Tag Archive | "Jersey Shore"

What You See is What You Get?

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For those of us not in the public eye, our brushes with celebrity can provide an escape from the humdrum nature of daily life, as well as a subject of conversation when someone asks us “what’s new?”  During my own life in the greater New Jersey area, I have personally encountered many personalities from the sports world, including the Philadelphia Phillies’ Greg Luzinski, Philadelphia Eagle Keith Krepfle, Philadelphia Flyers Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach, and others, and Don Zimmer, former major league baseball player, manager, and coach, most recently with the New York Yankees.  I very nearly literally bumped into actor Ted Knight (who played Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show) a number of years ago on a street in Philadelphia and former Senator, Rhodes Scholar, and guard for Princeton University and the New York Knicks, Bill Bradley, while checking out at a well-known Cherry Hill sandwich shop “Big John’s.”

In many cases, I was struck by how unpretentious these notables appeared, at least on the surface.  Never, however, have I met a celebrity as down to earth and genuinely nice as Olivia Bloise Sharpe.  Who, you ask, is Olivia Bloise Sharpe?  None other than one of the new batch of reality television stars with a Jersey flavor.

For the uninitiated, Olivia is among the cast of characters on one of the Style Network’s entries into reality programming, Jerseylicious.  And, for my money, she is the star of the show.  The program’s setting is The Gatsby Salon in Green Brook where Olivia is hired as a makeup artist.  There, she works under the direction of Alexa Prisco (aka, The Glam Fairy) and the salon’s mother and daughter ownership team, Gayle Giacomo and Christy Pereira.  Much of the program’s drama is created by the tension between Olivia and hairstylist Tracy DiMarco, who is dating Olivia’s former boyfriend and who, according to information gleaned from one of the early programs in the series, has travelled in similar circles for a number of years and had a longstanding animosity with Olivia.

Make no mistake, however, Olivia and Tracy are both Jersey girls.  The big hair, the animal prints, the heavy makeup, and the liberal use of bronzer are all indicative of their Jersey roots, as is the fact that neither would in any way, shape, or form be considered a shrinking violet.  They are just two of a growing number of reality TV personalities hailing from the Garden State.  Like Jersey Shore and The Desperate Housewives of New Jersey, the success of Jerseylicious seems to hearken a national trend toward interest in all things New Jersey.

To viewers in the Midwest, Olivia, Tracy, and the goings-on at Gatsby Salon must seem as commonplace as extraterrestrial visitation.  Yet, like alien encounters, one must question how “real” is the reality being viewed?  In answer to this, I can only reference personal experience.  You see, I met Olivia at an Exxon service station in Green Brook.  The station and appended “On the Run” convenience store is operated by brothers George and Samir Yazgi and is the place of employment of Write On New Jersey’s own contributing writer, Small Town Girl.

I must confess that I had been alerted to the fact that a scene from an upcoming Jerseylicious program was to be shot at the station.  And so, anxious to see “reality” in action, I arrived to find the production staff readying the scene.  Speaking with several production crew members as we awaited Olivia’s arrival, I posed a number of questions about the show and its cast.  Although reticent to provide details, comments from the crew enabled me to draw a couple of conclusions.  First, while the cast members are indeed real hairstylists and makeup artists, they do not work at Gatsby on a regular basis (i.e., if you book an appointment, you are not likely to see Olivia, Tracy, Gigi, Alexa, Anthony, or any of the other cast members present).  Second, while the show does not have a formal script, it does have a theme or context.  The show’s characters simply react to the situation presented.

In the case of the scene shot at the Exxon station, I promised the field production manager that I would not divulge the plotline, but rather leave you to draw your own conclusions.  I will disclose, however, that both Samir and George play significant roles in this scene and that neither was prompted regarding what to say or how to react.  Having witnessed it firsthand, I think that there may be Emmy Awards in the offing for both George and Samir, as well as perhaps a reality program of their own.

Questions of the nature of reality and the impact of the camera on human behavior aside, I would conclude that reality programming is more “reel life” than “real life.”  Yet, in the 21st Century, we seem to be evolving into a culture of voyeurs, and reality television is feeding this voyeuristic compulsion.  And so, if you like your reality staged, tune into Jerseylicious where you can witness the dramatic interplay between the lovely Olivia and the bitchy Tracy.

Write on New Jersey would like to thank Field Production Manager Lisa Colangelo for the professional photo at the top of this article and George Yazgi for the other photos taken with his cellphone.  To catch Olivia in action, you may watch the video below.


Another Runner in the Night

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Had James Dean ventured into the realm of music instead of film, he might have been Bruce Springsteen.   And had he lived through that fatal car crash, the actor might have evolved into the man that the Jersey boy would become.


Charismatic and deeply committed to their art, both men catapulted into the public’s consciousness as anti-heroes.  Dean, of course, was the original anti-hero, the paradigm: the nightmare role model that post-war WWII Middle America had never seen coming.  A restless soul who smoked too much, drove too fast, and whose emotions ran deep, James Dean’s mortal sin was his unvarnished honesty in questioning the status quo instead of simply going along with it as generations before him had.  When Dean died, he did so as the “Rebel Without a Cause:”  the character that had put him on the map.  His legacy passed to an emerging generation that did have a cause — positive social change — and that rallied, in the ’60’s though to the present day, to accomplish that change.


Born into a working class family in Long Branch, New Jersey roughly nine years before James Dean met his fate on that California road, Bruce Springsteen appeared to have come into the world with a chip on his shoulder.  Later tagged with the title “The Boss,” Springsteen despised the moniker due to his innate mistrust of authority figures and “fat cats.”  In school, both Catholic and public, he was the odd man out, butting heads with nuns, lay teachers, and even his fellow students.  The moment that Elvis Presley invaded his living room, at the tender age of seven, this rebel found his cause — music!  Ed Sullivan’s film crew may have disguised the worst of Elvis’ gyrations, but they could not conceal the raw energy pumping through him, fueled by rock n’ roll.   Little Bruce was hooked; at thirteen, he bought his first guitar and never looked back.


As an upcoming, butt-busting singer-songwriter-guitarist, Springsteen played clubs and college circuits, primarily in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and Philadelphia, in addition to some dates in California.  He is, however, most closely linked to venues in his native New Jersey; particularly, the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.  As omnipresent as saltwater taffy at the Jersey shore, rich and familiar imagery of the Garden State runs through Bruce’s music — as does his gripe with The Powers that Be.


Signed to Columbia Records in 1972, the hometown boy launched his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, to commercial disappointment; ditto, his second outing, The Wild, the Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle.  Reviewers likened Springsteen’s brand of rock, which married blues, jazz, folk, soul, and a touch of church music, to Bob Dylan’s poetical lyrics, Van Morrison’s sound, and Robbie Robertson’s gravelly, everyman’s voice.   While this most honored heritage should have left Springsteen in good standing, and while the music press applauded his energy and urgency, it also painted him as unoriginal.   It was not until Springsteen launched his third album, the anthemic “Born to Run” that he became a true rock n’ roll icon.  Ironically, Bruce hated the “wall of sound” that his manager/producer, Jon Landau, had pushed for.  In typical Bruce fashion, once the record had been mastered, The Boss tossed it — the work of more than a year — into a trash bin, insisting to Landau that it would have sounded better had he cut it in a club.  But even Bruce’s angst could not halt the steamroller of fame.


“Born to Run,” the album’s title cut, did for Springsteen what “Rebel Without a Cause” did for James Dean.  The story of a young man desperate to escape his small town and convince his girlfriend to run off with him, the song steams with Bruce’s need to break free of middle class life in New Jersey, likening his flight to being “sprung from cages on Highway 9.”  Almost orchestral and crescendo’ing to Springsteen’s screaming guitar, E-Street’s modern Big Band sound is the perfect counterpoint to Bruce’s admission that he’d rather “die on the streets tonight in an everlasting kiss” than face a life of mediocrity ruled by The Establishment and accepted by his peers. Upon its release to FM progressive-rock radio, the song’s urgency touched the hearts of America’s youth, who embraced it as their anthem.   More than three decades later, its energy and universal theme continue to uplift, anger, and haunt audiences of all ages.


As Bruce matured, so did his music.  Reflecting his growing political awareness and later, his activism, it retained its “rage against the machine” perspective as well as its images of New Jersey.  “Atlantic City”‘s stark and relentless opening drum underpins scenes of violence in Philly and a gang war brewing on the boardwalk.  Onto this landscape steals the singer: a man under siege by a rotten economy, clinging fast to the hope that “everything that dies one day comes back.”  Riddled with “debts no honest man can pay,” he takes the ultimate gamble, earning a little money by doing a favor for a man dealing on the wrong side of the law.  It’s enough to take him and his woman to Atlantic City, where he’s convinced himself “the sands turn into gold.”  As the song draws to its conclusion, Bruce cries out an invitation:  “Meet me tonight in Atlantic City.”  Driven by Max Weinberg’s muscular drumming, The Boss’s voice swells, transforming that invitation into a command for a last-ditch stab at salvation.


“Born in the USA,” the title track from the album of the same name, is, if not Bruce’s most politically-charged song, then certainly, his most misinterpreted.  Climbing to #9 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles of 1984, it joined six other songs from that album to achieve the same Top 10 distinction.  Although it does not contain direct references to the Garden State, this bitter dirge mourns the loss of Springsteen’s fellow New Jerseyans:  friends who perished in the Viet Nam War.  The song infers the guilt of a callous government:  ours.   Bruce pushes the chorus, “Born in the USA, I was born in the USA!” through his lungs as if he were standing atop Mount Rushmore, bellowing for all the world to damn well hear him.  Derailed by the song’s title, its zealous delivery, and/or the photo of its creator’s blue-jeaned bottom on the cover of the album, with the American flag trailing from a pocket, certain Republicans assumed Springsteem to be a nationalist, and attempted to recruit him in support of Ronald Reagan’s Presidential campaign.  Although Bruce politely refused the offer, it didn’t stop Reagan from alluding publicly to the modern-day protest singer as a bastion of America’s heartland.


As Bruce’s first marriage to model-turned-actress Julianne Phillips was dissolving, his music grew darker, returning to the Jersey of his youth to stand it on its ear.  “Tunnel of Love” from the album of the same name uses familar symbols as double entrendres.  Set in a funhouse ride, the tunnel of love with its dark twists and turns becomes a symbol for a marriage rocky with fear and mistrust.  The complex melody, alternately spooky and bright as a carnival, rises and falls like the car barreling through the tunnel to its inevitable end.  The background includes the sound of an actual family riding a roller coaster in Point Pleasant.


It would take an encyclopedia to relay every song that The Boss has penned and performed in his extensive career.  Although his sound has evolved from anthemic rock to more introspective material, and although his music has gained audiences around the globe, Bruce Springsteen remains the voice of a brash, tough State clinging to its proud heritage even as it moves forward.

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