Fame has arrived in a rush for Erich Bergen, who was dumped as a Las Vegas “Jersey Boys” only to land a starring role in the big-screen version of the 1960s music sensations, the Four Seasons.
Even before the Clint Eastwood-directed “Jersey Boys” came out Friday, autograph-seekers were showing up at baggage claim and in hotel lobbies during the media tours, he said.
“And after the opening night party two nights ago in L.A., security had to get me into a car because there was an onslaught of people. I just wasn’t prepared for that. It’s quite — I hate the word overnight — but it literally is how fast that starts,” said Bergen, who plays the Four Seasons keyboardist and main writer Bob Gaudio.
When I caught up to Bergen on Saturday, his excitement level was somewhere between couch-jumping joy and wide-eyed amazement.
“You know what we did today? My dad, his girlfriend and my mom, we drove around some of the giant billboards around L.A., and we’ve been taking pictures in front of them because my name is shared with Clint Eastwood on a billboard together. That’s something you don’t really see happening in your life,” he said, “You don’t expect that. I think that’s been really fun and cool.”
His world is exploding by the hour, with phone calls, emails and endless text message pings.
The day after “Jersey Boys” came out, his mother asked, “Are there callouses on your thumb yet?”
“People coming out of the woodwork,” he said. “Tonight I’m going to see the movie for the first time with a paying audience. I’ve seen it in New York in a private screening with my mother and my father in a completely empty screening room other than us.
“I’ve seen it at the premiere in New York and then I watched it in San Francisco. That was a special invited audience. Did a Q&A with them. Then I did the L.A. premiere.
“I’m going to go see it with a paying audience, just like everyone else, standing in line and waiting for my pop. No publicist, no nothing. That’s going to be, I can’t even tell you how that’s going to be. That’s really cool. It’s really weird.”
When I got back to him on Sunday to check in on his first night with a paying audience, he was relieved.
“I was so worried,” he said, “that the crowd wouldn’t like it and I would be embarrassed. I was also worried that the friends I brought with me would be the only ones in the theater besides me and that it would be nothing other than another private screening.
“I was wrong on both accounts. The showing had a packed house, and my friends were only a fraction of the audience. Everyone in the house laughed in the right places, gasped in the right places, and sang along to every song. Heads were bobbing everywhere I looked.”
I told Bergen I went to an 11 a.m. show and loved it, even teared up at the end, knowing what it was going to mean to a friend’s career.
He’s seen research that’s saying the film is already exceeding the original box office expectations.
“The fact that people are going to this movie in droves and not just seeing a superhero franchise film, I think, is a very, very powerful statement that I wish was made more.”
He’s already missing his “Jersey Boys.”
“When you’re in the theater world” — as he’s been for years — “your opening night is really the start of everything. That’s when you know you have to do this for as long as they’ll have you. But in film, our opening night is really the end of it all. I don’t get to spend all this time with my guys anymore. I don’t get to have another photo session with Clint Eastwood and talk to him about old Hollywood stories he told me about.
“And that’s the part I hate about film. The making of it is so short because Clint is so good at cutting our time. Everything is really short.
“I’ll tell you one of the coolest things. The final day we were filming. I think this takes the cake. It was the day of filming after we left the wrap party at the restaurant in New Jersey where the Four Seasons actually started.
“Clint and I were the last two to leave the party so the car that brought us from New Jersey back into Manhattan, it was just Clint and I. For about an hour and 20 minutes it was just Clint and I talking about old Hollywood. He told me stories of certain ways of film making.
“You know, whatever your thoughts are on Clint Eastwood, if you have any negative thought about Clint Eastwood, boy, this would change you.
“He is the coolest man, the nicest guy. This whole thing, considering my Vegas experience and how it ended, has been a very big thing.”
Paris Hilton, partying at Crazy Horse III gentlemen’s club early Sunday after taking in the Electric Daisy Carnival. ... Nicole Scherzinger, putting on a private concert at Drai’s Beach Club on Saturday. ... Gretchen Rossi and Slade Smiley of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” and “Marriage Boot Camp,” riding the High Roller after dining at Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas.
THE PUNCH LINE
“Iraq is so bad that President Obama phoned Hillary Clinton and asked her if she could start early.” — David Letterman
Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.