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Pop Rock Music Icon Tommy James Inducted into NJ Hall of Fame

Published February 20, 2017 by Maryanne

tommy-james-photo-from-carolTommy James (Photo used courtesy of Carol Ross-Durborow)

This article originally appeared in The Verona/Cedar Grove News (New View Media)

Pop Rock Music Icon Tommy James Inducted into NJ Hall of Fame

By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Tommy James, said he is “very honored” to be inducted into the NJ Hall of Fame, which will be held in Asbury Park in May. The Cedar Grove iconic musician has 23 gold records, nine platinum albums, and over 100 million records sold worldwide.

“Crystal Blue Persuasion,” “Crimson and Clover,” “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mony Mony,” “Draggin’ the Line,” “Sweet Cherry Wine,” and “Hanky Panky” are just a few of his many hit records. His songs have been covered by other famous artists like Prince, Joan Jett, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Idol, Dolly Parton, REM, Carlos Santana, and The Boston Pops.

James’ music is heard in 31 films to date and numerous television shows including “Breaking Bad,” “Criminal Minds,” “The Goldbergs,” and “Aquarius.” You can also hear James’ songs in commercials. His “Crystal Blue Persuasion” is now the theme song for Crystal Cruise Line.

Born in Ohio and brought up in Michigan, James has been living in New Jersey almost 45 years. He’s lived in Clifton, and now resides in Cedar Grove. “I love it in New Jersey,” he said. “The weather’s moderate. The people are fun. It’s right by New York, where I have to be. I don’t think I can operate anywhere else. You’ve got the ocean, New York, Philadelphia. You’re in the center of the universe. Nothing is like New Jersey.”

While James has spent such a long time in New Jersey, he’s been in the music business even longer – 50 years! Regarding his endurance in the biz, he said, “I look at three generations of people in concert audiences. The music has never not been on the radio. I’ve been very blessed.”

James started playing music when he was 4-years-old and his grandfather brought him a ukulele. “I learned everything I could,” he said. “I started singing right away.”

His mom, who played piano, got James an acoustic guitar after he saw Elvis on TV. “The ukulele went out the window,” he said jokingly.

In addition to Elvis Presley, James was greatly inspired by the first generation of rock ‘n’ roll. “Gene Vincent … Buddy Holly,” he said. “Then The Beatles came along.”

Always encouraged by his folks, James taught himself to play acoustic, then graduated to playing an electric at the age of 10. He started his first band at 12, and got his first gig at 13. James graduated high school in 1965 and by 1966 his first hit, with The Shondells, “Hanky Panky” exploded.

“That’s how the good Lord works,” said James.

As a writer of so many hits, James says that inspiration for a song can come from anywhere. “I’m always looking on billboards for a little phrase,” he said. “I like to start with chord progression and it will tell you where it wants to go. ‘Crimson and Clover’ started with a title.”

He feels lucky to have had so many other notable musicians’ interpretations of his music. “I’m very flattered,” he said. “It’s always interesting to hear how another artist covers your songs.” His favorite is Prince’s version of “Crimson and Clover.”

James’ critically acclaimed autobiography, “Me, the Mob, and the Music,” was listed on Rolling Stone magazine’s “Best Music Memoirs” and is now in the development for a film, with producer Barbara De Fina, whose credits include “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “Cape Fear,” “Color of Money,” “Hugo,” and the most recent, Martin Scorsese’s new film, “Silence.”

Matthew Stone just finished the screenplay for the film. His credits include “Intolerable Cruelty,” “Man of the House,” and “Big Trouble.”

James may have a cameo appearance in the film. “I may be a corpse,” he said jokingly, referring to his career which is now spanning 50 years and still thriving.

Now working in the studio on a new album, “Alive,” James expects an April release. “This is an album with eight new songs and four remakes,” he said, “A lot of nice little surprises.” One of the surprises includes an acoustic remake of “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”

Being able to thrive in the music business for 50 years and still have fun makes James feel so lucky. He said, “It’s been an amazing journey to be a lifer in this business. The fans, and the good Lord, I thank for the longevity and staying focused. That has meant a lot.”

For more information, visit: https://www.tommyjames.com/

 

 

Reunited with Sixth Grade Teacher!

Published February 13, 2017 by Maryanne

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Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta reunited with sixth grade teacher,  John Sabbak 

I think it’s every creative person’s dream to see one of their school teachers in their audience. Today, February 13, 2017, I didn’t realize one of my teachers was in the audience when I gave the lecture, “The History of Valentine’s Day” at the Fairfield Library, Fairfield, New Jersey.

After the lecture, I spent some time speaking with audience members. And after mentioning that Cedar Grove was one of the towns I grew up in, an audience member asked if I attended North End grammar school, because he was a teacher there. Turns out he was my sixth grade teacher, Mr. John Sabbak!

It was 1974 when I was in sixth grade, which makes it 43 years since I last saw Mr. Sabbak, who is now in his 80s — and me, in my 50s.

When we put two and two together, I was almost in tears. He was really one of my favorite teachers; such a nice man!

I gave Mr. Sabbak a big hug and then his lovely wife took our photograph. The Sabbaks are not online, so they gave me their home address and I promised to send a print of the photograph to them. Mrs. Sabbak said she was going to frame it!

Mr. Sabbak even remembered me from back then; that I was very quiet. (Even my own mother doesn’t remember me being quiet! Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a chatterbox, but I am definitely not quiet — as a public speaker, you can’t be!)

In the modern day of the internet when you reconnect with people via Facebook, it’s an incredible surprise when someone important from your past shows up — when you least expect it.

God bless Mr. Sabbak! He’s awesome!

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is a writer and public speaker in New Jersey. To view her programs, visit: https://peartreeenterprises.wordpress.com/

“Love Cats” Book Reading/Signing at Caldwell Library, NJ

Published February 4, 2017 by Maryanne

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Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta, left; and Fran Larkey, right

Thanks so much to Fran Larkey and the Caldwell Library for hosting my book reading/signing for my second book, “Love Cats” — available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions at: https://www.amazon.com/Love-Cats-Maryanne-Christiano-Mistretta/dp/1681020513

Portions of today’s sales will benefit Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, N.Y. on behalf of my non-profit animal rights organization, R.O.A.R. (Respect Our Animals’ Rights). Follow us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/respectouranimalsrights/

 

Subconscious Segregation?

Published January 28, 2017 by Maryanne
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Aretha Franklin
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Carly Simon
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Donna Summer
Today my beautiful friend, Joan, and I had lunch in a lovely restaurant.
The women’s bathroom was awesome because on the walls were decorated with album covers of famous female artists. However, there was one flaw — the albums were segregated. All the white female musicians were lined up together, across two walls; and the black female musicians lined up together in another area.
I took the initiative to point this out to two of the male staff at the restaurant. That it was offensive and they should re-arrange the albums and mix the white and black women together!
Both workers said I was “right” and that I was the only person who ever pointed this out to them. I said that otherwise the restaurant was fantastic and one of my favorite restaurants in New Jersey.
I hope they take my words seriously. The need to.
Last weekend I went to a library and watched “The Rosa Parks Story,” an American made movie from 2002, starring Angela Bassett, portraying Rosa Parks. I’ve always been a fan of Rosa Parks because she took her stance and changed the world. There were those before her who tried to take a stand, doing what she did, but didn’t make the same impact.
I was born in 1963, so I did not live during the time of blatant segregation. From what I learned in history, I feel how black people were treated was completely barbaric and no way for human beings to treat each other.
This is why that restaurant bathroom was so offensive to me today. As a white woman, I felt it was necessary to defend my black sisters — even though there were no black people in the restaurant.
Whether the arrangement of the album covers — white on one side, black on the other — was intentional or accidental, it should not stay that way. As a race, the human race, we need to keep moving forward, not backwards.
I will certainly follow up with the restaurant and make sure the album covers are changed to mix the female entertainers together!
Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is an award-winning journalist and public speaker. For bookings, pricing, and availability, email her at: MaryanneChristiano@Gmail.com 

True Friends Don’t Have to Tell Each Other Everything

Published January 11, 2017 by Maryanne

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The other day a beloved friend asked me a question I didn’t feel comfortable answering. But instead of saying so, I gave the best answer I could while on the spot. After much thought, I shared in an email how I felt, that it was a very personal question.

My friend was hurt and felt that she should be able to speak freely. While I was sympathetic towards her feelings, I needed to be protective of my own as well. I felt it was time in our friendship to set up guidelines about what is and isn’t appropriate to speak about. And I was entitled to that.

Certain things are personal and sacred, and should only be discussed with lifetime partners. If friends really love and support each other, they should also love and support each other’s comfort zones. In other words — know your audience.

Some friends may be very comfortable talking about money, estates, assets, gossip, politics, and/or their sexual exploits. Others may prefer talking about health, hobbies, music, animals/pets, philosophy, spirituality, work, and art. Put me in the category of the latter. While others may feel differently, the topics I favor are so much more fun, intellectual, and enlightening!

It may seem like I’m a “tell all” kinda gal because I’m a writer and am always expressing myself in front of my readership. As another friend once said, that I “put it all out there.” But she is wrong. I don’t. The more I tell, the more I keep secret. Lives are so grand and complicated that you can probably write 10,000 honest words about yourself per day without really revealing a damn thing. The brain goes a mile a minute. No one really knows what goes on inside another’s mind. Like a recent t-shirt I saw that said something like, “I may look like I’m listening to you, but in my head I’m listening to The Monkees.” Same thing goes with thoughts. I may be discussing the latest health craze, but in my head I’m thinking of my beautiful cat who died almost a year ago. So, get over it; you never truly know another person.

In my research for this particular piece, I found so many articles supporting true friends telling each other everything. And not one article about friends being entitled to some privacy. So I think it’s time to start a new trend. A trend that says friendships shouldn’t be considered any “less” if someone wants to keep a secret or not talk about certain things. A trend that says true friends should be comfortable to set boundaries without getting offended. A trend that says honesty is the ability to know each other well enough to “not go there.” Or at least make the effort to try.

How about it, eh?

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “Love Cats” available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback versions: https://www.amazon.com/Love-Cats-Maryanne-Christiano-Mistretta/dp/1681020513

The 1990s, the Last Romantic Era

Published January 5, 2017 by Maryanne

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The 1990s; the last romantic era. We were beautiful but didn’t need Instagram or Facebook to prove it to anyone. We created poetry; a high form of art that people actually got back then. We interpreted lyrics our own way without the use of the internet. We hand-wrote each other letters. We laughed in person and on the telephone. We made our own clothes. We made each other tapes of songs we loved. And they would listen to them. We stood apart from the crowd. We had messy hair and that was a good thing. God bless the last romantic era. When we were really real.

Too Busy

Published January 4, 2017 by Maryanne

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Last night I was reading my old diaries from 1993. I was only 29-years-old and really loving my life. At that time I was living in a beautiful world people can’t even imagine today. Even as a very good-looking young woman, I had my dateless, lonely nights. The difference was, if you had the blues back then you could count on a phone call from at least five friends in one night! So being sad was not an option.

Today, other than my husband who I could always count on, I can’t imagine conversing with any of my friends without first making an appointment to speak with them. People are always so “busy.” Picking up the phone is no longer an option. So, I just cry instead.

The first of the year usually means new beginnings. As someone who is self-employed, this is usually the time when my business takes off. People always come to me for ghost writing, book editing, and public speaking engagements because they know they can count on me. There’s an old saying, “If you need something done, ask the busiest person you know because he/she will get it done for you.”

That said, I have to question everyone else’s version of “busy.” Because even when my version of “busy” gets so crazy, I’m glued to my desk for hours without getting up for a drink or to go to the bathroom, I ALWAYS sincerely answer an email from a friend who is in need.

This week started out as one of those busy weeks. Then one person cancelled an appointment — at the last minute. So not cool. And another just totally stood me up — no email, no phone call, no explanation.

I was heartbroken for being slighted. This is not the way I do business. This is not how I’d treat somebody. For all the technology we have in this day and age, this should not be. In this modern world, no one can be too busy to type three simple words in an email: “Can we reschedule?” And, I might add, at an appropriate time, not at the last minute unless someone very close to you died. Even so, I think back to when my father-in-law, who sometimes lived with us, passed away three months ago … I still was able to conduct business in a professional manner. And I still listened to problems from friends who needed a friend. Is it so much to ask the same in return?

It is not narcissistic to expect to be treated with respect. My time is just as important as anyone else’s. But here I am, crying my eyes out in the middle of the day, waiting patiently for my husband to get home so I can cry on his shoulder.

It is far from being “unprofessional” when you are disappointed by how so-called professionals treat you. There really needs to be a book on manners in this day and age. What happened to the Miss Manners column that ran in newspapers on a daily basis? Oh, I know, no one reads newspapers anymore.

No one does a lot of things anymore that they should. It’s a sad world we live in. A world without manners. A world without consideration. A world where people do whatever they please as long as it suits them.

And nothing can be done about it either. Just wait for the good karma you’ve been owed … so then things will turn around … and you’ll get everything you’ve ever deserved … because you already have a lot of it … Like a husband who truly adores and loves you. Because you were never “too busy” to find someone you adore and love.

So, hooray for demystifying the “too busy” myth! For those who are “too busy” will never seep the rewards that come from making time.

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is an award-winning writer and a public speaker. Contact her at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com