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.
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.
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.
THUNDER ROAD AT LIGHT OF DAY: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVTsUZUeYrQ
The Asbury Park Press Interviews the Boss http://www.app.com/story/entertainment/people/2015/01/18/interview-bruce-springsteen-talks-light-day/21960777/
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
“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
One of the best parts – if not the best part – of the 2012 #WreckingBall tour (and no, it was not Miley Cyrus, though her knockoff rendition of Wrecking Ball was probably a tribute to the Boss too), was each show’s rendition of #TenthAvenueFreezeout. This is true for several reasons: one of which is because the performance is the perfect showcase of why #TheBoss @BruceSpringsteen @BruSpringsteen is the best live act alive, with a community of fans who worship as I do – in the #HouseofSpringsteen & #EStreet.
The second reason is because it also showcases the Boss as not only a rock and roller, but a rock and soul-er. The 2012 tour in particular, returned to the stage with new life, infused by loss and grief, but salvaged and reborn again through the power of music and spirituality. Not only did it show the spirituality and soulfulness of the Boss and his music, but it imparted the transformational influence of music on his life and our lives, and communicated the impact of his Catholicism as a child and as an adult. The recent tours also reinforced the gravitas and goodness of his character as a person, with more engagement than ever into crowds of people, jumping from balconies of the intimate Apollo Theatre to singing to me behind the stage at the Izod Center. The shows and more recent events & public appearances including the Concert for Valor, Brian Williams’ induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, the Kennedy Center Honors, and his most recent honor for his work with Veterans – the Lincoln Award, as well as personal outings to support his friend @Sting’s debut of @TheLastShip on #Broadway, demonstrate his unparalleled loyalty to his fans, to his family of origin, and to his family of choice: the #EStreetBand and his #BloodBrothers, @StevenVanZandt, @ClarenceClemons, @DannyFederici, @RoyBittan, @MaxWeinberg, @GaryTallent, @NilsLofgren, @SisterSusieTyrell, the newer members of the band including Clarence’s nephew @JakeClemons, my friend @EverettBradley, the gospel, rapping, soulful back-up singers Darlene Love and Michelle Moore, the orchestral/big band musicians, and of course, Bruce’s wife and longtime band member who broke into the #EStreetBoysClub way back when – @PattiScialfa. More than anyone though, Bruce’s friendship with Clarence showed kindred spirits in action, how two minds, hearts, and souls beat to the same rhythm, creating a bond that transcends time, and then sharing it with all of us to not only enjoy, but to be inspired, and to remind us that kindred spirits – and family – can be found in the most unlikely places, on the most unlikely stages, at the most unexpected times, and sometimes even at the times when we need them most.Finally, the performance also pays tribute to and honors those key members of that family who are no longer with us: Clarence Clemons & Danny Federici.
Bruce’s relationship to the Big Man in particular, and Clarence himself, reminds me of my relationship and my family’s to our own “Big Man” and to the man himself: a man named Aston Taylor who was and always is very much a part of the maternal side of my family. He called me – and all the girls in our family: STAR, making me feel like one every time I was with him. He called my grandmother (and my grandfather) BOSS. He called the boys in the family “MASTERS“. Taylor came to this country from Jamaica around 1960 and met my grandfather several years later in downtown Manhattan. Papa hired him on the spot, and they became not only fast friends, but blood brothers – just like Bruce and Clarence. As my grandfather requested prior to his death, Taylor watched over my grandmother throughout the rest of her life, and they were not only best friends, but also “blood brothers”. Taylor was engaged in our lives from the minute we entered the world, and knew more about my grandfather and his career, as well as our family, than almost anyone. I was lucky enough to interview him about his “insider” role to my grandfather’s career and he told me more things about my grandfather’s role in history than any media outlet or the public is aware. He told me more than I was already aware! He had a front row seat to history, and has a front row seat from up above, watching the biggest filmmaker of our time @StevenSpielberg pay tribute to my grandfather and his role in history, with the recent #KennedyCenterHonors honoree @TomHanks playing our own @JamesBDonovan.com. Taylor, did you see the cars riding around Brooklyn?Just like yesterday!
Thanks to the generosity and kindness of dear friends, I was lucky enough to spend significant time with Taylor at his house in Florida shortly before he died. His living room was literally a shrine to our family, something I will cherish forever – just like him. When he died the following year, I was so grateful to have had those special times with him one-on-one. I believe that God had graced me with that extraordinary opportunity for a reason. When we lost Taylor (as well as losing our grandmother shortly before that, and of course our grandfather) our family felt very incomplete. It still feels that way, though legacies and kindred spirits have a way of being present – at the most unexpected times and in the most unlikely places.
When Danny and then Clarence died, the #EStreetBand and the #EStreetNation felt incomplete without them – until this tribute that Bruce led on tour in 2012, through even the High Hopes tour in 2014. How the tribute was produced and performed is so powerful, so incredibly and appropriately reverential to their everlasting presence and larger-than-life-legacies, that Bruce was able to bring them alive and with us to each city, stage, arena, and field throughout the entire tour, reminding us that really – the Band is still complete, they have never left, nor will they ever leave. Of course we would all prefer to have them physically here with us, but the spirit and the soul transcend physicality in such a way, rendering their presence to be timeless and perhaps even more meaningful than ever. So you see, as Bruce said in his eulogy to the Big Man, “‘Clarence doesn’t leave the E Street Band when he dies. He leaves when we die”. I might venture to add to that now: not even when the Band dies, will you leave us. “Big Man” Taylor – and of course my grandparents on both sides of my family: You haven’t left us. You won’t ever leave us, not even when we die. Taylor, when the changes were made uptown and you joined our band, you always were and still are a part of our family. The fish are still jumping for you down in @SpringLake. I see you just like it was yesterday, just before the @Belmar gates on Ocean Avenue at the North End Beach, approx. blocks from #10thAvenueandEStreet. I’ll be seein’ ya someday beyond those #Belmargates. Until then, I’m fishing off the moon over the deep blue Atlantic with your star – and those of my grandparents on both sides of the family – guiding me and all of us to #heavenonearth. Happy Birthday #BIGMAN @ClarenceClemons!! Blow out an extra candle or two for me. I’m making a wish, and it’s a good one….a really good one.
#EStreetNation #ClarenceClemons #DannyFederici #BruceSpringsteen #EStreetBand #music #RollingStone #rockandroll #ClarenceClemonsDay
Last Christmas, I wrote something inspired by the Winter Solstice and Illumination-themed Myth of Red Salon, http://www.mythofredsalon.com, an extraordinary performing arts ensemble founded by my dear, beautiful and talented musical angel of a friend, crossover artist Sasha Lazard, http://www.sashalazard.com, who just released an incredibly soulful new CD, inspired by light called Lumiere: a must-listen, a must-last-minute-gift, a must-companion-to the winter-solstice, as the days thankfully now get longer.
Last year’s post was about how one of the world’s greatest musicians inspires me to always find light in the darkness and to find something within me to always reach for the stars, especially in the face of challenge. This year, the sounds of Springsteen continued to be that same beacon through challenge and triumph. As we face the end of this year, two of the best things unique to the Christmas season are music and the lights. Lights will come on the next post, so let’s focus first on music.
The world’s greatest musical artists become friends in our homes during the holidays producing holiday specials and performing holiday numbers wearing Santa hats, sharing their families with the world, and jingling their way to our hearts wearing elf costumes and singing songs they would not normally sing or dance to – just because it’s Christmas. My sentimentality and nostalgia recalls something from childhood that seems to coming back in a new way: the Variety Show. The Variety Show showcased the versatility of legendary entertainers including Bob Hope, Andy Williams, Perry Como, John Denver, Donnie and Marie Osmond, and my favorites of all: the Carpenters. As corny as these shows were, they left an indelible message of family, laughter, song, dance, and light. This year, popular entertainers including @KristenChenoweth, @MichaelBuble, @KellyClarkson @RebaMcIntire @CountryMusicAssociation @JenniferNettles, as well as the irreplaceable @BarbraStreisand reinforced the importance of music to my life, to the Christmas season, and to the world. What would we ever do without it? In case you missed it, here is a clip from my favorite crooner of the season, Mr. Michael Buble on his @NBC special here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDzQ2md2f58
As that beacon of mine @BruceSpringsteen said in one of the most moving and beautiful speeches whose words are music to my ears and brings tears to my eyes every time I listen to it: “Music inspires us and soothes our broken hearts. Music is what we get married to, and divorced to. Music is with us on our blackest days; stands by us in war and in peace; makes us laugh and keeps us strong; Helps us not to be stupid; informs us and loves us. Do you believe in magic? There is no faith required. I have been a part of the miracle of music. I have seen the tired, depressed, and the weary. I have seen those revived from their seats and dance. The Taliban will never win: not now or not ever, not here, not in Timbuktu, by banning music and dancing. The minute you do that, you label yourself a tyrant. The minute Timbuktu was liberated? What did people do? They played music, and they danced! You can’t triumph without music, because music is life. Music is the birds singing, the wheat rustling in the fields, the strumming of the wind through the leaves of that tree that was in the backyard of your childhood home, the earth and the stars rolling through the heavens at night. Before man or woman heard their name, they heard music. They heard the wind rushing past their eardrums, the grasses humming with insects, the birds knocking and rocking in the trees.” The tribute, featuring artists including @JohnLegend, @TimMcGraw, @FaithHill, @ZacBrownBand, @MavisStaples, @Sting, @EltonJohn is not only a must-see, but a must to support PBS, as well as see how the music of #Springsteen has revolutionized the music industry, but American and global society. The speech is a must-listen, the show is a must-see, and @PBS is a must-support that provides cultural enrichment to the public . http://www.pbs.org.
For the purpose of finding light under the Christmas tree now and always, my picks would be anything to do with music and of course anything #Springsteen and #EStreet. My friend @LawrenceKirsch has an incredible limited edition book paying tribute to our mutual beacon, “LIGHT IN DARKNESS”. Lawrence also has a holiday gift guide that frankly rocks around the Christmas tree all year long. The #12DaysofChristmaswiththeBoss can really be the #12MonthsofChristmaswiththeBoss, so why not light things up in January and pick something from the #BossoftheMonthClub there or from my friends over @Backstreets, http://www.backstreets.com? January is the best time ever to light up the post-holiday, Winter blues, and hey – February is my birthday AND Valentine’s Day, March and April are Easter/Passover/Spring Break, and so on and so on. It’s late and very last minute, but somehow I know so much light can be found here, if not for Christmas, then into 2015. http://www.thelightindarkness.com/home/
Of course, @BruceSpringsteen.net also has exactly everything I could ever want, including the re-mastered box set of all of his classic albums, live downloads from the #HighHopes tour, and yesterday’s surprise with the live download out of the vault from the #DarknessontheEdgeofTown Tour: the AGORA, in Cleveland from 1978. The revival of the #LP and the #bootleg in the form of live downloads is a gift unto itself, and Team #Springsteen sound engineers are masters of the art and the science. http://www.thelightindarkness.com/darkness/bruce-springsteen-the-e-street-band-the-agora-cleveland-1978/. Finally, if all I have is my trusted “friend at the record store” @EStreetRadio @SiriuxXM to keep me company (and another tour to look forward to pretty please in 2015??), I am one happy girl this Christmas and always knowing that #EStreet is #mystreetondemand.
Under my tree this year, I don’t need diamonds or pearls, furs or cashmere, a big dinner or elaborate party, or anything other than what I am already have in my life: my health, family, friends, a home, love, laughter, children, time, and yes – music. But if I had to choose, it would be anything experiential like travel, events, adventures, anything that is intellectually stimulating, culturally enriching, or spiritually enlightening, and anything and everything creative and artistic: books, paintings, films, and most of all – music. These things enrich the heart, mind, and soul, making life’s moments in time that much more memorable, unforgettable, and more meaningful. Most of all, I hope that I find something that cannot be found under any Christmas tree: my family, smiles, laughter, joy, peace, music, and those most precious things of all: children, time, God, the angels, and spirituality – those things found “from that wind rustling in the trees in the backyard of my childhood home.” I always remember the weeping willow and a big maple tree from a family summer home, as well as the evergreens of @LakePlacid and the sounds of the waves breaking across the street from my grandmother’s home on the @JerseyShore, all of which breathe peace into my soul just as if it were yesterday, a reminder that they will always be there singing the same music from my childhood, indelible reminders in my memory that will never leave me. Like the Boss says, music is always found in trees and nature, and as I say: in the most unlikely places – especially at Christmas. Look for them. “You will find magic. There is no faith required.” Do you believe in magic? Do you believe in miracles? Why yes, forever, and always, but especially – at Christmas.
Conan O’Brien Show, with guest appearance by Conan in the E Street Band, in New York City
Merry Christmas Baby!
1962/63 #USACUBA “SANTA” SET THE STAGE FOR USA CUBA THEN….AND NOW
When “Santa” is Revealed in the Form of Pope Francis,
Even Dauntless Diplomat Jim Donovan would be Speechless!
By Beth Amorosi, Founder, Donovan Institute
Granddaughter, James (Jim) Britt Donovan
James (Jim) Britt Donovan and his Cold War negotiation style is the subject of an upcoming Steven Spielberg film featuring Tom Hanks, dramatizing the exchange of Russian spy Rudolf Abel with American U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers in February, 1962. The film has already been named the must-see Oscar film of 2015, and is set for release next October.
President Obama, his administration, and its many allies and supporters on both sides of the political aisle, Raul Castro, the Cuban regime, and Fidel himself, as well as the scores of appeals and initiatives taken by the media, people in the private and public sectors, organizations, and other constituents, extending to the Canadian Government, and even the Vatican and Pope Francis are all to be commended for a truly courageous step toward this seismic shift in history restoring relations between the United States and Cuba.
Let’s recall and examine how and when this shift started with a pretty big quake on the diplomatic Richter scale: In the late fall of 1962 and into 1963, attorney and negotiator Jim Donovan began negotiations with Fidel Castro on behalf of President Kennedy and his administration, and the Cuban Families Committee, and was the ONLY direct link to the President. Obama’s communication with Castro is the first direct Presidential communication since Eisenhower. 52 years ago on December 22, Jim returned home to the U.S. on December 22, 1962, having successfully negotiated for the release of 23 prisoners. His trips to Cuba continued well into the spring of 1963, ultimately resulting in the release of 1100+ prisoners in exchange for humanitarian aid provided by the Red Cross and a major pharmaceutical company, all coordinated by Donovan: a diplomatic coup striking a balance of the private and public sectors and establishing the groundwork that continued with diplomatic discussions and plans happening. Unbeknownst to the public, this coup would have happened then, but on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was killed and a new Administration and era ushered in, politics entered the fray, and history stood still….until today.
Donovan’s son John Donovan traveled to Cuba as a teenager, accompanying his father on one of his 15+ trips there to negotiate with Castro. After the failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs, Donovan was a strategic move in the Cold War chess game. Donovan bringing his teenage son on a visit was also a strategic move toward winning that chess game, salvaging relations after the failed invasion, and moving toward restored diplomatic relations. Also on this trip, the CIA actually attempted to assassinate Castro through a gift of a wetsuit that Castro was to wear with Jim on a fishing trip. At the last minute, Jim gave him another wetsuit, preventing the attack.
Jim Donovan’s dauntless diplomacy as it relates to #USACUBA, to #USARussia, and yes, even to the terrorist threat and the war on terror, offers a glimpse into the history of what happened on the world stage as it happened publicly AND behind-the-scenes a long time ago. These events have largely been eclipsed by so many years gone by and because the people who were there, are no longer here. Time and distance have a way of giving events a new perspective and the best recognition of all: success!!! Finally, success! Jim Donovan’s legacy in no way eclipses the significant accomplishments and efforts of those administrations and diplomats who have tried and contributed since that time, and most of all those on today’s world stage whose efforts directly impacted this dramatic shift. If anything, Jim Donovan’s legacy and those legacies of President Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy, now have the best gifts ever with today’s success and the opening of a new world for Cuba, and a new channel between Cuba and the United States.
All politics aside, let’s be proud of this change in the course of history. Time has a funny way of paying off. It may take a lot more time for many to adjust to this news, particularly those in the Cuban-American community in Miami who still struggle with how they left Cuba so many years ago and what/who they left behind. Respectfully to them and to the Cuban people who have suffered unimaginable loss, their feelings and opinions are all deserving. Ultimately, time will help to heal and reveal itself with the intangible gifts of freedom, change, hope, and progress. While history will always matter and never be forgotten, this is a truly momentous shift toward abundance, and the only way to look back is to move forward.
As the headline from @LakePlacidNews said in 1962: “Santa Came Home (to Lake Placid) from Cuba for Christmas”. Since Lake Placid is the town where miracles happen, because it’s Christmas. and because I believe in God, heaven, and in miracles, I will speculate on a miracle of my own: it seems that maybe Jim Donovan is still talking with Fidel Castro, having had something to do with helping to set this stage today…even from up above. Now that is truly something to consider, especially as we approach the 52nd anniversary on December 22 and of course as we approach Christmas on December 25. This year, “Santa” is not only President Obama, but also Pope Francis? Wow! There are just no words that give enough deference to how this was done to bring these prisoners home for the holidays beginning on Hannukah. As a Catholic, Jim Donovan and I am sure – President Kennedy and his brother Bobby – would not only approve, but very happily step aside in history for a Pope who is not only changing the Catholic Church, but changing the world. Given Jim’s wife and my grandmother’s personality, her influence with my grandfather, and her staunch Catholicism, this is something that seems to have her written all over it. Only at Christmas is it possible to speculate on such thoughts, but boy do I wish she and Jim were here to enjoy all of these wonderful pieces of news this year with us. Until we meet again, this event is the best Christmas/holiday gift ever for the released prisoners and their families, for Cuba and the United States, and for diplomacy. The events/news of 2014 is most certainly the best Christmas gift ever for the legacy of Jim Donovan, for my grandparents, for me, for my family, and for the next generation who hopefully looks to this day and this history to inspire their future ambitions.
JOHN DONOVAN SPEAKS ABOUT HIS DAD AND TRIP TO CUBA
The legacy of Jim Donovan is dedicated to a commitment to education, the law and the defense of the unpopular cause, diplomacy and the art of negotiation, the preservation of history, public service, the arts and the humanities, and to empowering and inspiring others to commitment to a life enriched by any/all of the above. His legacy serves as a role model for those of all ages, and especially to those parts of society and the world with limited opportunity and to the next generation. For additional information and continued updates on news in 2015, please visit http://www.jamesbrittdonovan.com/.org or http://www.jamesbdonovan.com/.org and/or contact firstname.lastname@example.org/.org.
I am so excited about Wills & Kate being in New York for so many reasons, including one very personal one, and another: that I am now involved with a conservation initiative supported by the royal patronage of Prince William called Tusk Trust. Most of all, I am excited by one reason that no one in the media seems to be highlighting/emphasizing as much as they did on the first #RoyalVisitUSA: it’s only Kate’s second time here, and her first time ever to New York City – and at Christmas!!! This trip is so exciting for us, but if we take the spotlight off of that for a second, can’t you imagine how exciting it is for her and them, not just as the #RoyalFamily, but as human beings just like the rest of us? As a lifelong New Yorker, I have always wanted to experience New York City through those innocent-wide-eyes of someone experiencing this city for the first time. As a lifelong New Yorker, I have those moments myself on a daily basis because of how proud I am of #NYC & #NewYorkState, and because of how extraordinary, dynamic, and mesmerizing this city truly is, especially at #Christmas. That said, to have those moments that I have myself through the eyes of a first-time-ever-visitor is something I have always wondered about and wished I could experience myself. While obviously that will never happen, I still get goosebumps for that person, seeing their eyes and faces light up like it never has before.This time, that person is a beautiful, charming, elegant, graceful, and approachable young woman who is very simply something we just don’t see as often as we should: a true lady – just like her mother-in-law @PrincessDiana. Just like she was, Kate is a fantastic role model for women everywhere. She married a young man who may have been born-to-be-prince-and-king of #England, but he has truly become a real prince and king of a man and changed the monarchy for the better forever. Really, it is something we get to witness for the first time in history, and to see a beautiful young couple at the beginning of their lives together taking #NYC and the world, by storm. British Consulate-General – New York #RoyalVisitUSA #christmasinNewyork
Since I have recently posted informal mini-reviews/round-ups of the Video Music Awards, the Country Music Awards and the American Music Awards, I seem to now feel obliged (compelled?) to do the same with the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, making this round-up thing a new tradition of my own.
So the tree lighting ceremony production was a little bit loose-r than years past, including Mariah’s décolletage! Whew! That Xmas song of hers is the best, but it may be time to change the dress color, bring up the neckline and just generally tighten things up a bit, don’t you think? Or maybe just get a stylist like everyone-else-and-their-mother-who-is-supposedly- somebody? Her talent is too great to be distracted by the other parts of the package hanging ten!
Though I loved seeing my fellow Sacred Heartie Stephanie Germanotta (aka Lady Gaga) up there alongside Mr. Tony Bennett (and she looked and sounded smashing), I thought Music City’s Jason Rucker was among the best, if not the best, of the singing bunch (the country music crowd always delivers the best musical talent). Sara Bareilles and Seth McFarlane also really delivered a fantastic rendition of Baby it’s Cold Outside. Ingrid Michaelson was really out-there, seemed like she might have even been on something other than the high from her off-key notes, and that outfit was the evening version of a hybrid of all the private girls’ school (Sacred Heart/Spence/Chapin/Nightengale/Spence/Hewitt) uniforms blended into one bad evening gown at the Gold and Silver Ball (only New York City kids will know what that is). A bit more dancing could also be thrown in to the production, but at least the Rockettes – a tradition unto themselves – showed up. They never disappoint, though it would have been nice to see a change in outfit for the 2nd kicking!
Idina Menzel is an incredible singer and performer, though that song from Frozen should be saved for the 1,000th DVD viewing at home by kids only. Maybe the tree lighting should be held on Monday night when Broadway is dark or at least try to get more song and dance routines from the Great White Way and Lincoln Center? If the A-list like Timberlake or even our own new Welcome to New York ambassador Taylor Swift can’t make it, then tapping the Great White Way, Lincoln Center, and more from Music City would make this the A-list show it is at heart, but just wasn’t there entirely last night, though always an A for effort with the peacock network NBC. The feathers just need to be fluffed a little more for next year.
Though I love all of the music, it feels different and somewhat wrong without the ice skaters. As a figure skater myself, it’s not my favorite ice rink (as it’s small), but Rockefeller Center during the winter, and especially at Christmas, has always been all about the ice. When trend takes over tradition, sometimes it veers too far and tonight it went a bit too far, especially when Nick Lachey is the best announcer of the whole Today Show crew (love that guy!!!), and when the talent is yearning for a true emcee (Ryan Seacrest, anyone????), and the newest New Yorker…..Taylor Swift. As a new New York ambassador of sorts, as the biggest star in the industry with the hottest album release out there, wouldn’t you think she would have been in New York to light up the tree instead of strutting the runway at Victoria’s Secret in…… London? Hey, wasn’t that show always in New York??? What happened to that??? Don’t those models all live here??? I know they do! I just saw Karlie Kloss at the Knicks game last week with her BFF (best friends forever who don’t know) Taylor Swift. have gone to it many times over the years….until this year??? Hmmm…..let’s get that back here. “Victoria” might exude British, but isn’t that an American brand?? Let’s get that Victoria back stateside. Hey speaking of lingerie and pajama-wear….
Leann Rimes looked like she was wearing her husband’s bathrobe. Though she showed a bit of a garter and black dress underneath, she never shed it completely and the outfit didn’t even look too exciting for it to be shed. It really wasn’t any better than the first outfit where she was wearing her husband’s lumberjack shirt from LL Bean. At least make the outfits Christmas-y when the Christmas song she chooses to sing is about…….hippos???
And what happened to our new Mayor flicking the switch? I always saw my favorite Mayor (other than Mr. Guiliani), Michael Bloomberg next to the Speyer family (uh, owners of Rock Center?) right next to Matt and the Today Show crew. Even seeing the Speyers would have made it all come together a bit more at the end. Who was that crowd next to Savannah and Matt? With the new Mayor nowhere in sight (I realize the job called tonight with protests looming, and gratefully, none happened at Rock Center), you would think that even a stalwart NYer like Trump or even Kathie Lee and Hoda could have been brought in to liven things up a bit and make it all seem like New York?! Who was that crowd? Couldn’t they come up with at least one boldfaced name instead of the group Today Show hug with Cyndi Lauper and a bunch of other New Yorkers we don’t know? At least then let’s get some children there to enjoy the thrill of lighting up the biggest tree from Pennsylvania that Al Roker brought in on the top of his station wagon!
It just wasn’t up to the level of years past, but on the bright side, there were no disruptions, everyone was happy, the songs/carols were all classics, and sometimes casual and not-so-pulled-together, feels like home too. As much as I love Taylor Swift, she is still growing on everyone as an authentic New Yorker (like the tree, she is originally from Pennsylvania) and there is something much more New York about Ole Blue Eyes and the New York, New York anthem we all know and love. In between Swifty and Frank are also Jay-Z and Billy Joel whose New York anthems New York State of Mind and Empire State of Mind would seem likely candidates to perform – even at Christmas. As resident performer at Madison Square Garden, let’s shoot for him next year? And Jay-Z can bring Beyonce and Baby Blue too, and wow – wouldn’t that be something!
The most logical choices also seemed to be missing: SNL cast? Brian Williams for his 10th Anniversary to flick the switch??? Maybe with his daughter Peter Pan? Seth Myers? Jimmy Fallon to slow-jam-the-Christmas-tree-lighting-news? We know now that Jimmy had more important new daddy duties to welcome his new daughter to the world, but next year we better see the new dad and host of the new Tonight Show in New York City? Maybe even host that night’s show outside! Now that is the perfect ensemble and none of them has to walk very far at all. We all love the Today Show crew but they are tired from the Thanksgiving Day parade and it was a long day for them. Give them a break and hand over the reins to the king and prince of nighttime!
On the brightest side of all: we are emboldened by the evening’s events aways, regardless of the show. The tree lighting is one of the grandest traditions in New York that is appreciated and enjoyed worldwide. IT always puts us in that Welcome to New York, New York/New York, Empire State of Mind because after all, the tree was greener and brighter than ever, baby it’s really not so cold outside, New York is the greatest city in the world and one helluva town- always, and there is absolutely nothing like New York City at Christmas.
LIKE U2, TRUE HEROES ARE NEVER “MINUS ONE”
One Life: What One Person can do to Change the Course of History
Over the course of my father’s career as a hematologic oncologist at @NYULangoneMedicalCenter, he has always shared highlights about his wide-ranging experiences in medicine: from news about the most interesting discovery, insights about the latest innovation, and interesting facts about the diseases he was treating, to his own interpretations of medical stories in the news, and most of all, to his professional and personal interactions with patients, students, and colleagues-doctors, nurses, lab workers, fundraisers, office administrators, and more. Many of those patients and colleagues – and their families – also became part of our extended family and a very familiar part of daily life whether it was on the phone taking messages on his behalf or seeing them at office/medical center visits and social functions, and even on special occasion dinners, performances, sporting events, and vacations to the Cape, the Jersey Shore, and the Adirondacks.
When I was in my early teens, my dad would share a little bit about interactions with one colleague in particular who also happened to be his long-time office-mate. I remember him talking about a new disease that was appearing in patients of theirs (though mostly hers, as this was her specialty) everywhere, in exponentially escalating numbers, which were also very quickly becoming beyond control. That colleague of his was also a pioneering researcher, who co-authored/co-published the first paper, identifying that disease. Thanks to this colleague of my dad’s, and the diligent research and innovation of medical professionals like her, along with leadership and support from Presidents Clinton and Bush 43, tireless advocates like Bono and his organization @RED, and other leading organizations such as @amfAR The Foundation for AIDS Research, the world has changed, and made so many incredible strides in the treatment of that disease. It is amazing to see what just one person did that began to manifest itself while she was alive, and how that work has manifested exponentially since she left this world at the way-too-young age of 45.
I am grateful to have known her at all, honored to say I did, and blessed to live in a world where her legacy continues this tireless fight. My dad’s colleague lived with a lifelong stigma of her own, and worked on behalf of others with a different type of stigma. But stigma is the same regardless of the source, and her stigma was something she was able to parlay quite easily into her work with these early patients who were very unfairly stigmatized, not as much because of the disease itself, but for their supposed choice of lifestyle. No one should ever live with stigma of any kind, and this doctor set the tone for treatment – medically and personally – at the outset. On #WorldAIDSDay and #GivingTuesday, this woman’s legacy is very worth sharing, not only to continue to fight for those lives who continue to suffer and/or face suffering, but also for those facing any stigma at all –whether it’s physical or mental illness, a physical or mental disability, man or woman, race or color, religion or atheist, single/divorced/married, adult or child, parent or aspiring parent or someone who chooses to not have any children at all, political affiliation, personal tastes in music, clothes, art, food, home, and yes – lifestyle. Stigma is a disease unto itself, and is something that not only pervades society and perpetuates our social ills, but alienates people from the human race. When disease becomes stigma, it alienates those people further from people when they need them the most. Celebration of our differences and what each person in this world has to offer is what makes this world and life so interesting and dynamic. Every individual on this planet has the right to life and to humane treatment – regardless of differences and any disease – and should be treated with compassion and dignity, most of all when they are in pain and in need. This is the time when “brothers and sisters” are called upon to carry each other through some of that pain rather than turn a blind eye or worse, rub salt in the wound.
That colleague of my father’s lived her life in a wheelchair because of polio. Despite this tremendous disability, she became a very successful doctor, who left a legacy that will endure not only well beyond her lifetime, but through the incredible strides that have been made and continue to be made in the treatment of this disease, the tireless advocacy of everyday heroes with unsung names like hers, as well as those heroes like Bono. Mr. Paul Hewson – or to reference him with his world famous moniker, Bono – has done so much more than lent his name, but devoted his life’s work to and through his music which we sing and dance to every day – to this disease. I wish he could have known her, as she is one of those heroes we don’t encounter every day. The countless people affected by this disease then, now, and in the future have all been touched by her work in one way or another. #What1PersonCanDo not only saves lives, but changes the world.
In the spirit of the U2 song ONE, #What1PersonCanDo, and #U2MinusOne: @U2 could never be U2 without @Bono, and Bono could not be U2 without @theEdge, @LarryMullen, and @AdamClayton. U2 is Bono, and Bono is U2. The man is the band; the band is the man. But the band he and they have created is not only their music, but something bigger than themselves, something bigger than the entire catalogue of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musicians on one stage, even including (now, as a lifelong E Street girl, this is tough even for me to say out loud!) – yes – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band! What is extraordinary about #U2MINUSOne, is that Bono’s spirit is so larger-than-life that it could never be replaced by someone else – not even by his longtime pal and fellow @RockandRollHallofFame-r, Mr. Springsteen, his soon-to-be-fellow-Hall-of-Famer @Coldplay’s Chris Martin. They, along with @CarrieUnderwood and @KanyeWest, rose to the occasion and paid tribute to Bono and U2 by being torchbearers to the cause, using their names and talents because of something bigger than themselves. They believe in Bono and U2, they believe in their music and their message, they believe in the cause, they believe in the power of the human spirit, and yes – they believe in music to heal, to move people toward something bigger than themselves, to “move brothers and sisters to carry each other.”
Like Bono, this fight is never “minus one” because this doctor is no longer here, or because of all of the casualties this disease has left in its wake. It is a fight and a cause that has new names and faces added to it every day. It is an extraordinary band, a collective of people who have come together for a cause that has taken on a life of its own. That band has come together as Bono sings, “One. Brothers and sisters who carry each other.” That is the power of the human spirit, and the power of what one person can do to create a song, sing it, and use that song to have everyone sing the same tune, carrying each other through it, producing one resounding, glorious and triumphant symphony for lifetimes to come.
That Doctor is @Julia Roberts’ character in the HBO film, developed from the Broadway play, by
That Doctor’s name was #DrLindaLaubenstein. That disease is #AIDS.
Is it getting better
Or do you feel the same
Will it make it easier on you now
You got someone to blame
When it’s one need
In the night
We get to share it
Leaves you baby if you
Don’t care for it
Did I disappoint you
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other.
Carry each other
Have you come here for forgiveness
Have you come to raise the dead
Have you come here to play Jesus
To the lepers in your head
Did I ask too much
More than a lot
You gave me nothing
Now it’s all I got
But we’re not the same
Hurt each other
Then we do it again
Love is a temple
Love a higher law
Love is a temple
Love the higher law
You ask me to enter
But then you make me crawl
And I can’t be holding on
To what you got
When all you got is hurt
You got to do what you should
With each other
. One life.
But we’re not the same.
We get to
Carry each other
. Carry each other
SEPTEMBER 20 & 23, 2014
This past week, I had the privilege of hearing Thom Zimny speak about his work as filmmaker, videographer, and film archivist for #BruceSpringsteen with @Backstreets/#Backstreets Editor/Publisher Chris Philips. Organized and hosted by the #FriendsoftheBruceSpringsteenSpecialCollection @MonmouthUniversity, the evening also served as a birthday celebration for the man affectionately known as “The Boss”.
The festivities really began last Saturday with #50YearsofMakingThisGuitarTalkSymposium
showcasing @MonmouthUniversity as a premier destination for #SpringsteenScholars, while also further substantiating and cementing the historical influence of #Springsteen’s music on education, theology, politics, culture, and society. There is also a beautiful photography exhibit in the @PollakTheatreGallery on view until September 30, with one special photo of a young #Springsteen at the piano at the 1974 concert in Harvard Square up for auction. While the guitar may be synonymous with Springsteen, he also converses with a wide range of instruments including the harmonica, organ, and piano, while also conducting his entire “orchestra” as a true #RockandRollsymphony of sorts. Taken by #RockRoyalty photographer @Barry Schneier and part of a larger collection entitled “Glory Bound”, the photo captures Bruce as the serious musician that he really is, and is one of many others of him on display alongside other musical icons including Bonnie Raitt and Van Morrison. #MonmouthUniversity is somewhat of a hidden gem of higher learning, professional development, the visual and performing arts, and college campus life to those who don’t know the #JerseyShore. If you are in the area this weekend and until September 30, definitely pay a visit to the exhibit and take a tour of the bucolic campus, which is situated less than a mile from the beach.
Thom spoke about his most recent collaboration with Bruce on his first-ever short film #HunterofInvisibleGame. Hearing him walk through the film process with us and viewing it on the big screen lent it the gravitas it truly deserves, which the Internet medium just doesn’t capture. He also showed us rare footage from the vault: #NYCSerenade, #MountainofLove, #DoesthisBusStopat82ndStreet (1/2 of which Bruce wrote on a bus, the other 1/2 on the subway) from 1972, portraying a young-but-old-soul-Bruce playing to audiences of 15 people with @ViniLopez (who was in attendance) and the #BigMan #ClarenceClemons, commenting on how amazing it is to see the same expressions, gestures, and performance techniques then, as we see now. Bruce may have just turned 65, but his youthful spirit has withstood and continues to challenge the test of time.
Thom also captured the essence of the 2012 #WreckingBall tour through the lens of the debut show at the Apollo Theatre In Harlem, with Bruce and the #EStreetBand paying tribute to the legends of the Apollo. The video captured the history, beauty, and intimacy of the theatre, the camaraderie that Bruce fosters among and with the band while simultaneously conducting them as the only #rockandrollorchestra of its kind, the perfect balance that he strikes between humility and genius, and the playfulness he always has with his audience. The video’s highlight captured how Bruce surprised everyone, including the Band, when he jumped up into and among all the balconies around the small circumference of the theatre to stand and sing along with the crowd, finally figuring out the right way to land atop the center balcony just in time for the climactic verse and then jump back down to the stage for the song’s finish. Thom said he did see Bruce survey the theatre during soundcheck earlier that day, which in hindsight made sense after this extraordinary feat. The film also captured the band’s faces and reactions, showing us that their bandleader astounds them sometimes too. (A link to a video from that show is below, though it is not Thom’s version which of course captured Bruce and the bands faces and expressions up close.)
Thom and Chris closed by paying tribute to us – the devoted fans and followers who have made #EStreetNation a global #NewJersey – with the 2012 closing tour thank-you video Thom made with Bruce. The #DreamBabyDream video is an extremely poignant, moving, and inspiring piece that brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face a mile wide. It did the same thing last night, creating a bigger smile, tears of joy, and so much gratitude for someone who has changed the world and mine, by making his guitar talk. Needless to say, we were all on our feet and left only wanting more.
While we wait, we can take new delight in an ever-expanding repertoire that includes an upcoming acting debut on @StevieVanZandt’s #Lillyhammer and a picture book bringing the character #OutlawPete to life through illustrations by @FrankCaruso (who was also in attendance) accompanying his lyrics. @BruceSpringsteen.net has also just announced the release of a deluxe box set of re-mastered classics for release on November 17, just in time for Christmas. A 2015 tour is rumored to be announced soon. We could also see a new album (or two!?) in 2015. If there is any effect of aging here, it is something akin to exponential creativity and a productivity level that only seems to surge as time marches on. There is just no time for retirement when there are more stories to be told, too much music to be made, and much more life to live by doing the thing he loves the most: making that guitar talk.
I waited and stood in the rain two years ago to celebrate along with 55,000+ others who belong to this worldwide fellowship now connected way beyond the original #JerseyStateline where it all started: across oceans and continents, generations, cultures, races, religions, and yes – political leanings. I listened to that concert again on #EStreetRadio driving back along #OceanAvenue with the windows wide open, breathing in the salt air, creating a new experience and perspective on that night two years ago. Needless to say, it was a #longridehome and just like waiting and standing in the rain: I would do it again in a heartbeat. September 23, 2015?
Happy Birthday #BruceSpringsteen. Here’s to fulfilling many more #dreamsbabydreams for you….and for all of us.
A SNAPSHOT OF THE FESTIVITIES
A ROCK AND ROLL SOUL BAND: LEGENDS OF THE APOLLO
DREAM BABY DREAM
HUNTER OF INVISIBLE GAME
As many years go for all of us, this past year was one of highs and lows. For the purpose of being in sync with this year’s Myth of Red Salon theme of ILLUMINATION: 2013 consisted of lights, dimmer lights, and yes, some moments of real darkness. Lights are constant reminders to us that there is always a light shining somewhere, even when it is not immediately visible. Words also have a funny way of lending more gravitas and decoration to one very simple word. For instance, ILLUMINATION magnifies, glorifies, and decorates the word light, making light seem that much more special than it inherently is on its own, perhaps also reinforcing it as an extraordinary gift with so many meanings and purposes that it cannot ever be taken for granted. In theme with a recent event and group of dear and talented friends of which I am privileged to be a part called the Myth of Red Salon, I wrote a “poem” about illumination and expanded it to include a tribute to my favorite musician of all time, as well as some illuminating wishes for a Christmas and New Year that shines more brightly than each of us could ever imagine.
Light is a navigational beacon, a guidepost, a comforting friend in moments of darkness.
Light produces energy, warmth, and beauty, whether it is from the sun radiating its golden glory through the trees, reflecting its rays onto the water, poking its head out through the clouds, electrifying a face with a smile and a belly with laughter.
Light is a source of growth and rebirth, lending its critical power to a seed in the ground, a bulb waiting to bloom, a bare tree crying out to be green again.
Light is celestial, otherworldly, heavenly, divine, eternal; A symbol of hope, peace, freedom, communion, humanity, solidarity, passing the torch from one generation to the next, sharing a most precious natural resource in ways that celebrate being, living, life.
Light is decoration, making everything beautiful, as the holiday decorations are doing throughout the city, as the skyline always frames the New York City sky, particularly now with that extra light of the Freedom tower; on September 11, with the two light beams reminding us of what once stood and all that we lost on that terrible day and have yet to regain, the décor in this room, the gorgeous costumes on our performers and our audience dressed in their finest winter whites, the candles lit in church every day and in honor of every tragic passing, the eternal flame of John F. Kennedy.
Light is also a benchmark of time. As we approach the shortest, darkest day of the year known as the Winter Solstice, we are reminded that another year has passed, reflecting on our time, our accomplishments, our missed opportunities, our families, our relationships, our work, our values, our goals, our existence. Luckily, by December 23, the days become longer, the light we are missing returns, albeit slowly toward a season of rebirth and renewal to plan for a lighter and brighter year ahead.
Light always illuminates.
One constant of light in my life has been music, starting with the 8-track tape in one of my family’s first cars: a very generic blue Oldsmobile. I sang to that Oldsmobile tape that came with the car, to the tunes of Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach and Rain Drops Falling on My Head, and Good Ole’ Leroy Brown. Shortly thereafter, the Carpenters became the 8 track of choice that I asked my dad to pop in the good’ol Olds, along with his classical favorites and Frank Sinatra. To this day, I still think Karen Carpenter has the voice of an angel, unlike any female voice I have ever heard. Shortly thereafter and simultaneously with the Carpenters, another early favorite still remains a sentimental one, albeit perhaps an embarrassing one. When I was little, I used to sit at my parent’s piano pretending I was Shirley or Laurie to Keith Partridge’s “I think I Love You” and all of their other lesser-known tunes from every one of their albums that I still own, including A Partridge Family Christmas! When my cousins’ little girls began to listen to music with us, our love affair with the Partridge Family continued into our adulthood. When they asked why I was not on the CD cover photo, we told them I was sick that day!! Now that the girls are teenage young ladies, we finally broke the news that cousin Bethie was never a member of the Partridge Family. Boy did we have a good laugh. Needless to say, I thought it was eerily coincidental that my soon-to-be-musical-hero – a then unknown Bruce Springsteen – was almost overlooked because Columbia Records was focused on…you guessed it, the Partridge Family!
Also around this time, or even earlier, I began to take piano lessons. I started playing when I was in first grade and played through high school. I am told, and I do remember, being quite good. Going to lessons was easy – right across the hall on East 82nd Street to APT 5A, an apartment filled with music and all its accouterments, bringing light if it is possible, to sound, which emanated from an apartment at all hours of the day, wafting through the walls, with famous musicians playing. Beautiful music, coupled with the glorious scents of Mrs. Lewis’ cooking, established apartment 5A as a sensory smorgasbord and a childhood constant, lasting well into my adult life.
It also isn’t every day that greatness lives next door. Little did I know or appreciate until I went to Mr. Lewis’ funeral, after almost 35 years of being our neighbor and playing piano in their musical virtuoso apartment, that he was one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, a member of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Extraordinary talent, refined and soft-spoken humility is – to quote my personal hero – a “brilliant disguise” for the real thing: greatness, sheer and utter, authentic brilliance.
Of course Saturday Night Fever, Olivia Newton-John and the Grease soundtrack played big roles in my musical development, along with WABC Radio, WNEW FM, and WPLJ 95.5 where I won tickets to the Police at Shea Stadium. I remember my first stereo, playing the radio more than I played any LP, and listening to WABC (which I believe was AM radio…is that possible????) and songs like Blinded by the Light sung by Manfred Mann and Fire by the Pointer Sisters were familiar favorite tunes. Little did I know at the time that these pop 40 hits were literally “Brilliance in Disguise”, as GUESS WHO wrote them both!??? I did not discover until I was less naïve and a bit more astute in my knowledge of music history, that yet again, it was/is Mr. Bruce Springsteen.
Also along the way, there was another musical constant and omnipresence, one that was also greatness and brilliance right next door and underneath my nose, just like Mr. & Mrs. Lewis, just like my father who is a dedicated and renowned physician, just like my maternal grandfather who was a prominent lawyer and political negotiator, just like my paternal grandfather who was also a dedicated physician and the first Italian-American to graduate from the University of Colorado Medical School, just like Scott Hamilton and Dorothy Hamill who are the accomplished figure skaters and wonderful people who I still admire and emulate. These people were the role models I wrote about for the college application that gained me entry into my beloved Georgetown University. The other role model was still playing a very subtle role, only to really unfold when I needed it to the most.
I had this “omnipresent constant’s” early albums, along with the Who, the Stones, the Kinks, the Police, Billy Joel, David Bowie, Steve Winwood, Steely Dan, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, and other 80’s favorites like Roxy Music, and yes – Madonna. As a teenager from the 80’s, MTV was my musical “beacon”. I LOVED MTV and I think I really did watch it 24 hours a day. When Born in the USA was released, I was a very serious figure skater, pursuing my dream in my favorite place on earth where my family has a home and a long personal history, where the Winter Olympics have been held twice, and where the world watched the greatest moment in sports history: Lake Placid, NY. My mode of transportation that summer was my bicycle and my favorite accessory was my Sony Walkman. Honestly, I think I would be perfectly happy now, with my iPod and adding a paddleboard (and my dad’s Mustang with E Street Radio). I think the only music I listened to the summer of 1984 (and maybe even 1985 before I went to college) was the Born in the USA album. Not only was it my favorite because I loved the music, the lyrics and their meaning, and because it resonated with me at the right age, but also because it connected my brother and I with our dad, who finally found some common musical ground with a contemporary artist that my brother and I both loved. Through songs like Glory Days, Bobby Jean, My Hometown, Dancing in the Dark, and Born in the USA, my brother and I rocked out with our dad, which is a feat unto itself! As my dad had done with the 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey game (and because he is the most generous and least extravagant person I know), he bought one ticket for my brother at Giants Stadium and listened to the whole concert outside in the parking lot by himself. Fortunately in February, 1980, he did decide to get one more ticket for himself. Though he sat separately from my 10 year old brother, he witnessed the US team beat the Russians and history, while my Mom & I watched Eric Heiden receive one of his 5 Gold Medals on Mirror Lake as the crowd slowly erupted into a firestorm of chants of USA USA USA. Fortunately almost 35 years later, the Boss is still touring and my father still has a chance to get that front-row seat to a(nother) concert, to another moment in history.
The ever-present Springsteen soundtrack has persisted, just as it has for so many others throughout the world. While my appreciation and love for his music has only increased with time and attendance at many concerts, it has been the last two years when he has been the best friend (and I know he doesn’t know) I have had. I remember saying at a concert years ago, sitting high up in the rafters at Giants Stadium, “I have never seen someone who loves life and his job as much as he does.” In 2009, I went to see U2 at Giants Stadium, a close second in my book behind Mr. Springsteen. The concert was fantastic; Bono and U2’s unique sound and the show was memorable. Only a few weeks later, I saw the last few concerts before the Stadium was torn down. Who else would be the Mariano Rivera (AKA the #CLOSER) to tear that baby down but the Jersey Boy himself. It was the first time I heard Wrecking Ball and over the last few years, it has assumed various other interpretations, including what is either a mockery or the best compliment ever to Bruce from Miley Cyrus.
The U2 show had colorful, psychedelic lights and an elaborate 360-degree stage, apropos for the 360-degree tour. While U2’s music is amazing, and the overall show was an exciting sensory feast, I felt differently several weeks later in hindsight. In October, 2009, I saw Bruce and the #EStreetBand light up the arena with zero of that fanfare and the most magnetic, energetic, passionate, lit-from-within live performer of our time at the former Giants Stadium. That show (like all of his shows) energized and emitted light throughout the crowd in a way that no one else is capable of doing to a crowd of 60,000+ people, or even a crowd of 100 people. Whether you are sitting up in the rafters or behind the stage (and I have done both) or standing in the pit in front of the stage (which I have also done several times now and will never go back to a seat if I don’t have to!), Mr. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band exceeds expectations every single time and leaves the crowd LIT FROM WITHIN.
In 2012, the light that shined the brightest for me was the opportunity to experience one of the great lights of this world – #music #live music – from my very favorite musician. This musician not only happens to be one of the greatest musicians today and ever, but he also happens to be my personal hero for many reasons beyond his music. September 22, 2012 at MetLife Stadium was a rain-delayed concert that had everyone inside waiting for a sunny “night”. It also happened to be the Boss’s 63rd birthday. I held a sign asking for a miracle (which I still hope might happen because yes, I do believe in miracles). I even showed him that sign on the beach a few weeks later on an Indian summer day with a mutual friend. On that epic concert night, he jokingly asked for 60,000 candles to light his birthday cake. While that wasn’t possible in reality, it was possible and indeed happened in spirit. For me, with the exception of moments in my own figure skating career and watching my figure skating heroes – especially Dorothy Hamill and Scott Hamilton – I have never ever experienced the feeling of being one with that many people and with someone lit from within with so much brilliance and talent, including a solo Japanese man who spoke no English. I felt lit from within and in communion with every single person in that stadium, including the #EStreetBand, the #Springsteen and #Scialfia families, the Boss of the Boss Adele Springsteen, and the Boss himself. In 2013, because the #WreckingBall tour was overseas,#EStreetRadio in my dad’s Mustang, became my favored companion during a year that was not so great. Whether it’s a YouTube video, a live stream concert from #RockinRio, or a live concert, my spirit awakens and lights up to the sounds of #Springsteen.
Last year, I wrote a long letter to the well-known film producer #RidleyScott who was making a documentary called Springsteen and I, a movie about #Springsteen by the fans about what he means to them in three words. I grew up vacationing on the #JerseyShore and hadn’t been back to #SpringLake since my grandmother died five years ago. In fact, even though my aunt still lives there, I vowed never to go on Monroe Avenue again because the owners tore my grandmother’s picture-perfect home overlooking the Atlantic down. Upon receiving my letter, Ridley Scott’s team asked for me to give them footage for the documentary. On a whim early last December, I drove down the #NJTurnpike and the Garden State Parkway to Exit 98 (of course listening to #EStreetRadio) filming and photographing all the way down. Driving the highway, particularly down to the #JerseyShore, is not only home to me, but also hallmark #Springsteen.
I visited all of my favorite childhood haunts and filmed in town, from the South End, past the old Monmouth Hotel (a real relic which no longer stands, but is firmly etched in my memory), and the #Essex&SussexHotel. I took this route purposely, because my grandmother’s house was on the North End, pretty close to the gates of the neighboring town of #Belmar. As I approached her street, the police barricades were up and Hurricane Sandy’s devastation was visible. I decided it was time for me to take that ride to the other side around the corner. As I did, I saw the entire boardwalk on the corner of Ocean & Monroe Avenue lifted up onto Ocean Avenue itself. And so, I broke the promise I made to myself, drove right by 9 Monroe Avenue, looking at a new house in place of what I had known my entire life, and then drove right up to the barricade, where the pent up emotions filled my being, and cried my eyes out. I am happy to say that my grandmother’s house and my childhood and adult emotional attachment to 9 Monroe Avenue is still firmly intact and nothing will ever change that, not even the new structure in its place. I also experienced the real emotion of letting go and moving on, empathizing for the real losses from this devastating storm, appreciating how lucky I am to have had a gift of so many wonderful memories, of looking out from my grandmother’s screened-in porch onto a shimmering Atlantic, when others have lost their homes, their belongings, their loved ones. On that day, I gained perspective of how much I have been given and how grateful I am for a roof over my head, my friends and family, my health, and my life.
What I also realized on that trip was that greatness and brilliance was yet again, right next door under my nose the entire time, for my entire life! 10th Avenue and E Street in Belmar is a very short distance from my grandmother’s home. Growing up, I always knew that Bruce was from and on the Jersey Shore, but I thought it was somewhere else, much farther down the boardwalk. Even later in life when I had close friends in #Rumson and #Sea Bright, I never realized how close that brilliance was to where I spent so many summer days in my summer clothes, on the “’hood of a Dodge drinking warm beer” – well, ok, not really on the hood of a Dodge, but next to my Uncle Tom’s Dodge Dart in the driveway at 9 Monroe Avenue in #SpringLake #NewJersey. I think I even learned to drive on that car, so hopefully that counts, though the song Jungleland conjures images of something much more enticing!
2013 was not a particularly good year for me. I was not able to seize the day and synthesize my Springsteen and I footage to accompany the very personal narrative that I still have yet to share. I still have it all on my Mac, and I still will produce my little feature, even if it is just for myself and to say that I did. The producers asked the fans for three words to describe what Springsteen means to me. There are so many great words to describe him, and I really have had a hard time choosing them, though I feel pretty strongly about the words/themes I have decided to pursue. In short and to me, he is the not only the greatest musician, storyteller, and live performer ever, but also one of the greatest American exports we have, along with democracy, APPLE computer, and yes, General Motors and Ford. Now it’s time to put those themes to work, not just for my own Springsteen and I, but most importantly for me, my own life, my own narrative. For the purpose of ending the year on a high and lighter note, I have the perfect three words to describe him, the essence of what he means to me, and in theme with light and illumination:
LIT FROM WITHIN.
May your Christmas be merry & bright, and in 2014, may you be lit from within.
To my family, my friends, Daniel’s Music Foundation, to my “blood brothers”: May we all be blessed with the spirit of being lit from within this holiday season, but most importantly for 2014, to never take it for granted, and to find that light within each and every one of us, every moment we have here on this Earth. The light is always there – from the sun, the moon, the stars, the rainbow. Grab some of it, find that spark, light it, keep it lit, shine your brightest light possible. Find that external beacon that helps you to find it within you. Mr. Springsteen has certainly challenged me to rise up to the challenge, so let’s find it. Who’s in? As Bruce says, “Let me see your hands!”
If you aren’t in that festive, holiday spirit this year, then please join me at one of the shows in 2014 because the light shining from his spirit will at least light you up, if not from within, then just for one night. May you have a very Blessed Holiday, and as the Boss always says, “I’ll be seein’ ‘ya”. I might add….lit from within.
“Now we’re out here on this road
On this road tonight
Close my eyes and feel so many friends around me
In the early evening light
And the miles we have come
And the battles won and lost
Are just so many roads traveled, so many rivers crossed
And I ask God for the strength, and faith in one another
‘Cause its a good night for a ride, cross’ this river to the other side
My Blood Brothers” – Bruce Springsteen