Lola Latin Bistro

The Lola in Lola Latin Bistro, isn’t a person, but an attitude. “The name Lola sounds fun and exotic and Latin,” says Grace Castagnetto, the 25-year-old chef who inspired this fiesta of a restaurant in Metuchen, which is exactly that—fun, exotic and very Latin.

It’s a party, Lola Latin Bistro, a lunchtime/dinnertime celebration of Castagnetto’s spirited takes on the foods she grew up with in a Peruvian household in Perth Amboy coupled with what she learned as a culinary student in New York and as a mainstay in the kitchen of the venerable Frog & the Peach restaurant in New Brunswick. That’s where restaurateur Nick Borzone met her and decided to create a restaurant that would showcase her talents. Thus was born Lola, a hot-pot of Latin flavors accented with the young chef’s awareness of global trends and ingredients. Does it work? One look around the high-energy parlor of a dining room on an SRO weekend night tells you food and diners are clicking, big time. There are bountiful bowls of Brazilian fish stew, fat pork chops plated with a colorful pineapple-jalapeno salsa and cocktail glasses of ceviches going out to tables and, momentarily, stopping conversation. If folks in the area who knew this spot on Durham Avenue as the longtime home to a traditional Italian restaurant had their doubts when Lola opened a year ago, they don’t today. Lola is a firing-on-all-cylinders smash. That’s probably because Castagnetto has the gumption to turn garlic shrimp on its ear, taking a same-old, same-old starter and bumping up its flavor quotient with an infusion of warming, smoky-sweet guajillo chilies. She brushes baby pork ribs with mango and a mix of hot-woodsy spices, cooks them till they’re spoon-tender and elicits swoons from diners. This chef knows how to seduce. She pays homage to her South American heritage with empanadas that are basic and beautiful, such as the pockets of pastry filled with goat cheese and olives, or luxurious and alluring, such as the little bites stuffed with shreds of filet mignon.

If you need to choose, go with the basic, since the beef empanada falls shy on juiciness and seasoning. But there’s nothing shy about the meaty chorizo con queso, with its tandem of heat-licked Spanish sausage tempered by a wash of tangy cheese that you roll into a flour tortilla. Tuna tartare goes Latin here courtesy of tortilla-shaped crisps that provided a cheery textural counterpoint to the silky seafood. I didn’t think the starter needed the schmear of guacamole between fish and chip; if anything, it clouded the play between main elements. Think you know all about jalapeno? You can’t, not unless you’ve experienced Castagnetto’s garlic-and-ajipanca-marinated pork tenderloin. She gives the pork a night in the marinade that lets the ancho-esque taste of the Peruvian ajipanca chile shine and then plates it with a jalapeno puree tamed by slow cooking with scents of cumin and sea salt.

She coaxes an uncommon sweetness out of the normally hot jalapeno, allowing it to bring out the best in the pork. Factor in a heap of lime licked Spanish coleslaw on the side, and it’s an entrée sensation. That Brazilian seafood stew shows the care taken by the kitchen to make sure each shrimp, mussel, clam or piece of fin fish struts its stuff in the broth of onion-strewn tomatoes. Salmon isn’t shortchanged, but coupled with mango that glazes the rich fish and makes it taste like a whole new species. But the biggest and best surprise of the night was what the chef did with chicken: Pumped up by bright citrus flavors and a burst of cilantro, then set astride rice enriched by coconut milk and flecked with scallions, chicken gets a full-regalia makeover from wallflower to prom queen.

We leaned in to discuss dessert options, necessary because, by this point in the night, the party at Lola was in full swing and the noise level bordering on nightclub. The loquacious host came by to advise, a server who confided his sideline is sweets pitched in his two pennies and, of course, we’d spied finales being delivered to tables around us. The skinny? Don’t miss the tres-leches cake, probably the best version of the Latin three-milks cake I’ve had in the state —moist, not too sweet and creamy-textured as it was. And the flan, a wiggly, eggy, thoroughly custardy rendition of the classic. It’s hard to leave a good party. But at Lola Latin Bistro, I suspect the party’s only started.

Editors Note: Andy Clurfeld is a former editor of Zagat New Jersey. The longtime food critic for the Asbury Park Press also has been published in Gourmet, Saveur and Town & Country, and on


After Midnight

New Jersey in the wee small hours

In the wee small hours, not all of New Jersey is in REM state I am an early bird. It has nothing to do with catching the proverbial worm; my day job in the financial sector simply required me to be up at the crack of dawn. No Late Night with Letterman. No Conan. No 1:00 a.m. road trips to the Wendy’s Drive-Thru. Whatever the rest of New Jersey was up to after midnight was of little interest to me. Then came the financial vortex of 2008–09, which inhaled my position and proceeded to transform me into an insomniac. I became the earliest of birds, a night owl. I soon found myself downloading songs on the Internet and dancing like no one was watching. Because no one was watching. It was time to get out and see what the rest of New Jersey was up to in the wee small hours. My first stop? That was easy. It was time to really learn how to dance.

CHEEK TO CHEEK Dancing in the dark is not just a Springsteen thing. The Fred Astaire Dance Studio—with six locations across the state— welcomed me with open arms when I requested an after midnight session. By appointment, these professionally run studios, manned by champion dancers, bowed to my presence. The first words I heard after all the midnight pleasantries were exchanged were: “Shall we?” The rest was a little slice of history. As I was leaving the studio another nocturnal soul came lilting in, ready to dance the rest of the night (or, technically, the morning) away.

HOME INVASION Somewhere this evening in the Garden State, a group of ladies is enjoying a truly moving experience. They are spending the night in heaven courtesy of the Pampered Soul, whose magnificent, mobile spa rolls into your driveway to perform candlelight massages, facials, manicures, pedicures and other rejuvenating amenities.

’VETTE FLIX The good old days are still here if you’ve got a decent GPS. The Warwick Drive-In Theatre in Vernon and Delsea Drive- In Theatre in Vineland run movies past midnight and offer fully stocked concession stands. Hot buttered popcorn. A box of Junior Mints. Orange pop. Get the picture?

WINE FOR WATER I never really got over my long-ago infatuation with Love Boat. Perhaps that was what drew me to Lincoln Harbor, where Spirit Midnight Cruises shoves off at 12:30 a.m. and returns around 3:00. The journey begins with a dockside party and then it is smooth sailing on the Hudson in sophisticated style. Though true love eluded me on this particular voyage, the dancing, drinking, food and fun—not to mention the romantic views of the big city—beat the heck out of Circle Line.

NIGHTLY BREAD Whatever pundit wrote Man does not live by bread alone obviously hadn’t heard about Terrigno’s Bakery. The aroma of piping-hot loaves draws devotees down to Bridgeton right up to closing time, in the neighborhood of 12 o’clock. Think crusty on the outside, soft and doughy on the inside; seeded, whole grain, rye, sour dough, French, Italian. And for those who insist a balanced diet is a cookie in each hand, Terrigno’s also turns out a spectacular array of sweets, pastries, cakes, pies, and tarts. Bring an extra pair of hands.

LOUNGE ACT Frank Sinatra’s first group went by the name The Hoboken Four. Old Blue Eyes knew his way around the Mile Square City’s backstreets, bars and juke joints in the 30s, but even he might be overwhelmed by the after-midnight choices in the town today. Among Hoboken’s new and noteworthy hotspots is Lounge 11, at 505 Madison Street. An exclusive nightclub, bar and restaurant, it combines contemporary design with a hip New York atmosphere. The music selection is diverse, as is the crowd scene—especially on weekends.

SPIRIT OF DISCOVERY If you’re searching for weird in New Jersey in the pre-dawn hours, as a rule you shouldn’t have to look very far. If you’d prefer a more structured foray, then head to Ocean City, where eerie sounds and sightings highlight the candlelight strolls led by the Ghost Tours staff. No two tours are alike, says one guide, because “many strange and unusual things have been picked up on digital cameras. At times, even my own hair stands on its ends.”

STAR POWER Leave it to New Jersey’s own Ivy Leaguers to keep our eyes trained skyward all night. The Amateur Astronomers of Princeton have focused their know-how, curiosity and enthusiasm on, an astronomy and cosmology web site that lets us know what to look for on those early a.m. strolls. A 24-hour phone line (609) 737-2575 suggests the best time to wish upon a falling star or view a cosmic display, and alerts callers to sudden developments in the night sky. A recent call described an unusual lunar citing visible at 3:00 a.m. Live updates are also available to Tweeters at princetonastro.

COUNTER CULTURE You knew this was coming, right? New Jersey is world renowned for its diners, and rightfully so. Entire books and web sites have been devoted to the subject. Golly, a whole page in this issue of EDGE has been devoted to diner culture! Rather than debate the relative merits of the Garden State’s classic eateries, I’ve chosen one to represent them all. The Mastoris Diner in Bordentown has been satisfying appetites and clogging arteries for more than four generations. An endless menu only hints at the jaw-dropping portions that cascade out of the Mastoris kitchen—which often serves 2,500 customers a day. Technically this is not an all-night diner; the Mastoris staff catches its breath for a couple of hours after 1:00 a.m. every morning. But that has not kept it from becoming one of Jersey’s most cherished late-night traditions.


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.

It’s A Gift

Saving Grace

 Five essentials for that little bit of Grace in all of us. 

When you name your daughter Grace, let’s face it, you set the bar high. Starting in toddler-hood, the heat is on these girls to be just a bit more refined and elegant than the other kids. As Grace blossoms into young adulthood there comes the added pressure of living up to the divine blessing suggested by her name. And as the years pass, she must make us feel graced by her presence just to stay in our good graces. Let her slip, even for an instant, and—surprise—there is no grace period! In that respect perhaps there is indeed a little Grace in all of us. At least I’d like to think there is. So it’s worth noting that the saving grace of being Grace is that no two Graces are exactly alike. Among the myriad ways to express this individuality is through the products one uses to look and feel wonderful when venturing out into the world. Whichever of the following five Graces you happen to be, here are five essentials you can use to save the day.

GRACE KELLY • ICONIC ACTRESS The quintessential Grace. If anyone were ever just born perfect, it was she. Refined yet warm, bold yet demure, perpetually charming and unyieldingly beautiful. This Grace is sophisticated and chic. She spares no expense, gravitating to CHANEL’S SUBLIMAGE cream ($350, 1 oz.) to keep that million-dollar face in check and JO MALONE’S GRAPEFRUIT cologne ($100, 100 ml) to seduce and mystify. In the crowning glory department, she never forgets to keep her blonde icy with FREDERIC FEKKAI’S very own “Grace” color serum ($30) because flawless hue is essential. And this Grace uses BREMENN RESEARCH LAB’S LUMEDIA FACIAL BRIGHTENER ($90, 3 oz.) and MURAD’S RESURGENCE RENEWAL EYE CREAM ($73, .5 oz.) to remain luminous at any hour.

GRACE SLICK • 60s ROCK GODDESS The rebellious Grace. This Grace is the very essence of revolutionary cool. She is wildly beautiful, a fierce Athena with a twist of Venus. Her spirit is unwavering, yet elegant. She is a mix of earth mother and warrior, of intellect and magic. This Grace wears CREED’S WILD JASMAL perfume ($190, 2.5 oz.), BUMBLE AND BUMBLE Bb.SHINE ($35, 4 oz.) for glossy shag hair, and CHANEL’S navy liquid eyeliner ($45) to enhance her powerful, exotic gaze. It might be said that this particular Grace is known to, ahem, indulge now and again, and that’s one of the reasons we love her. On the flip side of that coin, AMORÉ PACIFIC’S TREATMENT ENZYME PEEL ($60, 2.5 oz) is sure to erase the evidence of any debauchery. Meanwhile, DECLEOR’S 10 DAY RADIANCE POWER CURE ($37, .33 oz) is a quick and holistic fix to brighten her complexion after dehydration from lack of sleep, sun exposure or perhaps, one too many summertime cocktails.

GRACE JONES • SULTRY SUPERMODEL The exotic Grace. She is a modern surrealist. This Grace is fueled by an almost primal force. She is staggeringly, savagely beautiful, and Amazonian in her sensuality. This Grace is not demure; instead her beauty flows from an overt and fabulous artistry. She wears ROBERT PIGUET’S FRACAS perfume ($95, .25 oz.), MAKE UP FOREVER’S NEON PINK POWDER BLUSH ($19), and PHILOSOPHY’S MIMOSA LIP SHINE ($12) for a bold pop art palette. This Grace is nothing if not physical, and to keep her body tip-top, CLINIQUE’S TURNAROUND BODY SMOOTHING CREAM ($28.50, 5 oz) is a unifier on the front against strain and age, while NUDE SKINCARE’S AGE DEFENSE DIETARY SUPPLEMENT ($108, 80 capsules) is an innovative regimen to keep skin tight, firm, and youthful.

GRACIE ALLEN • CLASSIC COMEDIENNE The witty Grace. She is quick and clever. This Grace is the first person you look for at every party, and the last you forget. She is fiercely independent, irresistibly fiery, and complexly rich. What she sacrifices in mystery, she more than compensates for in her confident allure. She wears BOND NO. 9’S WEST SIDE EAU DE PARFUM ($200, 100 ml.), NARS SEPHORA FLAME lipstick ($24), and BARE ESSENTIALS’ BUXOM LASH MASCARA ($18) for deep red, sumptuous lips and bold, beautiful eyes. In a pinch, this Grace turns to CLARINS’ INSTANT LIGHT PERFECTION TOUCH concealer ($30) and DUWOP’S SIDEWINDER CHEEK VENOM ($24, .35 oz) to ensure coverage and a brazen, natural flush.

GRACE GARCIAPARRA • BABY GRACE The Grace of things to come. When you’re the progeny of the ultimate soccer mom (Mia Hamm) and a baseball All-Star (Nomar Garciaparra) you had better soak up all the pampering you can before it’s time to get fitted for that first pair of cleats. WELEDA has the most delicate, organic products in its CALENDULA line. The company’s Starter Kit ($12)—which includes Baby Cream, Lotion, Shampoo/Body Wash, Calendula Oil, and Diaper Care—is as gentle as can be and everyone knows that comfortable baby equals happy mother. When it comes to dressing a toddler, PETIT BATEAU is at the top of the list. Classic, comfortable, and pure products for baby abound. Check out the MILLERAIES LONG-SLEEVE NEWBORN BODYSUIT ($20) and ROBBIE ADRIAN’S VELOUR ORGANIC BABY BLANKET WITH SILK TRIM ($44-$270) for the ultimate in cuddling.

Editor’s Note: Dan Brickley was the host of TLC’s A Makeover Story for three seasons. He has authored numerous articles on fashion and beauty.


Rutgers hoops coach Vivian Stringer

Grant Halverson/Rutgers University

If you had to win one game and could take any coach in the state, Vivian Stringer would unquestionably be among your top candidates. If you could select a coach to guide your daughter through the most important four years of her life, the Rutgers basketball legend would be a no-brainer. Coach Stringer has graced the Garden State with her presence since 1995, and during that time she has elevated the state of the game, both on and off the court. A three time Coach of the Year, she is one of only three people in women’s hoops history to win 800 games.

As it happens, EDGE Assignments Editor ZACK BURGESS has some history with his interview subject—they first crossed paths 10 years ago when he covered her Rutgers team for The New York Times. He knows as well as anyone that her triumphs have not come without their share of tragedy. She has persevered through the deaths of her father and husband, a daughter devastated by meningitis, and a son who nearly lost his life in a car crash. Some people define “grace” as the bestowing of God’s blessing. Zack pulled Vivian Stringer off the court to talk about this idea, as well as the dual challenges of being a coach and mother. And yes, he managed to sneak in an Imus question!

EDGE: Given the dramatic ups and downs and challenges in your life and career, do you feel blessed?

VS: Yes, I do. I wake up every day and witness other people’s plights, and just shake my head and wonder, ‘How do you handle it all?’ You just have to understand that when there is life, there is hope. Blessed? Yes.

EDGE: What does it mean to you to go into the Basketball Hall of Fame with Michael Jordan this year?

VS: I really haven’t allowed myself to think about it. I probably would be paralyzed if I thought about it too much. To go in with arguably the greatest class the Hall of Fame has ever seen is an honor. I have to prepare myself for the greatest day in my life, besides the birth of my children. It’s overwhelming. When I started at Cheyney State (in Philadelphia), I never believed that I would find myself receiving such a huge honor.

EDGE: How soon after you got the coaching job at Cheyney State did you know this was your calling?

VS: Are you kidding me? The minute I got there! I was just grateful they gave me a chance to coach the team. It was magical. I was 22 years old and loving every minute of it. It’s what I was meant to do.

EDGE: How do feel you did raising a family and being a college basketball coach?

VS: I did a masterful job as a parent of keeping basketball and my family separate. But now I wish I wouldn’t have kept things so separate. Those trips through the Midwest were tough. We were going from Iowa to Wisconsin. Instead of being on the team bus, I wish I had ridden right behind the bus for those six or seven hours, giving my kids more mommy time. Listening to them say mommy this, and mommy that. I was fortunate enough to have the best husband in the world.

EDGE: Where did being a coach and being a mom intersect?

VS: My son David played Division-I football. So not only do I know what it’s like to go into a home and recruit, I know what it’s like to be on the other end of the recruiting process as a parent. I know during his recruitment process I often looked for who was going to care about my son—who was going to push him to be the best that he can be, who was going to understand how special he is as a person. Ultimately, that’s what every parent wants. They want to know that their child is going to be safe and understood. I try to be the coach I would want for someone to be to my child. I want parents to understand that I am a parent, too. Parents have a right to see their child walk through your program okay, and emerge a better person at the end.

EDGE: Yet you have a reputation for being tough on your players. Is that fair?

VS: They say that I don’t get players sometime because I am known for being hard. What makes what I do any different from anyone else? Players who go to the University of Tennessee know they are going to a place where they just flat-out had better get it done. What I am trying to teach my players is to be good women. I want them to understand that when they come to Rutgers, they are not only here to play basketball, but to become young women who know how to empower themselves as well.

EDGE: Someone once told me talent and hard work always wins out. Do you believe that?

VS: I think perseverance, talent and hard work is what we should say. Thirty-eight years of doing this. I would like to think when my story is told that it’s one of perseverance, because you can have all the talent in the world—and you might even have a good work ethic—but without perseverance, none of it matters.

EDGE: What are the qualities you look for when you are recruiting a player?

VS: She has to have the will and the drive to be the best, and the skill to play the game. Someone who is not satisfied unless she is as good as she can possibly be, which means she is probably never satisfied. The more difficult something becomes, the more she sees it as an opportunity versus an obstacle. These qualities will carry her throughout the rest of her life.

EDGE: Have you ever gone against your rule and taken a player who had the skill but maybe not the drive?

Larry Levanti/Rutgers University

VS: Sure I have. It doesn’t work.

EDGE: Getting back to the idea of grace, I have a final question. Lost in the uproar after Don Imus made those infamous remarks about your players was the fact that you were quite gracious in accepting his apology. Why was that important to you?

VS: I think we found ourselves in a situation where we needed to forgive. My faith wouldn’t have me do it any other way and I knew that. When Imus said what he said, it hit me to the bone. I’ve never been one to be able to smile and say it’s over—I really need to do a much better job—so in order for us to go forward, we just needed to forgive.

EDGE: How many of those girls are still on the team?

VS: We have four kids left from that class who are now going to be seniors.

EDGE: And how are they doing?

VS: One is going to be doctor, one a pharmacist, one wants to be lawyer and another who can do whatever she wants. To see what these young ladies went through and have them come through it with their dignity and honor intact is a wonderful thing. I’m very proud of them.


Net Results

Graceful Exits

Acting Out

The Schnitzspahn Collection

Jack Nicholson. Bruce Springsteen. Tom Cruise. Queen Latifah. Our state’s contributions to the entertainment industry have been endlessly chronicled and commemorated. Yet generations before New Jersey became a “supplier” to the performing arts, it actually served as the epicenter of the entertainment world. Indeed, between the Civil War and World War I, summertime was showtime in the Garden State. For when New York City’s wealthy theatre-and-concert-goers headed across the Hudson and turned south, the 19th century’s American Idols followed. The show must go on, so they say, and it did—in playhouses and small-town theatres up and down the Jersey Shore. Historian Karen L. Schnitzspahn chronicled this annual exodus in her book Stars of the New Jersey Shore, and kindly agreed to give EDGE readers a rare peek at her priceless collection.

State Your Case

Shiny hair and teeth, longer legs, firmer abs, cooler apartments, faster cars—the list of differences between TV docs and the real-life ones is practically endless. Yet from a practical standpoint, the difference that matters the most to real-life patients is this: Can you help me? That’s when the TV docs disappear and the true problem-solvers hit their mark.  

Let’s face it. Who doesn’t love a good medical drama? When some “Doc Hollywood” sinks his teeth into a perplexing patient, we are transfixed. These television characters will crack the case—we know it and, on some level, we know they know it, too. The medical dramas that play out on hospital floors every day present the same challenges and demand the same out-of-the-box thinking. However, when a patient stares desperately into a doctor’s eyes, that’s not acting. It’s the real deal. We asked a trio of the top docs at Trinitas to “state their case”—the one that intrigued or challenged them, surprised or gratified them, the kind that makes real-life doctoring far better than doctoring As Seen On TV.

A HELPING HAND For Dr. Richard Mackessy, the chairman of Trinitas’ orthopedics department and a specialist in hand surgery, the toughest patients are often the youngest. He’s spent the past 20 years donating his surgical expertise to Healing the Children, a nonprofit that helps children from around the world come to the U.S. to receive treatment. “Most of the kids have congenital problems with their legs that keep them from getting around,” he says. “We usually have to amputate and give them a prosthesis, but the results are amazing—it allows them to be up and walking around, independent and functional.” Healing the Children sponsored two of Dr. Mackessy’s most memorable patients—a pair of children from Russian orphanages who had severe hand deformities. The first, a boy, was missing a thumb due to a congenital condition. Dr. Mackessy was able to utilize the index finger to create a thumb for the little boy. “You situate the index finger in a different way, attach different muscles, and take one of the bones out of it, and you’ve created a thumb.” The surgery helped the child gain use of his hand. Another, a little girl, was missing most of her left arm below the elbow, and the fingers on the right hand were fused together. Dr. Mackessy was able to separate the thumb and fingers on the right hand, and perform surgery to make her left arm more useable. Both kids not only regained the use of their hands, they gained something else—while they were in America for their surgeries, they were adopted by U.S. families. Dr. Mackessy says he constantly sees the power of medicine. “[This work] makes you see life differently—it shows you what medicine can do for people.”

THE HEART OF THE MATTER For Dr. Arthur Millman, head of Trinitas’ cardiology center, mending broken hearts is all in a day’s work. One of his most interesting patients was a 70-something lady who wanted to skydive. “She wanted to get a letter from us that said that she could go, but she was in severe heart failure, with a leak in the mitral valve,” he recalls. After she was stabilized, Dr. Millman was able to surgically repair her valve. “While you can replace the valve, doing so damages the heart muscle and creates illness in the patient,” he says. “If you are able to fix the valve instead, it’s still you, not some piece of plastic or something that came from a cow or a pig.” With this valve repair, he was able to give the patient a whole new lease on life. “She can take care of herself now, go shopping—things she couldn’t do beforehand. I still tell her that skydiving isn’t a good idea, though.”

SOLVING A MEDICAL MYSTERY When a young diabetic patient came to Dr. Paul Vaiana early in his medical career complaining of numbness in his hands and feet, the now-president of Trinitas Regional Medical Center’s Medical and Dental Staff, might have assumed that the problem stemmed from a failure to take his medications. But Dr. Vaiana noticed something that concerned him. “He had no motor strength, and that made me think that something else was happening.” A spinal tap revealed the cause—Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder in which the nervous system comes under attack by the body’s immune system. At the time, not much was understood about the disease, but Dr. Vaiana knew his patient was running out of time. “I knew it needed to be addressed quickly with a very specialized treatment,” he recalls. “If you aren’t able to wash the patient’s blood, they became ventilator-dependent quickly.” Dr. Vaiana and the hospital were able to locate a plasmapheresis machine within 24 hours to cleanse the patient’s blood and get him on the road to recovery. “Everyone worked together on this young man and in three days he was out of the woods,” he remembers. “We were so aggressive in treating it, and now that is the standard care of this disease.” Three decades later, that young man is still Dr. Vaiana’s patient. “I love practicing medicine and having a relationship with my patients,” Dr. Vaiana says. “It’s not the money driving care here—I’m glad to be part of a team who really goes out of their way to help people in their time of need.”

Editor’s Note: Lisa Milbrand is a New Jersey-based writer whose articles on health and relationships appear in Parents, Arthritis Today and Modern Bride. Her blog celebrates the life of a working mother.

The State of Grace Issue