People cheered and threw money at the 7-year-old's feet.
"The money didn't matter," the comedian said last week during an interview at his office in Garfield. "That was the moment I knew this is what I wanted to do."
This is a scene that will likely open his new film "The Mentor," a film about a determined comedian, which DeLorenzo is slated to start shooting throughout Hudson County, Northern New Jersey and New York City by summer.
Once named "the funniest man in New Jersey" by the Herald News, DeLorenzo, 54, has lived a storybook life. He's been a comic, actor and musical performer who has managed to work with some of the great performers of the latter half of the 20th Century, many of whom are paying tribute to him and his new movie by playing roles in it.
The film has been a long time in the making. It started in 1997, only to get stalled, according to DeLorenzo, because of a financial problem caused by one of his partners. Now, he is determined to get the film completed, funding much of the initial costs out of pocket until other investors come on board.
"This is not exactly autobiographical," he said. "Although most of it is based on things that happened in my life."
Filming to start over the summer
As he scouts locations in Secaucus, Jersey City, and Bayonne to help duplicate scenes he has pictured in his mind from the past, he is a testimony to determination, someone who refuses to give up on the project.
"The Mentor" is a film about inspiration and guidance, of people helping people towards a common goal. It almost mirrors what is going behind on behind the scenes as actors and others involved with the production all work to help make the project a success.
The hero in this romantic comedy is a comedian named Ken, who is inspired to pursue his career by a heckler.
John Calvanico, who will play a newspaper vendor in the film, described the film as being about "truth and compassion."
"Love what you do. Do what you love. Follow your dreams. You don't have to step on anybody, but you have to keep at it," he said.
Joe Franklin in film
Although many of the scenes resemble things that happened in DeLorenzo's life, one important mentor is actually playing the role of the mentor in the film as well: talk show host Joe Franklin.
Although Franklin is named "Sydney Fitzberg" in the film, DeLorenzo said Franklin took him under his wing early in his career, bringing him onto his talk show regularly to get exposure. And as a result, DeLorenzo's career took off, allowing him to meet and work with some of icons of the entertainment industry.
Wall of fame
A good portion of DeLorenzo's life is laid out on his walls with the photographs of the many great celebrities he had worked with or met during his 35 year professional entertainment career.
"I started professionally in 1971," he said.
Although he started out as a local phenomenon, the hometown funny boy that grabbed headlines in the local paper as the class clown that graduated Clifton High School, he soon became a fixture on the comic scene in New Jersey and New York, his portrait posted in clubs throughout the state. He performed nearly every chance he got, whether for profit or for charity. Indeed, his charitable performances brought him recognition eventually from President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
His list of performing credits covers nearly every important New York area venue from Good Day NY to Comedy Central, VH-1 to regular performances at Jerry Lewis's MDA Telethon. He was involved with some of the most celebrated charity performances such as HBO's Comic Relief in 1990 and Hands across America in 1986.
While he was finalist for Showtime's Funniest Man in New Jersey in 1986, his second place finish to Rosie O'Donnell in Star Search that same year that brought him nearly instant acclaim.
He has appeared on programs by David Letterman, Howard Stern, Cousin Bruce Morrow and with many other high profile performances over years.
As a comic impersonator, he has mastered 178 different characters. If all that wasn't enough, he has also made appearances as an actor in HBO's Sopranos, The Goodfellahs, Private Parts and Bronx Tale to name only a few.
Not everything in the film is as it was in real life
Although the film deals with many aspects of his career, he said he has taken liberty with some of the fact to emphasize the drama, deviating from situations he remembered. In one club, he recalled Soprano-like mobsters coming into the club where he was performing. The owner cautioned him against making any Italian jokes.
"But I'm Italian,' I told him," DeLorenzo recalled. Since a lot of humor comes out of comedian's background, this was asking a lot. As it turned out, the godfather-like character enjoyed his show and slipped him a hefty tip.
"In the film, I present them as wanna be mobsters," DeLorenzo said.
Funny, sad, tender, and nostalgic, the film may need a certain touch, which means DeLorenzo is seeking a quality director, and has contacted management for Ron Howard and Penny Marshall, two people whose previous work seems to capture the heart of what this film is about.
He has also tentative arrangements with several of the most important distribution companies in the country including Lion's Gate, DreamWorks, and Miramax.
Kim Golderer, public relations person, said the locations for the shoot will include New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York City.
"He's locking up the agreements for shooting now," Golderer said.
DeLorenzo said sites in Secaucus, Jersey City and possibly Bayonne are being considered.
The film itself will cover four decades, the opening sequence in the late 1950s, then jumping to the 1970s to follow the comic career rise. The film will also feature a significant amount of music from established artists with whom DeLorenzo has worked to up and coming artists he hopes to promote.
Also a songwriter, DeLorenzo penned and recorded the film's theme song, "They all remind me of you," which received significant air play on WCBS 101.1 FM when the station still had an oldies format.
Actor Bill Cavaliere, who also have a role in the film, called it "a film from the heart," a feel-good movie the kind of which almost doesn't get made any more.
DeLorenzo said Hollywood churns out "shoot em up" movies, but rarely makes this kind of movie any more.
But as always, he said he is confident the film will move ahead.
"I have product placement done. I have actors. I have commitments. I'm getting investors," he said. "I believe everything will be in place to start shooting by summer."