October 25th 2006 was a special night for Frankie Valli, he returned home, to be honored as man of the year by the Belleville American Italian Civic Association. This event was held at Nanina’s In The Park, a 5 minute walk from Stephen Crane Village where Frankie was born. The evening started at 7 PM and the music of the evening was by a group called Jersey Sound. The national anthems of the USA and Italy were performed. In the crowd were many of Frankie’s friends from his younger years, among these were RCA recording artist Dusty Rizzo(aka nick palmer), and Valli archivist Walt Gollender. Members of the new Duprees were there, along with other people from the music industry.
Frankie received awards from the United States Congress, New Jersey Legislature, Essex County Board of Freeholders, Newark City Council, Township of Belleville, and a check for $10,000 was presented to American Cancer Society. After all the politicians spoke and awards presented, Frankie’s opening comic for 30 years, Stewie Stone, told a few jokes, including how his hubcaps were almost stolen on the way past Frankie’s old block.
Now it was time for an old friend from the neighborhood to say a few words, composer of “Tell It To The Rain,” Mike Petrillo. Mike spoke of the days when the Seasons formed and how the pieces all came together for the group. He also mentioned Joe Pesci and his part in the early Seasons. Mike added that Joe Pesci woke him one morning and told him to bring his sax to play for Gaudio, Pesci played jazz at the time. Mike noted that Bob Crewe was also from Belleville. About Nick Massi, Mike said “He was a vocal genius.” About Tommy DeVito "He was better at playing guitar than a studio musician.” Mike went on to say “Frankie always tried to push the group to be better. Frankie was compassionate, humble and everything good." He then toasted with a "SALUTE Frank."
Following Mike was Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tommy DeVito. Tommy was greeted with a standing ovation and he talked of the early days of the 4 Lovers and Seasons. He added that Frankie was the most talented singer he ever heard and is still to this day, and is unbelievable. Tommy said the seasons would work 10 hour days at the studios in the old days. He said he has a lot of respect for Frankie, “He’s still out there today, he just won’t quit. And he has proven himself to me and to the world, he was one of the greatest singers and is still today that I ever heard in my life. I want to thank God that we had a Frankie Valli in the group.” He then introduced Frankie to a standing ovation.
Frankie thanked all who came on this night and talked about how he started singing when he was 15 and how he loved to sing on the corner where they hung out at Silver Lake in Belleville near Newark. Frankie said he got to know Nick Massi, Tommy DeVito and Nicky DeVito. The first place he sang was on Belmont Ave. The Variety Trio, with Tommy, let him sing with them. He hung out with Tommy and wore cowboy hats and suits and sang in New Brunswick, NJ, there he met Texas Jean Valley in the Wonder Bar. Jean heard Frankie sing and took him to New York to sing in front of some people associated with the music industry. Frankie then recorded “My Mother’s Eyes” and had a regional hit and it all got going. Frankie ended with “I never forgot my roots, there’s so much love in this room tonight, I will never forget this just the way it is. Some things that you accomplish in your life, they are not as important as the people you touch. In many years I would never have dreamed I would live in Stephen Crane Village in Newark and have accomplished as much as we have in the music business. Gaudio with his songs, Tommy kept us together, and Nicky was great with music arrangements and especially vocal arrangements. I sang and together we made great music. We’d like to thank everyone who ever bought a 4 Seasons record, thank you for this evening, and if you get a chance go out and see Jersey Boys.”
At this time Jerry Coppola, who helped put this event together, told the crowd that a musical tribute would be played at this time, a medley of about 40 Seasons’ hits. The crowd was singing, clapping, and going crazy listening to the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons playing in this room, on this night, with their own, Newark’s own, he has come home, Frankie Valli.