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Clifton Merchant Magazine is published the first Friday of every month at 1288 Main Ave., Downtown Clifton • 973-253-4400

Part 1: A History of Our City’s Music


elcome to the first chapter of what no doubt will be a much talked about edition focused on the history of music in our community. Over the last month, right up until deadline on Tuesday afternoon, we tracked down photos, stories and tidbits related to the musical history of Clifton. So what and who did we miss? Please let us know because as you read, we are already talking about what to put into Chapter 2.

The original members of Godspeed somewhere on Garret Mountain, in 1968. From left, Jack Ciminello, Gary Seitz, Jeff Seitz and Steve Giovenco.

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Letters to the Editor

Clifton Merchant Magazine

1288 Main Ave. Clifton 07011

Your July issue on the Classes of the 9’s was filled with history and memories. The article by Joe Hawrylko on Class of 1979 best friends Elaine Sinisi and Vicki Generalli motivated me to call Vicki to say we may have to recall the Best Pals election at our 30 year reunion. The article on Peter Scheffer by Jordan Schwartz had me shedding a few tears as the US Army has never had a more dedicated soldier than Peter. Like you, I like keeping Clifton history accurate and so on page 32 you stated that members of the SCA were listed but they were actually the Class Officers. The 1979 CHS Student Council Association Officers were President Valerie Ullman, Vice-President Susan Walters, Treasurer Aimee Motta, Corresponding Secretary Mary Ann Hanle and myself as Recording Secretary. As a historical footnote, our SCA was blessed to often have as a guest Susan’s father, the late Bill Walters who was the City of Clifton’s Housing Officer and served the city in many other capacities. Mr. Walters worked with us all year on our programs and provided a great deal of insight about the city and a installed a zest for community service. Mr. Walter’s legacy and love for our city is apparent as even today at City Council meetings I hear his name and his programs mentioned. Thanks to all at Clifton Merchant Magazine for all you do and I look forward to the first Friday of every month to see what you have in store. Rosemary Trinkle Baran CHS Class of 1979

Corrections: In our July edition, we incorrectly published the photo of Stefanie Liechenstein’s in the story about Kristen Binaso. Shown here in 1989, Binaso also appeared on Headline News to speak about Anna Nicole Smith’s death in March 2009, not 2007 as we reported. In the roll call of the deceased from WWII published in our May edition, the name of Alfred David Jones needs clarification. His brother Chester who lives in Colorado, reported that “Alfred was serving with the 5th Marines as a Navy Hospital Apprentice First Class and was killed during the invasion of Pelileu on Sept. 29, 1944. His body was returned to the US in 1946 and is buried in the Beverly National Cemetery, in Burlington County.” We apologize for the errors and encourage readers to contact us if our stories needs clarification.

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Photo: Ivon Schmukler

Larry Packer took his first trip into the world of music back in 1959. By Tom Hawrylko


t the age of 11 he would board a Public Service bus near the corner

of Passaic and Lenox Aves. and head to Washington Pl. in downtown Passaic, to the second floor of the old Elks building. There, under the tutelage of Anthony Sinigalliano, Packer would rosin up his bow and learn the finer techniques of the instrument

over 100 orchestral and chamber works,

which took him from Clifton to stages

two operas, and scores for theater and

across the world, playing fiddle, guitar

film, including Splendor in the Grass and

and mandolin with legendary performers.

The Manchurian Candidate. And then of

Asked to name his favorites, he immediately

course, when he was 19, there was guitarist

cites David Amram, who has composed

Jimi Hendrix.

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Larry Packer in 1969 at the Fillmore West in a photo by Paul Sanders.


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Five decades later, Packer modestly shares tales of his musical life and recollections of Clifton in a series of telephone interviews. He is talking from his home in a Catskills Mountain village, an hour from Bethel, where the original Woodstock Festival took place on a rainy weekend on Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969. As the opening act for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Packer recalled that his band, Cat Mother and The All Night Newsboys, were scheduled to perform at Woodstock. By that Summer of Love, Packer was just 20 but already a seasoned performer. For the past year, he was on the road with Cat Mother promoting their new album, which was produced by Hendrix and distributed on his Polydor label. They were riding the wave of their hit single, “Good Old Rock ’n’ Roll”. “We were doing all the big outdoor festivals and stadiums,” recalled Packer. “We’d go on just before Jimi.” That August, Cat Mother performed at the Detroit Pop Festival in Mt. Clemens, Mich. Next stop on the tour was Woodstock. “At about 2 in the morning, I wanted to arrange my wake-up call so I asked our road manager if we were flying into New York and

In a 1968 publicity still from Cat Mother and The All Night Newsboys, that’s Clifton’s Larry Packer, at center, carrying a violin and guitar. Their rock and roll medley ‘Good Old Rock ’n’ Roll” debuted on June 28, 1969 and peaked at 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. The single and the band’s first album, ‘The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away’, were produced by Jimi Hendrix. At right, Larry in 1969 at age 20.

then driving up to Woodstock,” said Packer. “He said Bethel (where the concert was held) was rainy, the grounds were a sea of mud and the NY State Thruway was closed,” Packer laughed at the memory of his manager’s decision. “Wait. It gets better,” he continued. “Then he said—the only way we could get the band in was by helicopter and that was ridiculous. Besides, it wouldn’t do your career any good anyway—meaning this was a nothing event. The real story was that he had a date that night with the clerk behind the counter at the Holiday Inn in Mt. Clemens.” So while the world watched the legendary Three Days of Peace & Music of Woodstock unfold to be forever etched in our memories, Packer and Cat Mother were grounded in the Motor City when they should have been working their way through the mud and going on that wet stage, right before Jimi Hendrix. A year later, Packer was wearing tight jeans and a leather jacket, greasing his long hair into a pompadour; he was touring Canada, playing guitar with Sha Na Na, one of the groups that springboarded into the national spotlight as a result of their performance at Woodstock. “Everyone wanted to hear my stories about being at Woodstock,” Packer said, looking back to his 1970 tour. “I kind of paraphrase a quote from Satchell Paige... it’s okay to look back, just don’t stare. You can’t dwell on that kind of stuff.”

ou never know what you are spared from,” continued Packer, noting that adage may be from a Moroccan proverb, but he’s not sure. “It’s okay,” he said of missing Woodstock, “there seemed like there was plenty to do anyway.” Talent, fate, luck and hard work have taken Packer to stages across the globe and allowed him to explore music in so many different ways. Looking back, Packer said there are few if any regrets. He has shared the stage, performed and recorded with Levon Helm, Maria Muldaur, Lou Reed, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, David Bromberg and Harry Belafonte, among others. He’s played as the house band on Saturday Night Live, backed up Johnny Cash and “toured Japan twice in a cowboy hat playing four 15minute gigs a day in the RIHGA Royal Hotels.” While he could still be touring the world like others in his musical league, Packer’s main gig these days is with the Hudson Valley based Hair Of The Dog, a Celtic folk/rock band that Billboard Magazine noted as one of the biggest sellers of Irish Music. The group includes Rick Bedrosian on bass and vocals, Mike DeAngelis on acoustic guitar and vocals, John Haggerty on banjo, acoustic guitar and vocals, Eric Finn on electric guitar, mandolin and vocals, Scott Apicelli on drums and Packer on fiddle.

“Then he said... the only way we could get the band in was by helicopter and that was ridiculous. Besides, it wouldn’t do your career any good anyway.”


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


lowed their performance at Woodstock. Over the years, he has been in the company of The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and The Band, to name just a few. rowing up at 41 Lenox Ave. as the oldest of four children—sister Linda (Berman) graduated CHS 1968, Sharon in 1972 and David in 1980—to his parents Sidney and Toni, Packer first picked up a violin after finding one in his home. “My dad’s uncle, the actor Paul Muni, visited my father’s home in Passaic and bought a fiddle off a pushcart in the city and gave it to my dad as a gift. It was in our attic on Lenox Ave. and I think you had to play an instrument in school,” guessed Packer who attended Schools 9 and 2 before graduating CHS in 1966. “I took it to school and got started.”


Larry at his Bar Mitzvah from Temple Emanuel on Lafayette Ave., Passaic in 1961. He is pictured with his violin teacher, Anthony Sinigalliano and his mom Sidonie, also known as Toni.

A conversation with Packer is filled with anecdotes and sidebars related to legendary names and places from the good old days of rock and roll. “I really loved Levon Helm. Playing with The Band was an honor and a great learning experience, for sure,” Packer said when asked to name his favorite musicians. “I’m proud to play violin in David Amram’s quartet. I also loved being the first fiddle player for Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s tours of America and Europe and being in their London debut in 1976.” His credits also include performances on The Band’s The Last Waltz rockumentary (1978) and on Saturday Night Live in skits with John Belushi. He appeared in another rockumentary, Festival Express (2004) based on the 1970 Canadian tour with Sha Na Na that fol-

“...he couldn’t rehearse with us so my job was to talk him through the show... He’d catch the sound and just knew what to do. Jeff (Seitz) was quite more of a professional than we were.” He took a liking to the sound and it seemed natural; soon young Larry Packer was practicing hours a week. Instruction in a classical method with Sinigalliano followed and Packer’s lifelong love affair with stringed instruments blossomed. The 1966 CHS Literary Staff. First row, from left, Susan Lukavich, Joanne Zak, advisor Judy Cohen, Jason Kanter, Susan Irwin and Pat Piermatti. Second row: Kenneth Wieder, John Hayes, Kathy Raschka, Cathy Lee and Karen Leibowitz. Third row: Joan Lafer, Doug Miller, Phoebe Pollinger, Joan Bornstein, and Grace Mickelsen. Fourth row: Karen Tietjen, Larry Packer, Joyce Zankel and Carol Cohen.


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Exploring new and old genres of music, Packer went beyond the traditional methods of training. “By high school, I was listening to old folk and blues guitar players on the radio and on records and I started teaching myself the roots of the music,” Packer said. Citing legends such as John Lee Hooker, Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Mississippi John Hurt as influences, Packer was a young teen hitting the East Village club scene to hear live music. “I’d go into New York and catch a show and get a The Packers in 1990, from left: dad Sidney who died in 1991, sister Sharon, sister Linda (Berman), brother David, mom Sidonie, who now lives in Florida, and Larry. chance to shake their hands.” Packer continued: “We didn’t have a regular drumIn 1963 or 1964, Packer was in his first band, Back mer but we used to meet up with Jeff Seitz. I remember Door Men, which included fellow Cliftonites Steve Sher he couldn’t rehearse with us so my job was to talk him and Packer on guitar, Paul Henry on bass (“maybe we through the show, sing a few bars, before we went on even had three guitars and one of us played the bass line stage. He’d catch the sound and just knew what to do. I’m not sure,” Packer said.) and lead singer Russell Ulics. Jeff was quite more of a professional than we were. I “We did Rolling Stones kind of music. Russell was a great front man. He used to go into the city on think we paid him something like $10 a show.” Delancey St. and find shark skinny vests to match his Motivated by peers like Seitz and inspired by the gray suit. He’d wear a tie—the whole bit—and he’d blues legends, Packer set his goals on being a guitar get the crowd going and take his jacket off, unbutton player and that’s where he invested his time and money. the vest and throw it in the audience. Imagine the pan“Me and Paul Henry were parking cars at Gene demonium that ensued. It was a slick show.” Boyle’s and I worked at Charm Cleaners for


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three years so I was able to buy my first Gibson J-200,” Packer said, noting the J meant a jumbo body and the good looking guitar produced a great big sound. “I should have never sold that guitar,” he lamented. Back Door Men performed at Battle of the Bands and other local stages but Packer had another group with Paul Henry that gained some attention in 1965. “We formed a Peter, Paul and Mary kind of band with our neighbor Khristine Bacha. She didn’t sing that well but she was blond and looked like Mary and we were out and I remember we ended up on the front page of the Herald News. I think the writer was Tom Sullivan.” hat fall of 1966, Packer attended Drew University. While he remembers the Madison campus as having a good music scene, he spent more time in Greenwich Village performing or listening to music than in class. One night in particular Packer recounted going with a friend to the Cafe au Go-Go to see John Hammond Jr. “I had sat-in with him when I was 17 but that night we just wanted to see the show. And there was this guy with an afro playing left hand guitar. Turns out it was Jimi Hendrix—Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Jimi led the electric band behind John Hammond Jr. and within a couple of months he was famous.” Hendrix formed the Blue Flames in the summer of 1966 and played six nights a week at the Café Wha? on MacDougal St. before Hendrix went to England in September to form The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Meanwhile, Packer finished that first semester at Drew and decided if he were to attend school it would be to study music. He spent a few more months living in Madison, working in the student cafeteria before being accepted at the New England Conservatory in Boston. He moved to Boston in 1967 and started attending classes only to be disappointed. He had an English professor who didn’t like music students and a violin teacher that never showed up for class. In the Boston music scene, Packer was playing guitar country blues and met up with Paul Geremia, noted as “one of the best white acoustic bluesmen working, for his expressive singing as well as his dexterous playing.” Thanks to that friendship, Larry Packer’s career was about to take off. “I went with Paul down to New York City to The Bitter End on Bleecker St. in a showcase there. After the show Roy Michaels from Cat Mother came up to me and asked do you know anybody from Boston that could play guitar, violin and mandolin? and I said, nah, nobody but me, and that was it. In one night, Cat Mother moved me out of Boston.”



August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

“I can’t describe to you what it was like to be a 19-year-old guitar player, electric-guitar player with a rock ’n’ roll band, sitting down and having Jimi Hendrix on the other side of the glass with that smile on his face,” Larry Packer told the Kingston Daily Freeman last year. “He was very sweet, very encouraging. To say that I learned some things (from him) would be an understatement.” The left-handed Hendrix played a right-handed guitar by stringing the instrument upside-down; it’s been debated for years how much this configuration contributed to his unique sound.

The group sent a bass player by the name of Barnaby to Boston to fetch the 19-year-old musician. “Barnaby was big, 6-foot-7 easily. He carried all my furniture down two flights and put it in his Econoline van and drove me to 7th St. and Avenue E,” recalled Packer. That next morning, he was practicing with Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys. The lineup included guitarist Charlie Chin, bassist Roy Michaels, Bob Smith on keyboard, and Michael Equine on drums and Packer handling guitar, fiddle and mandolin. By the end of 1967, Cat Mother was regularly headlining the Café Wha? and soon were ensconced as the house band at Electric Circus, a wild and famous nightclub on St. Marks Pl. between Second and Third Aves. That year, Cat Mother created a sound and built a reputation. They were on bills with groups like Blues Magoos, Sly & the Family Stone, the Chambers Brothers.

“I saw Ike and Tina Turner together,” he said. “The Grateful Dead... There was (Woodstock MC) Wavy Gravy, Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey all in the same place... it was wild.” n 1969 the group signed to Polydor Records, with Jimi Hendrix producing their debut LP The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away—supported by a series of appearances as Hendrix’s opener. They had a Top 25 hit in the Summer of 1969 with “Good Old Rock’n’Roll” which included cover versions of “Sweet Little Sixteen” by Chuck Berry, “Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard, “Chantilly Lace” by The Big Bopper, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” by Jerry Lee Lewis, “Blue Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins and “Party Doll” by Buddy Knox. “It had a hook that was original,” explained Packer. “Then it went into the medley and then back to the hook: Just a little boy, my one and only joy, was listening to that good old rock and roll. I just turned 23, if you wanna get a message to me, all you gotta do is play that good old rock and roll...” That first album also had another successful track, “Marie,” that had an anti-war theme to it. “I still get a sizeable amount of royalties from ‘Marie,’” said Packer.


“It has a nice old-fashioned French sound to it and the mandolin is featured. It is very popular in the old eastern block countries—Estonia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Latvia. We also get sales from Germany, Denmark, England, France and Western Europe.” In 1970, Packer would record another album with Cat Mother, Albion Doo-Wah, before going on tour with Sha Na Na. But looking back on the Cat Mother days and being part of the opening act for Jimi Hendrix was a magical time. “Jimi off stage, one-to-one was low-key, soft spoken, easy to be around,” Packer said, recalling his days when he was not yet 20 and performing with the legendary guitarist. “He had a certain amount of respect for me because he knew the violin wasn’t an easy instrument to play.” That’s a fact Larry Packer knows well. “I just put in two-and-a-half hours doing the classical stuff,” Packer said on a recent Saturday afternoon. “I’m still having a ball playing mandolin, fiddle, writing music. Then there’s fishing and gardening. There’s no letting up.” Looking forward to his 61st birthday on Sept. 26, Larry Packer will be fiddling and enjoying life with his wife Cheri and their son Jesse for many birthdays to come.

“He had a certain amount of respect for me because he knew the violin wasn’t an easy instrument to play,” Packer said of Hendrix.

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973-777-1559 • Open 11-11 Daily August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


The Allupons, from left: Annamaria Chilimintris, Joe Pollaro, Brian Kennedy, Angel Santana and Andrew Spain. More at

Indie Rockers Story by Joe Hawrylko with Jordan Schwartz


The Allupons

hese days, starting a band is a lot different than it used to be. The Internet allows for unprecedented exposure and advancements in technology now give tech-savvy musicians the opportunity to have their own supporting ensemble with the click of a button. But as much as they’ve changed, things have stayed the same. You don’t go anywhere without a love of music— the the most important element of The Allupons. The group’s origins trace back to 2006, when Cliftonite Brian Kennedy first began jamming with his friend, Andrew Spain, then a co-worker at Coconuts. 14

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

“We just kept saying that we should play together,” recalled Kennedy, a 2003 CHS alum. “One day, we finally just quit everything we were in as far as bands and got together.” The two began to write some tunes. However, without any members, Kennedy and Spain had to rely on a synthesizer for music. “There’s software where you can have a drum machine and a whole band playing behind you on your keyboard,” said Kennedy. “You open this Pandora’s Box of experimentation and get to immediately do things you couldn’t do before. If I want to play marimba, I have it at home on my computer.”

All that is required is a keyboard—a $100 investment—and the software, which varies depending on what instruments are on it. After composing four or five demos, Kennedy met Matthew Alpaugh, a singer/songwriter from Mine Hill. Together, they helped each other engineer their earliest demo reels. Eventually, they put together an ad hoc version of The Allupons to play a festival at St. Bonaventure University in spring 2007. Angel Santana, a CHS 2003 grad, played bass, Alpaugh played rhythm guitar, a friend from college played drums and Spain played banjo. The band received a great response from the crowd and the festival promoters asked them to return in 2008. At this point, Kennedy decided to buckle down and form a legitimate lineup in order to play more shows and record an album. Alpaugh had his own project, so he couldn’t be the fulltime guitarist, but Spain and Kennedy had a history together, so they began recruiting members in the summer of 2007. “Initially, this was a very tedious task as most people we knew had little or no interest in doing anything in our musical direction,” said Kennedy. But that fall, he was introduced to Joseph Pollaro, a drummer from Lodi, and also added fellow CHS ’03 grad Annamaria Chilimintris. “Basically since freshman year of college, Anna and I have been talking and collaborating,” said Kennedy. Chilimintris contributes on the violin, piano and organ. Kennedy, the lead vocalist, also plays guitar, piano, xylophone and handles synths. Spain rounds out the five-piece indie band on guitar, banjo and mandolin. Together, the diverse instruments create a unique, harmonious blend, blurring the genres of rock, folk and experimental music. Kennedy said The Allupons’ style is a reflection of the individual tastes of the members. “Anna listens to everything from hip-hop to Beethoven. I listen to Radiohead and weird stuff and Andrew listens to pop rock and that stuff,” he said. “When it all comes together, it has its own taste to it.” Kennedy has always admired musicians who test their own limits like David Bowie, David Byrne of The Talking Heads, Jimmy Page and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead. “Looking up to them, I have always tried to push myself to see how far I can take a piece of music,” said Kennedy. “Playing with different time signatures, instruments and messing around with metre and different musical arrangements.”

The band practices every Friday and whenever else members can get together. However, with work schedules, that can be difficult. Kennedy is employed full-time by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, Chilimintris works as a music teacher at Fort Lee Middle School and Santana labors at Stryker Orthopedics. Still, even if the group isn’t together often, its creativity is in full gear during practice sessions. “There’s two ways to write songs. Sometimes we’ll hang out as a band and have absolutely no direction and keep working with it,” said Kennedy. “Sometimes I’ll be at home playing with all these different sounds and I’ll bring it in.” The Allupons have more than 10 shows under their belt, ranging from venues in Buffalo and Manhattan to the Harp n’ Bard on Lakeview Ave., where the band played to a sellout crowd. “We’ve been to a lot of cool places,” said Kennedy. “There’s just nowhere to play locally, so we don’t play at home too much.” The latest gig was on July 16 at Pub 17 in Ramsey—a benefit for a friend who suffered serious burns in an accident. It was the first show in almost a year, as the band has been recording music for its album that will be released on Boathouse Records in February. “We get a song and play it a couple of times and record songs in batches of four or five,” said Kennedy, whose band utilizes a friend’s recording studio he helped build and design. “Whenever we go in with those four or five songs, we’ve decided that everything we want on them is where they should be.” Boathouse Records will be distributing the album on CD, vinyl and through iTunes. “It’s harder to make money now, but it’s easier to get your music out. To press an album costs several thousand dollars and that means you have to recoup your sales,” said Kennedy. “Now, the digital environment is easier to make money in. iTunes has a 75 percent royalty.” Although the Allupons would be enthralled to hit it big with their new CD, a moderately successful album would sit just fine with the band. It’s all about the love of the music. “We’ll definitely make more music. As far as where the band goes, it depends on a number of things,” said Kennedy. “We’re not looking to be the next giant band and the chances of that happening are one in a trillion. “The more people that can listen to us, the better,” he concluded. “We just want to play shows.”

“The more people that can listen to us, the better,” said Brian Kennedy. “We just want to play shows.”

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


She’s Sung With Them All But Marlene VerPlanck’s favorite was her late husband Billy Story by Jordan Schwartz


ou’d think by now she would be satisfied. After 20 CDs, dozens of trips around the world and countless commercials, you would expect Marlene VerPlanck to be relaxing in the pool behind her century-old colonial home on Dwasline Rd. But swimming the summer away doesn’t earn you a gold record or singing credits on albums by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and KISS. “Nobody retires in the music business,” she said. Now in her mid-seventies, VerPlanck is already planning her next United Kingdom tour for March. The only difference is that this time, she’ll be making the trip without her husband of 53 years. Billy VerPlanck died of lung cancer on June 2 at the age of 78. He was a producer, composer, conductor and arranger, but Marlene met him when he was just a young trombone player in the Charlie Spivak band. Marlene, who was born in Newark and graduated Bloomfield High School in 1951, started singing at the age of 19 and the Spivak ensemble was her first.

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


But Billy’s musical career began at 15 when he joined pianist Jess Stacy’s band. After Marlene worked with The Tex Beneke band, the couple reunited with the final Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. They later married at Sacred Heart Church in Bloomfield in 1956 and moved into a new building on 8th Ave. in Midtown Manhattan. Mrs. VerPlanck spent the beginning of her career as one of the city’s busiest studio singers, backing up almost every vocalist recording in New York. She worked with a wide range of artists from Perry Como to Blood Sweat & Tears, but one of her favorite jobs was with Ol’ Blue Eyes himself. “I got the call to contract 16 singers but I didn’t tell them who we were working with,” VerPlanck remembered with a smile. “So when everyone got to Columbia Studios, I brought them over to the stand and the music said Frank Sinatra on it and everyone fell down on the floor.” Billy and Marlene as they appear on the back of his album Music Man, which It was for the 1980 Trilogy album and the Marlene put together after her husband passed away this year. A scholarship Cliftonite said it was fabulous working with has been established in Billy’s name at William Paterson University. Visit one of her biggest influences.


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

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Ladislav Habina, MD 1117 Route 46 East, 2nd Floor Clifton, NJ 07013 973-357-8228

Terry Mc Sweeney, DC 600 Mount Prospect Ave. Newark, NJ 07104 973-485-2332

Glenn Haber, DPM 140 Grand Ave. Englewood, NJ 07631 201-569-0212

Kazimierz Szczech, MD 1033 Clifton Ave. Clifton, NJ 07013 973-473-4400

John Mc Evoy, DPM 152 Lakeview Ave. Clifton, NJ 07013 973-340-8970

Binod Sinha, MD 1117 Route 46 East, 2nd Floor Clifton, NJ 07013 973-777-5444

Kevin Healey, DPM 152 Lakeview Ave. Clifton, NJ 07013 973-340-8970 Matthew Welch, DPM 6506 Park Ave. West New York, NJ 07093 201-662-1122

Todd Koppel, MD 721 Clifton Ave. Clifton, NJ 07013 973-473-5752

OPHTHALMOLOGY Charles Crowley, MD 1033 Clifton Ave. Clifton, NJ 07013 973-472-6405

ENT Stephen Abrams, MD 1070 Clifton Ave. Clifton, NJ 07013 973-773-9880

GENERAL SURGERY Kevin Buckley, MD 1100 Clifton Ave. Clifton, NJ 07013 973-778-0100

ORTHOPEDICS Kent Lerner, MD 17 Jauncey Ave. North Arlington, NJ 07031 201-991-9019

Edwin Kane, MD 1100 Clifton Ave. Clifton, NJ 07013 973-778-0100



Piotr Huskowski, MD 1070 Clifton Ave. Clifton, NJ 07013 973-778-7882

Henry Balzani, MD 1117 Route 46 East, 2nd Floor Clifton, NJ 07013 973-777-5819

Ramon Silen, MD 1117 Route 46 East, Suite 301 Clifton, NJ 07013 973-779-4242

Meet some of our Physicians...

Dr. Ramon Silen

Dr. Eugene A. Batelli, DPM

Dr. Kazimierz M. Szczech

Dr. Jeffrey Miller, DPM

General Surgery


Pain Management


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


“He was such a perfectionist; he would do everything on one take.” But before her brush with the Chairman of the Board, VerPlanck appeared on the National Public Radio series American Popular Songs, and in the ’70s, she became a leading solo performer in theaters, clubs and concert halls. The singer, always accompanied by her husband, also toured England, Switzerland, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, China and Japan. “From the moment I started singing, I’ve never been out of work,” she said proudly.

Digital Mood, the first big-band CD to go gold. “Working with the greatest musicians, you didn’t want to embarrass yourself,” she explained. “I studied hard and worked real hard.” Six years later, VerPlanck recorded some of Richard Adler’s most popular music on You Gotta Have Heart: The Songs of Richard Adler, on the Varese Sarabande label. The project came at the request of the composer of The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees. In all, Marlene put out 20 albums of standards and new songs with her husband, but some may be more

“I got the call to contract 16 singers... I brought them over to the stand and the music said Frank Sinatra on it and everyone fell down on the floor.” VerPlanck has played Carnegie Hall, Michael’s Pub and the Rainbow Room and appeared on television programs such as The Today Show, Entertainment Tonight and CBS’s Sunday Morning. She also provided music for the Miss America pageant and award shows like the Tony’s. In 1991, she worked with Mel Torme, Julius LaRosa and The Glenn Miller Orchestra on In the


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

familiar with her commercial work. Among her hundreds of jingles were “Mm-mm good, mm-mm good, that’s what Campbell’s Soups are” and “Weekends were made for Michelob.” “I loved the challenge of going in and not knowing what the assignment would be,” she said. “Sadly, that part of the business is gone. Producers got smart and just started using popular music in ads, but I

VerPlanck with Frank Sinatra in 1980.

don’t even know what they’re selling anymore. At least we would say the name of the product.” While that part of her career might be over, VerPlanck is still going strong, performing live throughout the region. She’ll be in New York in August, Princeton in September and North Carolina and Rhode Island in October. For a schedule and info, visit But looking forward to traveling without Billy will make thing a little different this year. “I’m sad,” said Marlene. “We were together constantly, never apart and we thrived on it.” The 35-year Clifton resident has established a scholarship fund in her husband’s memory at William Paterson University. For more information about it, visit VerPlanck’s web site. “I designated it for a trombone student,” she said.

Free Screening for ‘Flat Feet’ Pes Planus, also commonly known as flat feet or fallen arches, is a condition when the entire sole of the foot comes into complete or near-complete contact with the ground. In as much as 20 to 30% of the general population, the arch simply never develops in one foot (unilaterally) or both feet (bilaterally). It is a condition some people inherit or one which anyone, from children to the elderly, can develop from use.

Normal Arch

Fallen Arch or Flat Foot For instance, running increases the force of weight through the foot, said Clifton foot surgeon Thomas Graziano, MD, DPM, FACFAS. Common overuse injuries include Achilles tendonitis or plantar fascitis. Dr. Graziano is now doing a new out-patient procedure that takes about 10 minutes to perform and can correct Pes Planus, offering a quick return to normal activities.

“It is done on an outpatient basis here in Clifton and can be performed on anyone from children to the elderly—as long as they fit the criteria.,” he said, adding: “Right now, we offer a complimentary consultation to screen these people.” Dr. Graziano said the foot is the most used and abused part of our body. “We put our socks on, put our shoes on and basically forget about our feet,” he said. “My goal is to educate and treat patients, offering a variety of options.” August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Rocking With Horns Mike Soprano plays trombone for Streetlight Manifesto

Mike Soprano at the Bamboozle Music Festival at the Meadowlands in 2008.

Story by Jordan Schwartz


f the Marching Mustangs didn’t need a trombone player during Mike Soprano’s junior year of high school, he may not be touring the world right now with Streetlight Manifesto. The 1997 CHS grad was first introduced to music when he was just three years old. Soprano would bang on the keys of his parents’ piano at their Fenner Ave. home. He began taking private lessons at age six, but James and Judy Soprano wanted their son exposed to even more instruments, so they took him out of St. Phillip’s School and enrolled him at School 5, where they believed there was a better music program. In fourth grade, Mike picked up a saxophone for the first time and he didn’t put it down until the summer after his sophomore year at Clifton High. 22

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

“Sax wasn’t doing it for me anymore and there was a need for trombone in the band,” he said. The switch allowed Soprano to participate in jazz band, musicals and wind ensemble in addition to just marching band and concert choir. “That definitely made me love music a lot more,” he explained. “A lot of my friends were really good musicians as well, so playing with them outside of school helped. And (band director) Mr. (Bob) Morgan was a trumpet player, so he picked out good music for us to play and motivated us.” Soprano didn’t join his first ska band until a year after high school. The group was called The Derringers and Mike was joined by fellow ’97 alumni Ryan Krewer, Michael Iapicca and Craig Yaremko. “Before I joined The Derringers, none of us knew what ska was,” laughed Soprano. “I like to tell people we’re rock with horns.” The Cliftonite grew up listening to doo-wop and fell asleep every night as a kid with ’50s and ’60s music on the radio. In fact, one of his biggest thrills was playing with The Happenings, an oldies band that sang “See You in September.” In 1999, Soprano joined Catch 22, a ska punk band from East Brunswick, but after a year-and-ahalf, he decided to leave to complete his music education degree at New Jersey City University in Jersey City. “I had to make a choice: continue or focus on school,” he explained. After finishing his studies in 2002, Soprano taught music for two years in Nutley and Sayreville before returning to the stage in 2004 with a new band

called Streetlight Manifesto. SM is made up of former members from Catch 22 and another Jersey group, One Cool Guy. Soprano isn’t sure where the name came from. “Our singer is a secretive person,” he said. “I think I kind of got something out of him a long time ago, but I didn’t really understand it. We don’t ask, we just do.” The Streetlighters have put out three albums and have toured North America, Europe, Asia and Australia with dates planned in South America for September. This summer, the band is traveling the country playing with the Warped Tour, a popular music festival featuring as many as 100 acts per show. “Warped is the biggest amount of bands we’ve worked with,” said Soprano from a stop in Indianapolis. “We did a bunch of tours with Reel Big Fish but this is probably the biggest as far as the number of kids coming to the shows.”Still, the trombonist calls a gig at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville his favorite. “Having the home crowd there makes it the coolest venue,” he said. “This past January, we were with Reel Big Fish and played in Montclair at Wellmont Theater. A lot of friends showed up.” At that and other gigs, Soprano also ran into a couple of kids he taught while substitute teaching at CHS. For now, he’s happier seeing them in the audience than in the classroom. “It’s great; I’m so thankful this is my job,” said Soprano. “I went into music teaching because I wanted to be at home and have a home life, but I’m young enough so that can still happen in the future. “Eventually I’ll settle down, but being able to play for a living while getting to see the world is great.” The ’97 grad knows his band’s genre isn’t as popular as it used to be, but he’s fine with that; he just wants people to enjoy the tunes. “We don’t care about radio play so much,” he said. “We just want to let kids hear our music.”

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant



August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Nearly Striking Stardom First Strike almost got a record deal with Bon Jovi’s label Story by Jordan Schwartz


ob Generalli was driving down Fenner Ave. in the early ’80s, when he heard unfamiliar music blaring from a house on the block. It was Judas Priest and Iron Maiden—heavy metal tunes that were somewhat foreign to a 15-year-old raised on classic Stones and Beatles tracks. Generalli, an ’85 CHS grad, rang the doorbell and met classmate Jim Draney, his younger brother Ken (’88) and Jay Moormann (’86). “As soon as I got there and started playing, I was like, ‘This is what I wanna play,’” remembered Generalli, who grew up on Grove St. and attended School 16 and WWMS. At the time, they called themselves Borkum Riff after a brand of pipe tobacco manufactured in Denmark, but the band later changed the name to First Strike. They played small clubs in New York like The Shelter and Kenny’s Castaways, in addition to New Jersey places such as Uncle Roy’s on Van Houten Ave. “We played a gig at Showplace in Dover, which was a go-go bar

First Strike was a Clifton heavy metal band from the ’80s that had a shot at taking off. From left: Rob Generalli (lead guitar), Jay Moormann (bass), Matt Mead (rhythm guitar), Jim Draney (vocals) and Ken Draney (drums).

by day and a club at night, and so Ken had to take his grandfather with him because he was 15,” laughed Generalli. “For a place being far away from here, a lot of people came,” he continued. “It was really exciting to play in front of a crowd. We knew we were good.”

After Generalli graduated Clifton High, he moved out of his parents’ home and got a place on Van Houten Ave. with Moormann. The house had a large recording studio in the basement where The Plasmatics once jammed and so First Strike used the space to practice all through the night.

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

It was around that time when Matt Mead, a younger musician from Nutley, joined the band on rhythm guitar. With the full lineup intact, First Strike prepared to make a demo. Another Cliftonite, poet Greg Schwartz who graduated with Rob’s brother Ernie, worked at a studio down the shore called Chalet Sound and so he was able to book them some time to record. The studio was associated with Bon Jovi and Gorky Park, the first Russian band to be aired on MTV, so Schwartz was able to set up a meeting between First Strike and the management of Bon Jovi. “Their label had one or two slots a year to produce a new band and Skid Row was vying for a position also,” Generalli explained. “They were way better than us so they won out the slot and got the largest down payment of any band ever.” Despite the setback, First Strike continued playing until 1995, when the band dissolved because its

members were starting families. They still get together every once in a while to play gigs. Generalli remains in Clifton, as does Moorman, who owns a contracting business here in town. In fact, Moorman and Generalli sometimes work together. Ken Draney manages a company in South Carolina and his brother Jim is a telephone installer in Lodi. Mead is a musician in Hoboken. Generalli started playing music when he was 11 years old, getting inspiration from his older siblings. “All my sisters had piano lessons and my brother played guitar,” he said. “I really liked it, so he taught me how to play.” When he was 13, Generalli joined his first band with fellow middle schoolers, Al Jonas, Tom Welts and Al Hager. The Connection, as they were known, played Rolling Stones, Beatles and Cream covers. “We talked the guidance counselor into letting us play a concert

Rob Generalli as a 13-year-old member of The Connection. Bandmates included fellow Cliftonites Al Jonas, Tom Welts and Al Hager.

in the auditorium at Woodrow Wilson,” Generalli remembered. “We had smoke and dry ice and we filled the place. “It was really successful; we couldn’t believe it,” he said of his first taste of stardom. “When we finished, hordes of girls were chasing after us. We got a taste of what it would be like to be rock stars.”

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant



August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Burning Up the Trombone John Lebitsch has spent eight years with The Infernos Story by Jordan Schwartz


ohn Lebitsch’s parents knew he had musical talent from the time he was a seven-year-old kid playing songs on his toy piano. They sent him to piano lessons but after three years, he switched to trombone. The School 16 student didn’t like the instrument at first, but his fifth grade band director, Mr. Romaine, convinced him not to quit. “I don’t know what I’d be doing today if it wasn’t for the encouragement and guilt trip he gave me,” Lebitsch explained. The Cliftonite stuck with it and went on to play in the Mustang Marching Band, Concert Band, Wind Ensemble and Brass Band at CHS. He was so good that he made the New Jersey All-State Wind Ensemble and Orchestra. Lebitsch credits Bob Ferrel, his private trombone instructor during high school, and Clifton Band Director Bob Morgan with making him a better trombone player. “Mr. Morgan was really able to get great music out of students,” he said. The ’93 grad followed in Morgan’s footsteps and attended the University of Iowa, where he participated in the Hawkeye Marching Band, Symphony Band and Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, Trombone Choir and Brass Quintet. Lebitsch majored in music education with a John Lebitsch plays trombone for The Infernos and the Somers Dream Orchestra. Visit or focus in trombone performance. Iowa City is also where he met his wife, Erin. Lebitsch also sings in the choir at St. Mary’s Church in The two got married in 1999 in the bride’s hometown Tuxedo Park, NY. of Davenport, Iowa before returning to Clifton. But the musician’s two biggest commitments outside They lived on Nelson St. for four years before movof school are the Somers Dream Orchestra, a traditioning into Lebitsch’s grandparents’ house on Pilgrim Dr. al 18-piece ensemble, and The Infernos, a 12-member band that plays everything from Motown and Sinatra to in 2003. contemporary hits. Lebitsch’s grandfathers played the accordion and Lebitsch joined The Infernos in 2001 when they saxophone but the musical talent skipped a generation needed an additional horn for their Chicago tribute. before reaching John and his brother, Glen. The band leader liked the bigger sound and so the tromFor the past decade, Lebitsch, 33, has been the band bonist stayed on as a permanent member. director at Forrestdale School in Rumson. After college, The Infernos play weddings, corporate events and he also freelanced for pit orchestras, parade bands, the summer concerts, and have even toured Hong Kong New Jersey Philharmonic Orchestra, the Ridgewood twice. Concert Band and the Clifton Community Band. August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


“That was very exciting just to get a chance to perform overseas,” said Lebitsch, who brought the experience back to the classroom. “I took lots of pictures to share that with my students,” he said. “I wasn’t a very good trombone player in middle school, so I use it to motivate my students to keep playing even if they don’t become music majors.” The Infernos are playing all over the state this summer, including an Aug. 14 show at Brookdale Park. Visit for a complete list of tour dates. “I couldn’t ask for a better summer job,” said Lebitsch, who is the youngest member of the band. “I like having the balance of being an educator and a performer.” Tarsus alumnus and 1999 Clifton High School graduate Joe Verderese will be playing trombone in the 18-piece big band One More Once at the Athenia Veterans Hall on Huron Ave. on Aug. 22. The 7-11 pm event is a Wounded Warriors Project fundrasier sponsored by the Athenia Vets and VFW Post 7165. There will be a hot and cold buffet, raffles and a 50/50. Tickets are a $35 donation. To purchase tickets or for more information, call Joe Verderese, Sr. at 201-390-3522.


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

The Birth of Tarsus

The first version of Tarsus in 1993. Standing in the back are an unidentified individual and Mike Berlinski. Kneeling, from left, are Chris Operman, Brian Landrinski, Jeremy Lees, Ryan Pienciak, John Lebitsch, Craig Yaremko and Charles Kopec. In front is Dan Kopec. John Lebitsch was one of the original members of Tarsus, a Clifton big band formed by CHS students in 1993. They had as many as 17 members and played gigs on stages, halls and backyard parties. “Jazz ensemble was not running at the time, so it was for kids who wanted to get together and do some jazz,” he said. The group was founded by Dan Kopec and Jeremy Lees and continued by leaders such as Joe Verderese and Mike Alexander until the band dissolved around 2001. Over its lifetime, the every-changing line-up of musicians recorded and released two CDs of their sound. Tarsus played songs by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Maynard Ferguson and Buddy Rich and rehearsals were held in the basement of St. Paul’s RC Church. “It was just another way for me to play in a jazz band,” said Lebitsch. “It helped me get my feet wet doing improv jazz solos.”

French Horn Master Story by Jordan Schwartz Ben Brody’s musical career began, as it does for many students, learning to play the trumpet at School 5. It remained his instrument of choice until high school, when the appeal of the French horn caused Brody to make a change. “Nobody in the band was playing it so (Marching Mustang band director) Mr. (Bob) Morgan asked if anyone wanted to play the horn and I raised my hand,” he said. As the CHS ’04 grad became more comfortable with the instrument through practice and the encouragement of his teachers, Brody’s talent blossomed. His proficiency on the horn was acknowledged with participation in the NJ All-State Symphonic Band, Orchestra, National High School Orchestra and All-Eastern Honors Band.

Pursuing his musical passion, he applied and was accepted to Manhattan School of Music, where he was able to develop his skills and refine his talent. While attending MSM, Brody had the opportunity to perform with a number of musical units such as the Bronx Opera Company, Manhattan Chamber Orchestra and Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas. “It was fun and exciting and it got me interested in music and basically put me where I am today,” he said. Brody received his degree from MSM in 2008. Since then, in addition to performing with various chamber orchestras and private teaching, he has been composing original scores of music. Brody’s first orchestral piece, which premiered in April, was inspired by Elie Weizel’s book, Night.

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Brody has also received a fellowship with the C.W. Post Chamber Music Festival, a full scholarship for the NYU Summer Institute for Wind Quintet and Woodwind Chamber Music. He has studied under Erik Ralske, Allen Spanjer and R.J. Kelley. Brody continues to pursue his career in French horn performance, composing and private teaching. Specializing in Medical & Surgical Foot & Ankle Correction

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


The Versatile Musician Mark Baron plays, conducts and composes for The Duprees Story by Jordan Schwartz


ark Baron worked 26 straight nights from June to July, doing something different each time. One day he’ll work on the ’50s and ’60s rock n’ roll circuit with bands like The Drifters, Platters and Coasters, the next day he’ll arrange orchestra pieces and then he’ll compose music for theater. “One thing I learned a long time ago is that I’ll pretty much do anything as long as the money keeps coming in,” said the 1986 Clifton High School graduate. “It’s pretty difficult to make a living in music and do nothing else.” “If you love what you’re doing, it almost doesn’t matter the vehicle that you’re doing it in.” Baron’s main job is as musical director and keyboard player for The Duprees, a doo-wop group that had a number of hits in the early ’60s and still tours all over the tri-state area. Every once in a while, the Metuchen resident will make it back to the Clifton area for a show, like the one The Duprees did at Brookdale Park in Bloomfield on July 10.

Mark Baron, Clifton High School Class of 1986, is the musical director and plays keyboard for The Duprees and has written a musical, Frankenstein.

When he returns, the musician always makes sure to visit his parents, Greg and Eileen, who still reside in his childhood home at East First St. and Wabash Ave. in Lakeview.

Greg has left his mark on Clifton with the murals he’s painted on the bridge trestles in town, but he left his mark on his son at an even earlier age. Mark’s father, who came from a long line of musi-

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Like Father, Like Son Mark Baron no doubt got his musical genes from his father, Greg, who began taking piano lessons when he was eight years old. Cliftonites might recognize him or his melodic voice from when he speaks at City Council meetings, often as an advocate for his Lakeview neighborhood. But over his colorful lifetime, Baron has also dabbled in everything from plucking chickens to flying planes. Nevertheless, he always returns to his first love: music. The 71-year-old spent the ’50s through the ’80s as a piano tuner and roadie touring with a variety of artists, from R&B to rock, including eight years with The Grateful Dead. He even wrote a book about his days on the road called Backstage...Where High-tech and Low-life Collide. It’s an illustrated and racy tour of the backstage areas of concert venues from around the globe. From 1971 to 1985, Baron tuned pianos at the legendary Capitol Theatre in Passaic, where he worked with a variety of acts such as Tiny Tim, The Who and even some burlesque performers. These days, Baron performs at art galleries with other musicians, including saxophonist Michael Gabriel, area restaurants and nursing homes.

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Greg Baron at the piano. “I’ve been doing it for 20 years and I now have a repertoire that’s incredible,” said the 1956 CHS grad. “I’ve got my original sheet music and play 30 songs an hour for three straight hours.” Baron recalls one time when a woman with Alzheimer’s joined him at the piano and knew all the lyrics to every song he played.

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


cians, was a pianist and so the younger Baron followed in his footsteps as he began tickling the ivories at the age of six. He took classical piano lessons from the same Mr. Buchner on East Second St. that his dad went to as a boy. In ninth grade, Baron switched to another teacher to study jazz and blues, but he never got involved in bands at Clifton High. “As a pianist, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot do,” he explained. “CHS is very geared toward marching band and there’s not much room for a pianist there. “Looking back, I noticed a lot of things I could’ve been involved in.” Baron, 40, attended Ramapo College for a year-anda-half before transferring to New Jersey City University to study music education. College is also where he got involved in theater. “They were putting on a production of Jesus Christ Superstar and I really liked the music, so I decided to play in the pit band and my theater career took off from there,” said Baron.

After graduating, the Clifton native taught vocal and instrumental music in Jersey City for seven years until in 1999, the mayor of Edison recruited Baron to teach at Wardlaw Hartridge, a private high school in town. Baron stayed there for only a year before returning to Jersey City to take a position at a magnet program run out of his alma mater. He taught there for two years before finally retiring from the profession. “For all of my teaching time, I was living the double life: teacher during the day, musician at night,” Baron explained. “It got to the point where something had to give. “I figured I had enough savings to live as a musician for a while and after four months, I was making more money as a musician than as a teacher.” From 1994 to 2006, Baron was the regional musical director for Plays in the Park, a county-run theater in Edison. While he was there, the producing director asked him if he wanted to write the music for a musical adaptation of Frankenstein. In the spring of 2007, the idea became a reality as the play debuted Off Broadway.

“It’s difficult to make a living in music and do nothing else,” said Mark Baron. “If you love what you’re doing, it almost doesn’t matter the vehicle that you’re doing it in.”

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

A Guide to the Rockin’ Sixties Story by Jordan Schwartz


harlie Frick tosses his blue jeaned right leg over the director’s chair in which he’s seated—an appropriate piece of furniture for the scene he’s about to set. It was 1964 and every freshman at Clifton High School who had dreams of becoming the next Eddie Brigati, Paul Butterfield or John Lennon knew they had to make the Marching Mustangs first. “The band was world famous,” said Frick, his black sunglasses perched atop a head full of long gray hair—still a hippie after all these years. The Showband of the Northeast was just five years removed from becoming the first high school band from New Jersey to participate in the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, Cal., and every acnefaced 14-year-old with a sax, drum or trumpet wanted to be a part of the tradition. Saul Kay, a former trombone player in the Air Force band, directed the Marching Mustangs at that time. “Mr. Kay was a very stern taskmaster, but he had the chops to back it up,” recalled Frick. “He really believed in music and what he was doing.” Kay’s right hand man was Ed Wasserman, a tenor sax player whose claim to fame was playing with the legendary Gene Krupa. “To Mr. Kay’s military attitude, Eddie was kind of loose,” Frick explained. “With the two influences you really got a very

Charlie Frick at Garret Mountain in 1973. The Clifton native stopped by to walk us through the local rock and roll scene of the mid to late 1960s. August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Marching Mustang Directors

James Moscati (1938-1950)

Since 1938, the Marching Mustang Band, the Showband of the Northeast, has been delighting people all over the world with its electrifying field shows and outstanding musicianship. The band has won distinction and honor for its members, as well as Clifton. In addition to current Director Bob Morgan, the Mustangs have had the visionary leadership of the four dedicated men pictured here. Also noted is the years they served.

Saul Kay (1956-1970) well-rounded music education and sense of the business.” Frick played trumpet in the band and enjoyed the luxury of traveling the world with his friends. ‘I’m 16 and I’m touring Europe for 17 days drinking Heinekens for a quarter,” remembered Clifton’s first hippie. “It was amazing. If I could, I’d go back there right now.” At the time, Frick had no real perspective on how good the Marching Mustangs really were. “We’d get standing ovations in five countries; we’d blow them away,” he said. “The band was so tight and so well-rehearsed with such military precision. We were kids playing like professionals.” And with that type of training, it’s no wonder the school produced so many successful rock and roll 36

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Patrick Curcio (1970-1972) bands in the1960s. Among them, The Establishment was made up of Steve Tarlowe and Jay Angoff on guitar, John Saporita on vocals, Hollis Williams on bass, Pat Tomasulo on drums and Frank LaRocca on keyboards. “They sounded like The Rascals, The Beatles, white middle-of-theroad rocking stuff,” recalled Frick. “They sang like ‘Gloria’ stuff.” The Lords were a greaser band from Athenia made up of Frank Angiulli, Kenny Furst, Ronald Chesinski, Ed Gorcica and Jimmy Olin. They wore big high collars and vests with white lettering that said ‘The Lords.’ The Liberation Army was the first real horn band around. Its lineup included lead singer Dennis Zaganowitz, guitarists Ken Lewis

Stanley Opalach (1950-1956)

Bob Morgan (1973-Current)

Ed Wasserman was Saul Kay’s right hand man in the late ’60s. Wasserman once played with Gene Krupa.

and Chesinski, Gorcica on bass, his brother Billy on drums, Tommy Gordon on sax and Frick on trumpet. They covered the Paul Butterfield Blues Band,

classes begin

in September

Classes are held at Clifton High School August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and The Electric Flag. “We did ‘Dock of the Bay,’ ‘Knock on Wood,’ standard blues stuff,” said Frick. “We used to open up with a song called ‘Killing Floor’ that we lifted note for note from Electric Flag. “Dennis was a harmonica player and singer known as the Swamp Fox,” he continued. “He was a couple years older than us and was really schooled in the blues and because we had horns, we could do those kinds of arrangements.” Clifton podiatrist and CHS 1968 grad Tom Graziano played lead guitar in a rock band called The Vacant Lot in high school with Jimmy Olin, Warren Warchol, Mike Healey and Greg Tomasulo. In the late ’60s, they recorded a 45 on Roulette Records in New York with the songs “I Blew It” (A side) and “When Things Go Wrong” (B side). The first tune was written by Billy Michelle, a guy Tom’s father, Pete, knew who wrote for the Patridge Family. Tom wrote the B side. Pete Graziano also grew up in the same Silver Lake neighborhood in Belleville and Bloomfield in which Tommy DeVito was raised.


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

The Vacant Lot: Warren Warchol upper right, Jim Olin in middle, Mike Healey upper left, Greg Tomasulo with hat and cane and Tom Graziano. They recorded a 45 on Roulette Records and traveled to Cleveland to be on a TV show.

DeVito was the lead guitar player for The Four Seasons and at the height of the band’s success, he came to watch The Vacant Lot practice in Graziano’s Mountain View Dr. basement. “That was a huge thing for us because we were just 16 years old,” he said. Graziano’s group went on to perform on Upbeat, a syndicated television show in Cleveland, with Question Mark and the Mysterians (“96 Tears”) and The McCoys. Other talented musicians at the time included sax player John Zangrando, who later became a physics teacher, and John Kasica, who is now the distinguished percussion chair in the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Al Whitten, Paul Dreifuss and Richard Goldstein were also in bands in the mid to late sixties, as was Doreen Holmes, a drummer in the Catholic Girls, which Frick described in the April 1981 edition

CHS ’69 grads Steve Tarlowe, Pat Tomasulo and John Saporita were The Establishment.

of Oui magazine as being “a Belleville-based bevy of New Wave women who play such songs as ‘Young Boys’ and ‘Where Did I Go Wrong?’ with an air of Confirmation Day innocence.” Frick has freelanced for many publications over the years, but his first was The East Village Other, a famous New York City underground newspaper. In 1967, the CHS junior would take the bus into Manhattan to work in the art department. “I was working under some really incredible photographers until they went under in January 1972,” he said.

Through his connections there, he worked his way up the ladder to Circus, Rock and Eye. Then, he got hooked up with The Aquarian out of Passaic and had a quarterly column in Alternative Media, which was syndicated to a lot of papers in the ’80s. But by the end of the decade, Frick put down the pen and picked up production. He’s been in television for 20 years now, working for programs like The Uncle Floyd Show and The Sports Reporters on ESPN. These days, Frick is laying low and freelancing for a documentary—never too far from the director’s chair.

EXPIRES 9/7/09

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


The Chick in the Drumline

Doreen Holmes went from Marching Mustang to Catholic Girl Story by Jordan Schwartz


oreen Holmes knew drums were for boys, but she didn’t care. You can’t rock out on a clarinet, and so as a ninth grader, she put down the girly instrument she had played for four years and picked up a pair of drum sticks. “I didn’t really like the sound of the clarinet, but my parents had already bought it and didn’t want to get me a sax, but I could afford a pair of sticks,” recalled the ’67 CHS grad. Naturally, Holmes had her sights set on joining the Marching Mustangs. But girls didn’t play drums in high school bands back then—certainly not in the best marching band in the world. “My first few weeks in band camp were very tough,” she remembered. “That was to be expected, so I had to tough it out.”


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

In 1982, that’s Doreen Holmes standing at right, the drummer for the Catholic Girls, which included Joanne Holland, Gail Petersen and Roxy Andersen.

But in less than a month, the young girl from Hazel St. had won them over and became the first female snare drum player in the band’s storied 24-year history. “I wasn’t even playing a year yet,” she explained. “I worked really hard and practiced three hours a day.” Holmes was part of the unit that won two gold medals at the Kerkrade Festival in Holland. During high school, she also played in a few garage bands. Holmes was the guitarist in The What Four with fellow Cliftonites Dennis Speiss and John Bha. She also played drums in a local group called The Fifth Dimension and in college, had a short stint with The Brats, a precursor to the successful band Godspeed, which included classmate Jeff Seitz and his brother Gary. Holmes studied music education at William Paterson College and became involved in avant-garde music until 1981, when she auditioned to be the drummer in a Belleville-based band called The Catholic Girls. “I didn’t know of them, but they were on their way up at the time,” she said. In fact, as soon as Holmes joined the all-girl punk rock trio, they flew out to California to record their first selftitled album on MCA Records. “It was great to go out there,” the drummer recalled. “To play on an album with a major record company was phenomenal.” The Catholic Girls, which also included Gail Peterson, Roxy Andersen and, at the time, Joanne Holland, did the

Doreen Holmes playing drums at a recent Catholic Girls show.

circuit and played clubs, among them the legendary CBGB and The Ritz in New York, the Dirt Club in Bloomfield and Loop Lounge in Passaic. Charlie Frick, who attended Clifton High School with Holmes, reviewed the band’s music and provided a description of their attire in the April 1981 edition of Oui magazine: “They dress in the traditional convent-school uniforms: white tailored blouses, black string ties, pleated plaid skirts, knee socks and those cute little Mary Jane shoes, shined to a mirrorlike finish.” After the release of their first album, the Girls went on two national tours opening for The Kinks, The Clash and even Judas Priest during one (Continued on page 44)

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


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18,663. That is the number of names

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For more on the tour, visit For more on the Clifton PBA: 42

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

inscribed on the Hall of Remembrance in the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington D.C. Each name represents a sad story of an officer from across the U.S. who was killed in the line of duty. To raise awareness of the officers killed in the line of duty and to raise money for the Memorial Fund, Clifton Police Officers Randy Colondres, John Kavakich and Robert Bais, along with Tom Hawrylko, began a 300 mile bicycle trek on May 9. They were supported on motorcycles and in vans by Clifton Officers Derek Fogg, Brian Fopma, William Bais, Stephen Berge, Gary Giardina and Michael McLaughlin. On May 12, the Clifton team joined some 1,200 other riders and support people in the nation’s Capitol. Together, we raised over $1.3 million to support the Fund and Museum. Over $17,000 in contributions were given here in our hometown. On behalf of the Clifton members of the Police Unity Tour and the Clifton PBA, we thank all who have supported our cause.

Police Unity Tour: We Ride For Those Who Have Died. Thanks to support from the businesses shown here and many others companies and residents, a Clifton team of 10 raised over $17,000, as part of a $1.3 million fund drive to keep the memory of Fallen Officers alive. Among the names inscribed on the monument is that of Clifton Police Officer John Samra, who died on Nov. 21, 2003.

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of their shows in Chicago, where a few unruly fans threw beer cans on stage during the whole set. “We just got up there and played,” Holmes explained. “It was a tough crowd, but we were way better than they expected. They were like, ‘What are these chicks gonna do?’ and then we blew them away.” The drummer isn’t even sure how they got on the bill with the heavy metal band. “I think the only thing we had in common were our names.” It was that religious moniker, derived from Petersen’s and Andersen’s private school upbringing, that prevented The Catholic Girls from being as marketable as they would’ve liked. “We couldn’t get on Saturday Night Live because they thought we were too controversial,” said Holmes. They were even banned from playing in Rhode Island because the state’s archdiocese thought their song “God Made You For Me” was sacrilegious and included a lyric that could insinuate that God is female. Road life got old, so Holmes left the band in 1984 partly because she had other things she wanted to do. Over the following 18 years, she played in other groups called Candy Apple, Ladies First and She, which included fellow Cliftonites, Joan Bugacach and Carol Hamersma. But in 2002, the drummer returned to The Catholic Girls.

“I always liked playing with the band,” she said. “Roxy invited me back and we’ve been going ever since.” That year, the rockers released Make Me Believe as their first indie CD, went on a tri-state tour and then made a detour out west to take the stage at The Knitting Factory in Hollywood for the International Pop Overthrow Festival. The band continues to tour in promotion of their latest full-length CD, Meet the Catholic Girls, which was released on Jan. 20, 2006. “We were playing at Arlene’s Grocery in the city a couple years ago and Steven Van Zandt came in and listened to our whole set,” said Holmes. The E Street Band member liked the Girls’ song “Rock’n America” so much that he began playing it on his radio show. Despite the extra publicity, Holmes isn’t able to work full-time as a musician. She teaches drums on the side and works as an engineering tech in a prototype lab. Still, the love of music is what keeps her playing the clubs even as she enters her sixties. “I never think about age. I think you get a chance to live longer that way,” concluded the Albion resident. “If I thought about things like that, I wouldn’t be playing drums because girls didn’t play drums early on.”

As soon as Holmes joined the all-girl punk rock trio, they flew out to California to record their first self-titled album on MCA Records.


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Battle of the Bands Many young musicians got their start at Pope Paul VI Story by Julie Dominick The Flying Mueller family, from left: Carl, Donnie and Bill, with their father C.J. circa 1999.


n the early 1970s, Pete Townsend once pondered whether rock was dead, but my friends and I knew better. Rock and roll was alive and well in Clifton and could be heard weekly at the local Battle of the Bands competition. From the mid-1960s to the early ’70s, if you loved rock and roll, then the Pope Paul VI high school auditorium on Valley Rd. was the cool place to hang out. Five or six local bands would vie for the opportunity to play again the following week until one band claimed the title, determined by who received the loudest applause. It was 1968 and I cheered the most for my junior high school friends and classmates, Bill and Carl Mueller, whose band Impact, rocked the walls and bleachers of the school auditorium. Once the lights were lowered, the crowd would move up to the stage to support their favorite band. With strobe lights flashing and

other low-tech psychedelic special effects, my friends, Kathy Coveney, Jody Comperatore, Janis France and I danced in the dark. Some of us came looking to hook up

J Squared and The Remainders entertained customers at Cedar Grove’s Moonlight Madness sale. Band members included Hollis Williams, Steve Tarlowe, Pat Tomasulo, Jay Angoff and Jay Saporita. Circa 1969. August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


with guys, sneaking behind the bleachers to make out with our latest crush, but don’t worry, I’m not naming any names. I recently spoke to Carl Mueller, Impact’s drummer, who remarked about the innocence of the time. “Bands had a shot at playing and being heard back then,” he said, noting that in today’s high-tech world with instant access to so much music, small local bands aren’t given those same opportunities. He recalled getting suspended in junior Back in the early 1970s, Julie Dominick remembers walking with her high school when his band played “The friends from the Battle of the Bands at Paul VI down to Giuliano’s Pusher” by Steppenwolf for the school talent Pizzeria on Van Houten Ave., which is now the Grande Saloon. show. Apparently, a school administrator LaGala, who is now the director of musical ministry at pulled the plug in the middle of the song because of its St. Philips Church on Valley Rd., ironically, just a few obvious drug references and they were banned from doors down from Paul VI, where he jammed so many playing at any more school dances. years ago. Carl’s twin brother, Bill, once wrote in my junior Carl, Bill and Donny Mueller currently play as The high yearbook, “My father is the best drummer on the Flying Mueller Brothers, in one of NJ’s most popular east coast!!” party bands who still know how to get a crowd on their Apparently, musical talent runs in their family with feet dancing. Bill playing guitar, and brothers Donny and Dean on Along with Ace Toye, The Flying Mueller Brothers bass and keyboards. are a big hit, playing beach parties on the Jersey shore Later, Impact would be influenced by the San and throughout the tri-state area. Francisco sounds of The Grateful Dead and were Their music is a mix of original and cover songs in joined by Dave Tarlowe, Rick Kernan and Phil


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

the genres of rock, reggae, soca, Latin and funk, and you can catch them all summer at Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant and at Joey’s in Ortley Beach. Dave Tarlowe, Gary Ambrose, Brian Shannon, Tim Holly, Ray Donnelly, Tom Jacobson and later, Paul Rosenberg, made up Marmo’s Army, another group that competed at the Battle of the Bands. Musician Al Bradshaw, referred to Tarlowe as “the best of Clifton’s guitar heroes.” Bradshaw once played with Ambrose, Danny Horgan, Larry Cosden and Bob Kern and fondly remembers attending many a battle at Paul VI. Alan Bradshaw now resides in Florida and has collaborated with Kelly Smith on some original songs. He recalls Marmo’s Army’s claim to fame in 1969, when Tarlowe broke out into a Jimi Hendrixstyle rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the annual Clifton picnic. “I was doing my best to imitate the Hendrix version,” said Tarlowe. “I was oblivious to what was happening, when my amplifier totally cut out in the middle of it. There was some guy holding the plug from my amp because he had pulled it out. He started yelling at me about being disrespectful to our national anthem.” In the mid-70s, Tarlowe discovered that he and Ambrose could imitate the sounds of The Grateful Dead. They formed a new band and called themselves Starseed. Starseeds are individuals who feel excitement and longing upon learning they might have originated from another world. One could only speculate what inspired them to choose that particular name, although it does not seem surprising for the time period. Tarlowe remarked that they were probably one of the first “tribute bands,” since their set lists consisted mainly of Grateful Dead tunes. He said, “Various jams led to others joining in— Neal Schwartz on bass, Mark Lefkandinos on drums, Jay Saporita on lead vocals and Pat Tomasulo on drums.” Jay and Pat were band mates with Dave’s older brother, Steve, (who unfortunately died in an accident in 1973), Jay Angoff, Hollis Williams and Frank LaRocca. The Establishment played soul and Motown music. When Jay Saporita passed away last year, Dave joined the remaining members of that band

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for a memorial concert, with the surviving members coming to Clifton from Virginia, Missouri and California. Angoff is now a lawyer in Washington, DC and Williams is a college professor. Dave was thrilled when his older brother’s friends finally allowed him to join the band. He asked them why it took them so long to let him sit in and they replied, “Because you would have embarrassed us.” I guess he’s come a long way since then. Dave Tarlowe later played with Border Legion, along


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Bill, Carl and Don Mueller in their Clifton High School graduation pictures.

with Jim Monia, Tommy Foy, Skip Vangelis and Rob Eaton. Eaton has since joined The Dark Star Orchestra while the other members and brother Paul Tarlowe, formed The Legion

Brothers, which recently released a CD of all original tunes. Impact did well in the Battle of the Bands competition, but it was The Purple Grass which ultimately won the 1968 Battle. I recall members Larry Cosden and Bob Kern because they were talented musicians who truly blew their competitors away. Purple Grass’s name was most likely inspired by the popular bands, The Grass Roots, Deep Purple and of course, Hendrix’s infamous “Purple Haze.” In the same tradition, the band Pink Fire came back week after week to compete. Members Kelly Smith, Dave Fredericks, Richard Spychaj, Dave Cannizo, and Tony Mure, all classmates from Woodrow Wilson Junior High School were quite amazing. Keyboardist, Kelly Smith, still resides in Clifton and has never stopped making music or performing. He now plays with The Mystery Cats and Midnight Rain, two bands which have carried on in the psychedelic rock tradition. As for me, it’s probably not surprising that I married a guitar player. John Dominick is a founding member of The Mystery Cats and I can still be seen at gigs in front of the stage rocking out to the classic tunes that we all know and still love so much.

The Seitz Brothers For Jeff and Gary, Godspeed was only the beginning Story by Jordan Schwartz with Julie Dominick


sk anyone who attended the Battle of the Bands at Pope Paul VI back in the ’60s and ’70s who their favorite band was and you will probably hear many people say Godspeed. The long-haired rockers had the girls swooning and the guys throwing their fists in the air as they belted out songs by Led Zeppelin, Yes, King Crimson and The Moody Blues. At the time of the band’s inception, members included Jeff Seitz on drums, his younger brother Gary on bass, Jack Ciminello on keyboard and Steve Giovenco on guitar. The Seitz brothers, who grew up in the Athenia and Robin Hood Park sections of town,

remember winning one Battle and receiving a sitar as a prize. Jeff, who graduated Clifton High School in 1967, said he’s been affected by music for as long as he can remember. “My mother wrote in my baby diary that as an infant, I would sit and try to clap my hands to whatever music was playing,” he explained. When Seitz turned five, he was instantly drawn to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and would watch it everyday after school. Above, Godspeed’s final lineup, from left, Jack Ciminello, Gary Seitz, Terry Hill and Jeff Seitz. The inset is Jeff today. He is now a producer, engineer and musician in California. August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


The Brats on Garrett Mountain, summer of ’69. From left, Jack Ciminello, Jeff Seitz at the drum set, an unidentified person who was not in the band, Steve Giovenco and Gary Seitz (at right, as Rev Sole, circa 1996).

“I was fascinated by the performing artists and the dancers,” he said. In fourth grade at School 13, a music teacher visited Jeff’s classroom and gave the students a musical aptitude test. Of course, he wanted to play drums. Seitz’s first band was a trio formed when he was 14 or 15. Gary’s drum teacher hooked him up with John Mazzatelli and Jimmy Amendola, two musicians from Bergen County. “My dad and I piled my drums into his car and drove to Lyndhurst for a Sunday backyard barbecue,” he remembered. “We enjoyed playing together and decided to carry on rehearsing the next week, at which time, Jimmy’s father invited me to stay over on the weekends. “This began a long musical journey and friendship that opened me up to a variety of musical styles and life experiences.” Since they all had first names that started with J, the band decided to call itself the J-Tones. They played birthdays, block parties, weddings, anniversaries and dances. After a 50

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

few years, the members went their separate ways and Seitz became obsessed with The Beatles. “I bought an Epiphone bass and amp from one of the older, more established local groups called Ronnie and the Dons, who played at the Boys Club dances,” he said. Jeff started jamming with Steve Giovenco of The Surf Tones, which eventually became The Brats, with Giovenco on guitar, Ken Furst on keyboards, Lenny Daidone on drums and Seitz on bass. They played dances and teen clubs like the Hullabaloo in the Piscataway area and eventually, Seitz’s friend from the Marching Mustangs, Doreen Holmes, became The Brats’ drummer. Meanwhile, Jeff’s younger brother, Gary (Class of ’69), was playing “Hang on Sloopy” and “Dirty Water” in a band called The Sidekicks. Joined by Bobby Eulo, Lenny Pollardo and Billy Bishack, they played Catholic school dances and wore thick belts, semi bell bottoms and flowered shirts.

But as a junior in high school, Gary joined The Brats on bass, forcing Dadione out and allowing Jeff to switch to his favorite instrument, the drums. “After I was accepted to Julliard, I decided it would be beneficial for me to move over to the drums to keep my hands and wrists active,” he said. The Brats were a bunch of hardworking teenagers. They were doing every Friday and Saturday night at various CYO dances held all over Clifton and on Wednesdays, they would play frat parties at Rutgers and Fairleigh Dickinson. “We were good,” the younger Seitz remembered. “Steve had studied all his life on guitar and my brother was playing drums since he

was 10, so he was serious and that musicality came out.” The Brats featured all the popular music of the day in their sets, while also tossing in a couple original tunes. The band morphed once again when Ciminello replaced Furst on keyboard in the summer of 1969. “It was in a garage in the Botany Village section of Clifton that we were bowled over by the playing and vocals of Jack,” Jeff said. “Jack had a Hammond B3 organ made of wood like The Rascals used and it sounded incredible,” Gary remembered.

After Godspeed disbanded, Gary With the new lineup in tact, began a solo career before joining a Godspeed was born. “I believe it ’50s trio called the Rockabillys was Steve that suggested Godspeed with Schiano and a drummer as an idea for a name, as he had read named Jon Wolfe. In the a newspaper headline in which ’80s, Seitz belonged to a Richard Nixon wished the new wave band that played Apollo 11 astronauts electronic music and then ‘Godspeed’ on their journey,” did Woodstock covers in a Jeff recalled. group known as Yasgur’s In addition to the name Farm, after the site of the change, the band’s sound and look famous 1969 festival. were also altered. Gone were the The ’90s saw him transition knickers, big white shirts, susto Reverend Sole and the penders, bow ties and pop music, Saviors, which played Motown, replaced by facial hair, leather jacksoul and party music. ets, denim shirts and harder riffs. These days, the Sparta resGodspeed started playing in ident plays in Parrotbeach, a upstate New York because the band that travels up and drinking age was 18 there and 21 down the East Coast playing in New Jersey. But in 1973, the Jimmy Buffet songs. restriction was lowered to 18 in The group, which began the Garden State and so in 1997, was called Godspeed came back. “It just became like nuts,” The Rockabillys were Gary Seitz, Jon Wolfe and Dan Schiano. Parrotville until Buffet’s lawyers informed them that said Seitz. “We were playing est of record companies but drew the they were infringing upon the singer’s all over the place: Dodd’s in East wrath of club owners. trademarked terms, ‘Parrothead’ and Orange, Joey Harrison’s Surf Club, They were averaging about 1,200 ‘Margaritaville.’ Everyone in the The Dunes in Margate...” people a night, but when the band band has a nickname, Gary’s being Eventually, fellow Cliftonite started doing their own songs, the ‘Remy St. Martin’ after his father’s Danny Schiano replaced Giovenco audience decreased to 800. on guitar and then Terry Hill from favorite drink. “Terry and I wanted to keep doing Knoxville, Tenn. took over for Parrotville is a full-time job for originals, but Jeff and Jack wanted to Schiano before the band finally Seitz, 58, who has been married for make money, so the band broke up,” broke up in 1975. 38 years to his high school sweetGary explained. “I thought that was Towards the end of their run, heart, Donna Raymond, and has the only way we were going to go Godspeed began playing more origitwo children, Tamara, 31, and forward, but financially, it was more nal songs, which garnered the interJarrett, 21. lucrative to stand pat.” A L L T H E TA S T E w i t h H a l f t h e C a l o r i e s

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The band plays parks, clubs, corporate functions and even resorts in the Bahamas. Jeff, meanwhile, lives in California and has collaborated with fellow drummer Stewart Copeland on The Police’s first world tour. He got the gig in 1979, when Danny Quatrochi, another musician from New Jersey, called Seitz to let him know the band had another opening for a crew member. “The day the phone call came in from Danny regarding the position opening, I happened to be at Tom Herrmann’s audio company,” recalled Seitz. “Tom was Godspeed’s sound man in the later years and a friend who knew of my work predicament.” In 1978, Jeff was invited to record the Capitol Records Canada LP titled Baldry’s Out. It was recorded in Toronto, but by the end of 1979, because of some legal matters with customs in Canada, his instruments were impounded resulting in a period of unemployment. This is what led to his job with The Police. “A two-week U.S. tour turned into a five-month world tour, which evolved into a five-year meteoric rise for the band and ended up encompassing a 30-year collaboration with Copeland,” said Jeff, who is married with two daughters. “It’s really easy for my roadie to tune my drums,” Copeland told Musician’s Only magazine in October 1980. “He just tightens everything until his knuckles turn

nder of e are the sons of the fou , a family R.F. Knapp Construction ed in Clifton owned business found the beginning, nearly 50 years ago. Since Siding prodwe have been using Alcoa ens-Corning. ucts as well as GAF and Ow siding, gutters, We specialize in roofing, e us a call and leaders and windows. Giv appointment to we will gladly set-up an and go over a discuss your job needs . complete written estimate

Gary Seitz at right with his band Parrotbeach. He said the changing line up includes Cliftonites Dan Schiano and Steve Giovenco, as well as Joe Howell, Rich Harris and Jon Wolfe.

white. My roadie is Jeff Seitz and he’s a really good drummer himself.” Three decades later, the partnership continues with Seitz, 60, producing and engineering Stewart’s film score compositions. Jeff’s resume includes the movie Wall Street and he is now working with Copeland on a live arena reenactment called Ben Hur Live ( Copeland has written the score for the show and the two musicians are currently rehearsing and recording in Germany with the premier scheduled for mid September in London’s 02 arena.



August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Brothers Don and Rich Knapp

CHS Rock & Roll Reunion With Music, Mustangs & Hot Grill in Santa Fe

At the Tin Star Saloon in Sante Fe, NM, standing, from left, Richard Scozzari (CHS 70), Ozzie Preiss (70), Paul Rolwood (71), George Goldey (70), Robert Marinaro (70), Eddie Pskowski (68) and John Torregrossa (68). Seated: Suzy Case, actress Priscilla Barnes of Threes Company, Ray Dera (77) and actor Ted Monte.


John Torregrossa (CHS ’68) enjoys a Hot Texas Wiener All the Way with sauce shipped from The Hot Grill. He said steaks and lamb chops sat as Hot Grill style hot dogs became the main entree.

hen Ray Dera (CHS ’77) and Tony Lulling (CHS ’70) opened the now legendary Tin Star Saloon in Santa Fe three years ago, they had no idea the western saloon would become a mecca for Clifton classmates, hometown friends and international celebrities and musicians. “It happened after Roy Brunett (CHS ’71) became involved as an investor,” said Ray’s brother, Joe. “Ray, who is an accomplished blues guitarist and entrepreneur, got the ball rolling and actually built the bar himself in a historic building a few blocks from the Santa Fe plaza.” After a grand opening celebration in 2006, annual Tin Star anniversaries have grown into a Santa Fe tradition. The Saloon has quickly gained a reputation among professional and amateur musicians, resulting in the impromptu jam sessions with Los Lobos while actor Sam Shepard gets down on the dance floor. Those celebrities are joined every June or July by a crew of Mustangs who come to this desert town for an annual rock and roll reunion. Established by CHS Class of 1970 alumni, the yearly event now includes Cliftonites from various other graduating years and a big dinner with original Texas Wieners imported from the Hot Grill as an entree, this year, courtesy of Jack Marshall. August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Clifton grads have traveled from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Florida, North Carolina, Mississippi, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, and, of course, Clifton to participate in the celebration. Joe Dera said the decision to locate the bar in New Mexico was logical because the entire family has had a longstanding love affair with the Southwest. “Ray and my sister, Yvonne Dera Edwards, were the first to move to Santa Fe, where she started her own mortgage company called Loan Star Mortgage,” he said. “Tony Lulling had made regular trips to New Mexico over the last 30 years and the move felt right to him as well.”

From left: Tony Lulling (CHS ‘70), Linda Kaempfer (‘70), Ozzie Preiss (‘70), a friend Kristin, Bob Marinaro (‘70), Paul Rolwood (‘71), Rich Scozzari (‘70) and his wife Loreli. At right: Carol Evers Ellis and Laura Lewis Brown.

Around the table from left: Laura Lewis Brown (‘70), Regina Rolwood, Rich Scozzari (‘70), George Goldey (‘70), his wife Karen, Carol Evers Ellis (‘70), her husband David, Tony Lulling (‘70), Paul Rolwood (‘71), a friend Kristen and Ozzie Preiss (‘70).

It was a first time venture for everyone involved. Lulling is a retired pharmaceutical advertising executive who had his own firm in Manhattan; he also did stints in the artist chair at Hoffman-LaRoche and other independent agencies before setting up his own shop. Ray still runs a national biweekly mortgage company called Equity Express. He used to serve as tour manager for a variety of professional recording artists, ranging from The New Edition to Marshall Crenshaw.

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


The Rock Publicist Joseph Dera represented three different Beatles W

hen Joseph Dera was watching The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in his parents’ Clifton Ave. apartment in the early 1960s, he never imagined he would one day be working with three of the original members of the Fab Four. The 1970 CHS graduate worked for Paul McCartney for 23 years, promoting his music, publishing and film projects, as well as serving as North American spokesman for both he and his late wife, Linda. Over that time, Dera also promoted Linda’s various book projects and vegetarian food line. In addition to the McCartney’s, he also handled numerous projects for Ringo Starr, beginning with his Stop And Smell the Roses album in the early ’80s, to his wildly successful Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band touring and recording projects in the early ’90s. For the late George Harrison and his wife Olivia, Dera was called upon to help bring awareness to their Rumanian Orphan Appeal charity in the 1990s. The relationship with the Beatles was nicely tied together in the middle of that decade when Dera pro-

Circa 1988, from left, Les Paul, father of the electric guitar, former Beatle Paul McCartney with their press agent Joe Dera, a 1970 CHS grad.

moted the ABC broadcast of the critically acclaimed Beatles Anthology. Joe Dera attended School 6 on Clifton Ave., while his father was the superintendent at the Maple Garden Apartments next door. This was followed by three years at Woodrow Wilson and Clifton High. Dera’s formative years had him working as a locker boy at the Clifton Boys Club and cleaning doc-

tors offices on the Clifton Ave. extension. After graduating CHS, Joe went to Morris County College as a business major and became the school paper’s music critic. “I was anything, but a great writer,” he admitted, “but the reward was free tickets to concerts and thousands of free albums.” As a result, Joe’s summer jobs ended up in the music business.

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“During the school year, I would take the bus into New York and make the rounds of the record company publicity offices and come home with dozens of albums to review and tickets to the hottest concerts.” By the end of his first year of college, Dera had befriended numerous public relations executives at the major labels and independent publicity firms. “These new associates began offering me summer jobs in the entertainment industry, from tour manager to record promotion executive in the Midwest,” he said. “It was all pretty heady stuff for an inexperienced 20year-old to take in.” Dera’s first summer job while still at college was working for The Who and Pete Townshend’s Track Records The Dera family in 1970, from left, Elizabeth Dera, Frank Dera, Ray Dera (CHS & Management as the office boy in ’77), Joe’s girlfriend at the time Diana Dopiriak (CHS ’70), Joe Dera (CHS ’70) and his baby sister Yvonne Dera (CHS ’80). their West 57th St. location in “I called my mother to tell her I wouldn’t be home Manhattan. for dinner and that I would probably see her towards “That lasted all of two weeks,” he recalled, “when the end of the summer. I had no clothes or luggage, so The Who’s tour manager, Peter Rudge, came in from Peter gave me $500 to purchase what I needed when London and gave me a crash course on record promothe plane landed in Cleveland.” tion, put me on a plane to Cleveland and I was officialThe other act managed by Track was LaBelle (formerly the Midwest promotion man for the Who’s Next ly Patti LaBelle & The Bluebells). The cover for the album and forthcoming tour. group’s first album as LaBelle was shot in the Clifton Boys Club gym by John Lennon’s personal photographer Bob Gruen. After the shoot, the group and photo staff all had dinner prepared by Joe’s mother at her Madison Ave. home. “Patti LaBelle managed to get mom’s sauerbraten recipe before leaving Clifton,” recalled Dera. Prior to his attending Ramapo State, Dera was on the road again. This time, as tour manager for the new age British art rock band Jade Warrior. Joe remains in close contact with Jade Warrior’s lead singer Glyn Havard, who still performs with the band throughout England. After the Jade Warrior tour, Joe became part of the team that managed and promoted the legendary Mercer Arts Center in New York’s Greenwich Village. “It was one of the richest experiences of my life,” he said. “The New York Dolls and Eric Emerson and the Magic Tramps were the leaders of the underground glam-rock movement and played regularly. Patti Smith read poetry every Friday night and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was in the midst of its off-off Broadway This album cover for Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells (from run at the Mercer Arts Center.” Reporting for the college left: Nona Hendryx, Patti LaBelle and Sarah Dash) was shot paper also resulted in the occasional interview. in the the Clifton Boys Club gym in 1971 thanks to Joe Dera. 56

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

“My first interview ever was with the late Robert Palmer, who was a backup singer in a group appearing at the Fillmore called Dada. I was a nervous wreck and can’t recall what I asked Robert. He was very gracious and pretty much walked me through the interview.” Years later Joe would end up working for Robert as his press agent on various projects from the “Sneaking Sally Through the Alley” days through his highly commercial “Addicted To Love” global success. “He was a true gentleman and introduced me to grappa after dinner one night, giving me the worst hangover of my life.” After two-and-a-half years at Morris County and Ramapo Colleges, Dera pursued a full-time career in public relations. He first landed at Levinson Associates Public Relations where he worked for Mac Davis, Black Oak Arkansas, Glen Campbell, Richard Harris and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Within three years, he was offered a job at Rogers & Cowan Public Relations, the world’s largest entertainment publicity firm. During his 13 year tenure there, Dera handled campaigns for Elton John, Rock Hudson, Queen, the Beach Boys, Bette Midler and Richard Pryor. He signed David Bowie to the firm and constructed jazz guitarist George Benson’s multi-platinum

Coming with him from his R&C days were McCartney, Bowie, Jonathan Silverman, Palmer, UB40, National Geographic Television, Eric Stolz, Dylan McDermott, Andre Braugher and Starr. The core roster would eventually expand to include Clint Black, Jerry Reed, Robert Urich, ZZ Top, Scripps Networks,, WGBH/NOVA and HGTV. Blood, Sweat and Tears founder and keyboardist for Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, the legendary Al Kooper was a frequent Dera client. He was also the musical entertainment at the CHS 1970 prom. But Joe Dera did not attend. He went to see Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young at the Fillmore East instead.

Joe Dera today.

cross-over campaign in the ’70s with the release of Breezin’. It was also during this period that Dera would begin his long association with Paul McCartney. “Rogers & Cowan was a great mix of the old and new in show business,” said Dera. “Groucho Marx and George Burns were still clients when I started there. Talk about old school!” In addition to the many personalities at R&C, he also handled the PR for the historic Live Aid concert and the Conspiracy Of Hope: Amnesty International Tour with Sting and U2. In 1989, Dera left Rogers & Cowan to start Dera & Associates, Inc. in New York’s SoHo district.

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Connections Clubs, Bands & Memories from

Back in the Day

Story by Tom Hawrylko with Jordan Schwartz


alk about the rock and roll history of Clifton and a discussion often winds its way back to Van Houten Ave. and its haunts. While there were and still remain a number of legendary taverns sandwiched along that onemile strip, Connections, situated at the corner of Van Houten and Alfred St. on the Passaic border, found itself in a league of its own. Converted in 1984 from a go-go joint known as The Frolick House by Kevin Potter—a veteran bartender on the strip and a 1977 CHS grad—Connections took off as a showcase for emerging rock and roll bands. How did it get that niche? “Music played a big role for a very strange reason,” recalled Potter, now 50 and a father of a four-year-old, who sold the club in 2000 to musicians Al DiBenedetto and Dean Corizzi. “Atlantic Records used to rent out our place, usually on Mondays, to showcase up-and-coming bands. Not sure why, maybe they liked the way it was set up.... maybe it was

Some of the cast of locals that patronized Connections in the ’80s and ’90s.

our clientele... we had a mix of bikers, lawyers and locals. “It was great for us because Mondays were dead and it put us on the map,” Potter continued. “People would drive by on a Monday night and see these limos

lined up around the corner and knew something was happening.” Among the visitors was the late Joey Ramone—front man for the Ramones, one of the first so called punk bands—a semi-frequent guest at the watering hole.

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Machovsky, who died on July 3, 1998, was booking “The first night I met Joey Ramone, I was standing outsix to eight local bands a night, and that brought in a lot side with (promoter) Anthony Trance,” explained Potter of young people who would slug Budweisers and spend in an e-mail. “Anthony tells me that Joey is sleeping in a a night listening to rock and roll. “Our best business parked van. He was to get up at midnight. At the stroke was local musicians doing original stuff,” said Potter. of midnight, Joey opens the van, walks past us right to the “They had a following and brought in the crowds.” fire hydrant. He tagged it a few times and measured his Potter shared two more printable tales of his late friend: steps to our front door. He did this a few times. “A show Anthony promoted for Iggy Pop in NYC in 1997, “At last, he seemed satisfied and walked in the door part of Iggy’s comeback, really put Anthony on the map and fell down—tripped is more like it. I go over and and in a league with the big time promoters. place his eyeglasses on his face and say, ‘Nice to meet you Joe.’ At the time, I was thinking that he might have been superstitious, or just making a theatrical entrance,” recalled Potter, who after having a decade or so to look back on the meeting, came to another conclusion: “Now I realize that he had some kind of OCD.” It’s one of a number of tales from the past that the colorful Potter can share when his memory is stoked. Potter credits 1986 CHS grad Anthony Machovsky—aka Anthony Trance—for helping make Connections so successful. Trance worked out of his Clifton home, booking up-and-coming acts for Potter before making a name for himself in the At Connections, in 1998, from left, producer Aaron “Professor Lou” Horowitz, Anthony “Trance” Machovsky, Kevin Potter and Rick Danko of The Band. greater metropolitan area.


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


“After the show, (legendary rock promoter Ron) Delsener kept calling my office for him. Had Anthony lived, I know in my heart he would have been a major promoter, without a doubt. I don’t know a lot but I know that like a fact. “In 1998, Anthony brought Rick Danko down to perform at a ‘surprise’ birthday party for me,” recalled Potter, who said Bob Dylan was playing at Madison Square Garden that same night. “All week long, Dylan’s management company was calling, saying Bob might be coming down too. It didn’t happen, but if it did, that would have been the night to close the place and never open again.” Remembering Anthony “Trance” Machovsky, Potter said sadly: “I miss that kid everyday.” t the age of 15, some kids are thinking about what they will be like in high school or what college they would go to, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life,” recalled Potter of how he got his start in the business. “I knew I wanted to own a bar.” That was the fall of 1974 and Potter still looked like a kid. To make himself look older, he went to see the late Gary Kolatsky of Gnome Jewelers on Van Houten Ave. who “inked” a big fake tattoo of an opium-smoking skull on Potter’s arm to get him past the bouncers. Once inside, Potter saw his future.

“I realized that night that I could make money in the tavern business,” he said. “I had fallen in love with the jukebox atmosphere, later learning how it could set the whole tone of the night. In those days,” he continued, “before the era of bands in bars, if you had a good jukebox and a good bartender, you were in business.” As an aspiring tavern proprietor, Potter looked up to his elders—seasoned bar owners like Gerry Touhey, the late Stash Kolodziej, Bobby DeLotto, Keith Mekita, and the Barcelona family—and saw well-run, friendly establishments. “These guys were like heroes to me,” he said. “They were business oriented and they started young.” At 17, Potter had his first job in the Wit’s End, now Dingbatz. “I still consider Ann Smaha one of the best people I ever worked for,” said Potter. Over the next five years, he worked in every job he could and in every joint he could, holding down three jobs for five years. Still in CHS, Potter began sharing his career aspirations with a couple of teachers and his guidance counselor. They tried to steer him to college. But nine years after graduation, when he opened the tavern, some of the first people he invited for a drink were his psychology teacher Peter LoRe, guidance counselor Concetta Molesphini and vice-principal Hank Dougherty.

Of Anthony “Trance” Machovsky, Kevin Potter said sadly: “I miss that kid everyday.”



August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant



August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

“I knew a lot of people, so ‘Connections’ seemed like a natural name for my tavern,” he explained. But opening a bar is easy; being successful is the hard part. Potter said there were a few things and a handful of people that helped to put his bar on the map. Among the first that come to his mind is Charlie Frick—who Potter called Clifton’s first hippie. The wiry Frick was the host of a cable tv show broadcast from Nutley. “He would come over with Uncle Floyd (Vivino) and film it at 6, broadcast it at 9 and by midnight the place was jammed,” said Potter. “I don’t know if I can describe how critical Charlie was. Beyond the tv stuff, he was lining up original local bands. Until Connections, there was no place local for original music around here. We created a scene, a showcase for the bands and the fans and everyone loved it.”

Another cast of patrons from Connections.

“Dylan’s management company was calling, saying Bob might be coming down too,” said Potter. “It didn’t happen, but if it did, that would have been the night to close the place and never open again.”

In the club’s second decade, Anthony Trance brought in a whole new generation of kids with the bands he was booking. MTV rented the place for videos and Spike Lee leased the property for one of his films. “Little did I know, the ride that I was on would allow me to meet heavyweights in the music industry, namely, Rick Danko and Levon Helm of The Band, Joe Walsh of the Eagles, Joey and Dede Ramone of the Ramones, James Hetfield of Metallica, Iggy Pop—and even a lightweight, Vanilla Ice,” Potter laughed. On any given night, you could see a lawyer, a biker, a mailman, a musician, an MBA and a college kid drinking shoulder to shoulder. Over the years, Potter said, Connections morphed into many different versions and incarnations. Though, as much as it changed, some things always remained the same. There was always a feeling of coming home, seeing people you know, being the last stop in a long night of partying and getting there before last call. “My goal as a bar owner was that all were welcome, and I wanted them to leave in a better mood than when they came in. Us bar owners like to think that we are doing healing work... making people feel better. For the most part, I think I made that happen,” said Potter.

ut Connections wasn’t the only hot spot in town back then. Keith Mekita, a DJ who goes by The Great Kahuna, remembers introducing a capella groups in the late ’80s and early ’90s at Bumstead’s on Harding Ave. Some of the popular acts included The Delmonicos, Magic Moments and Reunion from South Jersey. “It was a fun thing to meet the guys that actually started the stuff,” he said of the classic doo wop groups. Mekita, himself, used to put on an oldies show, spinning records from the ’50s and ’60s. “It was classic rhythm and blues, the roots of rock and roll like Chuck Berry,” he explained. “I played a lot of the vocal black groups of the day, stuff that was being promoted at Ronnie I’s place.” The late Ronnie I—Ronnie Italiano—the owner of Clifton Music on Main Ave., actually hooked The Great Kahuna up with his gig at Bumstead’s. The DJ was working at Twin Taverns in Botany Village when Ronnie I took notice and booked him at the Harding Ave. joint. Mekita also performed at Rendezvous on Van Houten Ave., which turned into Knuckleheads, and spent 10 years at Crossroads Cafe at the corner of Brook Ave. and Broadway in Passaic Park.


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Looking back, there was a number of bars in the area where live music bars was performed. You just have to know who to ask. “Just off the top of my head, I remember the Portuguese steak house on Crooks Ave. used to be called The Establishment and had bands there in the mid to late ’70s,” recalled Jean Hoffman Cummings, a Pope Paul VI grad who performed with her three brothers as The Late Show. Gene Kolodziej later bought the bar and renamed it Gene’s Borderline Tavern. Cummings, who sang with her brothers Ray (keyboards), Michael (guitar) and James (drums) would also play at Brewzers and Morgan’s Pub in Botany Village and the Silver Lining on Lexington Ave. She said the Late Show got its name because the Hoffmans liked the little cartoon burglar who accompanied the late movie in the early 1980s. The name took on a


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Keith “The Great Kahuna” Mekita was a DJ at Bumstead’s on Harding Ave. in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

new meaning when the band showed up minutes before stage time at several of their early performances, she said. In the ’90s, lawyer Ricky Bagolie owned the Plum Crazy Saloon on Van Houten Ave. (formerly Wit’s End) from 1994 to 1997 with his two friends, Tom

Vaughan and Richard Sedlak, both ’85 CHS graduates. “We had DJs, bands and comedians and it was just nuts,” said Bagolie, who grew up off of Grove St. The 1984 Clifton High grad credits a dollar beer promotion for bringing in a ton of customers. “We spent a lot of time in San Diego, so we stole the idea from bars out there,” he said. “It freaked people out.” The Plum Crazy Saloon is now Freddy Barnes’ Dingbatz, which features live heavy metal and rock and roll acts. That’s just one of the number of places to go to listen to live music these days. The Clash Bar replaced Bumstead’s and Luna Rossa at 39 Harding Ave. and it has a rock and punk scene. Up on Valley Rd., Bogey’s brings in local rock bands on a regular basis. And Joey Barcelona’s Bliss Lounge on Allwood Rd. continues to be one of the area’s go to destinations for dance music and a club scene and occasional rock and roll.

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant



August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Steve Tarkanish: Musician and Promoter CHS Class of 1970 graduate Steve Tarkanish is a music executive these days, but he built his musical foundation with the Marching Mustangs and got his start in rock and roll playing drums for bands like The Youngsters, Vintage and Rhinoceros. Because the drinking age was 18 across the border, they would hit the road and perform in taverns around Greenwood Lake, NY. But in 1973, New Jersey’s drinking age was lowered to 18 and so Tarkanish and the fans returned home to play. “That wiped out New York and that was really the heyday of the night club scene,” he said. Tarkanish played jazz at the Clifton Tap Room on the corner of Kulick St. and Lexington Ave. (now a deli/laundromat) and hit the cymbals and the snare at Joey Harrison’s Yakety Yak on Van Houten Ave. (now Charlie Browns). And while music took him on a metaphorical road from Van Houten Ave. to Route 46 and into clubs in Bergen County and beyond, Tarkanish said: “If you lived in town, you played that ‘Sin Strip.’ That’s where all the clubs were.” The former Julliard Prep student played another Strip when he moved out to Las Vegas to become the house drummer at the MGM Grand for four years. He played

Steve Tarkanish playing drums in Gashouse Gang and Steve today. percussion with Tony Bennett, the Fifth Dimension, Diana Ross, Liza Minnelli and Mel Torme. In the ’80s, Tarkanish developed tinnitus and stopped playing and founded S.T.A.R.S. Productions, a New Jersey State licensed booking agency, specializing in music promotion and artist representation. Over the decades, he’s managed and produced regional bands

like The Benjamins and the NERDS to national acts, from the Beach Boys to Sheryl Crow. Rock and roll has taken Tarkanish around the globe and still has him driving up and down the 127-mile-long New Jersey shore, managing acts. But this expert in the practice of Falun Dafa said his heart stays true to his hometown: “When I die, my soul is coming back to Clifton.”

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Rich Kastrava: From Rock to Country Rich Kastrava, who graduated Clifton High in 1976, played lead guitar in a southern rock band called TJ Hall. Members included Kastrava of Foster St., Tommy Hall from Highland Ave., Alex Levich of Summer St., Frank and Bob Atrey who lived nearby, Rich Russo on drums and Pete Assaro from Paterson played keys. “We had trouble figuring out a name for the band, but everyone was calling our drummer ‘Tom T. Hall,’ who was a country musician,” explained Levich, a 1978 CHS graduate. “Then one day, Tom said, ‘I’m not Tom T., I’m TJ Hall,’ and since we were a southern rock band, it just fit.” Levich was inspired to join a band after being excused from gym class as a sophomore. He was sent to an empty JFK Auditorium and just stared at the stage thinking about the time he saw Impact perform there. They were a slightly older group made up of the Mueller brothers. “That was my goal,” said Levich. “To perform with a rock band on that stage before I graduated and that’s what happened.” TJ Hall covered the Allman Brothers, Blackfoot, Marshall Tucker, the Outlaws and Lynyrd Skynyrd at Touch of Country on Lexington Ave. but the group did much of its damage at Father’s Four by Rutt’s Hut. “We were one of the first bands to play there,” Kastrava remembered. “It was an old man’s bar and we turned it into a pretty happening scene. 70

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Rich Kastrava played in a group called TJ Hall back in the ’70s. Today, he’s a member of The Farmer Phil Band and is also a commercial airline pilot. “One of my memories is of hauling all that equipment around,” he continued. “The keyboard player’s stuff took up one van! After the gigs, we would all hang out at one of our house’s till way past sun up, rehearsing the show.” The band played from 1977 to 1982. “If we were playing a Friday and a Saturday night, we always knew where our friends would be,” said Levich. “Some showed up just Friday or Saturday, but others showed up both days.” Today, Kastrava plays with The Farmer Phil Band, a country group he’s belonged to for a couple years. “I joined it because I wanted the challenge of learning country, which is a much different style of playing as opposed to rock,” he said. They do about two live shows a month in West Milford and Levich is considering joining the band and reuniting with Kastrava and Russo.

“Talking to Rich got me practicing a couple of hours a day,” said Levich, a graphic artist. When he’s not performing, Kastrava works a commercial airline captain based out of LaGuardia Airport in Queens. He has a 20-year-old daughter and is currently restoring a 1940 Piper Cub airplane.

Clifton’s Hot Dog King Pat “From Moonachie” Philbin is really from Clifton Story by Jordan Schwartz

Pat “From Moonachie” Philbin consuming the last of 32 hot dogs in 10 minutes at a Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest qualifier in Queens on June 20. The CHS ’81 grad finished second behind Eric “Badlands” Booker, who ate 40.



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Pat Philbin shoves hot dogs in his face like a perfect gentleman. He meticulously dips frankfurter after frankfurter into the yellow Nathan’s cups filled with water in front of him, soaking the buns to allow for an easier transition from hand to mouth to esophagus to ever expanding stomach. “I changed it up this year,” said the 1981 Clifton High School grad. “Less drinking and more dunking.” The formula worked as Philbin consumed a personal best 32 franks in 10 minutes at a Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest qualifier held outside Citi Field in Queens on a rainy June 20. But it wasn’t enough as the 45year-old was out-eaten by his nemesis, Eric “Badlands” Booker, who put down 40 hot dogs and buns, or HDBs as they’re known in the world of competitive eating. After the qualifier was over, Booker’s chest was covered with soggy bits of meat and bread, leaving Philbin to take some solace in the fact that he was at least clean.

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“Look how neat I am,” he joked. But the loss snapped the Clifton native’s streak of four straight appearances at the Fourth of July Coney Island finals, an event broadcast live across the country on ESPN. “The competition is getting better,” he said. “It used to be 20, or ‘doing the deuce,’ was the big benchmark, but there are more and more people doing way over 20.” Philbin was urged to become a competitive eater after a November 2004 appearance on The Opie & Anthony Show, a popular talk program on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. The longtime fan won a nonalcoholic eggnog drinking contest by downing 70 double shots of the beverage, doubling his closest competitor. The following summer, Philbin, who grew up on Macarthur Dr. and Swift Ct., took part in his first Nathan’s contest. On July 4, 2005, he ate 20 hot dogs in 12 minutes, good enough for 12th place. A year later, Philbin finished 10th by inhaling 23 HDBs. He beat out Erik “The Red” Denmark and Crazy Legs Conti, so the former Mustang decided it was time to get a moniker of his own. He became “Pat From Moonachie,” after the small Bergen County town in which he’s lived since 1993.

Philbin attempting to pin an opponent during his days wrestling for Clifton High School. The inset is his graduation photo in the 1981 yearbook.

Philbin, a self-employed courier, resides in a 30-by-12-foot trailer by Teterboro Airport. “It was one of the few places that took animals and I have a dog and three cats,” he explained. “I tell people I have skid marks on the roof from planes landing.” As Pat became a reoccurring guest on Opie & Anthony, his humble residence turned into a running joke on the show. The hosts even recorded their own version of “Cribs” at his home. But Philbin’s relationship with the radio program got him in trouble with the International Federation of Competitive Eating. Yes, that really exists.

During the 2006 Eggnog Drinking Challenge, the former Clifton wrestler vomited into the mouth of a show intern and the subsequent “Baby Bird” video got him barred from the I.F.O.C.E. for “conduct unbecoming of an eater.” With the help of protests by O&A’s most dedicated fans, affectionately known as ‘pests,’ Philbin was reinstated on Dec. 6, 2006. He went on to eat 24 hot dogs at the 2007 Nathan’s contest and 20 at the 2008 event, which was shortened to 10 minutes. “They don’t want anyone exploding,” explained the 16th ranked eater in the world. Philbin, who weighs 310 pounds, developed diabetes when

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

he was 27. He said he watches what he eats other than in contests and has actually dropped 40 pounds from his high of 350. The Nathan’s time adjustment hasn’t slowed down the competitors, though. Joey Chestnut consumed a world record 68 HDBs to win his third straight mustard-yellow belt this past July 4, beating out six-time champ Takeru Kobayashi, who ate 64.5. Chestnut took home $10,000 for his effort, but Philbin has only made about a couple thousand dollars in his entire career as a competitive eater. Nevertheless, he says he does it for the little bit of notoriety rather than the money. Pat From Moonachie has become somewhat of a minor celebrity from The Opie & Anthony Show as well. “It’s pretty cool,” he said. “When I go around O&A events, I’m like a rock star.” Philbin has even gotten invited out to Anthony Cumia’s mansion on

Long Island to co-host his Web casts. “The first floor is really nice and respectable and then the basement has a studio with a green screen,” he explained. “When I leave, I say ‘I’m going back to the trailer now.’ I could fit it in his living room.” Philbin has also done delivery work for the show’s other host, Greg “Opie” Hughes. The Delawanna native has been a courier for 20 years. After graduating CHS, he was a bouncer at Connections before going to work for his step-father’s printing business, Charles D. Ingraham and Sons. Philbin’s biological father left the family when Pat was just one year old. “He lives in Wayne,” said the ’81 grad. “I looked him up once and he said, ‘Hello,’ and I just hung up. I wouldn’t make the effort. My attitude is if he doesn’t want to meet me then I don’t want to meet him.” Philbin said his older brothers served as father figures growing up

because they were 10 years older than he was. His half brother, Bill Ingraham, used to coach the Clifton Tigers and was on the Clifton Phillies, while Pat was his bat boy. Philbin attended Schools 16 and 8 and Christopher Columbus before entering CHS. In ninth grade, he lettered in football, track and wrestling. At 240 pounds, Philbin won County and District titles. He got his start in the sport grappling on the front lawn with Dave Szott, who went on to play guard for the New York Jets after graduating Clifton High. Philbin returns to his hometown once in a while to visit his mechanic or grab a bagel from the shop on Piaget Ave. across from CCMS. “It’s out of habit because I used to go there after football practice at Clifton Stadium all the time,” he said, adding that he also frequents Rutt’s Hut a couple times a month. “Don’t tell Nathans, though!”

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Parrish Durham recently won a national championship in taekwondo. Here he is with his dad and coach Elliot Durham of Quality Martial Arts on Van Houten Ave.

The Passaic County 200 Club beefsteak is on Sept. 17 at the Brownstone. The Club is an organization of business people and others who provide financial assistance to the families of emergency personnel who die in the line of duty. Visit The 13th annual Summer Concert Series continues this month at Main Memorial Park on Sundays at 7:30 pm. The lineup includes Ablemen on Aug. 9, Blue Smoke Band and Tony (Elvis) Liguori on Aug. 16 and Reminisce on Aug. 23. Call 973-772-5291 or, for rain info after 4 pm on concert days, 973-470-5680.

Parrish Durham is a national champion. The soon-tobe sixth-grader at Woodrow Wilson won the 10-11 year old boys black belt middle weight division at the 29th annual Junior Olympics Taekwondo National Championships held in Austin, Tx. from June 30 to July 5. Parrish, who is taught by his father Elliot Durham of Quality Martial Arts on Van Houten Ave., now has his sights set on the U.S. Open Taekwondo Championships next February, which will pit him against some of the best 11-13 year old black belts in the world. “Hopefully this can one day get him a shot at the Olympic Trials when he gets older,” said Elliot, who began training his son when he turned seven. Parrish is also one of the captains on his Pop Warner football team, on which he plays linebacker and tailback. He also loves to ride his skateboard and play Guitar Hero. “As his teacher and father, I try to keep him humble,” said Elliot Durham. “Church, family and education are the three main items I push with him. As a single dad, it can be tough raising a young man in today’s world, but we work well together and he is starting to see for himself what hard work and dedication can produce.” Historic Botany’s Free Concerts on Fridays are 6-9 pm in Sullivan Sq. and Sat. performances are 7-10 pm in the Village Sq. The lineup includes Matt Roach on Aug. 7, Victoria Warne Band on Aug. 14, The Midnight Ramblers on Aug. 21, Big Mike and the Perpetrators on Aug. 22 and Tex Doyle and the Country Thunder Band on Aug. 28. Skateboard Camp at Clifton Skatezone is Aug. 17-21 and 24-28. Level 1 skaters ages 6 and up go 9 am to noon and Level 2 kids ages 6 and up are 1-4 pm. Fee; bring a skateboard and safety gear. Call 973-470-5956. The 9th Annual Albion Park Family Camp Out begins at 6 pm on Aug. 21 and runs until noon on Aug. 22. The rain date is Aug. 28-29. The event is sponsored by Clifton Against Substance Abuse. A Clifton family of four pays $10 to register or $3 per person. Call 973-470-5956.

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Two Clifton students were among the winners of Spencer Savings Bank’s annual scholarship program. Nathalie Santillan of CHS received a $1,000 award and Dania Niwash of CCMS was awarded a $500 Coverdell Education Savings Account. For more information, visit Spencer’s Web site at or call 800-363-8115. Angels of Animals will hold a garage sale at 34 Craig Pl., to raise funds for medical expenses for its homeless and disabled animals. The sale will take place Aug. 29 from 9 am to 3 pm. Donations are sought and must be dropped off the day of the sale. Call 973-340-0978 or e-mail St. Peter’s Haven is holding English classes on Mondays and Thursdays from 7 to 9 pm beginning Sept. 10 and ending Nov. 19. Registration is $50. For more information, call 973-546-3406. The Hamilton House is celebrating Lincoln’s birthday with a lunch on Sept. 26 at 12:15 pm. Reservations are needed and tickets are $20. Don’t forget to visit the museum on Sundays through December, except for holiday weekends. Call 973-744-5707. CMM’s Jordan Schwartz is organizing the Old Bridge tennis tournament, Aug. 17-23 at the courts outside Old Bridge Arena off Rt. 516. Entry is $20 for singles and $30 for doubles. Call 732-721-5600 x4999. Clifton High School boys soccer coach Joe Vespignani hosts camps Aug. 17-21 at the high school field. The high school boys camp (ages 1318) is 9 am to noon and costs $135. The teenage girls camp (ages 13-18) is 3 to 5 pm and costs $100. The coed youth camp (ages 3 1/2 to 12) is 5:30 to 7:30 pm and costs $95. Info at

Fette Ford, the Clifton PBA and the Garden State Region Mustang Club hosts a Ford show at Fette on Rt. 46 from 5 to 9 pm on Aug. 8. Free admission, so come out and browse and purchase a hot dog, hamburger or cold drink from the members of the Clifton PBA. Registration is 5-6:30 pm and the parking lot is limited to 125 cars. For info, call 973-697-8811 or 973-875-9615 or visit

The Third Annual Boys & Girls Club Alumni Fundraiser Beefsteak is Nov. 13 from 6:30 to 11 pm. Returning this year will be the induction of Club Alumni into the newly created Alumni Hall of Fame. Call 973-773-0966. Clifton authors Sandra Giordano, Glory Read and Phil Read helped Barnes & Noble at Clifton Commons celebrate its 10th anniversary last month.

presented by the Clifton PBA with support from the Clifton Roadrunners

Oct. 11 8:30 am

Registration form at Sponsors contact John Kavakich at 973-470-5897 or August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


The Clifton Schools Integrated Summer Enrichment Experience concluded on July 30 for 173 students in grades 1-8. The kids select four subject areas to study among science, math, language arts, art, instrumental music, computer music and musical theater. To sign your child up for next year’s program at WWMS, call district supervisor of visual and performing arts Mary Ann Baskinger at 973-594-4199. St. John Kanty Church at 49 Speer Ave. is seeking sponsors for its annual parish picnic from 1 to 10 pm on Sept. 13. The church asks businesses and citizens for monetary donations, which are tax deductible, to help defray costs. Give $25 to become a Picnic Benefactor, $10 to be a Picnic Contributor and $5 to be a Picnic Patron. A sponsorship booklet will be printed to publicly thank contributors. Entry $2. Call 973-779-4102. The St. Stephen’s Day Picnic and Festival is 12-9 pm on Aug. 23 at the American-Hungarian Citizens League, 21 New Schley St. in Garfield. Call 973-779-0332. Botany’s Carnival in the Park is 5-10:30 pm on Sept. 11-13 at Randolph Park. There’s food, rides for all ages, carnival games, raffles, entertainment and plenty of parking. Visit

The Ninth Annual Festival in Randolph Park is now Sept. 11-13

The Athenia Street Fair is Sept. 13 on Van Houten Ave. There will be entertainment, vendors, pony rides, a petting zoo and rides for children. There will also be a classic car show and entertainment by Brookwood. Rain date Sept. 21. The event is sponsored by the Athenia Business Association or ABA. For info or to become a vendor, call 973-773-0802 or 973-473-0986. Back to school, back to sports. Clifton schools reopen for students on Sept. 3 and the first Fighting Mustangs football game will be Sept. 11 at home against Wayne Valley. Clifton Merchant Magazine will have a complete fall sports preview in its Sept. 4 edition. New Jersey Music and Arts, Inc. is hosting Fall Fest 2009, a celebration of the season with performances of

music, drama and dance at the Passaic County Community College auditorium in Paterson on Oct. 23 at 7:30 pm. Among the performers will be the New Hope Players, the WAIT Dance Team, the Arts and Folklore School Dance Ensemble and more. Tickets are $10. The facility is wheelchair accessible, for large print programs and FM listening systems please call for availability by Oct. 9. Call 973-272-3255 or visit The Garden State Opera presents its Passaic County fall production at the YM-YWHA on Scoles Ave. on Nov. 7 at 7:30 pm. There will be four scenes from Paul Hindemith’s opera Mathis der Maler and Donizetti’s Italian opera buffa Il Campanello. The performance is in support of Clifton Public Schools’ Adopt a Music Student program that assists students in financial need acquire an instrument for music lessons provided by the district. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and students. Call 973-272-3255 or visit St. Mary’s Hospital is offering free pregnancy classes from 5:30 to 8 pm. The classes are by appointment only, so call 973-365-4795. The hospital is also holding free bilingual blood pressure clinics, weight clinics, individual counseling and referrals on Mondays and Wednesdays.

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


The Theater League of Clifton is holding auditions for its October production of And Then There Were None, the classic play by the Grand Dame of mysteries, Agatha Christie, on Aug. 25 and 26 from 7 to 9pm with call-backs on Aug. 27. Auditions are at ATC Studios, 68 Union Ave. Casting is for eight men and three women between the ages of 20 and 65. Performance dates are Oct. 9, 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18. And Then There Were None is a detective fiction by Agatha Christie in which 10 people, who previously committed murder but escaped due to technicalities, are tricked into coming to an island. Even though the guests are the only people on the island, they are all mysteriously murdered. It is Christie’s best-selling novel with 100 million sales to date, making it the world’s best-selling mystery. For info about auditions, call Joyce Sunshine at 973-881-1688 or visit

For the past few years, the Clifton PBA has been tending to the intersection of Main and Piaget Aves. From left, Detective Michael McLaughlin, Ptl. Thomas Buell, Ptl. Samuel Skidmore, Detective Steve Berge and Ptl. Robert Domski.

St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center was presented with the Best Donor Management Award at the 5th Annual Circle of Life Celebration Gala hosted by the NJ Sharing Network. The hospital’s Special Operations Team recently visited a


school in Montclair to administer CPR training classes. And the Women, Infants and Children program at St. Joe’s is available to pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants and children up to the age of five.Visit

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


Birthdays & Celebrations! send us your dates and names... The Kedl family celebrates: sister Ottilia turned 3 on July 2, brother Alexander turns 1 on Aug. 28 and parents Peter & Christina have a 5th wedding anniversary on Aug. 21.

Mary Kathryn Gaestel and Eric Joseph Policastro were wed on July 4.

Angelo Greco . . . . . . . .8/2 Karen Lime . . . . . . . . . . 8/2 Michael Urciuoli . . . . . . .8/2 Kevin Ciok . . . . . . . . . . . .8/4 Mark W. Mikolajczyk . . .8/5 Thereas Raichel . . . . . . .8/5 Christian Sotelo . . . . . . .8/5 Ed Gasior Sr . . . . . . . . . .8/6 Sean McNally . . . . . . . . .8/6 Charlie Stek . . . . . . . . . . .8/6 Chiara Cristantiello . . . .8/9 Jean Schubert . . . . . . . .8/9 Emily Hawrylko . . . . . . .8/12 Andrew Cronin . . . . . .8/14 Kimberly Mozo . . . . . . .8/14 Michelle Smolt . . . . . . .8/14 Yuko Angello . . . . . . 8/15 Christopher Antal . . . . .8/15 Peter Bodor . . . . . . . . .8/15 Jessica Oliva . . . . . . . .8/15 Maria Pinter . . . . . . . . .8/15 Susan Van Blarcom . . .8/15 Daniel Wolfe . . . . . . . . .8/15


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

Carol & Bob Van Der Linda were actually wed 48 years on June 10, not 58 years as we stated last month.

Nancy & Michael Ressetar will celebrate their wedding anniversary on Aug. 15.

Bella Bulsara . . . . . . . . .8/18 Alexandria Veltre . . . . .8/19 Michael Melendez . . 8/20 Cara Cholewczynski . .8/24 Yasmin Ledesma . . . . .8/24 Joanne Pituch . . . . . . .8/24 Robbie Lucas . . . . . . . .8/25 Eileen Gasior . . . . . . . .8/26

Cameron J. Popovski . . .8/26 Ann Soltis . . . . . . . . . . .8/26 Adam Brandhorst . . . . .8/27 Peter Fierro, Jr. . . . . . . .8/28 Michelle “Mish” Choy . .8/30 Joe Rushen . . . . . . . . . .8/30 Kathleen McKenny . . .8/31 Tom Hawrylko turns 52 on Aug. 15.

Melisa and Fabian Calvo, with big brother Damian, welcomed Nicolas Marcel to the world on July 11.

Hailey Moore was 2 on July 9 and brother Max is 5 on Aug. 6.

Emily Hawrylko celebrates her birthday on Aug. 12.


August 2009 • Clifton Merchant


John Manganiotis sr. of Mr. Cupcakes had the wildest day of his life thanks to TV Land’s new original hidden camera series Make My Day. During the episode that will air Sept. 9 at 10:30 pm, Manganiotis plays an unexpected round of golf with comedian Robert Schimmel and actor Robert Vaughn of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and is treated to a first class, high stakes casino experience with James Bond villain Richard ‘Jaws’ Kiel. The concept behind the new 30-minute series is to take look into the eventful day of an unsuspecting and deserving participant. Manganiotis, who was nominated for the show by his son, John, loves James Bond movies, is a big fan of Schimmel and grew up watching The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

John Manganiotis (at right) of Mr. Cupcakes on Van Houten Ave. will appear on TV Land’s Make My Day on Sept. 9. Here he is with his favorite stars Richard Kiel, Robert Schimmel and Robert Vaughn.

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August 2009 • Clifton Merchant

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John, Jr. first set up his dad by telling him two girls needed to interview him for a college project. In reality, that was his audition tape. After Manganiotis was selected, his son fooled him again by telling him a friend was installing security cameras in the store. They were really hidden cameras for Make My Day. It all came to a head when Manganiotis went golfing on his day off and ‘ran into’ Schimmel and Vaughn. The actor later invited Manganiotis to a blackjack game at the Highland Pavilion in West Orange. “I went through the kitchen, down to a wine cellar and there are 15 beautiful women dressed in gowns, guys in tuxedos and I got my Mr. Cupcake shirt on,” he said. They gave him $20,000 to start with and Manganiotis was rolling until the place got ‘raided’ and he was forced to hide in a closet with Schimmel and Vaughn. When the elder Manganiotis exited the closet, he was greeted by his son along with 50 family members and friends who told him about the ruse and the tv show. He won a $400 golf club and a free eye exam, but he wasn’t allowed to keep the casino chips. “That’s the first thing I asked,” he laughed.”

August 2009_cover from TEMPLATE


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August 2009_cover from TEMPLATE

Tomahawk Promotions 1288 Main Avenue Clifton, NJ 07011


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Profile for Clifton Merchant Magazine

Clifton Merchant Magazine - August 2009  

Clifton Merchant Magazine - August 2009