Bensonhurst was alive with the sound of the Bee Gees on Tuesday, June 12 as John Travolta made a triumphant return to Lenny’s Pizza to promote his latest film, receive a special award from the New York State Senate and, of course, grab a slice.
The massive event – emceed by “Brooklyn’s own” Joe Causi – was the brainchild of actor and Gravesend native Will DeMeo, who stars as Sammy “The Bull” Gravano alongside Travolta’s title role in “Gotti,” a film about John Gotti’s rise to the top of the New York underworld to become the boss of the Gambino crime family, hitting theaters nationwide Friday, June 15.
Working with Travolta, the actor told the crowd, was his “biggest dream come true.”
“And let me tell you – he’s a class act,” he said. “He’s here for everyone.”
Lenny’s – a Bensonhurst staple since 1953 – had itself a starring role in the 1977 classic “Saturday Night Fever.” In the film’s opening credits, Travolta’s on-screen character, Tony Manero, gets himself a pair of slices at the now-famous Lenny’s window before strutting his stuff down 86th Street.
“The staff at Lenny’s will tell you, people still come up to the window and mimic John Travolta’s line at least 10 times a day,” DeMeo told this paper.
The event – which saw crowds lining up as early as 11 a.m. for Travolta’s 2 p.m. appearance – came with its own soundtrack of ’70s and ’80s hits, courtesy of another Brooklyn boy, DJ Chazz.
“This is what Brooklyn’s all about,” DeMeo said at the event. “Where else can you be in the streets like this, under the subway, just dancing and chilling?”
There to present Travolta’s award was State Sen. Marty Golden, who boasted about the 1977 film’s historical significance in the borough and beyond.
“‘Saturday Night Fever’ was a commercial blockbuster,” he said. “It helped popularize disco music and, most importantly, it took a popular television actor from a show called ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’ that made him an international sensation [and brought him to Brooklyn].”
In 2001, he said, the Library of Congress designated “Saturday Night Fever” as “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” It was also selected for preservation by the National Film Registry for its impact on cinema.
“Who could forget how the Verrazano Bridge represented a way to a better life for Tony Manero?” Golden said, adding that Travolta was at the helm of that history – so much so, it earned him Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.
DeMeo wasn’t the only of Travolta’s “Gotti” co-stars there to celebrate the star’s Brooklyn roots. Also in attendance were Kelly Preston, who plays Victoria Gotti; Chris Kerson, who plays Willie Boy Johnson; Nico Bustamante, who plays young Frankie Gotti; and Patrick Borriello, who plays Johnny Boy Ruggiero.
The real life John Gotti Jr. was also on hand.
Causi and crew were sure to express thanks to the bevy of police officers, firefighters and special agents in the audience – among them, 62nd Precinct Commanding Officer Captain Anthony Longobardi – as well as, of course, Lenny’s Pizza, for serving up the ultimate homecoming.
Lenny’s Pizza is located at 1969 86th St.