FILMMAKERS SHOOT AND SCORE IN 'THE BOYS OF 2ND STREET PARK'.
WHEN RECALLING his childhood friends, public relations executive Dan Klores could have put his memories into fictional form and stood back as a studio hack morphed it into some weird cross between an urban ``Stand by Me'' and ``Big Chill 2: The Early Years.''
Fortunately he realized early on that, in this case, the friends themselves and their storytelling abilities make for pretty good drama and comedy. He conducted 80 hours of filmed interviews and put together a documentary, ``The Boys of 2nd Street Park,'' which makes its TV premiere at 8 p.m. Sunday on Showtime.
The story starts around 1960, when the six subjects Klores and Ron Berger focused on were beginning to congregate in their lower Brooklyn park, a few steps from the boardwalk and the beach, for assorted outdoor amusements. Most were sons of immigrants, all sons of hard-working lower-middle-class families making do in cramped apartments. The boys found camaraderie and escape in basketball and before long were playing after dark and even when the court was covered with snow.
By high school they were uniformed teammates, applying their scrappy, self-taught style of play to the polished floors of school gyms. Now in their mid-50s, they can recall in vivid detail a big game that got away.
College in the '60s was a major turning point for most Americans, and these men are no exception. They talk frankly of their drug experimentations (which became powerful habits for some) and their licentious love lives.
Klores wisely interviewed them individually, eliciting honest comments and just the right amount of tattling. If any were inclined to gloss over their romantic failings, Klores also gave camera time to one man's ex-wife who, in her way, speaks for other women left in their wake.
It's not all feel-good material. There are the changes wrought by Vietnam, for those who went and those who stayed home, and recollections of the drug-related slaying of their friend Lee. And Steve and Bernie talk wistfully about children they lost to illness.
The production is backed with a nice assortment of tunes that set moods and time-stamp scenes. The best part is tracks like Frankie Lymon's ``Little Bitty Pretty One,'' Donovan's ``Sunshine Superman,'' Grand Funk's ``We're an American Band'' and the Impressions' ``It's All Right'' haven't been overused in other period films.
``The Boys of 2nd Street Park'' is captivating, not because their circumstances were so exceptional, but because they were so like so many others. It's a time capsule for boomers.
Valerie Kuklenski, (818) 713-3750
THE BOYS OF 2ND STREET PARK - Three and one half stars
What: Documentary about a handful of guys who grew up together near New York's Coney Island and built lasting friendships on their neighborhood basketball court.
When: 8 p.m. Sunday.
In a nutshell: The lives of six 50-something buddies of filmmaker Dan Klores make a compelling microcosm of American life in the '60s and '70s.
Showss coming back tonight for another season
``The Wonderful World of Disney: Remember the Titans'' (ABC) - The true story of an African-American coach (Denzel Washington) and his high-school team on their first season as a racially integrated unit. (PG).
``48 Hours Investigates'' (CBS) - An investigation into a murder-suicide case in Tacoma, Wash.
``Hack'' (CBS) - Olshansky (David Morse) helps a young man who is being hunted by a pair of corrupt federal agents for having witnessed the scene of their murderous rampage.
Saturday Movie: ``Jerry Maguire'' (NBC) - When a sports agent (Tom Cruise) has a moral epiphany and is fired for expressing it, he decides to put his new philosophy to the test as an independent with the only athlete (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) who stays with him. (R).
``The District'' (CBS) - Mannion (Craig T. Nelson) returns to Washington, D.C., with his sights set on getting his job back.
- Compiled by Jaime Spangrude
Dan Klores, foreground, and Ron Berger focus on Brooklyn-born friendships forged by basketball that continue to the present day in ``The Boys of 2nd Street Park.''
RETURN ENGAGEMENTS (see text)