Only in Jersey: 3/7/12

It’s Wednesday! We’re halfway through the week, and it’s 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.

Who would've thought of West Orange as "status symbol land"?

In the wake of Davy Jones’ untimely death last week, I’ve discovered at least two connections The Monkees have to the Garden State. First, I was very surprised to learn that one of their hit songs, “Pleasant Valley Sunday,’ was written about life in West Orange, of all places. Yup, that’s right: the tune, penned by Carole King and her then-husband, Gerry Goffin, was inspired by their time living on Pleasant Valley Way in the township’s Watchung Mountains. Kinda gives new meaning to the lyrics, huh?
The local rock group down the street
Is trying hard to learn their song
Serenade the weekend squire
Who just came out to mow his lawn

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday
Charcoal burning everywhere
Rows of houses that are all the same
And no one seems to care

See Mrs. Gray
She’s proud today
Because her roses are in bloom
Mr. Green
He’s so serene
He’s got a TV in every room

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday
Here in status symbol land
Mothers complain about how hard life is
And the kids just don’t understand

Creature comfort goals
They only numb my soul and make it hard for me to see
My thoughts all seem to stray to places far away
I need a change of scenery

The second Monkees/Garden State connection, which I recall but had forgotten, is that the band filmed the video for its ’86 comeback hit, “That Was Then, This Is Now,” at Great Adventure’s arena in Jackson. The song and video only feature Monkees Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, although apparently Davy was part of the tour.

Only in Jersey: 3/6/12

It’s Tuesday! 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.

The Vanity Fair spread includes new images of the cast (some of those last seen alive, above, and dead, below) by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz./Photo credit Vanity Fair

This year marks five years since HBO’s brilliant, Jersey-immersed series “The Sopranos” ended. And the April issue of Vanity Fair commemorates the anniversary with a look back at the show, which includes new interviews with all of the principals, including Clifton/North Caldwell-raised creator David Chase and stars James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) of Park Ridge, Edie Falco (Carmela Soprano), Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Jennifer Melfi) and more. Among the interesting tidbits:

Steven Van Zandt (Silvio Dante) talks about the infamous (off-camera) scene in which he kills Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo): “So for – whatever – six hours, you have to beat this girl up, drag her out of the car, throw her on the ground. That was really difficult. I felt so exhausted at the end of that day. I said to Drea, ‘You better win the damn Emmy after all this, you know, make it worth it.’ And she did.”

David Chase originally wanted Steven Van Zandt for the role of Tony Soprano.

Tony Sirico (Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri) and Frank Vincent (Phil Leotardo) auditioned for Corrado “Uncle Junior” Soprano, but Dominic Chianese got the part.

Steven Schirripa (Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri) wore fat suits for the first two seasons of the show: “And then I guess, in Season Four, David thought I was fat enough on my own, so he let me get rid of it.”

Steven Schirripa talks about the pay dispute between James Gandolfini and HBO, which delayed filming: “After Season Four, Jim called all the regulars into his trailer and gave us $33,333 each, every single one of us… That’s like buying everybody an SUV. He said, ‘Thanks for sticking by me.'”

Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti) on the series controversial ending: “I thought it was a great ending. A lot of people hated it and thought it was a cop-out, but I thought it was the proper way. Knowing David Chase, he never liked to wrap things up neatly. I never expected it to be either a cliffhanger so people would wait for the movie or wait for another season or just some like really final thing. But I think he’s (Tony) dead, is what I think. David was trying to put us in the place of the last things you see before you die. You remember some little details and something catches your eye and that’s it. You don’t know the aftermath because you’re gone.”

You can see more of Annie Leibowitz’s images here. If you are a big “Sopranos” fan, you will definitely want to pick up Vanity Fair this month!

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Only in Jersey: 1/31/12

Welcome to the premiere edition of Only in Jersey!

What’s that? It’s a quick, concise rundown of breaking New Jersey-related entertainment news, brought to you by moi, a lifelong Jersey girl.

If it’s filming in Jersey, takes place in Jersey, or is about celebs from Jersey, I will cover it.

And, without any further ado, here are today’s items:

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“The Sopranos”: Lorraine Bracco speaks from the heart

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Dr. Jennifer Melfi may have been primarily concerned with the health of her psychiatric patient, Tony Soprano, in ‘The Sopranos,” but her alter ego, actress Lorraine Bracco, has made her own health a top priority. And she has her late parents to thank for it.

Lorraine Bracco signed copies of her memoir, "On the Couch," during her appearance in Martinsville, NJ, on Feb. 19./ Photos by Ava Gacser

“I don’t want to put off anything until it’s too late like they did,” Lorraine confessed to a crowd of about 250 during a Somerset Medical Center program entitled “Talking about Your Heart!” held on Feb. 19 at the Martinsville Inn.

“I want to be healthy,” she said, adding that she quit smoking years ago. “I want to do whatever it takes me to enjoy my children and my future grandchildren.”

Lorraine lost both her mother and father to heart-related diseases within 11 days of one another in November 2010. That time – and the many months of illness leading up to it – was a “huge roller coaster ride” for her.

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“The Real Housewives of New Jersey”: Welcome to the Garden State!

Wow! Can I just say that I don’t recall ever seeing an initial episode of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives” series and immediately thinking, “I have to watch this show!” Until last night, that is.

Clockwise from top left, Dina Manzo, Caroline Manzo, Teresa Giudice, Jacqueline Laurita and Danielle Staub./Bravo

Clockwise from top left, Dina Manzo, Caroline Manzo, Teresa Giudice, Jacqueline Laurita and Danielle Staub./Bravo

Because I’m a born-and-bred Jersey girl (who still resides here), I feel it is my honor-bound duty to share my personal insights – including criticisms – about the show. So let’s get started!

First of all, I was scandalized – completely scandalized – when Dina Manzo’s 12-year-old daughter, Lexi, declared: “If I had like a fat, old mom, I’d hate it.”

Good grief! Dina’s explanation that she and Lexi are more like sisters than mother/daughter explained it all…. I suppose Dina needs all the friends she can get, since her erstwhile husband, Tommy, works 24/7 at his Paterson catering business, The Brownstone (the website of which is curiously not working – maybe because it can’t handle the increased traffic?), along with his brother (and Dina’s sister Caroline’s husband) Al.

Dina admits she’s alone a lot. But she’s got the ever-entertaining Lexi – they *play* tennis together, which apparently consists of Dina whining that she can’t run because her boobs hurt – to keep her company, along with her cat, who is Mr. Bigglesworth’s doppelganger. Her situation being what it is, I’m surprised that Dina acts so witchy toward her sister-in-law, Jacqueline Laurita, who really does seem to want to be friends and keep the peace.

Good luck with all that, Jacqueline.

“Jacqueline’s heart is as big as her bubbies,” Dina declares.

“Bubbies” are “The Real Housewives of New Jersey’s” code word for breasts. I find that amusing, since it seems like all of these women are Italian and I’ve always associated the word with being a Jewish term. But anyway…

Dina’s older sister, Caroline Manzo, is a real piece of work.

“Before I like you, I don’t like you,” she says bluntly. “You don’t just warrant respect, you have to earn it.”

It’s apparent Caroline likes her husband Al very much. Especially when he takes her to Aaron Basha, a jewelry store, and bestows gifts upon her.

“I allow him to spoil me because that’s his pleasure to do so,” explains Caroline, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Carmela Soprano. (Maybe that’s how I’ll refer to her from now on…)

In case you missed her talking about how Al lavishes gifts upon her, Caroline repeats: “My husband spoils the s*** out of me. Bring it on!”

Caroline is setting a fine example for her two sons, one of whom wants to become a lawyer and the other who has aspirations of owning a strip club. Please don’t tell me he’s going to call it the Bada Bing.

While it’s commendable for Teresa Giudice to not have caved in to peer pressure to enlarge her *bubbies*, you know that’s not going to last. The mother of three terribly spoiled children (“My little girls are divas like their mamma”) is already eyeing up surgery, and her husband, Tony Soprano – oops, I mean Joe, who owns a construction company – is wholeheartedly encouraging her to go for a C cup. Which, of course, is after Teresa says, “My husband is more of an a** guy.”

Then there’s Danielle Staub, who is the Samantha (but not in an endearing way) of the bunch. She’s 45 and is looking to move on from her divorce and find a new man to support her and her two daughters. She is still battling with her ex about the divorce settlement and bluntly admits (which I’ve got to admire) that she might lose her home.

“Somebody has to come in and save me and my girls,” she declares. (Somehow I admire her a little less now.)

Danielle was engaged 19 times before she accepted the 20th marriage proposal. No, she didn’t specify whether the proposals were all the same guy or not. Evidently she’s looking for lucky No. 21, which includes trolling the Internet and having phone sex.

“People might find me to be a little much,” she admits.

No, really?

On the plus side, “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” is full of personalities that are absolutely worth tuning in to see every week. (The show officially premieres at 10 p.m. Tuesday, May 7.) Also,I have never seen the Garden State look more beautiful – and glamorous! – than it did on the show. I hope those viewers who don’t live in NJ and have never been here are impressed. It is not “the armpit of the earth,” as Vegas native Jacqueline said she once believed it was.

On the down side, though, the entire time I watched the show I was thinking of what my coworkers will say. Years ago, I remember them lamenting about how A&E’s “Growing Up Gotti” made them embarrassed to be of Italian descent. I can only imagine what they’d have to say about “The Real Housewives of New Jersey”…

Update: A real-life Jersey girl (that would be me – metiny1 born, bred and still resides) will blog live on Facebook beginning at 11 p.m. EDT Tuesday, May 12, during the premiere of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of New Jersey.” Come join me and share your thoughts as we meet these five women. Click here or look up my handle,  TV Blogger Ava Gacser, on Facebook. I look forward to seeing you!

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