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“BROTHERS”  a Documentary Film by Jack Ballo  Premiering at Indie Film Festival Red Bank on July 30.   A REVIEW by Calvin Schwartz   July 22, 2017 “BROTHERS” a Documentary Film by Jack Ballo Premiering at Indie Film Festival Red Bank on July 30. A REVIEW by Calvin Schwartz July 22, 2017(0)

“BROTHERS”  a Documentary Film by Jack Ballo  Premiering at Indie Film Festival Red Bank on July 30.   A REVIEW by Calvin Schwartz   July 22, 2017
















I especially like Friday afternoon’s synchronicity, usually arriving unannounced and unexpected. A long story but I was emailing (chatting) back and forth with a very accomplished film director in Edinburgh, Scotland today. One of our points of commonality was Charles Dickens and his haunting social consciousness and foresight. When Dickens wrote ‘A Christmas Carol’ in 1843, he told of a boy who represented ignorance and a girl, want. Beware of the boy. The problems of 1843 are still here today but magnified beyond comprehension. Nothing has changed.

Then, minutes after chatting with the director in Scotland, another director, much closer to my Jersey home, emailed me and asked if I’d watch his new documentary, “Brothers” which is entered in next week’s Indie Film Festival in Red Bank. Without hesitation, I responded to Jack Ballo from Ultravision Films that I’m thrilled to watch and review. The key for me is Jack Ballo’s past deep introspective work with social consciousness in our modern changing world. Jack’s earlier film, ‘Destiny’s Bridge’ a riveting documentary, dealt with his spending two years filming in Tent City, Lakewood, New Jersey, where up to 112 people lived in tents without heat, water, light, empathy for up to 10 years. They were homeless for all kinds of reasons and there was no place for them here in New Jersey.


I met Jack Ballo back in Tent City and learned about homelessness 22 miles from my comfortable suburban Monmouth County home. After seeing Jack’s film, “Destiny’s Bridge’ (which you all should see) and my personal experiences in Tent City, I was changed forever. Something happened with my soul. Jack Ballo is replete with soul, caring, pro activity and a rare, precious beautiful conscience for fellow humans. He doesn’t scream injustice and human suffering and need; he makes wondrous emotional films, innovative and provocative.

Now Jack is back with another documentary, “Brothers” which I just watched and I’ll watch again tomorrow afternoon and again because I have to. Tender is this film about two brothers, whom Jack grew up with in Sayreville, New Jersey and were now living in the woods in their home town.

Here is the must-see innovation of Jack’s journey. He visited them in the woods once a month for two years in their small encampment, a few pitched tents, clothes lines, rain water capturing sheet, solar cells for battery power and a parked bike for transportation to a local food market’s dumpster for discarded sandwiches. Yes, they were brothers who spent their inheritance on alcohol and had nowhere to go for four years. Jack filmed them only with this iPhone. The quality of the picture is outstanding as is his eye for detail and humanism.



It was fascinating special film-making to witness the quick, seamless change of seasons. Indeed quick, the film is 34 minutes, but almost endless, in its draining emotion. Jack captured essences of homeless life tenderly; a scene of a brother combing his hair looking into a piece of broken mirror on a tree; the life cycle of a tomato plant until a basket of freshly picked Jersey tomatoes; descriptions of being warm in a tent, under a quilt in two-degree temperature; a brother unveiling his Sayreville High School diploma from 1979, with a small colony of ants dancing on the parchment and a quick shot of a toilet commode. Stark realism. No punches pulled although there was a curious punching bag in several scenes.

Jack gently asked questions, the brothers Mark and Steve did most of the talking. At times, there was eerie silence in the woods. What I enjoy about his film making is stark symbolism and curious sights like a jet plane overhead flying south and a year later flying north or east or west.

There is a Christmas scene and a resolution to this heartfelt film. It’s 4:10 AM (Saturday) now as I finish writing. I’m grateful for synchronicity of the day and Jack Ballo passing my way yet one more time.




A New NJ Discover Series: “Happenstance” by Calvin Schwartz  July 15th 2017 A New NJ Discover Series: “Happenstance” by Calvin Schwartz July 15th 2017(0)

A New NJ Discover Series: “Happenstance” by Calvin Schwartz  July 15th 2017










Happenstance by definition is a chance happening or event. I just looked it up. It’s stuff you don’t plan. My life these past six years at NJ Discover continues to be a journey of discovery (obviously), exploration, revelation and arrival. As many of you know, I’ve had the free-wheeling opportunity to travel around New Jersey, meeting amazing, wondrous people, working, playing, growing and who also do the ‘living and dying’ right here in the Garden State. I got the “living and dying” idea from a soliloquy that George Bailey (James Stewart) gave in one of all our favorite movies, “It’s A Wonderful Life.

The other day I was travelling around Springfield, New Jersey, sort of my old stomping grounds, and it was through basic happenstance that I came to Marino’s Fine Foods, Seafood, Italian Deli and Catering at 905 Mountain Avenue, Springfield. Walking around inside, doing deep absorptive aromatic food inhalations, that I stumbled upon the idea to tell a brief story of where I was and call it ‘Happenstance.’ Nothing elaborate or introspective, but I knew there was a feel-good story here.


The timing was perfect. It was off hours, late in the afternoon, awaiting a severe thunderstorm and I was also hanging around with NJ Bad Boy of Comedy Mike Marino (absolutely no relation to the owners of Marino’s Fine Foods, Michael and Linda Marino).

Linda and I sat down at a quiet little table in the corner. I told her that I was a journalist and was totally enamored with where I was.  In the distance, Michael was making home-made mozzarella cheese. Linda dispatched me over to watch. The cheese was bathing and being stretched out carefully. Then Michael gave me a warm piece to taste. It was heavenly. Of course, later, I had my own plate of fresh mozzarella and I continued my heavenly tasting journey.





Michael is a third generation in food. His grandfather came from Sicily and peddled fish originally in a horse and buggy in Brooklyn which means there were no cars yet. His grandfather did that fish gig until 1968. Linda and Michael have been at this location for 21 years.

They serve lunch every day and dinner on Wednesday and Friday nights and are closed on Mondays during the summer. I had to ask this burning question, after all, I was with consummate experts, and perhaps they could finally set me straight after decades of confusion and bad guidance, do you call it gravy or sauce? Suddenly a great veil of hypnotic confusion was lifted and I would see clearly now. Michael explained, “Sauce is with tomato, garlic, onion, basil and gravy is with meat.” I suddenly pictured Peter Clemenza telling Michael Corleone how to prepare sauce and gravy in that kitchen scene.



Linda told me that Michael also makes homemade cannoli cream with mascarpone cheese. Would I like to try it? I answered yes but no. I was still savoring the mozzarella and I thought it a conflict of interest.

They used to own the Hillside Seafood House on Liberty Avenue from 1961 to 1995. I lived in Newark way back and deep in memory banks, remember it. Michael called me back to show me trays of freshly prepared stuffed peppers before and after baking. I thought fleetingly that I could really get into being a food journalist.

Marino’s was a perfectly appointed quaint restaurant and place of exquisite real food. Hint, if you folks are floating around Springfield. Life is people, relationships and loyalty. When I said goodbye to Linda, we hugged and kissed. I’ve known her and Michael for decades within that precious hour. I like this happenstance stuff. To be continued.


Marino’s Fine Foods

Address: 905 Mountain Ave, Springfield Township, NJ 07081

Phone: (973) 258-9009

SPECIAL COMING ATTRACTION: FAMILY FUN NIGHT at Academy of Music & Dance in Spotswood, NJ June 25  by Calvin Schwartz SPECIAL COMING ATTRACTION: FAMILY FUN NIGHT at Academy of Music & Dance in Spotswood, NJ June 25 by Calvin Schwartz(0)

SPECIAL COMING ATTRACTION: FAMILY FUN NIGHT at Academy of Music & Dance in Spotswood, NJ June 25  by Calvin Schwartz





















INTRODUCING YOUR HOSTS:  multi-media artist Mia (Maria) Savarese:

Maria Savarese is a perfect spotlight personality. In our early days of friendship, strictly digital and fortified by our posts on Facebook walls, I began to notice her unique aura and zest for life. Her art intrigued. Exact chronology escapes me but after months of absorbing her art, suddenly one morning, we were talking on the phone; a logical inevitable extension of the phenomenon of Facebook friending.

And more logical extensions; one morning Maria, Tara-Jean  (my co-host at NJ Discover) and I were sitting at a diner in East Brunswick, coffee still steaming and eggs cooling, as our conversation took us deeply into Maria’s world of art and being a breast cancer survivor and how we could share her story; a perfect depiction of Jersey Strong.

Several times during our interview, she said, “a child is living inside me.” I understood that it was energy, spirit and exuberance (and a hint of innocence) reflected in her art which surrounded me. I reminded her about a Facebook picture of herself standing on a fallen tree perhaps 40 feet above a ravine and asked if she was scared. “Not at all; it was fun. It’s life.” Then she said, “to beat cancer is a gift. And I live my life now with that gift.”

Now she is directing her unlimited energies to helping co-ordinate Family Fun Night at Spotswood Academy of Music and Dance, with offerings of her art and jewelry creations, music, Christine Barath, psychic and medium, face painting, art and clay, mani/pedis, singing, food, games; an all-around fun night to kick off the summer season.  The night, in part is brought to you by The Academy of Music and Dance, Mozarts and Einsteins, a Preschool of Integrated Arts and Academics, LA Perfection Nails in Spotswood, Country Roads Day Camp, Top Ballers Athletics and Parties by Dylan & Company specializing in entertaining young children with music and Kumon Math and Reading Center of Spotswood.

At FUN NIGHT, Rock and Roll over to the Mia Art Activity Room to explore Mixed Media Art. Artists of all ages and skill levels, get ready to think outside the box to create one of a kind music themed pieces! (Some items will require pickup the next day, as we will be using glues, paints and clay).



Academy of Music and Dance is celebrating 25 years serving the communities of Spotswood, East Brunswick, Monroe and surrounding areas.  Specializing in all instruments (piano, guitar, violin, etc.) voice, musical theater, early childhood piano classes, rock bands and dance classes, they welcome students of all levels of ability and talent; from beginners to advanced.   Lessons and classes are offered weekday afternoons and evenings, and Saturday mornings and afternoons. Parents love saving time in their busy week coordinating lessons on multiple instruments and dance classes for all family members at the same time.  Located at 404 Main Street, Suite C in Spotswood.  (732) 251-3050

The Academy is hosting the event and activities such as Dance! Dance! Dance!  and Name That Tune Escape Room.




Mozarts and Einsteins, a Preschool of Integrated Arts and Academics:  Dance,  Sing.  Play.  Laugh.  Learn.   Enrolling Infants/Toddlers, Ages 2 – 6, Full Day Kindergarten and Aftercare of the Arts (Grades 1st – 5th).  Now Enrolling for the 2017/18 School Year. 175 Gatzmer Avenue in Jamesburg, NJ.  (732) 521-2400







At LA Perfection Nails, you can get manicures, pedicures and waxing.  Walk-ins always welcome.  They offer a relaxing and rejuvenating experience that you will want again and again.  404 Main St, Ste B Spotswood, NJ 08884- (732) 251 – 8484 or (732) 251 – 8585

LA Perfection Nails in Spotswood will be open for additional hours just for Family Fun Night!  Come in for a mani/pedis!  There will be Face Painting available for the kids!








Parties by Dylan & Company specializes in entertaining young children with music!  Great for baby’s first birthday, toddler parties, holiday entertainment, preschool events and more.  They come to you for an hour of interactive and engaging activities.  Their Biggest Fans are Under Five! (732) 536-0404








Christine Barath

Psychic/ Evidential Medium / tarot / Trance

A psychic reading I will use the cards. A mediumship read we will connect you with your loved ones in spirit …. I can also go into trance, after your medium read , your loved one, I will go into trance they will guide me to make you a gift of pottery







Country Roads, situated on a beautifully shaded, 26-acre campus is a quality premiere camp that has also stayed affordable for our generations of campers. This is a personal commitment we make to our camp families…to provide the best summer vacation a child can experience at the best possible price.

New campers are just friends we haven’t met yet!!  Call us today and start your Country Roads experience…become a Country Roader!

Country Roads Day Camp    139 Pinebrook Road   Manalapan, NJ 07726   732-446-4100








NJ DISCOVER SPECIAL COMING ATTRACTION: Artist Mia Savarese is “Finding the Music: Mixed Media Art & Multi-Sensory Experience” June 3rd 7-9PM  by Calvin Schwartz NJ DISCOVER SPECIAL COMING ATTRACTION: Artist Mia Savarese is “Finding the Music: Mixed Media Art & Multi-Sensory Experience” June 3rd 7-9PM by Calvin Schwartz(0)

NJ DISCOVER SPECIAL COMING ATTRACTION: Artist Mia Savarese is “Finding the Music: Mixed Media Art & Multi-Sensory Experience” June 3rd 7-9PM  by Calvin Schwartz












It’s not often these days of multitude event bombardment in central Jersey, that I take to basically urging folks to partake of a special event but here we go. We’ve got Mia (also known as Maria) Savarese, a single mother, passionate artist, jewelry creator and breast cancer survivor in an evening of her introspective earthy emotional art on display while simultaneously being infused with parallel universe music. And for added inducement, there’s a display of her imaginative jewelry (which is available to purchase). And this is a LOCAL show at nearby Academy of Music and Dance in  Spotswood, New Jersey.

And why my exuberance with this evening of art and Mia Savarese? Perhaps read excerpts from my NJ Discover interview with Mia (Maria) from January, 2014. I’m about to light your fire as mine was a few years ago.

Calvin Schwartz  May 23, 2017  11:11PM






So where did I meet Maria Savarese?  At a local college art museum or bookstore on Route 18 or at a trendy Wi-Fi equipped coffee shop a few miles away from the bookstore? Actually we met on Facebook through the synchronicity and exigencies of social media; we probably had some of the same friends or perhaps Facebook nudged or poked one of us to friend the other. Well it happened; we friended and discovered; I like using the word ‘discover’ after all I write for NJ Discover.

And there was Maria’s Facebook picture wall replete with her essence as a modern artist, young mother and breast cancer survivor.     Maria Savarese is a perfect spotlight personality. In our early days of friendship, strictly digital and fortified by our posts on Facebook walls, I began to notice her unique aura and zest for life. Her art intrigued. Exact chronology escapes me but after months of absorbing her art, suddenly one morning, we were talking on the phone; a logical inevitable extension of the phenomenon of Facebook friending.

And more logical extensions; one morning Maria, Tara-Jean  (my co-host at NJ Discover) and I were sitting at a diner in East Brunswick, coffee still steaming and eggs cooling, as our conversation took us deeply into Maria’s world of art and being a breast cancer survivor and how we could share her story; a perfect depiction of Jersey Strong.



Then a few months ago, I visited her studio just as an autumn chill was heralding Halloween. She mostly grew up in Old Bridge and lives in Spotswood now where her studio is located. Actually the studio is a converted detached garage. When she first saw the hundred-year-old property, weeds had overgrown everything but she sensed it was all perfect just as she heard a woman playing a guitar on the other side of bushes and vines; their young daughters would become friends.

Several times during our interview, she said, “a child is living inside me.” I understood that it was energy, spirit and exuberance (and a hint of innocence) reflected in her art which surrounded me. I reminded her about a Facebook picture of herself standing on a fallen tree perhaps 40 feet above a ravine and asked if she was scared. “Not at all; it was fun. It’s life.” Then she said, “to beat cancer is a gift. And I live my life now with that gift.”




She was originally from Flushing, Queens and took art lessons when she was eight and tried being a gymnast. “My hands always had to be busy so I made a lot of doll’s clothes. And I always see something inherent in things.”  Then I said, “I can easily see this energy inside you.” She added, “I made my prom dress in high school after I took sewing. It’s still hanging in my closet.”

Cut to adult times. Maria got a job working at the Flemington Craft Festival. “They helped me make jewelry, work with clay and ceramics. When I was at Brookdale College, I also learned pottery. And this summer I finally got my kiln.” Her smile is magic and effusive as she pointed, “my grandmother’s chest of draws is over there.” I commented on the vast array of materials and props in her studio.

“Everything has a purpose. We should stop throwing things away. I’m like an environmental artist. I use things from the environment in my art which means I love to work in collages and mixed media.” Art drives her. She loves to bring families together, help children and make the world a better place. That certain smile persisted throughout our interview. Maria talks about her daughter with more than pride; with amazement as her daughter reads and writes incessantly. “Emma is growing up.”



Again her smile warmed the studio. I asked about her environmentalism. “I don’t use pesticides in my garden and love the Native American way of life.” Her work has appeared in an art exhibition in New Brunswick and in other galleries and has sold fast. A deep breath followed; a smile changed to introspection. “The main thing going forward for me is I’m looking for my art partner and looking for something different. And people are now finding me and my art.”

I asked Maria what inspires; “Teaching, communicating, being in the moment when something triggers an idea. Working with senior citizens and young children,” “And what about your art goals?” “I would love my art to be understood and appreciated and for it to be in more current shows. It’s not about money but about being who you are and not afraid.”

It was a good time to ask who her life’s heroes are. “Ellen Degeneres; she represents strength, inspiration, life and change for so many people. Then she makes you smile and laugh as well.”  My thought process told me that’s exactly what Maria Savarese does to people in her world; provide strength and inspiration. Kind of like a complete circle and a good place to shut off my reporter’s microphone/recorder.

MIA CONTACT INFO:  Facebook Event Page:

Maria Savarese (Mia) Facebook:

Mia Art Facebook:

NJ DISCOVER  January 2014 article:



It Continues To Be a Brave New World: First Annual  IDT Hackathon  April 22nd -April 23rd Newark NJ   by Calvin Schwartz   May 8, 2017 It Continues To Be a Brave New World: First Annual IDT Hackathon April 22nd -April 23rd Newark NJ by Calvin Schwartz May 8, 2017(0)

It Continues To Be a Brave New World: First Annual IDT Hackathon April 22nd -April 23rd Newark NJ by Calvin Schwartz May 8, 2017














Thinking back over the past few years, I wonder how many times I’ve invoked references to a brave new world. I do know; I’ve been stingy. There has to be extant reasons and perfect celestial alignments. Several months ago, I was invited to attend IDT Corporation’s First Annual Hackathon by IDT Ventures head, Jacob Jonas. I sensed something special, brave, cutting edge(new) and celestial.

So what is a Hackathon?  This was my first impulse to discover.  A hackathon is like a race (marathon) event where software developers, programmers, graphic designers, interface folks, project managers, all work together in an intensive collaboration over a relatively short period of time. The finish line is the creation of practical applications of software with a specific focus, in this case, the best messaging, payments, or communications related mobile app. There are teams put together, each member bringing an expertise to their cubicle of residence, where they spend those intimate hours competing against the other teams in their own field of dreams (cubicles).

A brief article departure. Watch how I develop this. For the longest time, I’ve worried about our planetary home (earth) with some indigenous problems like climate change, ocean’s rising and running out of fish, 300 million people in Asia without drinking water; all illustrative of things often running through my mind.  I am unsure if we, the species, can effectively solve these problems and save our aging planet. Then came my six hours in Newark at IDT headquarters, observing the energy and composition of the competing teams. I haven’t felt this earthly emotional in a while.

At IDT, I saw youth and exuberance. Some were in high school and college, representing wonderful diversity in culture, geography and sociology. All the participants were accomplished and focused.  After a few hours, I realized earth does have a better future with the likes of these kids competing here; they were dedicated imaginative thinkers.  What I saw was so uplifting and revolutionary; this is a brave new world of knowledge and youth. I was grateful to IDT for investing in youth, promise, tomorrow and for inviting me.



On the fourth floor, around 5:30 PM on Sunday April 23rd, I met with Jacob Jonas who briefed me on the final stages of the Hackathon which would run to 11 PM. My mission as a journalist was to absorb. I looked over my shoulder; there was a large cubicle which served as home for one of the teams. The conference table was strewn with lap-tops, wires, water bottles, soda cans (some with sugar, some not), coffee cups and a vast array of back-packs. On the floor were several sleeping bags, visually depicting the hard reality of the event; the sleeplessness and urgency of the competitors. This was serious business. Teams stayed overnight working diligently to get to the finish line. I just remembered what Adrienne told Rocky Balboa, “Win Rocky Win.”




The commonality of two people wearing hats in a place where most were hatless brought me to Golan Ben Oni. Of course I was wearing my Rutgers hat. Golan was much more fashionable. If he was here on a Sunday evening, it must be for a reason. We leaned on a desk to chat.

Golan is the CIO of IDT Corporation; that’s chief information officer and he’s been at IDT since 1995 when he arrived and planned on staying only a few weeks. His father was a food scientist for Planter’s and Fleishman’s Yeast.  The family arrived from Israel and soon settled in California where Golan enrolled at University of California at Berkeley when he was sixteen.

He’s been asked to teach at Rutgers Business School and help with the executive program. He is captivating and actually disarming, leaning on a desk and chatting, wearing a hat; his knowledge, brilliance and depth are on a proverbial other planet. His teenage son, busy on a lap-top, did our photo-op. Golan was thrilled to school me on the mechanics of the Hackathon.


Next, Golan introduced me to Tom Brennan, OWASP( Board of Directors. More brave new world for me. OWASP has 55,000 members in 110 countries and their function is to raise visibility for software security. Who knew this kind of organization exists? Tom was a judge in the first round of Hackathon presentations along with Zev Green, IDT’s Director of Emerging Technologies; Nathaniel Ritholtz, IDT Software Engineer; Jonathan Hyman, CTO of Appboy; Anthony Delgado, CTO of FOWNDERS; Sharon Ptashek, Senior Manager, Mobile & Emerging Platforms at CBS Interactive. Each team had five minutes to present their projects to the judges followed by five minutes of Q&A.






First place was awarded to ‘Chill’ which is an app where you and your friends stream videos over your phones while still being able to talk to each other. The first place prize they received was an iPad Mini 2 for each winner. The winners, Shaoliang Zhong and Xiaohang Su grew up together in China and now attend Stevens and NYU respectively. Second place winners won: Discovery HD+ Drone and third place won 32 GB Rasberry Pi 3.

Winners of the AI competition (team that best incorporated artificial intelligence into their Hackathon project) received an Amazon Echo sponsored by FOWNDERS.  And speaking of FOWNDERS, ( based in my birth city of Newark, they are doing amazing things to “educate, inspire and empower the next generation of leaders” as a social impact accelerator taking on qualified startups who have proven market fit and display modern innovation; more brave new world applications for me to absorb.

One of the other teams, finishing in third place, developed ‘Man Cave Sharing’ which is like Airbnb for Man Caves. With my own proclivity to special sports Sundays, I was fascinated by their entry; more brave new world and personal visual projections of great places to hangout, shoot pool and watch a professional sport final on a giant TV screen far from the maddening sounds of homeward bound interruptions.




But the Hackathon was not the only tech-friendly event that happened this weekend. Before the final Hackathon presentation and the awards ceremony, IDT also hosted a Ventures Showcase event for six local startup companies that have synergies with IDT Corporation’s core businesses: Payments Tech, Messaging Apps, Communications Tech, and Technology that Serves Unbanked and/or Immigrant Communities. The Ventures Showcase companies (including the three teams in the IDT Ventures incubator program: PeduL, UpChannel, and ImaliMobile) all have strong synergies with IDT’s core businesses and/or target markets.

Last summer, I spent the day at IDT interviewing Chisa Egbelu and Kayla Jackson from PeduL for NJ Discover. PeduL is an online crowdfunding tool that connects students with the resources and support they need to pursue higher education. That article can be seen at:

Each team had ten minutes to present and five minutes for Q & A with the panelist judges consisting of Shmuel Jonas, CEO of IDT; Jacob Jonas, Director of IDT Ventures; Scott Smedresman, Partner at McCarter & English; Aaron Price, Founder and CEO of Propelify. The other companies presenting were Debitize, Stellar Employ and Modern Lend. Listening to all six ingenious presentations continued my yellow brick road journey to that brave new world. I did manage to remark to one of the team members, in keeping with my article theme, that when I grew up in Newark, my world of knowledge came from seven black and white television stations that went off the air at midnight followed by test patterns (remindful of ‘Poltergeist’) until the next morning. “They’re here.”



Before the actual finals began, a splendid buffet of Chinese food was presented to the assembled. I indulged, then explored and pinched myself (which I do only in moments of disbelief) that I was witness to this wondrous display of future think, exuberance, youth, imagination and earth hope. And I hope the decision making folks, if liking this article (expression) invite me back next year (2018) for my brave continuing new observations at IDT’s  2nd Annual Hackathon in my birth city, Newark.

THE STRAND Lakewood 95th Anniversary Birthday Party April 26th: Reasons to be There  by Calvin Schwartz THE STRAND Lakewood 95th Anniversary Birthday Party April 26th: Reasons to be There by Calvin Schwartz(0)

THE STRAND Lakewood 95th Anniversary Birthday Party April 26th: Reasons to be There             by Calvin Schwartz 











The Strand is having a 95th Anniversary Birthday Party. I’m going to get around to talking about the April 26th Party and shouting out why we all should vacate the sedentary sofa and get to the party but first……

I’ve been sitting here staring at the wall of memorabilia behind my computer screen for the past 11 minutes; it’s a writing technique I employ often; I suppose akin to Alice slipping though the rabbit hole into a new world. My rabbit hole (where I am trying to focus thoughts) is all about The Strand Theater in Lakewood. It’s been a frequent subject of mine the last five years as a journalist. Inside that magical world of The Strand, my theatrical rabbit hole of introspection, depth and purist enchantment (now with a new room, The Gallery, where you can have a tea party or a glass of wine) is a New Jersey historical landmark which opened in 1922 when Lakewood was popular with the rich and famous of the day like Rockefeller. Nearby Georgian Court University was the former estate of George Jay and Edith Gould.

It was designed to be a Broadway theater because Lakewood, back in the 1920’s and 30’s, was a vacation destination and the thinking was to bring Broadway shows here, for previewing them. And going back to those roaring twenties, The Strand was built with some of the best theater acoustics in the country. You can sit anywhere and it sounds like you’re in the first row.




My history with this theater has enabled me to cover fundraising shows after Hurricane Sandy; for the unique charity, Hometown Heroes; Songwriters by The Sea backstage, Arlan Feiles and The Broken Hearted live recording session backstage for ‘Live from The Strand;’ Richie Santa, quintessential Elvis Impersonator; The Strand’s annual Anniversary Gala’s at Holiday time and so much more.  Over the years, I’ve interviewed many of the staff, Board of Directors, and local politicians who support the theater.







On one of my recent memorable Strand days, I was introduced to Chris Everett (not the former tennis player) the Technical Director, Jack of All Trades, the guy who makes people fly and who puts scenery and imagination into production. Chris told me, “We make shows happen. Caitlyn Nelson is our  Assistant Technical Director.  Emily Lovell is our house lighting designer. She puts on a harness, climbs to the ceiling, drops down and hooks to a cage. That’s how lights focus in every show.” Chris continued, “Tom Fraley does House Audio and Gianni Scalise is the flyman and rigger and positive vibe technician. He climbs a five story ladder and hangs out on a steel catwalk.”  Chris explained how this crew does the work of ten people.







Staring at walls and rabbit holes aside, back to the future, I spoke the other day, at length, with The Strand’s Lori Davis, Front of House/Box Office Manager and Fran Whitney, Operations Manager. I’ve come to feel that the successful array of programming /events happening at the theater is concomitant with this dynamic duo working together. And behind all the scenes, is omnipresent Scott MacFadden, the savvy, energetic Managing Director.






Before talking about the upcoming 95th Anniversary Birthday, we did the Gallery; the room across the hall from the main entrance to the theater, completely renovated, equipped with a bar, tables and a small stage such that you are easily magic carpeted to a Manhattan night spot; just do a quick blink of an eye. Being a resourceful journalist, I researched that the Gallery room used to be a drug store back in those roaring speak easy days of the 20’s.  And we’ll leave it at that.  Fran told me, “We’ve started booking local duos and trios, like NRG and Colossal Street Jam and use Thursday night as a lead.” Lori added, “Beginning in May, we’ll have a comedy act etc… and are hoping to have an open Mic night.”







John Davis, entrepreneur from Java House in Brick will be setting up in the Gallery. Of course I remember John’s affinity for live music when he once hosted myself and Danny Coleman’s Rock on Radio Show. This will be a new venture for the Gallery with Irish latte coffee available at the bar. Heidi DeFabritius, Front of House /Box Office and Lori will be running the Gallery with open bar. They mentioned the theater being booked into 2020. Exit 82 Theater Company and BCCT (Brick Children’s Community Theatre) also perform here. The Strand is hot these days.

Lori added,” We were gifted a Baby Grand piano by Georgian Court University. Todd Gagnon will be playing music before shows and we’re looking into hosting low budget movie premieres.”

I said, “It’s party time.”  Right up front here, I’m hoping NJ Discover readers are looking for a fun night out on the town and find ways to extricate themselves from the perils of sedentary sofas and come to party at 95th Anniversary Birthday Party on Wednesday April 26th from 6-9 PM. Fran noted, “It’s a fundraiser, all proceeds to The Strand. Entertainment includes our own Lori Davis, Heidi and Tony DeFabritus, Arlan Feiles, Chris Rockwell, Richie Santa, Robert Santa and more.”

There is something spiritually palpable and historically haunting about The Strand and the Gallery. Part of it of course is the art deco ambiance. It is a magnificent theater. Easy on the eyes and ears. You have to be there and feel it. Hey, while we’re partying on the 26th, come over to me in the Gallery, and we’ll talk about stuff. Here’s looking at you from the rabbit hole.



COMING ATTRACTIONS:  Goumba Johnny and 101.5’s Steve Trevelise at Catch a Rising Star in Princeton April 28th  by  Calvin Schwartz COMING ATTRACTIONS: Goumba Johnny and 101.5’s Steve Trevelise at Catch a Rising Star in Princeton April 28th by Calvin Schwartz(0)

COMING ATTRACTIONS:  Goumba Johnny and 101.5’s Steve Trevelise at Catch a Rising Star in Princeton April 28th  by  Calvin Schwartz








From time to time, I report here on NJ Discover on comedy highlights and coming attractions. It’s my great affectation with the art of comedy, going back to my personal rapid growth years in the sixties, when I discovered the genius of comedian Lenny Bruce, that brings me to contemporary comedy. My journalism has taken me to the genius of Mike Marino (who appears July 29th at the Paramount in Asbury Park) and to the epi-center of Jersey comedy, ‘Catch a Rising Star’ in Princeton thus fulfilling my comedic satiation.

Thusly, I’m highlighting here a ‘Catch a Rising Star’ Princeton event on Saturday April 28th when  Goumba Johnny and 101.5’s Steve Trevelise appear. This is a very special FUNNY night.

Calvin Schwartz for NJ Discover.

Here is website . Check it out before it sells out:

Hyatt Regency Princeton

102 Carnegie Center

Princeton, NJ





Radio Host, Comedian, Actor and Author was born in the Bronx and entered into the radio industry after many career changes. Shortly after graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree from SUNY (State University of New York at Brockport), Johnny signed as a free agent in professional football with the New York Jets and then with the New York Giants. Although both opportunities were a dream for Johnny, he had to retire from the sport due to a neck injury.

After his football career ended, he established “Broadway Bodyguards” and escorted celebrities and famous businessmen in and outside the New York City area such as, Smokey Robinson, Sam Kinison, and Malcolm Forbes. With his natural quick wit and charm, Johnny has joined the ranks of other comedians by performing stand-up at popular comedy clubs like Carolineʼs in Manhattan, Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods in Connecticut, and the Borgata and Caesars Palace in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Johnny also entered and won a National talent search from the Friarʼs Club in New York City for roasting. Johnny has roasted celebrities like Matt Lauer, Vincent (Big Pussy) Pastore and Gary Dellabate.

He is often asked to perform private roasts for some of the “stars” of Wall Street and other dignitaries. Johnny has shared the stage with many of the top acts in comedy such as Andrew Dice Clay, Mario Cantone, George Wallace, Jay Mohr, Tommy Davidson, Martin Lawrence, Colin Quinn, Paul Rodriguez, Caroline Rhea, Dom Irrera, Richard Jeni, Bobby Slayton, David Alan Grier, Pat Cooper and Jerry Seinfeld. His comedic sense brought him success in other entertainment genres as well, and he co-created the television show “Letʼs Get Stupid” and sold it to Telepictures. Goumba Johnny has appeared on various television shows such as The Weakest Link, The Montel Williams Show, Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, The Joy Behar Show, The CBS Early Show, The Ricki Lake show, The Queen Latifah Show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Metro TV/Naked New York and Court TV. Johnny has recently appeared on TV episodes of Deadly Sins, Person of Interest, He has also hit the soap opera circuit landing roles on two popular CBS shows; Guiding Light and As the World Turns. He appeared in a Super Bowl commercial for NFL Network.

In the mid ʻ80ʻs Johnny did character voices and wrote comedy bits for radio stations across the country from Z-100 in New York City to KIIS FM in Los Angeles until KTU discovered Johnny in February 1996 and originally brought him in as a writer. The chemistry that he brought to the station was too good to waste behind the scenes. Management brought him out from behind the pen and paper and put him behind the mic. Goumba Johnny was so successful as a co-host in the evening slot that the KTU executives made him co-host of their Morning Show.

Johnny has written for the popular national magazine Cosmopolitan; contributed to US Weekly – Fashion Police for 3 years, and he contributed weekly to national magazine Star in Style Stalkers.. Johnny made his New York theater debut in the Strawberry One-Act Festival, portraying ʻStanley the Bartenderʼ in the play A Punch in the Face, and the summer of 2002 he had a recurring role as ʻPaulieʼ inthe hit Off Broadway play Six Goumbas and a Wannabe. In 2003 Johnny starred in his own comedy special, Goumba Johnnyʼs Slice of Italian Comedy and in early 2004 it has appeared as a special on Pay-Per-View for Direct TV, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision, continuing to gain fans not only in the New York Tri-state area, but nationwide.This comedy special is now available on DVD. In March 2008, Johnny penned his first book – So You Wanna Be a Mobster: Get Made! Get Paid! Get Babes! Start Your Own Mafia Family! (Citadel Publishing), the ultimate comedic self-help yourself book on how to start your own mafia family.

In Johnnyʼs free time his efforts are donated to dozens of charitable organizations within the tristate area where he has worked tirelessly to raise countless dollars. He performs stand-up, hosts events, plays softball, bowls, whatever it takes to help the cause raise the most money for their foundation. In 2002 he was appointed to the Board of Directors for the Cooleyʼs Anemia Foundation, where he was previously honored for his charitable work. he continues to help annually with organizations such as The Bowery Rescue Mission, the Autism Foundation, The Elizabeth Fund for Lupus and many police organizations, as well as many others.











Back last June, 2016, I wrote a special article on the late sculptor Michael Malpass. It was quite a story of synchronicity in the universe how I discovered the artist and his work which was being exhibited along with a biographical documentary at Monmouth University, Pollak Gallery. Yes, I was totally overwhelmed with the depth and introspection of Michael Malpass.

The focus of this article is to let you know what I discovered last year in Michael Malpass’ extraordinary body of work and legacy and to let you know (the flyer at the bottom of article) that a wonderful new exhibit is taking place at Atlantic Highlands Art Council.

Here is an excerpt from my article (the entire article available here:   )


“I walked towards Pollak Gallery and noticed magical spherical (Malpass’ specialty) sculptures on the grass to my left. Walking on the grass, towards the sculptures, observing their artistic splendor, I was now frozen, staring, haunted by the intricacies and detail of his work; one cast in stark celestial red. The anticipation of the exhibit was peaking for me. Fortunately, they extended this exhibit until August 18th because of the demand/volume.

There is a wealth of information on Michael Malpass; let google walk you through it. My job here at NJ Discover is to share how his work emoted and elevated me; hyper sensitized my powers of introspection. It was quite an experience. Perhaps my arrival at 3 PM that afternoon, a gallery off hour, guaranteed my time of solitude and meaningful observation.  I’ve been to the Pollak gallery often, sometimes in conjunction with special musical shows and lectures at Pollak Theater. There’s something about the stark white walls, displays, and frames contrasted by the art. For me, it’s a sense of sterility and eternity (art for the ages).

There were the Malpass’ sculptured spheres.  He often said, “The sphere is the most perfect form. It is efficient, for example, with the most volume for the least surface area.” There were also his prints, collages and jewelry. I read that his art is a “revitalization.” For his welded spheres, now in front of me throughout the gallery, I saw that he used things that people discarded and changed them by recycling them into his mind and sculpture. For me, it evokes unique emotions in every piece. I can’t say/write it enough. This is so worth trips of many miles and minds to see in person. I marvel at great minds and creativity. I marvel at Michael Malpass.


I stopped in front of a sculpted sphere called ‘Squiggly.’ I day-dreamed that I was in the studio with him while he created it. We were laughing together. Then he got serious and ushered me away. I loved, ‘Traveler’ one of the most imaginative and perfect world of unions and coming together of form pieces. It seemed so many stories were being told here; a perfection of function and form so simple yet intricate.  He was traveling and encountering so many foreign objects but made them(welded) in a smooth statement. He must’ve travelled far and wide to bring the ‘ingredients’ together. More sculpted magic of Michael Malpass. With each exhibited piece, I imagined and wondered about his mind and thought process during inception. So many questions to ask him. It’s a rewarding feeling to leave an art exhibit with unrequited love of the works of the artist. Each piece told me a story. It’ll tell you all stories.

There was a magical collage, ‘Grass and Water.’ Of course I stared and tried to find ways to jump inside. It’s hard to explain visual emotions. The reality of a can of sardines, some money, olives and a local map; there’s a special frivolity here and a New Jersey breath of especially fresh air; Point Pleasant Beach on a receipt. And there is the ‘Chickenmen Gallery.’  I could go on here expressing, digressing, progressing but you have to see it for yourself; there’s plenty of time until August.”




Michael  Malpass was one of the most respected sculptors of the 20th century.

Michael studied Fine Arts at Pratt Institute. His career commenced in 1977 when he had his first solo exhibition at Betty Parsons Gallery on 57th Street in Manhattan. Just two years later Michael found his work on the cover of ART news Magazine.

He primarily explored the sphere using found metal objects. Applying traditional blacksmithing techniques, he literally manipulated tons of steel. The industrial shapes are composed of iron, steel, brass, bronze and copper that were forged and welded together to form the sphere.

Throughout the eighties his career flourished. He accelerated his creative efforts, broadened the scope of his sculpture and accepted increasingly challenging commissions, including those from General Electric, Exxon/Mobil, Trammel Crow Company, Benenson Developmental Corporation and TRW.

In 1987 Michael left his full-time position at Pratt Institute to concentrate full-time on his sculpture. This was a leap of faith since we were raising four children. He had many exhibitions and commissions in New Jersey including The Noyes Museum, The Paterson Museum, The Morris Museum, Ocean County College, Stockton College, Island Heights Cultural Center, The Educational Testing Service, New Jersey Institute of Technology, State of the Arts – NJ Television, Artworks/Trenton, James Yarosh Gallery (Holmdel), Laurel Tracey Gallery (Red Bank), Long Beach Island Foundation for the Arts, Grounds for Sculpture, Clifton Art Center & Rutgers University. The year before his death in 1991 he was working simultaneously on four different commissions from The State of New Jersey, The State of Connecticut, The Hechinger Collection & Exxon/Mobil.

Michael was a pioneer scraping pieces of metal and transforming them into art.

Cathleen Malpass



The flyer: Perhaps even try to get to opening night of the exhibit.








NJ Discover Explorations:   My Day at IDT CORPORATION in Newark   by Calvin Schwartz   March 20, 2017 NJ Discover Explorations: My Day at IDT CORPORATION in Newark by Calvin Schwartz March 20, 2017(0)

NJ Discover Explorations:   My Day at IDT CORPORATION in Newark   by Calvin Schwartz   March 20, 2017













I’ve been thinking about the directional form this article should take. It’s been two hours on a college basketball filled Saturday afternoon staring at my computer screen, listening to folk songs from the sixties, reading a special book given to me at IDT last week, and finally exercising my free choice now, getting to that fork in the road and taking it; I’m going down the yellow brick un-orthodox road. There’s too much energy inside me.

So here we go with a bold statement about IDT and me. I wish I’d gone to a mathematician for the final approximations here but I think the odds of everything that has ensued with my burgeoning experience with IDT falls into the ‘billion to one’ category; a powerful distant number, hinting of a special synchronicity in the universe; a meant to be and something which you can’t make up, not even Jules Verne or George Orwell.

A brief (if I can be that) explanation. Last July, I began “mentoring” a few of my close Rutgers friends who started an amazing company called, PeduL, a crowdfunding source for college students to raise money for tuition.  We’d meet once a month over dinner and explore the inter-connectivity of our generations; millennials and a baby-boomer working together. A year or so ago, IDT Ventures in Newark (my hometown, birth city) headed by Jacob Jonas, reached out to PeduL and brought them into the IDT family. “IDT Ventures invests in early-stage startups and helps them rapidly develop their ideas and raise follow-up rounds of financing.” Last August, I went to IDT’s offices to interview the PeduL team for an NJ Discover Spotlight article. Confession; I didn’t know a lot about IDT other than it was a giant tele-communications company.




Chisa Egbelu, recent Rutgers graduate, (I mentioned “plastics” to him at graduation), and ‘Business Operator’ of PeduL took my wife and me on a brief tour of IDT’s offices which became for me, an amalgam of mind expansion and disbelief; this was an incredible sleeping giant of a company that was involved in so much diverse creativity. Standing outside of the IDT headquarters building after the PeduL interview, I stared, much like Deborah Kerr’s character in ‘Affair to Remember,’ looking up at the Empire State Building, and I knew there was something magical in that building. I just didn’t know what it was, yet.

In October, I was back at IDT, this time bringing the PeduL team to Senator Cory Booker’s office to see whether government can assist PeduL. PeduL as its founders envision it, would help divert some of the cost of college education away from government; the good old win-win situation. Two weeks ago, based on my relationship with PeduL and my journalistic proclivities at NJ Discover, Jacob Jonas called, inviting me to spend a day of illumination at IDT. I randomly mentioned to Jacob, my flying on a ten-hour trip last August, sitting on the flight next to David Polinsky, the President and General Counsel of Cornerstone Pharmaceuticals, a pharmaceutical company which IDT had just invested in. Mr. Polinsky was sitting next to Jacob as we spoke. This is just an elemental part of that billion to one premise. And I’ll leave it now for imagination and energy reclamation.  IDT also spun off an energy business (Genie Energy), a publishing and entertainment company (IDW Media), and an extremely popular phone personalization mobile application (Zedge). To top it off, IDT Entertainment, a former subsidiary of IDT Corp., used to do the animation work for the Simpsons!


That morning trip to IDT last week was punctuated with heavy downpours.  I encountered some flooding and aggravating traffic. As soon as I parked on the second level garage, the sun came out; one more function of synchronicity in the universe. Jacob met me in the lobby and my day of mind expansion was underway. There was a brief stop in CEO Howard Jonas’ office. The far wall was a montage of countless family photos. I thought instantly about tell-tale signs of a soulful, introspective, caring CEO, of, for and by the people.  Jacob presented me with copies of Howard’s bestselling books. I read one this afternoon: ‘I’m Not the Boss. I Just Work Here’.

As we strolled along the halls, Jacob pointed out some of IDT’s business divisions and gave a brief history of the company. IDT was started in 1990 by Howard Jonas, who began his legendary business career with a very successful hot dog stand as a young teenager in the Bronx.  I saw a striking logo on a wall, a hand holding a cell phone.  It’s part of their retail division, BOSS Revolution, which primarily services immigrant communities with payments and communications services.

Jacob set aside some time for me to meet with the man behind IDT’s PicuP division, Zali Ritholtz. My head was about to spin. I could tell by the degree of unbridled enthusiasm sitting across the desk. I looked at a large window overlooking downtown Newark where I arrived here on earth decades ago. He mentioned that a ‘Whole Foods’ was opening a new store across the street as we spoke.  I fastened my seat belt. Zali was pure lift-off the launching pad type of energy.

I didn’t really know PicuP except for Googling it the night before.  PicuP is a business phone service that answers, routes and manages inbound calls. “So tell me more, Zali.” He was quick and ready.  Funny about my journalism; I could tell there was an enthusiasm contagion in the office. PicuP is focused on serving small and medium sized businesses and startup companies. “The ultimate goal of PicuP is to help businesses manage all of their communication channels (phone, chat, messaging, social media, etc…) in an easy and efficient way.”



Zali told me a story of calling his cell phone provider. He was on hold for 10 minutes. The agent helped him and then asked him if he had any more questions. He hung up, but a few seconds later, he had another question. He had to call back and get a new agent. Zali added, “My vision of a perfect world; there should be a log of all my communications between the provider and myself. When I finish the conversation, a text comes in. Do I want to continue this conversation? You have options to continue through chat, SMS, phone call, video or any other medium the business offers. That would make life so much easier for the customer, making the business more successful in the long run.”  I realized this was the evolution of PicuP.

PicuP built a very simple, easy to use service. “Any small business can sign up completely for free and have a full phone system setup in less than 5 minutes. Get a phone number, welcome greeting (auto attendant), departments to group users and extensions, call screening, find me follow me, voicemail to email and more.”  Next Zali gave me the practical side of things. “Let’s say you take your family to Disney World. You are stuck because you want to disconnect from your business calls but still want to receive personal calls. It’s a very big challenge. You are choosing between losing business or losing family time.  PicuP gives you the ability to take your existing cell phone and have it serve as both your personal and your business phone so you can disconnect when you need to.”

I knew this could make people’s lives so much easier.  “PicuP’s vision is to bring all communications together under one hood. This is a game changer! It will change lives.” Then Zali explained how IDT recently acquired LiveNinja, a Miami-based startup on the cutting edge of B2C messaging technology. The plan is to integrate LiveNinja’s messaging solution with PicuP, further cementing IDT’s status as a leading innovator in B2C communications services. “LiveNinja’s offering allows customers visiting a business’s site to start conversations through a chat widget, and then move the conversation over to SMS so they can continue communicating even after they leave the site.” This was spot on with the PicuP vision. “Once the PicuP and LiveNinja integration is completed, the new offering will provide businesses with a communications solution, where they can speak to their customers through multiple channels including phone, messaging, chat, Facebook messenger and more, from their computer or mobile, combining the experience into one crisp and easy to use product. All the verticals of communication under one hood. Powerful!  The best part? You can try out PicuP’s basic plan completely for free. One phone number pulls everything together. As you grow your business, you can upgrade to larger plans.”


“It’s a wow,” I exclaimed.  My exuberant thinking was that for start-ups and small business, PicuP is like a ‘David Copperfield’ illusionist. When a business has all these tools, customers subliminally and consciously think, they are dealing with a large successful company. It’s like a silent salesperson. I know customers are not patient; they want quick responses. People also like to hang around success.  Make customers remember you. Zali mentioned that my friends at PeduL are using PicuP. It is a perfect smart world. “No more calling the dry cleaners and being placed on hold. Just text them.”  I said it again, “This is such a wow! And a game changer!”  For a third time that day, I realized that IDT is that sleeping giant at the precipice of changing our world.

Jacob walked in ready to continue our tour. I looked at both of them, with my actor straight face, remembering they just met me and don’t know my quirks and said, “You guys pissed me off today with all this amazing input and technology and game changing. I won’t be able to sleep for the entire next week as I’m processing and digesting all you’ve told me today. I hate not sleeping.”  We all laughed. They got my nuance spot on.

Jacob and I sat in a cubicle with a round table. We talked about IDT’s recent investment in Cornerstone Pharmaceuticals, “a clinical-stage, oncology-focused pharmaceutical company committed to the development and commercialization of therapies that exploit the metabolic differences between normal cells and cancer cells.” I reminded Jacob that in an earlier life, I was a pharmacist, educated down the street at Rutgers Pharmacy School. I was particularly interested in Cornerstone’s lead cancer drug, CPI-613, because I had Googled that too, the night before.  Jacob continued, “The theory is that CPI-613 selectively targets the indispensable energy production (metabolic) processes in cancer cells. These metabolic processes are essential to cancer cell multiplication and survival. CPI-613 has shown promising results in clinical trials.”


Jacob continued, “IDT is truly one of the most groundbreaking companies in New Jersey.  IDT has impacted a wide variety of industries: telecom, tech, entertainment, energy and now pharma. And that’s only the tip of iceberg. IDT Ventures is investing in local technology start-ups. IDT’s Boss Revolution division offers its suite of communications and payment services in over 35,000 bodegas around the country. IDT’s rapidly growing National Retail Solutions division is in the process of rolling out “The World’s Greatest Point of Sale Terminal” to IDT’s massive bodega network. I mentioned NJ Discover’s commitment to Latino culture with our October TV Show, “Neo Latino Artists Come to NJ Discover.” This got Jacob excited, “We have very deep ties with the Latino community. Many of our employees are Spanish speaking and are natives of Latin American countries. Boss Revolution is trusted by Latinos in America who use our communications and payment services to connect with and share resources with their families back home.”

I smiled and repeated how the IDT visit had pissed me off. I told Jacob “I’ll never sleep because IDT is such a sleeping giant.” Jacob corrected me, “IDT is a giant that is ready to roar”. There is so much in my head. Jacob smiled. We talked about future think and my coming back. There is so much more to learn and explore. Jacob asked if NJ Discover is mobile referring to a future TV Show on site.  I said, “We are mobile, hostile and agile,” making reference to the movie ‘Remember the Titans.’ Also appropriate with IDT, another titan. As I thanked Jacob and did the goodbyes with him and Chisa, I added, “Maybe when I do come back, someone will buy me a hot dog.” I’m not sure they heard me so I’m closing this article with it.

NJ DISCOVER SPOTLIGHT: MEET BECKY LYNE MASTERSON ; A Lifetime of Caring and Meaning   by Calvin Schwartz  March 8, 2017 NJ DISCOVER SPOTLIGHT: MEET BECKY LYNE MASTERSON ; A Lifetime of Caring and Meaning by Calvin Schwartz March 8, 2017(0)

 NJ DISCOVER SPOTLIGHT: MEET BECKY LYNE MASTERSON ; A Lifetime of Caring and Meaning   by Calvin Schwartz  March 8, 2017 












Before I jump into the spotlight verbiage of this article and talk about Becky Lyne Masterson, I just got one of those epiphanies preceded by a wondrous incandescent cerebral light bulb getting turned-on. I need to tell you about the etiology of these spotlight articles; a history lesson of sorts. It makes this article about Becky Lyne more salient and relevant.

Six years ago I met Tara-Jean McDonald Vitale, my co-host now on NJ Discover Live TV Show.  Shortly thereafter, she introduced me to NJ Discover, a full service amazing production company nestled here in Monmouth County. Then the two of us went on the road and brought news features, personalities and special places to the world of NJ Discover.  Our mantra was quickly illuminated. We would focus our energies and resources on elevating people and places of New Jersey; after all, NJ Discover is all about discovering those aspects of New Jersey which CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS and even News 12 can’t begin to devote appropriate time. We can and do. It’s who we are.

There are seven million stories in the naked (city) New Jersey. There are people who give of themselves, are dedicated, driven, motivated and out there, often invisible, beneath the radar but part of the machinery of caring and sharing. It’s easy to interview Meryl Streep, a Senator or a bestselling author.  It’s harder to fit into a yellow or pastel submarine and get below the surface to substantive Jersey lives. The people “who do the real living and dying” (a line from “It’s a Wonderful Life”).  I had to get that favorite movie in here somehow.


Often in my writing, I bring in aspects of synchronicity, journeys and things meant to be. It’s part of who I am and a very long story.  A few weeks ago, I was asked by Laura Madsen, publicist and “a lady in red who writes,” to be an extra in Sean Guess’ new film ‘That’s Life,’ shooting a scene down the Jersey shore. I love the roar of the crowd and smell of greasepaint. A few minutes before the shoot, I met another extra in the film, Becky Lyne. Within a few synchronistic moments, we were talking about mental health, giving back, autism and relevance.  Her exuberance and devotion captured me as did that alluring smile. We kept talking. They were shooting in the next room. We kept hearing, “Quiet on the set.” I love that line.  But there it all was in that one brief shining moment. I wanted to learn more about her life and work with Developmentally Disabled Adults. Becky was the embodiment of all that NJ Discover Spotlight articles should be; a road on a journey to discover. I asked to interview her.

Cut to America’s Cup on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park on a Saturday morning, two weeks later. Firstly, Becky started working for the MENTOR Network ( in January. “The MENTOR Network is a national network of local health and human services providers in 35 states offering an array of quality, community-based services to adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, brain and spinal cord injuries and other catastrophic injuries and illnesses; to youth with emotional, behavioral and medically complex challenges, as well as their families; and to elders in need of support.”  When I researched MENTOR, I was kind of amazed by all they do, and the fact I’d never really known about them upset me; my lack of awareness.   I apologized to Becky for not knowing.



I asked when this passion and need to care for special people began. She absolutely blew me away and totally surprised. “Ever since I was five years old, I’ve been volunteering with my parents at functions with the Elks.” She worked Camp Discovery for ten summers through high school.  I was beginning to grasp that all of Becky’s life in caring and helping special people was an event of destiny. I thought of the movie, ‘Heaven Can Wait’ with Warren Beatty. As in the movie, she was destined from the early beginning to give back and care.

She talked about running the Special Children’s Committee at Tom Rivers Elks which gave out three scholarships. Part of her background expertise was also an employment specialist where she would teach and guide through the real world. In 1993 she graduated high school and college in 2009. Then in 2009, 2010, 2011 she taught basic skills Math and Language Arts in the Toms River school district. In September, 2012, they removed the basic skills program from the schools and two weeks later she found out she had cervical cancer and went ahead and beat it. “Once Sandy hit, I stayed busy with collecting donations and helping others even through my own surgeries.” Listening to Becky, for me, was an experience of being Jersey tough, resilience and a belief system that I rarely run into it. I was savoring every moment of our time together.

“I got involved right away in raising money for Sandy relief. We got eight planes of donations and ten trucks as well. The relief center was run by myself, my mom, and one other.”  Becky ran the relief center at the Elks until March, 2013. There was a party at the Elks where she met Caregivers of New Jersey and started working with them. “They deal with life plans and life skills. They got a grant and I became Disaster Case Manager where 75% had to have a disability. That was the grant.”



When the grant ended in May, 2013, she went to the Salvation Army in Toms River and did an 18-month gig “advocating for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, in every aspect of getting them back to their “new normal” into a safe, sanitary and secure home and assisted with the completion of county grants and helping them to receive monies through the unmet needs table.”

In January, 2016 she went back to Caregivers and became Support Coordinator.  This past July, Becky went to ARC and became an employment specialist. Of course I asked what it all entailed. “I have to help them gain confidence, respect and teach them what the real world is like. All of them are 21 and over and must have a high school degree.” All the while I’m listening to Becky, I’m trying to jump into her shoes. Can I even comprehend the devotion it takes to do this?  There are no marching bands, testimonial dinners, or basically anyone out there in Jersey land, including myself, who fathom and grasp this incredible devotion to people who are in need.

Now I really got blown away. In January, Becky started with MENTOR. Talk about unsung heroes. She became program coordinator for a residential house. “What is that,” I asked. “There are four individuals that live there. Two are wheel chair bound and two are ambulatory. There are three houses like this in Ocean County. I run the house. There are three shifts. We manage their lives. Some can’t talk. Some are blind.” I was quiet for a moment, digesting and absorbing. “But there are only four people you care for.  There are no big groups, or activities, or softball or parties or lots of aides and helpers. This is serious intensive care. There is no aspect of anything close to fun.”



Becky smiled, understanding my response. “You have to want to work here. It is a colorful world. Yes, there is always something happening. We do go to outings. They leave the house from 9 to 4pm. Go to day programs sometimes with arts and crafts.”  What she said was so powerful to me. I have to repeat it again. “You have to want to work here.”  Like the folk song from the sixties, this was my reason to believe in the value of epiphanies and why I’m writing an article about Becky Lyne Masterson.  This is a discovery for me, meeting this kind of devotion and life’s work. Nearing the end of our time together, she talked about her young daughter and son and how they’ve already expressed to her that when they grow up, they want to be just like her. I smiled thinking all about circles of life and continuity. I also thought about my work with discovery spotlights. Meeting Becky was spotlight right on and extending thanks to my friend, ‘synchronicity in the universe’, for meeting her on a film set.


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