Remembering the past by celebrating in the present ||

Every Wednesday after work, on the day before Thanksgiving, our family has a holiday tradition that we’ve been doing for around 30 years. The four of us (myself, my wife and two kids) head down to the Monmouth Mall for dinner — usually somewhere in the mall’s food court — then hit up the Hallmark store to purchase our yearly Christmas tree ornament.

We’ve been doing this since the kids were little. This tradition always warms my heart and puts me in the holiday spirit. Spending time with family is important, especially since they’re grown now and have lives of their own to worry about. It’s nice to know that they still carve a few hours out of their busy schedules to spend time with Mom and Dad.

I know the world is changing, with no one seeming to have any time for anyone outside of their close circle any more. But I’m blessed to have instilled in my kids the importance and value of family in their lives. We have each other’s back through thick and thin. Holding on to this tradition is a reflection of that sentiment.

So glad for the little things.

You can find the entire Jersey Shore Retro blog here. Also, you can follow Kevin Cieri’s blog entries on his Facebook page, “Jersey Shore Retro” as well as on Twitter at @jsretro.


“Marty” Heads For Home

John Martin taught his Little League players the game and a little about life (reprinted from September 2012) ||

I’ve had this love for baseball pretty much my entire life. My dad took me quite a few times to go see the Yankees and Mets when I was a kid. My dad belonged to the local volunteer fire company, and they would run bus trips every year to either Yankee or Shea Stadium, depending on what tickets were available.

So it was no surprise that when I turned 10 years old, I tried out for Little League. I got picked up by a team called the Buffs. The manager of the team was a good friend of my dad’s, a fellow by the name of John Martin. John had gone to high school with my dad at Red Bank Catholic, and everybody called him “Marty”.

“Marty” was at his best coaching, and he was a competitor, angling for any and every advantage during a game to eke out a win. Unfortunately, I was not one of the best players on his team, and I rode the bench for most of two seasons.

The reason I was so bad was pretty simple – I was afraid of being hit by the ball. Each and every time I stepped up to the plate, the bat would never leave my shoulder. You could count on two things with me – I’d either strike out or walk. I was petrified. I could play the outfield pretty well. I had a rocket for an arm, but when it came to hitting, my abilities were non-existent.

But even though I couldn’t hit and played sporadically, “Marty” always encouraged me and made me feel like I was part of the team. He had me keep stats when I wasn’t playing. I later used those skills for the St. Jerome Blue Angels when my brother Joe played for them a few years later.

Marty Heads For HomeTowards the end of my second season with the Buffs, something happened that prematurely ended my Little League career. After every ball game, the manager and coaches would spring for ice cream at the Dairy Queen in West Long Branch (where the Fiore Funeral Home now stands on Broadway).

But after this one game, instead of travelling to DQ, “Marty” decided to buy us all ice cream from an ice cream truck that was parked across the street from the ball fields on Parker Road. Without looking, I ran across the street to the ice cream truck and got hit by a car. The force of the car carried me across the street, and I lay sprawled on the ground, writhing in pain.

What was worse was that my parents, who were attending the Shore Regional graduation ceremony that night (my dad was on the school board at the time), were driving down Parker Road towards Locust Avenue and saw the whole thing happen.

Luckily for me, I didn’t have any broken bones, just some cuts and scrapes, as well as a contusion on my right hip. I spent three days in the hospital and saw that as a sign to give up the game.

Years later, at my dad’s surprise 70th birthday party in November 2005, Marty gave a speech, recalling his years knowing my dad and how they both related to one another on several different levels – their love of baseball, Red Bank Catholic High School, and living as neighbors in West Long Branch. It truly was a heartfelt speech, and I could see that my dad was genuinely touched by his words.

On September 15, John Martin passed away in his sleep after suffering from the ravages of cancer for the last five years. He was 77 years old. When I read his obituary, I noticed something that blew my mind – Marty and I shared the same birthday (January 25). I never knew that.

RIP, Marty. The field of dreams awaits you.

You can find the entire Jersey Shore Retro blog here. Also, you can follow Kevin Cieri’s blog entries on his Facebook page, “Jersey Shore Retro” as well as on Twitter at @jsretro.

The Search Is Over

Long live Beada B. The Jersey Shore icon returns for the reunion of all ages ||

The Search Is OverSo I’m going through my Facebook notifications a few weeks ago and couldn’t believe my eyes. There it was, plain as day. . .a reunion of all Montego Bay and Tsunami staff and patrons being held at The Headliner in Neptune. Hosted by the Jersey Shore emcee for the ages, Beada B. along with his friends, DJ Freddie Palumbo and DJ Tony Monte.

It was as if I had died and gone to Heaven. If I didn’t go to another club the rest of the summer, I would have been happy just to attend this reunion.

Back in the day during the 1980’s, there were a few of us who ruled the Jersey Shore club scene. I first wrote about Beada B. back in March 2012 and how he had “the golden touch”. . .every club he ever worked at raked in people and the dough big time. We became fast friends after he and his crew from Xanadu (another club he managed in Asbury Park) came by and invaded the club I DJ’d at, The Bar Bombay.

I lived at Montego Bay every weekend during the summer, and I got treated like royalty, all thanks to my friendship with Beada. I wrote about how he up and disappeared from the Jersey Shore club scene and how I heard through friends that he lived in Florida for the longest time. So fast forward about 35 years to the here and now. Somebody got the brilliant idea of pulling him back into the public eye and staging a reunion for the ages.

The Search Is OverSo this past August 10th, my wife and I proceeded into The Headliner about an hour or so before the big event started. We caught The Smokin’ Jackets, one of the hot cover bands in the area, during the club’s extended Happy Hour. We ran into so many friends there, even before the reunion started.

At around 9PM, my wife and I circled around to the front of the club, entered the building, and found a nice quiet corner in the bar where we could observe all the action going on. In case we wanted to dance, we were just a few steps from the dance floor.

It was funny. . .I recognized a lot of faces in the crowd that night but just couldn’t fit names to their faces, with the exception of my friends who were there, or people from the Bombay who I got to be friends with (and still stay friends with over social media). Other staff members and patrons from other clubs that operated in the area back then were all present and accounted for. . .Jimmy’s Jetty, The Polo Club, The Pier Pub, and Key Largo were all represented. I’m sure there were other clubs represented, too.

The Search Is OverThe way people were shakin’ it on the dance floor, it was as if nobody had lost a step. Neither had Beada. At around 9:15 right after the party started, he was up in the DJ booth, just like old times, riling the crowd up and getting everyone in the party mood. He moved from behind the DJ booth to on top of one of the bar counters. Chants of “The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire” and other rhythmic battle cries echoed across the club throughout the evening. The only thing missing were the bikini contests.

With the crowd as big as it was, I soon realized that I probably wouldn’t get to spend a lot of time reminiscing with Beada, with everybody wanting to get a piece of him that night. So around 9:30, I eased my way over to the DJ booth and got his attention. How he did this I’ll never know (I hadn’t seen Beada in about 25 years or so), but he recognized me right away from the Bombay. My interaction with him was only for about a minute or so, but it was good while it lasted. Hopefully the next time I see him, we’ll get to reminisce about the good old days back in the 1980’s a little bit longer.

After a few more drinks, my wife and I left the reunion, pumped up from all the great ’80’s music that was cranking out of the club’s sound system, and happy to have been a part of one of the greatest nights in recent Jersey Shore club history.

Thanks for bringing back the great memories, Beada, and for coming back into our lives again. Hopefully, another reunion will be held in the not-too-distant future. Let’s just not wait another 35 years for it to happen, okay?

You can find the entire Jersey Shore Retro blog here. Also, you can follow Kevin Cieri’s blog entries on his Facebook page, “Jersey Shore Retro” as well as on Twitter at @jsretro.

Searching For Beada B.

The Man, The Myth, The Jersey Shore Legend (reprinted from March 2012) ||

Searching For Beada B.In all my years of living the Jersey Shore experience, there was one character who always stood out in my mind as the quintessential Jersey Shore icon.

Beada B., whose real name was Donald Ward, had what was known in the bar and service business as “the magic touch”. From around 1982 until the mid-1990’s, every bar and club that he managed turned to gold. The liquor couldn’t flow fast enough, the bucks just kept on rolling in.

The first time I met Beada was in 1982. I was deejaying at the Bar Bombay, and Beada was managing a club in Asbury Park called Club Xanadu (which is now Porta, located on Kingsley Street). Beada came in with his entire crew of Xanadu service personnel and introduced himself and the others to all of the Bombay’s employees working that night. He invited all of us to come down for a night on the town at Xanadu.

A week or so later, a bunch of us from the Bombay visited Xanadu. The place was really nice. It had the largest lounge area I had ever seen in a dance club. It also had a huge dance floor with great flashing lights for a great dance experience.

Searching For Beada B.Beada and I hit it off, and we became friends. Whenever I went to a club that he managed, I was treated like royalty.

Every club that he ever worked at or visited, Beada and his crew would hit the ground running, let their hair down, and party like there was no tomorrow to get the crowds going. At his clubs, contests that would be considered politically incorrect nowadays were held unabashed. Bikini contests, dance contests. . .you name it, Beada ran it. If he didn’t run a contest, he would be a judge for it.

A year or so after I met him, Beada came away with the crown jewel of managerial jobs – at Montego Bay, the hottest club south of Asbury Park. It only had a six-month license to run, but when it was up and running, it made more money and attracted more people than some of the other area clubs running year-round.

Beada moved on from club to club up and down Monmouth and Ocean Counties over the next several years, also frequenting the club scene down in southern Florida as well. The hype that followed him and his cronies never seemed to die down, whether it was here at the shore or down south.

Then all of a sudden, he just disappeared from the Jersey Shore club scene. It seemed like he fell off the face of the Earth. Nobody in the bar business locally or down in Florida saw him. It was like one of those people you graduate high school with who doesn’t want to be bothered getting contacted to go to any more of the class reunions.

Just recently, I was talking to an old friend of mine, DJ Johnny M, who worked at Broker’s in Red Bank right around the time I was at the Bombay. He told me that Beada may have resurfaced in the New York City area.

So Beada B., if you’re out there and you read this blog, DJ Kevin and your Jersey Shore fans want an update on how you’re doing.

You can find the entire Jersey Shore Retro blog here. Also, you can follow Jersey Shore Retro’s blog entries on the Facebook page, “Jersey Shore Retro” as well as on Twitter at @jsretro.

The Poor Box

A little hard work never hurt anyone, especially if it’s performed in God’s house. || (reprinted from March 2012)

The Poor BoxMy niece Amanda got married in Our Lady Star of the Sea Church on March 24. Her wedding gave me the opportunity to visit this grand old church, located on Second Avenue. I think the last time I was there was around 1990, when a friend of my wife’s and mine got married.

While I waited for my niece to walk down the aisle, I began scanning the church to see how different it was since the last time I was there, and I was surprised to find that hardly anything had changed. The great pipe organ in the balcony . . . the huge marble ledge and statues . . . the wooden old-style confessionals located along the far walls. I had always remembered it to be a magnificent structure both inside and out when I attended service there with my grandparents on occasion.

All of these sites brought back a few memories for me from when I was a kid. For many years, my father’s mother, whom we affectionately called “Big Grandma”, was the cleaning lady for Star of the Sea. She used to come to the church at least two or three times a week and made the place spic ‘n’ span in time for Sunday mass.

In the early 1970’s after “Big Grandpa” retired from the A&P, my grandparents began taking vacations down to Florida, usually 2-3 weeks at a time. Then in 1975, my grandparents purchased a winter home in Florida, and for the next twenty years, became the quintessential “New Jersey snowbirds”, migrating down south from early January to late April to get away from the Jersey chill.

Every time my grandparents went down to Florida, my grandmother would call me up a few weeks ahead of time and ask me if I would clean the church for her until she came back to Long Branch. With the prospect of earning $20 a week for as long as she was down there, how could I resist? At 13-years-old, twenty bucks was a lot of money back then.

The Poor BoxEvery year, she’d remind me what the steps were to getting the church in shape for Mass. First, I had to sweep out every pew towards the center aisle. Then, I had to sweep the center aisle out and remove the dust from the church with a whisk broom and pan.

After the pews were cleaned out, I had to sweep the center aisle and outside aisles with an industrial-style sweeper. Then I went and used the sweeper in the church lobby. Finally, I went behind the altar and swept the floors in the sacristy, which wrapped around behind the altar all the way to the other side. That ended the sweeping part. Now it was time for the dusting.

Anything in the church that had chrome or metal plating on it had to be dusted. The major items were the doors to the ciborium (where the vessels are stored on the altar), the chalices, and the podium where the lecturer stood to present the readings.

It was tedious work, but luckily, the railings and the holy water fonts were all made out of marble, so that helped cut back on the dusting. I usually finished in about two days. Every once in a while, Father Horan, the longtime pastor at Star of the Sea, would come over to the church while I was working and shoot the breeze with me while I toiled away.

One of the things I remembered most about cleaning the church is what Big Grandma used to say to me when she went over what I had to do for her while she was away. She always told me that if I found any money while I was sweeping the pews out, I had to put it in the poor box.

The years went by, and I kept on filling in for Big Grandma. Then Father Horan passed away, and a new regime came in to run Star of the Sea. The first thing they did was find “volunteers” to help do things around the church. So Big Grandma was pushed out of her job cleaning the church every week.

Now you would think that she’d complain about the way she got treated and how the whole situation went down for her. But instead, Big Grandma – probably one of the holiest people I ever knew – didn’t complain and accepted it as God’s will.

As I reminisced about Big Grandma and my time cleaning the church for her, I couldn’t help but chuckle lightly thinking about her instructions to me about what to do with “found money” in the church. Just before my niece was to come down the aisle, I kept looking around some more, and my eye caught something I could not believe.

The original poor boxes that I remembered from my days of cleaning the church were still there, right where I had remembered them to be — next to the side exit doors. And then I had this thought that Big Grandma was looking down on me, wondering if I ever put the found money in the poor box.

I guess some things never do change after all.

You can find the entire Jersey Shore Retro blog here. Also, you can follow Kevin Cieri’s blog entries on his Facebook page, “Jersey Shore Retro” as well as on Twitter at @jsretro.

The Toast Of The Town

Behind every wedding, there’s a story. Here’s mine for my brother and his bride. || (reprinted from March 2012)

The Toast Of The TownMy younger brother Joe got married back on March 10 of this year. It was a fantastic day – the sun was shining, everyone was dressed to the nines, and the day went off pretty much without a hitch.

He had gotten engaged back in January 2011, and I was honored that he asked me to be his best man. But when I accepted, I did so with a heavy heart. I knew this day would be coming, and I dreaded the thought of having to stand up for Joe with “the gentlemen’s agreement” still in place.

The reception started at 8PM and within a few minutes, the time had come for me to give the toast. I began by saying that when Joe, my youngest brother Brian, and I were in our 20’s, we had entered into a gentlemen’s agreement, where we decided that when we each got married, we would pick a brother to be best man instead of a friend so that each of us would have the opportunity to stand up for one brother without one being slighted. Everyone would get a turn to be best man just once. . .or so we all thought.

When I got married, Joe was my best man, and when Brian was married, I was his best man. So now it was Joe’s special day. If you do the math, I wasn’t supposed to be Joe’s best man – it should have been Brian’s turn.

Unfortunately, Brian was suddenly taken from us in a car accident roughly 10 years ago. It was a sad day for our family. I think it’s safe to say that there isn’t a day that goes by when everyone who knew him doesn’t think about him at least once a day.

The Toast Of The TownBut I wanted to do something that would mark that day as being Brian’s turn to be best man, even though I was physically performing the duties. I truly believed that Brian’s presence was all around us . . . smiling down on us all . . . watching over us, and I wanted everyone at the reception to believe that, too.

So right after the rehearsal dinner the night before, I went under my bed and pulled out my box of stuff – a collection of knick knacks and things I had gathered up over the years – and I found the one item that I best thought captured Brian’s essence for everyone.

I held up a pewter shot glass that Brian and his wife Meredith had given me as a wedding gift for being a part of their wedding party twenty years earlier, and I told the crowd that in all the years that I had this shot glass, I had never taken a drink from it – until that night.

Using Brian’s gift, I proposed a toast to my brother Joe and his new wife Michelle – “What you have today is infinitely better than what you had yesterday . . . and tomorrow is going to be unbelievable!”

I never would have imagined the cheers that I got for that speech and the accolades I received afterwards from many of the wedding guests. One of my cousins told me he was almost in tears when I mentioned about Brian and tied the shot glass in with him and the toast.

The reception lasted until midnight, with the after-party held immediately following at The Bungalow in Pier Village, where a lot of my sister-in-law’s family was staying. My wife, son, and I had a good time chilling out with everyone. At one time during the party, my wife walked away to get a drink and then called me over to meet someone. Lo and behold – Miles Austin, the former Monmouth University football stand-out and current Dallas Cowboy, was staying at the Bungalow that same weekend. He had come back to the Jersey Shore to promote a friend’s new training facility that had opened up in the area that weekend, and he was around to sign autographs and take pictures with the kids.

Even though “the gentlemen’s agreement” had been broken by a tragedy, I came away with the feeling that it had still been fulfilled. Along with my brother Joe’s happiness, that meant more to me than anything else that day.

You can find the entire Jersey Shore Retro blog here. Also, you can follow Kevin Cieri’s blog entries on his Facebook page, “Jersey Shore Retro” as well as on Twitter at @jsretro.

Connecting with NJ 101.5’s Judi Franco

It’s guests like Judi Franco that makes producing “Community Connections” worth the effort || (reprinted from June 2010)

Connecting with NJ 101.5's Judi FrancoThis past year, I was re-elected co-chair of the Long Branch Cable TV Commission. In addition to my duties as co-chair, I also produce “Community Connections”, the public affairs talk show that tapes at Monmouth University, is hosted by Adam Schneider (the Mayor of Long Branch), and airs on LBCTV20, Long Branch’s Government/public access channel. I’ve been producing “CC” for almost six years now, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to be doing something that I love to do – something that I studied in college – even if it is only on a volunteer basis.

“Community Connections” was originated close to ten years ago to help promote community service/public service groups that operate in and around the city, as well as identify public officials and what their roles are in the city’s affairs. Occasionally, the show delves into topics such as local and mass media and its influence, local sports, and conversations with politicians who serve Long Branch in places higher than the municipal level.

One of the most interesting personalities that have been on the show was Long Branch resident Judi Franco. Judi is one-half of “The Dennis & Judi Show”, broadcasting weekdays from 10AM – 2PM on radio station NJ 101.5.

About a year prior to the taping, I was reviewing old shows in our tape library and noticed one with Judi on it from about 2 years prior. It was during a time when she had left radio to take care of some personal matters at home, and she was doing other things to supplement her family — producing podcasts, and writing a children’s play called “Judi and the Jolly Beans” which starred her and her daughters. Her situation got me to thinking – what if we did a show to update everyone on what Judi Franco was up to now?

Connecting with NJ 101.5's Judi FrancoAs it turned out, when we finally got together and made arrangements for the taping, she had returned to her old show with Dennis Malloy about three months prior, so it looked like she would have a lot to talk about.

She got to the studio on the day of the taping, and I took her aside just to give her a rundown on what topics would be discussed prior to the show taping. At one point during the conversation, she asked me if my uncle was the judge in Long Branch. When I answered in the affirmative, she proceeded to tell me the story about when she was working at FM radio station Y107 in Long Branch several years ago, and how she called my uncle up and got him to perform a wedding ceremony live on-the-air. We continued to chat for a few more minutes, discovering that we both had a lot of mutual friends around town, plus the fact that our daughters both attended the same Gymboree class in Ocean Township close to 20 years earlier.

A few minutes later, Adam showed up, and we began taping the show. Judi’s on-air persona and experience showed as she kept the interview moving with her snappy and well thought-out answers to Adam’s questions. She impersonated her father and talked about her experiences in radio, as well as her thoughts on where radio was going in the future. It was a really great interview. Before we knew it, the half hour came and went. She did such a good job that the crew in the control room, mostly made up of Monmouth University communications majors, was hoping that she’d continue on or shoot the breeze with them afterwards — she was that interesting. The show aired about 2-3 weeks after the taping and got great feedback from our viewers.

Judi and I still stay in touch, but infrequently. I saw her, her husband Marc, and son Joe in the Monmouth Mall about two months after the show aired. I told her we’d be in touch for a follow-up show, maybe in about a year or so.

It’s people like Judi who make life behind the camera so interesting, and makes Long Branch that much more of a fascinating a place to live.

You can find the entire Jersey Shore Retro blog here. Also, you can follow Kevin Cieri’s blog entries on his Facebook page, “Jersey Shore Retro” as well as on Twitter at @jsretro.