NJ DISCOVER SPOTLIGHT: A Conversation with ROBERT COZMO CONSULMAGNO, USMC, World Ranked Jiu Jitsu Fighter, PTSD & Bi-Polar Advocate & HIS MISSION to END STIGMA OF BIPOLAR bY Calvin Schwartz 2-22-16(0)
NJ DISCOVER SPOTLIGHT: A Conversation with ROBERT COZMO CONSULMAGNO, USMC, World Ranked Jiu Jitsu Fighter, PTSD & Bi-Polar Advocate & HIS MISSION to END STIGMA OF BIPOLAR bY Calvin Schwartz 2-22-16
I constantly marvel at the exigencies and mysteries of the universe. Just the other day, Einstein was proven correct again; scientists detected gravitational waves from the violent merger (not Wall Street but perhaps some parallel) of two black holes in deep space. My excitement comes from how the universe and synchronicity bring special people into my life. There has to be a reason. Sometimes I think it’s the involvement of a special Saint. Last summer, on a warm humid night, I got a call from my friend Mike Marino, one of the funniest comedians in the country, also known as New Jersey’s Bad Boy of Comedy. He invited me to come to Rumson, where his brother Paul Marino and his band were performing. I’d meet several of Mike’s Jersey City (roots) friends from the old neighborhood. The invitation appealed to me. I love roots, colorful people and anything Mike.
At a table in the rear were Mike Marino, John Freda, (a former boxer) Joe Weber, Bob Mattis and Cozmo. From a short distance, Cozmo looked fiercely ripped and intense; you could tell he worked out or something akin. I sat next and within an hour, knew he was a special guy with a personal history that they easily make powerful dramatic movies about. Saying goodbye, I sensed a fast friendship forming. There was so much inside Cozmo that I wanted to learn about. I sensed the ticking.
Slow forward a few months. Cozmo and I stayed in touch via Facebook, Twitter and a cell phone. I learned from all his videos, television interviews and print material as well as in his own voice, his incredible painful journey from a tumultuous childhood through the Marines, into PTSD, bipolar diagnosis and a world Jiu Jitsu ranking. He fights so well; productively channels all that strife and internal energy. I’ve been watching Cozmo solely undertake a massive public relations program through social media to bring awareness to bipolar disease. Quite impressively, he enlisted multi Emmy award winning documentary film maker Glenn Holsten (OC 87 Recovery Diaries) to do a short video on Cozmo’s life roots in Jersey City called “Crazy Cozmo” — Veteran Marine With PTSD & Bipolar Disorder.” This needs to be seen.
Cozmo corralled a few high profile friends on social media also personally dealing with bipolar; Mauro Ranallo (WWE) and Carrie Fisher (yes, ‘Star Wars’). He is one of the most unrelenting, eloquent and sensitive people I’ve ever met. He swept me up into his energy field (to end the stigma of bipolar) and moved NJ Discover and me to do a short profile video interview at our studio. Cozmo is riveting in life and on camera. Before anything else here, please go watch this NJ Discover video. Take 7 minutes and a few seconds.
After the release of this video, Cozmo intensified his campaign to end the stigma of bipolar. He asked if I could do a follow-up article to our video. This was his life’s mission. I wanted to be there for him. But as a writer, my effectiveness has always been my personal involvement and commitment to a subject. Bipolar was ostensibly not in my life. It would be hard for me to dig into my intestinal lining. Then an epiphany arrived on a cumulous cloud that simultaneously covered a Middlesex County cemetery; it was a realization that a dear special unique cousin is buried (two years ago) nearby. An hour before they buried him, his son, my second cousin, told me that my cousin was bipolar. It hit me like a mallet on my cranial soft spot now hardened. The world was crystal clear and strangely painful because I never knew in the six decades we were living cousins that he suffered from bi polar. And then Cozmo’s life mission to end the stigma of bipolar really hit me hard.
Everything made sense now. The stigma of bipolar hugely affected the relationship I had with my cousin. There were times of unpredictability and erratic unexplained behavior. I was hurt, dismayed and pulled away from the cousin I loved so much; sometimes for a decade. My cousin was me. I was him. To be just like him, I changed my whole life career path. He was older and wiser and I had to do anything to be close to him. The stories I could tell. Not now. Then a few years ago, I got a call he was passing. We hadn’t seen each other in years; more unexplained behavior on his part. I visited him for the last time. It was strained and awkward but I made him laugh. I was empty, sad and never could figure him out. I loved my cousin but he always pushed away. Now I know and understand. He was bipolar and it was a stigma so he could never confide in me. I am so grateful to Cozmo for getting me to think, feel and grasp his life’s mission; to end the stigma of bipolar. I remember when Michael Corleone touched the hand of his father Don Vito (The Godfather) in the hospital and said, “I’m with you now pop.” And I said to Cozmo when I realized all this, “I’m with you now Cozmo.” If only there was no stigma, and I knew all about my cousin, what wonderful life moments we could‘ve shared with transparent understanding. I’ve taken a lot of time to develop all this stuff lining my stomach with emotion; it’s to help Cozmo’s cause.
A few weeks ago, snow was flurrying around, Cozmo came and sat around my kitchen table and we talked his mission, emotions and deep feelings. It’s my job now to harvest those words. It’s not going to be a bumpy night but a fascinating look into an intense tough guy and where this mental stuff came from.
“How and when does all this turmoil in your life begin?” I knew some of the general background. Cozmo’s voice kicked up an octave. ” My biological father commited suicide by hanging himself. I’ve seen my first step father beat my mother. They were together for many years but never married but he also forced himself on her. He even threw a TV stand at his own mother; the product of a violent environment. I’ve seen him beat a guy over a parking spot. My first stepfather shot my second stepfather with a 22. Later the same day, he drove up to Mooanchie, New Jersey and killed himself inside of a Pontiac Bonneville with the same weapon. My first stepfather was the guy when my mother yelled, “Dad wants you,” I started crying. I didn’t know what was going to happen. That’s where my problems dealing with people and authority figures came from. That’s all I knew, how to survive.”
My wife, a former teacher, and preparer of lunch, asked, “What about school.” “I actually was a good student.” I wasn’t surprised about that. His eloquence and grasp are wonderful intellectual gifts. “I was the guy that would hang out with the international students. I hate to say I felt pity but I wanted to protect them. My best friend was from Taiwan. We’d go to have lunch in a nearby cemetery to get away from the ghetto kids. He looked up to me. I was his protector. It made me feel better to help people.”
“I lived in this little cubicle. No one messed with me cause I knew who I was. Maybe that’s part of bipolar.” Cozmo talked about travelling the world. He loves castles; maybe that’s why he’s going to Prague in June. Suddenly he was talking about cutting two people out of his life because of negativity and hypocrisy. And he recently wrote President Obama in the White House three times. Cozmo wants to sit down and enlist his help to end the stigma of bipolar. He reasoned that his second term is winding down and that he’d have more time now. Yes, if anyone can accomplish that, it’d be Cozmo; I’m a believer in him. “I’m all about defying odds in life. I sent him a DVD with all my movies. Your NJ Discover interview was part of it too.”
I love his stream of consciousness thought process; rapid fire and bipolar fire; I wondered. Next Cozmo expounded on entering Guinness Records for the AB-Wheel & trying for a world record, being ranked second in the world in Jiu Jitsu. That should impress the President. It was shout out time for Cozmo’s sponsor, Scramble Martial Arts, “based in the UK, bringing me on board and sponsoring an old guy. They love my story trying to end the stigma.”
I asked Cozmo about his social media and growing friendship with WWE’s Mauro Ranallo and fellow bipolar personality. “I’m really excited to meet Mauro and do his podcast. If you think I have energy, he is unbelievable. His retweeting is a by-product of his mania. He is living his dream on overdrive. People’s twitter walls are bombarded. He flies all over the country. Vince McMahon from WWE hired him.” Since Mauro was five years old, he wanted to work with WWE. Here is that one minute You Tube ‘Smackdown’ video of his joy and excitement of Mauro’s first match as per Cozmo. Amazingly they met through twitter. When they do the podcast together, Cozmo can’t wait to see the energy when two bipolar guys get together. “He is spinning positive light, man.”
Mauro Ranallo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZlaq_NUTWU
It was just a matter of time before Cozmo talked about his great- grandfather Mickey Taylor, who was really Michael Consulmagno, but changed his name to the Irish version in order to get paid as a fighter. “Five foot five 200 pound Italian guy; 175 fights; only got knocked out once; and mauled Max Schmeling who knocked out Joe Louis. He beat Schmeling so bad, he was sent out of the camp. He died young; heart problems.” It was a good segue to talk about racism and what his great-grandfather experienced being an Italian immigrant. “I get along with everyone but racism exists. My great-grandfather was feared in every boxing division. They ran away from him. But he had to hide his Italian heritage and blend in pretend Irish because of racism.”
“What about bipolar; Are there tell-tale signs?” “I’m not a doctor. But it’s erratic speech; going off on a tangent, trying to get so much out.” I thought to myself, how that was Cozmo but in a peculiar way, that seemed to endear him to me. “I got fired by one company three times and brought back a fourth time. They couldn’t deal with my antics. But I made them money. Maybe I have a little anger now because I’m fighting so hard.”
“No one talks about hyper sexuality and it’s hard for me to be with one woman. And going way back in my memory, there was something you could call sexual abuse. I remember my grandfather touching me inappropriately. My uncle got wind of it and we never saw him again. And no one talks about debt and erratic spending. I’ve been in debt multiple times and got out. Funny everyone talks PTSD to me but not bipolar and I can control PTSD by controlling the triggers but not bipolar. I’m pushing so hard because my story is 100% legit.” He thought for a moment then fired away trying to define his bipolar for me. “The sleeping disorder; I broke two cribs as a kid. When my step-father pushed me down the stairs, I was in a body cast and maybe that led to PTSD. When I’m in bed now, I have my head phones on and rock back and forth. Even after training, I still have energy. I don’t know if it’s the bipolar.”
Going off on a tangent, catching me by surprise, he mentioned his mother. “They used to call her the black widow. Two men committed suicide over her. When I tell this, it almost sounds like a fairytale and I’m making it up.” Cozmo chuckled sardonically for a moment. So I asked, “Did your mother try to protect you from all your abuse by your father and step-father?” “By the time she settled in with the third guy, she went after me, telling me to get out. She wasn’t like that prior.” I shook my head in disbelief. So did my wife. Cozmo picked up on the head-shaking. “My mother’s brother was a real pimp; had the big hat with the feathers and purple outfit. He looked just like the Captain Morgan guy. He got one of the hookers pregnant and he died of heroin in California.”
Swirling around sensibilities, staring at a smiling Cozmo, I marveled at his calm adjustment to such trauma while he talked to us. I again thought what an amazing driven person, devoting his life for others, trying to end the stigma, but having endured so much. I thought about the universe; being grateful to have met Cozmo; a lot of things in perspective for me. I told him there is a movie waiting to be made. I wanted to just keep talking, absorbing him; many lessons about life now knowing Robert Cozmo Consulmagno. All the while we talked, my mind wandered erratically. I remembered to ask him about meds and bipolar. He was firm, emphatic. He took meds for a short period but got permission to stop; needed his mind and body to be clear, functioning and natural as best it could be. He does counseling a lot. A special human being was sitting next to me; a new friend for the long haul. I’ve done my due diligence here, painting his picture and sharing the etiology of his dream to end the stigma of bipolar. Next was how to end this interview/article.
Here goes. “One last question for you, Cozmo; “before I leave this earth, I won’t be satisfied until I…..”” He took just a second to answer, gently smiling, “Until I am the face of PTSD and bipolar.”
COZMO CONTACT INFO AND PLEASE CONTACT HIM:
CALVIN SCHWARTZ CONTACT INFO:
Twitter: @earthood Instagram: cal_schwartz
Linked In: Calvin Schwartz
NJ DISCOVER LIVE RADIO/TV SHOW: “A NIGHT IN THE ART GALLERY”; TUNE IN & MEET 3 UNIQUE JERSEY ARTISTS; KORTEZ ROBINSON, MARIA SAVARESE, SHEILA GRABARSKY; MONDAY FEBRUARY 8TH 8PM with Hosts TARA-JEAN VITALE & CALVIN SCHWARTZ(0)
NJ DISCOVER LIVE RADIO/TV SHOW: “A NIGHT IN THE ART GALLERY”; TUNE IN & MEET 3 UNIQUE JERSEY ARTISTS; KORTEZ ROBINSON, MARIA SAVARESE, SHEILA GRABARSKY; MONDAY FEBRUARY 8TH 8PM with Hosts TARA-JEAN VITALE & CALVIN SCHWARTZ
TUNE IN MONDAY FEBRUARY 8TH 8PM; www.njdiscover.com
THE SHOW ALSO AIRS ON LONG BRANCH COMMUNITY ACCESS TV CHANNEL 20 EVERY NIGHT 9 pm Beginning Feb 15th
Art is always on our minds. Hosts Tara-Jean, Calvin and friends were together at an art party in Asbury Park this summer. They created art and knew it was time to delve and explore. Recent trips to Rutgers Zimmerli Museum, Monmouth Museum, Princeton Art Museum, MOMA and art galleries of Central Jersey solidified the motivation and content for February’s show. The artists appearing represent a broad panoply of art, background, arrival, courage and commitment; fascinating stories and its way more than just art. Maybe a little Hollywood thrown in, shaken not stirred.
Also check You Tube for our last show on “Adoption” with special guests playwright/ singer/ songwriter Zara Phillips and Broadway actress & documentarian Nam Holtz
TUNE IN MONDAY FEBRUARY 8TH 8PM; www.njdiscover.com
MEET THE ARTIST GUESTS:
Kortez, a fine artist residing in Freehold, New Jersey, uses mixed media collage, acrylic, watercolor and works on paper, wood and found objects. The art of Kortez is one of a kind as he is able to find inspiration and unconventional medium upon which to use as canvas. The subject matter of his work comes through vividly. Vibrant colors and provocative topics such as race, politics, social commentary and pop culture break through his art with bright colors and vibrant deliberate lines. Exhibiting a strong hand and intentional shapes, Kortez makes his point through bright colors and bold lines. His art is currently being show at Vonda’s Kitchen and Duke’s Southern Table in Newark NJ. Palette Arts space and At The Table in Asbury Park NJ. In his residing home town Kortez has art at The Freehold Art Gallery and a restaurant called Uncle Ralston’s Home Style Cooking also has a few of Kortez’ paintings.
Esotericurbanism is the title and description for some of the art created by Kortez. The journey is an ongoing exploration into visual art via mixed media collage, drawing, painting, sculpture, print making and photography.
Mixed Media Artist, Maria Savarese has been creating since she was a young girl. She started with weaving potholders and painting trinkets for her mother, and now weaves beautiful silver and copper pendants and is a professional potter. Maria also paints and creates wall art out of found objects, has been in juried art shows and has had her work presented in galleries in PA, NY and NJ.
Maria works year round at Yellow Duck Preparatory School and runs the Ceramics/Pottery and Jewelry Programs at Country Roads Day Camp in Manalapan. She also gives private and group lessons in her studio at home. You can find her on Facebook on her Art Page, Mia Art, and on her website,
She specializes in creative paintings and art that have deep personal and emotional meanings. She bridges the gap between self-taught and professionally driven skill that has taken her on a journey starting from early childhood, to college, and diving into her own creativity with professional pottery, lessons, fine art, and crafts.
Maria is many things, a potter, fine artist, crochet enthusiast, to durable and functional artist. From teaching classes to one on one art fun, Maria is much more than just an artist sitting in a studio. She loves people, loves engaging with art, and loves teaching and working with children and young adults. From pottery to learning how to mix paint, have fun with art, and create masterpieces, Maria teaches with a level of whimsy that keeps her students coming back for more.
Sheila is a seasoned, classically trained, national award-winning artist with biographies in numerous Who’s Who’s. She has worked and exhibited across the U.S. for over 25 years in corporate, educational, commercial, and healthcare venues as well as museums and online. Her work is in numerous private / public collections. She is currently showing works in a Hollywood film to be released this year, American Pastoral, based on Philip Roth’s novel of the same name starring Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Connelly. Sheila also recently published a back cover testimonial for a book of poetry entitled Leaves of Absence by Sally Brown Deskins.
“Color creation is very exciting. As a small child I painted a yellow watercolor sun into a blue sky and was thrilled to have accidentally created green, which hadn’t been there before! I remain awestruck, still, at color creation.”
Classically trained at Syracuse University, Sheila’s work evolved from expressionistic portraits into gestural abstraction.” I do not have a preconceived notion as I approach my easel. I work in multicolored, multi-textured layers. Lately I’ve been adhering dried skins of acrylic residue off my palette, as I find them incredibly beautiful and inspiring. Watching as forms literally present themselves as foreground is an amazing experience, always requiring hours of concentrated studio time. I am fascinated by the discovery and the mystery of harnessing chaos into a cohesive composition.
TUNE IN MONDAY FEBRUARY 8TH 8PM; www.njdiscover.com
THE SHOW ALSO AIRS ON LONG BRANCH COMMUNITY ACCESS TV CHANNEL 20 EVERY NIGHT 9 pm Beginning Feb 15th
THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS:
WINDMILL RESTAURANTS http://www.windmillhotdogs.com/home
NEOS ZOE WELLNESS CENTER http://www.neoszoe.com/
THE FOOD BANK OF MONMOUTH & OCEAN COUNTIES
Did you know that 1 out of 10 people living in Monmouth and Ocean Counties receive food from the FoodBank? In addition to food, we provide services that help to solve hunger. It takes community support to build food secure communities. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of the 131,000 men, women and children who struggle with hunger.
|MERRY HAPPY HEALTHY HOLIDAYS from your NJ DISCOVER LIVE RADIO/TV SHOW co-hosts TARA-JEAN VITALE & CALVIN SCHWARTZ(0)|
NJ DISCOVER VIDEO SPOTLIGHT ROBERT “COZMO” CONSULMAGNO; A Passionate Advocate/Patient for Mental Health (PTSD-Bipolar), World Ranked Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Champion, US Marine Veteran: bY Calvin Schwartz November 24, 2015(0)
Life is curiously synchronistic. Writing this, I’m thinking of an old TV Show, ‘Candid Camera’, when some of the verbiage consisted of “Just when you least expect it.” It was a August mid-summer night’s dream, warm and breezy when comedian Mike Marino called and invited me to hang out with a gang of old Jersey City guys, assembling at Barnacle Bill’s in Rumson, mostly to hear Mike’s brother, singer Paul Marino and his band perform. The Jersey City guys were seated in the back of the restaurant in a quiet little table. I felt Damon Runyon was nearby. I sat next to this ripped, powerful looking guy wearing an intimidating ‘The Warriors’ black tee-shirt. Cozmo’s look worked; I was intimidated. Consulmagno was born in Jersey City.
Then that funny thing happened when I least expected it. After talking to Cozmo for a few minutes, while the rest of table engaged in Jersey City memories, I discovered that he is a sensitive, eloquent, passionate, yet quintessentially really tough, engaging and caring guy with a lot of baggage. As he talked to me, I sat in disbelief; he was abused as a child; his father committed suicide, his step father beat him and his mother relentlessly. To escape and find an inner peace, he enlisted in the Marines and left the Marines honorably discharged with commendations and PTSD and an active Bi-Polar condition. I also had this sixth journalistic sense that one day I’d do a video and article about Consulmagno. And here we are; Déjà vu is all around.
You all should watch this seven minute video to experience the charisma and charm of Robert “Cozmo” Consulmagno. You’ll probably come away thinking like me; there is a Hollywood movie waiting to be made. He is actually precious, dynamic and unbelievable. His story cries out to all those who’ve yet to see or know him. Yes, he has PTSD and Bipolar. Yes, he is a World Ranked Jiu Jitsu fighter. Yes, he had a grandfather, Michael Consulmagno (aka Michael Taylor) who knocked out Max Schmeling who knocked out Joe Louis. Yes he fights Jiu Jitsu to release that energy of mental disease. Yes, his mission in life is to stay alive and live a long life and to be a spokesperson for mental health and build that legacy. Yes, you all should watch this poignant interview; the best seven minutes spent in a long time. Tara-Jean Vitale and Calvin Schwartz ask the questions behind the scenes.
Also please check out the following Robert “Cozmo” Consulmagno LINKS:
Watch Emmy Award winning film maker Glenn Holsten’s seven minute film: “Jersey City native, jiu-jitsu fighter tours old neighborhood and talks mental health” http://www.nj.com/hudson/index.ssf/2015/11/jersey_city_native_tours_old_neighborhood_in_web_f.html
“Marine Vet Says Jiu Jitsu Changed His Life”
On the Road: NJ Discover at New Jersey State House Press Conference November 5th for “Need Help? 2-1-1” bY Calvin Schwartz November 17, 2015(0)
On the Road: NJ Discover at New Jersey State House Press Conference November 5th for “Need Help? 2-1-1” bY Calvin Schwartz November 17, 2015
As journalists for NJ Discover, both Tara-Jean Vitale and myself were invited to attend the press conference for the new (revamped) NJ 211.org website. For me, after six decades of Jersey living, it would be my first time inside our State House. And quite frankly, despite all my travels throughout our state, my fingers seemingly on all the right pulses of what’s happening here, I was classically clueless (like the old movie) on what the 211 help system was all about. As a good reporter, I read about it prior to Wednesday and was fascinated on several levels; why didn’t I know about this and certainly, if I didn’t know, my being a man of words, explorations and social media proclivities, then a significant number of other Jersey residents, many of whom should and could avail themselves of the numerous services offered, probably didn’t know about 2-1-1 either.
It would be a perfect day; we found a metered parking spot in front of the State House. The rotunda was magnificent, replete with historic paintings. I knew George Washington crossed the Delaware not too far from where we were which added to the sense of poignant history. Once inside the conference room, we met with Thomas Cosentino, MWW who invited us to attend. Tom briefed us on the speakers; Joe Geleta, Executive Director of NJ 2-1-1 Partnership; Captain Robert Little, Executive Officer State Office of Emergency Management at New Jersey State Police; Maria Nikolatos, Director Disaster Response Program and Arnold Valentin Jr, Assistant Program Director, Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton; and other representatives of government agencies.
It’s not the intent of this article to digest/recant the speaker’s comments. I’ll keep repeating myself though. Everyone reading this article really really (that’s two emphatic ‘really’!) needs to go to NJ211.org to learn about Dial 2-1-1 to grasp the depth and breadth of all they are doing for us here in New Jersey. I did comment at the end of the meeting, how amazed I was at all the services that are offered by 2-1-1 and that my gut feeling, since I never heard of it, that there probably were many Jerseyans who also do NOT know enough about 2-1-1. Tara-Jean and I volunteered to do all we can to spread the word. That’s what this is all about.
There was one particular speaker that riveted me; Manny Fountain. Manny is disabled (in a wheel chair) and was living in a motel room. He called 2-1-1. It was a year after Hurricane Sandy and he had nowhere to turn. 2-1-1 put him in touch with Catholic Charities. As Manny explained, the amount of effort they put forth “was astounding along with their drive and passion.” If not for 2-1-1, he would’ve never found a wheel chair accessible apartment. They created a “new family and support system…..I would’ve never seen my life like this……I’m in grad school now.” I was so enthralled with Manny’s eloquence, sensitivity and his resounding positivity, we’ve become Facebook friends; a first step in a continuing friendship. He is quite amazing.
Throughout the press conference, I heard, “We are helping people with specific needs.” As I explored the website, it all makes such perfect sense that I wanted to shout about 2-1-1- from the highest hill; that’s what I’m doing now; sitting on a hill, writing. After the press conference, I had the pleasure to talk with Gary Shaw, a Director from Cablevision, as they are so committed to the 2-1-1 effort, Thomas Mergola, Director of Operations, ‘Need Help 2-1-1’, Lori A. Price Abrams, Vice President, Government Relations, MWW, Captain Robert Little from the State Police, who was also so passionate about 2-1-1 and Jay Stack, President of IGM Creative Group. So much energy and commitment in the room; many of you know me; I didn’t want to leave. I needed to keep absorbing. Then the lights went out in the room. It was definitely time to leave but not before a few photo-ops in the rotunda.
This final paragraph is designed so folks can help spread the word about 2-1-1. As a matter of fact, here is what I try to include on all my Facebook posts (and social media); every little bit helps to spread (promulgate) the word. And it’s almost Thanksgiving and the holidays; so have a happy and keep giving.
On social media posts you can also include this:
“This part is a PSA message. Know anybody in New Jersey who needs almost any kind of help? Discover a remarkable group of people. Best to check website www.nj211.org or call 2-1-1”
“A NIGHT AT THE STRAND” Celebrating 93 Years at the Strand Center for the Arts September 29th 2015 with Calvin Schwartz & Tara-Jean Vitale bY Calvin Schwartz October 25th(0)
“A NIGHT AT THE STRAND” Celebrating 93 Years at the Strand Center for the Arts September 29th 2015 with Calvin Schwartz & Tara-Jean Vitale bY Calvin Schwartz October 25th
“A Night at the Strand” was one of those meant to be at events; anything involving that theater. Some four years ago, Tara-Jean and I discovered The Strand in Lakewood; this magical, beautiful, historic place of theater, music, comedy and acoustical wizardry. Three years ago we attended the 90th Gala and walked away meeting people who have influenced and changed the course of our lives. That Gala event was followed by so many other events we attended at The Strand; from Sandy relief concerts, to intimate and memorable ‘Backstage Pass’ events to great music and endearing holiday shows. Thanks right away to The Strand’s Lori Gilmore for inviting us.
This night was quite special from the moment we arrived in the Gallery for the reception. It’s a funny thing when you’ve been to a plethora of events over the years; you can tell almost instantly, there was something different this night; perhaps the air of excitement, accomplishment, future think and change. Tara-Jean and I acknowledged instantly there was that palpable energy in the room. Good journalists need to pursue. Tara-Jean asked, “What’s going on. Everybody is so upbeat and anticipatory.” Lori spot on introduced us to Anthony D’Amato (known on stage as ‘Remember Jones’) He was named the new producing artistic director of the Strand. His responsibilities include working closely with management, giving input in production and show prospects, producing his own theatrical and music events and probably a myriad of other job descriptions. His persona was electric, dynamic, indefatigable and youthful. Actually he is very young.
We asked Anthony about his history. “I used to usher here when I was 12 years old. I would pick up trash in the aisles. From there, I became a performer then a director and recently put on my own music events here. In the past I’ve been able to turn small theaters-outdated- into something with a social scene. That’s my goal for here. The artistic vision for me is NOT to put on musicals and plays yet, but first we need to establish this area again as some sort of social scene.-a hang-out for all ages to be comfortable which is not easy.”
I thought it was all a process. Tara-Jean mentioned hearing rumblings that this gallery area will be made into a night-club. Anthony chimed in, “Right. This gallery space is completely under-utilized….as a performance space, there will be a stage built here, different colors and designs, art on the walls, music on stage. The bar is always happening with comfortable vibes. The food is comfortable. The seating is comfortable; a place where 20 somethings and older can hang out in. Scott McFadden, our Board President thought this all was an East Village thought-kind of like Asbury Park when it started to revitalize…I talk to a lot of 20 somethings (I thought to myself Anthony looks exactly like a 20 something) and there is no place for them to go and be entertained, have a few drinks and not feel like they are at a bar. They want somewhere that is comfortable…We’ll have a place for people to stay in Lakewood rather than go somewhere else; that’s my goal.”
I said, “You give this theater youth.” Anthony smiled, “Exactly. I call myself the Jimmy Fallon hire. What he’s brought to the Tonight Show…I want to make this a national venue. Scott (McFadden) is great to work with. He’s a music fan. On Halloween, I’ll have a 40 piece band.” We thought Anthony was that new revitalized exciting face of The Strand. He was that palpable energy in the room.
There was endless food and drink in the Gallery donated by friends of The Strand; Eddie Testa, Chicken Town, Steve Levine, WindMill, Mike Scotto, Oscar’s Italian Restaurant, Dina Warren, Dina’s Catering and Amy Levine, Takes the Cakes. I picked a bad night to be in the middle of the Paleo diet. Oh well. In between food and drink there was a ceremony in the theater honoring local mayors including Lakewood, Brick, Howell for their great support of the arts. The theater, built in 1922, has such wonderful history; built as a Broadway venue for those vacationing in Lakewood. We’re told the acoustics are world class; you can be standing at the back wall of the stage, talking and they can hear you at the last row of the theater. Music for the Gala was provided by the incomparable duo of Kevin Gilmore and Scott Solomon.
I caught up to a fellow Rutgers alum and Strand board member, Jeffrey Gerstenblatt. “It’s a great night for us. Help’s us raise money and book the kind of shows we like to book here….when people come for the first time, they see what an experience it is to watch a show here and they want to come back.” Fran Whitney, from The Strand, reiterated the changes being made and turning the Gallery into a night-club setting. Moments later we were introduced to Chris Everett, exuberance personified. “We want to insure this beautiful building continues to be a center for artistic endeavors….Everything technical that happens here is my job; staging, lighting, sound, making people fly, all the fun stuff. If no one notices us, we did our job right because that is the magic of theater.” Tara –Jean wanted to know why The Strand is special. Chris explained, “It was designed to be a Broadway theater….In the 20’s and 30’s Lakewood was a vacation destination…literally it is a replica of a New York City theater. We can do all these Broadway shows right here; One of the top four acoustically designed buildings in America.”
I strolled past the magnificent cake honoring The Strand, artistically created by Amy Levine from Takes the Cakes. I stared for a few minutes; the cake is not on the Paleo diet. No one would know but me. Just then, Glen Harrison, Lakewood attorney and Board member, rescued me into conversation. I turned my back on the cake. I asked Glenn what this night meant to him. “What I’d like to see is The Strand continue as a center for the arts for many years to come…I actually came to the theater 50 years ago, when I was around ten. It was a movie theater back in the 60’s. We paid 50 cents on Saturday morning, watched movies and cartoons. Its’ had many incarnations over the years. Now across the board, there are all kinds of events for everybody, geographically and demographically….Being a 501C3, we fight for the grant money.”
Old friends Dina Warren and Jesse Warren walked over. Dina exclaimed this was her first night of being involved in The Strand as co-house manager. “We’re very proud to raise money and keep this all going. I love this beautiful place.” Jesse said, “Looking forward to this theater being on top in New Jersey. I’m a co-founder with Terry Camp of Big Road Productions. We’ll be here in 2016 bringing some great shows.”
We looked to complete the essence of our journalistic endeavors by cornering board president, Scott McFadden right in the epicenter of the Gallery. Right away he spoke about honoring the local mayors and thanking them formally on stage for their contributions to their communities. We asked about his functions on the board. “One of my functions is to try and raise money-keep it going. It’s very difficult with non-profits now. A lot of funds have been diverted to Sandy restoration and recovery…even though it is somewhat concluded, it (money) hasn’t found its way back into other areas (arts) again. Fund raising is a real challenge for us. Keeping it going and keeping the theater alive-that’s our focus.” Scott told us that bringing Anthony D’Amato here is one of the things he’s most proud of. “He played a Backstage Pass for us and did the Joe Cocker show. In between, I read about him and mutual friends told me about him also. I decided one day to talk to him and I finally asked, “Hey, how’d you like to be our artistic director?” First time we talked for 1 ½ hours and the second time for 2 ½ hours. We just clicked on our vision….he knows the scene and I know money. He’s absolutely brilliant… Once people come here, they’ll come back. How do you get them here the first time-that’s what we’re striving for.”
It was time for us to meet the mayors who had just been honored. Mayor John Ducey from Brick loves The Strand because it’s so close to home. “It’s in our backyard and they are doing so many great events. You are hearing buzz around town about The Strand.” Tara-Jean asked about his noticing more events taking place here. “I’ve heard buzz the last few weeks that ‘Almost Queen’ is coming. Usually you hear about Count Basie but all of a sudden there is definitely a buzz….Anthony is awesome-a lot of energy.” Tara-Jean next asked about the neighborhood. “People think there’s nothing else to do here. Tonight’s the first time I heard about re-doing the Gallery-remodeling it with food and drink.” We three shook our heads in agreement that it was a brilliant move.
Mayor William Gotto from Howell was waiting for us (the media). “I’ve known Scott (McFadden) for years. It’s humbling to get an award from The Strand. I don’t think we should get awards. It’s what we do. I’m a big supporter of the arts. My family is involved. I’d like to get here a lot more often. I think residents of Howell should take advantage of this beautiful facility. It’s hard to support the arts with the budgets the way they are but the last few years we’re starting to do more things…We want to let people know from a publicity standpoint that it’s here and doing good for the community.”
Tara-Jean and I have been to two out of the last four Gala nights at The Strand. Why; because we love the theater and have been to so many events here. It’s that precious magic ride to the splendor of art deco and the 1920’s and real theater. There was a group of Strand officials gathered in the lobby. I decided to be theatrical in my exit. I turned, smiled and said, “I’ll be back,” in a deep voice. And we will.
COMING ATTRACTION: AN ITALIAN NIGHT OF COMEDY with MIKE MARINO, MICHAEL ‘WHEELS’ PARISE, UNCLE FLOYD at Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club Sunday October 25th bY Calvin Schwartz(0)
COMING ATTRACTION: AN ITALIAN NIGHT OF COMEDY with MIKE MARINO, MICHAEL ‘WHEELS’ PARISE, UNCLE FLOYD at Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club Sunday October 25th bY Calvin Schwartz
Mike Marino is the consummate comedian; he just makes you laugh non-stop and with timely topics. I discovered ‘New Jersey’s Bad Boy of Comedy’ a few summers ago at ‘Asbury Park Comedy Festival.’ And I said to myself “he’s one of the funniest comedians I’ve ever seen.” Point being, I’m a ‘comedic snob.’ Comedy is a gift and a special art form. Back in the sixties, I discovered Lenny Bruce, one of comedy’s greatest pioneers and innovators, albeit quite controversial because society was not ready for his bad words and bits. I’ve been a fan of Lenny’s ever since.
How perfect the synchronicity to catch Mike Marino that night for the first time. We had a chance to talk back stage afterwards; I marveled at his graciousness, affability and accessibility. He’s a cool, smooth and endearing guy with some of the best material I’ve ever heard.
Now here’s where it all gets interesting. Some of Mike’s routines I’ve actually used in a comedic way (giving him all the credit) and sometimes I go introspective and realize Mike Marino is also a genius and clairvoyant, almost with the gift of the ‘shining.’ So what do I mean by this. Mike’s comedy is so relevant and futuristic, it can be used by current politicians to propel them into major office; yes a provocative thought and so therefore I challenge my readers to catch Mike at Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club in Point Pleasant on Sunday night along with comedy ICONS Uncle Floyd and Michael Wheels Parise. AN AMAZING COLLECTION OF COMEDIANS. AN ITALIAN NIGHT OF COMEDY!!!!
Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club- 518 Arnold Avenue PT PLEASANT BEACH 1-877- UNCLEVIN
A 3-course meal starts at 4pm with Caesar Salad, choice of Chicken Parmigiana, Shrimp Scampi or Steak Marsala and ending with Cannoli for dessert. We are a BYOB, so bring your vino!! Show will start at approx.. 6pm & end at 8pm.
Sunday, October 25, 2015 from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM (EDT) –
Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club – 518 Arnold Ave Pt Pleasant Bch, NJ 08742
JCP&L Celebrates Careers in Utilities Week – by TOM COSENTINO(0)
JCP&L Celebrates Careers in Utilities Week
COMING ATTRACTION: ROSEMOTHER’S JAM JAZZ CONCERT, MARLBORO-MORGANVILLE N J SUNDAY OCTOBER 18TH bY Calvin Schwartz(1)
COMING ATTRACTION: ROSEMOTHER’S JAM JAZZ CONCERT, MARLBORO-MORGANVILLE N J SUNDAY OCTOBER 18TH bY Calvin Schwartz
I met Rosemary Conte nearly four years ago at an Easter Sunday benefit concert to raise awareness and funds for homelessness in Ocean County; she organized the concert. It was through her social consciousness that helped to change my view of the world and launched my own journalistic efforts for homelessness awareness. Along the road these few years, I’ve also had pleasurable opportunities to hear Rosemary Conte, the jazz singer perform her evocative, emotional, soulful music.
At NJ Discover, we’re committed to the causes of homelessness, hunger, social awareness and music which is what Rosemary ( aptly nicknamed ‘Rosemother’) is all about. Her efforts are now focused on rekindling and inspiring the local jazz scene. Some of the energy for this began in her house with old fashioned jazz jam sessions. Now it has evolved to a group called ‘Reality Jazz’ performing at the Monmouth Academy of Music Arts in Morganville. Actually this show is part of a broader project called ‘Rosemother’s Jam – 100% Jazz’.
bY Calvin Schwartz 10-10-15
Rosemother’s Jam Jazz Concert ~ Music you’ll love in an intimate setting. Reality Jazz ~ Sunday, Oct. 18, 3-5pm
Rosemary Conte, Vocals ~ Brad Mandigo, Piano
Bob Boyd, drums ~ Tony Cimorosi, bass
Monmouth Academy, Recital Room
1230 Campus Dr., Morganville-Marlboro, NJ ~ 732-617-1124
$15 Admission ~ $5 for students & Senior Citizens
EXCERPTS FROM ROSEMARY’S PRESS RELEASE:
“Decades ago, there were jazz listening clubs all over NJ and especially the Shore, where I and other jazz artists played. You could hear a pin drop in a live jazz scene. Today, you rarely hear live jazz played by local jazz artists in a listening context. Jazz died at the Jersey Shore as another music was being born to run. Ironically, in the 70s, a young Clarence Clemons who lived across the street on Ocean Avenue, would come to the old Blue Water Inn in Sea Bright and ask to sit in with my band. We let him.”
“Rosemother’s Jam – 100% Jazz’ is my answer to the lack of opportunity for accomplished local jazz musicians to play live, the kind of music they’ve studied and loved all their lives, and for multi-generations of people to learn about jazz. I’ve opened my home to monthly jazz jam sessions. I invite them three to five players at a time, to play their own compositions and classic and newer jazz repertoire, unencumbered by the roles they serve playing local bars and restaurants, and in pop oriented event bands.”
“We’ve been jamming together for six months, and music fans have asked if they can come over when we play. This tells me that despite what I hear from Shore venues, there is an interest in jazz and people just might support it if they could find it. I want to do my part to develop a greater audience for jazz and to introduce it to the younger generations.”
“My living room is too small for an audience of any size, so I’ve rented a recital room at a music school. The October 18 concert will be the first Rosemother’s Public Jam”
“Jazz education and preservation is important to me, and there’s an education component to my jazz jam project that can’t be simulated in a classroom. Under the Rosemother’s Jam umbrella, I’ve created the Fly On Wall Program.”
“I’m inviting music students interested in jazz, a couple at a time, to be ‘flies on the wall’ during jams at my house … to observe the pros discussing a piece of music, its form, improvising, and masterfully playing ensemble. I’m reaching out to local colleges and universities to connect their music students to this opportunity. There is no fee for this.”
ANOTHER MUST TO ATTEND: Comedian Mike Marino, The Presidential Tour Concert with special guest Comedian Sunda Croonquist. Saturday August 15th Paramount Theater Asbury Park USA bY Calvin Schwartz(0)
ANOTHER MUST TO ATTEND: Comedian Mike Marino, The Presidential Tour Concert with special guest Comedian Sunda Croonquist. Saturday August 15th Paramount Theater Asbury Park USA bY Calvin Schwartz August 4th 2015
If its summer, I usually write about the Jersey shore. It’s so easy these days as Jersey has become a pinnacle of American Pop Culture; Jersey Boys, Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Jersey Shore, Jersey Housewives, Garden State, Jersey Girl. American Pharaoh, Triple Crown winner came to Monmouth Park on Sunday; extraordinary. Perhaps there is nothing quite like our shore with all it has to offer especially during the summer. And Asbury Park has become an epicenter of music, food and dreams. I’ll go as far as to say it’s just about nirvana to be at the shore on a Saturday night.
This equation I am developing becomes even more pronounced when you add a national and global Jersey comedian in concert on the boardwalk in Asbury Park. Not just any comedian but Mike Marino, NJ’s Bad Boy of Comedy comes home to the shore. Then add another Jersey native/comedian, Sunda Croonquist. AND Hosted by Steve Trevelise!! It’s just a perfect night. Grab some dinner at a plethora of restaurants in Asbury Park or up and down the shore. Before-hand, play the pinball machines at Silverball. If you’re worried about traffic, I’ll even tell you about a secret road to the shore. No excuses.
What I am saying and equating, this is one special ‘funny as hell’ night that should not be missed. Life is short. I’m 6’5” Let me talk about Mike and Sunda now.
In 2012, I discovered the genius of comedian Mike Marino in Asbury Park. Mike was performing at the first Asbury Park Comedy Festival. Since I discovered Lenny Bruce in the 60’s, I’ve morphed into a comedic snob. I need sharp incisive cerebral worldly comedy to laugh. Mike delivers that. And concomitantly (along the way), I’ve become a huge fan of Mike Marino. Why not; I love to laugh for 90 minutes straight each and every time I see him; it’s this stressful world we live in. Mike has a handle, a release and grasp of our world. The genius of Marino’s humor is to take our modern (expletive omitted) lives and shove it under a comedic microscope. And when you see him in concert, you get a chance to see the ‘Marino’ face; how he loves to laugh with the audience at his own humor; that genuineness and warmth draws us in and embraces. Even more than that, being a comedic snob, countless times looking at Mike, I can’t help but see Jack Benny, who had one of the greatest comedic facial expressions as well as incredible timing. Benny was Johnny Carson’s all-time favorite; Mike Marino’s expressions and timing is right there with Jack Benny. And now it appears Mike Marino is running for President. I just have to hear about that. I wonder if he needs campaign workers.
Mike Marino website: mikemarino.net (a whole collection of videos to watch)
One of my favorites; Live at Borgatta trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=21&v=wCaCaMFWTk0
ALSO YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE TO MIKE’S YOU TUBE CHANNEL:
A few years ago, I had the opportunity (which became a thrill) to see Sunda Croonquist perform at the Second Annual Asbury Park Comedy Fest. Sunda dazzled with her sharp, quick wit (cerebral intelligent humor) and I got a chance to chat with her back stage. Sunda’s humor is rare, precious and beautiful as she is. What’s particularly meaningful for me as a comedic snob is Sunda’s ability to reach (in an extremely personal way) every single person in the audience. Shortly into her act, you’ll understand how she so effectively and personally reaches you (makes you identify) She’s this dynamo of personality and ethnicity (she’ll explain) as she constructs comedy from her so many varied viewpoints of life. And for me the best; she’s a Jersey girl albeit in LA now.
Sunda Croonquist website: http://www.sundalive.com/
AND SUNDA ON ” THE VIEW” YOU TUBE CLIP: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4lEnY0U-9I
Tickets: check their websites, Stone Pony , ticketmaster.com
AND CHECK OUT SUNDA’S NEW COOKBOOK: “The Kosher Soul Food Cookbook” Co-authored it with Nir Weinblut of La Gondola of Beverly Hills.
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|JUNE 12th NJ DISCOVER LIVE TV SHOW: JACKIE ATKINS, NJ Boxing Hall of Fame, CRYSTAL WOODS, American Natural Bodybuilding Federation; “World Class Women Athletes Where You Least Expect Them BUT Life Journeys MORE Amazing” with co-hosts Tara-Jean and Calvin. TUNE IN!!(0)|
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