In ‘Jersey Boys,’ Clint Eastwood Does it Again

I saw Jersey Boys only once, opening night on Broadway in 2005.

I was there since I was the first writer, I think, to write about the show with any kind of substance, enjoying a breakfast interview with Bob Gaudio at least a couple months before it opened, for Billboard. I mean, Rolling Stone had to be badgered into giving it any coverage—that’s how little the Four Seasons were regarded.

But I only saw the Broadway show that one time, and only remember that I thought it was great. But I know it couldn’t have been any better than Clint Eastwood’s screen version, which opens June 20.

I suppose a lot of people were surprised to learn that Clint was directing the film adaptation. I was, too, at first, but only because I wouldn’t have thought of him within the context of the Four Seasons and rock ‘n’ roll. I’d interviewed him a number of times, too, for Billboard, about how he put together the music for his movies, either choosing songs or composing his own movie themes.

In that respect, Clint long ago transcended Clint. There’s a quick incidental shot of him in his breakthrough TV role on Rawhide as cattle driver Rowdy Yates, which hews to the time period of the action, of course, but also points to the vast artistic territory Clint covered after leaving the show.

There were the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, obviously, and his own masterful western directorials that followed, then the action films of Dirty Harry and their like. But where he was once synonymous with westerns and action—and stereotyped for them—that was all so long ago. His film romance The Bridges of Madison County, which he starred in opposite Meryl Streep, was truly beautiful, and the took on as director another best seller in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

He successfully plied biography in Invictus (Nelson Mandela) and J. Edgar (Hoover), and his back-to-back World War II movies, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, make up a singular achievement in the history of cinema, being a look at the Battle of Iwo Jima from first the American point-of-view, then Japan’s.

And as an actor, starting with his masterpiece western Unforgiven, his performances have added subtle nuance to go with his aging character portrayals (In the Line of Fire, A Perfect World, Absolute Power, True Crime, Space Cowboys, Blood Work, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino and Trouble with the Curve).

Music, meanwhile, has remained a central thread of his films, from his singing role with Lee Marvin in the musical version of Broadway’s Paint Your Wagon to his directorial debut, Play Misty for Me, a thriller in which Clint, who had played jazz piano in an Oakland bar prior to being drafted into the Army in 1951 (in fact, he played a bit of jazz piano in In the Line of Fire, and in 2003 directed the documentary Piano Blues for Martin Scorcese’s The Blues documentary series) played a jazz radio DJ. From there he easily transitioned into playing a country-and-western singer in Honkytonk Man (also starring his son Kyle, who’s now a notable jazz bassist/bandleader and contributed to the Jersey Boys score); he also produced the documentary Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser and directed the  Charlie Parker biopic Bird, and composed the score for Grace is Gone, starring John Cusack.

In 1996, Clint was honored by a musical tribute at Carnegie Hall, later released on CD and DVD as Eastwood After Hours and featuring his performance along with those from numerous jazz luminaries. And when he walked up to the front of the Paris Theatre to introduce last night’s VIP screening of Jersey Boys, he reminded me of a fellow jazz great and ageless octogenarian, Tony Bennett, both of whom only get better with years.

He spoke briefly and softly, and after noting how films have long been adapted from Broadway musicals and more recently vice versa, said how he tried to use actors from three different versions of the staged musical, including the key original Broadway cast—and how much he loved them all and what a great pleasure it was for him to direct the film. And while ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll would not seem to be Clint’s forte, he could not have been more respectful of the Four Seasons and all of us who love them and their music.

And as always, Clint brings out the best in his actors and crew members. Jersey Boys is one gorgeous movie to watch—and hear. And whatever you do, don’t leave before the credits, for Clint ends it with what is essentially a joyous Bollywood video using the full cast as singers and dancers: Even Christopher Walken, who is superb in his gangster role, becomes a natural hoofer.

So now I beg you, Clint. Make my movie dream come true: An acting collaboration between the two greatest living actors, Clint Eastwood, 84, and Bollywood’s likewise incomparable Amitabh Bachchan (71).

Disclosures

Okay, so the Federal Trade Commission in 2009 revised its guidelines regarding, and I’m quoting from its website, “the long standing principle that ‘material connections’ (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers–connections that consumers would not expect–must be disclosed.”

It added “new examples [addressing] what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other ‘word-of-mouth’ marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

Now I come from the record business. Free records, free concert tickets, free lunches, free drinks, free trips. Nice Christmas presents, back in the day.

Conflicts? I wish! And I only wish I got the big bucks that the big political journos get for secretly helping out candidates, or starring in movies or whatever. Especially now that the record business is dead and so is so much of the journalism/reporting that went with it.

But even when it was alive I wrote bios and press releases and liner notes for companies that I was also writing about for publications. I can’t say every other music writer did the same, but I don’t know any who didn’t. It’s low pay to begin with, and now that we get paid by the click—not even half a cent per click on the main site I write for—we’re supposed to disclose who we have business relationships with, being so-called “endorsers” when we write about the businesses.

I’ve been pretty good about this at examiner.com, in that whenever I write about someone or something I’ve had or have business with, I’ll note it parenthetically, that is, if my name’s attached to it, i.e., CD liner notes or contributions to websites or newsletters. I’m not sure how I’ll handle it here if and when, but I love the way Teri Tom did it on her blog.

I don’t know Teri personally, but she’s renowned for being an authority on Bruce Lee’s martial art Jeet Kune Do, having studied it extensively with his late student Ted Wong. She’s also a dietitian whose clients have included the likes of Manny Pacquiao.

She writes on her blog that according to the FTC, if she interviews someone and they pay for lunch, she needs to disclose it. Same if she’s given a t-shirt with a logo and wears it in a photo.

“Disclaimers all over the place,” Teri says. “This would be tedious for me and a continual eyesore for readers. But rules is rules.”

To get around it, or as she puts it, “to cover my ass and preserve your reading experience,” she instructs her readers that for every recommendation, link, and product she uses, assume all of the following: She got fed. She got some sweet gadgets. She got busy w/member of story. She received mad scrilla. She got a helluva schwag bag. She got stock options.

She really is brilliant. So I’m going to admittedly rip her off but reduce it by saying that you can assume for everything I write on this site, I’m paid off big-time in one way or another. And I most certainly hope that your assumption is right! Like the bounty hunter says to Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales, “A man’s got to do something for a living these days”–and this is what I do for a living.

Then again, if you know the movie, Clint responds with, “Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy,” and blows him away.

So in order to help me avoid a similar fate, please consider tipping your waiter.

A man’s got to do something for a living these days.