Four years ago Sean and I were shooting a fashion story in Manhattan and needed a cool car to create the mood of the sixties. By luck ( or divine intervention ) we were location scouting around Bergdorfs and there, parked just across from the Plaza, was Joey and his 63 Chevy Impala. Both man and car were in immaculate condition, Joey with his pencil thin mustache and the car gleaming with polished perfection. We joined the crowd of admirers – police, doorman and tourists – as well as the conversation, and soon felt like Joey’s newest oldest friends. We talked about the fashion story and he had no hesitation in being part of our shoot. So a week later we were on set together and the magic started. The shoot was a great success, but it was Joey who caught our attention – he seemed to be a regular guy, but the stories he told…!
As a three year old growing up in Brooklyn, Joey decided he wanted to be a driver, a chauffeur, and the person he wanted to drive more than anyone was James Cagney. This dream eventually came true, with Cagney gracious but quite ill at the end of his life, and Joey at the beginning of his career. By then Joey had already developed his love of cars, washing the best for the mob on Saturday afternoons. That left Sunday for Murray the K’s show at the Fox, with a stream of young undiscovered talent performing in that one place…the Supremes, Tom Jones, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin… With Joey’s childhood dream realized, the sky was the limit for who else he could drive, and he reached for the stars. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton led to Louis Armstrong to Neil Diamond to Larry King and so on and on, and the list still keeps growing. With each name there is a story to tell – never gossip, but interesting fun stories, like driving Gregory Peck to the Kentucky Derby, making french toast for Mick Jagger or teaching Al Pacino to prepare for blindness in ‘Scent of a Woman’ by walking around with bottle tops on his eyes.
Driving for the rich and famous was not the endgame for Joey. He was selective with his clients, and their generosity – not to him but to those in need, became part of his criteria. For himself, Joey used his tips to buy wheelchairs for the homeless, he worked car rallies to fundraise for the Wounded Warriors and he always had something in the trunk to give away, like matchbox cars for children. He’s quite a unique character. He has tattoos on both arms, Frank Sinatra croons from the beatbox installed in the back of his Cadillac, and he has people like Bruce Springsteen and Larry King on his speed dial.
During the course of that fashion shoot four years ago and listening to Joey’s stories, I wondered why we were shooting a fashion story – we should be making a film about Joey! So that’s what Sean and I are doing now. Joey is completely on board of course, he loves an adventure ( and if any money is made on the project it will go to helping his charities ). We have started filming, putting a car-rig on the front of the Lincoln or the Chevy and cruising around town. In Soho we have shot footage of Joey telling stories, and this will be good promotional material to give people an insight into the man. Many of his clients are willing to give their time freely to talk about their side of the Joey story – so the next few weeks will be hectic. We will be filming every opportunity and all the highlights will be reported here at the Fitzy Report. Stay tuned!
You can see more details at joeythemovie.