OFF-YEAR OR NOT, MENNA SAYS HE’LL RUN

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Mayor Pasquale Menna may live to regret his pledge to axe borough health benefits for himself and future mayors.

Last night, in what appeared to be an off-the-cuff retort, Menna said he would run the George Sheehan Classic, a somewhat grueling — Tower Hill, anyone? — five-mile race to be held June 14.

The promise came during light debate over a proposed resolution to reauthorize the annual borough-based race, which shuts down Broad Street for several hours on a Saturday morning and takes about 3,000 runners into Little Silver, Rumson and Fair Haven.

“I support the race. It provides another vital resource to the town,” said Councilman Michael DuPont. “But I would make it a condition that the mayor run in it.”

“I’ll take that challenge,” Menna said, without hesitation.

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BACKWARD GLANCES LOOKS SOUTHWARD

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By TOM CHESEK

New York has its late and lamented CBGB; Memphis its Sun Studio; Detroit its original Hitsville USA; and Asbury Park a converted disco by name of the Stone Pony.

In New Orleans, it’s the legendary J&M Music Store and its adjacent recording studio that inspires the same kind of reverent chills as those pop-cultural outposts. Until it was done in nearly forty years ago by its inability to fulfill unexpected nationwide demand for Aaron Neville‘s single “Tell It Like It Is,” Cosimo Matassa’s record shop was the scene of some of the most instantly familiar pop, rock and R&B waxings in history — including one many musicologists jaw up as the first-ever rock and roll disc, Fats Domino’s 1949 “The Fat Man.”

Little Richard, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Professor Longhair and Lloyd “Stagger Lee” Price also managed to cut some scintillating sides there. And yet, even though Matassa’s still alive and operating a family deli in a higher-ground neighborhood of the post-Katrina Big Easy, mementos of his landmark old business have been all but nonexistent, until now.

What’s this got to do with Red Bank? Not much, except that, with the world’s first-ever line of J&M logowear now available for sale in her store, a veteran Broad Street merchant has almost singlehandedly salvaged the legend of the J&M Music Store.

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COPPOLA FILM TO DEBUT HERE TONIGHT

CoppolaFrancis Ford Coppola directing ‘Youth Without Youth,’ which premieres at the Clearview Thursday night in a benefit for the Monmouth County Arts Alliance.

By TOM CHESEK

WINE! It’s managed to play a part in the late careers of many a moviemaker — notably, Orson Welles as he shilled for Paul Masson in the days when he could barely get arrested for impersonating Falstaff.

But only Francis Ford Coppola has made the noble-rot nectar the fuel for what’s shaping up to be not simply a satisfying comeback, but a comeuppance for a Hollywood establishment that may have prematurely put the patriarch out to pasture.

Neither a gout-ridden Godfather in his garden nor a crazed Kurtz hunkered down in his compound, Coppola the larger-than-life artist is back from a self-imposed, decade-long exile. Flush with wealth from his acclaimed California vineyards and restaurants, he’s busily promoting his all-new, self-financed feature “Youth Without Youth” A favorite on the festival circuit, the Sony Pictures Classics release takes its red-carpet bow in Manhattan on
Friday night, but not before marking its world premiere screening at Red Bank’s own Clearview Cinemas on White Street tonight.

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NICOLE ATKINS: RISING STAR, AT JACK’S

Na_02_rgbNicole Atkins in a rare moment of relaxation.

Yes, we know that Nicole Atkins has a full dance card as she more than lives up to her inclusion on Rolling Stone’s 10 Artists to Watch list of 2006.

A torchy 29-year-old singer-songwriter with pipes like there’s no tomorrow, she’s been working her tail off in support of her widely-praised debut LP, “Neptune City,” named for her childhood hometown.

Recorded in Sweden with her band, the Sea, and tweaked by Columbia Records head Rick Rubin, the LP was released Oct. 30. That night, Atkins blew away Dave Letterman’s audience (not to mention the host) with her performance of “The Way It Is,” and then hit the road for a short tour that included a stop earlier this month at the Stone Pony.

Somewhere along the way, she even landed an American Express commercial in which she gets to plug her act.

Now, gearing up for a show next month at New York’s Bowery Ballroom, Atkins is scheduled to play tomorrow night at Jack’s Music right here in Red Bank.

Still, with all that’s going on in her life, we have one small request of Atkins: please become more famous than Jon Bovi.

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SPIRITS, UNLIMITED, AT THE TWO RIVER

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By TOM CHESEK

The spirits have been restless of late over at Two River Theater, first during October’s psych-out thrill ride “The Charlatan’s Seance,” then in the massive preparations for their upcoming Grand Guignol take on Shakespeare’s bloody and accursed “Macbeth” (going up in January, and co-directed by that devil-imp of magical mischief, Teller).

In these days between, the Two River company has been offering up the world premiere engagement of “The Ghost’s Bargain,” a spirited tale that suggests, (a) Charles Dickens had more than one Christmas Carol loaded in his iPod, and (b) if the folks at TRT have their way, Halloween and Christmas may soon be merging into a sort of extended Ghoultide observance.

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CHUBBY’S PLAN MEETS LITTLE RESISTANCE

Img_9808Architect Tony Busch Jr. discusses the proposed design for a building to replace Chubby’s, shown superimposed at left on a photo of West Front Street buildings. (Click to enlarge)

Had their business been treated as a brand-new one, the owners of the restaurant and sports bar proposed for the present site of Chubby’s Waterside Café on West Front Street might be looking at a $325,000 bill from Red Bank for insufficient parking.

As things stand, though, the final tab will probably come in closer to $30,000, Borough Engineer Rich Kosenski told redbankgreen last night.

His comment followed a generally favorable reception by the Zoning Board for a plan to demolish Chubby’s — a rock club best known these days for weekend all-ages shows — and replace it with a four-story mix of restaurant, sports bar and banquet facility topped by two rental apartments. The eatery would be run by the principals in the Bistro at Red Bank and called The Bank.

The board took no vote on the matter, though. The next hearing on the request was scheduled for Jan 17.

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ONE HUMBUGGER, HOLD THE CHEESE, PLEASE

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By TOM CHESEK

He was the first to play the title role in Spring Lake Theatre Company’s annual production of the musical “Scrooge,” and went on to don the nightcap for countless performances in Premier Theatre Company’s equally long-running revival of that well-roasted holiday chestnut.

It’s probably safe to surmise that Tinton Falls resident Michael Kroll could play the part in his sleep — not just old Ebenezer, but everyone else in the show to boot.

For the past two years, the veteran regional character actor (a member in good standing of Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore’s unofficial stock company) has done his part to “decrease the surplus population,” by presenting an economical and effective one-man version of “A Christmas Carol” for local audiences.

While it’s nothing that hasn’t been tackled before (by, among others, Lionel “Mr. Potter” Barrymore and “Star Trek” hambone Patrick Stewart), this “Christmas Kroll” is an engaging solo delivered by a performer with genuine presence and a deep affinity for the oh-so-familiar material.

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CLUB OWNER BANKS ON NEW BUILDING

Img_9688Takin’ it to ‘The Bank?’ An owner of Chubby’s hopes so.

Chubby’s Waterside Cafe, a timeworn nightclub that claims the only cabaret license in Red Bank, wants to go upscale, and skyward, too.

Co-owner Michael Gilson of Little Silver hopes to demolish the West Front Street building, at Boat Club Way, and replace it with a four-story structure housing a new 351-seat restaurant and sports bar to be created by the owners of the Bistro at Red Bank on Broad Street.

Tentative name: ‘The Bank.’

With a game room for kids and a small reception hall on the second floor, plus two two-bedroom apartments with river views, the proposed 16,733-square-foot structure would have interior parking for six cars.

Gilson is scheduled to put the plan before the Zoning Board tonight.

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PISCOPO: CHANNELING ‘THE OLD MAN’

Img_9220Joe Piscopo at Retromedia Sound Studios with Joe Muccioli, left.

We spotted Joe Piscopo trolling the rainy streets of downtown Red Bank earlier this week.

Hunched over the wheel of an enormous black vehicle with a license plate that proclaims his essential Jerseyness, Piscopo appeared lost. His darting, googly eyes, and slow speed, were dead giveaways.

Soon, though, we were climbing the stairs together to John Noll’s Retromedia Sound Studios, where Piscopo had come to record a radio ad touting his Dec. 12 concert at the Count Basie Theatre.

Um, concert? That right. Joe Piscopo, the former Saturday Night Live comedian who killed with his broad aping of Frank Sinatra, is a legit singer now, an entertainer. And he’s doing his ‘Sinatra’s Birthday Bash’ on the 92nd anniversary of the late singer’s birth in the town of Basie’s birth. He’ll be backed by the 17-piece Red Bank Jazz Orchestra, led by Piscopo’s longtime music advisor, Red Bank’s own Joe ‘Mooch’ Muccioli.

A father of four who lives in Hunterdon County, Piscopo is going through his second divorce and “closing in on my third,” he says. “I’m looking for the future ex-Mrs. Piscopo.” He took time out from the hunt, and from show rehearsals, to talk to redbankgreen about his lifelong love of Sinatra.

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JOVIALITY ALERT: BON JOVI TO PLAY BASIE

The Star-Ledger reports that moptopped singer and would-be beverage industry litigant Bon Jovi will headline a Dec. 21 concert at the Count Basie Theatre that for the last two years has seen Bruce Springsteen play.

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Though he’s not mentioned on the Basie website item about the show, the Ledger reports that Jovi

will lead an all-star lineup that night, at “The Hope Concert III.” Tickets will be $100-$500, with proceeds benefiting the Valerie Fund Center at Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.

Others on the bill include Southside Johnny, Gary U.S. Bonds, Bobby Bandiera, the Jersey Shore Rock-N-Soul Revue, Mark Pender and Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg and Tim McLoone & the Shirleys.

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SETTING THE TOWN A-TWINKLE

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Friday night’s Holiday Express concert and tree-lighting event on Broad and Monmouth streets featured bagpipers, hot chocolate and a wandering Mrs. Claus amid the throngs of people bundled up against temperatures in the mid-30s.

Click to enlarge individual shots.

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MANNEQUINS INVADE! AND THEY’RE ALIVE!

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Thirty-five stores downtown will feature live mannequins from 1 to 4p Sunday as part of an effort by Red Bank RiverCenter, the town’s retail promotion organization.

Might be fun to go from store to store and test just how well the models stay in their animatronic characters. See if you can crack them up! You know the kid in you wants to.

The mannequins are all models from Barbizon of Red Bank, whose owner, Mary DeMont, gave us a big assist with the photoshoot we did for this story. Kayla Lovgren of Brick is the model/mannequin, and the storefront is that of Bodega Shoppe, a gift shop on Mechanic Street. Kayla will probably be in the Rok + Lola window Sunday. A reindeer-straddling child is slotted for the Bodega storefront.

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TREE & CONCERT KICK IT INTO GEAR

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“It,” of course, is the holiday season, which starts hereabouts on Friday evening, not long after the leftovers from Thanksgiving have begun to chill in the fridge.

This is one of Red Bank’s big events, drawing thousands of townspeople and visitors to the central business district for an event that RiverCenter secretary Michael Warmington describes as “absolutely magical:” the simultaneous lighting of all the holiday lights downtown as well as those on the big Christmas tree, followed by an open-air concert by Holiday Express.

As it was last year, the tree is in the Monmouth Street courtyard of the Dublin House, just around the corner from the site of the concert stage on Broad Street.

The weather forecast for Friday night is for clear and cold, with temps in the upper 20s. Prrfect!

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DECADENT ‘BERLIN’ TO CLOSE FILMFEST HERE

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In 1973, punk rock progenitor Lou Reed made an album called ‘Berlin.’ Arranged as a narrative suite of songs, it was dark and decadent, mixing imagery of drug and spousal abuse against a sonic background that ranged from Teutonic bombast to lilting lullabies.

It was a colossal commercial failure. Go figure. Naturally, it won a cult following.

Reed never performed the album. Never, that is, until last December, when he put on a series of ‘Berlin’ shows in Brooklyn. The creators of redbankgreen, having been among the album’s admirers from the start, were there for the final show, and can attest that it was one gorgeous dollop of sound.

Visual artist Julian Schnabel was part of the production, and filmed the concerts. Schnabel has now made an 85-minute feature from the footage. Also titled ‘Berlin,’ it will be the closing feature at the Two River Film Festival on Sunday night at 9:30, at Red Bank’s Clearview Cinemas.

Other selections from the festival, which runs through Sunday at Monmouth University’s Pollack Theatre, will also be shown on the Clearview’s screens for event’s final night.

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MENNA PLANS RIVERFRONT COMMITTEE

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Property near Chapin Avenue is among several segments of the waterfront that could have trails, according to the Waterfront Plan.

Putting the recently released Waterfront Plan into effect won’t happen without the state ponying up some big open-space bucks, says Mayor Pasquale Menna.

But he’s moving ahead and putting together a citizen’s committee to “undertake the public hearing process” that would lead to necessary changes in the borough’s master plan, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

“We’ll probably announce, in the next three weeks or less, a citizens committee to undertake the public hearing process,” Menna’s quoted as saying.

As redbankgreen reported in July, when iit was issued, the plan is a series of blue-sky concepts to improve public access and use of the Navesink an Swimming river banks.

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OLD GREEN EYES IS BACK, BABY

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Or maybe they’re brown. Let’s just say the headshot at the left is not exactly the most trustworthy.

But never mind that. Joe Piscopo, faux lounge lizard turned actual jazz singer, is returning to Red Bank, following a pair of sold-out shows this summer at a downtown restaurant.

The Count Basie Theatre will be the venue for Piscopo’s encore performance next month, when he takes the stage with the 17-piece Red Bank Jazz Orchestra, led by our very own conductor-slash-impressario, Joe Muccioli.

The occasion? A birthday tribute to Old Blue Eyes, the late Frank Sinatra, whom Piscopo used to parody with great skill back when he was a cast member on Saturday Night Live in the early 1980s.

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NO, THAT WAS FOR THE BRIDLE SUITES

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The Breeders’ Cup organization and the owner of the Molly Pitcher Inn and Oyster Point hotels reached a courthouse deal yesterday on hotel rates during this weekend’s races at Monmouth Park, the Asbury Park Press reports.

A dispute had arisen over 95 rooms reserved by the organization two years ago at the Red Bank hotels, which are jointly owned. According to the Press, the hotels had originally agreed to charge $165 per night. But when the horsemen started arriving this week for the big event, the hotels claimed the rate was now $499.

From the article:

When Breeders’ Cup officials contacted George Decker, the comptroller for the hotels, he told them the hotels could not guarantee the rate of $165 because the Breeders’ Cup had not specified the names of the guests.

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IN TOWN | IN OCTOBER: WEEK THREE

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First of all, this is not Radiohead redux.

In case you missed the news, the British rock band last week released its newest album priced solely on what fans decide how much they’ll pay to download it.

Now, the Count Basie Theatre is doing something similar with seats for tomorrow night’s performance of “Romeo and Juliette” by the Dicapo Opera Theatre.

You want a pair of seats? Name your price, and the they’re yours. You’ll be seated based on how high or low your offer is.

Call it ‘chirps on the cheap.’

As far as Basie spokeswoman Diana St. John knows, the pricing scheme was not inspired by Radiohead’s move. Rather, she says, it’s more a throwback to the days of yore, “when peasants used to pay a penny” to see the same shows that were musts for the nobility and merchants.

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COP INJURED IN WEST FRONT STREET MELEE: ‘ONE OF THE WORST’ BRAWLS, POLICE SAY

A series of fistfights outside Chubby’s Waterside Cafe on West Front Street early Saturday morning escalated into a near riot, with Red Bank police calling in backups from seven nearby departments and one officer ending up injured, Capt. Steve McCarthy reported today.

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The incident began as dozens of young people began loitering outside the bar and its vicinity, many of them apparently not patrons of the club, which was hosting a hip hop music event, McCarthy said.

As clubgoers emerged from the bar, a number of fights broke out, some of them involving as many as 15 people, he said.

Police officers who attempted to break up the fights were set upon by people in the crowd, McCarthy said.

“They would try to stop one group from fighting and there’d be another group fighting,” he said. “It was constant for about half an hour or so.”

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BUILDER TO BUY DONOVAN’S FOR $5M

Donovans_1007_2Is it the end of the line for the last beachfront bar in New Jersey?

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

The owners of Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright have signed a contract to sell the oceanfront nightclub for $5 million, redbankgreen has learned.

Chris Bowler and Bob Phillips, two of the bar’s three principals, said the buyer is Stone Enterprises, a Toms River developer with properties in Ocean County and north Jersey.

The proposed sale means that another slice of prime oceanfront property may become inaccessible to the public, and a popular Jersey shore hangout will likely be demolished to make way for housing. Bowler and Phillips said the buyer told them it would seek to build a mixed use condominium project at the site.

“It will be interesting to see what the town allows,” Bowler said.

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ROYAL THRONES, TEN BUCKS A POP

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They started lining up more than two hours before the box office opened at noon yesterday, and there were still people waiting in line at 5:30p.

The occasion? The annual Columbus Day ticket sale at the Count Basie Theatre, where ducats for shows by Queen Latifah, Aretha Franklin (the Queen of Soul, of course), The Nutcracker and just about everything else on the calendar into early February could be had for just ten bucks.

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