Clifton Merchant Magazine - March 2018

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Last fall, a fine young man from Clifton, N.J, with humble beginnings and big dreams, was named the 2017 Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Youth of the Year. His name is Carlos Polanco, a 19-year-old whose family emigrated from the Dominican Republic when he was just five years old in search of that “American Dream.” If you think you can’t make a difference, think again. Carlos was just 12 when he began volunteering at the Clifton Boys & Girls Club, logging more than 550 hours as a mentor for younger kids. In high school, he helped organize a student union and led a peaceful march—some 350 students strong—advocating for more equitable school funding. Last fall, after graduating with honors, Carlos became the first in his family to attend college. Now a freshman at Dartmouth, he’s studying to become a lawyer and one day a Supreme Court justice. “I want to be a positive influence in the world,” he says. “I want to be a leader.” Carlos credits the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton for giving him the support and guidance he needed to go after his American dream. “The

Club,” he says, “provided me a place in which I’ve come to believe in myself, but also in the good in others.” Denzel explains how his early life in Mount Vernon, N.Y was similar. “Too many of my childhood friends had little structure or guidance. Some had run-ins with the law and ended up in prison. That could have been me.” But, like Carlos, Denzel was lucky. He had mentors at his Boys & Girls Club who cared and gave him confidence to set higher goals than he might have. Everyday at Clifton’s Boys & Girls Club, mentors makes a difference in the lives of hundreds of kids. So if you want to volunteer or make a contribution in our hometown, go to and find out more.

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Subscribe $35 / year / $60 for 2 Call 973-253-4400 Contributing Writers Jack De Vries, Joe Hawrylko, Irene Jarosewich, Tom Szieber, Jay Levin, Michael C. Gabriele, Anthony Buccino, Patricia Alex

Editor & Publisher Tom Hawrylko Art Director Ken Peterson Graphic Designer Natalia Dymora Business Mgr. Gabriella Marriello Social Media Mgr. Ariana Puzzo • March 2018


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By Jack DeVries Hollywood is 2,787 miles away from Clifton if you head west on Route 80. Take a flight and you can land in LAX in about five hours. Traveling from Clifton and landing in the entertainment industry? It happens a lot more frequently than you might think. With Oscar season upon us, Clifton Merchant Magazine decided to spotlight the city’s stars, places and cinematic achievements. The list is significant and surprising. While Clifton is not known as a Hollywood hotbed, it has a pretty fair movie and TV history – one that stretches back to the beginning of the last century. The city’s first brush with fame came in 1910 when D.W. Griffiths shot his silent movie, The Call to Arms, starring Mary Pickford (inset photo) at Lambert Castle overlooking rural Clifton. The city’s connection grew stronger in 1931 when Herman Hupfeld penned As Time Goes By in the old Robin Hood Inn, now the Valley Regency. The song was immortalized in the movie classic, Casablanca.


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As the industry mushroomed, Cliftonites were busy in large and small roles. During the fifties, Billy “Kilroy” Ramoth, a former boxer and Clifton police officer, worked as Marlon Brando and Paul Newman’s stunt double. In 1965, Clifton singer Frankie Randall starred in the teen flick, Wild on the Beach. Michael J. Pollard represented the city proudly in a supporting role in the iconic 1967 move, Bonnie and Clyde. Pollard played C.W. Moss and garnered Academy Award and Golden Glove nominations for his performance. Clifton was the fictional home of Rupert Pupkin, Robert DeNiro’s character in director Martin Scorsese’s 1982 The King of Comedy, and the city showed off its Main Avenue in the 1997 movie Donnie Brasco, starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino. Clifton also watched when former Mustangs cheerleader and model Jayne Modean appeared in TV shows like Cheers and Full House.


The city provided inspiration to former Clifton student David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, which premiered in 1999. Chase used a few city locations to film his HBO show. But perhaps Clifton’s strongest claim to performing fame are the next wave of stars who have grown up or lived in the city. The list is long and distinguished, and includes John Seda (HBO’s The Pacific and NBC’s Chicago P.D.); Sofia Black-D’Elia (Fox’s The Mick); Nina Arianda (Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and Amazon’s Goliath); Robert Leeshock (Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict); Michael Ornstein (FX’s Sons of Anarchy) and many other working actors and actresses.

Clifton’s cavalcade of stars includes (from left) Jayne Modean, Sofia Black-D’Elia, John Seda, Nina Arianda (with Clifton Action Theater’s Joel Robertson and Kathleen Kellaigh) and Michael Ornstein.

In addition, Clifton’s Hollywood connection includes its legendary movie temples – the now gone Clifton Theatre and the Strand, and the present Allwood Cinemas and AMC Clifton Commons, places where memories were and are continued to be made. So… without further ado, grab your popcorn, sit back and relax as Clifton goes to the movies (and the TV screen, too).



Lights, Camera, Clifton! Occasionally, the city of Clifton itself gets to star in the movies. Three prominent examples are The King of Comedy, starring Robert DeNiro and Jerry Lewis, Donnie Brasco, starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino, and The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke. Robert DeNiro (above) in The King of Comedy; (left) Johnny Depp and Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco; (below) the house at 202 Abbe Lane, used as Pacino’s character Lefty Ruggiero’s home in the movie.

The King of Comedy The pairing of Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese usually means box office gold. With 1983’s The King of Comedy, it meant a box office bomb. Despite critical acclaim, audiences had a hard time warming to this black comedy, earning just $2.5 million in ticket sales. The movie tells of how talk show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) is kidnapped by desperate comic Rupert Pupkin (DeNiro) to get an immediate spot on Langford’s Johnny Carson-like show. After his performance, Langford is freed and Pupkin is arrested but ultimately gains his quick-sought fame. Clifton’s dubious role came in Pupkin’s monologue on The Jerry Langford Show. Introduced by guest host Tony Randall, Pupkin delivers this comedic opening to the audience: “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Let me introduce myself. My name is Rupert Pupkin. I was born in Clifton, New Jersey… which was not at that time a


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federal offense. “Is there anyone here from Clifton? Oh, good. We can all relax now.” Why did screenwriter Paul D. Zimmerman, a New York native, pick on Clifton? Since he died in 1993, we’ll never know. Donnie Brasco Clifton played a bigger and better role in the 1997 box office and critically-acclaimed smash, Donnie Brasco. The movie tells the story of FBI undercover officer Joseph D. Pistone, who infiltrates the Mafia as jewel thief “Donnie Brasco” by befriending gangster “Lefty” Ruggiero. Brasco is played by Johnny Depp while Ruggiero is portrayed by Al Pacino. Main Ave was featured in one movie scene and the old Clifton Camera shop is prominently featured. Another city location used was a house at 202 Abbe Lane (off Van Houten Ave.) that served as the • March 2018


Marisa Tomei and Mickey Rourke starred in The Wrestler; (below) Herman Hupfeld wrote As Time Goes By in Clifton’s Robin Hood Inn.

home of Pacino’s character in the movie. In a 1997 interview with the St. Petersburg Times, Clifton residents Clark and Rita Seymour said when they were approached by TriStar Pictures to use their home, they thought it was a joke. Turns out, it wasn’t. TriStar paid the Seymours $7,500 for living expenses and an estimated $1000 daily rental fee to use it. “They ripped my house apart,” Seymour told the newspaper. Large holes were cut into the ceilings for cameras, closets torn out, the carpet ripped up and walls knocked down. “They asked me about every change,” Seymour said. “And they put it all back the way I wanted it.” During filming, the Seymours got to meet Pacino, Depp and Anne Heche, who played Pistone’s wife. Their film mementos included a pair of Depp’s

black cowboy boots, director’s chairs and a script. The Seymours also bought the red 1978 Cadillac that Depp’s character drove in the movie for $2,500. The Wrestler While it only has a small part, Clifton made an appearance in the 2008 critically-acclaimed film, The Wrestler. Starring Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei, the film is a behind-the-glory look at an aging pro wrestler as he attempts to heal family relationships and continue performing despite failing health. Both Rourke and Tomei, who played the wrestler’s love interest, received Academy Award nominations for their performances. In one scene, Rourke is filmed outside the Martha Washington Apartments on Van Houten Ave. Casablanca Meets Clifton Casablanca has been called the greatest movie of all-time. Set in the Moroccan town during 1941, the film tells a story of conflict, intrigue and love, driven by its beautiful and haunting theme song, As Time Goes By. Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, is tormented by the tune, reminding him of earlier days in Paris with his love, Ilsa, played by Ingrid Bergman.


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Performed by pianist Sam (Dooley Wilson), the song contrasts with growing clouds of war. As Time Goes By is a tune that lives forever in Rick’s Café. But it was a tune born in Clifton. The song was written by Montclair resident Herman Hupfeld in the old Robin Hood Inn on Valley Road, now the Valley Regency. The son of a church organist, Hupfeld wrote the song for the unproduced play, Everybody Comes to Rick’s, which the movie was based on. As Time Goes By featured three forgettable stanzas at its start, beginning with: “This day and age we're living in “Gives cause for apprehension “With speed and new invention “And things like fourth dimension.” But after two more banal verses, a bolt of creative lightning struck Hupfeld through the roof of the Robin Hood Inn. He began to write: Clifton entertainer Frankie Randall was known more for his singing “You must remember this than acting, but did make one movie, Wild on the Beach. “A kiss is just a kiss…” Danny Kaye Show. After Wild on the Beach, Dean The rest was cinematic history. Martin called asked Randall to be a regular on the Dean A one-hit wonder, Hupfeld never eclipsed his single Martin Summer Show. greatest work. During his life, he served in the U.S. “That was another thrill for us,” said friend Al Navy in WWI, traveled widely entertaining the troops Mardirossian Jr. “We’d put on the TV and there would in WWII, and lived comfortably after As Time Goes By be one of ‘our guys.’” became a hit, hosting friends like Mae West and Bing Crosby. Hupfeld died in 1951 of a stroke at Montclair’s Billy “Kilroy” Ramoth Mountainside Hospital after appearing on Ted Mack’s Billy “Kilroy” Ramoth’s tale contains the stuff of television show. He was 57. four life stories. Ramoth started as a hard-hitting boxer, going 35-7 with 21 knockouts. After retiring, he purchased a home THE STARS on Dawson Ave. in 1949 and became a Clifton police officer. Later, while serving 18 years as a U.S. marshal, Frankie Randall Ramoth wrote poems about his work and life. Though Clifton’s Frankie Randall is more known for But it was as an actor where he made his mark on his singing and recording, he did grace movie screens Clifton’s movie history. in the 1965 teen flick, Wild on the Beach. The film feaIn 1954, Ramoth took a ride to Hoboken to watch the tured the music of Sonny and Cher, also making their filming of On the Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando. movie debut. Director Elia Kazan thought Ramoth looked like After being discovered by Frank Sinatra at Jilly’s Brando and hired him to act as the star’s body double and signing a recording deal with RCA, Randall in the fight scenes. appeared on The Tonight Show, Merv Griffin Show and


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Ramoth went on to act in more movies, appearing as Paul Newman’s stunt double in Somebody Up There Likes Me and The Hustler. While filming The Hustler, the Clifton patrolman ran out of vacation days so he couldn’t complete the movie. Newman phoned City Manager William Holster to ask him to give Ramoth more vacation time. Holster’s secretary nearly passed out when she realized who was calling. In 1996, Ramoth and his wife moved to Toms River after 47 years in Clifton. He died in 2011. Ron Maxwell Clifton’s Ron Maxwell earned his fame as a movie director. Born in 1947 at an Air Force Base in Tripoli, Libya, Maxwell and his family came to Clifton in 1950, moving into a home at 235 Delawanna Ave.

Former boxer, actor and police officer Billy “Kilroy” Ramuth; Marlon Brando (left) and Ramoth in 1954 on the set of On the Waterfront.

“That area around Route 3 was like a wilderness,” remembered Maxwell. “We had kind of a ‘Tom Sawyer’ youth. My brother and I would build little rafts and float on the little streams and tributaries that ran off the Passaic River.” Maxwell also began writing stories and plays at a young age. “I was doing what I’d do for the rest of my life,” he said. Maxwell formed his own small theater company at age 12. He produced and starred in his Charles I while at Woodrow Wilson, using a $250 student council grant to stage his production. At Clifton High, Maxwell appeared in The Man Who Came to Dinner and Oklahoma. He also spent three seasons assisting Coach Joe Grecco as the football team’s manager. After graduating from NYU in 1970, Maxwell got his first big break as a personal assistant to Charlton Heston, who was starring in and directing Anthony and Cleopatra. By 1978, The movie poster from Gettysburg and Ron Maxwell today.


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Maxwell had directed PBS’s Verna: USO Girl, which starred Sissy Spacek and William Hurt, and earned him an Emmy nomination. In 1980, he directed Little Darlings, starring Tatum O’Neal, which remains a classic teen picture. He followed with The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia with Dennis Quaid, Kidco, Parent Trap II, and the documentary, In the Land of the Poets. In 1993, Maxwell wrote and directed his masterpiece, the Civil War picture Gettysburg. Maxwell’s Gettysburg, seen through the eyes of both the Union and Confederate Armies, was lauded by critics. The Boston Globe wrote: “Ronald Maxwell’s Gettysburg is the film against which all subsequent films about the Civil War will now be measured.” He followed Gettysburg with 2003’s Gods and Generals, a Civil War movie that takes place in the years before Gettysburg, and Copperhead in 2013. Today, Maxwell is at work on a film trilogy about Joan of Arc.

The cast of The Sopranos (above), show creator David Chase (center) and The Clairmont Diner (below).

David Chase The Sopranos creator David Chase, 72, did not live in Clifton long but never forgot it. Moving from Mt. Vernon, N.Y., at age 5, Chase and his family lived in Clifton until seventh grade when the family relocated to North Caldwell. In a 1999 New York Times article, Chase said he earned A’s at his Clifton school except in deportment. “I was out of my


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Ron Maxwell and Sandra La Corte were voted most likely to succeed in 1964. Sandra went on to become Sandy Kensicki, a former CHS ESL teacher.

chair, talking a lot,” he said. '”I was always jiggling.” Despite his school behavior, Chase has fond Clifton memories especially of his home in Richfield Village. “This was after the war,” Chase told Vanity Fair in 2007, “and it was filled with veterans and their children. I had a lot of fun there, felt very free.” Chase also felt free to use his old hometown while shooting his iconic HBO series. Clifton locations featured on The Sopranos included Allwood Rd., Market St., St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church, Main Memorial Park, Clifton High, Costco, the Upper Montclair Country Club golf course, the Valley Regency parking lot, the Clairmont Diner, a construction site and a Gulf gas station.

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Clifton’s Nina Arianda won a Tony award for her role in Venus in Fur.

ical Rowe-Manse Emporium in Styertowne. With a friend, Nina would try on prom gowns at the store, and the girls would take photos of each other. Kathleen Kellaigh, co-founder (along with husband Joel Robertson) of Clifton’s Action Theater Conservatory, vividly remembers Arianda. “Nina came to ATC studios speaking only a few words of English,” Kellaigh said. “She was always a fast study, though, and it seemed like in no time she wanted to be playing every role in every story we did. As she got older, and her talent became as apparent as her enthusiasm, I thought more than once (in a very fond way), ‘We’ve created a monster.’” After moving to Germany (following her father’s Department of Defense career), Arianda returned to the U.S. at age 17. She began her show business climb at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, moved to the New School and finally on to NYU’s graduate program. A few months after graduating, she auditioned for and won her Tony-winning role in Venus in Fur. Newsday critic Linda Weiner wrote: “Streisand, Streep… now Adriana. All the hype is true. She really is that special. Since her Broadway success, Adriana’s career has grown and she has appeared in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Florence Foster Jenkins with Meryl Streep, Amazon’s Goliath, CBS’s The Good Wife, NBC’s 30 Rock and many other plays, TV shows and films.

Nina Arianda Tony Award winner, TV performer, movie star… the sky’s the limit for Clifton’s Nina Arianda. Born in Manhattan, Arianda’s family soon moved to Clifton. Her first performance came at age 3 when she recited a poem on the stage of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic School on President St. in Passaic. By 9, she was committed to becoming a professional actress. Arianda gained hometown inspiration from the mag-

Jon Seda If you had to pick one actor to represent Clifton, it would likely be Jon Seda. Seda never set out to be a performer. He was tough kid who dreamed of being a Mustang and was later a running back, wrestler, and shortstop. He worked for the Herald News and played in his home park, starring on the Weasel Brook sandlots. In short, Seda is Clifton – a good-looking Puerto Rican kid with an edge.

In addition, two Sopranos mobsters made their fictional residences in Clifton: Burt Gervasi, who lived at 53 Haussler Terrace (and met his demise there courtesy of Tony Soprano’s consigliere Silvio Dante); and Vito Spatafore, who resided at 19 Ronald Dr. David Chase made sure Clifton lives in TV infamy, and the city is fine with that.


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Jon Seda in his 1988 CHS yearbook and in a recent look from his TV show Chicago Justice. His 1988 CHS wrestling team which went 12-3. Front, from left: Steve Banya, Fred Goldbach, Jon Seda, Alex Kenny, Todd St. Laurent and Bill Renault. Back: Ray Viola, Dave Niland, J.C. Gouse, Sean Mulholland, Bill Wagner, Cory Hefner, Bill Lahanas, Robb Pami, Matt Cole and Dennis Nevin.


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Count him out, say it can’t be done? You don’t know Clifton, and you certainly don’t know Jon Seda. One of six kids, he grew up on Sylvan Way. His father Hector was pastor at Bethel Church in Passaic, and both father and son loved boxing. Jon began working out at Lou Costello’s gym in Paterson and went on to train in Jersey City, finishing second at the 1989 New Jersey Golden Gloves. Despite Seda going 21-1 over three-plus years in the ring, his mother Dharma worried. She tried to distract

him by signing him up for Manhattan acting classes. “I did it just to please my mom,” Seda told the Clifton Merchant in 2009. “Sometimes, I didn’t even show up, but the teacher kept telling me she saw something really natural inside of me and wanted me to continue a career in acting.” The instructor got him an audition for Gladiator, a 1992 boxing film featuring James Marshall and Cuba Gooding Jr. “I went to a ‘cattle call’ in New York, which is like a thousand people on line, and I ended up getting a co-starring role in the film,” he recalled. At the time, Seda was unloading trucks at Caldor, working at a gym and ushering at the Clifton Theater to earn $250 a week. The movie paid him $40,000. “I blew all that money on a nice new car that I drove around

Clifton actor Michael Ornstein

Clifton,” he laughed. “I got a Dodge Stealth before anyone else had one.” Seda has since appeared in movies like Carlito’s Way with Al Pacino, Boys on the Side with Whoopi Goldberg and Drew Barrymore, Twelve Monkeys with Bruce Willis, Selena with Jennifer Lopez and Bad Boys II with Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. He also appeared in HBO’s Oz and starred in The Pacific, portraying U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone. His star has shone brightest on TV. A guest on popular shows since 1993, Seda has enjoyed major roles since 2010, appearing in Treme, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. and Chicago Justice as Detective now Chief Investigator Antonio Dawson. “I miss boxing, I really do,” he said. “But I think it made my mom a lot happier.”


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Michael Ornstein You won’t find a bigger Clifton fan than actor Michael Ornstein. Describing his childhood, Ornstein, said: “Clifton was a beautiful place, a livable place, especially for kids. Generations of people lived here. It was comfortable and safe. Everywhere you went – Rutts Hut, the Jade Fountain – you knew someone.”

Daryl Fusaro, Tony Dragotto and Michael Ornstein in 1981 at CHS.

The Ornsteins lived on Allwood Pl. near the Tick Tock Diner. Both parents, Harvey and Marie, fueled his artistic side. They took their only child to New York City often, exposing him to plays and rock shows at legendary clubs like CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City. Ornstein soon asked his mother how he could become an actor. Marie began taking her son to NYC every Saturday to study acting. He took classes at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and later studied under Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg. “I wasn’t a child actor – I didn’t appear in plays as a kid,” Ornstein said. “Acting was something I studied. I kept it to myself and didn’t tell people about it.” In Clifton, Ornstein built forts and went sleigh riding in a nearby cemetery, played ball at the Boy and Girls Club and Latteri Park, and ate ice cream at Bonds. He also developed a passion for dirt bikes, riding on trails at the Meadowlands. “Even my mom had a bike,” he laughed. After graduating from Clifton High and attending Rutgers


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Michael J. Pollard in the 1970s and at a 2015 tribute to his friend Warren Beatty, whom Pollard worked with in the classic Bonnie and Clyde.

Mason Gross School of the Arts for a year, he became a working actor. Since then, he has appeared in the film Crossing Delancey, NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street, Third Watch, Seinfeld, Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent; CBS’s NCIS: Los Angeles; and Fox’s New York Undercover, and other shows. But he is best known for playing “Chucky Marstein” on the hugely popular FX series, Sons of Anarchy.

Ornstein, who visits his old Clifton haunts when he returns from L.A., credits his hometown for his appreciation of stories. “People would talk and I would soak it up and learn,” he said. “That’s the thing I still draw from – the ability to listen to stories. Every story that I heard, I remembered them and they became part of my reality and my imagination.” Michael J. Pollard Born Michael John Pollack Jr., the eccentric actor will be forever known for his co-starring role in Bonnie and Clyde, playing getaway-car driver C.W. Moss (despite not knowing how to drive). He is the only Clifton actor to earn an Academy Award nomination for supporting actor. Born in Passaic in 1939, Pollard lived on Clifton’s Athenia Ave. and studied with famed acting teachers Herbert Berghof, Lee Grant and Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Classmates included Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Only 5’6”, Pollard appeared in more than 100 films, TV shows and Broadway productions, playing a variety of roles. These include Barney Fife’s cousin Virgil on the Andy Griffith Show; Jerome Krebs, weird cousin of Maynard G. Krebs, on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis; and Mr. Mxyzptlk on the Superboy TV series. Pollard is also one of the few actors to guest star on the original Star Trek and Lost in Space TV series.


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Sofia Black-D’Elia Sofia Black-D’Elia was just five when she began dancing at Broadway Bound in Lyndhurst. “I was really awful at first,” said Black-D’Elia. “I almost wanted to quit, but I’ve always loved entertaining people and making them laugh.” At 17, the CHS graduate and former TCBY employee got her first big break in 2009, playing teenage mother Bailey Welles on the ABC soap opera All My Children. Black-D’Elia went on 2010 CHS grad to roles in films like 2013’s The Sofia Black-D’Elia Immigrant and 2016’s Ben Hur. On TV, Black-D’Elia’s been seen on shows like MTV’s Skins and CW’s Gossip Girl, and has a starring role on Fox’s The Mick, playing Sabrina Pemberton. A star on the rise, Black-D’Elia is quick to trumpet the virtues of her roots. “So if you want to know what real America looks like,” she recently told the online site, “go to northern New Jersey and hang out with, like, a million different cultures. It was such an amazing childhood...”

Jayne Modean Didn’t you know “the girl next door” came from Clifton? If you knew 1975 CHS grad Jayne Modean, you sure did. After appearing on multiple covers of Seventeen magazine, Modean became known for her wholesome good looks and beautiful smile. Born Hartford, Conn., she grew up at 38 Wester Pl. in Clifton, one of four siblings. The daughter of Rev. Earl R. Modean of the First Lutheran Church and mom Marcia, a Minnesota native and local 4-H queen, Jayne began traveling to modeling and commercial gigs as a first-grader at School 16. She continued modeling through her time at Woodrow Wilson and Clifton High. After appearing in many ads and commercials, the one-time Mustang cheerleader moved to California to become an actress and snagged a role on ABC’s Trauma Center in 1983, appearing in 13 episodes.

Cover girl Jayne Modean; today with husband Jay Sholl, and parents Marcia and Rev. Earl Modean.


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Later, Modean appeared in the teen movie Spring Break (“I played Susie from Ohio State, but I kept my clothes on,” she laughed), had a small part on Cheers, and played grown-up Michelle on Full House. She later married one of the show’s stars, comedian Dave Coulier, and the couple had a son Luc before divorcing. Today, Modean is married to Jay Sholl, who works in corporate real estate, and lives in Oakland, Ca. She retired from performing in 2009. “I was back to Clifton about four years ago and visited my friend Anne Neczepir,” said Modean. “I hope to go to my next class reunion. I still think of places in Clifton – like getting the best bagels on Route 46 or eat-


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ing at Rosemary’s Doughnuts. I also loved the ice cream Applegate Farms in Montclair. “Everyone is so friendly on the East Coast,” she said. “There’s an openness and curiosity – everyone wants to know how you are and how you’re doing.” Also starring in Clifton… Robert Leeshock has leading man looks and the career to prove it. Since graduating from Clifton High and Cornell University in 1984, the actor has appeared in the soap operas All My Children, One Life to Live, and the Guiding Light. On TV, he has had roles in Law &

More Clifton stars (from left) “Officer” Joe Bolton; Robert Leeshock at CHS in 1980; the Modean family (in circa 1970, Marcia, Nancy and Earl; front Kathy, Paul and Jayne); Nancy Lane Fisher at CHS in 1969; David Packer; and Tony Cucci (headshot and insert) with Steven Van Zandt on The Sopranos.

Order: Criminal Intent and Beverly Hills 90210, among other shows. But Leeshock is best known for his starring role as Liam Kincaid on Earth: Final Conflict, appearing in 67 episodes from 1998 to 2002. Leeshock has also starred in 40 national commercials. Tony Cucci lived on Dando Ct. and attended St. Andrew’s School and Paul VI HS. Known as an athlete growing up, Cucci starred for Paul VI in football, basketball and baseball. His first acting role was in 1987’s Pick-up Artist, and he also appeared in movies like The Narrows, Carlito’s Way, Billy Bathgate, and others. On TV, he has performed on Rescue Me, Law & Order, Law & Order SVU and other shows. As “Fat Dom Gamiello,” Cucci met his violent end on The Sopranos. Nancy Lane Fisher, made her Broadway debut in 1975’s Chorus Line, starring as Bebe. Previously, the 1969 CHS graduate studied at Virginia Commonwealth University and the American Academy of Dramatic

Arts in NYC. She later starred on TV in NBC’s The Duck Factory and ABC’s Angie, and had a recurring role on CBS’s Rhoda. Lane also appeared on the TV shows Matlock, Remington Steele and Who’s the Boss? David Packer was frequently seen on TV and movies, appearing in shows like Fame, ER, and CSI: NY, among many others. His movie credits include RoboCop and You Can't Hurry Love. He is best known for his role as Daniel Bernstein in the 1983 NBC miniseries V and the 1984 sequel V: The Final Battle. “Officer” Joe Bolton was a WPIX-TV celebrity who hosted The Clubhouse Gang, featuring the Little Rascals (and the theme song The Whistler and his Dog), and The Three Stooges Funhouse. Bolton appeared in two Three Stooges films: Stop! Look! and Laugh and The Outlaws Is Coming. He also had a long TV and radio announcer career. Bolton and family lived on Clifton’s Holster Rd. • March 2018


Clifton Theatre, circa 1953 (courtesy of Mark S. Auerbach); 1937 grand opening ad (courtesy of Philip M. Read).

For nearly a century, Clifton has loved the movies and its theaters. Yes, Clifton has its stars, songs and locations that grace the silver screen. But it’s in those dark and magical movie palaces – of yesteryear and today – where memories were and continue to be made. The city’s first movie temples were the Clifton Theatre and the Strand. According to, the Clifton Theatre opened in 1927 as a silent movie theater. Located at the corner of Main and Clifton Avenues, it was listed as closed during the early thirties. It reopened on New Year’s Eve, 1937, as the “New” Clifton Theatre with a double feature starring Paul Muni in Emile Zola and Bing Crosby in Double or Nothing. The 1,100-seat Clifton Theatre featured a balcony and upstairs restrooms with a large lounge area filled with comfortable chairs. During the forties, admission was $.25 and the theater gave away dishes on weekdays to paying customers. Another attraction was its air con-


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ditioning – something missing from most homes at the time. Passaic City historian Mark S. Auerbach worked as an assistant manager during the late nineties. “In its heyday, the Clifton Theatre was a grand-looking place, full of wood and brass tones, and crushed red velvet.” When Auerbach worked there, the well-cared for theater had been carved into three screens, though it continued to make its own popcorn (“Second to none,” he described). The Clifton Theatre closed in April 2000 and was demolished to make way for the present Walgreens. Also on the scene in 1927, the smaller Strand served the Botany section and was located at Parker and Highland Avenues. It had a seating capacity of 600. To lure patrons, the Strand handed out glassware and waffle sets, and had a Saturday raffle for children’s skates. “In the forties, it was $.10 for two movies and • March 2018


Advertisement from the Strand (courtesy Philip M. Read); Allwood Theatre matchbook cover (courtesy Mark S. Auerbach).

Top, the demolition of the Clifton Theatre in Jan. 2000; above the Clifton Theatre in 1999, photo courtesy of John Kowolak.

a cartoon,” said Eileen Sperlazzi-Maloney. “You were given a raffle ticket as you entered, and between movies, Jimmy the usher would pick the winning ticket on stage. The Strand was nothing fancy, but it was clean and provided several hours of fun.” In 1950, the modern Allwood Theatre opened with a premiere run of the western Broken Arrow starring James Stewart. According to a 2004 article in The Record, “the theater was owned by Fabian Theatre Inc. and Harry Hecht, a Rosemawr theater executive” and designed by Paterson architect Sidney Schenker. Later, it was converted into a multiplex and continues to serve Clifton with its six screens. In April 1999, Clifton’s largest movie theater opened. The AMC Clifton Commons 16 on Route 3 features spacious chairs, a wide menu and the latest in movie viewing and sound options spread over 16 screens. For nearly a century, on any given night, the show goes on in Clifton.


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Story by Pat Alex • Photos by Mary Alex Growing up in Clifton, brothers John and Jim Bednar often vaguely kicked around the idea of going into business together; their moment of clarity came when changes in state law allowed for craft distilleries in New Jersey. “I said ‘yes that’s it! That’s exactly what we should do,’” said John, remembering his excitement after Jim told him about the bill signing in 2013. Now the pair, along with partner Tim Paul, are the proprietors of Silk City Distillers, a Clifton-based producer of whiskey, bourbon, rum and other spirits. The growing farm-to-bottle business on River Road supplies retailers, high-end restaurants and bars in northern New Jersey as well as individual customers (and “Everything is done in small batches. We at ShopRite Wines & want to concentrate on quality so we come up available Spirits of Clifton). with a really good product. We’re proud to The distillery is one of more than two dozen that have flowered have a cool business in Clifton.” in the state during the past five – John Bednar, Co-Owner, Silk City Distillers years spurred by a wave of interest in locally sourced and


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hand-crafted food and drink. Some, like Silk City, are part of a fledgling bourbon trail for connoisseurs. Grain for the spirits at Silk City is grown in Sussex County and transformed into the potent libations at a 35,000square foot space in a small industrial strip in Delawanna. The distillery includes a 15-foot steel-and-glass still, 650-gallon “mash tun” – where the grain The Bednars in 1993; (from left) Jim, Christine, Joseph, Mary and John. is prepared for fermentation, a water purification system and rows of oak casks Family affair filled with the finished product. The partners, all in their 40s, invested substantial time In a separate area, a nicely appointed bar is the centerand money in making the dream come true while keeppiece of a tasting room adorned with pictures of Clifton’s ing their day jobs. John is a musician and electronics neighbor to the north during the period in the late 19th engineer, Jim works in Information Technology and Tim and early 20th centuries, when Paterson’s booming texis a property manager. Their avocation quickly became a tile industry earned it the Silk City moniker. family affair. “There are three partners and each of those partners has a wife, so you have six personalities Heading home involved in designing things,” said Tim. “We don’t rush The distillers had hoped to set up in Paterson, hence into anything here” he joked. the name. But they couldn’t get a permit to manufacDespite his initial skepticism, the Bednar brothers’ 74ture in the historic mill district by the Falls – ironic year dad Joe also has been an integral part of the distillsince the area is considered the cradle of American ery, and their mom Mary often watches the grandkids industry. while the rest of the clan is tending to the bourbon. Joe Paterson officials instead steered the business to the helped with almost every aspect, from producing the Bunker Hill industrial area, an out-of-the way spot spirits to fashioning the bar. north of downtown that the brothers thought was not “When they started talking about this I already started likely to attract customers for parties and tastings. to think about what needed to be done,” said Joe, who At the same time, the Bednars heard about the spot still lives in Athenia, as does John. Jim lives in Wayne. in their hometown – not far from the intersections of It took a year of getting permits and outfitting the Routes 3 and 21 and across the street from the legspace with equipment before production began. The endary hot dog joint, Rutt’s Hutt. “A sweet spot,” process has a long lead time since the brown spirits, such recalls John. “We couldn’t resist the pull of Clifton.” as whiskey, acquire color and flavor from aging in oak The brothers grew up in Athenia, where their parents barrels. Silk City started producing bourbon in 2015 and emigrated from Poland in the 1960s. The boys worked in those first batches turned into the first sales during the kitchen at Mario’s Restaurant while at CHS; John Christmas of 2016. Now, another year into it, the distillwent on to William Paterson and Jim to Montclair State. ery also is producing Rye, Corn Whiskey, White and Tim came into the picture about 30 years ago, when he Dark Rum and Gin. Vodka is planned for the future. met Jim in a computer club, and the history. The partners are involved in every facet – from the “Someone asked me where the idea for the distillery technicalities of brewing and state and federal regulation came from,” said Tim, who lives in Montclair. “It’s from to promotion and sales. “I’ve done plenty of sales calls where all good ideas come from – sitting around the where I looked down at my shoes and noticed they were table and having a few drinks.” coated in corn dust,” said John.


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“Whiskey and Rippers” Silk City is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday afternoons for tours and tastings that include a changing custom cocktail menu featuring offerings like Great Falls Grog. It also hosts private parties – the tasting room has seating for 24 and can accommodate up to 45. The law doesn’t allow food to be served but patrons can cater in – from fine dining to pizza. And, of course, famous “rippers” – deep fried hot dogs – are just across the street at Rutt’s Hut. A local law firm, in fact, recently hosted a “whiskey and rippers” evening at the distillery. There also have been Tiki-themed events – an homage to the iconic Polynesian palace, the Jade Fountain, which used to sit on the site where the distillery is located. The place feels a bit tucked away – in a non-descript strip in a bend on River Road that includes a sprinkler distributor, a Peruvian soft-drink vendor and a flooring company. There is almost a speakeasy feel in knocking on the unmarked door for entry. But patrons say it’s well worth seeking out. “I kind of dig it,” said J.R. Pinto, an English teacher at a local college who stopped by for a cocktail and a bottle of rum on a recent Saturday. “I usually associate rum with sunny locales, but this is Jersey rum and we need to support Jersey.” He’d found the place at a bachelor party for his friend that featured a tour of local breweries and a distillery. The friends said they liked the industrial vibe. The most momentous event hosted to date, however, might well have been John’s wedding to artist Holly Suzanne Rader, where tulle and festive lighting transformed the space.

Pride in the product Operating the distillery has required a challenging blend skill and craft from the proprietors, not to mention patience. There was a lot to learn, from the distillation process to scouting out oak casks during a shortage. “Craft distilling is something that’s half technical and half art. We thought if we had the business and technical side covered we could learn the art,” said Jim, who has an MBA from Montclair and even worked with the still manufacturer in designing the apparatus for Silk City. “A lot of this is hands on – you can only learn so much from books and other distillers, you just have to roll up your sleeves and learn it yourself.” The partners take special pride in their variety of bourbons – more traditional recipes that rely on corn, wheat, barley and rye, and those made from “alternative grains” like oak and millet. A “Newark” bourbon is aging on the shelves that used yeast in the fermenting process that was derived from the long-closed Ballantine Brewery in that city. Production at Silk City continues to ramp up to more than 30 gallons per week and that number could soon double, the owners say. But quality and creativity will never be sacrificed for speed, they say. “Everything is done is small batches. We want to concentrate on the quality so we come up with a really good product,” said John. He and his family said they are pleased to be part of the city’s commercial landscape. “We’re proud to have a cool business in Clifton.”

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The scent of fresh peppers – bushels and bushels of fresh peppers – still brings a tear to Nicholas Pallotta’s eye. But now he’s remembering cramming into dad’s car with that unforgettable fragrance of fresh green everything. His dad would eat peppers straight from the bushel. That’s a taste young Nick didn’t acquire until he was nearly 12 years old. But what he always had was a taste for was cooking the bounty of the family’s gardening labor into sauces, filling Mason jars and storing them on deep shelves in their Syracuse cellar. Those harvests got the family through the snowy upstate winters, always with amazing food to eat. “We had a huge basement wall filled with Mason jars of tomatoes and peppers,” Pallotta recalled. “My mother would make hot sauces, spreads, eggplant and artichoke.


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“On Sunday, mom would get a Mason jar and make her own sauce. My parents made everything on their own. Dad would make his own wine. He’d get a pork butt and make his own sausage! “That’s where my passion for cooking started. Even now, every Sunday I’ll make my own sauce with meatballs and sausage.” Though he didn’t know it at the time, Pallotta’s culinary passion would some day be enjoyed by many more people. The inspiration for “Pallotta Hot” was born. Cooking with mama Nick is the second best cook in the Pallotta family. That’s okay with him and his father, brother and sister. No one cooks as well as his mom Annette. • March 2018


Nick and Jennifer Pallotta with sons, Joseph, (left) and Gabriele.

At age 6, Pallotta stood by his mom at the cutting board, the stove and dinner table. He wielded the wooden spoon and chased non-chefs, his younger siblings, out of his kitchen, “I’m making sauce, he said. “Get out of my Kitch-eone!” His younger siblings were not interested in cooking. To this day, brother Michael does not cook and sister Camille cooks only for her family. Cooking was Nick’s specialty, right alongside mama, as he inhaled aromas, honed his taste buds and simmered his skills. You could say Pallotta soaked up his mom’s love of cooking like a chunk of bread in the Sunday gravy. When he wasn’t in the kitchen, Pallotta raced his father Frank through the family garden and farms near their Syracuse, N.Y., home, picking hot peppers, tomatoes, onions, and, of course, not listening when dad said not to touch his eyes after picking peppers. But for Pallotta, it always came back to the kitchen and helping mom make tomato sauce. “Even in college,” he said, “every Sunday, I cooked for 15 to 20 friends.” Sunday dinner is Pallotta’s time to shine. Everything is from scratch – from the tomato sauce to the meatballs and sausage. In fact, Pallotta will cook anything except tripe (the stomach lining of the sheep or cow). “Just the look of it grossed me out,” he said. Cooking path goes through Allwood Pallotta later became an accountant, living and working in New York City. Then he met a North Arlington Jersey girl, Jennifer, an operating room nurse at Hackensack University Hospital. They married and settled into their Clifton home in the Allwood section, 10 years ago. “It was convenient. Clifton is a great city,” Jennifer said. “It’s a beautiful neighborhood. It’s very accessible to all the highways. We really feel comfortable here.”


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Of course, the Pallotta’s home had a garden, and at harvest time, fresh vegetables found their way into Nick’s signature pepper sauce. His secret recipe? Pallotta did it by taste through the cooking process – little this, a little that. “All by eye,” he said. Like he made everything else, Pallotta threw it together to taste and never wrote anything down. Voila! Mason jars appeared filled with Nick’s own pepper sauce. “First shot, my wife loved it,” he said. “We had it on sausage and peppers – she persuaded me to try and sell it. I handed some out to my friends and family, and they loved it.” Every chef loves to share, and so did Pallotta – with just about anyone who wanted a taste. “I had no intention of starting a company,” he said, “but everyone loved it and persuaded me.” Pallotta Hot was about to become a reality, but first, the Pallottas had more important additions to welcome – their two boys, Joseph, 5, and Gabriele, 4, adopted two years apart from South Korea. Joseph attends School 9, and Gabriele goes to School 18 and is in the pre-K program. “Both boys are doing exceptionally well,” said Jennifer. “The neighborhood kids” Nick said, “are always asking to come in and play with the boys. They have a lot of fun and like their friends and teachers.” After the boys arrived, Jen’s parents, Robert and Barbara Dziuba, sold their North Arlington home and moved down the street, eager to help with the boys and support the new business. With the adoptions settled and the house truly a home, Pallotta could focus on pepper sauce. Repeating perfection Though everyone loved Pallotta’s pepper sauce, his fans didn’t know there was no written recipe for that first batch they so loved. Nick had created it to taste. • March 2018


Now he had to try to repeat his perfection. Because there was no recipe for that early batch, Pallotta began trying to replicate it. The results were frustrating. “I tried,” he said, “but couldn’t get it.” As he created each new version of his sauce, he wrote down the recipe. “I went through seven or eight blenders full before recreating it,” Pallotta recalled. At last, the perfect mix of peppers, vinegar, spices and such was all documented on a single piece of paper. “I began selling my sauce at vendor fairs and flea markets about six months ago,” Pallotta said, “and am happy to say people love it. Since then, I have gotten my sauce into a few local shops.” His wife his proud of his efforts. “Nick is the mastermind,” Jennifer said. “He came up with the five flavors. I support the business by making contacts and phone calls.” She is his “wing girl” and handed out samples at Met Life Stadium last year. It was live in-person market research. They collected public feedback, which ranged from “too hot” to “not hot enough.” Afterwards, the Pallotta were inspired to expand from their two original flavors, Original Pepper Sauce and Spicy Tomato, to five

flavors, including Habanero Fire Hot, Zesty Lime and Pineapple Jalapeno. Jennifer explained how people experience the sauce. At first, she said, the tongue and buds taste the spices. Tasters say, “That’s not hot.” But then she counts silently... one... two... three... and watches their reaction when the pepper sauce hits. “Original is really great on sausage and peppers,” Jennifer said, “tomato sauce, shrimp cocktail...” Nick bursts in, to be sure no choice is missed, “Pizza, tacos, hot dogs, hamburgers, people put it on eggs! You could almost put it on anything. “The spicy tomato is like a spicier tomato sauce,” he added. “I recommend meat loaf, eggs, shrimp cocktail, crab cakes, and shredded shellfish. Habanero pairs best with chicken wings, pizza, ribs, chilli.” Thinking about his sauces gets Pallotta on a roll. “Zesty lime goes best with fish, chicken, tacos,” he

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emphasized. “It’s got a very fresh, cool taste... so you could also use it in salad, but also salmon or burritos. “Pineapple is one of our best sellers,” Jennifer said, “because it’s unique. You taste the pineapple first, then, three, two, one! You get the heat! It goes well with fish and ham and a lot of people put it on ice cream, believe it or not.” “But it’s not a burn-your-mouth hot,” Nick says. “You can still taste the food. You get the flavor and then you get the heat.”

will be heading for the big time across the river. Pallotta Hot will be one of about 50 exclusive vendors – out of hundreds that applied – to display at the New York City Hot Sauce Expo on April 21-22. “We’re honored to be representing Clifton at this event,” Pallotta said. “We’ll be showing our Clifton pride.” Preparing for this expo, Pallotta picked up more than 300 pounds of peppers that will be the foundation for about 2,000 bottles of pepper sauce. “I love to see people enjoying the product at live events, craft fairs and such,” Pallotta said. “I wouldn’t give that up.”

Big show in New York Most Pallotta Hot sales are through local outlets but orders have come from California, Minnesota and Texas. One outlet led to a Philadelphia hot sauce distributor ordering 25 cases of Pallotta Hot sauces. With increased demand, Pallotta is using a certified kitchen and bottler to cook and package his product. And the next big batch

Where to Buy Pallotta Hot Think you’re ready for Pallotta Hot? You can purchase it at or these Clifton locations: Ploch’s Garden Center Corrado’s Specialty Gift Basket Allwood Liquor Store Stew Leonard’s Wine & Spirits • March 2018


“America is returning to the label ‘Made in the USA’ for a lot of reasons. We hope to capitalize on this trend of bringing manufacturing back to America.” - Martin DiBattista The 2018 Winter Olympic Games have come and gone. Gone as well is the thrill of watching the competitions. However, for brothers Jensen and Martin DiBattista, the top thrill came not from watching a particular sport, but from watching the opening and closing ceremonies. Walking proudly into the arena, athletes of America’s Olympic team wore red-white-and-blue parkas designed by Ralph Lauren and assembled in Clifton by Better Team USA, the textile manufacturing firm owned by the two brothers and their father, Horacio.


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Founder and father Horacio DiBattista stands in the center with sons Jensen (left) and Martin. The family is pictured on the floor of their business, Better Team USA, preparing parkas for the Team USA athletes worn at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.


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Hard at work in Clifton are the employees of Better Team USA on Industrial Ave., near the Allwood Circle.

Established just a few years ago, Better Team USA is the newest family business in Clifton, a town with a long history of successful companies. Although new to Clifton, the DiBattista brothers are also part of a proud city legacy of family-owned businesses – the latest generation in a line of Italian tailors beginning with their grandfather Augustus more than 75 years ago. Back in Italy, the family of tailors focused on luxury items with intricate embellishments, custom-designed and custom-made clothing – a unique thread that now ties together the work of the DiBattistas through time and across several countries. The chaos of World War II forced the DiBattista family, including Augustus and son Horacio, to leave for safer ground – first in Argentina, then America. Growing up in Hudson County, the boys, two of six brothers, remember the heady days of the New York City Garment Center where their father Horacio worked with high-end couture designers. Their father, noted Martin, was not only a great tailor, but a shrewd businessman. Sensing the next business shift, he left for China when he saw production begin to move out of the U.S. Horacio set up a manufacturing facility there and continued as an intermediary between his designer clients in New York City and the then unfamiliar production and sourcing environment of the Far East. Horacio, who now spends most of his time in Italy, grew his business the old-fashioned way – by constantly networking. His network is international and still going strong – Italy, Argentina, China, America and a few European countries in between.


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“All his business came from personal connections and word of mouth,” said Jensen about his father. “He never advertised. He did not simply set up a factory for production; he solved his client’s problems. He has a reputation for being fastidious with detail and his clients are loyal. It was always my dream to go into business with him.” Olympic opportunity The family knack for networking, as well as their expertise in manufacturing high-end outerwear, led the two brothers to pitch their services to Ralph Lauren. Through a family connection, they contacted the design house with the proposal that their new company, Better Team USA, manufacture the signature Olympic parkas. Landing this prestigious contract was a big deal for the young company. Based on Horacio’s manufacturing experience in China, the family chose to focus on the market known as technical outerwear. Classical outerwear is made of materials such as wool, down and fur. Technical outerwear uses sophisticated fabrics and fillers, blended and treated for warmth and lightness, manufactured with specialized production techniques – various forms of gluing, non-traditional methods of stitching, making and sealing seams. Clifton story Better Team USA employs between 35-40 skilled workers at any one time. The DiBattistas chose to locate in Clifton because of access to workers with skills in textiles. “While our work team has a solid base in textiles,” said Martin, “we also offer on-site training since a lot of our process is pretty specialized.”

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The company’s 16,000-foot manufacturing facility on Industrial East is filled with computerized sewing machines and other state-of-the-art equipment. “We carry on the family tradition of producing high-end items, with an emphasis on luxury,” said Jensen, “but instead of evening gowns, we make parkas, vests, jackets. We have united the family history of luxury with modern technology.” Martin noted that their father’s sense of timing was right once again. ‘Silk City’ Paterson and the Botany Mills of Clifton and Passaic were hubs of textile family and manufacturing, storage and shipping for generations. “America is returning to the label ‘Made in the USA’ for a lot of reasons,” he said. “Part of it is pride, part of it is practical; the costs of production have risen dramatically in China. We hope to capitalize on this trend of bringing manufacturing back to America, back to our area in particular.” Better Team USA will do custom orders of a few hundred pieces, something not found in overseas vendors. Willingness to take on small orders is especially important for emerging designer without deep pockets.


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The place to be The Garment Center, where many design houses are still located, is near the Lincoln Tunnel in Midtown. For Better Team USA clients, Clifton is a straight shot out of the city along Route 3, not thousands of miles away. “We like to collaborate with clients in-person, from concept to finished product, and advise on how to best bring their designs into reality,” said Jensen.” Both brothers agree that coming to Clifton was an excellent decision. “We had been looking for months for a facility,” said Martin, “but nothing was quite hitting the mark. We had been looking in Hudson County, which we knew, and parts of Bergen. After striking out again in Moonachie, our realtor suggested that we look at a place in Clifton. Literally, the minute we walked into this building, we knew this is where we wanted to be.” While the 2018 Winter Olympics may be over, the Paralympics begin March 9. Better Team USA also produced the USA Team parkas. Once again, the DiBattista brothers are set to feel the thrill of seeing their parkas in the Olympic arena.

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St. Paul Roman Catholic Church will open its doors Easter Sunday to the newest members of its congregation - nine individuals who made a decision to embark on a journey into the Catholic faith. For some, the Lenten season means receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday, abstaining from meat on Fridays, and vowing to give up chocolate, carbs, or cigarettes for 40 days. For others, Lent means much more than curbing a bad habit. On Easter Sunday, nine individuals enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program will bring to fruition possibly the most spiritual journey they have ever undertaken as they begin their lifelong passage through the Catholic faith. The St. Paul’s 2018 RCIA candidates are Manual Alvarez, Felipe Manuel Diaz, Stephanie Figueroa-Feliz, Judith Lopez, Rosa A. Molina, Miguel Angel Oyarzun Alvarez, Angelica Santos Moya, Cindy Urrea, and Anthony John Van Zwaren. This Easter Sunday, they will celebrate their conversion into St. Paul’s congregation. For Catholics, Easter marks a new beginning. The holy day celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and signifies an opportunity for each person to deepen their


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At. St. Pau;s, front from left: Susan VanBlarcom, Angelica Santos Moya, Rosa A. Molina, David Silvester. Back row: Ellen Kiraly, Anthony John Van Zwaren, Miguel Angel Oyarzun Alvarez, Stephanie Figueroa-Feliz, and Manuel Alvarez.

relationship with the Lord. At Easter Vigil mass, St. Paul Roman Catholic Church, nestled on the corners of Union Ave. and 2nd Street, will open its red oak cathedral doors to the newest members of its congregation who vow to do just that. The RCIA candidates will stand on the altar to accept the visible rites each Catholic is entitled to. For the first time, they will receive the Sacraments of Baptism, the Eucharist, and/or Confirmation – depending on which each has or has not previously obtained – and will commit to a life filled with personal and spiritual growth through Catholicism. Those of any devotion – from Hinduism and Buddhism to Islam, Judaism, and other forms of


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Faith in EVERY StUDEnt • March 2018


A Journey of Faith The Sacrament of Baptism: the Christianity – take their own gateway to life in the Spirit. journey to gain religious Through baptism, candidates understanding, the goal of entering the formation into Roman anyone vowing to live a holy Catholic are freed from sin and and spiritual life. reborn as children of God. When it comes to The Sacrament of the Catholicism, most are born Eucharist: an invitation by God to into the religion and gradualreceive him – “Truly, I say to you, ly fulfill the Church’s sacraunless you eat the flesh of the Son ments. Others, whether of man and drink no blood; you raised in different convichave no life in you” – Catechism of tions or never completing the the Catholic Church #1384 full transformation into The Sacrament of Catholicism, look to revitalConfirmation: deepens the bapize their connection with tismal grace and increases the gifts God. These individuals of the Holy Spirit within the relimake prime candidates for gious candidates. St. Paul’s RCIA. What a blessing it is. How “I have attended many many of us, caught up in our masses from various reliday-to-day lives, are able to gions but have never been recite with such conviction a baptized,” said RCIA candiSt. Paul’s R.C. Church’s pastor comprehensive overview of our date Manuel Alvarez. “I is Father Leonardo Jaramillo. religion? Some can but others started attending mass at a could benefit from the knowlCatholic church and I felt edge instilled through programs like RCIA. something different. I actually enjoyed being there; it “I originally signed up for RCIA because I’m getting felt like home.” married in church and wanted to receive Communion A spiritual home is exactly what St. Paul’s looks to along with my fiancée,” confessed candidate Alvarez. provide. “But by the end of this, I will end up gaining way more On a past Sunday morning in September, adults than that. (ages 14 and up) wishing to dedicate their lives to the “Thanks to RCIA, I get to learn new things about God Roman Catholic faith congregate at Saint Paul’s Parish. each week. It has strengthened my relationship with him. What they will undergo next is something of a lifeI am excited to receive the sacraments of Baptism, changing epiphany. Eucharist, and Confirmation during the Easter Vigil.” Staring in September and through Easter, the RCIA But RCIA doesn’t end with Easter induction. candidates have attended weekly mass, followed by an “I was a convert. I was brought up with Protestant educational seminar in the Parish House. This is where faith… and went through RCIA and everything my canthe miracle begins to unfold. didates are going through,” explained Silvester. “I’ve “We read segments of the Bible,” explained Dave been in the Catholic faith for 14 years and instructing for Silvester, former RCIA student now a program instruc10. I’m a Eucharistic minister now. I’m involved in the tor for the past decade. “We go over the prayers, the church quite a bit.” creed, and everything about the Saints.” This Easter, the spiritual journey of the St. Paul’s 2018 Inside the Parish House, the RCIA candidates truly RCIA candidates’s takes a huge leap forward. However, learn the crux of Roman Catholicism and the nature of it is far from over. Instead, this momentous occasion sigtheir devotion to that belief. It’s here they will acquire nifies the beginning of a new life – reflecting the true a complete understanding of the sacraments they will meaning of Easter for all Catholics. receive, including:


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The CHS Mustang Marching Band captured Canada’s heart during its Feb. 8-12 trip to perform at the Carnaval de Quebec. The world’s largest winter festival, the Carnaval celebrates Quebec City’s history, and includes food, activities, exhibits and huge ice sculptures. The Mustangs have appeared at the Carnaval several times over the past decades. During the world famous Carnaval Night Parade, the Mustangs marched through 2.2 miles of snowy streets, wowing more 150,000 ecstatic spectators. The Mustangs explored the culture of Old Quebec, visiting North America’s largest snow tubing park and a hands-on experience at the Quebec Circus Arts School. • March 2018


By Anthony Buccino

CHS Junior Brianna Morrison keeps her eyes on the prize. Her goal is to be a cosmetic surgeon after college. “The journey will be long,” she said, “but in the end, it will be worth it.” Fortunately, her favorite subject is physics. “Out of all my subjects, “Morrison said, “physics is the only one I really get and it comes easily to me. I enjoy the process of applying the knowledge and formulas that I have learned into practice and experiments. Physics contains the content of calculation, laboratory observation, and analysis which I really like.” Physics teacher Sarah Taylor said Brianna earned high 90s in the first two marking periods. “She does this by working hard and practicing problems and asking tons of questions,” said Taylor. “Brianna is a very kind, respectful child. She works hard in class, as a class officer and on track. She is highly involved. She balances this well.” Morrison said her biggest CHS hurdle off the track is


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balancing her schedule. “At times high school can get pretty hectic when you have a track meet, a student council meeting, and an important test to study all in the same day,” Morrison said. “My advice is never let someone convince you that you have too much on your plate. If you really want to do something you will somehow find a way to make it work.” Not that she has much time to sit around, but when she does, look out. “When I am bored I like to be creative and rework clothes, make jewelry, and different items that I later sell in my shop Two Groovy Gals.” Morrison is always on the move. Besides schoolwork and student council, she’s on the cross country and indoor/outdoor track teams. “My best school-related experience,” she said, “is actually composed of several experiences that all revolve around the CHS Track team. The team is composed of

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Student of the Month hardworking and ambitious girls who all share a similar mindset with me. Additionally, we have the best coaches CHS could offer. Being on the team for the past few years was the best experience high school could ever provide me.” Morrison is an excellent student and fantastic writer said English Honors teacher Andrea Miller-Hamilton. “Brianna is multifaceted. She is an exceptional student, she is a star athlete and she’s an aspiring business woman, currently working on her own fashion line. She balances this all incredibly well. “She really brings herself to everything she does and is always available to help a classmate. She has an incredibly positive attitude, which is a rarity,” added Miller-Hamilton who taught Morrison two years earlier. “I am so happy to have her as a student again, and I am so proud of her for all that she has accomplished. She definitely has a very bright future.”

Morrison says her mom inspires her. “She is my role model. She inspires and motivates me to grow without any barriers. My mother has supported me in every part of my life.” Her dad and sister also have her back. “The idea of settling down in the future and being able to have said ‘I’ve made’ it motivates me,” she said. “CHS an amazing school,” Morrison added, “where we have equality, all have similar opportunities with identical starting but when we leave, we will all become different beings with different goals and different understanding. “If I could advise teens about how to problem solve, I would say to first recognize your problem, carefully weigh the options you have to choose from to solve your problem. If you feel comfortable discussing it with someone else do that, and then choose what you believe is the best option for solving your problem.” • March 2018


EVENTS The St. Brendan’s School Tricky Tray is March 18 at 154 E. 1st St. Gym doors open at 1:30 pm, drawing starts at 2:30 pm. Donations $25 per ticket; $200 per table of 10 (includes refreshments, one mystery prize ticket and one sheet of small prize tickets). Kitchen open (BYO). No one under 16. Call 973-772-1149. The Rosary Society of St. Paul’s Church is hosting its annual Fish-N-Chips Dinner/Tricky Tray on April 26. St. Paul’s is at 231 Second Street. Take-out orders can be picked up between 5-5:30 pm (sit-down dinner follows). Cost is $15, $7 for children under 12. Advance tickets only. Call Louise Moccia at 973-478-2605. St. Philip the Apostle Knights of Columbus hosts a fundraiser on April 10 at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza. Twenty percent of your check (minus tax and tip) goes to help Clifton children and adults with disabilities. For info, call John Filippone at 973-772-7959.

The 8th Annual Ukrainian Easter Egg (Pysanka) decorating workshop for all-age students will be held at St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church, 81 Washington Ave., on March 22 (arrive between 6 and 8 pm). $15 entrance fee includes eggs and supplies. Reserve by March 19 by calling 973-546-2473; leave contact information and number of students. The kitchen will offer homemade Ukrainian varenyky (pirogies), treats and refreshments. Proceeds benefit building restoration. The Young At Heart Senior Club meets at noon on the first and third Tuesday of the month at the First Presbyterian Church on Maplewood Ave. Refreshments begin at 10:30 am. On March 21, the club will bus to Doolan’s Spring Lake for the Italian Feast of Saint Joseph. On April 27, they head to Hunterdon Hills Play House to see Steel Magnolias. Trips depart from the Masonic Lodge, 1484 Van Houten Ave. Call Lillian at 973-779-5581 for tickets and info.

CHS senior Meaghan Mancini was awarded a full scholarship to New York Institute of Technology (half athletic/half academic) worth $32,000 per year. Finishing her Mustang soccer career as a forward with 66 goals and 33 assists, Mancini will switch to defense at NYIT while studying environmental engineering. From left, on Feb.7, National Signing Day, are her dad, Kevin, CHS Athletic Director Tom Mullahey, Head Coach Konrad Kruczek and Principal Michael Doktor.


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The “Your Heart is in My Hands” Safety Rally on Feb. 10 attracted 90 enthusiastic participants to the Clifton Rec Center in Downtown Clifton who attended to find out more about CPR, AED and First Aid training. Participants learned how to respond to emergencies, recognize respiratory and cardiac events, attend to choking victims and perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), as well as use an AED (automated external defibrillator). Sponsored by the Clifton Recreation Department, passing students received an American Red Cross certification valid for two years.


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COMMERCE From right, Lourdes Cortez, President & CEO of North Jersey Federal Credit Union with other NJFCU officers James Giffin, Richard Garcia and Daniel Leon at the Feb. 13 Economic Development Forum in the City of Passaic. The meet and greet was at a retrofitted industrial space, Contempo Plaza, 220 Passaic St., which offers a restaurant and meeting center as well as space for retail and industrial uses.

A Beefsteak/Tricky Tray Auction hosted by the Home and School Association of School 2 will be held at the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton May 18. Funds raised will support activities, field trips, classroom supplies and recreation equipment. Needed are auction items, gift certificates, gift baskets or monetary donations. Contributors will be recognized in event program. For info, contact Diane Moyse at 201-220-4056 ( or Millie Sardellaat 201- 832-2114 ( Pirates of the Cure-ibbean is the theme of Clifton’s 2018 Relay for Life. The 14th Annual Relay for Life is will be held at Clifton Stadium from noon to midnight June 16. Attendees can walk, run or simply enjoy a day to remember those who passed from cancer and support

those who are going through the disease. To form a team or volunteer, call Chris Liszner at 973-650-2719 or Kim Castellano at 201-328-2326 (more info at For info about the American Cancer Society, visit The 13th Annual Cut-a-thon at Christopher Columbus Middle School is May 21. CCMS’s Character Education Club is sponsoring the event and will send the collected hair to Children With Hair Loss, which provides hair replacements at no cost to children and young adults facing medically-related hair loss. If your hair is at least eight inches and would like to make a contribution, write to Kim Dreher ( Permission forms are needed for those under 18. Register at • March 2018


The cast of Clifton High’s musical Footloose will take the JFK Auditorium stage on March 16 and 17 at 7 pm, and March 18 at 1 pm (Tickets $15 adults; $12 students, seniors). The musical tells the story of a small town where dancing is banned and demonstrates we can all learn by understanding others.

The 14th Passaic County Film Festival is on April 21 at 10 am in the Fabian Theater 8 in Paterson’s Center City Mall. Admission is free. A parking voucher for the underground parking garage at Center City Mall will be provided, courtesy of Fabian 8 Cinema, Center City Mall and the Paterson Parking Authority. For details, visit Dozens of films, 10 minutes or less, will be screened. They were produced by students in high schools and colleges as well as independent filmmakers who reside, attend school or work in Passaic County. Subjects range from PSAs and documentaries to music videos, tourism and history. Judging was done in advance by industry professionals. The Passaic County Freeholders and Passaic County Film Commission will award $2,000 for best documentary on an environmental topic or social issue, and $2,000 for best PSA. One grand prize for the festival’s best film— the Costello—named for Paterson’s favorite son Lou— will be awarded. The North Jersey Federal Credit Union will award a “Rising Star” award and the person selected will create a commercial for NJFCU.


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Abandoned a watercolor by Diane Walker, is among the 40 oils, acrylics, mixed media, photos and other artwork exhibited by members of the Clifton Association of Artists at Lambert Castle, 3 Valley Rd. The show, themed ‘Travel’ is displayed March 28 to May 6, Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 4 pm: regular admission fees apply. A reception/awards ceremony is on April 7, from 1 to 4 pm. Call Tom Dzubina at 973-546-8977 or write for more details. • March 2018


EVENTS Clifton Parents Requiring Action and Information for Special Education (PRAISE) is a non-adversarial support group for families with special needs children. PRAISE will host an individualized education program (IEP) review by the Innisfree Foundation, which offers pro bono/low cost educational advocacy, March 10, 10 am to 4 pm (reservations required). At the group’s March 26 meeting (7 pm, Allwood Library), Lisa Ford of ARC of NJ will speak on inclusive education. Email for info. Clifton Rec Family Bowling Night is March 16 from 6 to 8 pm at Garden Palace Lanes. Bring up to six people for two hours of bowling, shoe rental, pizza, laser lights, bowling bingo and contests at $40 per lane. Only 16 lanes available. Pre-register before March 14 at the Clifton Recreation Dept., on the second floor of City Hall, 900 Clifton Ave., or online at The Bunny Bash is March 24 at 9:30 am at Nash Park, Lexington Ave. Activities for kids ages 3 to 12, include face painting and tattoos, and games like bunny basketball, carrot toss, egg golf, the egg run, bunny train and bouncy house. No rain date so call 973-470-5680 after 6:30 am on March 24 for weather updates.


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Woodrow Wilson’s Luke Ceneri (right) with Clifton Mustang Recreation Team Coach Jean DuBois.

Wrestler Luke Ceneri, an 8th grader at Woodrow Wilson, took first place (147 lb. and above) in the February North Jersey League Tournament. Joe Abill, a 137-lb. 7th grader, also took first in the tourney. Clifton students from K to 8th grade interested in joining the Clifton Junior Mustangs Wrestling Team should contact Phil Consiglio at 973-557-0717. The season begins in November and runs through February.


Mark Mecca with student Vincent Petriella, Rafat Ewais, Jacqueline Turk, Steve Meck and student Nicholas Bran.

The CHS Key Club held its annual “Pie in the Face Contest” on Feb. 2. By taking a pie in their faces, 22 CHS teachers and Principal Michael Doktor helped raise $350 for Ocean of Love (, a nonprofit that raises funds to help children with cancer through the tough times. The top three “winners” were Mark Mecca (pied by Vincent Petriella); Rafat Ewais (pied by fellow teacher Jacqueline Turk); and Steve Meck (pied by Nicholas Bran). For many students and supporters of the Key Club, the project became a personal one. Funds were donated in the memory of former CHS teacher Anne Marie Gaccione, Mr. Mecca’s sister Gianna Nicole Theresa Mecca, and in honor of Mrs. Turk’s cousin Nicholas Arvanitis. The CHS Key Club is one of the most active extra-curricular organizations on the Colfax Ave. campus. The group’s mission, said teacher Jacqueline Turk, is to help make the four years of CHS rewarding and friendly, and to keep active by volunteering in the communities in and around Clifton. Contact her via

Steve Meck got pied from student Nicholas Bran. • March 2018


NJEDDA The North Jersey Elks Developmental Disabilities Agency High School held opening ceremonies for their Olympic Games on Feb 21. Students representing the countries of Greece, China, Norway, Italy, Canada, Germany and the USA marched proudly into the stadium carrying the flags of their countries and their NJEDDA Elk inspired mascots. Following the parade of colors, and the reciting of the Olympic sportsman oath, the ceremonial Olympic torch was lit and the games were pronounced open. Closing ceremonies and medal awards were held the next day to celebrate sportsmanship. NJEDDA students are proud Special Olympians and showed great Olympic Spirit. NJEDDA, which has four locations in Clifton, is celebrating its 68th year as a pioneer in the rehabilitation field for children and adults with special needs. For info on the programs, or to support their efforts, write to William Weiss at


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PLANAHEAD AHEAD PLAN ShopRite Wines & Spirits of Clifton will be celebrating and showing support for Drink Local New Jersey by hosting a series of tastings of wine, beer and spirits made in the Garden State. From April 7 to 14, stop in at the liquor store on the corner of Clifton and Paulison Aves. to sample brands mcrafted in the Garden State. More details will be announced in next month’s magazine, updates will be found on the Shoprite FB page and on flyers that may be picked up in store. Some of the participating brands include Valenzano Wines, Bellview Wines, Tomasello Wines and Cider, Jersey Spirits, Forgotten Boardwalk Craft Beer, Jerry's Vodka as well as rums, whiskeys and rye from Silk City Distiller on River Rd. across from Rutt’s Hut in Clifton.


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The Tank Pull Challenge takes place June 24 from 8 am to 4 pm at 1100 Clifton Ave. Presented by the Knights of Columbus, Tank Pull teams attempt to move an 80,000-pound tank mounted on a flatbed truck. The 20-member team entrance fee is $1,500 and must be submitted by June 12 (register at The Tank Pull Competition benefits local veterans and military wounded and has raised more than $1 million for wounded veterans. Teacher Appreciation is Month-long at the ShopRite Wines & Spirits of Clifton as Cuellar Family Markets invites teachers to present a school ID at 895 Paulison Ave. and receive a free $5.99 bottle engraving. The offer runs from May 8 to June 30. Also on June 2, from noon to 4 pm, ShopRite is offering teachers with a valid ID a free afternoon of sampling, snacks, gifts, raffles and classes by a sommelier, who will offer ideas in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing. For details, contact Melissa Longo at • March 2018



Sharing that message and spreading the news was the focus of “Electronic Cigarettes and Tobacco Products: Hidden Dangers and Implications for Public Health” at the EssexPassaic Wellness Coalition’s quarterly meeting on Feb. 26. Held at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Passaic, some 50 people attended a conference discussing the growing trend of Ecigs. Presentors included Vinny Smith of Horizon NJ Health, John Biegel, III, of the Clifton Health Department, and Layal Helwani, Clifton Health Educator. Go to for more details and info. Among the participants and attendees from top: Ed Condit, President and CEO, St. Mary’s General Hospital; Vinny Smith, Health Educator, Horizon NJ Health, Dr. Dan Rosenblum, Co-Coordinator, Essex-Passaic Wellness Coalition, Rutgers, UMDNJ-NJMS, Dr. Stan Weiss, Principal Investigator and Director, Essex-Passaic Wellness Coalition, Rutgers, UMDNJ-NJMS, John E. Biegel, III, Health Officer, Clifton Health Department.


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Birthdays & Celebrations - March 2017

Teddy Harsaghy is 89 on March 11. Melisa Calvo turns 41 March 16. Congratulations to Corey & Michelle Genardi, celebrating their anniversary on March 28. Their daughter Bianca Eda had her 12th birthday on March 2. Elaine Sassine is 70 on March 15 and her niece Casey Hawrylko, with her boy Bob, celebrated 28 years on March 2! Julie Generalli Dominick .......3/1 Kathleen Pocoek ..................3/1 Meaghan Franko .................3/1

Casey Hawrylko ..................3/2 Bianca Eda..........................3/2 Kenzie Lord .........................3/3 Amelia Lara.........................3/3 Amanda Perez.....................3/3 Amelia Ipenza .....................3/3 Valerie Godowsky................3/5 Alice Paxton ........................3/5 Patricia Vigh........................3/5 Carol Crudele......................3/6 Ted Grzybowski...................3/6 Pat Smith.............................3/8 William Thomson .................3/8 Victoria Crudele...................3/9 Pamela Culque ..................3/10 Tiffany Sabo ......................3/10 John Gorny .......................3/11 Eddie Gasior, Jr. ................3/12 Mike Pesaro ......................3/12 Victor Berdecia ..................3/13 Diego Hernandez ..............3/15 Tyler Hughes......................3/15 Elaine Sassine....................3/15 Laura Lee ..........................3/15 Samira Abdelhady.............3/16 Suzanne Ciok....................3/19 Janette Hughes ..................3/19 Caitlin Lotorto ....................3/19 Colleen Murray..................3/20


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William Thomson will celebrate his 6th birthday on March 8. Holly Sorenson.....................3/20 Nenad Vuckovic...................3/20 Monica Ahmed ....................3/21 George Andrikanich.............3/22 Pat Hiller..............................3/22 Elisabel Reyes ......................3/24 Carmen Rivera .....................3/24 Kyle Hooyman .....................3/24 Suzanne Wachtler ................3/26 Michele Andrikanich.............3/27 Jennifer Mondelli ..................3/27 Nicholas Surgent..................3/27 Aidan Tedesco .....................3/27 Muriel Curtin........................3/28 Francis Salonga ...................3/31 Paul McVeigh.......................3/31 Chris Kolodziej ....................3/31

Joe & Pat Torelli celebrate their 46th on March 6. Nina & Frank Corradino celebrate 44 years March 25. Happy 21st birthday to Kenneth Bucsko on March 19. • March 2018



Under Construction

Clifton Arts Center is embarking on a major renovation program expected to begin in March that will address much-needed repairs to the building and the installation of a new climate control, cooling/heating system. The team overseeing this project includes Jeff Labriola and Roxanne Cammillieri, the advisory board chair and director of the CAC, Nick Villano (city manager), John Biegel (director of health and human services) and other Clifton officials. The renovation program’s budget is $500,000 with funds provided by a Passaic County Open Public Space grant, along with the City of Clifton and the Clifton Arts Center Inc. The work is slated to be completed by the end of 2018, meaning the CAC will be closed intermittently, as needed, to allow the work to proceed. Renovations will include the aforementioned heating/cooling system, roof repairs, completion of the education studio barn, and interior painting of the entire facility. At the start of the New Year, as plans were being finalized to launch the renovation program, the CAC’s existing heating system malfunctioned.


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END OF 2018

There were no injuries from the incident, and PSE&G along with the Clifton Fire and Health departments addressed the problem. Labriola said the CAC approaches its 20th anniversary in 2020 with a renewed commitment to the community. “Once completed, the renovations will provide a physically healthy building in which to celebrate the arts in Clifton,” said Labriola. “The renovations will take several months and when the building is reopened our loyal members and guests will be thrilled.”

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