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Frankie Valli Is Not the Only Famous Jersey Boy

11 more celebrated men who hail from the great Garden State

Frankie Valli

En español |  Born Francis Stephen Castelluccio on May 3, 1934, in Newark, N.J.

Valli, a master of the falsetto, is immortalized in Jersey Boys, the new movie musical directed by Clint Eastwood. The lead singer of the Four Seasons is far from the only celebrated Jersey “boy,” however. From Sinatra to Springsteen, so many notables belong to the Garden State brotherhood that “The Boss” himself once described the unofficial club as “we who bear the coolness of the forever uncool.”

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Jon Bon Jovi

Born John Francis Bongiovi Jr. on March 2, 1962, in Perth Amboy.

Elder statesman of ’80s hair bands, Bon Jovi lent his name and rose to fame as the front man of the rock band that formed in 1983. The group’s 12 studio albums have sold more than 130 million copies worldwide, and No. 1 singles include such classics as “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.” He has said, “New Jersey shaped who and what I am.”

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Danny DeVito

Born Daniel Michael DeVito Jr. on Nov. 17, 1944, in Neptune Township.

The diminutive dynamo was a standout in 1975’s best-picture Oscar winner, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, then became a household name for his Emmy-winning role as dispatcher Louie De Palma on the sitcom Taxi (1978-83). “Jersey is always with me,” he has said. “I was one of the lucky ones. Asbury Park is just the greatest place in the world to spend your childhood.”

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James Gandolfini

Born James Joseph Gandolfini Jr. on Sept. 18, 1961, in Westwood.

The tough guy with a big heart died on June 19, 2013. He became a superstar, won three Emmys and helped change the face of cable TV as Tony Soprano, the head of a New Jersey-based crime family on the HBO series The Sopranos (1999-2007). About New Jersey, he once said: “It's basically a middle-class, working-class state, so you have normalcy, that foundation of a regular outlook on life.”

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Born Tracy Lauren Marrow on Feb. 16, 1958, in Newark.

The gangsta rap pioneer and actor secured an ongoing role in 2000 as Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola on the series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. About his Jersey childhood, he once said: “Despite the fact that Summit is predominantly white, I can’t say there was overt prejudice in the town. All my father’s friends … were white working-class dudes. ... Black and white, they were all cool with one another.”

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Ray Liotta

Born Raymond Allen Liotta on Dec. 18, 1954, in Newark.

He’s the ultimate Goodfella, but he revealed his softer side in 1989’s Field of Dreams, delivering the memorable line, “If you build it, he will come.” He was mobster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 biopic Goodfellas and has said: “Mafia guys are all just insecure people who want their money. They’re like little 7-year-old kids when they don't get their way. I knew guys like that growing up in New Jersey.”

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Jack Nicholson

Born John Joseph Nicholson on April 22, 1937, and raised in Neptune.

The king of Hollywood, he still holds the record as the male actor with the most Oscar noms (12) and has won three times. At his induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2010, he said, “Let me tell you the piece of history that I found that most illustrates New Jersey. New Jersey is the only state in the Union that voted against Abraham Lincoln. Twice!”

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Joe Pesci

Born Joseph Frank Pesci on Feb. 9, 1943, in Newark.

Pesci, often portraying the psycho sidekick, has had success with comedy, including a rare lead in 1992’s My Cousin Vinny. But it was his three films directed by Martin Scorsese that established his rep as an invaluable supporting player. Speaking of New Jersey? Fuhgeddaboudit. Pesci has never been one for interviews or idle chit-chat. 

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Frank Sinatra

Born Francis Albert Sinatra on Dec. 12, 1915, in Hoboken.

“The Chairman of the Board,” who died May 14, 1998, went from a crooning idol in the ’40s to the seen-it-all survivor on 1969’s My Way. Sinatra more than deserved his reputation as “The Voice,” but “Ol’ Blue Eyes” wasn’t a slouch when it came to acting, either. He won an Oscar for 1953’s From Here to Eternity. He once said: “In Hoboken, when I was a kid, I lived in a plenty tough neighborhood. When somebody called me a ‘dirty little pig,’ there was only one thing to do: Break his head.”

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Bruce Springsteen

Born Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen on Sept. 23, 1949, in Long Branch.

“The Boss,” the rock world’s poet laureate of the American working class, has sold more than 120 million albums worldwide alongside his E Street Band and is known for such anthems as “Born to Run” and “Born in the U.S.A.” He won an Oscar for “Streets of Philadelphia,” from the 1993 film Philadelphia. He loves his home state: “I found my own Jersey girl right here in Asbury Park,” he once said. “I’ve always found it deeply resonant, holding the hands of my kids on the same streets where my mom held my hand.”

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John Travolta

Born John Joseph Travolta on Feb. 18, 1954, in Englewood.

The teen heartthrob and top Sweathog on TV’s Welcome Back, Kotter, in the late ’70s found greater fame in a pair of films that relied on his musical talent: 1977’s Saturday Night Fever (the source of his first Oscar nomination) and 1978’s Grease. He would experience a career comeback and garner his second Academy Award nod as a hit man in 1994’s Pulp Fiction. “I’m from a working-class family,” he has said of his life in Jersey. “We didn’t have a lot, but we had the arts. You’re talking to a guy who is making a living at doing what he loves doing — acting, singing and dancing.”

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Buzz Aldrin

Born Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr. on Jan. 20, 1930, in Montclair.

The engineer and Korean War fighter pilot was part of the three-man crew of Apollo 11 that made history on July 20, 1969, by becoming the first humans to land on the moon. The astronaut would follow mission commander Neil Armstrong 20 minutes later as the second person to step onto the lunar surface. Aldrin’s first reaction: “Beautiful, beautiful. Magnificent desolation.” He doesn’t speak of Jersey much, since all anyone asks about is the moon.

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