EMBLEMATIC OF HER DEEP ROOTS

Img_3671Centennial logo design winner Alexis Holiday is a fourth-generation Red Banker.

The winner of a contest for a logo to commemorate Red Bank’s first hundred years is a 14-year-old Charter School student who only recently began dabbling in Adobe Photoshop, the computer application in which she created her design.

Her entry was the unanimous choice of a panel of judges from among 30 or so designs by professional and amateur illustrators, “from very tender-aged people to those who are not-so-tender-aged,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said in a ceremony at Borough Hall last night.

But Alexis Holiday’s logo seems all the more fitting given how closely her own heritage is tied to that of her hometown.

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A FORTUNE IN BLACK HISTORY, RIGHT HERE

Img_3694Four-year old Maya Williams, center, examines a display at the one-night Black History Month exhibit last night. Maya was joined by her sister Kayla, 10, at left and Amani Cureton, also 10.

About 150 people gathered Wednesday evening at the River Street Commons for a Black History Month event with unmistakable local ties.

Framed by depictions of African-American life in the mass media, the event focused on the life and work of T. (Timothy) Thomas Fortune, a pioneering African-American journalist who was born a a slave and lived on what is now Drs. James Parker Boulevard. Preservationists are hoping to save the house.

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REEL GEMS: FREE FLICKS AT THE BASIE…

CasablancaIlsa crashes Sam’s pity party at the Café Américain in ‘Casablanca.’

By TOM CHESEK

We’ll always have Red Bank.

Beginning tomorrow (Tuesday) at 5:00p, the Count Basie Theatre kicks off a series of free classic film screenings with Bogart, Bergman and a bevy of indelibly entrenched screen characters in that Academy Award-winning movie quote machine known as Casablanca.

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It’s the first of nine offerings presented under the title “Take 9 at the Basie: 9 Decades of Film Classics,” and it’s a program designed to salute the historic 1926 venue by featuring one film from each of the nine decades in which the Monmouth Street auditorium has operated.

Or, well, sort of: actually, there are two films from the 1970s and none from the 1920s.

In any event, the series offers an increasingly rare opportunity to catch such films as the often revived (The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain) to the seldom screened (Unforgiven, Woodstock) on what remains the biggest movie screen in Monmouth County.

Plus, it’s a comfortable alternative to the gnats and gnoise of those summertime movies-in-the-park deals that usually seem such a good idea until you spread out the towel.

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…AND A SERIES WE’D REALLY LIKE TO SEE

Lassie_come_homeHEY! That’s our DOG! Roddy McDowall with the original Red Bank-bred ‘Lassie’ in 1943’s ‘Lassie Come Home.’

By TOM CHESEK

While redbankgreen applauds the slate of picture shows on display in the Count Basie Theatre’s “Take 9 at the Basie: 9 Decades of Film Classics” series, we couldn’t help but have some fun with our very own list of nine alternate choices — all of them drawn from the 80-year history of the place variously known as the Carlton, the Monmouth Arts Center and the Basie.

Each, as you’ll see, has its own special connection to Red Bank.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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Half a dozen readers quickly identified last week’s image, which showed an architectural detail from the roofline of 74 Broad Street, at the northwest corner of Monmouth Street.

Now the street-level location of a Valley National Bank branch, the building was historically known as the Swift Building (follow the link to page 26 of Randall Gabrielan’s “Images of America: Red Bank, Vol. III”). It was built, according to Gabrielan, in 1900-01.

We think that design element is a part of the cornice known as a frieze, but here we could just be throwing around architectural lingo without a clue. Perhaps there’s an entablature buff out there who can put us on the level.

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BROMBERG HITS RED BANK ‘ONE MORE TIME’

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By TOM CHESEK

For a man who quit an established recording career in order to study the fine art of making violins, David Bromberg sure knows how to work a room.

A veteran sideman to Dylan, Ringo Starr and Jerry Jeff Walker, as well as a solo performer and bandleader of
more than 40 years standing, the bearded and bespectacled Bromberg may have kept a low profile through the so-called MTV era. But he didn’t sleep through the more recent recording industry implosion and its attendant rise of the Pod People. Rather, he took his boundary-busting energy back to the live stage, with Red Bank playing a big role in this master entertainer’s game plan.

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The multi-instrumentalist and musicologist has made the Count Basie Theatre a crucial pit stop in his annual tour schedule for each of the last four years. For his Friday night show, Bromberg has some exciting things to promote, among them his first album in 17 years, “Try Me One More Time,” a solo set (nominated for a Grammy in the Best Folk Album category) that comes around full circle from his one man/one guitar debut album in 1971.

Ticketholders will also no doubt be interested in the fact that Friday’s show is scheduled to be recorded for a concert DVD release.

While Bromberg may take the spotlight for an unaccompanied number or two, it’s his role as bandleader and raconteur that prompted the New York Times to brand him “electrifying.” A performance by the 12-piece David Bromberg Big Band fireballs forward like a bull in a used record shop, tracing its own musical logic — Bob Wills to Bob Dylan to Bo Diddley to Dave Dudley — with station stops anywhere from Sam Cooke to “a bluegrass tribute to Ethel Merman.” Not to mention some fondly remembered originals from his vintage albums (some of which featured great cover art by such famed cartoonists as B. Kliban and Gahan Wilson) and a lot of things that you thought had been written by the Grateful Dead, Patsy Cline, Cab Calloway or even the Clash.

Speaking from his office at David Bromberg Fine Violins (the Wilmington, Del., shop where he spends much of his off-the-road time), Bromberg opened up to redbankgreen about his recent experiences in the belly of the Grammy beast and his special rapport with the Basie.

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SLEDGER SPOTLIGHTS FORTUNE HOUSE

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Today’s Sunday Star-Ledger has an extensive piece about the black activist journalist T. (Timothy) Thomas Fortune and the effort to save his longtime Red Bank home from the wrecking ball — or, as the article’s author puts it, “from predatory developers.”

The story’s not online; so far, it appears only in the print version’s Perspective section.

Authored by Claire Serant, a journalism professor at St. John’s University, the article notes that Fortune was born a slave in 1856, wrote for the white-owned New York Sun — “which was no small feat in the late 1800s” — and helped found a predecessor organization to the NAACP.

He also founded three national newspapers. One of them, the New York Age, “was the most widely read black newspaper of the era,” Serant writes. And he used the term “Afro-Americans” to denote black people at the time when ‘colored’ and ‘Negro’ were the standards.

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MITTCAIN? HILLAMA? SUPER DAY TO CHOOSE

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Torn between Huckabee and Romney? Don’t know whether to go Hillary or the Big O?

We can’t help you there.

But for questions about the nuts and bolts of voting in today’s Republican and Democratic presidential primaries, there’s lots of guidance on who can participate, and how.

For example: who can vote?

Voters who are registered as Republican or Democrats may vote in their respective party’s primary (and sorry, only that one).

Voters not previously affiliated with either major party may participate by declaring an affiliation with the party in whose primary they which to cast a ballot; you may do so at the polls, and you’ll retain this party affiliation unless you file a form to change your party declaration. But voters who are currently registered with third parties such as the Libertarian and Green parties are not eligible to vote today.

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TALKING MONKEYS: ON DARWIN & RELIGION

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You will be forgiven, in a secular sense at least, for not knowing that there’s something called ‘Darwin Day.’

A dozen years ago, there was only one known celebration of Charles Darwin’s birthday — Feb 12, 1809. Now, if we may be so droll, the event has evolved into something with global reach. Some 850 events are said to have been held last year. And somehow, you missed every last one of them.

Well, here’s your invite to this year’s. On Sunday, Feb. 10, the Red Bank Humanists will host a Darwin program featuring a lecture by Julian Paul Keenan, Director of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Montclair State University. He’ll take up the topic, “Exploring the Evolutionary Connection Between Religion and Deception.”

A Q&A and, yep, birthday cake will follow.

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FAIR HAVEN’S ELDEST RESIDENT DIES AT 101

Ethel E. Armstrong, a Little Silver native who moved to Fair Haven in 1953 and never left, died Sunday at 101 years old, the Asbury Park Press reports.

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On his blog, Mayor Mike Halfacre, says she was Fair Haven’s oldest resident.

According to her obituary, Mrs. Armstrong was

a devoted member of Fisk Chapel A.M.E. Church, Fair Haven, where she served as an usher and as a member of the Willing Workers ministry and she was actively involved with the Senior Citizens of Fair Haven.

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NEW FUNDING SOUGHT FOR STACK DEMO

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With plans to demolish the old municipal incinerator stalled by concerns over soil contamination, Red Bank officials last night diverted $117,000 in Monmouth County grant money from the project to the reconstruction of tiny Bassett Place.

According to Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels, the redeployment of Community Development Block Grant funding was suggested by county planning board officials when it became clear that an extensive environmental review and possible cleanup of the incinerator site would be necessary.

“Unfortunately, due to many environmental conditions that were detected, there were concerns from the county that they could not go ahead” with funding of the demolition, Sickels told the council.

But “they did say that the would reserve the money for another project that we might have,” he said.

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DODGERS GREAT JOHNNY PODRES DIES

Img_5095Johnny Podres signs autographs at the Two River Theater in August.

We thought some baseball-loving redbankgreen readers might like to see this photo of Johnny Podres, the great Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who died yesterday in Queensbury, N.Y. He was 75 years old.

The photo was taken at the Two River Theater’s baseball memorabilia exhibition last August.

Here’s an excerpt from his obit in today’s New York Times:

Podres was hardly a star on a team with Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges and Duke Snider in the lineup and Don Newcombe and Carl Erskine on the pitching staff. He had been injured twice during the ’55 season and he had a modest record of 9-10 for a team that won the National League pennant by 13 ½ games.

But at 3:43 p.m. on Oct. 4, 1955, Podres proved the man of the hour for Dodgers fans, whose unrealized quest for a World Series championship had been embodied in the refrain “Wait til next year.”

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CELEBRATING DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

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Calvary Baptist Church on Bridge Avenue last night hosted a music-filled service last night to commemorate the ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose birthdate, Jan. 15, is celebrated next week.

Sponsored by the Greater Red Bank Ministers Association, the event featured a commemorative message by Rev. Cleophus J. LaRue (above right) of the Princeton Theological Seminary, who spoke of human history versus “salvation history.”

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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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11.11.07

Img_8257The Red Bank Veterans’ Monument at Monmouth Street and Drummond Place, shortly after a Veterans’ Day wreath-laying ceremony yesterday. The holiday is celebrated today; post offices are closed, so there will be no regular mail delivery. State and local government offices and courts are closed.

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ONCE AGAIN, RUMSON DEMS HAVE NO SHOT

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Along Rumson Road in the borough of Rumson, at least five campaign signs for Democratic hopefuls for state office can be seen.

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And the county Democratic Party is gearing up to run two candidates for Rumson council — in the 2008 elections.

But thus far in the history of this upper-crust borough, which celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, no Democrat has ever been elected mayor. And if any have made it to the council, historian George Moss is unaware of them.

“I don’t think there were any,” says Moss, who served on the governing body from 1944 to 1984.

No history will be made in that regard this year. Even with President Bush’s approval levels approaching that of linoleum, a GOP sweep, as usual, looks like a pretty sure thing in Rumson. Mayor John Ekdahl and his two running mates for the council, Joan DeVoe and Joseph Hemphill, are unopposed.

Ekdahl became mayor in 2003; he was unopposed then, too. His campaign budget this time around? “I’m not spending any money this year,” he says.

So, with apologies to Maureen Dowd, are Democrats necessary in Rumson?

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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Last week’s image: a brick-and-terracotta-tile wall.

Joanne Soper knew it right away. We also heard from Charles Hellings, who understandably recognized it because it , well, as he writes:

That’s my wall! Unless someone else has an identical one that is, the terracotta top is a dead give away. It runs along Third Street north of West River Road in Rumson…used to be the old Borden Estate. I have no idea how old that wall is, it was certainly here long before we moved in.

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MENNA GIVES HOV EXEC ‘KABOOM’ HOTSEAT

Mayor Pasquale Menna has picked an executive at Red Bank-based Hovnanian Enterprises to chair the annual KaBoom Fireworks on the Navesink committee.

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His pick: Peter Reinhart, a borough resident who’s senior vice president and general counsel at the publicly traded homebuilding company.

The company’s year-old headquarters is located at the river end of Maple Avenue, a primo fireworks-watching location. The grass amphitheater next to the building is the site of a big-ticket “Light Up the Night” catered party.

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FLOATING SOME IDEAS FOR DOCK UPGRADES

AlldockFair Haven’s dock is about to get a makeover.

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Fair Haven residents brought their ideas on how to spend $200,000 budgeted for municipal dock improvements to a public hearing this week.

The dock, located at the north end of Fair Haven Road, was built in the 1970s, and last updated in 1984.

Engineer David Hoder of Maser Consulting answered questions in a brief presentation to the council and public.

His list of upgrades: new pilings, decking, railings, seating areas for “active and passive recreation,” lighting, and handicapped accessibility.

“I’m excited to see that the dock’s being redesigned, and glad to see Mr. Hoder is behind it,” said Jim Butler Chris Hempstead of Willow Street, who added that as a fisherman, he’d love to have a bait-cutting station and a faucet that’s on a timer for crabbers.

“It gets a little messy” on the dock, he said.

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BOWDEN: CENTENNIAL PLANNING TOO SLOW

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For a guy who just turned 80, George Bowden has a lot of energy. Some of it gets steered into his passion for trying to preserve old buildings in Red Bank as chairman of the borough’s Historical Preservation Commission. Some he expends on his favorite pastime, fishing.

But that still leaves Bowden with juice to spare, and he’s eager to burn it up getting the town ready for its 100th anniversary next year.

Problem is, not much is happening on that front in terms of guidance. And that’s making Bowden nervous, given the narrowing window of opportunity to plan something special.

“It’s been sort of dead in the water,” Bowden told redbankgreen recently, noting that an event planning committee appointed by Mayor Pasquale Menna earlier this year has had just one meeting. Bowden’s a member, but not heading it up.

“My concern is that here’s a tremendous amount of work to be done, and I have trouble pedaling a bicycle without a chain,” Bowden says.

Menna tells us he understands Bowden’s antsiness, but says there is progress being made.

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NO SALE FOR FORTUNE HOUSE, FOR NOW

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A proposed deal that would have put the historic T. Thomas Fortune house into the hands of developers is dead for now, redbankgreen has learned.

Real estate broker Geoff Brothers, who is handling the sale, confirmed that the would-be buyers, who have not been publicly identified, have withdrawn their offer.

George Bowden, chairman of the Red Bank Historic Preservation Commission, said the demise of the deal is, “in many respects, happy news.

“We’ve been sweating that one out for months,” he said.

Preservationists earlier this year won a key historic designation for the house, which was owned and occupied early in the 20th century by Fortune, a pioneering African-American journalist.

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IN TOWN | IN AUGUST: WEEK TWO

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Even from the perspective of non-fans of the game, this weekend’s baseball show at the Two River Theater looks genuinely fascinating.

The program calls for a full and wide-ranging schedule of baseball-themed readings (‘Casey at the Bat,’ anyone?), movies, speeches and even a ‘stump the expert’ game.

Red Bank sports artifact shop Fameabilia, which is hosting the event, will hold an expo in the lobby.

Participants include former Brooklyn Dodger Johnny Podres, who will be signing autographs from 1 to 3p; award-winning Associated Press journalist Warren Levinson; actor Joe Russo; theater co-founder Robert Rechnitz; artistic director Aaron Posner; and David Kaplan, Director of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, who’ll speak on ‘Baseball and Social Justice.’

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HISTORY v. AFFORDABLE HOUSING?

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The prospective buyers of the historic T. Thomas Fortune house property want to develop the site into affordable housing, according to a press release from the borough Historic Preservation Commission.

The names of the would-be buyers have yet to be disclosed, and this is the first we’re hearing of what they’ve got planned for the site, at 94 Drs. James Parker Boulevard.

If the report is true, though, the plan would appear to pit the historians against preservationists of another stripe: those who want to keep the West Side an affordable place to live.

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PRESS: OFFER MADE ON FORTUNE HOUSE

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A group of undisclosed buyers has made an offer for the historic T. Thomas Fortune house on Drs. Parker Boulevard, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

A contract has yet to be signed by the sellers, the paper reports. But the prospect of a sale has mobilized historic preservationists in recent months. They fear that the next owner of the property, home nearly a century ago to one of America’s most prominent African-American journalists, will tear it down for redevelopment.

Commercial real estate broker Geoff Brothers, who is handling the sale, tells the Press that the prospective buyers are sensitive to the historical importance of the site.

“The house is a grand old structure. It would behoove everyone to see it maintained, and that is the intent of all parties,” Brothers said. “It will require some cooperative effort from the borough and contract purchaser.”

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PUTTING OYSTERS BACK TO BED

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Today’s Star-Ledger takes a look at the efforts of NewYork/New Jersey Baykeeper Andy Willner to restore oyster beds in the New York region, including in the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers.

The article offers some historical perspective on the economic importance of oysters, and the roles of overharvesting and pollution in killing giant oyster beds by 1920.

Then reporter Tom Hester turns to the Baykeeper’s efforts. They’re being funded in part by a $1 million settlement with Chevron over a 10,000-gallon crude oil spill off Perth Amboy.

The effort entails dropping “millions of dime-size young oysters attached to clean clam shells into the Navesink River at Red Bank, the Raritan Bay near Keyport, and off Liberty Island in the Upper Bay.”

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