Danny DeVito, “the human essence of Jersey,” turns 76
This week marks Danny DeVito’s 76th birthday (11/17). Danny is all Jersey, growing up in Neptune and raised in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
In Asbury Park, Danny, at the age of 14, started to feel that he may go down “the wrong path” if he continued to hang out with his group of “friends.” He asked his father, a small business owner, to send him to a boarding school up in Summit to keep him out of trouble. His father obliged and Danny graduated focused and ready to take on the world.
Danny has always remembered his roots here in New Jersey and while his storied film, stage and TV career have frequently typecasted him in many roles as the mean, shyster like, love to hate character, he is nothing like that in real life. He constantly gives back to the community and his philanthropic generosity has helped many in need.
Danny’s career is significant, starring in many successful box office hits like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Terms of Endearment, The War of the Roses, Get Shorty, Batman Returns and Jewel of the Nile just to name a few of the over 45 films that he’s made.
He had a great television run with the series Taxi and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He’s done voiceovers for animated movies and television series and has appeared on stage in a few plays especially at the beginning of his acting career.
The first time I met Danny was in January of 1998. I was scheduled to host a charity concert at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank honoring slain Long Branch police officer Sgt. Pat King who was assassinated while on duty in Long Branch in 1997. On the schedule for the concert was Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, most of the E Street Band, Southside Johnny, Gary US Bonds and it was led by musical director Bobby Bandiera.
My friend from the Long Branch Police Department Lt. Pat Joyce asked me to host the event. I was honored and excited to be a part of this special evening. I went to rehearsal the night before and it was such a great experience, everyone was on their A game.
So the night of the event comes, I head into the Basie back stage and Pat comes over to me and says, I hate to tell you this but you won’t be hosting the show tonight. I was upset, who could you get that would do this? I know all the musicians, I knew Sgt. Pat King, and I knew Pat Joyce. Was it some other radio guy?
Well he said, Danny DeVito heard about it and flew in to host tonight. Now he’s somebody that I could yield to, he’s a big star and to take the time to lend his support was pretty cool.
At that moment, Danny comes over and introduces himself and starts to beg me not to hit him because he took my “job,” we laughed and talked music for a bit, I wished him good luck and saw the show from back by the sound board. It was one of the best concerts I ever saw.
The next time we would meet was when he was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2010. Ironically, he was inducted by Bruce Springsteen. It was Danny who inducted Bruce when he was added to The New Jersey Hall of Fame.
He stopped and gave me an interview and we laughed about the first time we met. He was cordial and funny and humbled by the induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
As Bruce Springsteen said of Danny; “no one inducted to this point physically and temperamentally personifies our state more than Danny DeVito. He is the human essence of the state of New Jersey in a small powerful package.” You got to love Danny DeVito, thanks for bringing a little Jersey with you in everything you do!