BILLY GETS HIS EVENING, FOR M’TOWN ARTS

billy_016Playwright Billy Van Zandt is in the hot seat for an April 30 fundraiser for the Middletown Cultural and Arts Center.

By TOM CHESEK

No, Billy Van Zandt — to quote the late great Red Buttons and his signature shtick on countless Dean Martin roasts — “never got a dinner.” But on the night of Saturday, April 30, he’ll be getting his very own Evening.

Unlike other Monmouth County folks who went Hollywood in a big way, the comic playwright, producer and performer has, with his longtime collaborator Jane Milmore, maintained a pretty dynamic profile on the area’s artscape — particularly over at the Lincroft campus of Brookdale Community College, where the Van Zandt-Milmore tagteam has taught, established a scholarship and regularly premiered such new works for the stage as You’ve Got Hate Mail, currently enjoying a hit Off Broadway run at The Triad in Manhattan.

As one half of a bicoastal stage/screen writing partnership, the half brother of Steve Van Zandt spends about half his time here on the greater Red Bank Green — often with his sons and his better half, actress and author Adrienne Barbeau. None of which is to suggest that Billy Van Zandt ever does anything halfway, however.

Scheduled for 7:30p on April 30, An Evening with Billy Van Zandt (it even rhymes with An Evening with Cary Grant) presents the 1975 graduate of the old split-session Middletown High School in an “up close and personal” forum, in which he’s expected to offer advice to aspiring actors and writers — and to share some pretty priceless stories from his travels as a young actor in major motion pictures, and an Emmy nominated writer-producer for sitcoms both legendary (Newhart) and look-it-up (Bless This House).

Moderated by actor Jeff Babey (who, as a member in good standing of the Van Zandt-Milmore stock company, is similarly not known to do things in moderation), it’s a circus that manages to involve everyone from Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra, and Tom Cruise, to Wiliam Shatner, the Wayans Brothers and Andrew Dice Clay — and that’s just for appetizers. It’s also a benefit for the educational programs of the Middletown Township Cultural & Arts Council, hosted at their spacious (and criminally under-utilized) Middletown Arts Center, located just seconds from Red Bank and steps from the township’s NJ Transit train platform. The redbankgreen Drama Desk met up with BVZ at the Broadway Diner recently, to kvetch and ketchup on current events.

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