Springsteen joins stars in Asbury Park for New Jersey Hall of Fame induction
ASBURY PARK - Where else can you see Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Van Zandt, the Four Seasons and a member of the Village People all on stage together?
Only in Asbury Park. It was the induction ceremony for the New Jersey Hall of Fame Class of 2017 at the Paramount Theatre on Sunday, May 6.
Springsteen inducted Van Zandt of Middletown. The two have been pals since they were teenagers.
“I first laid eyes on him at the Middletown Hullabaloo Club in 1966," said Springsteen, a Freehold native. "As I walked in there was Steve with his band the Shadows lining out a record perfect rendition of the Turtles ‘Happy Together.’ It was just like I met my black vested ... teenage wild-eyed brother. One look at Steve and I knew we both drank the same Kool-Aid.”
“His solo work speaks for itself,” Springsteen continued. “The countless songs and productions he’s created with Southside Johnny such as ‘I Don’t Want to Go Home,’ ‘Love on the Wrong Side of Town’ ... he’s one of the greatest living white soul performers and writers we have.”
Springsteen also cited Van Zandt’s acting, radio work, philantrophy and the “Sun City,” record, which struck a blow against apartheid in South Africa in the '80s.
“He walks it like he talks it,” Springsteen said.
Van Zandt and the Disciples of Soul performed “Soulfire” and “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” for which they were joined by Springsteen on vocals, to close the evening.
“We did the impossible — we made New Jersey hip,” said Van Zandt during his speech. “Thank you New Jersey, you’ve been very good to me.”
Celebs, notables, astronauts and three New Jersey governors also made the festivities, in an evening that was fun, poignant and fast-paced.
"What gives us our character, texture and tone of who we are is when we're driving on the New Jersey Turnpike and we see to our right the oil refineries with that eternal flame burning," said comedian Joe Piscopo, who was inducting baseball's Al Leiter. "I make the sign of cross when I go by."
Debbie Harry, the Hawthorne native and frontwoman for the Blondie, gave a speech that was both irreverent and heartwarming.
"At one time I wanted to leave New Jersey and see the world," Harry said. "Maybe at one time I thought is this good or bad? But then I thought, I'd really hate to miss tomato season."
"I encourage you all to have a happy life in New Jersey."
Yankees great Mariano Rivera inducted Buddy Valastro of TV's "Cake Boss" fame.
"If you had told me 20 years ago that Mariano Rivera was going to induct me into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, I'd say, 'Wow, this is a dream come true!'" Valastro said.
Astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly, twin brothers from Orange, came prepared with Smothers Brothers which-brother-is-better skit. Yet, it was hard to top Buzz Aldrin's moonwalk as he was doing the Kellys induction with emcee Whoopi Goldberg.
Author Anna Quindlen reminisced about her time as a reporter for the Home News of New Brunswick, now the Home News Tribune, and about the need for a free press.
"I was very young and I was very stupid and yet everyone at that paper was so, so good to me and eventually I grew up and learned what they were kind enough to try to teach me," Quindlen said. "I owe a dept of gratitude to those good people at the Home News, to editor Gabe Suto and columnist Bob McGarvey, and all the others who took me seriously when I hadn't yet learned to do so myself."
Asbury Park's Glen Burtnik led the house band and rock legend Tommy James, who was inducted last year, performed a few musical interludes.
Inductee Gloria Gaynor lit up the room with "I Will Survive."
"It's always spectacular when you sing it and you're a spectacular performer," said Goldberg of Gaynor.
Singer Gloria Gaynor sings 'I Will Survive' after receiving her Performing Arts award during the 10th Anniversary Induction Ceremony of the New Jersey Hall of Fame at the Paramount Theater in Convention Hall, Asbury Park. May 6, 2018. Asbury Park, NJ (Photo: Bob Karp/Staff Photographer)
"My wife left me in Jersey and is now touring with the Village People," quipped Gov. Phil Murphy.
The evening even had its share of current events in Jersey.
"Shout out to the Holmdel pooper," said John Robert' of Fox's "Bob Burgers" while introducing Harry.
A red carpet in the Grand Arcade, adjacent to the Paramount, was bustling before the induction ceremony.
“It's wonderful,” said the Newark-born Gaynor, who's “I Will Survive” has become an anthem for numerous causes around the world. "It's wonderful to be among so many greats who have gone before me.”
Gaynor had lots of company on the red carpet. Govs. Christine Todd Whitman and Thomas Kean strolled together, and Gov. Murphy walked with his wife, Tammy Murphy.
“It seemed like when I was playing for 19 years I was always telling my teammates, hey, it's not that bad,” said inductee Leiter, who pitched for the Mets and Yankees, and was born in Toms River. “You don't understand, we have great beaches, you can ski and go to the mountains and great lakes, and there's forestry. The only thing they knew was the Lincoln Tunnel to Newark Airport.”
Rose stood out on the red carpet.
“I don't think I can live anywhere else," said Rose of Asbury Park. “The music scene is terrific in town, then we have these amazing venues that are popping up like the Asbury Lanes and (the House of Independents).”
“We just need more parking.”
Asbury Park Mayor John Moor and the City Council were on the scene.
“I love it,” Moor said “What a great bunch on inductees. It’s an all-star cast.”
The 2017 inductees, who were inducted on Sunday, include author Harlan Coben, Ridgewood; author and journalist Anna Quindlen, South Brunswick in arts and letters; real estate developer Jon F. Hanson, Far Hills; publisher Steve Forbes, Morristown; businessman Joe Buckelew, Manasquan, in enterprise; actress Meryl Streep, Summit; musician Stevie Van Zandt, Middletown; musician Gloria Gaynor, Newark; Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi and Joe Long of Newark's Four Seasons; reality TV star Buddy Valastro, Hoboken; and musician Debbie Harry, Hawthorne, in performing arts; astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly, West Orange; medicine's Clara Maass, East Orange; and politician Millicent Fenwick, Bernardsville, in public service; and baseball's Al Leiter, Berkeley Township; and track and field Mary Decker, Bunnvale, in sports.
Streep was unable to attend because of a last-minute production conflict as part of her role in the HBO series “Big Little Lies,” and DeVito of the Four Seasons could not make the trip from his home in Las Vegas, according to the Hall.
The New Jersey Hall of Fame was founded in 2004, and in December former Gov. Chris Christie announced a $400,000 Department of State grant to fund a New Jersey Hall of Fame multi-faceted exhibition at Newark Liberty International Airport.
An announcement regarding a permanent location for the Hall will be made before September, said Hall Foundation President Steve Edwards.