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Category: Out and About

Wax Darts, always changing, to fit mood

Photo courtesy Wax Darts Facebook Wax Darts at a recent performance.

Photo courtesy Wax Darts Facebook
Wax Darts at a recent performance.

 

By Anthony Machcinski

Observer Correspondent

Sometimes in the music industry, keeping it simple is the easiest way towards having success. Larry Brinkman and the Wax Darts are hoping that approach leads to their own success.

“When we started the band, we said, ‘Let’s be a band that if you showed up at a bar, I’d be really psyched to hear,” Brinkman said. “That was the goal from the beginning. We don’t need to change everybody’s life, but let’s just be a really fun and dynamic band.”

The Wax Darts was founded in 2012 with Brinkman and drummer Jahna Rain performing with several bass guitarists before Courtney Thornbird joined the band in 2013.

Brinkman founded the band hoping to return to the music industry following a divorce.

“I just wanted to start a band that sounded like whatever the hell I wanted it to sound like,” Brinkman said.

Brinkman said that his divorce affected the earlier songs written by the band.

“The songwriting from some of those early songs its pretty obvious,” Brinkman said about the divorce. “Some of those songs still are really good.”

With influences tied to country, blues, funk, 70s pop and the early punk scene, Brinkman and the band had the unique challenge of combining all those different styles into one, a marriage not so easily made.

“We started talking about the bands we liked and they were just so weird within themselves that it was impossible to cover them,” Brinkman explained.

To try and rectify that problem, the band followed the same mantra, keep it simple.

“I don’t write stuff that’s four bars (in tempo),” Brinkman said. “So we try to do things different. Sometimes it’s three bars, sometimes it’s seven. We just try to work more with feeling (than structure).”

Photo courtesy Wax Darts Facebook  From l., Larry Brinkman, Jahna Rain and Courtney Thornbird.

Photo courtesy Wax Darts Facebook
From l., Larry Brinkman, Jahna Rain and Courtney Thornbird.

 

The approach has worked out for the band and can be heard from the first seconds of any of their songs.

On the song “Different,” the elements of the early punk movement can be heard moving along with a hard, crunching notes played from Brinkman’s guitar.

Adding to the song’s uniqueness is the harmonizing of Brinkman, Rain and Thornbird, a simple quality that the trio has perfected, creating a controlled craziness for the song.

The band’s simplicity has been well received by both fans and by local music outlets.

“It’s been going great,” Brinkman said. “We did a live recording on WFMU (radio) a few months back and it’s been really fun.”

Part of the band’s approach to playing live music has been to just play what they like, as opposed to guessing the crowd’s favorite style.

“We play exactly what we want and not what we think is going to please a crowd,” Brinkman said. “In the long run, that usually pleases a crowd because we’re not trying to please anybody but ourselves.”

“We have a thing we say, ‘If it’s gonna be weird, just make it weird.’ ”

As for the future of the band, Brinkman said that he hopes for the band to continue to play more live shows and to further expand their horizons.

“The biggest question is what can we get out of what we have and how can we move forward,” Brinkman said.

Brinkman hopes that the band will get a chance to travel more as well.

“I love getting out of town,” said Brinkman, a Jersey City native. “We’ve played Brooklyn once. When you’re a local person, I’d love to go out of town and surprise a crowd (with our performance).”

The Wax Darts will play Donegal Saloon in Kearny on Friday, along with The Everymen and Creepoid. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $5.

Out & About: Cooky teen ‘Family’ in the making

Photos courtesy Joseph Ferriero Various scenes from last year’s Teen Drama

Photos courtesy Joseph Ferriero
Various scenes from last year’s Teen Drama

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Observer Correspondent

With Teen Drama celebrating its fifth anniversary this summer, the local theater group is commemorating the event with a performance of the well-known creepy comedy “The Addams Family.”

“I’ve been a fan of (“The Addams Family”) for a couple of years,” said Teen Drama Co-Director Joe Ferriero. “(Michelle Sarnoski and I) saw this and said, ‘This is perfect for our kids.’

“We saw ‘The Addams Family’ and it’s the perfect mix for the talent that we have.”

“The Addams Family”, taken from the hit television show, will feature an original story and the Teen Drama performance will be the first non-professional debut of ‘The Addams Family’ in New Jersey.

The story revolves around a grown-up Wednesday Addams, who has fallen in love with a sweet, smart young man – whom her parents have never met. Wednesday and the rest of the family then host a dinner for her ‘normal’ boyfriend and his parents.

While the opportunity to become the first nonprofessional debut of “The Addams Family” is certainly exciting for the group, it brings many challenges to the group and its teachers.

“The major challenge – its brand new,” Ferriero said. “There’s nothing else to compare it to. A lot of the songs (in the Broadway performance) aren’t in the new version. There’s no, ‘Let’s pop the CD in.’”

To tackle the challenge, Ferriero said the teachers will put in extra time to master the ins-and-outs of the performance themselves.

“We have to do our research,” Ferriero explained. “We have to map out every moment of the show because it is so new and so fresh. We have to make sure that we do it justice.”

While the teachers will certainly have their work cut out for them, Ferriero believes that the students will be more than prepared for the challenge.

“(The students) feed off the audience and they put 110% into the show,” Ferriero said. “They have a chance to take a character and develop it. This is where they can grow.”

Ferriero said the biggest challenge for the students will be breaking out of their comfort zones.

“They’re high school students and they’re always trying to have this persona to conform to what they believe is cool,” Ferriero said. “They’re always thinking inside of the box and these shows allow them to be who they really are.”

“They’re yearning to do something a little more serious, but this is where they can grow.”

Teen Drama started in 2009 after Ferriero and Sarnoski were approached by a group of parents who sought to find a summer activity for their theater-centered children.

“The parents said, ‘there’s nothing for these theater kids to do in the summer,’” Ferriero explained. “We started with a core group of students and we created a program that was pretty successful.”

Since that first summer, Teen Drama has seen its numbers grow from a community intrigued by the theater.

“Every year it seems to get bigger and bigger,” Ferriero said. “When it came support from everywhere, just to work with the students. do something like this, it.”

As the program has grown exponentially from its 2009-roots, Ferriero said that he, too, has grown from the experience.

“I think I’ve learned that the students in the program can teach me more about theater than I’ve already known,” Ferriero said. “The kids just look at (these performances) and go, ‘How am I going to have fun with this.’”

He added, “They’ve taught me how to have so much more fun. There’s all these bumps in the road but to hear their excitement… they love every minute of it.”

Ferriero believes that Teen Drama has only begun to grasp its full potential.

“I think the company itself has a future,” Ferriero said, adding that they’ve extended and opened a branch in Paramus. “We’re looking at theater companies throughout the state that may be interested. More people want to be a part of it.”

Registration for Teen Drama’s 2014 Summer Program begins in a few weeks, but those searching for early registration can visit teendrama.org/early to get the information emailed to them before it is open to the public.

Teen Drama runs from late June and ends with the performance of “The Addams Family” in the first week of August. For more information, visit www.TeenDrama.org/TD.

Take a quick trip to Manhattan, and you’ll love ‘The Gong Show Live Off Broadway’

Leslie Gold ‘The Radiochick’ brings it to New York with all trimmings of old TV show

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By Ryan Sloan

Observer Correspondent

Several years ago, while Leslie Gold was hosting her wildly popular show on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio — you know Leslie as “The Radiochick” — she landed a guest she’d always wanted on the show: “Gong Show” host Chuck Barris. She always admired his show — “I loved his kooky genius and fatherly way,” Gold says.

And she was hardly the only one who loved Barris and the show.

During its run, it had a cult-like following, with around 8 million regular viewers. But after the show went off the air, that was it for “The Gong Show,” despite some reruns on GSN and other networks.

So Gold had this idea — let’s bring the show back for live performances. Sony owned the show’s trademark, and after some negotiation — and a really good lawyer — Gold had permission to bring the show back.

And thus, “The Gong Show Live Off Broadway” was born.

Ahead of its time

Gold puts it well when she says “The Gong Show” was well ahead of its time as a TV reality show. In truth, it was one of the first shows — much like some of today’s reality programs — that allowed everyday folks with (or without) talent to audition to be on TV to perform. But it’s a lot different now.

While there are indeed regular Joes who audition for Gold’s version of the show, it is the professionals who make up the majority of the cast. In fact, more than 1,000 professional performers have auditioned for the show over the last few years. They’ve already been on shows like “America’s Got Talent,” “30 Rock,” “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Conan” on TBS.

“They’re just really great performers,” Gold says.

In the new show, there are 30 total core acts. But they’re rotated so 14 perform each month.

If one were to go to see the show three times in three consecutive months, chances are you’d never see the same show twice.

There are also celebrity judges, too. Gold is one of them. So is her former radio sidekick Chuck Nice, who you’ll often see guest hosting on “The View” or doing segments on “The Today Show.” Comedians Carey Reilly, Dan Naturman and Danny Cohen judge, as does Q-104.3’s Ken Dashow.

Comedian Ray Ellin is the host.

Gold says Ellin does a magnificent job of playing Barris’ role.

“Ray has the charm of Chuck, and you’ll always find him on the side of the performers — good or gonged,” Gold says. “He’s a real champion for the acts and he’s extremely fast on his feet.”

Gamble pays off

Initially, Gold had hoped a three-engagement run a few years ago at BB Kings in Manhattan would be enough to turn “The Gong Show Off Broadway” into a monthly affair. And it did.

Each month, at the Cutting Room in Manhattan, you’ll find Gold and the crew putting on the show.

Gold says she has a few favorite acts, including the 80-year-old contortionist and Amazing Amy, a woman who can put her head up to her own buttocks.

“Amy wears a Star Trek outfit,” Gold says. “And the band plays the Star Trek theme as she performs. It’s perfect.”

Great for groups

In addition going in small groups, there are also large group rates — so if you’re looking to put together a night out for the office or social group you might belong to, here’s one fantastic and hilarious way to do just that.

“We went, my husband and I did, and we had such a good time, I can’t even explain it right,” says Jean Walker of Bloomfield. “I think what made it even more enjoyable is that we went, laughed our rear ends off and still didn’t have to part with a lot of cash to do this. If you’re looking for a great night out, not too far from home, and you’re not so willing to part with a lot of cash, you’ve got to go see this show — that’s how good it is.”

The bottom line is “The Gong Show Live Off Broadway” is a magnificent night out for the family, and is just a few miles away in Manhattan. And it’s all at a reasonable price.

If you don’t leave the theater with pains in your stomach from laughing out of control, chances are something’s seriously wrong with you.

If you go…
What: The Gong Show Live Off Broadway
Where: The Cutting Room, 44 E. 32nd St., New York City
When: 7:30 p.m., Jan. 9, April 3 (check website for other dates/times)
Ticket prices: $49 for reserved center-stage seats; $35 for general admission
To buy tickets or for more info: Visit www.gongshowlive.net

‘Cinderella the Musical’ at W.H.A.T.

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The West Hudson Arts Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) kicks off its third season with Disney’s “Cinderella the Musical,” a classic fairy tale brought to life through song and dance. Performances are Friday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16, at 1:30 and 4 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 17, at 1:30 p.m., at the W.H.A.T. Theater, 131 Midland Ave., Kearny. All tickets are $8. Tickets for all performances are available online at www.whatco.org or by calling 201-467-8624.

Cinderella is W.H.A.T.’s first family friendly musical. Young theatergoers are encouraged to wear their best Prince Charming and Princess costumes to the performances, said W.H.A.T. artistic director and Cinderella director Joe Ferriero.

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The company includes Noelle Haefner (Old Woman/ Fairy Godmother), Michelle Almeida (Cinderella), Michael Antonelli (Prince Charming), Paula Reyes (Stepmother), Joan M. Hemphill (Drizella), Jennifer McCarthy (Anastasia); Robert Strauch (Gus), Jimmy Smores (Jaq), Brianna Dickinson (Perla), Alyssa Schirm (Suzy), Richard Dwyer (The King), and Jonathan Pinto (The Grand Duke).

Disney’s “Cinderella the Musical” is directed by Joe Ferriero; choreography by Michele Sarnoski; music direction by Scott Burzynski; music by Mack David and Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston; original book adaption by Marcy Heisler; music adapted and arranged by Bryan Louiselle.

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The following special events are planned for “Cinderella”:

*Royal Tea meet – Saturday, Nov. 9, at noon, at the W.H.A.T. Theater, before the 1:30 p.m. show. Tickets for the tea and show are $12. Seating is limited for princesses and princes (must be accompanied by an adult); advance online ticket purchase is strongly recommended. Tickets for the Royal-Tea are available online at www.whatco.org or by calling 201-467-8624.

*Cinderella crafts – A free program held at Kearny Main Library, 318 Kearny Ave., for ages 3 to 6, co-hosted by W.H.A.T. on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 4:30 p.m. Children may create their own royal crowns along with either a magic wand or a shield. Register in advance at the library. This activity is limited to 50 participants. Call the library for additional information and registration 201-998-2666.

Hollywood comes to Kearny

Top photo courtesy of the Quintana family; other photos by Anthony Coelho Clint Eastwood chats with Kearny resident Emma Quintana as actors and techies evoke echoes of the '60's during filming.

Top photo courtesy of the Quintana family; other photos by Anthony Coelho
Clint Eastwood chats with Kearny resident Emma Quintana as actors and techies evoke echoes of the ’60′s during filming.

 

 

By Anthony Coelho

Observer Correspondent

It’s not often you see a block full of 1960s vintage Fords with a film crew commanded by Clint Eastwood, but last week the residents of Kearny were blessed with such a sight, as the movie adaptation of the jukebox musical “Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons” was filming on Elm St. between Stuyvesant and Seeley Aves.

Earlier this year, IMDb (Internet Movie Database) reported that the production would begin in the summer of 2013, stretching until the start of 2014.

The Broadway hit “Jersey Boys” (book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice; music from Bob Gaudio and lyrics from Bob Crewe) has been running since 2005, and in 2006 it won four Tony Awards, including the one for Best Musical. The plot of “Jersey Boys” recreates the rise and fall of 1960s rock & roll group The Four Seasons, which was born just across the river in Belleville.

The film crew had everything set in place the day before the scheduled shoot. Make-up and hair were being done out of two trailers parked in front of St. Stephen’s Church, at Kearny and Laurel Aves.

Eastwood, the director (whom some might think a surprising choice for a musical), arrived on the scene at about 11a.m. on Wednesday. By nightfall, filming was well underway in front of Matson’s Bar & Grill, as well as inside a resident’s home.

Eastwood was present throughout, directing actors and props, even salvaging some time to interact with the locals by posing for pictures.

Mayra Hopson, the owner of the film-featured home, received a letter two months ago stating that the film crew was interested in using her living room as a spot for a scene. Hopson said the crew replaced her front door and screen door, and even put more shrubs in the front yard.

By 7:30 p.m., the crowd of Kearny residents had depleted, and the film crew was just about wrapping things up after a successful day of shooting.

Among the parade of people on Elm St. that day was the front man of The Four Seasons, Frankie Valli, who was also sharing some laughs and moments with the fans.

Valli, who scored a total of 29 Top 40 hits with The Four Seasons, was most famous for his grand falsetto voice.

In the movie, Valli is played by John Lloyd Young, the actor who originated the role on Broadway and won the 2006 Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.

Other cast members are: Christopher Walken as Gyp DeCarlo, Vincent Piazza (who was also in Kearny last Wednesday) as Tommy DeVito, Freya Tingley as Francine Valli, and Kathrine Narducci as Frankie Valli’s mother

Piazza and Narducci were also featured in the hit television show “The Sopranos,” of which most Kearnyites are well aware since scenes were often shot in Kearny and the surrounding areas.

The release date for the “Jersey Boys” movie had not been announced, but whenever it does premiere, “Oh What a Night” that’s sure to be.

‘Booked’ for long-term stay as library head

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By Anthony Coelho

Observer Correspondent

Last Wednesday, Bloomfield Public Library hosted a welcome reception for their newly appointed director, Adele Puccio. Residents enjoyed baked goods and other refreshments and some one-on-one time with Puccio in a comfortable setting.

Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Puccio moved to Bayonne after attending Rutgers University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in English in 1992, and her Master of Library Sciences in 1994. She then went on to work several librarian jobs in South River, Woodbridge, and Hoboken from 1994 to 2005.

Puccio is no stranger to the director’s position, or the town of Bloomfield. She worked as the supervising librarian for Bloomfield Public Library from May 2005 to January 2010, before being hired as director at Rose Memorial Library in Stony Point, N.Y.

After an 18-month stay in Stony Point, Puccio then took on the job of director for the Caldwell Public Library.

“I was very much involved with the community of Caldwell,” Puccio said, “developing programs with the local college as well as after-school programs for the elementary schools, too.”

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Photos by Anthony Coelho Adele Puccio takes stock of her new surroundings at Bloomfield Public Library.

Photos by Anthony Coelho
Adele Puccio takes stock of her new surroundings at Bloomfield Public Library.

 

Puccio—who is now making $85,000 annually as Bloomfield Public Library’s new director—is focused on bringing a handful of changes to the table that would further benefit the library’s current state. “I want to organize a foundation that will financially support the library with fundraisers, and establish a strong partnership with Bloomfield College,” Puccio said. “I also want to work on developing and expanding the staff.” The library recently suffered a series of layoffs in 2012, as a result of a budget crunch. Puccio hopes to acquire capital funding that would be applied to the repair of two library buildings that date back to 1920 and 1960 (which suffer from roof damage, HVAC system failure, and a broken elevator).

“It would be extremely beneficial, not only for the library, but for the community as a whole,” Puccio said.

Puccio hopes to settle in as as director at Bloomfield Public Library for the duration. With her new approach, familiarity with the area, and plethora of experience, she seems to be the perfect fit.

“Bloomfield feels like home and I’m really glad to be back. I don’t see myself relocating anywhere else, anytime soon.”

Thanks to local artist, the dragon flies!

Photos courtesy of Phillip Talone KHS teacher Phillip Talone’s imaginative art work will be displayed at New York venue

Photos courtesy of Phillip Talone
KHS teacher Phillip Talone’s imaginative art work will be displayed at New York venue

 

By Anthony Coelho

Observer Intern

Kearny High School’s woodshop instructor of 13 years, Phillip Talone, has been commissioned—once again—to design and build a handmade sculpture that will be on display at the famous Arthur’s Tavern in New York City.

Arthur’s Tavern is a classical jazz club located in the West Village at 57 Grove St., near 7th Ave, and features an avant-garde style with weekly performances by the likes of Georgia Brown, Alyson Williams, and more.

“I used to go there often, still do.” Talone stated. “I noticed the art on the wall becoming more and more predominant, so I decided to speak to the manager. That’s how I got my first piece put up”

Talone had built a small-scaled model of the Wright Brothers’ plane that was exhibited at Arthur’s for the last nine years. The plane, which hung comfortably suspended in air, caught many people’s attention. Unfortunately the model had been destroyed during renovations being done on the roof of the club.

“I was a bit frustrated at first, you know, but I cut my losses and got right back to work,” Talone said.

Last year, Talone was asked by the manager to create another piece that would replace the one in ruins, and serve a grander role, being closer to the stage.

The new model to be introduced is a prehistoric dragon, with its wings fully fledged. It’s composed of Balsa wood and Chinese tissue that had to be boiled then warped time and time again to maintain a strong posture.

“It took me the whole summer to complete. The process was vigorous but well worth it.” Talone said.

The dragon is scheduled to be on display at Arthur’s over the course of the next two weeks. It can be viewed any time between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. Talone—who also has expertise in watercolor paintings, oil paintings, and even stained glass windows—plans on spreading his talent anywhere and everywhere he can. For custom art inquiries, Talone can be contacted at ptalone@ kearnyschools.com.

The Angry Coffee Bean has so much based and local Thurs- goatbreakfast, ground, more than just coffee

 

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By Ryan Sloan

Observer Correspondent

NORTH ARLINGTON –

When you hear of a place that dubs itself a coffee house and cafe, chances are you think the obvious — you can get a lot of coffee there. And while The Angry Bean Coffee House and Cafe does, indeed, have a lot of coffee and espresso-based drinks available for customers, it also has the unexpected – great homemade, fresh food.

And a lot of it.

The place opened about nine months ago — at 89 Ridge Road in North Arlington — when husband and wife pair Eileen and Michael Cassano came up with a compromise. Both Eileen and Michael wanted out of corporate America. And Michael wanted an Italian deli.

So from those dreams the Angry Coffee Bean was born. Eileen says she and her husband were quite fortunate when they hired their first chef. She says he was trained in the culinary arts and worked for many years in Manhattan. And he had a vision for what he believed would make for great food that would keep customers coming back.

And that, she says, was extremely fortuitous since she’d never been involved in cooking and food prep before now. That, coupled with the chef’s creative vision, has led to great things, food-wise, she says.

“We have a motto — keep it simple, stupid,” Eileen says. “I shop for ingredients every morning. Everything is fresh, every day.”

Among the favorites at the Bean is the fish-and-chips meal. For long-time residents of West Hudson and South Bergen counties, fish-and-chips have always been a local staple. But many of the fish-and-chips eateries have gone elsewhere or has closed in recent years.

“The people just love it,” Eileen says. “We offer the fish-and-chips starting Thursday — and it usually sells out by Saturday. And once it sells out, it’s off the menu until the next Thursday.”

And yet, it’s not just fish-and- chips at the Bean. There are other specials, too, such as a bacon, Swiss and turkey panini, garlic Parmesan wings, an arugala and goatcheese salad and much more.

They also serve a great breakfast, with traditional fare and specialty items like red-velvet pancakes, Irish scones and stuffed French toast. And they’re serving Sunday brunch, buffet style.

And there are seasonal items, too.

The menu, Eileen says, ultimately changes three times a year, depending on the season. So as the fall hits, there will be more offerings, food wise.

Beyond the awesome food menu, of course, are the coffee offerings. You can get a regular cup of joe if you want — or more complex drinks, including espresso-based beverages similar to at other cafes. Eileen says she also offers 10 different kinds of specialty green teas.

So if it’s a caffeine rush you want, you’ll likely find what you’re looking for at the Bean.

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The Village comes to NA With all due respect, of course, most people don’t think of North Arlington as a hotbed for the arts scene. It’s always been a blue-collar kind of town. But with the Bean becoming a very popular destination for people all over the area, it’s also made NA a new artsy destination. So you’ll feel like you’re somewhere in Greenwich Village, though you’ll really still be in Bergen County.

Inside the coffee house, Eileen says she showcases local artists’ work on the walls. And, even further, there are all sorts of events happening in the place — from open-mic nights (with plenty of music) to literary-review group meetings.

“The art is all over,” she says. “And much of it is from local artists. We’ve also got a creative-writing group that meets here. At first, it was a few people at one table. Now they need three tables. It’s just incredible to see it in action.”

With a corporate background, Eileen completely understands the concept of corporate responsibility. And as such, she and Michael are doing their share of giving back to the community.

Sometime this fall, the Bean will have special Mondays and Tuesdays where artists will display works involving animals. And on those nights, a percentage of all sales will be donated to the Bergen County ASPCA.

Combined, it all makes the Angry Coffee Bean a very special place — right in your backyard.

“Michael and I both love food, art and music,” Eileen says. “We both knew this would be perfect for us. We hope the people in the community see it that way, too.”

Mirroring real life in art: sex abuse & gangs

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By Ryan Sloan
Observer Correspondent

(Updated)

At 25, she’s already written two fiction books. And while neither has yet been published — we’re certainly hoping they are soon — Lane Legend has tackled two topics that have gotten a lot of attention in the news media over the last few years: the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University and gang violence.

In her books, Legend has borrowed from the reality of the two and developed two pieces that, in many ways, mirror reality but that are, indeed, fiction. And she does so quite well.

One book she wrote, “Ol’ State Sensation,” is about a boy who goes to a state university — and who is molested by a coach just as it was to have happened at Penn State. (Of course, in the book, the university isn’t called Penn State).

But there’s an added twist to the fate of the victim in the book. And it’s one that while we’re not sure if it’s happened to any of the victims in reality, it’s one that often does happen to victims of sexual abuse, Legend says.

“The main character’s name is Cory Calhoun,” she says. “And in the book, we see him in adulthood. There’s a cycle. The statistics say 40% of kids who are abused as kids go on to be abusers themselves in adulthood.”

When we asked her why she was driven to write a book such as this — aside from the obvious … she’s also a Penn State alumna — Legend says she studied sociology at University Park.

“And I’ve always been interested in how the mind operates,” she says. “I’ve been interested in under-culture. Plus this was a very hot topic for a long time.”

She says a lot of what she wrote about in the book and a lot of her general interest came to the surface recently with the Ohio case where Ariel Castro had, in his home, at least three kidnapped girls who became adults while in his captivity for a decade or more.

Her other book, “The Boy of Black Wonder,” while also fiction, touches on yet another concept that’s constantly in the news — gang violence.

“It’s the story of a young boy living in 1980′s Spanish Harlem whose cousin is the lead of a violent gang – it’s a play off the Latin Kings. In youth he suffers from a rare form of narcolepsy that results in him being asleep for 80% of his life,”  she says.

Because of the dreams, the kid, called Juan, has to decipher what’s actually real and what’s not. And, he’s faced with deciding whether he prefers the violent life or the more peaceful life.

Why write books at 25?

Legend isn’t just a writer. At present, she’s also working to develop her career at an advertising agency. So why in such an intense world — what you see on TV about working in advertising is often based on reality — or how, really, does she find time to put pen to paper, to put fingers to keyboard, to do this?

“Juggling a career and trying to get books published is very hard these days,” she says. “And it’s made even harder that so many are now self-publishing.”

But she doesn’t want to self-publish.

She knows she could create e-books and get them out into circulation. But there’s something about printed books, she says, that is incomparable to reading books on an e-reader.

“I still think there are a lot of people who want that tangible product,” she says. “But that also means it’s necessary to find agents. And finding an agent is not a simple task. It’s a hard market to break, but it’s one I am determined to break.”

And we certainly hope she does, sooner than later. We’ll let you know where and when you can buy her books as soon as they’re out.

Author explores at-risk teen girls’ behavior

By Laurie Perrone

Observer Guest Correspondent

“Bad” is an intriguing young adult novel about teens overcoming risky behavior written by Jean Ferris.

Since the dawn of time we have been analyzing and defining coming-of-age, yet we still come up short in finding any “absolutes.” With every generation there will always be something ugly about coming-of- age catching us off-guard thus leaving us to ask ourselves where we might have gone wrong.

Jean Ferris, author of the young adult novel, “Bad,” first took steps researching the subject and interviewing urban teens in a girls’ rehabilitation center before writing this brutally honest book.

Ferris does not promise any “absolutes,” but she does remain candid and thorough in her work. Through her main character, Dallas, Ferris illustrates how truly difficult it is for any young person to walk away from criminal patterns. Ferris uses the technique of story shifting well, depicting the realistic recovery process in rehabilitation. Parts of the story show Dallas slowly gaining momentum through personal victories only to abruptly slip into small relapses.

Ferris shoots from the hip in her story-telling, demanding the attention of her audience, and capturing empathy from those willing enough to examine and digest urban teen life against the backdrop of innercity blight. From beginning to end she is unafraid of exposing other gritty teen issues such as teen substance addiction, girl street gangs, teen pregnancy, amoral institution mentality, teen violence and inmate abuse.

“Bad” is an excellent documentary- style novel that rivets the mind in unexpected ways, expressing how urban teens must re-learn trust, love and self-respect in the midst of regaining stolen or lost innocence from years of tough survival.

To see more about author Jean Ferris and her work, go to http://www.jeanferris.com/ my_works.htm.

The author’s works have earned her many nominations and awards. Most recently, she was nominated for the 2008/2009 Children’s Choice Award by the Missouri Association of School Librarians.