Talk Around Town

During his 14 years in Hollywood (1999-2013), Jon asked a few ‘industry types’ to offer something to this page. They were told to write whatever they wanted, and nothing would be held back from their submitted version. The following are in alphabetical order, as not to piss anyone off.

Judith Baldwin

Judith began her career as Miss New Mexico and runner-up in the Miss USA pageant, then appeared in hundreds of print ads and commercials around the world. She studied with Lee Strasberg and became a Lifetime Member of the Actors Studio. Judith has been in over 250 TV shows and a dozen movies with Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, Rosie O’Donnell, Dan Ackroyd, Bette Midler, Barbara Hershey, Demi Moore, Elliot Gould and Cybil Shepherd, in Pretty Woman, Princess Diaries II, Beaches, Scarface, Stepford Wives (original), Six Feet Under, E.R. and Tales From The Crypt.

The qualities I have found most admirable about Jon are; his discipline in what is undoubtedly one of the most difficult art-forms…writing; his business savvy and persistence, which keeps him on top of the details; and his wonderful quality of collecting a truly gracious group of friends. All of these have and will carry him far in life.

We all know his screenplay and manuscript for The Boss Always Sits In The Back are great, but after completing the screenplays for The Delivery Man and Rubdown, it was apparent Jon couldn’t be tied down to just one genre. I’ve just finished reading his romantic comedy, As Long As I Have Lips, and loved it! Now that is talent!

Steve Barr

President and founding member of The SoCal Film Group, and co-writer of Deadfellas.

I first met Jon D’Amore at a meeting of The Writers Group of Studio City that meets on Wednesday nights in a little theater in the Valley (That’s the ‘San Fernando Valley’ for you non-Angelinos. Over the hill from Hollywood, it spawned the Valley Girl craze of the early ‘80’s, and is the porn capital of the world. Though I’m sure those two things aren’t related).

Jon struck me as very smart and highly skilled as a writer, but what truly amazed me was his recall. I can barely call to mind what I had for lunch yesterday, but Jon can easily reminisce about what he had for lunch 30 years ago yesterday, along with what he was wearing, who ate lunch with him, and whether he got romantic with her afterward. It’s astonishing, and a little daunting. If I make a fool of myself around him (something I’m prone to do), I know he’ll store that episode verbatim in his mind, and one day he’ll tell the amusing anecdote to Jay or Dave and a live studio audience.

When he moved out to La-La-Land, he seemed a bit naive about the industry and the absurd twists of logic and customs that make it different from nearly every industry in the world (with the possible exception of politics and/or pimping). Though I bet that’s the last time you’ll ever hear Jon referred to as ‘naive.’

Well, he didn’t remain that way for long. Once he applied his brains, balls and experience to the task, he soon learned everything he had to know about ‘The Dance,’ while also finding a way to make industry people dance to his tune. He played by the rules when that was appropriate, and applied his own set of rules when needed. And by doing so, he’s now got a goodly number of fans in high places.

Jon and I briefly considered teaming up to write the screenplay adaptation of his book The Boss Always Sits In The Back. But after a few meetings, it became increasingly apparent that he knew the story better than anyone (it was his story, after all, and he’s got that enviable recall thing I mentioned earlier) and could evoke the drama quite stunningly on his own. I realized he didn’t need someone like me just to put everything in screenplay format and to make sure the ellipses didn’t take up half the page. So I took a powder, and have been one of his most enthusiastic supporters ever since.

In person, Jon is quite a raconteur, as well as being amazingly generous with his time and resources. If he can’t get something done, he knows someone who can. He’s always there for a ‘cuppa and a natter,’ as my English grandmother used to say. Though with Jon the cuppa probably wouldn’t be Earl Grey tea, but something with a bit more of a kick.

If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on this collection, keep it in a safe place. In a few years, when Jon is rightfully given his place in the Rich And Famous Hollywood Writers’ Club, you can say ‘I knew him when...’ (and the collection will be worth a tidy sum on Ebay).

James Bruner & Elizabeth Stevens

Their track record speaks for itself. Of the 3 movies mentioned, as of this writing they have generated nearly a billion dollars in box office, rental and sales revenue. The following is their letter, sent after reading the script for The Boss Always Sits In The Back.

What can we say...we LOVED the script.

We’re not sure if you know our background. Just so you do...Jim has written a number of hit movies, such as Missing In Action, Invasion USA and The Delta Force. The two of us currently have a dramatic feature project in development with Richard and Lili Zanuck and have just written and produced a comedy feature that is going to be released soon. We are extremely impressed with your work. The story is compelling, the structure and dialogue are spot-on. Wow! Are you sure that you haven’t been doing this for twenty years?

Michael Butler

A most unique, interesting and entertaining person, with a family legacy that dates back to their 1654 arrival to America. Michael is a Chicago native who has lived all over the world. He now keeps resides in Los Angeles and is best known as the producer of the original Broadway production, and subsequent productions that traveled throughout the world, of Hair, one of the theaters’ most commercially successful musicals ever.

The Boss Always Sits In The Back is a very interesting book about the inside workings of the Mafia, with many wonderful personal touches. I found it fascinating. I can imagine what a time the author must have had, and also how close he came to the abyss from time to time.

Bobby Costanzo

Actor with that oh-so-recognizable face, and a resume that reads like the best of TV and film. The short list includes Dog Day Afternoon, Saturday Night Fever, Total Recall, City Slickers, Dick Tracy, Columbo, NYPD Blue, Friends, Ally McBeal, Murphy Brown, Lois & Clark and Hercules. He met Jon in 2001 over lunch with Milton Berle at the Beverly Hills Friars Club. They’ve been friends ever since. The following is a letter Bobby sent after reading the manuscript for The Boss Always Sits In The Back.

How ya doin’!

Having grown up in the neighborhood, hanging out with these guys, and later on, getting a chance to play them, I can tell you that Jon D’Amore knows ‘the life’ as it’s called on the streets.

His is an original and honest voice that casts new light on a genre sorely in need of something fresh. He’s the real deal as a guy, as a writer, and as an old soul...not so much in years, but in spirit...who respects the past and understands the present. I was privileged to be a part of the screenplay reading of The Boss Always Sits In The Back, a great title by the way, and look forward to being on the set when it gets made.

Pamela DesBarres

Three time best selling author of I’m With The Band, Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart, and Rock Bottom. Journalist, columnist, rock historian, sexual pioneer, and screenwriter of Jimmy And The Jazz Singer, the true story of the last several months in the life of James Dean. Pamela has been a Los Angeles personality since the late 1960’s. Jon has been infatuated with her since that time because she was a close friend of Frank Zappa, one of Jon’s musical icons. Meeting her was a highpoint in Jon’s life. At the March, 2004 premiere party for Mayor Of The Sunset Strip in the penthouse of the Sunset Hyatt, she sat on Jon’s lap and told him how much she enjoyed the manuscript for The Boss Always Sits In The Back. At that moment, life for Jon couldn’t get any better.

In The Boss Always Sits In The Back, Jon D’Amore takes us on a perilous, hysterical adventure into the inner workings and inner sanctum of mobster mentality as only a family member can. With a roll of the dice, we are careening along with Jon in sumptuous 70’s Vegas hotel suites and scamming crap tables at the Sahara and Aladdin with the likes of Tony ‘Taz’ Costa and Louie Calderone. Jon’s memory for insider mobspeak is sharp and uncanny as he breathes Technicolor life into hazardous characters who never, ever become caricatures. Jon got oh so close to the sharp edge of the Mafia and somehow lived to tell the scandalous, libidinous tale. Yes, there’s sex, murder, mayhem, blood, and plenty of retribution, but there is also living, breathing humanity found in these pages, proving that even mobsters have heart.

Georgia Durante

Author of her true-life mob story, The Company She Keeps. She is a famous stunt car driver and owner of one of Hollywood’s leading stunt driving companies. The following is from a letter she sent after reading the manuscript for The Boss Always Sits In The Back.

The Boss Always Sits In The Back is an entertainingly funny and sometime too real look at life on the darker side. Coming from someone who’s been there, done that, this fascinating read really hit home. Jon D’Amore masterfully crafts his life’s adventures into a hard to put down book. A staggering triumph.

Brian Evers

Actor seen in numerous film, TV and stage productions, and brings with him a countless number of voices and characters. Writer of several short stories and plays, a libretto for a musical adaptation of the epic poem Beowulf, and the originator of Fire In The Sky, a sci-fi screenplay that he’s co-writing with Jon.

I first encountered Jon and his writing in The Writers Group, which meets at The Two Roads Theatre on Tujunga Street in Studio City. He was having his novel, The Boss Always Sits In The Back, read serially. Having plied my trade as an actor in New York for sixteen years before coming to the hallucinatory paradise known as L.A., his Jersey-Italian twang made me smile and conjure memories of my buddies Ritchie and Frank hawking pickles at The San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy, sinking my teeth into a meatball sub from one of the booths, or devouring a slice of Vinnie’s pizza up on Amsterdam and 110th, near St. John The Divine.

I found Jon’s writing well-crafted, funny and poignant. It reflected the writer. Jon is maddeningly meticulous, if not obsessive, about mechanics and details. I was an English teacher for eight years before I dove into acting, and consider myself above the norm when it comes to good grammar and sentence structure. However, he put me to shame when I asked him to proofread some of my material.

In The Boss, Jon proved he’s also adept at self-effacing humor, and knows how to milk a running gag (such as the continual primping of the Italian guys whenever they came within ten feet of a mirror, and the total indifference of the Irish guys to their appearance). I saw that he was also very good at handling pathos, especially since it dealt with autobiographical events. The narrative, dialog and descriptive passages between his cousin Jerry and him were all the more moving because of the restraint and discipline Jon imposed on himself in writing (and I’m sure, re-writing) those scenes.

That’s another of his traits: perseverance...or stubbornness...take your pick. When it came to adapting The Boss Always Sits In The Back as a screenplay, Jon had a tiger by the tail...and it was a 900-pound, roaring, saber-toothed nightmare!

Jon complimented me by asking me to read roles in several of the readings (or ‘incarnations’ as some of us actors like to say among ourselves) of The Boss as a screenplay. Now, I can do a passable generic New York Italian accent, but when I walked into that first reading, I thought I had stumbled into a meeting of the West Coast Italian-American Division of SAG.

And there I stood, my pale skin and red hair sticking out like a pickled herring in the pasta, surrounded by actors from The Godfather II, Bugsy, Raging Bull, Prince Of The City, The Usual Suspects, Scarface, Total Recall and Beverly Hills Cop. Four-and-a-half hours later we were all groaning, but only because of the length, not the substance. After that, Jon sliced and diced until he whittled the script down from a bloated Maxi-series (276 pages) to a respectable (125 pages) husky/stout/slightly zaftig feature.

I’ve learned a lot from Jon, not only about writing, but also about loyalty and friendship. He is generous as a writer and a person, an unstinting giver. It is a pleasure and a privilege to have an opportunity to reciprocate, however meagerly, in kind. Thank you, Jon.

Laura Fuino

Co-writer with Jon of Rubdown.

Los Angeles is a town where many claim to be screenwriters, but only a few have the actual capability and knowledge to be able to do so. Jon D’Amore and I met in a print shop in May, 2003, and resulting from that meeting we teamed up and completed an original screenplay called Rubdown.

Jon is a generous, dedicated and patient writing partner. He first edited a sitcom I wrote and made wonderful notes. He always takes time to help and encourage other writers that he believes have talent. He is full of original ideas, always respecting the content of the story.

I read his script, The Boss Always Sits In The Back, and I was convinced that he would be the right person to write Rubdown with me. I was so excited when he agreed to do the project. I knew that by working with him, we would have a winning script.

He kept me on a schedule and we completed the entire script in only a couple of months. I, by myself, wasn’t able to put a lot of the pieces of the story together. Jon did it effortlessly, while adding color and movement to the characters and story.

Our meeting at the print shop opened a new door to my life and career. I feel honored to have written with such a talented, respectful and unique person.

Dick Gautier

One of the most eclectic careers in show business...from band singer at 18, to standup comic, to Broadway (winning a Tony as Birdie in the original cast of Bye Bye Birdie), to starring roles in 5 TV series and 20 feature films, Dick arguably holds the record for more TV guest spots (nearly 1,000) than any other performer. Just a few of the people he’s worked with (in no particular order) include Mort Sahl, Maya Angelou, Barbra Streisand, Buck Henry, Larry Hagman, Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, F. Murray Abraham, Dick Van Dyke, Bob Newhart, Walter Matthau, Jack Nicholson, George Segal, Jane Fonda, James Stewart, Dame Diana Rigg (yes...Mrs. Peel!), Dudley Moore, Doris Day, Jim Carrey and Sid Caesar. Dick starred in both of Mel Brooks’ TV series...Get Smart, as the unforgettable Hymie the Robot, and When Things Were Rotten, as the vain (but very funny) Robin Hood. And if that weren’t enough, he’s had 14 books published on the subject of art: portraiture, cartooning and caricature. Eclectic indeed!

I’ve known Jon D’Amore for a couple of years...but only intimately for a few months (read into that what you wish). During that brief time I’ve come to respect him as a writer, having delved into several of his screenplays...though his status as a human being is still in question as far as I’m concerned (just check with the FBI), but his writing is certainly impressive.

As an older member of the Hollywood community, I assumed that Jon would come to me for the occasional word of advice. But no...he thinks he knows it all!

Anyway, Jon, here’s my unasked-for advice: You NEVER wrote a part for me...which I think is absolutely stupid! AND you never enrolled in my class (spend a few bucks on your career, Cheapo!) ‘The Art of Ass Kissing.’ Had you taken it, you’d probably be a lot further along than you are, but...what do I know?

But serially, folks...Jon is a good, hard working guy (how many scripts has he ninety-three?) with a good heart, and so far he’s picked up the lunch check three times. Hence...I love him dearly!

Jennifer Laske

With multiple TV, film, theater and commercial roles (where she’s loved in Japan), Jennifer continues to be one of Hollywood’s most sought after faces. Her career began with a walk-on in the Kornbluth brothers’ Haiku Tunnel, a role that changed the movie. Since then, she has worked with such acclaimed directors as John Landis, Jerome Courtland and Tom Dey.

Jon picked me up in a bar.

That was a few years ago. It was at the trendy and fashionable Sunset Room. Jon was there for some schmoozy Hollywood event. He fit right in. We sparked up a brief conversation that turned into a fast friendship. We, I mean he, chatted for hours and I nodded politely. But by the time the place was closing, Jon sold me on The Boss Always Sits In The Back before I saw the first page.

A few days later I read the script for The Boss. The end result? I thought it was fantastic!

As far as Jon’s business savvy? He’s a smooth talker, and knowledgeable regarding whatever subject he’s speaking about. Sure, anyone who knows him....knows that. But I’ve gone with Jon to meetings with producers, managers and agents, and I’ll tell you one thing, you had better be telling the truth and know what you’re talking about or he’ll see your real side and tell you about it to your face. Whenever I have a business decision to make, my first call is to Jon.

Did you ever see Get Shorty? Jon is Chilli Palmer.

We all know he isn’t a one hit wonder. Jon has staying power, as a writer and as a friend. Cheers to you, Jon. See you at the top!

Cindy Marinangel

A Chicago Second City Conservatory grad, Cyndi played Tina in the first year of Chicago’s long-running Tony and Tina’s Wedding before taking it to Off-Broadway. Hollywood soon beckoned, leading to roles in Coyote Ugly, Burt Reynold’s The Last Producer, portraying Princess Diana in Forbidden Secrets, and starring opposite Fred Durst and Tim Bagley. Backstage Live has proclaimed her...‘one of Hollywood’s up-and-coming actresses.’

It was late in the evening and I had just driven into Hollywood from camping among the redwoods of Big Sur, a few hundred miles north of Los Angeles. I made the long drive in order to audition for the lead in a SoCal Film Group ‘action project’ that Jon D’Amore was producing. The role called for a ‘tall, tough female with stage-fighting ability.’ I read for the director, fought the stuntman and departed, feeling in my heart that this role was mine.

Callbacks were held up on Mulholland Drive in one of Jon’s favorite places, but that’s another story for another time. Again, I read and fought, and to make a long story short, I got the part.

Fast-forward a few months to the set. Jon took excellent care of me, and in a matter of days we made a really hip film. In the months since, Jon and I have become fast friends, and I have learned much from him about the business.

I eventually asked to read his manuscript, The Boss Always Sits In The Back, and followed it with the screenplay. I immediately became hooked and asked for more. I have since read all of his scripts, cover-to-cover, each in one sitting! I didn’t want any of them to end! Each one excited me for different reasons, and my mouth watered over the beautifully written, conflicted, leading characters.

Jon’s screenplays are tight, and there’s no doubt that they’ll soon be on the screen achieving box-office success! Any actor or actress would be lucky to star in one of Jon’s films.

I’ve become a fan!

Richard Portnow

His resume includes major and memorable roles in some of the most important films of our time. He has worked with more than two dozen Oscar winners in films such as Good Morning Vietnam, Father Of The Bride, Havana, Sister Act, Kindergarten Cop, Howard Stern’s Private Parts, Barton Fink, Se7en, Twins, Tin Men and Perfect Stranger. His performances on a too-lengthy-to-list TV resume contain the shows; Mad About You, Seinfeld, Murder She Wrote, Judging Amy, and as Uncle Junior’s attorney, Hal Melvoin, on the first five seasons of The Sopranos.

I have been privileged to know Jon D’Amore since 2001. In that time I have become familiar with his talent as a writer, generosity as a person, and personality as a truly unique individual. I have read a number of his screenplays aloud for invited audiences, among them, The Boss Always Sits In The Back. This latter work is one of superb quality and brilliantly illuminates the world it embraces. Jon is a writer with vision, humor, great ability with dialogue, a professional understanding of the story structure, and a terrific sense of dramatic pacing. I look forward to working with him on whatever he produces and hope that the industry opens their eyes to this excellent writer and a great guy.

Ashley Rogers

Award-winning documentary filmmaker, television writer, producer and director.

Disciplined, passionate, determined, tenacious and creative. These are the words that I would use to describe Jon D’Amore, whom I met in 1999. I was one of the lucky firsts to read his manuscript for The Boss Always Sits In The Back, and I thought he was a fresh and exciting talent, who, in time, would succeed in a big way. I’ve continued to be impressed by his prolific writing a variety of genres...and in his unwavering belief in himself and his work. ‘Hey...You talkin’ about me?’ Yes, Jon, I am talking about you! Your time has come, your success is an absolute, and I couldn’t be happier.

Tom Sullivan

World-traveled journalist, documentary producer and TV show host. He’s known Jon since 1962 and has followed Jon’s life and careers with interest and witticisms.

It is a fact that over time, the best writers, those whose stories have the power to seize and hold the imagination, have been found to be individuals who draw from the reservoir of their own life’s experiences and observations. What more priceless learning experience can a writer have than to watch the way a person handles the highs and lows of their lives, and listens to the spontaneity of their words? Those are the strengths to be found in Jon D’Amore’s writings. The moments of truth are always there, and the impact is inescapable.

America Young

America works in Film, TV and video games as a director, 2nd unit director, stunt coordinator and stunt woman. Her first feature, "The Concessionaires Must Die!!" was executive produced by Stan Lee, and she directed the criticality acclaimed animated series Barbie Vlog for Mattel. She is a founder of The Chimaera Project, which provides opportunities to women in the film & media arts.

Jon and I met during the taping of a pilot at the CBS Radford Studios. I eventually asked him for a copy of the manuscript for The Boss Always Sits In The Back, but after reading every 5 pages I would call to ask, ‘Did this really happen?’

‘Yes,’ was always the reply.

‘Come on Jon, did you really do this?’


The life he led blew my mind...and it continues to do so.

After I passed his strenuous audition process, I was allowed to participate in several readings of his screenplays...and I am so happy that I did! Working with Jon has been such a great experience. His ambition, his work ethic, but most importantly it’s his ‘friendship ethic’ that makes him stand out and shine. And I fully intend to shamelessly ride his coattails to the top!