Click Here To Purchase The Making of The Lords of Flatbush

Author: Stephen Verona

ISBN-10: 0977913155:  ISBN-13: 978-0977913152

Now here is a book that is for anyone who wants to know what happens with great dreams.  I have to take my hat off to Stephen Verona and the story he tells in The Making of The Lords of Flatbush.  First of all, the movie is a verifiable American classic and even if it did not reach the cult status that it has with movie buffs there is still enough in it to keep the casual reader interested.

Verona shows his true versatility in getting this movie done.  He wrote it, produced it, ran around getting the money for it and co-directed it.  The Lords of Flatbush is a movie that is loosely based upon Stephen Verona’s high school years in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn.  He compiled the story over the years and when he got the bug to make the film he already had experience as a film maker.  He had made television commercials for Madison Avenue advertising firms and he was also a pioneer carving out a niche as one of the very first music video makers.  Stephen Verona also was then and still is now a painter as well.

The Lords of Flatbush was a period piece from the 1950’s which began filming in 1972 and barely made it to screen.  There are many unique and intertwining aspects that make this story so damned interesting.  First of all, this movie launched the cinematic careers of Sylvester Stallone, Paul Jabara and Henry Winkler among others.  It was also to be Richard Gere’s first film but after ten months at work Stephen Verona fired him for the lead role in favor of hiring Perry King, a classmate of Henry Winker’s at Yale.  Gere was fired mainly because he and Sylvester Stallone did not get on well and Verona had to make a personnel decision one way or the other.  Gere was apparently home bound and bed ridden for a week after the decision fell on him and soon after he adopted Buddhism.  Oddly enough, though this was Winkler’s first film Perry King had already been in bit roles in one or two other films.  Perry King was also not the most obvious choice for the lead – Verona’s subjects were all Jewish or Italian, Verona himself had an Italian father and a Jewish mother, and Perry King was neither, but he took to the role and made it believable.

The other angle that I found very interesting about this book was the business end of it and how it put together from scratch.  Stephen Verona basically willed this movie to happen!  He took investors from people of all walks of life:  His mother, her boyfriend, his dentist, even his drug dealer!  Verona sold shares in the movie and was constantly wheeling and dealing to push this film through.  He had to make a side deal with the screen actors guild to allow the actors to be paid half while working and the other half when the film was finished.  It was a hell of a risk because had the film bombed Verona would have been worse than bankrupt – he would have been finished in his career.  And even when the film was finished the situation was touch and go regarding whether or not the film would be distributed.  Many of the large distributors thought it would sell in New York but the rest of the country would give it a pass.

But the film did get made and distributed and it was a success.  One of my favorite scenes from the book was one in which on screening night there were two theaters The Lords of Flatbush opened in.  One was in Manhattan and the other was in Brooklyn.  The stars and Verona made an appearance at the film in Manhattan then shuffled quickly across town to be on site for the opening in Brooklyn but when they tried to go inside the theater Sylvester Stallone was stopped by the staff because he’d been barred for life from the theater.  It came to pass that before working on The Lords of Flatbush that Sylvester Stallone sold tickets to the movie and he’d been caught short selling and was fired on the spot.  A lady at the cinema recognized Stallone when he was going in for the opening and she had him stopped.  She refused to believe that he was one of the stars to the show!

In some ways I wish the book could have ended with the success of the movie but Stephen Verona went further and told the more hairy parts of the industry.  He added stories about how he’d been short changed by the studios and screwed over by agents and go betweens, but I guess if you are interested in the movies this is a part of it that can’t be ignored.  At the end of the day it was a great read.  I got lots of good worth out of it.

Click Here To Purchase The Making of The Lords of Flatbush