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Popp, Bennie, and Burns: Sunday Will Never Be the Same

Published March 1, 2019 by Maryanne

sdc13108Sunday at the beach (photo by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta)

Do you love Sundays?

I used to love Sundays.

Sundays were always special for me and my husband. When we first started dating, we’d spend many Sundays down the shore. On our drive down, we listened to our favorite radio show, The Glen Jones Radio Program, Featuring X-Ray Burns. (http://www.wfmu.org/Playlists/GJ/archives.html)

Jones has eclectic tastes in music. You could hear both Frank Sinatra and The Psychedelic Furs in the same set. Then there was the talk segment where Jones and Burns would muse about New Jersey subculture like our local drinking joints and pork roll (or Taylor Ham)? In fact, one time at one of their lives shows, Jones chased me trying to feed me a pork roll (or Taylor Ham) sandwich. (And I’m a vegetarian). That’s the kind of fun this freeform radio show offered. No wonder it was part of our Sunday routine.

Once we got down the shore, on a Sunday, we’d often pay a surprise visit to our dear friends Daniel and Patty Popp. Very special friends; they were our witnesses when we eloped. At the Popp’s home, they couldn’t do enough for you. With Daniel being both a cook and a musician, there was always plenty of food and music in their home—a great place to be on a Sunday.

In more recent years, my husband and I started spending more of our Sundays at home, relaxing in the backyard. Last summer, a beautiful feral cat started showing up in our backyard. We named him Bennie. He was so friendly, we fell in love with him. According to the vet, Bennie had FIV, a feline auto-immune disorder, which meant if he got sick, it would be tougher for him to get over it. But we took him in anyway and gave him a happy home. He was only 3-years-old. He was a ginger cat, sunny and bright; our Sunday cat.

They say death comes in threes. Beginning on February 1, our Sunday memories were taken from us, one by one.

Daniel Popp was in his kitchen and just finished cooking food for the homeless, something he did each month. His wife Patty found him lying on the kitchen floor unconscious. He was taken to the hospital and passed. Daniel was a genuine, good-hearted person, who was so talented and so much fun. We were shocked. Absolutely shocked. Not a dry eye at his funeral. And miss him terribly. RIP Daniel Popp.

Sunday will never be the same.

The day after Daniel’s funeral, our kitty Bennie’s health declined rapidly. We had been treating him for an eye infection—or so we thought. He was eating, but not processing the food. He was losing weight quickly and also started having tremors. An emergency trip to the animal hospital and two vet visits later, we learned he had a brain tumor and didn’t stand a chance. Even though Bennie was a little fighter, we still had to put him down—the day after Valentine’s Day, ironically because Bennie was a saint, the best cat I ever had. After we put him down, my legs buckled, and I collapsed into my husband’s arms. We loved him so much. RIP Bennie.

Sunday will never be the same.

The following Sunday, my husband and I were done. Spent. No ambition or desire to do a damn thing. But I had to get groceries. I hopped in the car and as I always do on Sunday, turned on the radio. Glen Jones was playing very sad music. During the first break, X-Ray Burns wasn’t with him to banter. Jones made an announcement that X-Ray Burns was struggling with lung cancer.

Tears started pouring down my eyes.

Jones played some more sad songs, then he came back on to say that X-Ray’s wife called him. X-Ray Burns had passed—and it wasn’t a joke.

My husband and I were already zombies to begin with, and now shared more tears together. Rest in Peace X-Ray Burns.

Sunday will never be the same.

Three lives taken from us, way too soon. Daniel Popp and X-Ray Burns were in their 50s. And Bennie was only 3.

But I’ve learned something from all of them. Daniel taught me to reach out to others. Bennie taught me to keep fighting no matter what life’s circumstances. And X-Ray taught me to stay fun and crazy because life is way too short. And with a blink of an eye, it will never be the same.

That’s it.

SAM_3017.JPGDaniel Popp, Rest in Peace (photo by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta)

52905284_2210313879190578_8382678320906502144_nBennie Cat, Rest in Peace

Glen JonesX-Ray Burns, Rest in Peace

(Left to right, X-Ray Burns, Glen Jones, Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta)

Sunday will never be the same. 

‘Pat DiNizio Way’

Published May 5, 2018 by Maryanne

Pat DiNizio Way

Pat DiNizio Way (photo by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta)

Scotch Plains Township Ceremoniously Unveils ‘Pat DiNizio Way’ in Honor of Late Smithereens Frontman

By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

(Artical originally appeared in Scotch Plains Monthly)

Smithereens fans, friends, family, and township officials gathered on April 17, 2018, at Montague Avenue, at the corner of Westfield Avenue, for the official Pat DiNizio Way street unveiling

Pat DiNizio, frontman for The Smithereens passed away December 12, 2017, at the age of 62. He was a proud resident of Scotch Plains.

“It’s a little bittersweet for us. Obviously, we’d rather have him than the sign,” said Paul “Paulie” J. Smith, who grew up in Scotch Plains with DiNizio. “It’s very heart warming for the town we grew up in to give him recognition. It’s emotional he’s not here anymore. Deep inside he’d feel touched and honored. He was humble, he’d be a little embarrassed about the recognition.”

Jim Babjak, Smithereens guitarist agreed. “He’d say, ‘Don’t make a big deal of it’ on one hand, but he’d be winking; Pat would be very honored.”

Babjak performed a Smithereens song, “Life is So Beautiful” prior to the street unveiling. He also gave a heartfelt speech, ending with, “He was a real trooper, he kept playing to the very end.”

Severo Jornacion, Smithereens bassist, who was able to fly in from L.A., said, “Of all places Pat lived in his life, Scotch Plains was his favorite.” He reminisced about the places in Scotch Plains that Pat took him to, like Alfonso’s Pizzeria, Stage House Tavern, and even the local Quick Check.

Band members Dennis Diken and Mike Mesaros weren’t there, but Babjak read emotional messages from them, as well as a heartrending letter from DiNizio’s daughter, Elisabeth.

Musician Rick Winowksi, who played in Pat’s other band, The Scotch Plainsmen, performed a poignant song he wrote in honor of DiNizio.

Mayor Al Smith said the he “got emails from all over the country. Best thing we could do is have a street named after him.”

Township Manager Al Mirabella said, “I wish we weren’t here. I wish Pat was here. I’m glad you are here to honor Pat. Pat was a real fan of Scotch Plains and we’re a real fan of his.”

Bill King, fan and friend, said “We’re still mourning. His voice is so full of emotion reflected in his songs. One thing was evident; how much he loved his mom.”

After each speaker at the podium shared their memories of Pat, there were cheers and tears from the audience. It was truly a moving event. After the unveiling Antoinette DiNizio, Pat’s mom, made an appearance. She proudly spoke about her beloved son to the many who approached her.

Fan Frank Lima, who spearheaded the event, said, “Pat’s one of the greatest songwriters. I’m sad the whole thing had to happen. I’m glad to get the whole ball rolling. [Regarding the street naming].”

The Smithereens sold millions of records/CDs of melodic pop alternative hits like “A Girl Like You,” “Only a Memory,” “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” and “Blood and Roses.”

For more information on The Smithereens, visit the official website at: officialsmithereens.com.

To see original article, including more photos by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta, visit: https://rennamedia.com/scotch-plains-township-ceremoniously-unveils-pat-dinizio-way-in-honor-of-late-smithereens-frontman/

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” available on Rebel Press: https://www.rebelpress.com/product/on-the-guest-list/

 

 

The History of Motown

Published February 11, 2018 by Maryanne

IMG_1117 (1)

From left: Audience member, Librarian Kassundra Miller, Stephen Fuller, and Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Saturday, February 10, 2018, Pear Tree Enterprises presented “The History of Motown” featuring music by Stephen Fuller.

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta gave a 45 minute talk on Berry Gordy’s Motown artists, followed by live music from Stephen Fuller (https://www.fullersounds.com/).

The audience sang along and danced to artists like The Temptations and Michael Jackson.

To see when the next program is visit Pear Tree Enterprises at https://peartreeenterprises.wordpress.com/

To book this program for your school, library, or senior group, contact Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com

 

 

“The Life and Music of Freddie Mercury”

Published February 5, 2018 by Maryanne

Jayne's picture 1

Jayne's picture 2

Rob Fusari and Maryanne Christiano Mistretta (photos by Jayne DiGregorio)

Pear Tree’s Learn & Listen Series presented “The Life and Music of Freddie Mercury” (February 4, 2018) at Kinnelon Public Library, Kinnelon, New Jersey.

Maryanne, a Queen fan since the 1970s, began the presentation by talking about the life of Freddie Mercury, born in Zanzibar, an island on the East Coast of Africa; how he worked at the Kensington clothing market in England, and soon became a member of Queen; his life with Mary Austin and Jim Hutton; and his solo career.

Audience members were invited to share their memories of Queen.

Maryanne ended the “Learn” portion of the show by reciting the lyrics to the Queen song “Teo Torriatte” first in Japanese, then in English.

Then Maryanne made the audience clap to the tune of “We Will Rock You” to cheer Rob on to the stage.

Rob Fusari, three-time Grammy Award winning producer, put on an incredible performance, singing, playing keyboards, and guitar, and telling stories about each song. He performed “Radio Gaga,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “We Are the Champions,” and “The Great Pretender.”

Rob ended the show by encouraging the audience to sing the chorus of “We Are the Champions.” The energy in the room was electrifying! The audience wanted an encore, and several audience members cheered for an original, which he did.

It was a show many will never forget! Freddie Mercury would be proud.

Jayne's picture 8.jpgRob Fusari (photo by Jayne DiGregorio)

For more information on Rob Fusari, visit: https://www.robfusari.com/

For more information on Pear Tree Enterprises, visit: https://peartreeenterprises.wordpress.com/

Charlie Fusari Recreates the Magic of Michael Jackson

Published January 10, 2018 by Maryanne

DSCF1238Charlie Fusari

Charlie Fusari is a college student and a huge Michael Jackson fan. He expresses his admiration for Jackson through song; and truly recreates Jackson’s magic!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018, Charlie was a guest of Pear Tree Enterprises, and sang Jackson’s songs for the presentation, “The Life and Music of Michael Jackson” at the Elmwood Park Public Library, Elmwood Park, New Jersey.

Prior to the performance, Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta, presented a bio on Michael Jackson, giving the audience the opportunity to share their Michael Jackson memories and ask questions. During the lecture, Charlie wowed the audience doing Michael Jackson’s signature dance move, “The Moonwalk.”

Jackson songs performed by Charlie included: “I’ll Be There,” “Human Nature,” and “She’s Out of My Life.” Charlie ended the show belting out a heartfelt version of “Ben.”

When the show ended, the audience wanted an encore, so Charlie Fusari performed his original, “Trying to Find My Lane.”

During the performance, Charlie was assisted on keyboards by his uncle, Rob Fusari, who is a three-time Grammy Award winning producer.

DSCF1243.JPGCharlie Fusari and Rob Fusari

To hear Charlie Fusari’s music, both originals and covers, visit SoundCloud: https://m.soundcloud.com/charlie-fusari

And you can hear his single on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/trying-to-find-my-lane-single/1316307936

For more information on Pear Tree’s Learn & Listen series, visit: https://peartreeenterprises.wordpress.com/

 

 

Rest in Peace, David Cassidy

Published November 22, 2017 by Maryanne

David CassidyDavid Cassidy (photo by Dennis Mistretta)

The photo above was taken by my husband when David Cassidy was shaking my hand. I’ll never forget being in the front at his concert, 2011, the first time I ever saw David perform. The women in the audience were screaming hysterically. At one point David Cassidy walked off stage because they wouldn’t stop screaming.

I didn’t scream. The little I knew about David Cassidy was that he wanted to be taken seriously as an music artist. I stood in silence, watching the show with a twinkle in my eye and a smile on my face.

While other women were raising their Partridge Family album covers, trying to get David’s attention, it was my husband who got David’s attention and pointed to me. David walked right over and shook my hand. We were ecstatic. We loved him and he acknowledged us.

I was too young to have a crush on David Cassidy back in the day. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s (20 some years after the Partridge Family reached it’s peak) that I realized how great he was. Not only could he sing, but he was also a phenomenal drummer. But what really made me adore David Cassidy was his book, “C’mon Get Happy.” David Cassidy was a real bad ass — my kind of person! He was funny, he was wild, and he was real. I always imagined meeting him and telling him how much I loved his book. Unfortunately that never happened.

Like other fans, and more so for fanatics, I spent the last few days shedding tears over his failing health. When I woke up this morning, my husband told me the sad news, “David Cassidy died.” We hugged each other. It’s tragic that we are now living in a world without David Cassidy. But now he is out of his suffering, may he rest in peace.

It was my husband who  totally hipped me to the musical genius of David Cassidy. He had not only Partridge Family albums, but David Cassidy solo albums. We saw David Cassidy in concert together, twice. We even visited the New Jersey home he grew up in and took photographs of each other in front of it. And shared many laughs over the jokes David Cassidy told on stage — especially about himself. He seemed like such a sweet, down to earth guy. And taken from earth way too soon.

Yesterday was our loss, and heaven’s gain. David Cassidy, We KNOW we LOVE YOU! ❤

Book Signing for “On the Guest List” for Nutley Book Club, Nutley, NJ

Published November 7, 2017 by Maryanne

DSCF0662From left – Maria Labadia, Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta, Kiran Patel

Last night I was extremely honored to do a book reading/signing for the Nutley Book Club, Nutley, New Jersey, at the Nutley Library.

Of all my book signings since I published my first book, “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” (https://www.amazon.com/Guest-List-Adventures-Music-Journalist/dp/162903908X) this was by far my favorite because the guests read the book prior to the event!

It’s the coolest feeling for an author to hear, “I wanted to meet you!”

We had a great time talking about the book and people sharing their own musical experiences. The one thing I always hear about “Guest List” is that even if readers don’t know the bands I’m speaking about, they are relating because of how my love for music translates on the pages. “Like reading a diary” I’m often told.

Prior to the reading, Maria and Kiran took me to a wonderful dinner at Luna restaurant. I had great conversation and laughs with two wonderful ladies.

It was indeed a five-star night!