I met Darrell when I co-hosted "G-Man's Freak Show" in Marina Del Rey. He was our producer, but much more, as he always had a wealth of creative ideas. I also was privileged to see his play, "The Basement," when it first came out. It relates the true story of his grandfather's mob murder and is absolutely riveting. Check it out! ~M
Los Angeles Author and Cartoonist, Darrell Fusaro returns to his hometown of Clifton, NJ, to give a benefit performance of his play, The Basement at his alma mater, Clifton High School; all proceeds to benefit the student body. Enthusiasm builds over Darrell’s play, which is the account of his grandfather’s murder and the effect it had on his family and this town. It’s hailed as, “A compelling evening in the theater, enhanced by this natural storyteller” by Theater Journalist and Critic for the New Jersey Star Ledger, Peter Filichia. But the day before the show, the School Board panics about the mature nature of the script and demands Fusaro make revisions to his true- life story.
By all appearances Fusaro seems to have lived a charmed life. Upon meeting him, we find a happy soul living a life of creative adventure. He’s an accomplished painter whose works have exhibited side by side with Andy Warhol’s. An actor, who has performed his play, The Basement, on stages throughout Canada and the United States, and who has appeared in television shows and commercials. He also cartoons weekly and is a Producer of the Emmy nominated Los Angeles news program, Local Edition that airs on CNN’s Headline News. And yet, with no pretense, he comes across as the likeable guy next door.
But behind Darrell’s smile is the nightmare that destroyed the Fusaro family. On New Year’s morning 1970, at the age of 8, Darrell overheard the details of his grandfather’s murder, while hiding in his grandparent’s basement kitchen. Newspaper headlines soon screamed, “The murder of James Fusaro had gangland signs.” As the news continued and rumors spread; the humiliation, shame, and fear of more violent attacks by Mafia, silenced the Fusaros. This silence was not without consequence; it became malignant and destroyed the family. By the time Darrell was 18, his close-knit Italian-American family, who celebrated so many good times together in their grandparent’s basement kitchen, was no more.
In the year 2000, it is discovered that the union office where his grandfather had been murdered has remained untouched since the night of the crime with James Fusaro’s blood still splattered on the walls. Upon seeing this Darrell became motivated to take action and find resolution. In the documentary, The Basement, we witness this regular guy do extraordinary things through his acceptance, generosity and sense of humor.
Behind the Scenes of The Basement
Co-Producer Jeff Trujillo, editor of the Emmy award winning documentary, “Gangs: Facts Every Parent Should Know,” joined Darrell on the journey back to his hometown of Clifton, New Jersey, simply to record the benefit performance of The Basement, as a keepsake for the high school.
It wasn’t until reviewing the footage that Trujillo concluded there was a sincere story that deserved to be made available for others to enjoy. Once Jeff convinced Darrell that this was a worthwhile goal they rolled up their shirtsleeves and got started. Working together evenings and weekends, they assembled the footage, along with. Fusaro family photographs that spanned the Twentieth Century, and investigative phone calls Darrell had made years earlier in his quest for answers. As first time documentarians they were pleasantly surprised with how well things were coming together. But something was missing; a soundtrack.
Then out of sheer coincidence, it was discovered that Darrell’s dog had a neighborhood friend, Sparky, who’s owner turned out to be renown film composer, Gaili Schoen. Gaili’s documentary soundtracks include the PBS Special, “Annie Leibovitz: A Life Through A Lens.” With no budget, except what they pooled together from their own pockets, Jeff & Darrell knew Gaili would be out of their reach. Boy, were they in for a surprise. Gaili fell in love with Darrell’s story and joined the team.
After screening the film, Echelon Studios offered them a distribution deal bringing The Basement to the attention of the American and International film markets, On-Demand and Netflix. The Basement is available now on DVD.
What lasting impact do you hope your documentary will leave?
That a life well lived, in spite of personal tragedy, is an example of hope to others.
By Jeff Trujillo & Darrell Fusaro
DVD Price: $15.98
For your readers: $9.98
To Order: www.TheBasementTheMovie.com
Visit the website to view Trailer: www.TheBasementTheMovie.com
For more about the mystery surrounding the unsolved murder of James Fusaro visit:
*To add “The Basement” to your Netflix queue go to: