Thursday, April 26, 2012

Moonstruck: When Cher Walked Into Camareri's On Henry Street Twenty-Five Years Ago

(stills from the movie Moonstruck
I remember the day Cher and Nicolas Cage came to Carroll Gardens to film a scene for the movie "Moonstruck" as though it was yesterday.  This was back in early 1987,  and unlike today, film crews and big movie stars were a rare sight in the neighborhood.   So, there was much excitement about the fact that Cher and Cage had been sighted at Cammareri's, an old fashioned family-owned bakery that made the best bread in the neighborhood.  It is hard to believe that 25 years have passed.
The "Moonstruck" scene was filmed in the bakery's storefront and in the basement at 502 Henry Street.  It focused on the first meeting between Loretta Castorini (Cher) and Ronny Cammareri (Cage), the brother of the man she agreed to marry. 
One of the residents who caught a glimpse of the goings-on that particular day was John Khoury, author of Go Sit On Your Own Stoop, a wonderful memoir of growing up in South Brooklyn in the 1970's.
Khoury recently recollected the day on his site.  He writes:
After learning that Cher was in the movie, I walked over to the corner of Henry St. and Sackett St., where the giant lights stood and began watching the fascinating process of movie making. Fascinating because I never saw anything get done,  yet I know the movie did get released and won awards and was popular. I stood for hours on end across from Cammareri’s Bakery, waiting for a glimpse of Cher. That never happened. The only person of note I saw was a guy named Tony, who used to work in Nino’s pizzeria. Tony had aspirations of being an actor and I think he either wormed his way onto the set or was invited as an extra. Either way, the only thing I saw him do that night was lean against a doorway, talking to some other guy I didn’t recognize, while the crew ran around and did stuff.  
They were both in white shirts and pants and both looked like they were trying too hard to look cool. If leaning against a doorway doing nothing was considered acting then there was a star on every block in the neighborhood back then. I eventually got bored and tired, went home and never stopped to watch the filming again. 
When the movie was released I, of course, went to see it. I was really interested in seeing the neighborhood more than anything else. So imagine my surprise when Nicholas Cage appears in his first shot and I instantly realize that he was the other nobody hanging out in the doorway with my friend Tony! 
The other interesting thing about seeing the movie recently was to watch the background in certain shots. In these brief snippets you can get a real feel for life in the neighborhood at that time. The first thing I noticed was graffiti on a parking meter, in front of the Rex Theater, which is now the Court St Cinemas. But the biggest eye-opener was seeing old women walking around with their shopping carts. It felt like they were contantly roaming the streets back then, like ‘The Warriors’ , only with canes and curlers . There were very few young families at the time and there were certainly no throngs of young, single, career-minded people. The neighborhood was comprised mainly of families that had been there forever and I don’t know, maybe it’s because people exercise and eat better now but God, everyone seemed so old back then, even though they were probably only in their 30s or 40s.
So much has changed in the neighborhood.  Cammareri stopped baking at this location in the 1990's.  Many still miss their great bread. Today, movies and TV shows are being filmed in Carroll Gardens all the time, and stars are spotted in Carroll Park.
But I am sure others still remember catching a glimpse of Cher on Henry Street back in 1987.
John Khoury and I  would love to hear from anyone who was there that day.

Below is a  scene of Loretta Castorini and Ronny Cammareri's  first encounter filmed in Camareri's basement.


Anonymous said...

My fondest memory of Cammareri's is going there late night/early morning when everyone else was home asleep to buy hot bread right from the oven. The loaf would never last the short walk home and I would wish we had bought more!

typehype said...

Love this post. Brings back a lot of good memories!

Marilyn R Miller said...

Great story of a neighborhood. "Moonstruck" is a favorite movie of mine. I loved being able to visit your neighborhood, seeing the changes, and learning of the memories from right here in far away Idaho!

Paula said...

This is great! I was 11 and with my mom when I too waited for hours to meet Cher, she signed the paper sleeve the Italian bread goes in. So proud our neighborhood is seen throughout the film especially the old bakery. So true..the neighborhood we grew up in is R.I.P. Sadly. Ironically I met Danny Aiello in NYC 8 yrs later and again 5 years ago.

Bruce McD. said...

Speaking of celebrities in the nabe, while walking down Court Street near Gourmet Fresh I said to myself "Gosh, that looks like Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen under that big umbrella." Then as they passed, I said "Oh, that IS Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen under that big umbrella!" I guess he got a taste for the nabe while shooting "Bored to Death!"