The Making of The Lords of Flatbush Review
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The first time I saw Sylvester Stallone and Henry Winkler on the big screen was in The Lords of Flatbush. Back then, I was in college, and we didn’t have much money—definitely not enough for a first-run movie. So since we really wanted to see Lords, we hopped into a friend’s car, rode to the local drive-in, and split the cost of tickets. Of course, that meant that a few of the non-claustrophobic among us had to sneak in the trunk as we passed the ticket booth. It’s that memory that enticed me to read The Making of the Lords of Flatbush.

The 1974 coming-of-age movie reflected Stephen Verona’s own memories of growing up in Brooklyn during the 1950s as part of a motorcycle gang, The Lords of Flatbush. Verona, who was creator, producer, co-writer, and co-director of the film, maintains that he and his friends were rather innocent, since their worse crime was spitting—that is, until they were caught joyriding.

Verona, who had previously directed commercials, chronicles the process of getting his “dream” made and relates what an independent filmmaker goes through. Taking years to complete with just a five-man crew and a 16-mm hand-held camera, this was one of the first successful independent films. In spite of cheap college students like me, Verona maintains that The Lords of Flatbush was also one of the highest grossing films per dollar invested. Of course, that didn’t mean that the profits went to him. Not only does he expose big studio politics, but he warns other filmmakers about what to watch out for based on his experiences. This is what I found most fascinating about the book.

Verona also provides readers with amusing behind-the-scenes details of the movie. For instance, to avoid paying union salaries, the original title of the film was Sexual Freedom in Brooklyn, implying that the movie was a porno. Also, Richard Gere was originally in the cast, but he was fired for not getting along with Stallone. The movie helped launch Stallone’s career—and Winkler was to become one of my favorite TV characters, the Fonz on Happy Days.

I enjoyed the entire book, from Verona’s stories about his life as a teenager and as an adult to the tedious task of getting the movie made to the personalities involved and the botched deals that followed. Verona names the offenders and puts blame where he believes it’s due. Unlike in many other books of an autobiographical nature, though, he manages to accomplish this without whining.

At fewer than 170 pages, the book is concise, but it still covers a lot of territory. Verona successfully mixes the heartbreaks with light-hearted antidotes. If you’re interested in Hollywood politics, or if you just enjoy a fun read, I would highly recommend The Making of the Lords of Flatbush.

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