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The question was a tricky one, regarding the founding of the NHL, and the number of member teams at the time that the league came together in 1917. The correct answer (four) fairly flummoxed fans who were brought up on the legend of the hallowed “Original Six” franchises — prompting Quizmaster™ Jim Norton to observe with a dry drip of feigned arrogance, “To all of you who actually submitted ‘The Original Six’ as your answer…and who even underlined it, like I’m some kind of an idiot…well you’re wrong. Fuck you. YOU’RE the idiot!” It was just another Tuesday in Asbury Park — traditionally a day of rest for many local businesses, there in the drab foothills of the working week — and a day often given over to some creatively wacky pursuits; a fact hammered home by this Tuesday’s head-spinning Steel Cage Match of a city council election. But on May 7, a homegrown tradition returned to take root, as the pop-cultural force of nature known as Tuesday Night Trivia reappeared with a reassuringly familiar host (Gentleman Jim) and a new lease on life, at an all-new host venue — the atom-age retro rec room Asbury Lanes. (more…)
MAD Magazine mainstay AL JAFFEE (third from left, with Cliff Galbraith, JC Luz and Robert Bruce) gets folded into the action during the bigger ‘n better than ever Asbury Park ComiCon on Saturday, March 30. The genuinely legendary writer/cartoonist will be making a personal appearance at Convention Hall, where he’ll meet the public with what we can only surmise will be a full quiver of Snappy Answers…
It’s the kind of event we could use a lot more of, not just on the battered boards of the Asbury Park beachfront but anywhere along the Sandy-savaged Upper Wet Side of NJ. An event that’s evolved organically from the hard work of some locally based people who truly know and care about what they’re doing…the exact opposite of some carpetbagger carnival that steamrolls into its host city with little regard for the greater homegrown culture.
And…given the recent wrangling between boardwalk redeveloper Madison Marquette and the City by the Sea, this year’s bigger, bolder Asbury Park ComiCon might just stand as one of the biggest (and last) events of an aborted summer season, right there on Saturday, March 30 (see here for revoltin’ developments).
In an interview that appeared here upside the ‘WETside last year, Cliff Galbraith opined that “the problem with inland shows is you get a bunch of vendors, and crickets…to me the best shows are the coastal ones, the ones in destination towns, where you have places to go and see other than a hotel or convention center.” The devilishly bearded creator of Rat Bastard had done hard time at enough crappy highway hotel comix conventions — and, as the guy behind the gift-shop phenom known as ‘Sauruses, a fair share of garment-biz get-togethers as well — to reckon that there had to be a better way.
With a new sequential series to promote (the slice-o’-slacker-sitcom-life Unbearable, co-created with wife and “occasional fire performer” J.C. Luz), the Red Bank-based Galbraith duo’d up with a fellow denizen of the borough what birthed both (Count) Basie and (Jay and Silent) Bob’s. An all-seeing, all-knowing pontiff of Popculturizm (and proprietor of the much-missed Groove Spot), Robert Bruce parlayed a frequently featured spot on Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men — and countless van-hours logged on the bargain battlefields of Collingwood Flea Market — into a hard-earned rep as an all-seeing, all-knowing renderer of judgments (and capo di tutti collectibles), and a spinoff into his own forthcoming AMC show.
Even as Rob and Cliff staged the first of their modestly scaled ComiCons at Asbury Lanes in May of 2012, the World’s Finest team was in meetings with Madison Marquette toward a projected expansion to Convention Hall and an exponential increase in vendor tables. When the doors creak open at 10am this Saturday, some 100 exhibitors and vendors will be laying out their colorful wares inside ConHall’s concrete bathtub space, during a fan-friendly and creator-cradling extravaganza that got the two Red Bank guys a frankly amazing feature story in the New York Times.
Just ’cause it’s LOCAL don’t make it YOKEL, of course…this is a class act, one well worth traveling for (even if it’s just a couple of blocks in our case), and with a multi-generational guest list of artists, writers and producers (about which more momentarily), in addition to the encore participation of Askewniverse ambassadors Mike Zapcic and Ming Chen, and Clerks leading man Brian O’Halloran. We’ve got a rundown of the very special guests, coming right up at the flip of a pixelated page (just don’t bend ‘em!)…
In this video clip from the 1980s UNDERGROUND CAFE local music program that aired on low-budget Cable Television Network of New Jersey (the same obscure channel that was home to The Uncle Floyd Show for a while), a slicked-up Chris Barry interviews Jersey Shore folkie Bob Killian at the long-gone High Tide Cafe in Asbury Park. The late music journalist, booking guy and Mad Hatter poet is among the dearly departed “Asbury Angels” celebrated in a special Induction Ceremony show going up this Light of Day Friday, January 18, at the Stone Pony.
The 2013 slate of Asbury Angels was announced this past weekend — and, putting aside questions of how we’re supposed to find a caring-compartment for this endeavor in a not-quite-post-Sandy seacsape, we’re quite pleased to see the name of an old colleague on the list this year…
CHRIS BARRY, the “freakin’ Deacon” of Shore rock journalists, was a guy who, prior to departing for the world beyond in spring of 2006, touched nearly every aspect of the street-level Jersey Shore words-and-music scene as promoter, booking guy, poet priest, PR person and constant chronicler — in newsprint word and occasional hyperlocal cable image — of same.
If you were a musician or a wordsmith in and around Asbury Park at any time within the 1980s/90s/noughties era of trickle-down economics, you almost certainly had dealings with the man known variously as The Lone Paranoid, the Mad Hatter or even Grizz Wald — and you won’t soon un-see the image of Chris, tall but slightly stooped and flatfooted, loping toward you across a crowded tavern floor, leaning in just a little too close and delivering the latest breathless scene gossip, breaking band news or sage observation in a spray of spittle and a smokey/stoney raspy drawl of a baritone. Think latter-day Elliott Gould times Tuli Kupferberg, divided by Walter Winchell and all the great hippie novelists who never quite got around to typing a single word.
You’d generally spend the next minute or so cleaning the spit from your ear, but somewhere back of that wet-willie communique was a solid foundation of hard information; the lay of the land from a tracker-scout whose circle of acquaintance Venn-diagrammed generational Shore subsets as mutually exclusive as the vintage jams of the Upstage and the hardcore hootenannies of the Hot Dog House. Though we never knew him to drive a car or really make a buck from any of this (he would occasionally intersect with the working world, via paychecks like a civilian gig at Fort Monmouth), Chris managed to make all local stops along the North Jersey Coast Line corridor; looking into and forging friendships in scenes that ranged from barband blues, alt-country and reggae, to punk-pop, solo songwriter and the arty college underground.
Kirk out, baby — Jersey Shore barband legend Brian Kirk and his band of partystarting Jirks come to the Count Basie on December 20, as the Red Bank venue hosts a sold-out Sea Bright Rising benefit for the people and places of Kirk’s spiritual homeland.
The way that Brian Kirk tells it, the slender “city” of Sea Bright “has been my home in more ways than one…it’s where I met my wife, where I spent my youth and is the home base for my cover band, Brian Kirk & the Jirks.”
Although his long-running combo continues to gig regularly around the region’s wedding halls and nitespots, the Red Bank resident’s legacy as an entertainer is forever intertwined with Donovan’s Reef, the local-landmark beach bar (and “only piece of oceanfront property open 365 days a year between Sandy Hook and Cape May”) where the Jirks held down a Sunday night stand that outlived nearly all the original anchors of 60 Minutes.
It’s also the place where Kirk served as organizer, impresario and all-around Toastmaster General of Dunesday, the annual day-long beach blanket benefit that served as a fun(d)raising vehicle for a series of hyperlocal charitable causes — in addition to being a shining example of good old fashioned Jersey Shore hedonism.
With Superstorm Sandy having (at least temporarily) consigned Donovan’s Reef to Davy Jones’ Locker, the man who once upon a time raised money for victims of Hurricane Katrina looks homeward — to the people and institutions that have suffered the most during the Dark Ages of the October 29 aftermath. On the evening of Thursday, December 20, Kirk teams up with the seagrass-roots organization Sea Bright Rising for a benefit show from which all proceeds will go directly to Sea Bright “residents, businesses and the community as a whole.”
Occurring in the wake of the December 5 concert that brought San Francisco-based band Train to the edge of the battered borough’s tent city, the special Santa for Sea Bright extravaganza (officially sold out as of this posting) takes place on the stage of the Count Basie Theatre — the curiously elegant setting for one of the displaced town meetings in recent weeks. Kirk and assembled Jirks will be joined for the 7:30pm show by a fellow stalwart of the Shore barscape (championship bluesmaster Matt O’Ree), as well as a promised set of “special guests” that includes TV series star (Crossing Jordan, Law & Order) turned singer and songwriter Jill Hennessy.
The Awesome Music and Offensive Jokes Desk at upperWETside caught up with a beyond-busy Kirk for a conversation about good times, hard choices, and the big challenges facing the little town that so many of us feel a connection to.
1. Respect the ocean. Fear the ocean if you must. At least pay attention to the ocean. But make your home near any other body of water, low lying marsh or stand of big old trees, and you’s a gambler.
2. Most of us have recently emerged from a strange interlude during which we were time-tunneled back into a lifestyle more in tune with that of a hundred years ago (only largely without the ability to set fires inside our homes). As a bankrupted renter with few material possessions, I had the advantage of nothing to lose, and not far to fall. But to my friends who lost much or even all, I offer sympathies…and I wonder, given all that has happened in recent years, if the continued stress and unhappiness of the pursuit of “the American dream of home ownership” is more in danger of taking you from us than the angriest rogue whitecap.
3. Personally, I passed on collecting free food and water from the many charitable distributors who appeared around the area. But the need for information — a thing that I value every bit as much, and tend to miss much more than microwaveable Jimmy Dean Flapsticks — sent me out of the house and over to any place where I might possibly be able to obtain it.
4. The Asbury Park Press, to whom I’ve contributed for more than a decade (and about whom I’ve groused at every opportunity) really stepped up in a time of unprecedented crisis and uncertainty. Coverage was old-school intensive; the website made sense for once, and a much-appreciated printed paper appeared each and every day. And when we finally got around to seeing some TV, the previously ignored News 12 NJ proved to be (and continues to be) THE go-to resource for updated info, images and on-the-ground reporting.
5. Prepared or not, I would NEVER have put money on my own ability to survive more than a week without power, heat, phone, internet, gas, cash, public transportation or those aforementioned Flapsticks. But I did (the wife camped out for much of that time at her generator-powered nursing home job)…and many of you were forced to endure much less for far longer. I am pleasantly surprised at the degree to which our often tense little communities did NOT slide into armed anarchy…and I’m astonished at the scarcity of car crashes throughout an extended period of detours and unlighted major intersections.
6. The thing I like least about times like these is how SMALL your world tends to become during a period of need and emergency…how, even if you want to get out there and do great ‘n heroic things for scores of fellow humans, the home front and family take precedence. Which, if you’ve met my mother, requires more than a bit of attitude adjustment.
7. Ever since my family moved there in the 1960s, I’ve thought that the Bayshore area of Monmouth County was the rancid asshole of the coastline; a truly awful place to make your home, and a near-forgotten outpost perched precariously between some of the ugliest entrenched hide-bound attitudes and imminent destruction on a newly reset game board. Now everybody else in America sees it, and anyone who stays there is stuck there.
8. Ready or not, the NEW New Jersey Shore starts now. SHORT TERM, I have every confidence that rebuilding will happen soon enough wherever there’s a buck to be made…the devastation is such that it’ll be a quiet summer (maybe in some cases an off-limits summer) in many of the traditional beach destination towns…meaning that a relatively unscathed town like Asbury Park (the boardwalk in which had problems of its own going into this scenario) is poised to take advantage of other communities’ weakened state.
9. LONG TERM, I ‘d love to think that we’d all plan smarter and take a step or two back from an ever- fascinating but formidable coastline…but the “guaranteed never wrong” cynic in me sez that the old working-class, honkytonk, family-fun Shore of rides and games and stands and old-school kicks is finished…to be replaced by a Pier Village-y seascape of luxury condos, upscale shopping, pricey restaurants, prohibitively priced parking and other signifiers of the have/have tidal forces.
10. Finally, I’d like everyone under retirement age to try and wrap your head around the enormity of what we’ve been through here…the rude and sudden deprivations; the little tea-lights of basic decency and problem-solving energy that “weren’t supposed to be there” in our society; the fact that we somehow had an Election Day if not a Halloween; the “new normal” and the simply heroic act of managing to keep it together in a time of genuine uncertainty. Remind yourself of the strength that you tapped into; the things that you discovered about yourself…and give yourselves ultimate fuck-you bragging rights over the so-called Greatest Generation.
Make no mistake, we salute the coddled codgers of the most safety-netted crop in American history, and admire the truly great and forward thinking things that they accomplished (whenever not sustaining Jim Crow, inventing sleek new ways to hurt people, and generally pulling up the ladders behind ‘em)…but time to tuck ‘em into bed, put up the railing and let them drift off into bladder-bothered sleep with dreams of the hardscrabble Depression and the wars that Tom Brokaw told ‘em they won singlehandedly. This is the marvelously shaky world that you’ve inherited and in many cases contributed to: you and your kids WILL make do on much less; you’ll take very little for granted and given; you’ll carry the experiences of these past couple of weeks with you for life, and find that they’ll color your perceptions in some unexpected ways…you’ll react to a future situation in a way that might surprise you. And these tides that continue to slosh around inside us could be the hi-colonic we were searching for.
Gentlemen, start your engineered-to-entertain diversions: the interlude prior to Halloweekend brings the end (for now) of some favorite things (including Asbury’s Showroom Cinema, shuttered now in its historic location but soon to re-open in its new ‘n improved Three Screen Circus) — as well as a gloriously sputtering spate of ongoing activities that range from the tried and true (Capitol Steps and David Bromberg at the Basie), the reimagined (once more into Shakespeare’s HENRY V), the NEW and never-seen (Chunksaah’s kid-friendly Playdate event at the Lanes, the area debut of Tinariwen), and the “new old school” thrill that is Mel Stultz’s highly anticipated Race of Gentlemen on the Allenhurst/Loch Arbour sands.
Take a whammy-eyed look at our Mad Monster Party Halloween roundup here on the upperWETside for deep dark details on excursions like Brookdale Haunted Theater, Camp Evans Base of Terror, Haunted Train Rides at Allaire, and the somewhat less campy but appreciably atmospheric Ghosts of Historic Fort Hancock walk. Then don your motoring cap, goggles and scarf, and meet us at the starting line for another dastardly dozen or so ways to decorate that gourd…
It’s a lovely frosty autumn mourning here in Asbury town, as we gear up for a busy Halloween interlude at our historically haunted Crane House digs; as the spicy crew at MOGO Korean Fusion Taco swears once ‘n for all that this will DEFINITELY be the final weekend of the season (and the long-looming Asbury Anchor website swears it’ll be going live so soon they can taste it); as the legendary Meldon Von Riper Stultz rolls the antique rods and bikes onto the beach for the impending Race of Gentlemen (see Richard Virgilio’s moto-touring story in this weeks B Plot) and the Powers What Am escort the bicycles and boards OFF the boardwalk in the wake of some heretofore unknown but newly enforced regulation (a development that’s got our friend Jeffrey Seeds fit to be chainlocked…see his passionate plaint on Asbury Pulp).
It’s getting quiet enough some nights for the Lone Saxman of the skeletal Casino to solo in his own private World of Pure Imagination (that’s an ultra-rare 1948 Tucker Torpedo, photographed and very nearly overlooked at the Casino on a recent autumnal early weeknight evening)…quiet enough to count the gunshots in the wee hours (we counted FIVE at 1:44am on October 11; later confirmed to have come from Stephen Manor)…but NOT quiet enough to skew the signal-to-noise ratio of the ongoing Stuff to Do parade in and around town AND the greater Upper Wet Side of NJ. Slip around the site some…we’ll wait…and catch up with our updated info on new things going up at New Jersey Repertory Company and Two River Theater, as well as a hearseload of HalloHappenings going on now thru Punkinmas. There’s lots more to discuss this weekend and in the days and nights further afield — and it all gets underway around the bloggin’ bend sinister…
Goddammit, we’ve still got it. As one of the original, inimitable and otherwise unemployable Season One cast members at the now-legendary Haunted Mansion of Long Branch (that’s your upperWETside corespondent as Jack the Ripper, here in an old brochure), we practiced the venerable craft of live-action ghoulery from May thru October; braving ThunderDome lockdown conditions, a crashcourse in way-out human behaviours, the dreaded Mansionaire’s Disease and a pay scale only slightly more humane than those found at Foxconn or the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Made a lot of friends, too — best job we ever had; no contest.
So it’s gratifying to know that we can still make people jump or at least jitter when we enter a room — in fact it’s got us thinking comeback. And so emboldened, we take our place up in our lonely garret, inside a legendary local haunted house — repeat after us: we live in a hidden apartment, inside a haunted house — to type out a little guide to the peculiar diversions to be found around the Upper Wet Side of NJ in and around that season when the Great Pumpkin comes on like Galactus or Godot.
We probably don’t have to tell you much about the horrendously scary-expensive thrills to be found at Fright Fest 2012 at Six Flags Great Adventure, or the summer-like traffic jams that have made so innocuous an activity as an afternoon of Corn Mazes and Pumpkin Picking into a regrettable must to avoid. No, we’re here to have a GOOD time, during an interlude that’s defined not so much by eerie presences as it is absences — such as the grand party events (such as Circus of Hell, and the one where the Berkeley Hotel became one huge tableau out of The Shining) that made Asbury Park the undisputed regional capital of Halloween not too many moons ago. We’re also still stinging over the absence of Keyport’s Macabre Manor, the abandoned cop-shop that combined special-FX savvy with the best actor-driven experience since the Hell-cyon days of the Mansion itself — although the guys who brought you that attraction are reportedly hard at work on a 2013 opening of their ambitious new S.S. Scream project in Perth Amboy.
That said, there’s plenty to float your Ship of Lost Souls here, from the (final?) re-lurch of Jason Meehan’s spectacular NJ Zombie Walk, to some welcome walk-through horrors, a little mystery history, performing ARRGHs and even a couple of modest offerings right here at our historic Crane House haunts, where the restless spirits of Crazy Lois and Laudanum Luther keep things from getting TOO deathly quiet in the wee wee hours. Creak open the crypt for the arcane and eldritch details…
Fifteen offbeat works of art, framed and nailed to the wall for your perambulating perusal…that not only sums up our first recommended item in this roundup of the WetSide weekend wobble, but it encapsulates the wobble itself. It’s a Pictures-at-an-Exhibition promenade that begins with:
1. FRIDAY! John van Hamersveld: Graphic Works at Red Bank Frameworks. The man himself is not expected to be in attendance, but this reception for the latest installation at Red Bank Frameworks is worth checking out for a succinct retrospective look at some of the most burned-into-the-cultural-retina images of the surf-a-delic poster/graphics designer who famously created the poster for pioneer surf doc Endless Summer — and went on to visualize the vibes of The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and the Velvet Underground to name but a few. The works on paper, drawn from a half century of activity, remain on display during regular gallery hours through October 27 — and you’ll pin the details right here on the local Patch site. Red Bank Frameworks, 160 Monmouth St., Red Bank • 7-10pm
2. FRIDAY-SUNDAY! TOPDOG/ UNDERDOG at Two River Theater. It’s the FINAL WEEKEND for the Two River Theater Company revival of the Pulitzer-winning play by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by the playwright herself. Take it here for tickets — and look here for the review that we originally did for the Asbury Park Press. Two River Theater, Bridge Ave., Red Bank • 8pm Friday and Saturday; 3pm Saturday and Sunday/ $20 – $57
A baker’s dozen more to follow; flip the pixelated page for best results…
Yes, Caldonia, there IS such a thing as a Louis Prima, Jr., and he’s coming to this weekend’s San Gennaro Festival of the Jersey Shore with his “rock band disguised as a swing band” The Witnesses (a combo that carries on in name from Sam Butera’s classic bunch of lounge lizards out of the golden age of Vegas) AND vocalist Sarah Spiegel (a locally bred lass who fulfills the role of the great Keely Smith and then some). The younger Prima picks up the legacy of the senior Louie — who your parents would know as the guy whose immortal rendition of “Just a Gigolo/ I Ain’t Got Nobody” was copped wholesale by David Lee Roth, and who your grandparents would know as the author of cross-generational swing monument “Sing Sing Sing” PLUS a performer whose “Wildest Show in Vegas” ate the lunches of every greenhorn rocker back in the day. Better still, it’s an act he’s polished to a sharkskin sheen over the course of several years and an increasingly high profile on the national stage — and Saturday night at 8pm, he’ll be taking it to the festival stage adjacent to Nicchio Ristorante in Belmar, as just one of many standout offerings in what’s shaping up as a way-out weekend of weirditude…
While we’re not necessarily going to join the raspy chorus of townies who greet the post-Labor Day outflux of summerers with a heartily predictable Good Riddance Bennys — we has met the Benny, and he is us — we do tend to dig this time of year before the zombie winds grow cold and the smoke detector batteries get replaced (let’s not and say we did). A time to reclaim beach spots, parking spaces, speed limits, and a certain degree of proprietary pride and pleasure in the place where you’ve opted to put down roots, all too often because you could’t afford a NJ Transit ticket to someplace closer to the electrified train lines.
That said, is it just us, or do we detect an extra little edge of weirdness in the happenings in and around the Upper Wet Side this week? Whether by hidebound tradition or happy accident, sometimes it seems as though we save the strangest (and hence most intriguing) stuff for the warm weeks in which we have the beat-up beach pad all to ourselves — a completely unscientific theory borne out by the humble handful of recommendations we’ve wrangled for you here. Sure, you could just as easily map out a strategy of safely stodgy fare (Darius Rucker at the Count Basie; The Offspring at Stone Pony SummerStage) and leave it at that, but at this late date, why go ANYwhich where but weird? Take a look behind the curtain, you don’t believe us…