Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth have called it quits less than a year into their marriage, 10 years after meeting on a movie set.
Sarfraz Manzoor first came to the Promised Land in 1990.
That’s Asbury Park to non-Bruce Springsteen fans. Manzoor, a native of Luton, U.K., is a fan, and his story of Boss fandom is told in the new movie musical, “Blinded by the Light.”
Premiere of "Blinded by the Light" at the Paramount Theatre, Asbury Park. L-R Screenwriter Sarfraz Manzoor, Patti Scialfa, Bruce Springsteen and writer, director, producer Gurinder Chadha on the red carpet. Photo/James J. Connolly/Correspondent. (Photo: James J. Connolly/Correspondent)
"I remember walking along the boardwalk, ‘Oh my God, this is the boardwalk that he sings about!’ Think of the single for ‘Hungry Heart’ when he’s on the boardwalk. I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing!’ "
The circumstances of Manzoor’s actual first visit with friend Amolak and the first visit as depicted in “Blinded by the Light” are quite similar. In “Blinded,” Viveik Kalra as Javed (based on Manzoor) and Aaron Phagura as Roops (based on Amolak) visit Asbury Park, Freehold, Belmar and Monmouth College.
All true, except for the visit to Monmouth College and the two did not actually go inside the Stone Pony. Yes, filming was done at the Jersey Shore.
“I remember we took a bus to Asbury Park and it was really quiet, there was hardly anybody there in late June,” Manzoor said.
Viveik Kalra and Nell Williams star in "Blinded by the Light." (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)
The Asbury Park of 1990, perhaps of the bottom of the city’s economic nadir, was quite different than the bustling summertime action of today.
“It was cool because we were basically looking around for things that reminded us of the music,” Manzoor said. “We saw Madame Marie and I remember we took a photograph outside the Stone Pony and I remember we met these girls, two French sisters, and we didn’t know if they were Springsteen fans. But then we saw they were wearing Steel Mill T-shirts.”
They were indeed big Springsteen fans — Steel Mill is the name of the Boss’ pre-E Street Band.
Manzoor had the moment in December 2003 that Springsteen fans around the world dream about — seeing the Boss in Asbury Park. The scene was Convention Hall for three Christmas time benefit shows featuring Springsteen and the Max Weinberg 7. The many guests for the shows included Jon Bon Jovi.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is almost as good as the Stone Pony,’ " Manzoor said. “I am literally in amongst his people. He was very relaxed. This is the dream: Convention Hall, Asbury Park, seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert. Just speaking about it I’m reminded how it felt and it was amazing.”
Gurinder Chadha directs Viveik Kalra (left) and Aaron Phagura in "Blinded by the Light." (Photo: Nick Wall)
In 2005, Manzoor visited Springsteen’s childhood homes in Freehold, and the famed E Street and 10th Avenue in Belmar, where former E Street Band member David Sancious used to live.
By this time, Manzoor had become a journalist and broadcaster, working for the Guardian, the BBC and more. All this while seeing more than 150 Springsteen concerts. He had met the Boss in the course of his work when he covered a copyright infringement case in London involving Springsteen — a British record label released an unauthorized Boss record.
Stan Goldstein, host of the Rock & Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore with Asbury Park Press staff writer Jean Mikle, chaperoned Manzoor to the early Boss homes in Freehold, including 68 South St., where Springsteen lived as a teenager, in 2005.
“(Manzoor) was literally shaking as he was talking,” Goldstein said. “ ‘This is where it happened. I can’t believe it, so much had gone on in his house with Bruce and his father. I can’t believe I’m standing near it here.’
“You could tell it really affected him,” said Goldstein, who also authored, with Mikle, the book "Rock & Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore."
“Blinded by the Light,” the new musical based on the songs of Bruce Springsteen, will have an “official premiere” in Asbury Park on Wednesday, Aug. 7 at the Paramount Theatre. Chris Jordan, Warner Bros. Pictures
Much of Springsteen’s memoir, “Born to Run,” and his hit “Springsteen on Broadway,” focused on the loving but complicated relationship between Springsteen and his father. So it is for Manzoor and his father in his own memoir, “Greetings from Bury Park,” and in “Blinded by the Light.”
Seeing the homes up close struck deep.
“People expected me to say I was disappointed by it all, all that expectation, it can’t be as good as you thought it would be,” Manzoor said. “For me, it wasn’t a letdown at all. I got to be at the real places he mythologized in his music so I thought that was amazing.”
Manzoor’s trip to the Boss’ iconic spots at the Jersey Shore was broadcasted by BBC Radio 4.
Manzoor’s memoir came out in 2007. It’s the memoir of a Springsteen fan, but one not normally seen here in the United States. Manzoor is a Muslim of Pakistani descent and the book, and movie, reflects on 1980s England amid the rise of the alt-right National Front, and the difficulties, and terror, Manzoor and his family faced. The xenophobia depicted in “Blinded” is being felt today, both in U.K. and in the U.S.
Yet, it’s about building bridges, not walls, says Javed in “Blinded by the Light.”
Premiere of "Blinded by the Light" at the Paramount Theatre, Asbury Park. Screenwriter Sarfraz Manzoor on the red carpet. Photo/James J. Connolly/Correspondent. (Photo: James J. Connolly/Correspondent)
“Right now, we’re in quite a hopeless time,” Manzoor, 48, married with two children. “It feels hopeless but I think there’s a real desire and hunger for joy and unity and hope so I think this film, even though it has its moments of darkness, moments of despair, ultimately it’s a joyous film. It shows great music doesn’t really care about nationality or religion or race. It doesn’t care about any of those things and I think that’s a wonderful message for the times we’re living in now.”
“Blinded by the Light” comes out Friday, Aug. 16 from New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. Gurinder Chadha of “Bend It Like Beckham” fame is the director and Manzoor co-wrote the screenplay. Springsteen gave his OK to Manzoor and Chadha to use his music in the story. Manzoor returned to Asbury Park for the movie’s premiere at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park on Aug. 7. He signed autographs before showtime and Springsteen and wife Patti Scialfa joined Manzoor and Chadha on the red carpet.
He had a smile from ear to ear.
“This is a different experience as compare to my usual experiences in Asbury Park,” said Manzoor that night on the red carpet. “It’s what I dreamed of. It’s what I’ve hoped for and most people don’t get this. Most people don’t get a chance to have a very personal story come alive and then have a massive circus like this — this is not usual.
“It’s like a dream come true and it’s amazing.”