ARCHIVE: Novelist Gets Under the Marital Hood


Journalist, novelist and proud blogger Debra Galant parks it at NovelTeas on Bridge Avenue this Saturday for an event keyed to her new book CARS FROM A MARRIAGE. (Photo by Frances Pelzman Liscio)

By TOM CHESEK (First published on RedBankGreen July 8, 2010)

When the 2010 Liberty Hose Red Bank Firefighter 8th Annual Car Show takes over downtown Red Bank’s White Street parking lot this Sunday, classic car-noisseurs know just what to expect — from the bodacious Dagmars of a Chevy Bel Air and the perky nacelles of a Mercury Turnpike Cruiser to the more equine musculature of 60s ponycar projects like your Mustangs, Camaros and ‘Cudas.

A day earlier and a few blocks west at NovelTeas Authors Aromas & Gifts, all eyes will be on a Galant — not the long-running bestseller of the Mitsubishi product line, but Debbie Galant, a woman who’s been as much a part of the suburban landscape as the sensibly sporty sedan with whom she shares a name.

The self-described author, mogul, mother, wife — a transplant from Virginia to north Jersey’s verdant green — is parking it at Kim Widener’s book salon/ tea room/ gift boutique for something of a literary “car show,” an event that’s keyed to the recent publication of Cars from a Marriage, an “auto-biography” that “explores marriage through the lens of the various cars that the couple owns during their 20 years together.”

It’s the third novel (Rattled and Fear and Yoga in New Jersey are the others) for the former New York Times columnist; a regular contributor to national magazines who’s best known around the ‘green as the founder and editor of Montclair-based Baristanet — an acclaimed and award-winning news website that’s been an inspiration to many a placeblogging hyperlocal, including, ahem, redbankgreen.

And now, the light goes green on seven questions for Debra Galant…

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ARCHIVE: Moving and Shaking with Tony P

TonyPallagrosiMikeBlackTony Pallagrosi is pictured onstage at January’s big Light of Day concert in Asbury Park. The promoter, musician, fundraiser, club manager, mover and shaker joins Concerts East partner Jerry Bakal for an informal talk on THE JERSEY SHORE MUSIC SCENE: PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE, Saturday at NovelTeas in Red Bank. (Photos by Mike Black)

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit March 26, 2010)

He’s the man in the picture — seldom if ever in the spotlight or at center stage, but always there in the group shot, at the all-star curtain call, the presentation of the ceremonial check. You’ll find him on the cover of the second album by the Jukes, or sharing the frame with public figures that most mere mortals would never get within 200 yards of. If you knew nothing else about Tony Pallagrosi, you’d take him to be a mysterious character on a par with Waldo, or perhaps a very ingenious gate crasher.

Try “mover and shaker.” Go-To Guru. A maharishi of make-it-so; equipped with All-Access, Level 5, golden-ticket Lifetime Backstage Pass, personally stamped and validated by Saint Peter, Heimdall, and the CSM.

Not bad for a cat from Point Beach who played trumpet behind Southside Johnny back in the day; a guy who generations of performers can recall from his gigs as manager of the old Fastlane (later Hitsville) and the long-defunct Club Xanadu in Asbury. With his longtime business partner Jerry Bakal, Pallagrosi purchased the former Hunka Bunka in Sayreville in 2003, transforming the old barn into the Starland Ballroom and creating  an attraction that at one time boasted rights to being the fourth most moneymaking concert club on the planet. For nearly 20 years, the partners have operated as Concerts East, one of the region’s biggest purveyors of live entertainment (with an accent on Le Rock) and the name behind such events as the Warped Tour, as well as major bookings at the Count Basie and the State Theatre. You’ll even find the promoters involved with smaller shows (like a recent appearance by the Blasters at The Saint), where you can still find Pallagrosi the diehard music fan digging on the vibe he’s wrought.

Since selling the Starland to AEG in 2007, however, Tony’s time has been increasingly taken up by a cause with which he’s been involved from the earliest stages — the Light of Day Foundation and its annual benefit concerts dedicated toParkinson’s Disease research. Pallagrosi teamed with fellow promoter/ LOD founderBob Benjamin and musical linchpin Joe Grushecky to build a branded event that’s attracted friends like Bruce Springsteen and Michael J. Fox — an event that’s grown from a loose jam session at Red Bank’s Downtown Cafe, to a series of shows that spans two continents and two calendar years.

This Saturday evening finds Jerry and Tony appearing at NovelTeas Authors Aromas & GiftsKim Widener’s recently inaugurated book salon/ tea room/ gift boutique on the Left Bank of Red Bank. And before we go any further, everybody in the regional music biz can relax; the guys haven’t written a kiss-’n-tell memoir that names names — in fact, they don’t have a book to promote at all. They’ll be there at 7pm to present a talk under the title The Jersey Shore Music Scene: Past, Present & Future. As the name only hints at, it’s an ultimate-insider’s look at the bands, the bars, the business, the beef, the ballyhoo — and the barometer of ever-evolving tastes and tech.

It’s also a full-tilt fundraiser for the guest speakers’ favorite causes — Light of Day, and the Joan Dancy & PALS Foundation for ALS patients in our community, of which Bakal is a trustee. And, the presentation will culminate in an interactive Q&A session moderated by Jerry Zaro, director of the NJ Office of Economic Growth.

Until such time as the Concerts East partners have an actual best-seller to plug on the Today show, theirs is a story that can only be heard by literal word of mouth — so Red Bank oRBit rang up Tony P for a preview of Saturday’s topical talk, and our little exclusive is waiting for you, just around the corner.

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ARCHIVE: A Tough Guy’s Last Dance

dwayne-and-norman-june-2006jpg-4fa05227f78c8d23_mediumAuthor Dwayne Raymond — pictured at right with the late author Norman Mailer — visits Red Bank on Tuesday night to promote MORNINGS WITH MAILER, his book about the years he spent as the literary lion’s editorial assistant, cook and friend.

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit March 8, 2010)

He was called a lot of things in his time — working class champion and fame-hungry narcissist; sweet-natured guy and wifebeating misogynist; courageous activist and confrontational a-hole; a good friend and a great writer. During the 60 years that preceded his passing at age 84 in 2007, Norman Mailer staked a career-long claim on a position as alpha dog of American letters — in an era when writers were household celebs, sought-after guests, respected pundits, and above all, people who wrote what they damn well pleased.

From the time he punched his way into the literary scene with his breakthrough book The Naked and the Dead, Mailer wrote scores of well-known novels (The Pulitzer-winning Executioner’s Song), nonfictions (fellow Pulitzer winner Armies of the Night), biographies (Marilyn), essays (The White Negro), poems, plays, columns and correspondence. He also found time to run for Mayor of New York City, to co-found The Village Voice, and to direct a series of way-out, largely improvised 1960s films like Wild 90 and Maidstone — the latter of which climaxes with a real-life fight between a shirtless Mailer and a hammer-wielding Rip Torn.

And he was born in Long Branch, NJ, although you probably didn’t hear that from him.

A resident of Provincetown, Massachusetts in the last decade of his life, Mailer never deviated from his prolific pace — producing his last four books with the help of a young writer named Dwayne Raymond. It was Raymond — who Mailer met when the younger guy was waiting tables in a P-town bistro — that became the literary lion’s first and only editorial assistant, as well as personal cook and, most importantly, a good friend. And it’s that relationship that forms the basis ofMornings with Mailer: A Recollection of Friendship, a memoir that the Huffington Post contributor will be reading from, discussing and signing when he stops in Tuesday evening at NovelTeas Authors Aromas & Gifts on the Left Bank of Red Bank.

Established by Kim Widener as a home base and focal point for her nascent NovelTeas brand, the recently inaugurated book salon/ tea room/ gift boutique previously hosted financial-thriller journalist William D. Cohan (a followup appearance by The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin was snowed out and will be rescheduled for a later date). The 7pm event includes a signing copy of the book and a reception catered by Monmouth County’s own international celebri-chefDavid Burke (of David Burke Fromagerie and many other restaurants of renown). Admission is $45, and you can take it here to register.

The event is also part of “Memoir March” over at NovelTeas, with the shop inviting guests to enjoy a complimentary cup of tea and share their own “six word memoir” (a la Hemingway’s profoundly brief “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”). Here at Red Bank oRBit (where it takes us six words just to tell you we love you), we’re happy to share this interview with wordsmith Raymond, available to all when you Continue Reading.

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ARCHIVE: The War, At Home and Abroad

1054687292_cb57858329By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit March 19, 2010)

On paper, it looks to have been a pretty sweet existence. Having a father who was a famous writer — not just any famous writer, but the award winning and best sellingJames Jones, author of the WWII generational touchstones The Thin Red Line and the hugely successful From Here to Eternity. There was mother Gloria Jones, who worked as an actress and a big-time book editor, and who counted among her friends the likes of Lauren Bacall and Jackie O.

There was the re-energized setting of postwar Paris, where the family made their home — and where their apartment overlooking the Seine was regularly overrun by the most celebrated writers, artists and actors of the day. There were parties with Truman CapoteNorman MailerGeorge PlimptonKurt Vonnegut — and what more impetus would a body need to die and/or kill for a life like that of Kaylie Jones?

Peer between the lines, however, and you’ll discover that life for Kaylie Jones was hardly a Technicolor fantasy set against the City of Lights, or its MGM backlot equivalent. In a household defined as much by liquor as by literature, keeping up with the Joneses meant going drink-for-drink against people who could be as competitive about their consumption of cordials as they were in their passionate professional pursuits. And, while “alcoholic” was a dirty word chez Jones, alcoholism would cut short the lauded career of Kaylie’s father; send her mother on a decades-long descent into emotional ruin and devastated relationships. The bottle would play a part in Kaylie’s estrangement from her brother as well — and contribute to Kaylie’s own spiral into disease and depression.

Kaylie Jones would eventually shake herself free of the distilled demons; starting a family, becoming a respected writing teacher, and establishing a lauded career as a writer of novels — including the intensely autobiographical A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries (made into a film by the esteemed Merchant-Ivory team). With the publication of her memoir Lies My Mother Never Told Me, Ms. Jones lifts the veil and faces her family history head-on, in a frank piece of nonfiction that Janet Maslin of the Times called “a bright, fast-paced memoir with an inviting spirit.”

On Tuesday evening, March 23, the author drops in at NovelTeas Authors Aromas & Gifts, for a 7pm reading and book signing event that’s keyed into the theme of “Memoir March” at Kim Widener’s recently inaugurated book salon/ tea room/ gift boutique  on the Left Bank of Red Bank. The shop invites guests to enjoy a complimentary cup of tea and share their own “six word memoir” (a la Hemingway’s profoundly brief “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”) — and if we here at Red Bank oRBit are often guilty of being intoxicated with our own run-on ramblings, it’s only because we love bringing you prose like our exclusive interview with Kaylie Jones, which you’ll find around the corner when you Continue Reading.

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