Only in Jersey: 3/21/12

Happy Hump Day, everyone! Time for another edition of Only in Jersey!

If it’s filming in Jersey, takes place in Jersey, or is about celebs from Jersey, you will find it here.

Sayreville’s native son Jon Bon Jovi gets the Oprah treatment when the rock singer is featured in “Oprah’s Master Class,” airing at 10 p.m. Sunday on OWN. In an exclusive clip to “Entertainment Tonight,” Jon gives credit for his success in the music business to his hometown mentor. “And a man by the name of Al Parinello moved in across the street from my childhood home, and he was in a club band,” Jon reveals. “He was like, a hip guy, and he showed us how to play songs – and he showed me how to play ‘House of the Rising Sun.’ … When you learn a song, you start to think about songs, when you think about songs you want to write songs. When you write songs, you get to be here… Thanks to his encouragement, I stayed with it.”

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Only in Jersey: 3/15/12

Happy Ides of March, y’all! Time for another edition of Only in Jersey!

If it’s filming in Jersey, takes place in Jersey, or is about celebs from Jersey, you will find it here.

So, as expected last night, in the wake of revelations that contestant Jermaine Jones had a violent criminal past and several outstanding warrants for his arrest, “American Idol” kicked the Pine Hill native to the curb. During a sit-down with producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick in the episode, Jermaine said he had a reason why he didn’t divulge his run-ins with the law. “I just was scared, nervous,” he revealed. “I didn’t want to get judged, I didn’t want to get penalized for anything that happened in the past.” And while the producers said they would’ve worked with him had he been honest from the get-go, to find out about it after the fact was unacceptable. “We are not allowed to have anybody that has an outstanding warrant against them on the program and you’ve got four of them against you,” Nigel told Jermaine. The segment concluded with a rehearsal clip of Jermaine singing “Somewhere Out There.” It was a sad finish to a promising start. But perhaps Jermaine will find that New Jersey is the “somewhere out there, out where dreams come true.”

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What’s in a name? A lot, when it comes to Ava

Over the course of my years on this Earth, I’ve come to accept that people are going to mispronounce my name. It’s inevitable, really.

It’s not my last name that I’m bemoaning. Not at all. Believe it or not, it’s my first name that frequently gets people’s tongues all twisted.

It doesn’t seem to matter that Ava has officially cracked the Top 10 baby names this year – many people still don’t know how to say it. And I should know, because I run across a lot of them.

It’s a palindrome, for heaven’s sake, and all of three letters long. Regular “Sesame Street” viewers should be able to spell it after one adorable lesson (preferably with Ernie and Bert or Grover).

I’ve heard it all – Ahhh-va, E-va, Aaa-va.

(Apparently, none of these people have ever heard of the above screen goddess Ava Gardner.)

So you can imagine my reaction when I saw Jersey girl Chelsea Handler interview Jersey girl (Edison, to be exact) Susan Sarandon’s daughter, Eva Amurri, on “Chelsea Lately” last night.

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It wasn’t the interview itself I had a problem with; the “Californication” star is pretty and pleasant enough. It’s just that she – or, to be more exact, her mother and father (Italian director Franco Amurri) – decided to put the accent on the wrong syll-ah-ble, if you get my drift. Because Eva doesn’t pronounce her name E-va or even A-va (as Eva Mendes and a whole bunch of Europeans do), oh no.

She pronounces it Eh-va.

You’ve got to be kidding! The last thing we Avas – and that’s A-vas – of the world need is another goofy pronunciation to further muddy the waters.

Enough, already!

“As The World Turns”: Thanks for the memories

2009 has been a banner – oops, I mean bummer – of a year for me.

2009? See ya later!

First off, I turned 40.

Blech.

But the powers that be decided that scary number wasn’t enough of a reminder for me that I’m getting O-L-D. Oh, no.

A month before my big 4-0, Michael Jackson died. One of the biggest entertainers of all time – and perhaps the biggest symbol of my generation – gone. Poof.

And now, as 2009 draws to a close, comes the disturbing news that another fond memory of my teen-dom is biting the dust:

The daytime soap opera “As the World Turns” – which has been turning for a whopping 54 years – has been canceled by CBS.

Be still my beating heart.

Though I haven’t watched “ATWT” in probably about 20 years, this news still pains me. I have many fond memories of the residents of Oakdale, Ill.: Holden, Lily, Dusty, Craig, Lucinda, Iva and Josh/Rod, to name but a few. The show launched the successful careers of several actors, including Meg Ryan, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, Parker Posey and William Fichtner, all of whom were on the show when I watched it.

And I’ll never forget my wonderful yet all-too-brief correspondence with one of its biggest stars of the ’80s: Frank Runyeon. Frank played Steve Andropoulos, a hot-to-trot Greek whose romance with Betsy Stewart drove fans wild. Betsy, by the way, was initially played by none other than the adorable Meg Ryan (from 1982-1984). Lindsay Frost took over the role from 1984 to 1988 (according to Wikipedia).

Frank sent me this autographed photo (note my name at the top- yay!) during our brief correspondence in 1986./Photo by Ava Gacser

But I digress. My correspondence with Frank began as an assignment for my journalism class at Franklin High School. I was a junior at the time and a staff writer for the school newspaper, The Beacon. I remember our teacher, Mrs. Fama, instructing us to write letters to celebrities requesting interviews. I was amazed when Frank actually wrote me back and suggested we be pen pals.

This is the final letter Frank wrote me, dated October 1986, in which he let me know he was leaving "As The World Turns."/Photo by Ava Gacser

I received six letters from Frank – all of them typed (I recall hearing somewhere he was a quick typist!) – beginning in March 1986 and ending in October. Even cooler, he composed each one on the back of “ATWT” scripts!  Check it out:

This page from an "As The World Turns" script includes scenes with Steve, Betsy, Lily, Lucinda and Sierra./Photo by Ava Gacser

By now you might be thinking that there’s actually no Jersey connection to this story. But that’s where you’d be wrong:  Frank is a Princeton University graduate!

And my Jersey love for “ATWT” doesn’t end there, no sirree. When Jon Hensley came along – playing the “buck naked” bad boy Holden Snyder opposite Martha Byrne’s sweet-as-pie Lily Walsh – I was head over heels. So imagine my teenage reaction when I discovered that Jon was going to appear at the opening of the Wick Plaza strip mall in Edison, N.J.!

"As The World Turns" star Jon Hensley signed autographs for fans at the grand opening of Wick Plaza in Edison, N.J., on April 30, 1988./Photo by Ava Gacser

In addition to meeting Jon (a Browns Mills native) and snapping some great pictures like the one above at the event, I also got this autographed photo of him.

Another personally autographed photo. Score!/Photo by Ava Gacser

In case you haven’t read between the lines yet, “ATWT” is responsible for awakening my teenage lust. And with these hot actors – and their relatively close proximity to me – how could it not?

Alas, as the ’80s turned into the ’90s, my interest in “ATWT’ waned. But even though 20+ years (good grief!) have passed since my obsession with the show, I still remember it fondly and am sorry to see it go.

(In fact, to this day, every time I drive down Route 1 in North Brunswick and pass the Oakdale Mobile Home Park, I think of the show.)

Fortunately, I have all of these great experiences and memories to hold on to. Thanks, “As The World Turns.”

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