Ray Liotta

How did growing up in Union shape you?

I’ve thought about this, growing up in the tri-state area. I was in, like, the legitimate suburbs. Union was a town of 50,000 and had small-town suburban dynamics. I know a lot of people don’t think of New Jersey like that. But then, we were also 45 minutes outside of the city. So all of the news we got was New York City news. We didn’t have “local stations.” We heard everything that was going on in New York. I don’t want to say that it was more sophisticated, but you “got” what was going on in New York. That had an influence.

How much time did you spend in the city?

A lot of kids use to go in. I didn’t. New York scared me. This was the ’60s and ’70s. I remember going to Port Authority. It was disgusting. Forty-second Street was really gritty, dirty, with all the porno places. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. But I do think by growing up so close to New York, with a suburban vibe, it gives you a little bit of everything.

Were you a Jersey Shore guy in the summer?

Oh, yeah! I started out as soon as I graduated from college. When I got on the soap opera [Another World], my friend Gene and I got a house. Yeah, we were in Belmar and Point Pleasant. We had another one across the street from that guy who used to own the Giants, Timmy Mara. We went to Long Beach Island a lot. So yeah, we used to go there every summer.

What is your most vivid memory of growing up in New Jersey?

Playing sports. Whatever the season was. All I did was play sports when I was younger. I lived on a dead end street. Now they call them cul-de-sacs, but they’re dead ends. We were always being active and playing sports there. We used to play softball, basketball, baseball all the time.

You’re shooting a series this summer and fall in New York with Jennifer Lopez. Any plans to visit the old neighborhood?

I’m here for six months, from May to November, so I’ll definitely go back.

Any go-to spots?

I’ll tell you one thing, I still go back to certain places for food. There’s a great place in Union called Peterson’s [now The Galloping Hill Inn]. It’s a hot dog place. And to this day, every time I go to visit Gene, we stop and get a hot dog. Whenever I’m in New York, I’ll go and visit my best friends since third grade, Gene and Jules. Gene lives right behind a school where we use to play soccer and basketball. The area still has a small-town feel to it, so it seems like the same place to me.

Editor’s Note: Ray Liotta narrated the eight-part AMC mini-series The Making of the Mob: New York, which premiered in June. He was also a member of the all-star cast of the 10-hour Texas Rising miniseries, which premiered in May on The History Channel. Robert Piper conducted this interview. For more of Ray’s memories, log onto edgemagonline.com.

Pat Metheny

Photo by Jimmy Katz

Jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny copped his 20th Grammy in 2013 for the album Unity Band. He’ll be performing at the Count Basie in Red Bank and at Town Hall in New York this March before embarking on a spring tour of Europe.

What excites you, what challenges you, when you pick up a guitar?

To me, the guitar is really just a translation device. While I am aware of the kind of cult-like thing that surrounds the instrument with guitar magazines, guitar collectors and people who are mostly interested in the instrument as a kind of iconic element in our culture, for me it is just a way to get ideas out into the air. Having spent now a huge amount of my life with a guitar in my hands, the connection between the musical ideas I have and the ability to execute them on the instrument is pretty complete—although I am always striving to make it better. The main thing for me, however, is the ideas themselves, more than the tool used to bring them out in sound. 

Where do newcomers to your work discover the “quintessential” Pat Metheny experience?

Live performance has always been the most important thing for me. I have taken making recordings much more seriously over the years. Early on, I saw it as kind of an “ad” to get people to come to the gigs  But I think live is the way to go, even though I also like the records.

Does performing live and touring get old…or is it an opportunity to take risks and explore?

Since improvisation is at the heart of everything I do, it makes each night have a whole new set of possibilities. Playing live night after night with great musicians is one of the great privileges of life for me.

Given how diverse and adventurous your music has been, is there a particular album or song that really gets to the heart of who you are?

It is hard for me to say. I feel like all the records are one long single record. Each is a chapter in a long single book. I have used different musicians along the way to get to different things, but each choice that I made— to use this person or that person, or to write this way or that way—has been in the service of getting to a central point that was kind of initially described on Bright Size Life and seems to still be at the heart of everything. 

When you’re assembling players for a project like the Unity Band, what are you looking for in the artists you choose?

Each project has kind of different demands, and I try to put together a group of musicians who can tell that particular story the best way it can be told. I like musicians who have a point of view and a developed sense of who they are as people. Also, I have to admit, it carries over to the things off of the bandstand, too— as the years have gone on and I have young kids at home, I like musicians who are adult and secure in who they are. My capacity for adults who act like children is pretty much zero at this point. But the main thing is the ability to listen. The degree to which someone is able to hear into each moment and respond to it in a deep and meaningful way regardless of what their role is, is the essential thing for me.

Editor’s Note: Editor-at-Large Tracey Smith actually squeezed an additional five minutes out of Pat in their Q&A. To read more about the Unity Band and the upcoming tour, log onto edgemagonline.com.

 

Maz Jobrani

How soon after George Bush named Iran as a member of the “Axis of Evil” did you realize what a gift that was? 

I got upset at first! As an Iranian in America, I’ve been here now for almost 40 years. The moment I came, Iran was on the list of public enemies and it has remained there. Really, it’s pretty frustrating. Yet at the same time, it is a gift because comedy is about emotion and passion, as well as having a point of view. We watch a guy like Lewis Black lose his mind and it makes us laugh. I think when I got upset about it, it helped me then to be able to talk about it in a passionate way.

How important is it to take audiences out of their comfort zone?

I think it’s important to push a little bit, to make people be open-minded a little more, to open up their boundaries. I’ll cuss here and there, but my shows are not X-rated. I feel like somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve got my mother or father’s voice in my head criticizing me if I’m saying anything that’s even a little risqué. That said, when I do a headlining show, there’s obviously a lot of Middle Easterners in the audience, so when I make some type of [sexual] innuendo, I’ll make fun of the fact I know what my audience is thinking. It’s become a part of my act. I enjoy calling them out on it because I think, when you do that, it helps them come on the ride with you.

Maya Angelou said Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh. Do you agree?

I do. And I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t laugh. I’ll do a show for a cultural event that’s been sponsored by, let’s say, a Persian group, and so there are kids there and the elderly, and my material sometimes is a little edgy for them. Recently, a woman came up to me afterwards and said, “I just want you to know that people might not have been laughing because they were a little older and maybe they were just offended by some of the stuff you said.” I told her, “I appreciate you telling me that but I honestly feel that, if they’re offended by my stuff, I think they have bigger issues…and should talk those issues through with a therapist.”

When did you realize you had the ability to make people laugh?

Coming to America in the late-70’s when I was six years old, I remember there were three things that helped me adapt to the new country. One was sports—I was good at kickball and soccer. Another was that I would go grocery shopping with my mom and just buy a ton of sweets, and quite often I would take extra sweets to school and hand them out to my newfound friends. I was bribing my way into their hearts with Starburst. The third way, definitely, was being funny. I like laughing and I like making people laugh. And I stuck with it.

How did you develop your comic timing?

It probably started first as an actor. When I was 12 years old in school, we did musicals and I loved being on stage; as soon as I stepped on stage I felt alive. I was a huge fan of Eddie Murphy—to this day he is my comic hero. I wanted to be a comedian, but I just didn’t have the confidence then, so the actor part came first and the comedian part came second. EDGE

Editor’s Note: Maz Jobrani is a member of the Axis of Evil comedy group. He was born in Teheran and grew up outside of San Francisco. Jobrani plays Fawz in the CBS sitcom Superior Donuts, which was just picked up by the network for a second season. In all, Editor at Large Tracey Smith spent a good 10 minutes with Maz. So for 5 More Minutes with Maz, log onto edgemagonline.com. 

Kristin Ohlson
Kristen Taekman

A Real Housewife of New York City

Does the presence of a video crew alter your family dynamics in any way?

I don’t think so. We signed on to do a reality show, so what you see is what you get. Watching the show when it airs does give you an interesting perspective on things, though. My husband and I have our standard arguments, but on the show you get to see both sides. Imagine having an argument with a friend or family member and then being able to watch it later…and seeing that he or she was right.

How much do you let your kids get involved in the process?

My daughter wasn’t even walking when we started, and now she naps, so my son is more involved. He has fun with it. So does everyone on the crew.

Photo by Nadine Raphael

Have you had to set boundaries for the show, is anything off-limits?

Not when it comes to the family dynamics. I’m not a shy person. I’ve got nothing to hide. People forget that it is realty—the show is about me, my family and my friends. There’s a lot of stuff that’s really fun. Sometimes, I wonder why people would want to see some silly thing we do, but the producers say, “No that’s what people love to see!” I think the only time I got really frustrated was having a camera in my face when we went Geocaching in Montana. But at that point I didn’t have a choice.

What are you doing for the holidays? Does the show have any say in those kinds of plans?

It’s up to us, not the show. My husband’s family is in California and mine is in Connecticut, so we usually split 50-50. We’ll do Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with his this year.

You’ve started a fashion blog on your web site called Last Night’s Look. Are you thinking about that business in addition to your modeling?

My kids are beyond a full-time job, so not right now. I am really into makeup—I’ve started an exclusive nail polish line with Ricky’s NYC, and that’s been a really fun venture. And how great would it be to still be modeling in my 50s? Some women can do it. Actually, my secret dream is to be a TV host or newscaster. It’d be fun to experiment with that. Maybe you’ll see me as your local weather person some day. EDGE

Editor’s Note: EDGE and Kristen wish you a happy and healthy 2015! (Dress: ALEXIA ADMOR; Earrings: GREGG RUTH; Bracelet: SIMON G.; Shoes: STEVE MADDEN)

Jillian Michaels

What’s the ideal mindset for someone whose future includes significant changes to their body and health?

Progress. That is the key. If you expect perfection, you only set yourself up to fail. Any progress, no matter how minimal, is a huge success. You have to understand that, not only are you not stagnant, but you are not going backwards. And that’s huge. 

What’s the greatest mental roadblock to making healthy changes?

Self-destructive behavior. When we engage in self-destructive behavior, it isn’t because we are weak, lazy or dumb. It’s because it affords us something—control, comfort, connection, et cetera. So giving up these bad habits represents a “loss” in another part of one’s life. That’s why it’s so difficult to do. And that’s why I try with my new app to offer a sense of community and support for people, along with personalized meal plans and exercise regimens. The app has been a year in development. It literally allows me to be your personal coach, trainer, and nutritionist.

What were your goals in developing the new app?

Making fitness and healthy eating affordable, accessible, fun, customizable and effective. There are over 550 different exercises, and hundreds of different workouts with different timeframes for people of all fitness levels. And it’s completely interactive. You can swap out exercises to personalize your workouts, increase or decrease the intensity at any time and it will respond.  

What’s a proper balance between going for immediate results and the “long game” in achieving fitness goals? 

Short-term wins add up to long-term successes. It’s about taking one step at a time.  

What types of goals do you set for yourself?

It depends. It could be personal improvement, like working on being more vulnerable. It could be a fitness goal, like running a 10K. It could be a business benchmark. The key is to keep moving forward and, even when we fail, learn from the past and look to the future. EDGE

Editor’s Note: The new Jillian Michaels app is available on her web site, jillianmichaels.com. Gerry Strauss conducted this Q&A with Jillian. Be sure to check out his interview with Hank Azaria, star of the IFC series Brockmire, on page 33.

 

Gary Weinstein
Elizabeth Hurley

Who were your inspirations for creating the fictional queen Helena in The Royals

Well, I thought to myself when I got offered this part, What would it have been like if Princess Diana had become Queen of England? I felt she was someone we could identify with more, because she’s a more similar age group and then her kids would be about the age of [Helena’s] kids now. And so I sort of took some inspiration from her, knowing how she dressed, how she spoke…stepping out of cars, raising money, making speeches. So I took that as some inspiration. But then, of course, what we never got to see with Princess Diana really was behind those closed doors. So all that, I made up myself.   

Growing up as a kid, did you ever want to be Queen of England?

Yes. I think all little girls dream of being princesses…I remember as a child I used to do an awful lot of play-acting. I was always a star—normally royal.  My little brother would be my pageboy who would have to shuffle behind me carrying whatever I was carrying. So right from then, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I’d be a very good queen. So obviously when this came, it was a slam-dunk.

How friendly have you been with members of the royal family?

Oh, very friendly! No…but I have had the honor of meeting some members of the royal family at various events. As a private friend? Sadly, though, not.

Who is your favorite British Royal?

I remember meeting Prince Charles a couple times, because I’m a patron of one of his charities. And I have to say I’m a huge fan of Prince Charles. I’ve always voted him the best-dressed man in the United Kingdom, if not the world. His tailoring is impeccable, phenomenal. Anybody whom I’ve met in the royal family, I’ve just been bowled over by their skill in social situations. I know it’s their job, but they are master diplomats. They’re just unbelievable, and that’s something that I think my character, Queen Helena, she really, really wants her children to be like that. She wants Princess Eleanor, she wants Prince William to just be fabulous and wonderful examples to the world. And, of course, in her opinion, they fail her miserably all the time.

You get to play with Joan Collins in this series. How is that?

We often discussed how much we’d love to play mummy and daughter, and it’s third-time lucky. Joan used to say to me, “We better hurry up and make it happen or you’ll be much too old to be my daughter!” So finally it happened.  

Did you grow up seeing Dynasty?

Sure. I watched Dynasty. I was obsessed with it. In fact, when Joan was cast to come and play my mother, I was in my trailer with my son. I said, “You know what, Damian, I’ve gotta show you something.”  So I Googled Joan fighting. And we watched her fights for hours in the trailer. Best TV I’ve ever seen in my life. I swear. 

Editor’s Note: The Royals, which airs on E!, is the network’s first scripted series. Season 4 of The Royals begins in December. This interview was conducted by Erwin van Steede/The Interview People.

 

Betsy Ames
Audra Mariel

Was there always music playing in your house?

There was. I was raised on music. My parents loved it. My brother, Adam, turned out to be the musician in the family. I was more interested in theater. My music training really didn’t begin until I was in college.

What was the turning point? 

I was in a musical at Brookdale Community College, near our home in Colts Neck. Three of the musicians in the pit were jazz musicians who taught courses there. I’d always loved jazz and, as I got to know them and learned about what they did, we discovered we had a mutual affinity for the genre. 

So that was your start as a jazz singer?

It was. These guys—Joe Accurso [piano], Gary Mazzaroppi [bass] and Doug Clarke [guitar]— took me under their wing and began bringing me out on gigs. Joe really helped me put my repertoire together and, through these guys, I got to meet and perform with jazz greats like Frank Vignola and Bucky Pizzarelli.” This was almost 10 years ago. They still play as a trio, and I still sing with them. They’re called Art Deco. 

In 2015, you were selected by WNYC’s Jonathan Schwartz as one of the performers at that amazing Sinatra 100 event in New York. 

Yes, I sang “Love Is Here to Stay” and “When Your Lover Has Gone.” I also did a medley of “I Got It Bad” and “If I Had You.” I enjoyed the challenge of blending those two songs, which express the unique dichotomy of love. One’s about being in love with someone who’s bad for you, while the other says I could do anything if I had you in my life. I tend to lean toward torch songs.

Do you have a favorite Sinatra song?

Wow, that’s difficult. One that stands out to me as being simple but poignant is “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry.” Early Sinatra is my preference, and that one is just beautiful.

You perform regularly at venues that are familiar to EDGE readers, including 100 Steps in Cranford and 16 Prospect in Westfield. What’s the difference between singing at smaller places as opposed to, say, Symphony Space in New York?

The thing I love about any live performance is the energy of the room. It’s all about the symbiotic audience-performer relationship. There’s an adrenaline rush you can ride in front of a big crowd, whereas the smaller spaces are more like an intimate conversation. It’s a rush, but in a different way.  

Editor’s Note: To view and listen to Audra Mariel’s recent performances—including her Sinatra 100 medley—follow the links on her web site audramariel.com. For her most up-to-the-minute appearance schedule, visit her Facebook page. Audra’s self-titled album is available as a download on iTunes. 

 

Anthony Lewis

What were the holidays like in the Jerry Lewis home?
Christmas was another “shoot”—there was a 16mm set-up in the living room. There were lights, there was playback, we had our marks. It was a staged affair. We did retakes! We came in and missed our marks, and we did that a few times, then we got to open the presents and we were happy. [My father] was very serious about it. It was another production…everything was a production, on varying levels. Christmas was more staged than the others. But the cameras were always rolling.
You grew up in the mansion built by Louis B. Mayer. What stands out about that experience?
That home was another world. It was its own world. It could function as an island unto itself and it did for many years. The house was my father’s sanctuary. It was his one place to run.
It was loaded with electronics…
Mayer had installed a full Cinemascope theater in the living room and there was an audio mixing studio that my father worked in all the time. I think we found a certain amount of humor in the immensity of the electronic gadgets…and the ten color television sets. We learned to use those electronics to our own benefit—bugging friends and playing tricks and so forth—very James Bond-y. Dad put in an intercom system that had stations in every room. You could sit at any one station and turn on every room and hear what was going on. I figured out how to put a switch on mine so nobody could listen in. For me personally, that launched my interest in electronics.
What was it like seeing dad on the big screen?
He was just daddy to us as kids. Seeing him on television or on a screen made him bigger than life. There was always that disparity between the father we knew at home and the famous individual on the screen…I think a lot of the time we wanted him to be more like the person he was on the screen, who was happy-go-lucky and fun-loving and willing to be the brunt of a practical joke. That didn’t always happen at home. Yes, there where times when he was “on”—performing, juggling the dinner rolls and brownies, making us laugh,[but] it wasn’t consistent. There were times when he was very sullen and withdrawn. We just had to roll with it.
What do you remember about your father when he was filming The Nutty Professor?
I was only three, but I do remember. He came home in costume dressed as Buddy Love. He’d come home that way and he acted that way. I think that the whole purpose of the Buddy Love character was that it was a vehicle for him to vent some of the anger and frustration that had built up for so many years. There is a tremendous responsibility when you have to give to the public. You have to give everything of yourself to the public and take and accept whatever comes [back] to you. The Buddy Love character gave him a chance to push back a little. He did it on film, and he did it in a way that contributed to his finest work.
Editor’s Note: Anthony Lewis is a filmmaker and cinematographer based in Las Vegas. Special thanks to Anthony for his family archive photos.

Fatmata Savage
Steve Adubato
Marx Dolan
Chris Bollwage

Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage

Your city has experienced remarkable growth since you came into office 20 years ago. Give me three reasons why.

Great geography…we are convenient to everything. Great diversity…more than 35 different languages are spoken here. And the Jersey Gardens Mall, which really led the way for Elizabeth to convert from a manufacturing economy to a service economy.

What’s the coolest thing about the city that almost no one knows about?

George Washington had lunch here on the way to his inauguration in New York. Also, America’s first ice cream soda was served on the corner of Fulton and 6th. Does anyone even drink ice cream soda anymore?

If you could bottle one thing about your city and sell it—not including ice cream soda—what would it be?

The strength of the people. They are focused, determined and always looking for opportunities to succeed.

What’s changed the most about politics during your two decades as mayor?

The general demeanor. People who disagree with your policies feel it’s now okay to paint you as a horrible human being because of them. Also, thanks to social media, people can say or do whatever they please, regardless of the truth, and it becomes part of the permanent record.

Speaking of social media, would you rather have a Facebook “like” or a Twitter follower?

Twitter follower. They seem more engaged.

What part of your job takes way more time than anyone can imagine?

Scheduling. I might have to be eight or ten different places on a Saturday.

What is the hardest thing to say NO to as mayor?

Saying no to promotions because of budget constraints. Sometimes the things you know will help your town are not possible because of decisions made at the state or national level.

Who were your heroes growing up in Elizabeth?

Teachers. They were encouraging, informative and fun to be around.

Yankees or Mets?

Dodgers, actually. My father was a Brooklyn fan, so we rooted for them after they moved to Los Angeles. Sandy Koufax made a big impression on me, even though I was a right-hander. He seemed like the quintessential baseball player.

What did you think you’d be doing when you grew up?

I had no idea. You don’t need to have a set plan. You just need a direction.
What first intrigued you about politics?

I had a brother born with Down Syndrome and severe disabilities that prevented him from living at home. A local Councilman, Maurice O’Keefe, picked up the phone and got my brother into a facility where he could be cared for properly. I was really moved by this. I saw firsthand how politics could help people. When Maurice lost his election in 1978, I got into politics and ended up taking his seat on the City Council four years later.

What is the origin of the name Bollwage?

German. My sister traced our family to Pine Street in the early 1800s. I bet we were leftover Hessians from the Revolutionary War!

What’s your favorite food?

In this town, with so many great restaurants, I’ll get in trouble no matter what I answer.

Okay, when your wife offers to make you something special for dinner, what do you ask for?

Reservations…Uh-oh, I’ll probably get in trouble for that answer, too.

Editor’s Note: Mayor Bollwage wasn’t kidding about Twitter. You can follow him @MayorBollwage. While you’re at it, follow EDGE, too
@EdgeMagNJ.

Wrenn Schmidt