Write Back Weekend "Celebrity Skins"
The TITMT question for the week was this: If they were making a Hall of Fame for your state, who would you think should make the list and why?
I thought of this question after hearing about a real, live Hall of Fame that is being created in my home state of New Jersey. Maybe it's because I'm from here, but I do feel like NJ has its fair share of famous folk. Not only do we have a lot of famous people to come from our state, many native New Jerseyans have a very strong allegiance to such stars. If I was from another state I might say the exact same thing but I don't know for sure because I'm not from "there", I'm from HERE.
The following is a partial list of just some of the great entertainers that have hailed, in whole or in part, from the underrated state of New Jersey. I attempted to break them down by category too in order to better accentuate the areas in which each shines the brightest.
1. Whitney Houston- Whitney Houston was born in the capital of our state, Newark New Jersey. In the past twenty years, her fame has transcended being a local starlet to being a global superstar. She's also managed to transcend the former label of being the "whitest black person ever". That, and everything else, went down the drain when she married Bobby Brown.
2. Jon Bon Jovi- Growing up, Jon Bon Jovi was the definition of "Hometown Boy Does Good". Hailing from Sayreville, Jon Bongiovi gave working class rock a good name when he rode the hair band wave of success in the eighties. But while many hair bands have come and gone, Bon Jovi's music managed to rock on. Say what you want about NJ, but don't you dare come to Jersey and mess with Jon.
3. Bruce Springsteen Before Jon Bon Jovi's signature smile moved many locales, Bruce Springsteen set the stage for his debut. Another working class local boy, Springsteen made it big in the late seventies and early eighties, also moving past the popularity of being a local hero. If Springsteen and Bon Jovi are any indication, New Jersey is all about the money being tight and the jeans being even tighter.
4. Frank Sinatra- If you wanna go even more old school, you can take it back to the days of Sinatra. Despite many New Yorkers who claim him as their own, the classic crooner actually grew up in Hoboken, New Jersey. If you have ever been to NJ though you'd know that towns like Hoboken are really honorary New York towns anyhow. Years ago my grandparents "met" Sinatra and introduced themselves, only to be snubbed by the man. That stuck with them. Rudeness, unfortunately, is another local characteristic trait.
5. Frankie Valli- Born Francis Stephen Castelluccio, Frankie Valli made it big in the sixties with his band, The Four Seasons, racking up over 25 Top 40 hits. But before Valli made it big, he was just a tiny guy from Newark, New Jersey who was waiting for his winning "season". When I was a kid, I was exposed to Frankie Valli's music early on. In fact, in nursery school, when they asked if anyone knew the seasons I raised my hand and said, "Yes, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons". It's a classic family story, still to this day.
6. Ray Liotta- Another Newark native, Liotta was born and raised in the Northern part of New Jersey before heading off to the sunny state of Florida and studied at the University of Miami. Nowadays though he's perhaps known best for his turn as a classic "Good Fella".
7. Andrew McCarthy- Perhaps one of the least famous on this list, I've always had a soft spot for Andrew McCarthy. In the eighties in fact, I was a HUGE fan. Back then I didn't even know (or care) that he came from Westfield, New Jersey. The fact that he has New Jersey roots only further solidifies his cool status in my book.
8. Jack Nicholson- Good time actor Jack Nicholson was born in Neptune, New Jersey. There isn't much to say about Nicholson that hasn't been said before. Despite how you feel about him, he's arguably one of the coolest actors, ever.
9. Joe Pantoliano Joey "Pants" Pantoliano is from Hoboken, New Jersey. If you haven't picked up on it already, many famous New Jerseyans are from the same few towns and are of Italian American descent, or merely want to be. Joey Pants is no exception. Although not as famous by name as most on this list (including Andrew McCarthy), Joey Pants has a face you know when you see him and a stellar acting resume to boot.
10. Meryl Streep- Going against the New Jersey grain is two-time Academy award winning actress Meryl Streep. I say this because the Summit native is decidedly
classier" than many other famous people from New Jersey. There is a segment of New Jersey though that gives off an air of sophistication. I know that sounds impossible given what you've all seen on television all of these years, but it's true.
11. John Travolta- Triple threat Travolta is another actor that has commonly been mistaken for a native New Yorker when, in fact, he's actually from Englewood, New Jersey. Over the years however, he's one of the many celebrities that the states have acquired somewhat of a joint custody over, just because.
12. Bruce Willis- Speaking of actors who do more than one thing, or at least try to, we can't forget Bruce Willis. Unlike many others on this list, Bruce Willis was actually born in West Germany. His father was American while his mother was German. At the age of two years old, however, the Willis family moved to Penns Grove, New Jersey. His wise guy mentality has since made him a household name due to success in roles in projects such as Moonlighting, Pulp Fiction, and being Demi Moore's ex-husband.
13. Susan Sarandon- Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon was born in New York, however she grew up in New Jersey, ultimately graduating from Edison high school. When she made the move from New York to New Jersey remains unclear, but does it really matter?
14. Michael Ian Black- Another technicality, Michael Ian Black (also known as Michael Schwartz) was actually born in Chicago, Illinois. He's a lesser known comedic actor, best known for his portrayal of wacky character actors on shows like Ed or his contribution to the MTV, SNL-like staple, The State. Most recently he's surfaced as himself on projects such as the VH1 I Love The...series. Anyway who reads this blog with any regularity of course knows who I love though. HIM.
15. Jon Stewart- Those who aren't of Italian American descent and from Jersey seem to then be of Jewish descent. Jewish comedic actor Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz grew up in Lawrence Township, NJ. He is associated with NY these days due to his massive success at the helm of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He's a witty, intelligent comedian who also just happens to be from New Jersey either. Both him and Black prove that wit can prevail, even in the land of acid wash.