Double Vision

New Jersey’s Top 10 Twins

They say that twins share a special connection. In the case of these celebrity sets—some identical, some not—they have taken special to a whole new level…

Ken Hackman

Lou & Ed Banach 

Wrestling Sussex County

Lou and Ed Banach went into foster care (and were later adopted) after a fire destroyed their home and their mother suffered a nervous breakdown. The fraternal twins became football stars and champion wrestlers after moving to Port Jervis, NY, cobbling together a home gym from heavy iron parts found along the railroad tracks near their house. After All-American grappling careers, they entered the 1984 Olympics. Ed shook off a concussion to win a gold medal at 198 pounds and Lou took home gold wrestling one division higher, as a light heavyweight.



Mark & Scott Kelly

Aerospace West Orange

As identical twins, the Kelly brothers enabled NASA to gauge the effects of microgravity and radiation on the human body when Scott lived and worked for a year on the International Space Station and Mark remained on earth as the “control” subject. Scott’s first space flight was in 1999 as pilot of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Mark piloted Endeavour into orbit in 2001. Mark devoted himself to political activism after his wife, US congresswoman Gabby Giffords, survived a 2011 assassination attempt. He was elected to the US Senate in 2020 in a special election and was reelected in the 2022 general election.


Rutgers Athletics

Patty & Mary Coyle

Basketball • Rutgers

In 1982, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) held its final national championship before giving way to the Women’s NCAA Tournament. Rutgers, powered by twin guards Patty and Mary Coyle—who honed their skills on the Philly playgrounds—edged host school Villanova in the semifinals and scored a huge upset over powerhouse Texas in the final. Mary picked apart the Longhorns’ full-court press and Patty scored 30 points to win the tourney’s MVP award. The Coyles each went on to successful coaching careers and were inducted into the Rutgers Athletic Hall of Fame. In 2022, they were featured in the documentary Forgotten Champions: How an Underground Rutgers Squad Made Women’s Sports History.


Loshak Public Relations

Kenny & Keith Lucas

Entertainment • Newark

Kenny and Keith Lucas were born in Newark, graduated from Irvington High School and TCNJ, and then attended law school (at NYU and Duke, respectively) before leaving to start their entertainment careers. In addition to their regular gigs at The Comedy Cellar in New York, the Lucas Brothers are popular TV, radio and podcast talk-show guests. In 2021, they co-wrote and produced Judas and the Black Messiah, a film about Black Panther Fred Hampton, and received an Oscar nomination for their work.


Warner Music

Christina & Michelle Naughton

Music • Princeton

Born in New Jersey and raised in Madison, WI, the identical twin sisters began performing as a duo while they were pre-teens and continued right through Juilliard and beyond, becoming international sensations. The original suggestion came from a concert promoter. “We said, Sure, we’ll give it a try,” Michelle recalls. “We worked on it, we performed, and something magical happened. We looked at each other and said, I love this, and we never looked back.” In 2019, they became the first piano duo to receive Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Career Grant.



Upper Case

Jason & Devin McCourty

Football • Rutgers

The identical McCourtys grew up in Nyack and attended high school in Bergen County before starring in the defensive backfield for Rutgers. Both enjoyed long NFL careers—Devin with the New England Patriots and Jason mostly with the Tennessee Titans. In 2019, after Jason joined the Patriots, they became the first set of twins in NFL history to play together in the Super Bowl. The McCourtys were named New England’s team captains in 2020.


Topps Inc.

Johnny & Eddie O’Brien

Basketball & Baseball South Amboy

The O’Briens were identical twins, but as their athletic careers unfolded, Johnny became the more accom-plished brother. He led the nation in scoring for the University of Seattle and spearheaded a historic defeat of the Harlem Globetrotters in a fiercely contested 1952 “no-clowning” charity game. During their varsity hoops career, the twins combined for nearly 4,000 points. After college, Johnny and Eddie, who formed a slick double-play combination, were signed to play baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates and enjoyed brief big-league careers.


Syracuse Athletics

Walter & Milton Singer

Football • Jersey City

During the early 1930s, the identical twin Singer brothers were the most talked-about athletes in Jersey City. The rock-solid six-footers starred for the Dickinson High School football and baseball teams. Milt was an all-state running back and Walt was an all-state end. As seniors in 1930, they led the Rams to an unbeaten record and state championship. They went on to star in multiple sports at Syracuse University, where Walt also won the intercollegiate heavyweight boxing crown. Walt played pro football with the Giants and was a member of the 1934 championship team.


Denise & Dennis Mitchell

Track • Winslow Township

The fleet-footed twins started making headlines for Winslow-Edgewood High in the 1980s when Denise shaved an unheard-of three full seconds off the state 400-mtere record; it took 19 years for another runner to better that mark. Dennis went on to become a 12-time college All-American and ran with fellow New Jerseyan Carl Lewis as a member of the gold medal-winning 4 x 100 team in the 1992 Olympics. He was still winning 100 meters championships in his 30s.



Doug & Mike Starn

Art • Vineland

The identical Starns began working together on photography and art projects in their teens and have been pushing the limits of art, architecture, painting, video and furniture design by constantly combining and re-combining their areas of interest and expertise. In 2010, their Big Bambu installation atop the Metropolitan Museum overlooking Central Park drew hundreds of thousands of art lovers. The Starns’ work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.





Upper Case

Tom Kelly • Twins Manager

Several New Jersey baseball players have suited up for the Minnesota Twins, but Kelly—who grew up in Sayreville—was the only one to manage the club to a pennant. He did so in 1987 and again in 1991, and won the World Series both times.


Universal Pictures

Danny DeVito • Co-Star of Twins

The Neptune-born DeVito co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1988 blockbuster Twins, which grossed $200 million. They joined forces again in 1994 on Junior, which bombed at the box office.


The Upper Deck Co.

Jose and Ozzie Canseco • Newark Bears

The Cansecos attempted to revive their flagging baseball careers with Newark’s independent minor-league club in 2001. Jose, a six-time All-Star and one-time MVP, was more well-known than his identical-twin brother. Playing together as boys, Ozzie did most of the pitching and Jose did most of the hitting, which turned out to be a smart move for the two-time home run champion.


Connect the Dots

Was there any better feeling as a child than finishing a connect-the-dots puzzle to see the picture you’d created? Here are our picks for history’s Top 5 Dots…


Dippin’ Dots

The flash-frozen ice cream snack turns 35 this year. Because they are created with liquid nitrogen at a super-low temperature, you can’t find them in the freezer aisle. More likely at a ballpark, arena, mall kiosk or vending machine.


Fictional Dots

The all-time greats include Dot Freeland (Frank L. Baum’s follow-up to Dorothy), Dot Warner (the lone female Animaniac), Dot from A Bug’s Life and Little Dot (the dot-obsessed Harvey Comics character).



Non-Fictional Dots

Dr. Dot Richardson (two-time Olympic gold medal shortstop), Dot Wilkinson (member of both the Bowling and Softball Halls of Fame), Dot Lemon (pioneering aviatrix) and Dot Farley (star of dozens of Mack Sennett film comedies).




DOTS Candy

The gum drop you never bought at the movies or wanted at Halloween, but somehow couldn’t resist—at the peril of crowns and fillings. Well, someone’s eating them; last year Tootsie Roll Industries pumped out 4 billion of them.



The Dots in Ellipsis

One of the great forms of punctuation, which says so much by not saying anything. Among the masters of the ellipsis was San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen.


Honorable Mention

The Zen Dots font, the award-winning Dots video game, the Dots in Morse Code, Lego Dots, the Department of Transportation and slick-fielding Kearny, NJ, native Dots Miller of the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Photo Credits:

Dot and Tot • Geo. M. Hill

Dot Warner • The WB

Little Dot • Harvey Entertainment Group

Dot Richardson • Liberty Univ. Athletics

Dot Wilkinson • Softball History USA

Dot Lemon • Upper Case

Dot Farley • Univ. Of Washington

The New Jersey Connection

All roads don’t lead to (or through) New Jersey. Sometimes it just seems that way. However, you don’t have to play the Six Degrees of Separation game to discover prominent historical figures with intriguing connections to the Garden State. It’s okay to stop at five:

Marion Trikosko

0 Degrees    Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King resided in Camden while a seminarian in Philadelphia from 1948 to 1951. On June 11, 1950, he and three companions were refused service at a restaurant in Maple Shade and were threatened with a gun if they didn’t leave. They stayed…in what might have been the future Civil Rights leader’s first act of courageous civil disobedience.



Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

1 Degree     Napoleon

Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, played an important role in his sibling’s European conquests and served as King of Naples, King of Spain and Lieutenant General of the French empire. He moved to America, sold the jewels he had spirited out of Spain, and purchased Point Breeze in Bordentown—said to be the second-finest house in America after the White House. His grandson, Charles Bonaparte, would become US Attorney General and create the forerunner of the FBI.



True Renditions LLC

2 Degrees    Marilyn Monroe

In 1954, the sultry actress married former Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio. When their nuptials were announced, the slugger received an offer he probably couldn’t refuse. Richie “The Boot” Boiardo—a huge DiMaggio fan and notoriously brutal Newark mobster—gifted Joe D. the diamond ring he slipped on Marilyn’s finger during their marriage ceremony. Boiardo is said to have been one of the inspirations for Tony Soprano. The ring’s original owner is unknown.

In the Godfather Garden




3 Degrees    Dwight Eisenhower

While enrolled at the US Military Academy, the future 34th President starred for Army’s powerhouse football team. In 1912, he ruined his knee against the Carlisle Indian School trying to tackle All-American Jim Thorpe. In 1951, the gridiron legend was portrayed by Burt Lancaster in Jim Thorpe, All- American. Two years later, Lancaster co-starred with crooner-turned-actor Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity, with both receiving Oscar nominations. Sinatra, of course, grew up in Hoboken.


Columbia Pictures

4 Degrees    W.C. Fields

Fields first shot to fame in the Ziegfield Follies, where he co-starred for several years with fellow comedian Eddie Cantor. As a child, Cantor had been part of a Vaudeville act called the Newsboys Sextet. One of the six “newsboys” was future newspaper columnist Walter Winchell, who many years later arranged the surrender of Murder Inc. boss Lepke Buchalter to FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. One of Buchalter’s henchmen, already serving time in Sing-Sing for rubbing out his own brother-in-law, was Meyer Luckman—whose son, Sid Luckman, became a star quarterback for Columbia and an NFL Hall of Famer for the Chicago Bears. In 1939, after a sensational rookie season for Chicago, Luckman suited up for a playoff game in Schools Stadium as a member of the Newark Bears, who went on to win the American Football Association title.

Samuel Goldwyn Prod

5 Degrees    Machiavelli

Famed Italian political strategist Niccolo Machiavelli dedicated his seminal work, The Prince, to Lorenzo de Medici, the ruler of Florence in the early 1500s. Lorenzo’s daughter, Catherine, married Henry Duke of Orleans, who became Henry II, King of France. Using her powerful position, Catherine was the primary instigator of the 1572 St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, a week of mob violence in Paris against French Huguenots. Among the many thousands killed was Petrus Ramus, a prominent humanist whose writings influenced Protestant philosophy in Europe and the American colonies. Ramus’s greatest proponent in the New World was Samuel Johnson, a key figure in the Enlightenment and the first president of King’s College, now Columbia University. Johnson’s successor, Myles Cooper, a clergyman born and raised in England, wrote passionately that the American Revolution was a mistake. In 1775, Cooper eluded an angry mob that planned to lop off his ears, and made it to a British ship that returned him safely to England. Legend has it that the crowd was distracted long enough for Cooper to escape by an eloquent young man named Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton had recently finished his education at the Elizabethtown Academy in Elizabeth. Twenty-nine years later, Hamilton would lose a duel in Weehawken that cost him his life.



Out of Thick Air

The science and history of overpowering odor.

Reckitt Benckiser Group

In 2023, the global market for air fresheners will surpass $12 billion. According to Precedence Research, a company that provides investors with strategic market insights, that number will likely double by 2030. Does that mean the world is smelling progressively worse, or that humans are becoming more sensitive to unpleasant odors? The answer is both and none of the above. Think of all the clean, lovely homes of your friends and neighbors in suburban New Jersey. Some have an air freshener diffuser in almost every room, while others have none. Does one home smell noticeably “better” than the other? Probably not.

The use of air fresheners is a matter of personal taste and personal choice. Some folks can’t live with them, others can’t live without them. Some folks are severely allergic to strong, artificial scents. Others cannot enter the average teenager’s bedroom without a finger on the trigger of a can of Febreze, ready to fire, like an Old West gunslinger, at a week-old sweat sock or unchanged bottom sheet.

NC Museum of Art

Although it differs from country to country and culture to culture, the use of air fresheners is almost always linked to the concern that others will judge you through their nostrils. Madison Avenue has masterfully leveraged this paranoia into a global growth industry. After all, who among us doesn’t wonder whether our home or business or vehicle could smell a little better and, by extension, how that might elevate us in the eyes of others? One also wonders whether the air freshener industry created the “thick air” market out of thin air, or whether it tapped into something that is actually baked into our DNA. How far back does the need to make a positive aromatic impression stretch? Imagine the first modern human entering a Neanderthal cave—did he (or, let’s face it, she) wonder, “What’s wrong with these people?”

Air fresheners as we know them first appeared on supermarket shelves around 1950. Like a lot of breakthrough consumer items during this era, the technology had its roots in military applications developed during World War II. Put a pin in that for a moment and let’s turn back the clock to the original concept of odor-masking.


Reckitt Benckiser Group

It is a practice that dates back several thousand years, most likely to at least the Bronze Age and perhaps beyond. In ancient cultures, priests and other religious leaders burned animal parts as sacrificial offerings to the gods. In interior spaces, the smell must have been unbearable, so various herbs and aromatic plants would have been burned at the same time. We know this because the Latin root of the word perfume, per fumus, means “through smoke.” There are records of the ancient Egyptians using scented oils on their bodies and textiles, and the extraction of air-freshening oils was being done on a commercial level in Mesopotamia more than 3,000 years ago.


Fast-forward to the 8th and 9th centuries and we find the discovery of steam distillation in the Islamic world. Suddenly, odor-masking scents were widely available; they were even mixed into the mortar used in the construction of mosques. The popular use of perfumes and other exotic scents in the West was accelerated by the Crusades, when Europeans who survived their adventures in the Eastern Mediterranean brought back sweet-smelling souvenirs from the markets of the Holy Land. Perfume production really kicked into high gear during the Renaissance. Hungary, of all places, became an important center of production. And of course, the French became famous consumers of perfumes and scented oils. You may recall from a long-ago history class that King Louis XIV was called the “Sun King.”

What they probably didn’t teach you was that his great-grandson, Louis XV (left)—who succeeded him as a boy in the early 1700s—was known for soaking everything in his palace with a different scent every day. The young monarch’s court was known as “La Cours Parfumée.” The science behind air fresheners may have changed since the “Louies” but the basic concept hasn’t: Find something that smells better than the odor you’re trying to mask, and then keep it hanging in the air as long as possible.

So back to the 1950s. The US military found a clever way to do this, using sophisticated chemistry that had the ability to eliminate and replace odors with a fine, pleasant-smelling mist. The original use for this technology was in pesticides that were used in close proximity to humans. Children of the postwar era may recall the “mosquito trucks” (below) that rolled through suburban neighborhoods puffing out sweet-smelling DDT.

Procter & Gamble/Febreze

Soon, few respectable American homes were without a can of name-brand air freshener to kill bathroom, cooking and pet odors. Lysol and Air Wick were already recognized household brands before the age of aerosol sprays. Glade arrived in the mid-1950s, accompanied by a catchy jingle and the polite suggestion that you buy a second can for the “medicine cabinet” (bathroom) to make indoor air “smell as fresh as all outdoors”. These products (and the different scents they developed) became ubiquitous outside of homes, as well—in hotel rooms, restaurants, theaters, doctor’s and dentist’s offices, and automobile showrooms. The chemicals that enabled these products to eliminate odors instead of merely overpowering them included Pre-Polymers, Ester, and Long-Chain Aldehydes. Feel free to look them up but don’t expect to understand a thing about them.

What most people do understand, however, is that the leading air freshener brands back then weren’t exactly healthy. In the 1970s and 1980s, the air freshener market faced a crisis when it was determined that the Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that powered them also harmed earth’s ozone layer. Also, reports of negative side-effects on asthma sufferers—and the possible impact on reproductive chemistry—accompanied the additional bad news that these products contained low levels of carcinogenic material.

A range of alternatives arrived on the market, including scented candles, heated oils and gels, and solid gels. Febreze, which has been around since the late-1990s, grabbed a huge portion of the market share thanks to spot-on ad campaigns (had you ever heard of “Nose Blind” before Febreze?) and its use of Hydroxypropyl Beta-Cyclodextrin, a molecule derived from corn cobs that traps and binds malodorous molecules and reduces their scent. It is meant to be sprayed on fabric as opposed to being waved in the air like a magic wand.


So, is there anything new in the air freshener world? Glad you asked. The old-school tree freshener (aka Little Tree) appears to have found a fascinating second life. The cardboard pine trees that used to hang from rearview mirrors now come in a variety of shapes and smells, most notably as the disembodied heads of celebrities. These aren’t your grandfather’s tree fresheners, the ones you could pick up for pocket change at the local service station. They are typically unlicensed homemade “art” products and they sell like crazy for $5 to $15 on web sites like Etsy. Want a Taylor Swift? Done. Tupac? Done. You can even send in a family photo to make a customized tree freshener. There’s a good chance your spouse and children have never smelled better.

I was in an Uber recently that had an unshaven Jonah Hill air freshener dangling over the dashboard so, yes, there is almost certainly some irony involved, too.

Or maybe the driver was just a big Jonah Hill fan.



Who’s On the Phone

The fuss over TikTok…and why you should care.

There are more than 8 billion humans on this planet and, if you believe what you read, more than a billion actively watch TikTok videos. If TikTok were an organized religion—and for many young people it kind of is—it would rank third behind Christianity and Islam, possibly tied with Hinduism. For the record, the population of TikTok accounts is growing faster than the population of Hindus.

If you’ve never watched TikTok or don’t understand what it is, don’t feel bad. Most people on TikTok don’t really know either. They’re too busy having fun.

The app itself, which began as a platform for short, hyper-expressive homemade videos—particularly amusing dance videos and pop songs—was created by a company called and purchased in 2017 by the Chinese company ByteDance for $800 million. It took off during the pandemic, especially among teens and twenty-somethings. Influencers moved en masse to the app from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and advertisers followed. In 2021, TikTok raked in more than $4 billion in advertising revenue. In 2022, that number more than doubled—at a time when ad revenue for digital competitors sagged. That has people like Mark Zuckerberg more than a little concerned; he has gone so far as to warn that TikTok’s growing dominance is a threat to the US tech sector.

TikTok content has evolved somewhat, but not a lot. It’s still silly and stupid and crazy and imaginative. There’s just a lot more selling than there used to be. Unlike other social media apps, where the inclusion of ads is fairly obvious, TikTok advertisements are often disguised as one of the endless short videos that flow across the small screen, one after another, based on algorithms keyed to a user’s interests. Often, you don’t know you’re watching a commercial until its mostly done. If it’s good, you don’t even care.

For many, TikTok has become addictive. The average user spends on average more than 90 minutes a day glued to the app. In this country, there are around 100 million active users. That is an impressive digital footprint. To some, it is a threatening one.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump don’t agree on much, but one thing they have in common is a deep distrust of TikTok. Both of their administrations tried to curtail its influence. They weren’t concerned with the deleterious effect on young minds. It was the Chinese-owned part of TikTok that raised all kinds of red flags (no pun intended). ByteDance has consistently assured our government that the data it collects on Americans stays in America, on American servers. Yet Chinese law is very clear that its government can demand data from US affiliates of Chinese companies. So which is it?

US officials have been pressuring ByteDance to change its ownership here so that the direct link to China is severed. The Biden administration considers it a national security issue. The US military has banned the app on personal devices, as has TSA and a handful of state governments, including Texas. Many politicians on both sides of the aisle would like to see the app banned altogether.

In late-December, the big omnibus spending bill passed in Congress included a new regulation that prohibited federal government employees from downloading the TikTok app on their mobile devices—and instructing those who already have it to delete it. Senator Marco Rubio introduced a bipartisan bill on December 13th banning TikTok in the US altogether.

There is another issue generating profound concern over the growth of TikTok and that is its ability to prevent underage users from accessing violent, hateful, drug-related or sexual content. Right now, the minimum age to open a TikTok account is 12. Raising the minimum age to 17 or 18 has been discussed but, naturally has met with all kinds of resistance from the company. There is now a consumer protection lawsuit in Indiana around this issue. The Attorney General claims that TikTok has deceived children and their parents with the age rating of 12, dishonestly leveraging consumer trust in app stores like Google’s and Apple’s.

In 2021, TikTok introduced a feature enabling parents to link their TikTok accounts with that of their children, which theoretically would enable moms and dads to monitor and control what their young teens are watching. And the app has special filters to identify, delete and punish offensive videos before they reach young eyes. Not surprisingly, there are myriad work-arounds for these safeguards, including the use of alternative words for ones that are likely to be caught in the algorithm, such as “unalive” for “kill” and “seggs” for “sex.” There is even a word for this new vocabulary: Algospeak.

The problem is that TikTok is fun and cool and easy to use. It is a brilliant cure for boredom and a break from reality. And in the way that Facebook used to say it was the new office water cooler, TikTok has become the younger, hipper version of that.

Anyone with a smartphone can make a TikTok video in a matter of minutes. People who go about their lives otherwise unnoticed can have hundreds or thousands of followers. An ad that might only get a few glances somewhere else can rack up millions of views and increase sales by 100 or 500 or 1,000 percent. TikTok is the most efficient way to attract, influence and capture young consumers, who eagerly share what they like and willingly tumble down the TikTok rabbit hole.

While TikTok’s supporters hail it as a new cultural and communications frontier, its critics have called it a Trojan Horse, a Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing and—especially resonant for those who recall the notorious R.J. Reynolds cigarette campaign of the early 1990s—Joe Camel on Steroids.



Slang is Straight Fire

A look at our beloved and indispensable shadow language.


Of all the everyday things humans use, nothing is more human than the use of slang. It is a tool wielded by every culture, subculture and sub-subculture that enables people to communicate clearly and confidently—without actually saying what they mean. As a bonus, slang doubles as a kind of membership card: If you don’t understand it, sorry, you’re not in the club. And while it can be mean-spirited, it is more likely to be funny, charming or silly. Sometimes, it’s all of these.

Straight fire, the theme of this issue, is slang for what past generations might have called radical. Or crazy good. Or, a century ago, the bee’s knees.

Bee’s knees, for the record, was a Prohibition cocktail made with real gin, real lemon juice and real honey. In other words, the absolute best. But wait. Before it was a drink, a bee’s knee meant something really tiny. Also, during the 1920s, the most famous dancer of the Charleston was a sexpot named Bee Jackson. Were Bee’s actual knees, exposed for all to admire, the absolute best? By the time the experts got around to answering this question, bee’s knees had been replaced by other superlatives, including cat’s pajamas. That’s another thing about slang. It is a creature of the moment, constantly changing, often for no reason other than change itself. What might be cool today is likely to be uncool a year from now, and then quaint, nostalgic and ultimately forgotten. Consider some common slang from the 1990s, when dinosaurs roamed the earth: Crunk, Fly, Buggin’ Out, Talk to the Hand—when was the last time you heard someone use any of these non-ironically? Social media has accelerated the spread of new slang and, as part of the same process, accelerated the demise of old slang. Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with it all.


NBCUniversal Television and Streaming

ESL Challenges

The misuse of slang offers an endless well of comic possibilities. Think of Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd on the recurring SNL Festrunk Brothers skits from the 1970s. The two “wild and crazy guys” were hilariously confident in their tenuous grasp of American slang and it was funny because it was true. Learning American slang has long been one of the most challenging aspects of learning English as a second language, but also an absolute necessity. Master some key slang expressions, the thinking goes, and you’re likely to “blend in” sooner.


Dark Origins

Historically speaking, two things are almost certainly true about the use of slang: 1) the concept was invented by criminals and 2) it has always flourished in and sprung forth from cities. For countless centuries and, until relatively recently, people communicated face-to-face in public settings. That worked well unless you didn’t want others overhearing what you had to say. In towns and cities where meeting places tended to be crowded with eavesdroppers, it would have been difficult to plot or plan or coordinate nefarious activities. However, if the folks at the next table over had no idea what you were talking about, you could enjoy a level of security. Slang was a kind of verbal encryption.

Slang was also a neat way to prevent newcomers and outsiders from integrating comfortably into the culture of a town. Cockney rhyming slang raised this to an art form. It is possible to understand every word of a conversation between two East End Londoners and have no idea what they are talking about. “Bees and Honey” means money, “Fisherman’s Daughter” means water and “Rattle and Clank” means bank. And so on and so forth.

Interestingly, lexicographers are somewhat at odds regarding the origin of the word slang itself. It shows up in English texts in the late-1700s, but its roots may be Scandinavian. Some have traced it to the Norwegian word slengja, which refers to the use of abusive language. One of the tricky things about pinning down the roots of slang is that, almost by definition, it was spoken as opposed to being written down. That was true pretty much up until the advent of texting, Tweeting and social medial posts.

Staying Power

A quick Google search will turn up an endless number of lists of slang expressions that have fallen out of favor, changed meaning or blipped completely out of existence. Which makes one wonder which currently popular slang terms will have the staying power of classic words like Cool and which will go the way of Wisenheimer, Daddy-o and Knuckle Sandwich. I’m betting that Karen, Ghosted, Basic, Throwing Shade and Low Key will one day be dim memories.

Oh, and add Straight Fire to that list. If it hasn’t gone out of vogue in the two months since I turned in this story!

Smaller Than a Postage Stamp

What Price Beauty?

Marilyn Monroe is said to have had $3.50 in her apartment when she died. Yet she will make more money this year than all but a handful of Hollywood stars. How is she worth more dead than alive? Who gets that money? Who doesn’t (but should)? Welcome to The Marilyn Wars.

Marilyn Monroe has been dead for 48 years. Do you care? In some years the dead Marilyn earned over $7 million on sales of over $60 million in merchandise bearing her name or image. Still don’t care? Well, I know who does care. A unique group of sharp business people, creative lawyers, nostalgic purveyors of porn, scheming collectors, paranoid political conspiracy theorists, fraudsters and infringers, fans and obsessed idolaters, and loyal devotees who seek to prolong their candle in the wind. These are the soldiers in The Marilyn Wars. They are engaged in a struggle of constant calumny, lawsuits, claims of fraud and theft, and even threats of duct-and abduction.

The main battlegrounds are the federal courts and state legislatures, and the principal combatants are the estates of various artists claiming conflicting intellectual property rights in Marilyn, and the publishers and photographers who took the iconic photographs reproduced on so many of the pieces of merchandise sold under her name. The rest of the colorful players (who are worthy of their own article) are cheerleaders of varying stripes. Over the last few years, The Marilyn Wars changed the entire playing field for intellectual property rights known as “rights to publicity,” sparking precedent-setting court cases from coast to coast who owns a piece of what or whom.

And all over symbol who would have recently turned 83. A product of national obsession and hard work behind the scenes, Marilyn’s estate—in tandem with its licensing agents and others—has fought to ensure that her memory lives on, and productively so. Marilyn’s name or image has appeared on dozens of products and advertisements, from a “Marilyn” perfume line in Europe to advertising campaigns with Dom Perignon, Absolut and General Motors. There are even Marilyn-themed casino slot machines and a line of pet clothing that includes a hot-pink dog dress with the slogan, “Diamonds are a Dog’s Best Friend.” (Seriously.) Would you reach for a bottle of water bearing the iconic image of Marilyn stretched out on a red velvet blanket over one of Fuji or Evian? Gauging from their labels, the makers of Star H2O must think so. So who owns Marilyn, and who or what has the right to the proceeds from her legacy? After all, that’s what The Marilyn Wars are really all about.

In her will, Marilyn left the residual of her estate to her acting teacher, Lee Strasberg of New York. Some years after Marilyn died, Strasberg married named Anna Mizrahi, who by many accounts never met Monroe. After Lee died, Anna connected with Mark Roelser, who had founded a company now called CMG Worldwide, headquartered in Indianapolis. This location is important because Roesler had lobbied the Indiana legislature to pass a law giving rights to publicity to the estates of deceased people— despite the fact that they were already dead when the law was passed, thus coining the term, “posthumous rights to publicity.” This allowed CMG to capitalize on the rights of publicity licensed to his company by the heirs of deceased celebrities. CMG began enforcing these rights around the country, encouraging those selling merchandise using those names to pay a licensing fee for the privilege. Over time, this became big business.

Today CMG represents scores of “living legends” ranging from Monroe to Malcolm X. Some American icons became, in effect, worth more dead than alive. Who in 1947—the year when Marilyn was crowned Miss California Artichoke Queen—would have guessed that over $30 million would have been collected on Marilyn merchandise and advertising through the end of last year? Among those requested to pay fees for the use of Monroe’s image have been the heirs to photographers who themselves had taken some of the iconic photographs of Marilyn that the estate was exploiting. One such instance involves the famous publicity still from the film The Seven Year Itch where Marilyn is standing above a New York City subway grate with her dress billowing up around her. Issues of copyright and right to publicity are now center stage as CMG and other combatants in The Marilyn Wars have staked competing claims over who or what has the right to capitalize on Marilyn’s robust brand.

While the CMG-friendly courts of Indiana have enforced posthumous rights to publicity, the courts and statutes of other states such as New York and California have not necessarily followed suit. Importantly, New York has no laws granting posthumous rights of publicity. California, another state in which Marilyn maintained a home, did have such a law passed, but only in 1984, some 22 years after Monroe’s death. However questions were raised about its retroactive effect. In 2007, a court ruled that because there was no such right in New York (and that California’s law had no retroactive effect), no such right existed when Marilyn died in 1962 and, therefore, it was impossible for her to have conveyed that right in her will. You can’t convey something that you don ’t own, and if it didn’t exist when you died, you can’t have owned it. While these litigations and appeals are ongoing, CMG continues to own numerous registered trademarks relating to Marilyn Monroe. But others are jumping on the Marilyn bandwagon, such as her photographers and others claiming interests in her image.

The Marilyn Wars, in other words, are just heating up (and one can only imagine the fires soon to rage regarding the Estate of Michael Jackson). Their outcome impacts hundreds of millions of dollars and has implications to the estates of scores of famous people and their future estates. It will take some years before the stardust settles, but in the meantime, Marilyn keeps smiling and profiting a great many well beyond her few happy years. Not bad for a “candle in the wind.”

Editor’s Note: Neil Patrick Parent is a partner in the Manhattan-based law firm Reavis Parent Lehrer LLP ( ) with affiliates in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The firm has a practice group concentrating in intellectual property and entertainment law. This article is not intended to convey legal advice and individuals seeking information concerning the above should seek appropriate legal counsel.

Shooting Stars

Take Charge Guys

Business has never been better at many of NJ’s traditional wedding venues. A peek behind the scenes at the Park Savoy shows why.

Photography by Light Impressions Photography ©2012 Courtesy of The Park Savoy Estate.

Every bride begins her matrimonial journey with one thought: Make my wedding day a day to remember. There is more than a little wiggle room within that sentiment. Theoretically, you could have an unforgettable service and reception in a field of daisies, the upper deck at Yankee Stadium, a tropical resort, or your college roommate’s uncle’s backyard. To the out-of-the-boxers we say more power to you. Theory is one thing, however, and practice another. Which is why, despite all those “do-it-yourself” receptions you hear about, the demand for formal wedding halls has never been greater. It also explains why the folks who brought you Naninas on the Park—those original take-charge guys Barry Maurillo, Joe Maurillo and Vito Cucci—had over 250 weddings booked (no, that’s not a typo) just a couple of weeks after reopening The Park Savoy Estate following a $6 million renovation that began last December.

It doesn’t take an expert to spot where the money went. Every square foot of the 19th century mansion—which at various times played host to everyone from Charles Lindbergh to Jean Harlow to Lucky Luciano—was re-conceived to deliver the utmost in luxury, comfort and opulence. The entire property, indoors and out (they stopped counting at 30,000 sq. ft.), is devoted to one bride and groom at a time, and can comfortably accommodate over 400 guests. Weddings typically take place Thursday through Sunday, in the afternoon and evening, with an average of three to five a week. Guests flow from a spacious reception area and wood-paneled barroom to the veranda and landscaped grounds and ultimately to a grand ballroom. There is also a separate bridal retreat with its own martini bar (ask and the Park Savoy will create a “signature drink” for bride and groom). If you’re picturing a typical “wedding factory” then you’re missing the point. For those few magical hours, the Park Savoy is meant to feel like home. “People walk through the front door and they fall in love,” says Joe Maurillo. “They sense right away that there’s something different happening here. It’s not just the beauty of the space, it’s how we interact with them. They’re not clients, they’re family. We treat all of our guests that way. We even treat our employees like family.” All of this comes at a price, of course. The Park Savoy represents the gold standard of formal wedding venues in New Jersey, and it’s not for every budget. That being said, at roughly $135 to $250 a head, it is more than competitive in the current marketplace.

Photography by Light Impressions Photography ©2012 Courtesy of The Park Savoy Estate.

What’s on the Menu? Everyone has a different idea of what “wedding food” should be. When booking a venue, it is absolutely critical that your expectations are in synch with the kitchen’s. If chicken parm and pasta does it for you, fine, no need to pay for a CIA-trained chef. By the same token, if you expect the food at your event to meet the standards of your favorite four-star restaurant, then make that determination before you sign on the dotted line. The Park Savoy happens to have a CIA-trained chef, George Atieh. Among the favorites on his extensive passing menu are brie and pear tartlets, lobster bon-bons, grilled scallops with orange-saffron aioli, and spinach-and-feta “cigars.” Favorite main courses include porcini-encrusted Chilean sea bass, asiago chicken in a shitake-lime sauce, and a filet mignon with a secret rub (which Atieh will probably take to his grave).

The advantage of booking a wedding at the Park Savoy— or just about any other first-rate wedding hall—is that every aspect of the event is handled seamlessly by the staff. The bride and groom and their families are free to enjoy the day without sweating the details. That peace of mind can be absolutely priceless. “Our management becomes your wedding planner,” explains Sales Manager Melanie Clarke. “We have three different house bands, we have DJs, photographers, videographers, florists, and we can even make hotel arrangements for guests.” The process for booking a formal space is fairly standard throughout the industry. The initial meeting usually takes an hour and involves a tour of the facility and a sit-down with a sales manager. It’s helpful to have a few items squared away before you call, including the time of year you plan on tying the knot, the number of guests you’re considering and whether you intend to have the actual ceremony on-site or somewhere else. Be aware that every venue has a minimum and a maximum number of guests it can accommodate.

Also, afternoon weddings typically come with a generous discount, so consider that option to a prime-time evening affair. Part of the initial meeting will almost certainly involve a discussion of food. Every place has a set menu, often with a mind-boggling range of choices. Be prepared to think about hors d’oeuvres, chef’s stations, main dishes, and desserts—and whether you want waiter service or a lavish buffet. Some places will even handle your wedding cake, or at least point you in a reliable direction. If the executive chef is on hand, see if he or she can join the meeting. Often they will ask you things a salesperson won’t, and can guide you through the menu and answer questions. Most places will happily tweak their dishes to address dietary or cultural preferences. Alas, the rule of thumb for choosing a formal, do-it-all wedding venue is that there is no particular rule. It’s your day and your dollar, so pick a place that promises a memorable experience. If you get a good vibe when you walk in the door, trust it. If the chef speaks your language, listen. And if that final number is reachable, grab it and go!  

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to George Atieh of The Park Savoy Estate in Florham Park. The property’s web address is

Hopelessly Devoted

The film version of Grease—loved by some and ignored by others—has achieved classic status.

Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

Timing is everything. In the late spring and early summer of 1978, not a whole lot was competing for the attention of young people in this part of the country. Certainly, it was nothing like the summer of 1977. Lest we forget, one year earlier Son of Sam was running amok, the metropolitan area was plunged into darkness during the blackout, Reggie Jackson was the talk of the town and everyone was seeing Star Wars for, like, the fifth time. Into the media and entertainment lull of June 1978 burst the muchanticipated film version of the Broadway hit Grease. Everyone went to see it, and everyone walked out with an opinion. To those who’d seen it on the Great White Way during the 1970s—and so many of us did—something seemed a little lost in the Hollywood glitz and glamour. The fact that Danny, Sandy, the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies had been transported to the sunny suburbs of Southern California took off a bit of the edge that made the live show so much fun. On the other hand, to those who had only seen Grease performed by their high school drama club or had purchased the zillion-selling album or 8-track, the film was utterly fantastic. Looking back, what almost everyone can agree on is that, in defining the 1950s for a 1970s audience, Grease the movie defined in many ways who we were at the end of the 1970s. It was a confusing, dispiriting time of gas shortages, post-Vietnam-post-Watergate cynicism, serial divorce and unbridled narcissism. Everyone needed something uncomplicated to transport them to a time and place that clearly never existed, but was just real enough to provide a cherished escape. This was both the greatest strength of Grease, as well as its most glaring weakness. Perhaps the lyrics of Frankie Valli’s title tune said it best by saying nothing in particular: Grease is the word. It’s got groove it’s got meaning. Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion. Grease is the way we are feeling. To be sure, there was nothing particularly profound about Grease. And yet, all these years later, the movie has become a classic…and as such is deserving of a closer look.

Photo credit: RSO/Polydor

THE CAST With Hollywood musicals on the downtrend, producers Robert Stigwood and Alan Carr set out to assemble a cast that would appeal to virtually every member of the human race. John Travolta (Danny) was the reigning Hollywood heartthrob, not to mention the unofficial king of disco. Olivia Newton-John (Sandy) was the goldenthroated Australian beauty who pumped out pop hit after pop hit during the 1970s. She had a readymade international audience and also pulled an older demographic into the multiplexes. Stockard Channing (Rizzo) reminded audiences of Grease’s Broadway roots. Never mind that she and Newton-John needed spatulas full of makeup to look Travolta’s age. Jeff Conaway (Kenickie) provided another tie to Broadway, where he won raves playing Danny. Conaway offered the added advantage of being one of the stars of the critically hailed television series Taxi, which went on the air in 1978. The supporting players were also hand-picked to please. Didi Conn (Frenchy) was coming off a starring role in You Light Up My Life, where she charmed audiences as an overachieving underdog. Eve Arden (Principal McGee), Frankie Avalon (Teen Angel), Sid Caesar (Coach Calhoun), and Alice Ghostley (Mrs. Murdock) were among the many veteran actors whose names and faces were as familiar as breathing. Even Sha Na Na, the revival band largely responsible for bringing back the ’50s during the ’70s, got into the act.

THE CRITICS To devotees of the Broadway musical, Grease the movie was a pale, predictable comparison. Critical reviews were somewhat mixed, but mostly positive. It received just one Oscar nod, that for Original Song — “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” Those who liked Grease agreed that it succeeded as a sweet, fun fantasy of American teen life in the 1950s. It grossed just under $9 million the weekend it opened in June 1978, and over the years returned many times its $6 million production cost at the box office. To date the movie has grossed over $150 million in the U.S.

Photo credit: Upper Case Editorial Services

THE SONG Grease the movie reprised most of the key songs in the Broadway original, while adding three significant others, “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, “You’re the One That I Want” and the disco-inspired title track by Frankie Valli. Olivia Newton-John’s recording of “Hopelessly Devoted” soared to #3 on the Billboard charts in 1978. “You’re the One That I Want”—a duet with Travolta—topped the U.S. and British pop charts. “Grease” was written by Barry Gibb of Bee Gees fame, and was a hit on both the pop and R&B charts. “Hopelessly Devoted” was nominated for an Oscar but lost to Donna Summer’s “Last Dance”. It was also up for a Grammy but lost the Best Female Pop Vocal nod to Anne Murray’s “You Needed Me”. Newton-John had won the same award four years earlier for “I Honestly Love You”. She sang “Hopelessly Devoted” at both the Oscars and Grammys in 1979, and her performance at the Grammys brought down the house. “Hopelessly Devoted” and “You’re the One That I Want” were written by John Farrar. Farrar first worked with Newton-John when she appeared on Australian TV in the late 1960s on the American Bandstand-inspired The Go!! Show, where he was a member of the house band, The Strangers. They reunited a couple of years later at London’s Abbey Road Studios, where he worked as a studio musician on Newton-John’s string of hits in the 1970s. He wrote for and/or produced several albums for her, including Let Me Be There, If You Love Me Let Me Know and Have You Never Been Mellow. Farrar was one of several songwriters asked to submit new material for the film version of Grease, which needed more musical numbers to work on the big screen. In the 1980s, Farrar produced Newton-John’s double-platinum Physical album. In 1994, the British pop siren Sonia took over the role of Sandy in a West End production of Grease. Her version of “Hopelessly Devoted to You” turned on a whole new generation to the song, thanks in part to an edgy music video shot against an urban backdrop.


John Travolta • Danny Zuko After Grease the law of gravity seized hold of Travolta. He began picking flops over blockbusters, famously turning down An Officer and a Gentleman and American Gigolo. He packed on a couple of pounds but kept his soft-spoken charm and good looks, which helped a resurgence that began with his Oscar-nominated role in Pulp Fiction. Since then he’s turned in memorable performances as good guys (Phenomenon), bad guys (The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3), and even a stage mom (Hairspray).

Olivia Newton-John • Sandy Olsson The sexy turn in Grease did little to impact Newton-John’s music or film careers. However, her timing couldn’t have been better a few years later when she released “Let’s Get Physical” at the beginning of the fitness boom and music video craze. In 1992, a comeback tour was derailed when Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer. She recovered and became an advocate for breast cancer research, adding this to a long list of humanitarian causes she has supported.

Stockard Channing • Betty Rizzo Channing’s fortunes skyrocketed after Grease —not bad considering she was in her mid-30s when she played Rizzo. Her acting résumé encompasses stage, screen and television, with countless nominations and awards, and a notable turn as First Lady Abbey Bartlet on The West Wing. J

eff Conaway • Kenickie On Taxi, Conaway played a handsome actor who could never quite catch the big break. The role was painfully close to the truth. By the end of the show’s first season he was overshadowed by the other members of the ensemble cast, including Danny DeVito, Judd Hirsch, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, Andy Kaufman and Marilu Henner. Conaway spent the next two decades taking sporadic guest starring roles, before landing a regular part on Babylon 5. He gained some notoriety in 2008 when he was featured in the reality series Celebrity Rehab. In 2011, Conaway died at age 60 of pneumonia.

Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

Didi Conn • Frenchy Conn reprised her role in the unfortunate 1982 Grease II sequel, and then went on to starring roles in the TV series Benson and Shining Time Station. The mother of an autistic son, Conn became a celebrity spokesperson for Autism Speaks.

Frankie Avalon • Teen Angel Avalon appeared in a handful of films and television shows after Grease, playing himself (or some version of himself). His iconic status—and timeless good looks—helped him launch a cosmetics and skincare line. In 1987, Avalon appeared with his old buddy Annette Funicello in the movie Back to the Beach. In 2007 he crooned “Beauty School Dropout” for the finalists on the reality show Grease: You’re the One That I Want. And in 2009, at the age of 70, Avalon performed on American Idol.

Sid Caesar • Coach Calhoun Caesar stayed active in movies and television through the 1990s and beyond. In 1983, he hosted Saturday Night Live. He received a standing ovation and was made an honorary cast member in recognition of his contributions to live TV. Three years later, Caesar performed with the Metropolitan Opera. He turns 90 this September.

Eve Arden • Principal McGee Arden was a television, film, theater and radio giant long before she set foot on the Grease soundstage. Her final silver screen appearance came in Grease II. Arden passed away in 1990.

Annette Charles • Cha-Cha DiGregorio After Grease, Charles earned a handful of bit parts in television and movie productions. Although she stayed close to Hollywood, she didn’t quit her day job: speech professor at Cal State Northridge. Charles passed away from cancer in 2011 at 63.

Eddie Deezen • Eugene Felsnic Deezen’s performance as geeky Eugene established a blueprint for every film nerd that followed. Ironically, he was not cast in Revenge of the Nerds a few years later— although he is still asked about that movie on a daily basis. Deezen remains one of the busiest voiceover actors in the business. S

ha Na Na • Johnny Casino & the Gamblers Yes, they are still touring. And original members Donny York, Jocko Marcellino and Screamin’ Scott Simon are still with the band. Sha Na Na was at the height of its fame when Grease was filmed, with its own TV variety show that ran into the early 1980s. The popular front man Jon “Bowzer” Bowman went solo in the 1980s and still performs today around the country. For many years there was an urban legend that Bowzer attended Juilliard. It was actually true.


EDGE Editor’s Note: Mark Stewart attended the critics screening of Grease in 1978. He liked the new songs but didn’t think much of the movie—despite a family connection to the Travoltas.


Mack Attack

Curb Your Enthusiasm

The only people crazier than celebrity-obsessed fans are the dog-obsessed fans of celebrities. They drive countless web sites and have created a new breed of photographer: The Pup-arazzi. We kid you not. EDGE invites you on a walkie with some of the world’s most celebrated dog owners…and unleashes its picks for history’s greatest canine celebrities.

Five Fascinating Celebrity Dog Owners

Jessica Alba

Breed: Pug

Names: Sid and Nancy

Fun Fact: Owns a third dog named Bowie


Peter Dinklage

Breed: Undetermined

Name: Kevin

Fun Fact: Point Pleasant native gave a shout out to his dog-sitter during Golden Globes acceptance speech…but forgot to thank his manager


Angelina Jolie

Breed: Bulldog

Name: Jacques

Fun Fact: Resisted overwhelming temptation to get a Pitt Bull


Barack Obama

Breed: Portuguese Water Dog

Name: Bo

Fun Fact: Malia’s allergies dictated a hypoallergenic breed


Photos: Timmy & Lassie autograph courtesy of Upper Case Editorial Services; Barbra Streisand copyright 1966 Time Inc.

Barbra Streisand

Breed: Coton de Tuléar

Name: Sammie

Fun Fact: Streisand and her dog Sadie graced the cover of LIFE in 1966


Honorable Mention

Ellen Barkin

Breed: Who cares? Could there possibly be a better celebrity dog-owner name!

Burning Question What about Bob Barker?


Top 5 Celebrity Dogs


Breed: Cairn Terrier

Claim to Fame: Appeared in The Wizard of Oz and 11 more films

Did You Know? Made more per week than the highest paid Munchkin


Rin Tin Tin

Breed: German Shepherd

Claim to Fame: Made 25 movies and had his own radio show

Did You Know? Rinty scored a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame



Breed: Siberian Husky

Claim to Fame: Annual Iditarod traces the path of the 1925 journey that saved Nome from a diphtheria outbreak

Did You Know? Has a statue in NY’s Central Park, near East 69th street



Breed: Collie

Claim to Fame: Lassie TV series ran for 20 seasons

Did You Know? First dog to play Lassie was named Pal

Photos: Timmy & Lassie autograph courtesy of Upper Case Editorial Services; Barbra Streisand copyright 1966 Time Inc.



Breed: Jack Russell Terrier

Claim to Fame: Offended Frasier Crane in every imaginable way

Did You Know? During the show’s 11-year run, Eddie was played by Moose and his son, Enzo

Where There’s a Will

  …there’s not necessarily a way when it comes to estate planning for pets.

Trouble, they say, comes in all shapes and sizes. When Leona Helmsley passed away, Trouble came with a $12 million price tag. That was what Helmsley bequeathed to Trouble, her cherished Maltese. Leona’s grandchildren convinced a judge to slash that figure to $2 million, but Trouble still managed to live out his dog days in the lap of luxury at that bargain-basement price. Nothing, it seems, ruffles the feathers of one’s heirs quite like money diverted to pet care. The amount of media play the Helmsley case received only underscored this point. Not surprisingly, the result was a surge in pet estate planning. New Jersey attorney Rachel Hirschfeld happens to be an authority on the subject. She was one of the first attorneys in the country to focus on what is now known as Animal Law. “I have done contracts for dogs, cats, birds, iguanas, snakes, ferrets and other exotic pets, and I have done contracts for whole African Safaris and Cat Colonies,” she says.

Hirschfeld even does estate contracts for horses, though she says these can get tricky due to their expensive care and their space problems. Hirschfeld moved the focus of her estate-planning practice in the direction of pet trusts and pet protection agreements about seven years ago, and now offers both counseling and document preparation to help pet owners protect their four-legged loved ones. She writes up some 200 agreements and trusts a month. Hirschfeld has appeared on numerous television programs, including ABC Nightline and The Today Show. She is also regularly quoted in media outlets ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Fox News to The New Yorker. Hirschfeld’s book (Petriarch: The Complete Guide to Financial and Legal Planning for Pet’s Continued Care) was published in April 2010 and sales remain robust two years later.

Donald Trump called it a “terrific guide.” Hirschfeld’s mission is to ensure that every pet finds a loving home and is guaranteed a secure future. That commitment began around the time she lost her beloved dog, Soupbone, in 2005. A decade earlier, she had saved the two-year-old mixed-breed from being euthanized. “He changed me,” a wistful Hirschfeld recalls. “He was funny and so smart. We talked to each other and he never left my side. He was just so human.” While mourning Soupbone’s demise, Hirschfeld began wondering what might have happened had the tables been turned? Who would take care of her pets if she were no longer around? This dilemma led her to what she describes as her most important life’s work.

She has created the Pet Protection Agreement and the Hirschfeld Trust, both legally binding protection contracts for a pet’s continued care. Although some attorneys think that including provisions or directions in a will for a pet’s care will suffice, Hirschfeld stresses that intentions in a will do not have to be followed, and can be negated by probate of a court. In fact, she advises that more than one guardian be named in a trust to prevent misappropriation of funds or other abuses. “By naming several guardians, a close eye can be kept on how directed monies are spent,” she says, adding that a pet protection agreement or a pet trust is the “ultimate love letter to beloved pets.” The difficult part of the process for pet owners is the emotional one. “Most clients worry that whoever they appoint as guardian won’t love their pet the same way they do,” she explains. “I had one woman who wanted to name her husband as guardian to her much-loved pet, but he refused. The distraught woman soon found a horde of people willing to take on the responsibility, including her close circle of girlfriends, the owner of the corner store she frequented, and her doorman. Her husband oversaw the funds, and the care was in the hands of a whole community of people who loved both the woman and her pet.” A mother of three and grandmother to five, Hirschfeld adds that she loves people, but all animals hold a special place in heart. With a dog at her feet, another at her side, and a cat curled up nearby (all are rescues) she speaks about her work with great conviction and fervor. “I aim to make every animal’s life better,” she says.

Editor’s Note: Rachel Hirschfeld is pictured above with Swizzle and Adam, both rescue dogs. She has been working with Asbury Park Mayor Ed Johnson and Councilwoman Sue Henderson to create a year-round area where dogs (and their owners) can socialize. The Pet Protection Agreement, once the province of the rich and famous, is now affordable and can be completed online—without a lawyer—for as little as $39. A Pet Trust Agreement is a bit more involved, and like all trusts, requires funds. To get your paws on more information, log on to

Jim Dratfield Is Picture Perfect

Jim Dratfield will do anything to get his shot.

Jim Dratfield and Sawyer

Jim Dratfield has been known to sing an aria to an Italian Greyhound, rub shoulders with a cheetah and transform a bathroom sink into a photofriendly backdrop for a finicky house cat. “I’ll do whatever it takes to get an animal to respond,” says Dratfield from his farmhouse in upstate New York. “I don’t expect animals to be models.” Improvisation comes easily to this former actor who has been called the Dr. Doolittle of animal photographers. His theatrical career hit a prophetic note in 1980, when he was cast as an aspiring photographer in a Broadway revival of The Man Who Came to Dinner. Born and raised in a pet friendly household in Princeton, Dratfield spent his childhood performing and mingling with aspiring filmmakers, many of whom were protégés of his dad, Leo, a legendary film distributor. Anxious to advance his acting career, young Dratfield landed a recurring role as a paramedic on TV’s St. Elsewhere, but reality set in as he approached his thirties. “The life of an actor is a funny thing,” Dratfield says. “It’s one thing to struggle as an actor in your twenties, but when you’re in your early thirties, it becomes more of a concern. I was fortunate to have done a Broadway show and some television work, but there’s something called waiting tables—I ended up doing a lot of that.”

Jennifer Aniston and friend

The turning point came when he shot some promotional photos with his dog, Kuma, opening the door to a lucrative new career. “A light bulb went off,” he says. “I’d always loved animals and photography and began wondering if there was a market for fine art pet photography. I thought it might be a way to help support my acting habit.” Dratfield exhibited some of his photos in the restaurant where he waited tables and caught the eye of a literary agent. “She liked the pictures on the walls and was a dog lover, so we started talking,” Dratfield recalls. The Quotable Canine, a coffee table book pairing dog portraits by Dratfield and Paul Coughlin with classic quotes, was published by Doubleday shortly thereafter. In 1993, Dratfield’s passion for animals and photography coalesced into Petography, Inc. He grew the business via private client commissions, more best-selling books, a prestigious gallery exhibit and evergreen posters, calendars and greeting cards.

It didn’t take long before he became the go-to guy for pet lovers in the entertainment industry, politics and sports world. “I think it launched me because it was such a specific niche and so different from what was out there at the time,” he says. “What do you get the person who has everything and is a pet lover? A photo session!” Dratfield’s private clients and book projects keep him hopping across continents, from the elegantly manicured enclaves of Beverly Hills to the volcanic terrain of Iceland and the wetlands of Yeehaw Junction, Florida. A client flew him down to Yeehaw Junction, aka Jackass Junction, to photograph a prized hunting dog. “It was like something out of Deliverance,” he recalls. “The ranch manager, Peanut Pitt, couldn’t meet me because he was taking his daughter deer hunting for her 14th birthday; so his wife, Spanky, met me at the gate. I called my wife and said, ‘If I don’t come back alive…’” Although he’s suffered his share of bites, scratches and knock-downs from his four-or-more-legged subjects, Dratfield finds pet owners to be challenging as well. “There was the therapist who was French kissing her dog in bed and wanted pictures of that,” he says. And a pair of renowned folk art collectors suggested posing their dogs drinking out of a toy toilet. “The craziest shoot I ever did was for a woman who had two cheetahs,” recalls Dratfield. “I went into this gated area with her and the cheetahs, and was a little nervous. One rubbed up against me, but I got the images.

Three weeks later, the woman was mauled by those cheetahs. I’m lucky I survived. I got them on a good day.” Dratfield’s celebrity gigs have taken him to Henry Kissinger’s backyard, where the shirtless statesman fussed and cooed over his black Lab while his wife, Nancy, and mother stood by. And there were jaunts to London to photograph British Labour Party Leader Baron Roy Hattersley’s Bull Terrier and to Jupiter, Florida, to shoot the St. Louis Cardinals with their dogs during spring training. While the furry companions of such mega-celebrities as Jennifer Aniston, Elton John, Kathy Bates, Charlize Theron, Jack Hanna and Oscar de la Renta can be found on Dratfield’s résumé, he is equally proud of his painstaking work on The Quotable Equine. For this exquisite book, published by Clarkson Potter in 2003, he insisted on travelling across Europe and Asia to photograph horses in their distinctive habitats. “With horses, it’s hard to get their personality the way you can with a dog or a cat,” observes Dratfield. “I thought the only way I was going to succeed was to take a cultural element and incorporate that into the imagery.” Whether he’s zooming in on a quizzical pug or a doleful dachshund, an ant farm, turtle or elephant, Dratfield believes that one constant fuels all of his photo shoots: the profound bond between pets and their owners. “You get unconditional love from pets that you don’t get anywhere else,” he says. “If a person is normally uncomfortable in front of a camera, when they’re holding their pet, they’re less self-conscious and more apt to give you something spontaneous because they’re expressing their love.” “I’ve done shoots for the biggest CEO; but when he’s out of the board room and around his little kitten, he’s making kitty noises and talking gibberish. People let down their guard with me. I ultimately see their best sides because they love their pets.”

Dratfield has no regrets about giving up acting for Petography, Inc. because he’s continually reminded that his life’s work makes a difference. “I get calls when a client’s animal passes away. They’ll say, ‘Your pictures meant a lot to me at the time, but now they’ll immortalize my pet in a way that I didn’t even realize.’ That makes me feel good because I’m not doing brain surgery, but I know I’m doing something that gives people contentment.” 

Editor’s Note: You can see more of Jim’s photos by logging on to Judith Trojan has written and edited more than 1,000 film and television reviews and celebrity profiles for books, magazines and newsletters. Her interviews have run the gamut from best-selling authors Mary Higgins Clark, Ann Rule and Frank McCourt to cultural touchstones Ken Burns, Carroll O’Connor, Judy Collins and Caroll Spinney (aka Big Bird). Make sure to check out Judith’s FrontRowCenter blog at


Line in the Sand

And the Winner Is

We Americans are a competitive breed. We go for the gold and shoot for the stars. Perhaps that’s why more than 50 million of us drop everything to tune into the Oscars, Emmys, Tonys & Golden Globes…and countless millions more follow the pre- and post-show activities on our TVs, iPads, laptops and smart phones. It certainly explains why New Jerseyans are particularly proud when “one of our own” takes the stage to grab a piece of that coveted hardware. Here’s a look at some Garden Staters who have taken Acting Out to award-winning extremes…

The Envelope Please…

Michael Douglas (b. 1944, New Brunswick) • Received his first Oscar in 1975 as Best Picture producer (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). • Accepted the 1987 Best Actor Oscar as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. • Won 3 Golden Globes (including one as producer of Romancing the Stone).

Linda Hunt (b. 1945 Morristown) • Won the 1983 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for playing Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously, becoming the first person to win for portraying someone of the opposite sex.

Jack Nicholson (b. 1937 Neptune) • One of only three actors to win three Oscars (two for Best Actor in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and As Good as It Gets and one for Best Supporting Actor in 1983 for Terms of Endearment). • Record holder for most nominations (8 for Best Actor and 4 for Best Supporting Actor).

Joe Pesci (b. 1943 Newark) • Won 1991 Best Supporting Oscar for Good Fellas. • Nominated 10 years earlier for Raging Bull.

Eva Marie Saint (b. 1924 Newark) • Won Best Supporting Oscar for On the Waterfront. • Received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in A Hatful of Rain. • Won an Emmy for the mini-series People Like Us in 1990.

Frank Sinatra (b. 1915 Hoboken) • Won the 1954 Best Supporting Oscar as Maggio in From Here to Eternity and was nominated for Best Actor two years later as The Man with the Golden Arm. • A trio of Oscars for Best Original Song, and Golden Globe Best Actor wins for Pal Joey and Come Blow Your Horn. • Hosted the Academy Awards broadcast in 1963. • Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Reagan in 1985.

Kevin Spacey (b. 1959 South Orange) • Won his first Oscar as Best Supporting Actor in 1996 for The Usual Suspects, and his second as Best Actor in American Beauty in 1999. • Artistic director of London’s Old Vic theatre since 2003.

Meryl Streep (b. 1949 Summit) • Nominated an astonishing 16 times (more than any other actor), winning it twice (for Kramer vs Kramer and Sophie’s Choice). • Received the most Golden Globe nominations (25 total, winning 7). • Earned a pair of Emmys and a Tony nomination, as well as the 2004 American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

John Travolta (b. 1954 Englewood) • Won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in Get Shorty. • Nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction.

No Time Like Primetime…

Danny DeVito (b. 1944 Neptune) • Won both the 1980 Golden Globe and 1981 Emmy as Louie De Palma on Taxi. • Earned an Oscar nomination as co-producer of Erin Brockovich in 2001.

Peter Dinklage (b. 1969 Morristown) • Won 2011 Best Supporting Emmy for HBO’s Game of Thrones.

John Forsythe (b. 1918 Penns Grove) • Nominated for Golden Globe six times, winning twice. • Emmy-nominated 4 times.

James Gandolfini (b. 1961 Westwood) • Won three Emmys as Tony in The Sopranos.

Ernie Kovacs (b. 1919 Trenton) • Received his only Emmy posthumously. • Emmy-nominated three times for The Ernie Kovacs Show.

Loretta Swit (b. 1937 Passaic) • Won a pair of Emmys as Hot Lips on M*A*S*H.

Jack Warden (b. 1920 Newark) • Won an Emmy for playing George Halas in Brian’s Song. • Oscar-nominated for Shampoo (1976) and Heaven Can Wait (1979).

Curtain Call

Jason Alexander (b. 1959 Newark) • Won a Tony pre-Seinfeld for his appearance in Jerome Robbins Broadway in 1989. • Earned Emmy nominations each year from 1992 to 1998.

Nikki James (b. 1951 Summit) • Won a 2011 Tony as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for The Book of Mormon.

Jane Krakowski (b. 1968 Parsippany) • Nominated for a 1990 Tony for Grand Hotel and won in 2003 for her performance in Nine. • Nominated for Emmys 2009–2011 for 30 Rock.

Phyllis Newman (b. 1933 Jersey City) • Edged out Barbra Streisand for the 1961 Tony for her role in Subways are for Sleeping.

Some Very Honorable Mentions These New Jerseyans made huge contributions on stage, screen and television but were overlooked when it came time to pass out the serious hardware…

Bud Abbott (b. Asbury Park 1895)

Lou Costello (b 1906 Paterson)

Jerry Lewis (b. 1926 Newark)

Judith Light (b. 1949 Trenton)

Ozzie Nelson (b. 1906 Jersey City)

Unmentionable • The cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore. • Anyone who watches it.

A Sniff of Victory

  At the Union County Kennel Club Show, there’s competition at both ends of the leash.

The problem with a bright idea is that sometimes it becomes a do-it-yourself project. During a fit of `insomnia last January I found myself watching a silly late-night cable show called Animal Champions. It got me thinking about what makes an “official” champion in the animal world. A few days later I assigned a writer to attend the 101st Union County Kennel Club Show—held near the southern tip of New Jersey, at the Wildwood Convention Center—and try to capture the spirit of competition in a fun and lively story. Alas, the original writer, having been stuck in one too many snowdrifts during the winter that wouldn’t quit, bowed out after hearing rumors that the top two-thirds of the Garden State Parkway might be a sheet of ice on the morning in question. With one child in college and another getting close, a gruesome highway death didn’t seem to have the same downside for me, so I agreed to go in her place. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should point out here that I am not a dog person. And they seem to know it. Even “my own” dog—the one my wife and daughters outvoted me on 3-to- 1—is careful not to irritate me. I’ll spare you my troubled history with canine-Americans. Not that it isn’t interesting. It’s just that I can’t stand it when other people yammer on about their childhood this and childhood that. Upon arriving at the convention center, I was greeted with open arms by show officials, who cheerfully tolerated me as I got my facts straight and asked a lot of stupid questions over a quick lunch. Then it was out onto the floor. My goal? Quietly observe, form an opinion, and then dig-dig-dig until I understood what it means to compete at a real dog show. What surprised me after watching several breeds go through judging was that the dogs were not eyeing one another or trying to intimidate each other, at least not that I could tell. They were completely absorbed by their work. And make no mistake, they treated it like work. It’s a job they love, of course—a champion show dog has to enjoy the experience. However, there was no interplay between the animals even when they were standing inches apart in the ring. It was a little weird, but I got it. These were the “pros” of canine competition. Whatever makes my dog run in crazed circles around vehicles exiting—but not entering— our driveway had been bred out of these animals. Still, this was a competition, with money and prestige at stake. Someone in the building was driven to win. I just had to find out whom. I decided to cruise the aisles between the different handlers. Each had a space staked out, with dogs in crates, dogs on grooming stands, and dogs on their way to and from the judging rings. An unattended Cocker Spaniel eyed me with suspicion and I returned its glance with a raised eyebrow. I hadn’t lost my touch. The animal leaped off the table and ran down the aisle in front of me, causing a brief panic. I felt bad, like I’d broken something in an antique shop. Since the dogs clearly were not going to help me, I turned my attention to the people preparing them for competition. I’m better with people anyway. Among the many top handlers and trainers present at this event was one who towered over the rest, at least figuratively. His name is Kaz Hosaka, and he is to the poodle world what Michael Jordan is to basketball. Smooth, clever, elegant and nearly unbeatable. (And he’s been on Charlie Rose, so take that other poodle handlers!) Based out of Greenwood, Delaware, Hosaka attends as many as 150 shows a year and has been honing poodles like samurai swords for three decades. You do the math. The important number is #1, and he has racked up a bunch of ’em during his career, including the #1 toy poodle in 2010. Hosaka is a “finisher” of dogs. In other words, if you think you’ve lucked into a great poodle, Kaz is the man who knows how to transform it into a champion. He won’t take a dog unless he truly believes it can be a winner. Often he must break the bad news: This is a wonderful pet, but not a show dog. That being said, Hosaka will consider animals that other handlers have turned down because they may be too difficult. “I am the last stop,” he smiles. “If I can’t do it, nobody can.” Like many in his profession, Hosaka (left) is a handler of owners, too. Most ship their dogs off like boarding-school kids, dropping in occasionally to monitor their progress at important shows. The bulk of handler-owner contact is accomplished over the phone. When one does appear at an event, Hosaka’s rule number-one is don’t come near his set-up and throw your poodle off its game. Helicopter parenting may be tolerated in the human world, but during shows it is definitely frowned upon. One owner who left her dog alone was Charlize Sutton, and the strategy paid off. Her confident little Norwich Terrier went out and blew the fleas off the competition, grabbing Best in Breed. Charlize had more pressing matters to attend to, barely acknowledging the victory. She had her nose buried in an iPad, watching Dora the Explorer. Charlize is two—by far the youngest owner I could locate, though probably not, a neighboring groomer whispered to me, the least mature. Charlize (right) was stationed in a portable playpen in the midst of a dizzying ballet involving three humans, 17 dogs and a seemingly endless array of clippers, snippers, brushes and blowers, each of which was wielded with maximum expertise and minimum effort. Her parents, Jessy and Roxanne, along with assistant Tom Durst, have a first-class operation back in Narvon, Pennsylvania, and they get paid well for the work they do. The Suttons were on a winning streak when I barged into their little corner of doggie heaven. Miles, a regal, self-possessed Rhodesian Ridgeback, was returning from the judging ring with, yawn, another Best in Breed nod. Miles looked like he could stare down a lion (which, apparently, he was bred for), and so did Jessy. He handles the working breeds at shows, while Roxanne works her magic with terriers. “We are sticklers for conditioning,” Jessy responded when I asked what gave his dogs an edge. “When an owner hires us, it may not seem cost-effective right away, but the constant work we do pays off in the long run, because we finish dogs quickly.” Is the flip side of this equation, I wondered, that owners apply a huge amount of pressure? The Suttons confirmed this after getting off the phone with Miles’s owner, reporting the Rhodie’s win within seconds of the judge’s decision. “The owners who hire us believe they should win every time,” says Jessy, adding quickly that “it’s okay, because that’s the attitude we have. We want to win every time, too. Of course, not even the number-one dog in the country wins breed in every show—if they did no one would show. It would be boring.” After talking to a half-dozen handlers I began to wonder how often owners actually show their own dogs. The people I asked offered wildly varying percentages, but I could tell the number isn’t high. Basically, owners who can afford show dogs tend to work for a living and therefore rarely have the time to show them. Those that do are more likely to participate in a weekend show as opposed to mid-week ones like this one.

It is accepted wisdom, however, that owners don’t “shine” the way top handlers do, meaning they are not as adept at pushing a dog’s best attributes to influence judges. What is the price tag for a top handler? Hang on to your teeth. To take a dog from obscurity to the Westminster Kennel Club Show can easily cost $250,000. One breeder described the animals that reach Westminster as “Yale pHd’s.” My first thought was that a quarter-million is a bargain for any kind of advanced degree from Yale, even for a dog. (And believe me, I know a few.) Then I wondered how much of that goes to the handler? The answer is a lot, but also not as much as you’d think. A huge chunk covers the endless travel and other costs that mount up at this level of the game. That being said, dog handlers with a winning track record do generate handsome six-figure incomes, especially when they work with several championship dogs at once. This was something of a revelation to me. I was frankly astounded. Although, when you sit down with a pad and paper (as I did) and actually work out the huge amounts of time and travel involved, it makes a lot of sense. They may make a nice living, but they definitely earn it. Suddenly it dawned on me where the true competition was at these shows. For my first four hours I had been looking at the wrong end of the leash. Follow the money, right? Every win is a notch in a handler‘s belt, and every notch has a dollar value attached to it. More wins demand higher finishing and showing fees, and at the big shows there is serious bonus money, too. Come away from a few shows empty-handed and the phone might stop ringing. Simply put, the real competitors at these shows are not the dogs. They are the handlers. The competition is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s deadly serious, yet only in the rarest circumstances could it be considered cutthroat. You get that after you’ve talked to a few handlers. They are focused and tense and totally on their games. But they honestly adore what they do and adhere to a strict code of conduct and ethics. Apparently, there are enough owners, enough shows and enough money to keep everyone happy. Including my friends, the dogs. EDGE

Stars & their Cars

Cool New Jersey

 More remarkable stuff has happened here per square mile than in any other state in the nation. These are the cold, hard facts.

 Where would the planet be without New Jersey? Resist, if you can, the urge to crack wise and consider seriously for a moment the gravity of this question. Yes, we have given the world an occasional glimpse of our seamier underside. A submerged mobster may resurface from time to time in the Hackensack River. Occasionally a few civic leaders might get mixed up in some organ theft. And, okay, far too many of our youth are comfortable using the word “allegedly.” However, these are all mere jug handles on the road to greatness that our state has traveled. In these pages, EDGE celebrates the remarkable people, places and things that make New Jersey the hottest thing going.


New Jersey’s coolest “crooners”…

1. Frank Sinatra (Hoboken) Never recorded Newark, Newark. Why?

2. Dionne Warwick (East Orange) Her collaboration with Burt Bacharach made music history.

3. Paul Robeson (Princeton) Magnificent bass-baritone and stage actor, his three-year run as Othello in the 1940s still holds the Broadway record for any Shakespeare play.

4. Frankie Valli (Newark) Just too good to be true. He made Jersey Boys as famous as Jersey Girls.

5. Connie Francis (Newark) Where the Boys Are star grew up in the Ironbound neighborhood. Honorable Mention: Donald Fagen (Passaic) Depends on whether or not you like Steely Dan.


New Jersey’s coolest jazz artists…

1. Count Basie (Red Bank) Led his own groundbreaking band for 50 years.

2. Sarah Vaughn (Newark) Her PBS performance with the NJ Symphony in 1980 ranks among the greatest TV moments in jazz history.

3. Dizzy Gillespie (Englewood) Those cheeks…spectacular!

4. Jimmy Johnson (New Brunswick) Gifted pianist helped transform Ragtime into early jazz.

5. Wayne Shorter (Newark) Saxophone virtuoso was a Newark Arts High School grad.

Honorable Mention: George Benson (Englewood Cliffs) Legendary jazz guitarist is a long-time Bergen County resident.


New Jersey’s coolest rap and hip-hop stars…

1. Queen Latifah (Newark) Just celebrated her 20th year in the biz.

2. Lauryn Hill (South Orange) She and Zach Braff were friends and classmates at Columbia High in Maplewood.

3. Ice T (Newark) From Gansta Rap pioneer to TV cop on Law & Order SVU. Only in America.

4. Poor Righteous Teachers (Trenton) Who could forget this socially conscious hip-hop trio’s haunting single, Butt Naked Booty Bless?

5. Faith Evans (Newark) Wife of the late Notorious B.I.G. has three platinum albums to her credit.

Honorable Mention: Naughty By Nature (East Orange) Renamed East Orange “Ill-town.” But you knew that already, didn’t you?


New Jersey’s coolest music superstars…

1. Bruce Springsteen (Freehold) The Boss. Top of the list. Period.

2. Whitney Houston (East Orange) First wowed the world as a teen soloist at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark.

3. Jon Bon Jovi (Sayreville) The hits keep coming.

4. Southside Johnny (Ocean Grove) The hippest thing ever to come out of Ocean Grove.

5. Les Paul and Mary Ford (Mahwah) Their Bergen County home studio turned out a bunch of #1 hits in the early ’50s.

Honorable Mention: Paul Simon (Newark) Moved to Queens when he was a baby, so not a “real” New Jerseyan. No truth to the rumor that Bridge Over Troubled Waters was actually the Goethals Bridge.


New Jersey’s coolest acting talent…

1. Meryl Streep (Summit) A Bernards High School grad!

2. Jack Nicholson (Neptune City) You make me want to be a better man.

3. Ed Harris (Tenafly) Captain of the Tenafly High football team.

4. Tom Cruise (Glen Ridge) Cut from the Glen Ridge High football team.

5. Bruce Willis (Penns Grove) We forgive you for Hudson Hawk. Actually, no we don’t.

Honorable Mention: Frank Langella (Bayonne) He brought Dracula to life on Broadway.


New Jersey’s coolest mobbed-up television and movie stars…

1. James Gandolfini (Westwood) Raised in Park Ridge,

graduated from Rutgers— a bona fide Jersey Boy.

2. Ray Liotta (Union) You’re a pistol, you’re really funny.

3. Joe Pesci (Newark) I’m funny how? I mean funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I’m here to amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?

4. Steven Van Zandt (Middletown) A member of the E Street Band and The Sopranos… that’s a Jersey Double.

5. Joe Pantoliano (Hoboken) Joey Pants, yet another Sopranos alum.

Honorable Mention: Sterling Hayden (Upper Montclair) Film Noir heavy played the police captain gunned down by Michael Corleone in The Godfather.


New Jersey’s coolest authors and poets…

1. Allen Ginsberg (Paterson) The best of the Beat Generation poets.

2. Dorothy Parker (Long Branch) A leading light of the fabled Algonquin Roundtable.

3. Norman Mailer (Long Branch) The Naked and the Dead was on the best-seller list for 62 weeks.

4. Philip Roth (Newark) Several of his novels are set in Newark’s old Weequahic neighborhood.

5. William Carlos Williams (Rutherford) Haven’t read the epic poem Paterson? And you call yourself a New Jerseyan!

Honorable Mention: Walt Whitman (Camden) His New Jersey retirement cottage was the epicenter of American literary culture in the late 1880s.


New Jersey’s coolest comic performers…

1. Jon Stewart (Lawrenceville) Reminds us each night that the news is an inexhaustible source of laughs.

2. Danny DeVito (Neptune) Grew up in Asbury Park, went to boarding school (Louie DePalma—a preppie?) in Summit.

3. Bud Abbott (Asbury Park) and Lou Costello (Paterson) Heyyyyy Aaaabbottttt!

4. Nathan Lane (Jersey City) Born Joe Lane, he changed his name to Nathan in honor of Nathan Detroit of Guys and Dolls.

5. Ernie Kovacs (Trenton) Only a guy from New Jersey could have come up with a three gorilla version of Swan Lake.

Honorable Mention: Jerry Lewis (Newark) Ranks higher on French lists.


New Jersey’s coolest pugilists…

1. Joe Walcott (Merchantville) Won the heavyweight crown at age 37. Anyone nicknamed Jersey Joe goes to the top of the list, right?

2. Marvin Hagler (Newark) Marvelous Marvin was undisputed champion for almost eight years.

3. James Braddock (North Bergen) Played by Russell Crowe on the screen, the Cinderella Man was born in New York but fought out of Hudson County.

4. Mickey Walker (Elizabeth) A beloved champion, the middleweight often beat heavier boxers.

5. Tony Galento (Orange) Two-Ton Tony once knocked down Joe Louis in a title fight. He also wrestled a bear and an octopus, and acted in Guys and Dolls and On the Waterfront.

Honorable Mention: Hurricane Carter   

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock


New Jersey’s coolest political figures…

1. Grover Cleveland (Caldwell) Our 24th President, and the only one from the Garden State.

2. Aaron Burr (Newark) Killed Alexander Hamilton and tried to start his own county. Those nutty Princeton grads!

3. Frank Hague (Jersey City) For 30 years, no one in the state sneezed without his permission.

4. Thomas Kean (Hillside) 9/11 Commissioner set the bar high for NJ governors.

5. William Brennan (Newark) Progressive Supreme Court Justice was best known for his “absence of malice” stand.

Honorable Mention: Chris Christie (Newark) Um…we’re still waiting for that groundbreaking EDGE interview.


New Jersey’s coolest cultural pioneers…

1. Alice Paul (Mt. Laurel) Took the fight for suffrage to unprecedented heights and won wo

men the right to vote in 1918.

2. Buzz Aldrin (Glen Ridge) His mom’s maiden name was—you guessed it—Moon.

3. Bull Halsey (Elizabeth) Guided the USS Enterprise through key battles in World War II.

4. James Marshall (Hopewell Twp.) The original Blingmeister—first to discover gold in California.

5. Alfred Kinsey (Hoboken) Known as the Father of Sexology….wait, I thought that was Barry White.

Honorable Mention: Martha Stewart (Nutley) Thanks to her, we all can be perfect.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock


New Jersey’s coolest coaches…

1. Amos Alonzo Stagg (West Orange) A member of the very first All-America team in 1889, he went on to rewrite the playbook for college football.

2. Vince Lombardi (Englewood) Began his legendary coaching career at St. Cecilia’s in Bergen County. More importantly, has a rest stop named after him on the NJ Turnpike.

3. Bill Parcells (Hasbrouck Heights) The Big Tuna was born and raised in Bergen County.

4. Bob Hurley, Sr. (Jersey City) 900-plus victories, 20-plus championships and the coach behind the Miracle of St. Anthony’s.

5. Gene Wettstone (West New York) Gymnastics guru coached Penn State to nine national championships between 1948 and 1976.

Honorable Mention: Effa Manley (Newark) Co-owned (but never coached) the Newark Eagles in the 1930s and 1940s, she was the first woman enshrined in the Baseball


New Jersey’s coolest sports leaders…

1. Carl Lewis (Willingboro) Won Olympic gold in ’84, ‘88, ‘92 and ‘96. Top that Michael Phelps.

2. Marty Liquori (Cedar Grove) Marty ran a sub-4:00 mile… in high school!

3. Rick Barry (Roselle Park) Last of the underhand free throw shooters.

4. Larry Doby (Paterson) He and Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line in 1947.

5. Franco Harris (Mt. Holly) Steelers’ star was John Grisham’s favorite football player.

Honorable Mention: Derek Jeter (Pequannock Twp.) and Shaquille O’Neal (Newark) Both were born in Jersey but grew up elsewhere, so it’s a tie.


New Jersey’s coolest sporting events…

1. Princeton vs. Rutgers (New Brunswick 1869) The first intercollegiate football game. The first tailgaters convened three hours before kickoff.

2. Cosmos vs. Santos (East Rutherford 1977) In his farewell game in jam-packed Giants Stadium, Pele scored in the first half for the Cosmos, then switched sides and scored for his old Brazilian team in the second half. His fame helped America land World Cup 94.

3. Jersey City Giants vs. Montreal Royals (Jersey City 1946) In his first game as a pro, Jackie Robinson electrified the crowd at Roosevelt Stadium with four hits and four runs in Montreal’s 14–1 victory.

4. Ederle Sets Record (Sandy Hook 1925) Gertrude Ederle set a record for the 21-mile swim that stood for more than 80 years. A year later she stroked her way across the English Channel.

5. Knickerbocker Club vs. New York Club (Hoboken 1846) The famous

“first” baseball game took place at the Elysian Field. Shhh…rumor has it that baseball was being played for 20 years before this in New York City.

Honorable Mention: Let Pepe Play! (Trenton 1974) Two years after Little League Baseball banned Hoboken’s Maria Pepe from playing with the boys, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in her favor. Today 50,000 girls play Little League baseball!

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock


New Jersey’s coolest roadways…

1. Boulevard East (Weehawken) New Yorkers pay through the nose for their Hudson River apartments, but the million-dollar view is really from the Jersey side in Northern Hudson County.

2. Green Sergeant’s Bridge (Sergeantsville) Beloved covered bridge. Scheduled to be replaced in 1960, it was rebuilt after public outcry from the people of Sergeantsville and their neighbors.

3. George Washington Bridge Iconic structure drops to #3 here because half of it is in New York.

4. Pulaski Skyway This engineering marvel gained national historic status in 2005.

5. Oceanic Bridge (Rumson & Middletown) Spanning Monmouth County’s Navesink River, it’s considered by many to be the most beautiful bridge in the state.

Honorable Mention: Bayonne Bridge One of the longest and loveliest steel arch bridges in the world.


New Jersey’s coolest tourist destinations…

1. Statue of Liberty As of 1987, Liberty Island is officially ours!

2. Atlantic City Boardwalk The longest boardwalk in the world…. but sadly, no longer home to the Miss America Pageant.

3. Jersey Shore From Sandy Hook south, more than 120 miles of beautiful beaches.

4. Cape May New Jersey’s #1 tourist destination.

5. Twin Lights The Highlands landmark was America’s launch pad for optics, wireless communications and radar technology.

Honorable Mention: Ellis Island Among the immigrants who came through this gateway were Bob Hope, Bela Lugosi, Charles Atlas and Chef Boyardee.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock


Coolest New Jersey inventions…

1. Light Bulb (Edison) Edison was actually known as Raritan Township at the time.

2. Movie Camera (Edison) Menlo Park Mall is good. Menlo Park Museum is better.

3. Phonograph (Edison) Another Edison invention. Noticing a pattern here?

4. Transistor (New Providence) A little power in, a lot of power out. The first working one came out of Bell Labs in 1947.

5. Charge-Coupled Device (Holmdel) Another miracle from Bell Labs, circa 1969. The CCD is the key component in optical devices ranging from the Hubble Telescope to the camera in your cell phone.

Honorable Mention: Electric Chair (Edison) and Jughandle (Montville) A tie—quick death vs. slow one.


Coolest New Jersey discoveries…

1. Radio (Highlands) Marconi proved the commercial viability of wireless communication here in 1899.

2. The Big Bang (Holmdel) Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias proved this controversial theory with their experiments in cosmic background radiation at Bell Labs in 1964.

3. Dinosaurs (Haddonfield) The 1858 discovery of the aptly named Hadrosaur in a New Jersey marl pit launched American paleontology.

4. Antibiotics (Piscataway) Rutgers-educated Nobel Prize winner Selman Waksman developed (and named) these disease-fighting drugs in the 1940s.

5. Zincite (Franklin) Rare zinc oxide crystals, abundant only in New Jersey, were the “crystals” used in the first radio Crystal Sets before the advent of vacuum tubes.

Honorable Mention: Valium (Nutley) Making it all better since 1963. Thank you, Hoffmann–La Roche.


New Jersey’s coolest headlines…

1. Hindenburg Disaster (Lakehurst 1937) Definitely not a miracle of German engineering.

2. Lindbergh Kidnapping (East Amwell 1932) H.L. Mencken called the abduction of the hero aviator’s son the “biggest story since the Resurrection.”

3. Martian Landing (Grover’s Mill 1938) Orson Welles’s Halloween prank proved the power of radio.

4. President Garfield Dies (Elberon 1881) He moved to the Jersey Shore two months after an assassination attempt and died 13 days later.

5. Black Tom Blast (Jersey City 1916) World War I sabotage in New York Harbor riddled the Statue of Liberty and shook windows all the way to Philadelphia.

Honorable Mention: Washington Crosses the Delaware (Titusville 1776) No actual headlines, but too important to leave out.


New Jersey’s coolest edibles…

1. Jersey Tomatoes Technically a fruit… which is probably why it’s New Jersey’s official state vegetable.

2. Jersey White Corn Sweet and tender. Hey, no stripping the corn in the store!

3. Salt Water Taffy Your dentist has just ordered new furniture for his living room.

4. Jersey Blueberries Once thought to be poisonous, today’s blueberries are the result of early genetic engineering.

5. Jersey Eggplant We grow more than any state in the nation. Can you say rollatini?

Honorable Mention: Taylor Pork Roll Introduced by John Taylor of Trenton. Unchanged since the 1850s. Why mess with…urp…perfection?


New Jersey’s coolest cultural “firsts”…

1. Air Mail The first Air Mail service went via sea plane from Keyport to Chicago in the 1920s.

2. Diners The first gleaming pre-fab diners were made in Elizabeth during World War I.

3. Drive-In Movies The world’s first opened for business in Pennsauken in 1933.

4. Lazy Susan Keyport again! The first was produced by William Beadle in 1854.

5. Campbell’s Soup The Camden company was an international brand more than a half-century before Andy Warhol turned its cans into pop art. Now sold in 120 countries.

Honorable Mention: MTV’s Jersey Shore Proving you don’t have to be good to be cool.



Some final cool things about New Jersey that the world has yet to fully appreciate…

1. No Self-Serve Gas If I had the choice, I’d never fill ’er up in another state.

2. Pledge of Allegiance First recited as the National Loyalty Oath at the Twin Lights in Highlands in 1893.

3. The Pine Barrens A UN International Biosphere Reserve and home of the Jersey Devil. What’s not to like?

4. Omission of T’s in the middle of words Mitten, Kitten, Bitten.

5. Omission of R’s at the end of words …Ovuh, Rovuh, Clovuh.

Honorable Mention: Kelly Ripa Liked her on All My Children. Love her on Live with Regis.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Christine Gibbs, Rachel Rutledge, Mariah Morgan, Caleb MacLean and Lily Kennedy for their work on this feature. Special thanks to the Twin Light Historical Society ( Memorabilia images courtesy of Upper Case Editorial Services.