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Category: Entertainment

‘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.

Bull-fighter, bounty hunter & now author

Danny Duran

Danny Duran

 

Danny Duran has just about seen and done it all.

In his adult life, he was a bull-fighter in Mexico. He was a professional roller-derby participant. He was shot seven times, stabbed seven times and ended up in seven comas while a bounty hunter in Texas.

And had his father had his way, Duran would never have achieved any of this — good or bad.

Duran, now of Bloomfield, shares all of these experiences in his book “The Suffering of Chasing Dreams,” which is slated to be made into a movie by Columbia Pictures, with production starting this October.

He says he chose the title because when he was a child, his family was extremely dysfunctional — and among many other things, his father sexually and verbally abused him when he wasn’t yet a teenager.

“I didn’t have God in my life back then,” Duran says. “And at the time, my father sexually, physically and mentally abused me constantly. When I told my mother, he beat me right in front of her. And she did nothing to stop it.”

His revelation to his mom about the abuse led both parents to send him away to a juvenile detention center for “troubled” boys. Thing is, he was troubled not because of anything he’d done — but because of what was being done to him.

Duran says — and he talks a lot about this in his book — that his three years in juvie were quite unpleasant. But, once, while he was locked up, he had an extremely spiritual experience where he encountered Christ (it would happen again years later when he was in a coma as an adult). And it was those experiences — those encounters with God — that ensured he’d not only chase after his dreams, but he’d achieve them.

It was counter to everything his parents seemed to want for him.

“Everybody on this planet has dreams,” Duran says. “Only thing is just a few achieve their dreams. And they do a lot of suffering along the way to execute their dreams.”

Aside from his bull-fighting, roller-derby and bounty-hunter experiences, Duran also boxed. Along the way, he met some of the most noted boxers in history, including Larry Holmes, who to this day speaks wonders of his dear friend.

“I’ve known Danny Duran for years and he is an outstanding person who has a fascinating past and I am extremely proud to know Danny these last five years ,” Holmes says. “Danny has done it all. This is what I call a man’s man in our world today. (He’s) a man with integrity and honesty, a man that you can depend on anything that he says or does. A man who truly walks in the light of God. God truly has a plan for Danny.”

Perhaps he did — and still does.

During a stretch Duran did in prison — you’ll have to read the book to find out why he was locked up — Duran met a woman who came to minister to the more than 700 inmates he was incarcerated with. She was extremely spiritual — and wouldn’t you know it, the two hit it off quite well … and today, they’re not just friends, they’re married.

Duran says his wife, Donna – his fifth wife, by the way – has helped shape who he is today … a man who has a deep relationship with Christ, and a man who wants everyone to know that it’s not impossible to achieve your dreams if you work for it.

“I did it and others can,” he says.

That brought him back to a time in his life when something happened to him he didn’t immediately realize was probably a good thing.

It was around 1967, and he was in Malibu, Calif. He’d befriended The Beach Boys — again, read the book to find out how that happened, too — and Brian Wilson, then just 25, the band’s lead singer and songwriter, invited Duran to his home.

“Imagine being invited to Brian Wilson’s home. It was surreal,” Duran says. “As we were walking up to the house, there was this smell. I had no idea what it was, so I asked Brian about it. He says, ‘that’s marijuana, kid.’ I didn’t know what marijuana was at the time.

“So we go into the house and he introduces me to this guy — it’s (around) 1967 remember — and the guy identifies himself as Jesus Christ. I just got a really bad feeling about the encounter, so I asked Brian to get me out of there.”

Not too long after, Duran was watching TV — and he sees the man who identified himself as Christ in handcuffs.

Turns out he’d met the notorious, murderous-mastermind Charles Manson.

“And you could imagine I was happy I’d left,” he says.

It’s these incredible encounters — and so many others — that prompted Duran to write his first of what he says will be four books. In his second encounter with God while he was in a coma, Duran says he was instructed to write four books about his life, his experiences and his faith.

And that’s just what he plans to do.

Duran says he’s excited about the book being transformed into a movie — though it seems he’s now somewhat worried about whether he’ll get to see it on the big screen. For all the good and bad experiences Duran has survived — think of how many times he was shot and stabbed, along with the notion that when he was a bounty hunter, he watched as his partner was murdered right in front of him … and he had his home blown up by a bomb as retaliation — he now has kidney cancer, diabetes, arthritis and requires full-time, home-care from a nurse.

And yet, despite getting what he equates to a death sentence, he says he’s not scared of leaving this world because he says he knows so much more lies ahead in the next life.

“My faith has kept me so strong,” he says. “I’ve gotten to do so much of what I wanted to do. I met Elvis Presley. I boxed. I met all kinds of people. I had dreams and others do, too. And it’s more than possible for everyone to achieve these dreams. People just need to know there will be suffering along the way.”

Find out more about “The Suffering of Chasing Dreams” by logging on to www.thesufferingofchasingdreamsdannyduran.com, where you’ll be able to order the book directly.

‘Chill out’ with gourmet ices at Stewart’s

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KEARNY –

Alongtime Kearny retailer is aiming to bring a taste of the Jersey Shore here, just a block in from the Passaic River waterfront.

For the first time, Stewart’s, 938 Passaic Ave., just south of the Rt. 7/Marine Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca Memorial Bridge, is adding “Boardwalk Desserts” to its classic menu of root beer, hot dogs, and lots more.

“I’m offering a line of ‘Carmine’s & Johnny’s’ 20 gourmet ices which are manufactured by JT Ices out of Brooklyn,” said longtime Stewart’s owner Mike Decato. “It’s a $1.99 for a small squeeze cup.”

The ices are named in memory of Johnny Decato, his late uncle, who took over the business from founder Walter Stahl, originally a tool and die maker from Union; and the late Carmine Decato, Mike’s dad who bought the place from his brother.

Decato’s personal mouthwatering favorites are honey graham cracker, cannoli, spumoni and black cherry cheesecake – “the cake has real cheese in it,” he promises.

“We’ve never had anything like this before in the 64 years the store has been here,” he said. The original Stewart’s franchise was established in 1924 in Mansfield, Ohio.

Up to now, Stewart’s fans have been treated to the normal roadside staples of franks, sandwich specialties (like kielbasa with pierogies, Italian sausage, Taylor ham, grilled cheese) and a value meal menu with a variety of beverages at reasonable prices.

But now, with Mother Nature turning up the heat, Stewart’s is rounding out its daily selections with traditional summertime fare.

There’s refreshing Italian ices with enough flavors designed to tickle the palate: vanilla black cherry, cappuccino chocolate, vanilla oreo, coconut, banana, banana fudge swirl, mango, peach, tropical passion, cherry, lemon, root beer, creamsicle, blue raspberry/sky blue and rainbow.

Not to mention “a full line of hard ice cream” – with vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, chocolate chip cookie dough, butter pecan, chocolate chip mint, pistachio and rum raisin.

Prices for ices and ice cream range from $1.99 for a small size to $8.99 for a takeout quart.

Customers can also choose from among strawberry, hot fudge or caramel sundaes, cones, floats or a Stewart Blizzard (pick your candy and flavor of ice cream).

Still not satisfied? Desserts include: zeppoles, 16-ounce slushes, banana splits, waffle sandwiches and 22-ounce homemade milk shakes with hard ice cream and real milk.

Take your choice of side candies: M&Ms, Oreos, Reese’s Pieces and Heath Bars.

“My 83-year-old mother is baking pies and desserts for me,” Decato said.

The idea of serving up the savory sweets came to Decato when a retired chiropractor pal from Staten Island “introduced me to it at the end of last summer.”

Since his business had taken a slight downturn – which wasn’t helped by Superstorm Sandy doing some of its own damage to inventory – “I figured it needed a little oomph” to get it moving,” Decato said.

Now, Decato’s hoping to see a payoff in summer trade.

The 52-year-old merchant has learned the business, from the ground up, starting at age 12, washing down tables, cleaning the bathroom, waiting on customers. Seven years later, he had, essentially, taken over running the operation.

The owner says he’s put his life blood into making the place a welcome stop for families in the area, providing enclosed, comfortable outdoor table seating for up to 70 diners and counter seating for an additional 10 individuals.

“We also provide carhop service,” he said, for those who prefer munching in their vehicles. There’s on-site parking available for about 50 cars.

While most patrons are from the West Hudson/South Bergen area, Decato said he’s “heard of some people coming down from Rockaway [in Morris County] where there’s another franchise, because they find our food better.”

Decato said he remains committed to providing the best produce and service available so he can stay local. Originally from Cranford, he’s made North Arlington his residence since 1980 and he likes the area.

He acknowledges that the property could have value for a fast food-type outlet and he’s considered renting it out but that would only be as a last resort.

“I wouldn’t know what to do with myself,” Decato said. “I’m not married, got no hobbies. This place has been my life. It’s in my blood.”

– Ron Leir

Feel like royalty at King’s Court

Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk

 

LYNDHURST -

Just how enticing is King’s Court Health & Sports Club? After a short visit, even someone (like your correspondent) to whom the concept of “sports” and even “health” is anathema, is tempted to sign up.

If you are serious about your workouts and training regimen, my bet is you’ll be more than tempted.

Adding to the attraction is that it’s a family-owned business, which indicates a more personal investment in keeping things running smoothly and in offering the latest in fitness classes and equipment.

King’s Court, housed in an architecturally pleasing building at 525 Riverside Ave. (near the intersection of Kingsland Ave.), has been in business since 1980, when it was primarily a racquet-ball and sports venue. In fact, one staffer told us, “I’ve heard people say, ‘I didn’t know this was a gym!’” Those people obviously don’t realize how much the place has changed over the decades. And especially over the last year or so.

The 60,000-square-foot building has undergone a multi-million-dollar renovation resulting in what marketing director Kristin Degenhardt described as a “state-of-the-art facility.”

Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk

 

Degenhardt gave us a personal tour, and what we saw was impressive. And pristine.

Much of it (since we are unfamiliar with exercise) was also mysterious, but Degenhardt happily answered all our questions.

We were first introduced to the “full body circuit,” which to our untrained eyes resembled the command center of some alien spacecraft, but in truth it is a circle of various workout and weight machines.

Complete the circuit and burn calories and build muscle strength and other good things.

King’s Court has two of these “circuit” centers, one in a room of its own and another in the huge gym — which also features treadmills and stationary cycles and ellipticals and multitudinous other exercise equipment, plus weight-training equipment, too. And unlike some gyms, it is light and airy, thanks to all the windows.

Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk

 

Our favorite room, though, was the one where the popular spinning classes are held. Thanks to the lighting (and the music when classes are in session), it resembles a cyclist’s disco. Extremely appealing.

And so is the beautiful swimming pool, which Degenhardt pointed out is a spa pool, not a lap pool. (Though you can swim laps, if you like.) It features two large Jacuzzis, and the temperature of the 5-foot-deep water is warmer than that of a lap pool.

Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk

 

The renovated club also features steam rooms and saunas, a basketball court (there are King’s Court leagues), racquet ball courts, and a spacious aerobics room (that room and the sports courts have floating hardwood floors, designed to lessen impact on knees and other joints).

There is also a brand new indoor running track and a TRX center. (TRX, we were told, is one of the new fitness fads, invented by the Marine Corps, and involving multiple exercises and weight training.)

Renovations are continuing, too. By midsummer, King’s Court hopes to have added a 120-foot-long indoor turf field for such sports as soccer and flag football.

And, oh yes, there’s also a “nursery,” where a parent can leave their child (age six months to 10 years old) to be entertained while mommy or daddy exercises.

As for group classes, there are too many to list here, King’s Court has flyers showing the seven-day-a-week schedule and describing what each offering is. Kickboxing, Pilates, Zumba and Yoga we understand, but there are others (Tabata Training, Piloxing, Crossfire) which are a puzzlement to us. But King’s Court will happily explain.

Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk

 

Plus, new members can avail themselves of a free physical assessment and training session, the better to choose which exercises/classes they might benefit from — and enjoy — most.

On Saturday, June 1, King’s Court will host a free Summer Kick-Off party from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. so prospective members–or just the curious general public–”can get a feel for the club,” which currently has approximately 2,500 members.

As for membership costs, “Inquire within.” You are invited to set up an appointment, or just stop by, and discuss the wide array of membership packages.

You can contact King’s Court at 201-460-0088 or by email: kingscourtnj@gmail. com. General club hours are Monday – Thursday, 5:30 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.; Friday, 5:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Saturday – Sunday, 7 a.m. -7 p.m.

For more information, visit kingscourtnj.com.

— Karen Zautyk

In Lyndhurst, we were to the manor borne

Photo by Karen Zautyk continued next page Judith Krall-Russo with basic necessities for a proper Edwardian tea

Photo by Karen Zautyk continued next page
Judith Krall-Russo with basic necessities for a proper Edwardian tea

 

By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent

LYNDHURST –

Admit it, ladies. (And maybe some of you gentlemen, too). Many of us are suffering “Downton Abbey” withdrawal.

You know the symptoms: the compulsion to wear elbow-length white gloves; drinking far too much tea; dressing for dinner, even if you’ve ordered takeout, and constantly searching eBay for pickle fork auctions. (Personally, if I don’t get a Mr. Bates fix soon, I shall suffer an attack of the vapors.)

Watching repeats helps a bit, but we know there’s a long, long trail a-winding until Season 4 starts next year.

For that reason, I took the motorcar on a jaunt to the Lyndhurst Public Library on Valley Brook Ave. last Saturday forenoon for a special presentation: “Life at an Edwardian Manor — Inspired by ‘Downton Abbey’.”

The speaker was Judith Krall-Russo of Fords. Krall- Russo is a food historian, but she has also done “massive research” into the manners and mores of the Edwardian era, which technically spanned the reign of Edward VII (1901-1910) but is more generally expanded to define the period from the 1880s to the end of World War I. And perhaps a bit beyond.

As “Downton” fans know, the Crawley family at the center of the saga has already entered the post- WWI period, and massive changes are in the air. But within the walls of the manor house, customs and attitudes (and the relationship between upstairs and downstairs) evolve at a more glacial pace.

Krall-Russo’s informative and intriguing program helped fill in some of the cultural-knowledge gaps of the series’ American audience, ranging from broad economic issues to such tidbits as why Lady Sybil’s appearance in harem pants cause such a stir. (What she was wearing was called a “tango dress,” and the tango, introduced to England around 1911, was downright scandalous. Until then, thanks to the omnipresent gloves, when men and women danced, they never touched flesh-to-flesh; that would have been considered “totally evil.”)

Not that there wasn’t such touching going on off the dance floor. Arranged marriages could be especially unhappy, and there were scores of American heiresses (“new money” not accepted into U.S. high society) shipped off to Britain simply to marry a lord and gain a title — and save the husband’s formerly wealthy family from bankruptcy. This could lead to significant hanky-panky among the upper classes.

Photo by Karen Zautyk Choose carefully: Which one is for pickles and which for pastries?

Photo by Karen Zautyk
Choose carefully: Which one is for pickles and which for pastries?

 

Krall-Russo gave her listeners a succinct lesson in economics, which play a critical role in the Crawley drama. Downton is in dire financial straits, but it still looks pretty spiffy. (“This is a show, not a documentary,” Krall-Russo reminded us more than once.) In fact, many of the British manor houses of the time lacked electricity and indoor plumbing and had deteriorated into fairly shabby conditions. (Not what those imported heiresses had expected at all.)

A primary cause — this is how the world economy works, children — was the American Civil War, after which U.S. industry, research, science and technology took off. On this side of the pond, it was also the era of huge ranches and farms.

England began buying its corn, wheat and meat, etc., from us, and the English laboring class, who had worked the manor house fields for centuries, “began leaving the land to do other things.” The aristocrats were losing their fortunes as land values plummeted.

This is also why the aristocrats were eager to wed rich American brides, since a bride and her money became the husband’s property.

The idle rich, Krall-Russo explained, were exactly that. Idle. Completely, except for socializing. “They did nothing,” she said. “Aristocrats were unemployed, and they were proud to be unemployed.”

Oh, the men might go fishing or shooting or fox hunting on occasion, but there was no concept of “work” for them. If they were out shooting, they didn’t even load their own guns. The “loader” did that, handed the weapon to the gentleman, who pegged a shot at a bird, handed the gun back to the loader and was given a freshly loaded one.

As for aristocratic Edwardian women, their primary occupation was to change clothes. Five times a day. The clothes were put on them by their maids, as were their jewels, their shoes, etc. A servant even put the toothpaste on their toothbrushes.

Some other fascinating trivia for us ladies:

• In the Victorian era, only prostitutes wore makeup. Except in France, where upper-class women wore makeup but prostitutes did not. (Must have been confusing for Englishmen visiting Paris.) Makeup — rice powder, pearl powder and rouge — started becoming acceptable for proper Englishwomen in the 1900s.

• The dark brunette hair of Cora and Lady Mary was not the preferred color. And blonde hair was considered “unfortunate.” Light brown hair was the ideal.

• Until age 18, girls could wear their hair down. But once they “came out” in society, the hair went up and it never came down in public again.

• An unmarried woman would never be left alone in a room with a man. Ever.

• A woman never left the house without a hat or bonnet. Ever.

• Speaking of hats, on the street one could identify a man’s social standing by his headgear: Aristocrats wore top hats; the working class (meaning doctors, lawyers, judges) wore bowler hats or homburgs; lower-class laborers wore caps.

As for the lower-class, the servants or “slavies,” Krall- Russo noted, “In ‘Downton Abbey,’ they’re too clean.” They would not have bathed regularly. And they would have slept in attics on leftover sheets and torn blankets.

Aside from all the housecleaning and fireplace-feeding and silver-polishing and kitchen work, their chores would have included ironing the newspapers so ink would not come off on the master’s hands and washing all coins, because the coins had been touched by commoners. And nothing, not a letter, not a calling card, would ever be handed directly to a family member; it would always be presented on a small tray.

If you, as a servant, passed a family member in a hallway, you would look down or at the wall. “Because,” said Krall- Russo, “you were not there.”

The servants got a half-day per week and one full day per month off — family social engagements permitting. They awoke at 5:30 a.m. and did not go to bed until all the work was done. Or, in a lady’s maid’s case, until the lady returned from her evening out. Which could be 2 a.m. or later.

Sometimes, the servants got no sleep at all. At one shooting party, Krall-Russo said, “4,000 birds were reportedly shot in one day. Who plucked and cleaned them?” Not the gentleman shooters.

All of the above is just part of the information we gleaned in the hourlong presentation.

The library had noted that you didn’t have to be a “Downton Abbey” fan to enjoy the program, but “devoted fans may take more notice of certain details in the show after attending.”

This one certainly will.

On Sunday night, I already started applying my new knowledge while watching another PBS program, “Mr. Selfridge.” For the first time, I was noticing the hats on the men in the street and rating the wearer’s social standing.

The more you know, the more interesting even the simple things become.

‘Stuart Little’ takes the stage

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The West Hudson Arts & Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) will present a stage version of E.B. White’s classic children’s book, “Stuart Little,” on Saturday, April 27 at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Sunday April 28 at 1:30 p.m., at the W.H.A.T. Theater, 131 Midland Ave., Kearny.

This latest production from W.H.A.T. is made possible through a generous grant from the Kearny Education Association (KEA). “We are especially grateful to the KEA allowing us to bring our second family theater production to our stage, “ said W.H.A.T. President Gerald Ficeto. “Part of our mission is to reach the youngest theater fans and their families and help them embark on a lifelong love of live theater,” he added.

“Stuart Little” tells the story of a young boy named Stuart who, while born into a regular family of humans, looks curiously just like a mouse. His parents immediately accept him for who he is, but Stuart longs to see the world outside the comfort and safety of his home. At the wheel of his pint-sized roadster, Stuart sets off to see the world and encounters adventures and friends along the way.

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“‘Stuart Little’ was one of my favorite books,” said director Mary Pat Shields, who also serves as the W.H.A.T. vice president and has been involved in many local high school and middle school productions throughout West Hudson. “The characters are wonderful, the adventures are exciting, and the idea that a little guy takes on the big world is a perfect message for the kids of our community.”

That cast includes Jack Haefner, Noelle Haefner, Tim Firth, Jonathan Pinto and Paula Reyes.

The audience can meet the cast after each performance and patrons are invited to bring their cameras.

General admission tickets are $5 for children (age 12 and under) and seniors; $8 for adults. Reserved seating is available for groups of 25 or more. For tickets and additional information, visit www.whatco.org, call 201-467- 8624, or stop at the theater box office 30 minutes before curtain.