Outrageous, raw, and painfully funny true stories straight from the life of the actor, comedian, and much-loved cast member of The Howard Stern Show-with a foreword by Howard Stern. When Artie Lange joined the permanent cast of The Howard Stern Show in 2001, it was possibly the greatest thing ever to happen in the Stern universe, second only to the show''s move to the wild, uncensored frontier of satellite radio. Lange provided what Stern had yet to find all in the same place: a wit quick enough to keep pace with his own, a pathetic self-image to dwarf his own, a personal history both heartbreaking and hilarious, and an ingrained sense of self-sabotage that continually keeps things interesting. A natural storyteller with a bottomless pit of material, Lange grew up in a close-knit, working-class Italian family in Union, New Jersey, a maniacal Yankees fan who pursued the two things his father said he was cut out for-sports and comedy. Tragically, Artie Lange Sr. never saw the truth in tha
This debut memoir from the comedian best known as Howard Stern''s radio show sidekick is scrappy, funny, tumultuous and profane, just like its author. Lange, a self-proclaimed fat guy with a heroin problem, is difficult to love, but easy to like, his shaggy-dog life story full of derogatory self-awareness and cheerful vulgarity (often in the form of casual profanity and sexism). Many episodes from this life story will be familiar to Stern listeners, including the infamous "Pig Story," wherein Lange snorts cocaine while in full pig costume on the set of television''s MADtv. Less familiar to fans will be a sobering account of Lange''s suicide attempt and fond childhood memories of his beloved father. Lange''s outrageous and horrific behavior involves prostitution, jail time and several trips to rehab; perhaps the saddest recurring theme is the frequency with which Lange thanks someone who''s helped him, only to reveal that that person is no longer a part of his life. Glossing over Lange''s penchant for alienating people is just one oversight that keeps this warts-and-all memoir from feeling fully honest. Still, for those with a taste for his aggressive, self-loathing brand of humor will find this volume full of compulsively readable stories. Photos.
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“A very funny man.”–David Letterman
“A comedy treasure…One of the funniest guys there is…The pride of New Jersey.” –Jimmy Kimmel
Artie Lange is a comedian, actor, and cast member of
The Howard Stern Show. He lives in New Jersey.
Anthony Bozza is a former
Rolling Stone staff writer and the author of the
York Times bestsellers
Whatever You Say I Am: the Life and Times of Eminem,
Tommyland with Tommy Lee, and
Slash with Slash.
If my father’s trial was my first victory as a performer, then meeting Frankie Valli was my first run-in with one of my peers. I was about eighteen months old, so Frankie and I didn’t have much to talk about, but how we met is another shining example of just what kind of nut my father was. He was amazing–a legitimately crazy Newark street kid with brazen self-confidence and a wild sense of humor that our family and almost everyone we knew found incredibly endearing. There are all types of funny, and his type got you laughing and made you shake your head at just how fucking nuts he was, but you never lost sight of the fact that he meant his jokes, gags, and teasing in an affectionate way.
For those who don’t know, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons were in the late ’50s and ’60s what Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is to the post—baby boomer generation: The Four Seasons was
the singing group for people living in New Jersey. Frankie Valli himself grew up in north Newark, in a housing project called the Stephen Crane Village, which was close to where both of my parents were from. My mother grew up just a couple of blocks away on North 7th Street, while my father lived a few miles away in south Newark. My mom and dad were born around the same year as Bob Dylan, but he was never their spokesman: The whole sixties folk scene and after it the hippie, Woodstock stuff didn’t really affect them at all. It wasn’t just that their upbringing was so different from that of the middle-class rich kids who “tuned in, turned on, and dropped out,” it was that they didn’t relate to the message at all.
The soundtrack of my parents’ young adulthood was simple and it never wavered: early rock and roll. And to them, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons were the coolest group in the world. To this day, my mother still doesn’t like any of the boomer rock associated with her generation, aside from the Beatles, of course, which transcends all. She loves Chuck Berry, all things Motown, Bobby Darin, and all of the great fifties crooners. My father loved the same stuff, though for a brief period of time he grew his hair kind of long and listened to The Doors. I remember him singing “Roadhouse Blues” and “Light My Fire” really loud in the truck on his way to work. But it wasn’t any kind of statement other than that he liked the tunes.
The Frankie Valli mind-set was different; it embodied the values of the hardworking families from Newark and Union, who did everything they could to try to get a better life for their kids. It was the background music of their lives and it spoke about their lives, so it meant a lot to them. And because of that, especially among my Italian friends, it means a lot to us. The sound wasn’t current even when I was a kid, but Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons was something that bonded every Italian kid in Union to one another. It was like an unspoken thing, probably in the same way old Italian singers like Louis Prima had meaning for our parents because of their parents. There wasn’t a sense of rebelling against your parents’ music when it came to Frankie Valli–that would be like going against the family. And if there’s one thing all Italians know, it’s that you never,
ever go against the family.
I don’t care what anybody says, it’s great music. When I was driving around with my friends, we could easily throw in a Frankie Valli tape and listen to it and really enjoy it. My buddy Mike Ciccone and I see eye to eye over this because in both of our houses growing up, Frankie and the Four Seasons was always on and our parents were always singing along. One night when we were about nineteen, we were out driving in Mike’s Mustang convertible with the radio tuned to CBS-FM, the great oldies station, when “Rag Doll” came on. We sat there enjoying the harmonies and Frankie’s amazingly high voice until the kids who were out with us, sitting in the backseat, interrupted our good time.
“What is this shit?” one of them said. “Get this shit off, put on PLJ!”
My buddy Ciccone was one of those guys who really did not take shit, at any time, from anybody. I will never forget how he calmly lowered the volume and looked over at me, and on cue, we said together: “Frankie Valli is fucking cool, man.” There was no way we were going to let anyone talk shit. The others could have gotten out and walked for all we cared.
Those two didn’t know what they were missing: The Four Seasons easily had thirty or forty Top Ten hit records. And now there’s the musical
Jersey Boys, based on Frankie Valli’s life story. I have seen it three times now, and I am far from what you’d call a patron of the theater. Really, it is the only Broadway musical I could ever see myself sitting through, because, much like
The Sopranos, it has what you need to keep me interested: a good story, Jersey references like crazy, and an amazing sound track. Anyway, in the late sixties, my father started his own business.
For years he had hung antennas, run wires, and repaired TVs for American Radio on Route 22 in Union. Once he was married and had a child (me), he took stock and decided he needed to make some changes. He was living with his wife and child in a small apartment on Reynolds Terrace in Orange, New Jersey, and like a guy in a Four Seasons song, my father wanted a better life. He decided to buy his own van and hustle as hard as he could to make it on his own. My dad was definitely a hard worker and an achiever, so he got that van, he worked his ass off, and, once he’d saved enough for a down payment, he bought us a house in the suburbs for thirty grand.
Status symbols were important to my father–like having the most expensive new car that he could reasonably afford and taking the family on a big vacation every summer. For two weeks, usually in August, we would go down to Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. We went to Wildwood each summer until I was about twelve, and I have so many good memories of those summers with my family that mean the world to me. In the summer of ’69, I was a few months away from turning two and my sister was just a few months old. My grandmother on my mother’s side, Grandma Caprio, stayed home with my sister to give my mom a bit of a break.
Off we went, down the Shore and headed for the Olympic Motel. The Olympic was fine, but it was definitely a motel, not a hotel–nothing too luxurious, just a place to stay right there on the ocean. (In later years we switched to the Crusader Motel.) Wildwood Crest was teeming with people from North Jersey and Philadelphia who’d come to have an old-fashioned good time on the beach. They wanted to play ball, get a nice bite to eat on the Wildwood boardwalk, which was home to some amazing cheesesteak restaurants, or nearby Seaside Heights, which also had great places for cheesesteak. Where you got your cheesesteaks was always a source of debate. In Seaside, there was Steaks Unlimited and Midway, which was a walk-up joint that used synthetic, welfarestyle cheese. That might sound disgusting, but let me tell you, when you’re drunk, five Midway cheesesteaks are just about the best thing in the world–that welfare cheese goes down real easy. While we’re on the subject, though, J.R.’s Cheesesteak and Steaks Unlimited are my favorites, and on the Wildwood Crest boardwalk I prefer the places that use real cheese–some even use mozzarella, which I have found to improve just about anything.
By the summer of ’69 my parents’ favorite band, the Four Seasons, had hit a bit of a dry patch after a tremendous run of six or seven years of hits. That creative lull happens to everyone at some point, but this was worse, because the music of the time was changing too, so they weren’t winning any new fans. Like so many groups of that era, they were forced to play much smaller venues. The week we happened to be in Wildwood, they were playing a five-night engagement at the Starlight Ballroom, which was a decent-sized venue, but nothing worth writing home about.
My mother and father really wanted to go see them, but they had no idea what they’d do with me for those few hours, so they kind of put it out of their minds. Or at least my mother did; my old man was not the type to be discouraged by anything. One afternoon as they were passing the front desk at the motel, they asked the clerk how to get to the Starlight because they’d heard Frankie Valli was playing. There are certain people in this world who somehow earn the trust of strangers without even trying because of the way they carry themselves. My father was one of them.
“I will give you a little hint,” the clerk said, leaning forward. “Frankie Valli is actually staying right here in the motel.”
“Really?” my mother said, smiling.
“What do you know?” my father said.
There are also certain people in this world who know how to capitalize on a situation regardless of odds or etiquette. My father was one of them too. Being a natural smooth talker, Pop was able to get the room number out of the guy. My father was charming enough that all he probably did was slip the guy a sawbuck. For all you pussies who don’t know what a sawbuck is, it’s a ten dollar bill.
We went up to the floor and passed by the room but didn’t see any action. The next day, we went back, and sure enough, as my father’s crazy luck would go, Frankie Valli’s door was ajar. My parents debated about what to do: knock and introduce themselves as fans or just wander in like they didn’t know he was there, pretending they were looking for someone else. Neither idea made sense to my father. He had a better one.
“Okay, here’s what we’re gonna do,” he told my mom. “That door is open just enough for Little Artie to crawl through. Let’s ...