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Documentary about basketball, boyhood depicts an American era

NEW YORK — At first glance, it seems too good to be true: Boyhood spent on a basketball court by the sea, just a few sandy steps from Coney Island with its carnival jollies and prospects for romance (“under the boardwalk, we’ll be falling in love”).

And it was good. Yet for Dan Klores, Ron Berger and their chums, growing up in the 1950s in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach wasn’t all fun and games.

Money was tight and so were apartments (“Castro Convertible bed by night and couch by day”). From parents who had survived the Depression or Nazi concentration camps, there were constant warnings about the world’s malevolence. And the onset of the ’60s with upheavals and pitfalls that heaped special challenges on these emerging adults.

All the more reason for basketball, the rallying point for “The Boys of 2nd Street Park,” a documentary that debuted last weekend on Showtime, and airs throughout the month on the premium cable network.

“Basketball was the dance. Basketball was the rhythm,” explains one of the “boys” today. Another recalls: “Basketball was my special island.”

First-time filmmakers Klores and Berger defy conventional wisdom by going home again. They do it through the recollections of their old hoop-mates, these aging baby boomers whose lives have taken wildly different paths beyond the court at 2nd Street Park, and who jointly narrate a generation of America.

Among the half-dozen primary voices, there is Harvard graduate Brian Newmark, now a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Cambridge, Mass.

There’s Larry Brown, a bearded, back-to-nature building contractor in Woodstock, N.Y., who spends half of each year traveling the country with his second wife, an artist, selling her work at flea markets.

There’s Steve Satin, who had looks, personality and girls — as well as a drug addiction that robbed him of everything (except the young son he lost to leukemia) before he began his painful climb back.

Meanwhile, two others from the neighborhood are unseen but strongly felt presences in the film: the comrades who created it.

Berger, who grew up at 2525 E. 13th St. and turns 54 next month, is a big-time New York ad man who cooked up the “Time to Make The Doughnuts” campaign for Dunkin’ Donuts.

His pal Klores, 53, who grew up at 3111 Brighton 7 St., founded a major New York-based public relations firm and has served as publicity spokesman for such clients as Jennifer Lopez, Michael Jackson and Donald Trump.

Friends since seventh grade who still live a half-mile apart (though now it’s weekend homes in the Hamptons), “We would talk about what the other guys had been doing,” says Berger. Then, about three years ago, Klores proposed to him that they make a film about the old crowd, “which was a funny idea, since neither of us had ever done a film.”

Even so, Berger said yes. “Just the idea of doing something with a friend like that had a special appeal.”

During 2000, Klores, recovering from a life-threatening, life-changing bout of hepatitis “by being patient,” was able to step back from his day job (“I have 110 or 120 people working for me, and they’re good”) and get started on the film.

“I outlined the story and every image I would need and everyone I would interview,” a list eventually trimmed to about 25 boys Klores canvassed the nation to interview, shooting about 80 hours of film.

“I told each of the guys what I was doing wasn’t about basketball,” he says. “I was much more interested in their own journeys.

“I didn’t know how it would go until I interviewed Satin in Boston.” This was the guy who lost 20 years to his addictions and, at his nadir, was living at Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal. “Once he opened up to me, I thought, ‘Well, that’s pretty good.”‘

As the film came together, Klores called upon his many friends in the entertainment industry to screen the work-in-progress and give him suggestions.

He also threw himself into picking the music to capture this era, which spanned from Frankie Lymon and The Drifters to Brian Eno, Donovan, the Grateful Dead and Klores’ pal Paul Simon, who gave him a song to include.

“The Boys of 2nd Street Park” was screened for the boys at a party Klores threw at his Bridgehampton house in August 2002.

“I was nervous about it,” he says with a nervous chuckle. But all went well. Then the film premiered to critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival last January.

“The Boys of 2nd Street Park” has been an answered prayer for Klores — his chance to skip the spin cycle and get real.

“I like what I’m doing (in public relations) ’cause I’m good at it,” he says. “But more often than not I feel a combination of itchy, unfulfilled, not challenged. I never loved it. I always felt embarrassed, swear to God.”

So along with representing J.Lo, he has more films in the works. Who knew• Filmmaking is almost as good as basketball.

Additional Information:

Details

‘The Boys of 2nd Street Park’
7 p.m. tonight, Showtime


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