BETTY IN THE USA

WHO IS “BOBBY JEAN”? HE/SHE/IT MAY SURPRISE EVEN BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

Right before I hit the road the other day from my family’s vacation home in Lake Placid, NY to travel to Newport, RI for a Georgetown girls’ weekend, my father called to wish me a good trip and at the end of his message, he said “I have one question: who is Bobby Jean?” The previous weekend, he and my mother left Placid to return back home to NYC on the late side, which was worrisome. During dinner before their departure, I shared those highlights from the record-breaking Bruce Springsteen concert #3 at MetLife Stadium from a few days earlier on August 30 that I knew my parents would relate to the most: “Dancing in the Dark”, “Shout”, “Twist and Shout”, and “Jersey Girl”.  Before they left, I also handed my father my copy of the “Born in the USA” CD (Apple hasn’t hit the parents’ roadster yet!) for the ride home, hoping that Dad would play it as he did so many times when it first was released in 1984.  Music has a way of opening a pandora’s box of memories like nothing else. I seem to remember he asked me that same question then, though I didn’t know the answer at the time, nor did I listen to music the same way then as I do now.  Good music  – and lyrics – also have a way of standing the test of time, lending itself to different interpretations at different times of one’s life. That one song “Bobby Jean” is a perfect example, and Dad had obviously played the CD multiple times on that ride home and after.

Two years ago was the 30th anniversary of “Born in the USA”. June, 2014 was a pivotal moment in my own life, arriving in Lake Placid, NY and finding myself riding a bike around Mirror Lake again, just as I had done in 1984 while listening to my Sony Walkman with the cassette tape that changed my life, over and over again. This time, I had my I-pod, and a new (but old and refurbished) bike, that cried out for some complementary accessories to keep it (and me) company: a horn, a basket, some flowers, a nameplate (Placid Betty), and…a “Born in the USA” sign on the back. It may seem to be a bit much, but it seemed perfect to me at the time, as it still does now. It was a reminder to me of that time in my life where I was most carefree, when I was still in my youth with so much ahead of me, when I was the closest to home and the closest to my family. I had not yet had my drivers license then, so my bike was not only my way around town (as I spent my summers in Lake Placid both vacationing with my family, as well as figure skating), but it was also my way to feel free and to come and go whenever the spirit moved me.  “Born in the USA” was the soundtrack to that period in my life, as well as the birth of my lifelong love for Springsteen’s music, so it seemed very apropos that the 30th anniversary of this seminal album was coinciding with another seminal moment in my life 30 years later.

When “Born in the USA” was released in 1984, I remember it being something that brought my father, brother, and I closer together. It was a summer when my brother and I spent several weeks in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. with my aunt, uncle and cousins. I remember my father and my uncle (and godfather) listening to the album together, as they also had done with certain movies and other more favored genres of music  – classical and operatic – so many times together.  They had done the same with another rock artist and album – Elton John and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” a few years earlier.  What was it about this music and these artists that bonded these “Blood Brothers”?  Springsteen’s songs on “Born in the USA”  – like much or all of his music – are all about the human experience  – and more specifically – the American way of life: childhood, youthful dreams, baseball, Main Street, homes come and gone, the plight of the working man/woman, the backyard and neighborhood streets populated and vanished, the various highways, roads and directions taken over the course of a lifetime, wars fought, won, and lost, the migration out West, milestones missed and achieved, friends made and lost, wanderlust satisfied or dreamt about, opportunities missed and chased, and friends made, lost, and made again. Springsteen’s songs are the stories and touchstones of life and humanity that break all boundaries: biological, religious, political, familial, socio-economic…and so much more. While baseball, hometown roots, the American dream and the work ethic that helped to achieve that dream, were the themes that resonated most with my brother, myself, and father (and my uncle) at the time, it was all of those other things too that touched our hearts and souls then, without even knowing it, as they still do and may do even more-so, now.

While there are so many songs on “Born in the USA” to delve into further as it relates to all of the aforementioned, “Bobby Jean” was and still seems to be the one that stands out the most. Who is “Bobby Jean”, my father wondered.  I wondered how to answer this for my father during my long trip from the Adirondack Mountains to Newport. While I knew he was looking for the exact right answer and I had that answer, it made me think more expansively about what would be an even more meaningful and metaphorical way to explain the use of “Bobby Jean”.  The use of a gender-ambiguous name is purposeful – to create a character who all of us can relate to, a friend who is in one’s life at a certain time for a reason, a friend who can come in and out of one’s life at various stages and always remain the same, a friend who one can lean on with no questions asked, a friend whose essence remains the same regardless of success or failure, a friend whose shared experiences as a child, adolescent, or adult who always brings things “home” again – in one’s memory or in reality.  Springsteen’s songs are stories with many fictional characters including Mary, Janie, Wendy, Sherri, Johnny, Jack – who may be based in reality, who may be fictional, and who may be a hybrid of both, but most importantly who are characters we all can relate to in one way or another.  Bobby Jean however, is the one character who seems to resonate the most. Sometimes we may have only one “Bobby Jean”, sometimes we may have a few, or even many.  He or she (or it) is that one character who comes in and out of our lives, but who never really ever leaves. While Bruce’s “Bobby Jean” is his longtime friend and guitarist Stevie Van Zandt and also perhaps a metaphor for the depressed self he was saying goodbye to at the time, “Bobby Jean” is also a metaphor for that person(s) or thing(s) in all of our lives that remain a constant, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. I am lucky to have just spent the weekend in Newport with a group of my longtime college “Bobby Jeans”, and to have one specific “Bobby Jean” who knows me inside and out despite our very different life directions.  But I am also so lucky to have had that bike in 1984 and again in 2014, as another “Bobby Jean” to remind me of how far I have come, how much farther I have to go, how quickly I can change directions if I lose my way, and how most importantly – I can always find my way home again.

Most of all, I am lucky to have “Bobby Jean” – my family and my friends – to continue to stand by me (and vice versa) – every step – or bike ride around the lake – of the way.  Of course Springsteen’s music continues to be the soundtrack, so “Bobby Jean” – and Bruce – are along for the ride – all the way home. My companion for long road trips by myself is always “E Street Radio”. Guess what was the companion for this trip to Newport to see my longtime college girlfriends? That same concert from 1984 at Giants Stadium where my dad sat in the parking lot listening to the sounds of Springsteen while my brother was inside.  And guess what was the finale for the song from the previous night at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia – a show that broke the record yet again as Springsteen’s longest in U.S. history? “Bobby Jean”.  Not only has this song stood the test of time, but it also made history – with fireworks to boot.  Almost eight hours later last weekend (thanks to E Street Radio, and not to Mapquest), I also found my way “home” again to my own “Bobby Jeans”, and Dad? Well, he seemed pleased to know that not only was there indeed a real “Bobby Jean” for Bruce in Stevie, but also now seems more interested in learning more about the real and fictional characters featured in Springsteen’s unparalleled stories, while also exploring who they might be in his own life. “Born to Run”  – the album and the book – is also now a must listen and a must-read for him too. Seems like my answer to his question was more than he bargained for, but that’s what good music does to the heart and the soul, thanks to “Bobby Jean”.

 

 

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN LENDS HIS “VOICE” AGAIN, THIS TIME HELPING TO CHANGE THE PARADIGM OF TALKING ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS IN “BORN TO RUN”

Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography “Born to Run” will reveal many things about the musician and the man known as “The Boss”.  While I already knew about his and his family’s experiences with depression and mental illness, this news may be new to many. Either way, it is profoundly important that he has lent his voice to a topic considered by many to be taboo, too personal, and too uncomfortable to be discussed so publicly.  On the contrary, this is the first step toward addressing a problem facing humanity.  While I cannot speak for him, I believe that he is speaking out about this because not only is it a vital part of who he is, but also because he believes it to be something to be talked about openly, and because he believes he can help others.  This is one of the MANY reasons why this man’s “voice” is so important to me and in general-in so many realms beyond his music.

Mental health is something to talk about openly. Shame only makes it worse. We are all human and no one escapes life’s ills, woes, challenges, and dysfunction of any kind. While everyone faces different challenges at different parts of their lives, everyone faces them at some point.  Regardless of what they may be, if the challenges are related to mental, emotional, and behavioral health, those challenges should be treated equally-with love, compassion, medical care, openness, humility, encouragement, hope, dignity, humanity, and the opportunity to get better, do better, and live a wonderful, happy, healthy, and successful life. God wants that for all of us and to be a messenger on this-just like Bruce is doing by sharing his story in “Born to Run”, through his music, through taking action to help himself, and in so doing, helping others to do the same.  Untreated depression and related illnesses, results in sorrow, loneliness, stigma, anger and rage, drug addiction, love and sex addiction, bulimia and anorexia, obesity, crime, alcoholism, PTSD, hoarding, sleeplessness, financial disaster, broken homes and families, infidelity, cancer-yes cancer, hopelessness, emptiness, God-lessness, unfulfilled promise, and an unfulfilled life. This is not to say that such illnesses are the cause of all of the above, but they certainly should be taken into consideration so that those suffering – have the opportunity to change, fulfill their promise, and live a life that is meant to be lived to the fullest.

Imagine a world where depression was treated the same way as cancer. Imagine a world where a child exhibiting different behavior from what is considered the norm was not treated as a “problem child”.  Imagine a world where families torn apart by such illnesses were given an opportunity to heal and come together again.  Imagine a world where a veteran returning home from the unimaginable violence of war could be integrated seamlessly back into society through a requisite and comprehensive PTSD treatment program.  Imagine a world where violent and non-violent criminals would be given rehabilitative care in conjunction with prison, so that a life might be re-born.  This might be idealistic, and while the promise of such a world might never be completely fulfilled or come near it, I believe we can do a much better job. The first step is to eliminate the stigma of talking about it openly and accepting mental illness as a part of being human. Even that would be one big breakthrough to making this world one “Land of Hope and Dreams”. Heaven and God already is that land, so why not try to do our best in making earth the closest to it, for as many of us as possible – here on earth?

 

Thank you @BruSpringsteen for sharing this part of your story with the world. This is one small step toward helping us reach that “Land of Hope and Dreams” here, while we still can. My faith has been rewarded, and I am taking all that I can carry. I hope others will grab that ticket and suitcase too, because life is way too short.

“Grab your ticket and your suitcase
Thunder’s rollin’ down this track
Well, you don’t know where you’re goin’ now
But you know you won’t be back
Well, darlin’ if you’re weary
Lay your head upon my chest
We’ll take what we can carry
Yeah, and we’ll leave the rest

Big wheels roll through fields
Where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

Well, I will provide for you
And I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now
For this part of the ride
Leave behind your sorrows
Let this day be the last
Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine
And all this darkness past

Big wheels roll through fields
Where sunlight streams
Oh meet me in a land of hope and dreams

This train…
Carries saints and sinners
This train…
Carries losers and winners
This train…
Carries whores and gamblers
This train…
Carries lost souls

I said this train…
Dreams will not be thwarted
This train…
Faith will be rewarded”

Singer describes ‘freight train bearing down’ on him in interview ahead of release of new autobiography Born to Run
THEGUARDIAN.COM|BY NADIA KHOMAMI

BUILDING BRIDGES TO WHEN BROOKLYN WAS THE WORLD

Brooklyn

When Brooklyn was the World is a book I gave to my grandmother years ago for Christmas. Its title is very apropos to my grandmother’s feelings about Brooklyn, as Brooklyn was not only “the world” for the first part of the 20th century, but it was her world -and it truly represented the world – to her.  Both of my parents grew up in Brooklyn – Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge, and Park Slope – to be exact. I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Manhattan along with my three siblings, but was raised very intimately connected to the Brooklyn that my grandmother held so close to her heart and the Brooklyn of my parents’ generation.  As a Manhattanite of my generation, Brooklyn and the outer boroughs were known as “Bridge and Tunnel” – places connected by the bridges and tunnels to the borough of Manhattan known to the world through the movies, media, and music as the city that never sleeps -New York, New York.  New York City is a labyrinth of land masses connected by the most beautiful bridges in the world, including the most historically and architecturally important one – the Brooklyn Bridge.  What many people take for granted is not only how critical these bridges (and tunnels) are to our daily way of life, but how critical they are to connecting all of us and to transporting all of us – literally and figuratively – to places we have never been.  The Brooklyn Bridge in particular transports me to a place in time that may no longer exist, but still resonates so clearly in the present and holds so much possibility for the future.

This past year has been a year of building (and rebuilding) bridges: bridges to the past that tell a very important story to our present and future generations about not only history, but our present and our future.  Strangers on a Bridge is the first-hand account of my grandfather James Donovan’s role in Cold War history: his defense of Russian spy Colonel Rudolf Abel and his negotiations for Abel’s exchange with American U2 pilot Frances Gary Powers. This book was originally published in 1964, but was reissued in August, 2015 by Scribner, and is now #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list in espionage.  I was successful in this quest to have my grandfather’s story told again, because of research, persistence, negotiations and the support of my family.  But I was also successful because of the blockbuster film dramatizing the same historical events that Steven Spielberg has brought to theaters worldwide, with Tom Hanks so skillfully and authentically playing my grandfather and Brooklynite Amy Ryan perfectly playing my grandmother:  Bridge of Spies. This story is told in a beautiful original screenplay written by Matt Charman with the help of the Coen Brothers.  It is a breathtaking film bringing my grandfather’s story to life on the big screen, sharing a piece of lost history with a generation (or two) who may remember it, but who maybe did not know the whole story, and sharing a piece of lost history to new generations who knew nothing about it. Many films are out right now ( including the beautiful Brooklyn) which are so very worthy of our attention, but very few films  – if any – convey a world that set the stage for who America is and what we stand for as a nation. Bridge of Spies is a masterpiece of a film presenting America as the master architect of bridge building, of freedom, justice, and standing up for what is right at whatever cost.

The climactic scene of Bridge of Spies appears where else, but on a bridge. Not just any bridge however, but the Glienecke Bridge (otherwise known as the “Bridge of Spies”) a Bridge connecting (or dividing in this case) the opposing East and West Germany.  The drama of the scene unfolds as Rudolf Abel and Francis Gary Powers walk from one side to the other, back to their respective homes – “Strangers on a Bridge” passing each other in the early morning hours on February 10, 1962.  What each does not realize however, are the deft back channel negotiations that it took to make this historic exchange possible. Jim Donovan was a bridge builder: a connector of competing and conflicting ideologies and world views, a masterful architect of progress, of creating something that was never there before, of overcoming obstacles, and reaching a goal that is not within reach unless there is that one common ground: the bridge. Like a bridge, he was formidable and stood tall and proud on behalf of American values. He stood up for what he believed in and never wavered. As Rudolf Abel calls him in  the movie, he – like a bridge – was “Stoike Mugique” – its literal translation: “standing man.” When I spoke with a Russian friend of mine, she actually went further to say that “Stoike” conveys courage, tenacity, persistence. “Mugique” is not just any man, but a rugged, strong man. So he – like a bridge – was “Stoike Mugique”.

I have been especially captivated in the last year by the beauty, allure, magic, and symbolism of bridges.  In a year marked by the telling of my grandfather’s story to the world through the reissue of Strangers on a Bridge and the film Bridge of Spies, I wish the coming year to be marked by making new connections, transcending boundaries, reaching far-flung destinations that were seemingly out of reach before, to crossing over to places beyond all of our wildest dreams, to remaining steadfast and strong in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  2015 was one of those groundbreaking years for me and I can’t help but think that 2016 holds more of the same….for all of us.  Here’s to 2016 and a year filled with building bridges of all kinds and to being

“Stoike Mugique.”

Oh, and Brooklyn is the world once again! My grandmother would be beside herself.

Mom and Papa

 

FINDING GRACE IN THE CONCERT HALL: LET ME SEE YOUR HANDS!!!

Finding Grace

When I write and talk about one subject much more than another, it’s usually about something I am passionate about, it’s because it means something big, something meaningful, something mind-blowing.  As you all know, one of the things I am extremely passionate about is music – specifically rock and roll, and more specifically – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The underlying reasons are about so much more than the music. It’s about a transformational, triumphant experience that transforms contentment into pure joy, if not ecstasy; motivation into inspiration to take action; pain into perspective, peace and faith; loneliness into a sense of always feeling protected by the wisest and safest guardian angel; fear into faith that everything’s always going to be alright, no matter how tough it gets.  It’s about finding a sense of communion with something higher than ourselves. As Linda Randall said in her doctoral thesis and book, it’s about “finding grace in the concert hall.” Well, let me share how I have found grace in this concert hall, about why being a fan is not just about being a fan, but about espousing a set of universally shared values that becomes even stronger and more powerful through association and communion.

Obsession

Through my experience as a devoted follower and “missionary” of this E Street music movement, I have found myself in sync with people from all over the world who I might never have become friends with under normal circumstances – yet there is a connection between us that bonds us way beyond the music, rendering our differences meaningless.

crowd-surf-philly-1

I was honored and privileged enough to work with one of the most prominent – if not the most prominent –  E Street Band members – during the 2012 Wrecking Ball Tour. His organization, known as the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, www.rockandrollforever.org, is a philanthropic and educational initiative that transcends the music and shares the narrative of rock and roll music and its impact on society, culture, education, and history. It was truly one of the best and most inspirational experiences of my life and one I am also still so very passionate about. I am so very grateful for that experience, will treasure it forever, and still work on the sidelines to share how important this initiative is, and how impactful Rock and Roll is to our society, specifically to the next generation and to the history books. Music bonds us together like nothing else – of that I am sure. Little Steven Van Zandt is not only one of the most talented and creative musicians, songwriters, producers and creative pioneers alive, but he is truly a power to be reckoned with! His playful, mischievous spirit and his trademark pirate style belies the power behind and alongside the Boss himself.  I am truly honored to have had this incredibly enlightening and life-changing opportunity and can only hope to further his mission in any way I can.

How else would I have become great friends with a mother and daughter in St. Paul, Minnesota, one of whom has just turned 90 years old, lamenting how she will celebrate without a Springsteen concert to dance in the dark with the Boss himself – as I saw her do on her 88th birthday – and that was her 150th or so show – standing in the pit!?

How else would I have bonded with a Japanese man who spoke no English, dancing and singing with him in the pit for the entire concert?

How else would I bring new friends into my concert hall and meet up with old friends in places all over the country – and the world?

How else would I go to a concert by myself regularly, dancing and singing like no one is watching – rain or shine, front row to the upper decks?

How else would I be invited to a wedding of two dear, lovely people who I just met and already cherish, on the beach in Asbury Park this coming summer?

I will tell you how and I will tell you why: with these hands.

with-these-hands-jeff-ross

It’s about much more than the music. It’s about communion. It’s about kindred spirits. It’s about the ties that bind, it’s about rising up above the storm for something so much bigger and better that will get us through it, it’s about getting out of one’s comfort zone and seeing our world of difference that is actually so much more united than we appreciate, it’s about making anyone’s and everyone’s “cities of ruins” into “letting everyone see your hands.” It’s about making our way through the darkness, finding the light of day, coming on up for the rising, and rising up.

It’s about “finding grace in the concert hall” – each and every day of the year no matter what, but found for me in no other hall than the one in the church of Springsteen and E Street. Even if you find it elsewhere, find it somewhere. It’s found me, and it’s been one graceful, exhilarating experience that I appreciate you letting me share with all of you regularly. On my birthday though, I thought a bit more context might provoke the passion within you to find the grace with me – whether it’s Springsteen and E Street, Eric Church, Fleetwood Mac, Taylor Swift, or the New York Philharmonic.

So for my birthday this year, let me see all of your hands! It’s about so much more than using them to make your guitar talk, though that is mind-blowing in itself.  My hands reach out to yours to join me by finding grace in the concert hall, and anytime in mine, which is truly one like no other – the one led by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. It might just change your life, as it has mine. Whether your “city” is in ruins – as Asbury Park was for many years, my great city of New York was after 9/11, and the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina – or if it’s your own home struggling to make ends meet or because of what life throws at all of us so unpredictably – it will indeed rise again and rise even higher,  with a little help from the grace in the concert hall, especially the one that seriously knows no bounds where the choice is made for you anyway!

There’s a blood red circle
On the cold dark ground
And the rain is falling down
The church doors blown open
I can hear the organ’s song
But the congregation’s gone

My city of ruins
My city of ruins

Now the sweet veils of mercy
Drift through the evening trees
Young men on the corner
Like scattered leaves
The boarded up windows
The hustlers and thieves
While my brother’s down on his knees

My city of ruins
My city of ruins

Come on rise up!
Come on rise up!

Now there’s tears on the pillow
Darling where we slept
And you took my heart when you left
Without your sweet kiss
My soul is lost, my friend
Now tell me how do I begin again?

My city’s in ruins
My city’s in ruins

Now with these hands
I pray lord
With these hands
For the strength lord
With these hands
For the faith lord
With these hands
I pray lord
With these hands
For the strength lord
With these hands
For the faith lord
With these hands

Come on rise up!
Come on rise up!
Rise up

ARE THERE PORCUPINES IN CUBA? WEEKEND WORDS ON THE POWER OF WORDS FROM ONE PROUD PORCUPINE #USACUBA

ARE THERE PORCUPINES IN CUBA? WEEKEND WORDS ON THE POWER OF WORDS FROM ONE PROUD PORCUPINE

porcupinePhoto courtesy of the African Wildlife Foundation 

By Beth Amorosi

Today’s lead editorial in the New York Times about the United States breaking the ice with Cuba, opens with a quote from my maternal grandfather, attorney and diplomatic negotiator Jim Donovan.

“How do porcupines make love? Very carefully.” – Jim Donovan

See the article here.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/30/opinion/washington-and-havana-break-the-ice.html?fb_ref=Default&_r=0

Words are a gift, one to be used wisely, carefully, precisely, beautifully, decoratively, and effectively .  Words have more power than we might appreciate – even through silence.  Jim Donovan used words in every sense of the words above. Indeed they were a gift and a skill he leveraged in diplomacy to get what the job mandated to be done – always with the end game in mind. Words were one of his “weapons” of choice.

There is a lot more work to do as it relates to the United States and restoring full ties with Cuba. While everyone may not agree with what has happened already and what continues to happen with the current negotiations, what has happened is indeed what Jim Donovan almost led the way to do 53 years ago. Through Jim Donovan’s negotiations with Fidel Castro, 1100+ prisoners were released over the course of months following the Bay of Pigs failed invasion in 1962 and 1963. It has been reported that close to 10,000 people’s freedom was a result of his negotiations with Fidel as the only direct link to President Kennedy. What the public didn’t know then and still doesn’t completely grasp, is that those negotiations were on their way to restoring diplomacy with Cuba at that time – behind the scenes. Diplomatic ties almost became a reality then, until President Kennedy was killed, a new administration and new politics took hold, and history stood still – until December, 2014.

This weekend, use your words. Play scrabble, write a letter, use the dictionary and the thesaurus, do the crossword puzzle, exchange notes or emails with your children/friends/family, feel the difference between writing on a piece of paper vs. typing on the keypad, think before you speak. You will be amazed at how much freedom, peace of mind, satisfaction, and fulfillment words provide, and how much they can be used to get what you need and what you want. They are also inexpensive entertainment and literally at our fingertips – no pun intended!

Have a great weekend filled with words big and small, with a healthy dose of peace, quiet – even silence mixed in, think of Jim Donovan, and this one very happy porcupine. Words are truly a gift we are blessed to have.  Like “porcupines making love, use your words very carefully.”

Beth Amorosi

#USACUBA

#NYTimes

GREETINGS FROM THE PLACE WHERE MIRACLES HAPPEN & THE LAND OF NORTHERN LIGHTS TO THE LIGHT OF DAY IN ASBURY PARK, NJ

IMG_8265 Colorful lights

Top Left/Cascades;Right/Colorful Lights Asbury ParkAsbury Park IMG_8280-1 1980 RINK, LP10th Ave FreezeoutIzod Center

With the exception of the Asbury Park rendering, all photo credits go to Beth Amorosi

HAPPY NEW YEAR & WELCOME TO 2015 – THE YEAR OF LIGHT, COLOR, MIRACLES

Seeing the Light of Day from the Place Where Miracles Happen, Where the Northern Lights Flicker from Afar, Where the Stars Shine Brighter, and Where Christmas Happens Year-Round

This past week, the Light of Day Foundation, www.lightofday.org, held its annual benefit music & comedy festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey called the Light of Day Winterfest, #LODNJ2015.  A group of my “Brucebuds” gathered for a series of musical and comedic events to raise awareness of and funds for research and a cure for Parkinson’s Disease.  While Bruce Springsteen is never officially billed on the performance agenda and is always “rumored to possibly show up”, he has shown up 11 out of 15 years, he always performs, he stays into the wee hours of the morning, and he always exceeds expectations with his music, his enthusiasm and loyalty to his roots. Inspired by the Light of Day Winterfest, the Christmas lights still lit up in Lake Placid, NY, and the days becoming longer, I am inspired to see the light of day during this great new year ahead. 2015 is already filled with new beginnings, with my life refreshed, rejuvenated, replenished, restarted, rebooted, reinvented, and resurrected. As all years go, and so life goes, 2014 was a mixture of up’s and down’s. While the up’s were fantastic, the down’s were….well, real down-ers! As always though, the soundtrack of my life lifted me up and sustained me through those down times.  Inspired also by the festivities this past week/weekend, I thought it apropos to celebrate a very special little place on the Jersey Shore where I spent much of my youth, and a place that is full of light, color, and music: Asbury Park.  To celebrate 2015, I also thought sharing a little music history centered on Asbury Park was a fitting way to pay a tribute of my own to the Light of Day Foundation, as well as to wish everyone a rocking and rolling 2015.

My aunt and godmother used to take my siblings and I to Asbury, where we would enjoy the amusement park, particularly the Haunted House and the Mystery Machine, and where we would delight in the simple and very colorful savories of saltwater taffy and cotton candy. To me, Asbury Park is synonymous with color – bright and bold colors, as well as with light – the light of the sunshine glistening on the Atlantic, the lights of the boardwalk and the amusements, and figurative light symbolic of rebirth and resurrection.  Bruce’s “City of Ruins” took a long time to find the light again, but thanks largely to the gay community, Asbury has been reborn into a visitor’s destination of choice, as well as a beautiful residential area replete with modernized amenities and a lifestyle filled with great restaurants and bars, shops, businesses, and yes – music – right on the Atlantic Ocean. The music scene is still thriving there, including the Stone Pony where Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band began their long and illustrious careers 40+years ago, as well as at the Paramount Theatre, where Bruce performed this evening in tribute to friend and music manager/musician Bob Benjamin who has dedicated his life’s work not only to music, but to the fight against Parkinson’s Disease.

According to the lowest-hanging-fruit-resource Wikipedia: “In the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a vibrant music scene in and around the City of Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore. Prominent in this scene were Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny as well as the early members of the E Street Band. Clemons, Federici, Lopez, Sancious, Tallent and Van Zandt honed their skills in numerous bands, both with and without Springsteen. These included Little Melvin & the Invaders, the Downtown Tangiers Band, the Jaywalkers, Moment of Truth, Glory Road, Child, Steel Mill, Dr. Zoom & the Sonic Boom, the Sundance Blues Band, and the Bruce Springsteen Band. In 1972 when Springsteen gained a recording contract with CBS he picked the cherries among Jersey Shore musicians to record – and to tour in support of – his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. By 1973 they had recorded a second album with Springsteen, The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle.”

Though Bruce had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame years ago, the E Street Band was not – as they had just gotten back together, and Bruce was being honored  for his work as the band’s leader, as well as an independent artist. The E Street Band was (FINALLY) inducted in April, 2014. I had been invited  to attend but I was very, very sadly unable to be there. Tonight, he is back in Asbury Park, and very sadly – I am not able to attend – again.

10th Avenue & E Street is just 10 blocks from my grandmother’s former Jersey Shore seaside home in Spring Lake, a picture postcard village known as the Irish Riviera where I spent all of my summers, up until only 9 or so years ago. Bruce Springsteen proudly comes to see his favorite NJ town and his friends in Asbury Park regularly – as one of us. He drives himself and hits the boardwalk, the Conference Center, the bars, and the Paramount Theatre (where he performed over the weekend) to see/hear/perform with emerging talent, to perform with old friends like Southside Johnny and Gary U.S. Bonds, and to  perform himself. His visits to Asbury are regular, consistent, devoted, unannounced, and he happily blends into the crowd – as one of us. As he was sound-checking and then performing in Asbury over the weekend (and I was VERY SADLY not there……..WHY WAS I NOT THERE EXACTLY!????), I thought that sharing the BEST RENDITION EVER of ‪10th Ave Freezeout was a great way to pay tribute to the Light of Day Foundation, to Asbury Park, the Jersey Shore, and to a rocking and rolling 2015. So on that note, here is the “house shaking, earth quaking, earth rocking, pants dropping, booty shaking, love-making, Viagra-taking, history-making LEGENDARY‪#‎ESTREETBAND” (including Danny and Clarence) & Mr. @BruceSpringsteen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqKf_EcUFQE

 

For 2015, I see bright lights ahead for all of us. While 2014 offered a few bright lights of its own – including the Spielberg/Hanks film being made about my grandfather – I am personally happy to have now bid it a fond farewell, taking with me life lessons and experiences that have left me in a much higher and better  place than 2014 and ever.  I am certain that 2015 is going to be my year of abundance. I intend for this year to be the best one yet for many reasons including trying something new every day; taking good care of myself, my friends, and my family; always helping others; never taking things personally; never making assumptions; being impeccable with my word, always doing my best; being more organized, disciplined, and focused; being more productive than ever; being accepting, forgiving, and kind; laughing more; dancing in the dark AND in the light; being bold; daring greatly; seeing the light of day in everything; and finally – rocking and rolling through the up’s AND the down’s.

I wish all of you success in your New Year’s resolutions, and wish you the best for a very Happy, Healthy, Prosperous, Abundant, Bold, and Rocking & Rolling 2015.  Why do I think it will be the best year ever? I can see clearly now the rain of 2014 is gone, and it’s going to be a bright, bright sunshine-y year. Let’s not wait on a sunny day. Let’s make it happen, dancing and singing, rocking and rolling, raining and shining, through the darkness AND the light of day.

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Betty in the USA, www.bettyintheusa.com

THE BRILLIANT JOHN LEGEND PAYS TRIBUTE TO THE BOSS AT MUSICARES; SINGING A SOULFUL KEYBOARD RENDITION OF DANCING IN THE DARK 

See John Legend pay tribute to the Boss, with his soulful rendition of the typically more upbeat Dancing in the Dark. Bruce paid tribute back to the supremely talented Mr. Legend by saying how much he made him sound like Gershwin. Rain or shine, and dancing in the dark or light: his music is always music to my ears. Mr. Legend – and Gershwin – are pretty great too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mx9TxUrZGFo

I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW – Jimmy Cliff 

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.

Oh, yes I can make it now the pain is gone.
All of the bad feelings have disappeared.
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for.
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.

(ooh…) Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies.
Look straight ahead, there’s nothing but blue skies.

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for.
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
bright, bright sunshiny day.
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It’s going to be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.
Yeah, hey, it’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright)
sunshiny day.

-Jimmy Cliff

THUNDER ROAD AT LIGHT OF DAY: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVTsUZUeYrQ

BILLBOARD:  http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/6443653/watch-bruce-springsteen-perform-at-light-of-day-2015-benefit-in-new-jersey

NJ.COM:  http://www.nj.com/springsteen/index.ssf/2015/01/bruce_springsteen_has_a_specta.html

The Asbury Park Press Interviews the Boss http://www.app.com/story/entertainment/people/2015/01/18/interview-bruce-springsteen-talks-light-day/21960777/

 

GOLDEN GLOBES: HIGH NOTES ON THE RED CARPET, ON FILM, ONSTAGE; TONIGHT’S VERSES INSPIRING TOMORROW’S

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ROCKING THE RED CARPET IN RED, WHITE, BLUE & METALLICA
So my earth-shattering ‪#‎GoldenGlobes‬ round-up is in: My top fashion pick is……my fave alter ego, Penny Lane, man! @KateHudson rocks it every time, and tonight, it was rockstar @Versace. Kate is always at the top of my list, not only for her fashion, but for her verve, moxie, and kick-ass attitude to life on and off the Red Carpet. For years, my Facebook photo was the photo of Kate playing my favorite character Penny Lane in one of my very favorite movies, #AlmostFamous. Well, the glasses came off recently, and I am enjoying expressing and exploring different facets of myself now, alternating photos and writing this blog under my own moniker of Betty in the USA, inspired by my nickname “Betty”, my favorite rock and roller, and American patriotism and love for the All-American. Kate falls under that “All-American” banner, is always one of my very favorite actresses, and is a real “Betty in the USA”. She should have won the Oscar for Penny Lane, but I know we will see her receiving one of these awards one of these days very soon.

@EmilyBlunt also looked elegant in dramatic white with turquoise earrings, as did the super-cool @SiennaMiller who wore a divine low-cut down-to-there tea-length gown with vintage-y applique-d flowers, and @RosamundPike who donned a daring cut-out dress only five weeks after giving birth.

ONE CANARY SINGING AMONGST A SEA OF RED, FLAMING REDHEADS, AND 50 SHADES OF SILVER,
Right up there with Kate and the ladies in white? @NaomiWatts was one of the first to arrive – if not the first, and her choice of canary yellow reminded me of that gorgeous lemon chiffon dress worn by @ReneeZellweger at the Oscars years ago. Naomi has a classic, vintage look and appeal that is Old Hollywood style, classic, and timeless. The red lips, against the yellow? Vintage Hollywood Glam!

Ravishing redhead @JulianneMoore in Givenchy dazzled in what seemed to be the evening’s choice: disco ball silver, but hers with a touch of Ostrich feathers rustling at the bottom and that flaming red hair dazzled the most of all.   @ReeseWitherspoon also chose a silvery mermaid silhouette, also evoking Old Hollywood with her Veronica Lake hair. Redheads like @EmmaStone, @JessicaChastain, and @AmyAdams – just like Julianne – all rocked the red carpet with variations on the Olympic medal themed, aka gold/silver/bronze, styles of the evening, but Emma’s pick of a jumpsuit particularly suited her playful, bold spirit, as did the #50ShadesofGrey star & Melanie Griffith & Don Johnson’s daughter, @DakotaJohnson. @JenniferLopez and @Kate Beckinsale both look smashing, and @AllisonWilliams’ dress was ethereally stunning, but prefer her hair long and the twisted Cartier bracelet was too contemporary for the dress. My Mom said that her fave was Salma Hayek, but I did not get a good look at the dress, though she is always gorgeous. Jane Fonda, Catherine Zeta Jones, Viola Davis, Juliana Margulies, @HeidiKlum were ravishing in red, along with @HeidiKlum and my favorite red of the evening glittered and glistened on @AllisonWilliams, whose @ArmaniPrive dress shimmered and sparkled along with her beautiful smile. Gwynnie was also a nice surprise, closing the evening with a happy pop of bubblegum pink.

MISSES & HITS ON AND OFF THE CARPET
While I hate to write too negatively about such superbly talented women or anyone, the do’s and don’ts are the running dialogue for all of these evenings, so I could identify several that were my least favorite looks and frocks: Clare Danes, Melissa McCarthy, and sadly – Ruth Wilson. She is a stunning, brilliant actress, and even though green is my favorite color, the dress just disappointed for her first big awards moment. But her win more than makes up for it, particularly also because Clare Danes has won now multiple years in a row. Also, my new favorite “sit-on-the-edge-of-my-seat-in-the-dark-with-the-door-closed” show, @TheAffair, won the big prize! I actually have had the privilege of meeting the brilliant writer @SarahTreem, who gave an equally brilliant and humble speech, obviously so grateful for what she has been rewarded as a result of her hard work, creativity, and vision. @PatriciaArquette and @RichardLinklater definitely deserved (and were my choices) for BOYHOOD but sorry to not see @EthanHawke get it too. Happy to see Reese take @CherylStrayed –  the woman who inspired the movie ‪and wrote the book #‎Wild‬ – alongside her on the red carpet – a sign of a real star. While I’m sorry that she didn’t receive the award for Best Actress, Julianne Moore is such a fantastic actress in a movie about a very, very important subject for all of us to learn more about: #Alzheimers.

THE MEN, THE MEN, THE MEN – CLOONEY, WEST, KEATON, LINKLATER
Too bad the hottest man in the room (who in my opinion beats George Clooney hands down!) @DominicWest didn’t win Best Actor for @TheAffair, but his watery eyes onstage with his fellow cast members showed the first sign of a another trend of the evening: men showing genuine, honest, open emotion. @MichaelKeaton is clearly back in winning action, and to hear and see grown manly men like him, Dominic West, and George Clooney express their feelings so emotionally – without any cringe factor – is a breath of fresh air. Amal’s gloves finally came off (thank God), and as much as @GeorgeClooney can be overexposed and overblown (don’t you think it’s a bit early for him to be getting a lifetime achievement award!???), his emotional armor has disappeared b/c he is clearly smitten and in love with his new, beautiful, elegant, intelligent, and very accomplished wife. I think that it is safe to say that any woman who heard what he said to Amal in front of the world, let out a collective awwwwwww and shed a little happy tear, because really, love – not money or awards – is all we need, right? Poetry, beauty, romance – time to spend with those we love and on the things we want to accomplish – these are the things we stay alive for, to see how far we can run the race, right?

BOYHOOD was definitely my winning pick for Best Picture. Having been made over the course of 12 years with no bells and whistles,the film conveys a very simple and straightforward message so effectively about our most precious commodities in life: TIME, LOVE, FAMILY. In the face of writing about celebrities and their fashion choices, lives, and looks, my takeway is always inspiration from all the talent in that room, because as @EddieRedmayne said to his co-star “they up my game”, calling me to finding that something greater – tomorrow, and the next day, and so on, and to always remember what is most important along the way. So on that note, let’s remember someone who really deserves an honor like Mr. Clooney won this evening, hopefully at the Oscars. His life was taken senselessly and way too soon, way before his time. Like the life of @RobinWilliams, those lives in Paris were taken away in a heartbeat. ‪#‎CarpeDiem‬, my friends. #JeSuisCharlie. #RIPRobinWilliams

CARPE DIEM
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

#GoldenGlobes #RedCarpet #Hollywood #Apple #Hollywood #RobinWilliams