers and we shared a "Do you remember?" look and smiled. Besides being a nostalgia fest, it was also an education.
Tommy DeVito formed a group with his brother, Nick, and Hank Majewski in the early 50s. In 1954, Francis Castelluccio (later known as Frankie Valli), joined the group. They had several different names. Eventually Nick and then Hank left the group. Tommy and Frankie took on Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio, just a teenager, and was billed as The Four Lovers. Then in 1961, the group was leaving an audition at a bowling alley lounge in Union Town, New Jersey. They didn't get the job. Gaudio said that they figured they would come out of the audition with something, so they took the name of the lounge ... The Four Seasons.
Tommy had a troubled youth, having been in jail seven or eight times. Frankie started out as a barber but all he ever wanted to do was sing. Nick was responsible for much of the musical arrangements and was a mentor to Frankie. Bob shot to musical fame at the age of 15 as a member of the Royal Teens when he co-wrote the hit, "Short Shorts." He, and sometimes along with producer, Bob Crewe, wrote most of The Four Seasons' hit songs.
These Jersey boys grew up in rough neighborhoods and was around mob guys all their lives. The musical portrays the group's friendship with mob boss, Gyp DeCarlo. Frankie lost a daughter to a drug overdose. Tommy had the group in debt to the tune of $500,000 and it took years for the group to pay it off.
After the concert, we wondered how we had never heard about any of their troubles during their years of fame, compared to today where the media keeps us informed about every move every celebrity makes.
"Jersey Boys" is a rags to riches story, proving that sometimes talent just isn't enough. It's a lot of hard work, a lot of luck and a whole lot of determination.
We left the concert, walking arm in arm to the parking lot, on a very cold winter's night. Our hearts were young and gay again and we remained warmly wrapped in a cocoon of nostalgia all the way home.
Oh what a night!