Fifteen years ago, Greg Lingo, a former quarterback for Upper Darby High School, returned to his alma mater to watch the Royals play long-time rival Haverford High School. He even brought along his three daughters, who were less than impressed. “We got crushed,” says Lingo, part of Upper Darby’s Class of 1990.
After the game, Lingo learned that nine Upper Darby players were academically ineligible to play in that Thanksgiving game. He had an idea. “The school was open to someone with no academic background, with no kids in the school district, setting up SAT tutoring and other mentoring,” he says. “It’s a big school. I can’t help 900 people, but I can help a few.”
Lingo’s ties to his hometown had frayed somewhat over the years. He’d settled with his family in Wayne, assembling a successful real estate and construction company. But his subsequent reconnection spawned a serious exploration of his roots. The resulting revelations are the focus of Last Call, which hits select theaters and streaming services through IFC Films on March 19.
The offbeat dramedy stars Jeremy Piven, two-time Oscar nominee Bruce Dern, Jamie Kennedy, and Taryn Manning. Piven (of Entourage fame) plays Mick, a successful developer who returns to Darby Heights to tear down a beloved local bar and replace it with a more upscale property. Once there, Mick gains insight into the toughness and drive that helped fuel his success, and he’s compelled to confront the juxtaposition of his new life and his old. Meanwhile, his neighborhood pals are fighting to maintain the soul of their town as it faces gentrification. “You see the common friendships and common bonds that emerge,” Lingo says. “They should translate beyond a neighborhood and town to endure.”
Last Call was filmed over 25 days from September 2019 through November 2020. Most of it was shot in Bayonne, N.J., which Lingo sees as a dead ringer for Upper Darby. When it comes to depicting the fictitious version of his hometown, Lingo obviously has some credibility. He grew up near a trolley stop close to Beverly Hills Middle School and also had friends in Catholic school, thanks to his participation in local sports teams. Perhaps most importantly, he spent a lot of time at Cawley’s Irish Pub, which was owned by the father of his good friend, Sean. The two spent much time there counting change and absorbing the atmosphere.
Cawley’s is the basis for Callahan’s, the bar in Last Call—though there is, in fact, an actual Callahan’s in Upper Darby. (It’s the one on West Chester Pike with the soldier on the roof.) “This area has a pull for him,” says Michael Baughan, Lingo’s boyhood friend.
Lingo also understands that some see his leaving as something of a betrayal. That explains the film’s original title, “Crabs in a Bucket,” which refers to the tendency of crustaceans to hold back compatriots confined in the same trap. “Greg and I know that world intimately,” says Paolo Pilladi, the film’s director, who grew up in Overbook. “There’s still a little feeling-out process when I go back to my old neighborhood. I have to fight to get a word in.”
Last Call is rife with regional connections. Stuntman John Donohue attended Monsignor Bonner High School, and so did Havertown-based real estate agent Rob Hnelseki, who has a part as the “Big Guy.” Cheri Oteri (Dr. Brown) is an Archbishop Pendergrast grad, Pete Postiglione (Jonesy) went to Cardinal O’Hara, and Peter Patrikios (Digits) is a Friends’ Central School alum. Even Chester County gets some love in the form of West Chester East High School product Lars Gerhard, who plays a Catholic priest. And Callahan’s patrons are Delco locals.
The film cost less than $2 million to make and was funded by Lingo and a few friends. He wrote the script over several years, hiring four producers to help with casting, filming and production. “It was fascinating and exciting,” says Lingo of the process. “It’s not my last project.”
Jamie Kennedy remembers Lingo as the kid who always played “up” in youth sports and had no trouble competing with the older guys in anything. “Everybody knew him,” says the fellow Upper Darby native, who went to Monsignor Bonner. “He was a legend.”
It didn’t take much for Lingo to convince Kennedy to join the cast of Last Call. Kennedy plays Whitey, a character based on old friend Paul White, a tough nut who didn’t mind fighting. In a phone interview from Los Angeles, Kennedy slips into his thickest Delco accent to describe Whitey. “Eggles,” he says, laughing. “I’ve been around the world and done a lot of things. In Upper Darby, I learned to live by my wits—with toughness, personality and humor.”
There’s also a lot of that in Piven’s character. When Mick returns home, there are those who regard him suspiciously. Some might approach Lingo the same way—that is, if he wasn’t still enmeshed in Upper Darby. Every year, he hosts an unofficial reunion of friends and family. He also stages a memorial for his old friend, Sean, who died not long after graduating from high school. “There’s something about Delco,” Baughan says. “Even if you haven’t been back for a while, you never lose your membership. That doesn’t happen in other places. All I have to do is know you’re from the area, and I’ve got your back.”
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