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Category: Entertainment

‘West Wing’ fans rejoice: ‘Madam Secretary’ will bring you your politics fix


By Kevin Canessa Jr.

Observer Correspondent 

Fans of “The West Wing” can finally rejoice. After seven years without a major political drama that really takes on issues as “West Wing” did, you’ve finally got a show on TV that brings you into the White House.

And even better, the major player in this new CBS show is a woman.

The show debuted last Sunday night — just before another great drama, “The Good Wife” — and it didn’t disappoint one bit from the very first scene.

The show follows the leadership of the nation’s new Secretary of State Elizabeth Faulkner McCord, played brilliantly by Tea Leoni. We first meet the secretary after two twenty-something boys from Hartford, Conn., are taken hostage while in Syria. The hostage takers think these kids are jihadists. Truth is, they’re not — they’re just two kids, really, who wanted to help seek peace for the Syrian people.

But they’re in serious trouble right away because the government of Syria says they’re going to be executed in just a few days — the days following their capture.

As all of this happens, the current Secretary of State is involved in a plane crash, and the President of the United States, Conrad Dalton, played by Keith Carradine (you may remember him as Frank from classic episodes of “Criminal Minds”) wants McCord to be his new Secretary of State.

She and her husband, Henry McCord, played by Tim Daly, are both living comfortable lives. She’s a political-science professor and he’s a religion professor at the University of Virginia.

But it all turns upside down when the President shows up to their Virginia ranch — and gives McCord a day to decide if she’ll accept the position.

You don’t say no to the President of the United States. No one does in reality. And no one ever did to other fictitious President, like Josiah Bartlet, most notably.

And so two months later, we’re rejoined with Mrs. McCord serving at the White House while her husband finds himself with a great job as a religion professor at the Jesuit university, Georgetown.

It’s a religion professor’s dream to work with the Jesuits, isn’t it? And that’s precisely what we learn about him when he gets there.

But Mrs. McCord is immediately faced with a crisis — and that is, to get these two hostages freed from the Syrian prison. That’s no easy task, given the political climate there in reality.

And the reality of it transcends into this new show.

From the get-go, we’re treated to just how difficult it is to be a member of the President’s cabinet. And perhaps too stereotypically, we’re shown, right away, that it’s often more challenging for a woman to get the President’s ear than it is for a man to get his ear.

Her covert plan to get the two hostages freed is immediately dismissed by the President — her long-time friend from days back in the Central Intelligence Agency — in favor of a plan presented by the chief of staff, a man.

So while there are some trite themes that one might expect a woman new to the White House to experience, the bottom line is the show has taken — and will continue to take — serious modern- day, post-9/11 themes and it will run with them.

This is perhaps even more exciting than “The West Wing” was, as that show never directly addressed the change to the world after 9/11 (the show began pre-Sept. 11, 2001 in 1999, and while it did occasionally touch on terrorism, it never did so based on real-time events).

“Madam Secretary” is different. The subjects are real. We finally get a very strong woman in a very high position of authority — and she’s the focus of the show, not the President at all.

In fact, this show doesn’t work one bit if the Secretary of State is a man. But it works with her as a woman (sure there have been other shows with women in a powerful position — think “24” — but those characters have always had major flaws and weaknesses.

Elizabeth Faulkner McCord is by no means weak. She’s anything but it.

And because of that, “Madam Secretary” is one that will absolutely last. It should draw tremendous ratings following football and “60 Minutes” on CBS.

And finally, “West Wing” fans can rejoice because they’re more than likely going to get the politics fix from Hollywood so desperately missed since that show went off the air seven years ago.

Dino Costa coming to you live, online, from his Western digs


By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 


Glenn Beck did it when he had had enough with the suits at Fox News.

Sarah Palin is even giving it a try, though we’re not so sure how much success that’ll have.

But for the first time in modern sports-radio history, which technically dates back to 1987 when WFAN launched in New York, a nationally known sports-radio host has started an online-only, subscriber- based sports-radio network he hopes will make him and his investors big bucks — and that he hopes changes the way his fans get their sports radio.

Dino Costa, who spent the last few years with Mad Dog Radio on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio and before that, was on numerous terrestrial radio stations throughout the country, launched dinocostashow.com four months ago when he didn’t renew his contract with Mad Dog Radio and the suits at Sirius/XM.

Bringing Costa’s always entertaining — and extremely controversial show — to the Internet has changed the way sports radio shows are conducted now for many reasons, but most notably, not having to deal with the restrictive rules of the Federal Communications Commission.

“There are no rules, so it’s really the Wild, Wild West of sports radio, isn’t it?” Costa told The Observer exclusively. “When there are no rules, we can truly do what we want. And that’s exactly what we do.”

But it was hardly the FCC’s rules that got Costa interested in doing online-only sports radio. Instead, he says it’s because too often, the suits at Sirius/XM refused to realize his potential — and to market his show and talents properly.

“I was thinking of this prior to my departure at Sirius/ XM, however,” Costa said. “And after that, I had an opportunity to meet with the folks at Fox Sports out in Los Angeles. But long story short, an investor who was also a fan contacted me, asked me if I really wanted to do this, and I realized this was as good a time as any to break into the digital platform.

“So I wrote to the folks at Fox, thanked them, and let them know I was going in a different direction. And on May 5, we launched dinocostashow.com.”

Costa says the digital platform has led to the “most fun” he’s had in his 18-year radio career. Each show is broadcast with crystal-clear video of Dino in his studio. It’s also simulcast audio only. If listeners miss a show, each one is archived for later viewing or listening. The show also now has its own app for iPhones and Androids.

But Costa says the new platform can be trying, at times, especially considering there are no commercials.

“It can be mentally fatiguing at times, but there’s an organic flow to the show we never had before now,” Costa said. “And every time I go into that studio, I have go so with the mindset that the entire world is listening to the show. We have fewer listeners now than when I was on Sirius/XM, obviously, but I must treat every show as if the audience was enormous. People are giving us their hard-earned money to listen.

“So it is a challenge in one way, but an absolutely fun and enjoyable way to broadcast.”

While many in radio say Internet-based stations won’t succeed in the long term, Costa says not so fast to all the naysayers.

Since many cars are now coming equipped with 4G Wi- Fi access, and many more will in the future, Costa believes the digital radio platform is not only here, it’s here for the long haul.

“Let’s not forget that there are some digital-only news platforms that are now out performing traditional newspapers,” Costa said. “If those kinds of sites can succeed, why can’t digital-only radio? It only makes sense that it’s more than possible.”

Ideally, Costa says he hopes this is the last “job” he ever has in radio. But he also says he’d be foolish to cast aside any possible future opportunities that might arise.

“If other opportunities present themselves, I’d be foolish not to consider them,” he said. “But I really believe this is the future of radio, the future of sports talk radio. And each day since we’ve launched, we’ve gained more and more subscribers. We’ve never gone backward. That’s a real sign this is going to succeed.”

Matthew Mandel of Kearny has been a huge fan of Costa’s work, dating back to his arrival at Mad Dog Radio. He says having Costa’s show online rather than on satellite or terrestrial radio has made it significantly better.

“He doesn’t answer to anyone anymore,” Mandel said. “When he was on Sirius, he never got the respect he deserved from his bosses. Now, he holds nothing back at all. He tells it like it is. If a team or an athlete ticks him off, he’s going to say so — and he could do that without the fear of potential consequences.

“That has made the Dino Costa Show so much better than it was before.”

Mike Ranford of Belleville agrees — even though he hasn’t always been a fan of Costa’s.

“He says what he means and he means what he says,” Ranford said. “There were times in the past he’s said stuff that just infuriated me. But when you think of it, that’s what sports talk radio is all about. It’s purely entertainment. And with an online platform, Dino entertains while bringing his fans the best sports radio has to offer.

“He is much better off today without Sirius/XM as far as I am concerned. I just hope the online platform takes off and people are willing to pay a minimal fee to get better sports radio than any of the two terrestrial stations in the area (WFAN and WEPN) can offer.”

Contact Dino by sending an email to talktodino@gmail.com.

Williams’ death reminds us success is no defense against depression


By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

Some of the comments were disturbing and beyond ignorant.

“But he was so good in ‘Mrs. Doubtfire,’ how could he ever be depressed?”

“He had so much money, what was there for him to be depressed over?”

“He was a funny and talented actor — there’s no logical reason whatsoever that he should have been depressed.”

And there were other comments that were worse, really. But these were the most stark, because it’s 2014, and there are, honestly, people in this world who do not understand depression.

It can hit anyone. Finances have no correlation to depression. It doesn’t always take bad experiences to make people depressed. And being a famous actor with immense worldly talent makes not one bit of difference.

I say this with authority because like Robin Williams — and millions of others in this country — I’ve been there before. There is nothing worse. And it doesn’t require a trigger to be set in motion.

The first time I recall being depressed, I was 14 and a freshman in high school. I recall waking up one day and – literally – not being able to get out of bed. Nothing but good things precipitated this. I was having the time of my life at a new school at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City. And the feeling was immense and outrageously intolerable.

On any given day, it could come and go — especially if funny things happened in a class. But without fail, by the time I was on the No. 22 bus heading from Journal Square back home to Kearny, it would resurface.

Occasionally, it would last weeks at a time. Sometimes less. Sometimes, more.

And yet here I was, in as positive an environment I could ask for — and the sadness, the dreariness, the feelings of despair, were so strong. And because this was 1989, there was nothing I could do, because no one talked about depression then, no one at school ever addressed the notion of depression and quite frankly, no one anywhere really thought it would be possible for a 14-year-old to be depressed — especially when everything else in life was otherwise fine.

This initial span lasted, on and off, until 1991, the beginning of my senior year of high school. It went away until around 1999 — and came back with vengeance.

But being older, and sick and tired of its effects, I did something about it. First, I confided in a friend about it. It was the most important conversation I’ve ever had, because for the first time ever, someone else knew what I was going through. And this person constantly kept on me about it — and still does to this day.

The next thing I did was acknowledging I had an illness by seeing a doctor for help. I went for a visit to the late Dr. Peter Taddio in Kearny, and immediately, he put me at ease. He gave me his ear. And he prescribed me a medication that, quite frankly, I believe saved my life.

First it was Zoloft, and then it was Cymbalta. Zoloft didn’t work for me. It works for others. But Cymbalta did. It changed everything.

It seems a lot of people who suffer from depression keep their illness deeply secretive. Though he wasn’t exactly secret about his illness, I wonder how much people really knew about the depth of Williams’ depression just before he took his own life. Because the truth is, if there were even just one person who knew how badly things were going, I can’t imagine something couldn’t have been done to help Williams.

Perhaps it’s the stigma. Perhaps it’s that many don’t realize it’s actually an illness, one that’s biologically based. Perhaps it’s a myriad of reasons. But way too often, in this country, people with any kind of mental illness don’t do enough to get help, whether it’s taking medication or seeking psychological help — or a combination of both.

Whatever the reason is, most vitally, people who don’t suffer from depression need to understand the severity of the problem. It could be someone in your family. It could be a spouse. Worse, it could be your child. And with that realization comes the responsibility to do something to help. Because far too often, it’s so bad for the sick person that nothing gets done at all.

The day Robin Williams took his own life, it was so brutal, so horrid, that he made the decision that being dead would be the far better option than remaining alive without someone’s help.

There were others in the house the day Williams died — his wife included — and the chances are they were unaware of just how serious the scope of his depression really was.

If one person — one — had known, perhaps he’d still be alive today.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

But it’s the most overt sign that depression can and does affect all types of lives.

It could affect a 14-year-old high school student. It could affect a 63-year-old world-famous comedian and actor. It could affect someone sitting in the same room as you as you read this.

And frankly, it’s up to all of us to admit there’s a huge problem in this country with depression. And it’s up to all of us, once and for all, to do something about it.

Before another life ends far too soon than it should have.

See ‘On the Town’ on Broadway


By Kevin Canessa Jr.

Observer Correspondent 


If you’re one of the many people who love Broadway shows, but hate the hassle of having to drive into Manhattan, hate the tolls, hate the traffic and hate the cost of parking, Mary’s Theatre Parties and Tours has a deal for you to go to see the new show “On the Town” without all the headaches.

Mary Catena has been running her tour company for the last 35 or so years. And on Oct. 14, for just $132, you’ll get a ticket to the show, a full-buffet dinner at the San Carlo, 620 Stuyvesant Ave., Lyndhurst, and coach bus transportation to “On the Town” at the Lyric Theatre in Manhattan.

Catena says there’s no better way to see a Broadway show than how she arranges it.

“I’ve always said this is the perfect way to see Broadway,” Catena said. “You get to see the best shows, you get great seats, a wonderful dinner and best of all, transportation to New York City. Getting picked up and dropped back off at the San Carlo is the only way to go.

Images courtesy of Google Street View/onthetownbroadway.com The Lyric Theatre, New York City

Images courtesy of Google Street View/onthetownbroadway.com
The Lyric Theatre, New York City


You don’t have to worry about the tolls and parking — just get on the bus and go.” Catena says she’s been using the San Carlo as a preshow dinner spot for close to 30 years now.

“They’ve always treated us so well — and the food is spectacular,” she said.

She also says she used to do up to five shows or trips a month — but now that she’s virtually retired, — it’s just too much to do on a regular basis. She says the trips have become more special because they’re not as frequent as they once were.

She says she tries to pick Broadway shows that have promise if they’re new — or that are popular and marketable. That’s because she’s responsible for buying the tickets in advance, taking out ads to sell them — and then being reimbursed from ticket sales. So “On the Town” was a no-brainer. The pre-show reviews have mostly been raving.

“Oh and it was such a wonderful movie,” Catena said. “It had Frank Sinatra in it. It had Gene Kelly in it. I really think this will be a special night for everyone.”

Patrons are responsible for their own transportation to and from the San Carlo. Dinner is at 4 p.m. and the bus for New York City leaves Lyndhurst at 5:30 p.m. sharp for a 7 p.m. curtain at the Lyric Theatre. The $132 price per person is all-inclusive, and gets you dinner (including all taxes and tips), a ticket to the show and the bus ride across the Hudson.

Not a bad deal at all, considering how expensive shows are these days.

The main poster for ‘On the Town.’

The main poster for ‘On the Town.’

“It’s just ridiculous how expensive these shows are these days — it’s basically unaffordable, isn’t it?” Catena said. “I like to make the experience fun and affordable for everyone who goes.”

While this is the last trip Catena has planned for now, she says there could be more in the future. Be sure to check The Observer for additional shows and schedules.

“On the Town” comes to Broadway this month with preview shows. The show’s website reveals there are 30 cast members and that the show boasts the largest orchestra of any show on all of Broadway.

“It’s the story of three wideeyed sailors on a whirlwind musical tour of the city that never sleeps,” the website says. “With just 24 hours of shore leave, they’re eager to experience all that New York City has to offer … including a chance to discover love with the girl of their dreams.”

Tony Award-winner John Rando is the producer and Joshua Bergasse conducts the grand orchestra. Leonard Bernstein composed the original musical score.

To reserve seats for the Oct. 14 event, call Catena at 201- 998-1030. An initial deposit of $100 is due immediately, and the balance is due by Sept. 15. To find out more about the show “On the Town,” check out the website www.onthetownbroadway.com.

Kevin Canessa Jr. can be reached at kevincanessa@gmail.com. 

‘Happy Valley’ New Netflix police show will leave you wanting more


By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

Whenever Netflix releases new shows, they always put a little tag under the graphic that says “New Episodes.” The other day, “Happy Valley” had that label and at first, it seemed like it might be a comedy.

But it was far from it. Turns out “Happy Valley” is an incredible new police series, exclusive to Netflix in the United States (created by the BBC), with a six-episode run.

The six episodes were as intense as any TV as there’s been in quite some time.

It’s a show with two distinct plots that have a major connection. One story line surrounds police Sgt. Catherine Cawood, played by Sarah Lancashire, who comes from a most dysfunctional family.

She divorced after her daughter killed herself, right after the daughter had a child that was fathered by a rape. The father of the child, Ryan, is Tommy Lee Royce, played by James Norton. Cawood’s sister is a recovering heroin addict. And her son wants little to do with her.

Photos courtesy Netflix.com Kevin Weatherill, played by Steve Pemberton

Photos courtesy Netflix.com
Kevin Weatherill, played by Steve Pemberton


The second plot surrounds Kevin Weatherill, a down-on- his-luck bookkeeper who wants to send his daughters to private school. But he can’t afford the tuition. So, he asks his boss and long-time friend Nevison Gallagher for a raise in salary.

But Gallagher declines the offer at first.

To fix this, Weatherill devises a plan where three men he knows — including Royce — will kidnap Gallagher’s daughter, Ann, and demand ransom. The four will split the ransom, ideally, and Weatherill will have more than enough money to send his daughters to the private school.

Sounds like the movie “Fargo” in way, doesn’t it, where Jerry Lundegaard has his wife kidnapped to make money from her dad?

And of course, just like in “Fargo,” you can rest assured in “Happy Valley,” it’s just not as simple as kidnapping someone, a ransom demand — the criminals get the ransom and everyone lives happily ever after.

No, it’s not even close to that — and that’s why “Happy Valley” is intense and unpredictable.

So much goes wrong over the course of six episodes for Cawood and Weatherill. But it’s hardly the kind of stuff you’d be able to sit back and forecast.

The follies of the two lead characters are what make this new series so great. Nothing one witnesses can be seen as predictable. Not at all. But for the sake of not spoiling the six episodes, we’ll leave it at that.

Tommy Lee Royce, played by James Norton

Tommy Lee Royce, played by James Norton


Though the show is filmed entirely in England, it’s very easy to follow. The accents aren’t thick. And the town, in West Yorkshire, is a lot like our local towns — with lots of hard-working, middleclass families.

Perhaps the only drawback to the show is that it’s loaded with violence and graphic imagery — but that all gets lost in the incredible writing and incredible storylines.

The episodes were so good that this writer watched them all in a seven-hour span.

If you’re looking for a new Netflix show, and you enjoy suspenseful police dramas that aren’t necessarily about police procedure, “Happy Valley” will keep you wanting more. And the good news is there’s already a second series planned for just around this time next year.

(Are you in a band? Starring in a show? Live in our readership area? We want to know about it. Send an email to kevincanessa@gmail.com and we’ll feature you, your band, etc). 

Kearny band ‘A Midnight Tragedy’ has its eyes set on big goals


By Kevin Canessa Jr.

 Observer Correspondent 


You’d almost think that a kid who grew up in Brooklyn would have a lot more opportunities with music and the arts scene there than in West Hudson. And yet, the truth is, Dallas Sanchez, who moved to Kearny in 1994, says the chances he got here musically and artistically far outweigh what was available to him 20 years ago as a boy in the city’s most populous borough.

“Not even close,” he said. “When my family moved here from Brooklyn, the music and art opportunities here in Kearny were tremendous — and they helped shape me into who I am today.”

And today, Sanchez is the lead vocalist and guitar player in a band he formed back in 2005 called A Midnight Tragedy. The 31-year-old, who still calls Kearny home is a self-taught guitarist.

“Never took a lesson — and I don’t read music,” Sanchez said. “I don’t know what any of those notes mean. I just have the ability to take what is going on inside my head and to play it on the guitar.”

A Midnight Tragedy isn’t the first band he was in, but it’s certainly the one he’s been involved with the longest. When he formed it nearly a decade ago, he did so with one of his dearest friends — now his brother-in-law — Dan Mennella, also of Kearny.


Photos courtesy of A Midnight Tragedy


Mennella is the band’s drummer. 

Over the years, there have been a few changes in members, but now, the pair are joined by John Leonti, the bassist, and Esteban Pastor, who also plays guitar.

Sanchez says one of the greatest aspects of A Midnight Tragedy is that there really isn’t another band out there — in the mainstream or otherwise — that he could say is reminiscent of his. Their style, instead, is one-of-a-kind — and it shows.

“And yet, our new album has 17 tracks, and the concept is that it’s a musical,” Sanchez said. “We’ve done it all ourselves, too. In the tracks, you’ll hear theme like you would in Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall,’ or pieces you might hear in ‘Rent,’ or ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ And there’s a lot about having faith … not necessarily religiously, but having faith in anything. But it all has our own unique sound, and I am very proud of that.

” That album will be released in less than a week — on Aug. 26. It’ll be their third.

And with all of this success, Sanchez says there’s one thing, above a lot else, that he’s most proud of.

“And that is that we’re from Kearny,” he said. “When you see us performing, mostly you’ll see red and black, the colors of Kearny High School. The Kearny pride is amazing. And what I hope happens is that when younger kids see us — whether it’s driving along Kearny Ave. in our tour bus, or at a show … wherever … that they see us and say, ‘Well, if they can do it, we can do it, too.’ There is a lot of musical talent in this town.

“We even filmed a video for one of the new songs in Kearny just the other day.”

Now while Sanchez says he hopes one day the band and touring can be a full-time career, he and his band mates have other careers, too. But Sanchez says he’s quite fortunate because his other job is also music-related.

He works for a company that provides buses for musicians on tour. And, he says it’s been a blessing to have such a job.

“It’s incredible,” he said. “Having this job has opened up so many other opportunities — and I’ve been able to meet so many great people in the business. None of that hurts, at all.”



Meanwhile, Sanchez does all of this with a family of his own. He and his wife, Jessica, have two children: a 10-yearold son and a 2-year-old daughter. And he gets a lot of support from them.

“My wife has been to a lot of our shows, and last year our daughter was at a show, also,” he said. “My wife has been very supportive over the years. It’s not always easy, like in any marriage, but she’s been just great.”

A Midnight Tragedy will perform two shows later this week. They’ll be at Mexicali Live, Teaneck, on Aug. 23 at 8 p.m. and at the Trash Bar, Brooklyn, on Aug. 24 at 11 p.m. The new album will be available for sale at the two gigs for an introductory price of $7. Once it’s officially released on Aug. 26, it’ll cost $7.99 and can be downloaded from iTunes.

To find out more about A Midnight Tragedy, to listen to their music, to buy the new album, for tour dates and more, visit www.amidnighttragedy.com.

‘Polarized’ impossible to put down after picking it up


By Ryan Sloane
Observer Correspondent 

With some summer night’s heat so oppressive you don’t want to venture outside, there’s always a great book out there that can make the doldrums of the humidity and stale air just go away.

Such is the case with the biography, “Polarized: Sex, Lies and Family Betrayal,” the story of Joseph DeBlasi, formerly of Staten Island, N.Y., who shares his experiences of being bipolar.

Much of the book depicts how DeBlasi was faced, at a very young age, with having to deal with the highs of mania and the lows of the depression the disease caused — and still does cause to this day. But it’s important to know a little background on DeBlasi before reading the book — and we certainly hope you will give this one a read.

When DeBlasi was a young boy, not even 10, his parents were divorcing. His father, a prominent doctor on Staten Island, decided he didn’t want his soon-to-be ex-wife gaining custody of the boy, so DeBlasi writes of how his dad “kidnapped” him to make sure of it. Read more »

‘The Hunt With John Walsh’ on CNN is already paying off


By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

John Walsh lived every parent’s nightmare back in 1981, when his then 6-year-old son, Adam, was kidnapped from a mall in Hollywood, Fla., and found dead, decapitated, just weeks later about an hour or so north of his home.

And for years, Walsh went on a crusade, hosting “America’s Most Wanted” on the Fox Television Network. With that show now a thing of the past, he’s taken his mission to find criminals to CNN with a new show called “The Hunt With John Walsh.”

The show airs on CNN every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET, and after being on the air for just three weeks, it has already led to the capture (and ultimately, death) of one of the profiled criminals.

If there’s a show on TV that every American should take time to watch each week, it’s this show — because not only is it riveting, it’s also perhaps the most beneficial law-enforcement tool on the air, or anywhere, for that matter.

Each episode profiles one or two criminals who are involved in a most heinous crime. The details of each crime are re-enacted. And while some of the scenes are extremely graphic, they’re by no means a turnoff, because in reality, they’re demonstrative of some very evil acts committed by some very evil people.

So why isn’t that a turnoff?

It’s simple actually.

It’s because every viewer of the show should watch “The Hunt” with the thought that perhaps, at one point or another, they’ll see someone featured whom they know, or might have seen somewhere.

It was somewhat perplexing when a show as beneficial as “America’s Most Wanted” was cancelled. It led to the arrest and capture of hundreds of wanted criminals over its long run. And clearly, “The Hunt” is poised to do the very same.

“All it takes is one person, one tip,” Walsh said on the show’s preview. “We might not get tons of calls. We might not get tons of accurate tips. But all it takes is one person who knows something to pick up that phone, or to go online, and we’ll make a difference and bring these animals to justice.”

And that’s exactly what happened in New York last week.

One person picked up the phone and made one telephone call, and Charles Modzir was found by U.S. Marshals and the New York City Police Department working in a Manhattan smoke shop.

Modzir was on the run for more than two years after he was accused of sexual abuse against a young boy. When he was confronted by marshals and the NYPD, he immediately began to fire on them, according to police reports, and when they fired back, he was killed.

Of course, Walsh says he’d prefer the criminals be caught and not killed, but he’s always delighted when one more criminal is taken off the streets.

Photos courtesy CNN Fugitive Charles Modzir, who was featured on an episode of ‘The Hunt,’ and was found by authorities just days later working in a New York City smoke shop.

Photos courtesy CNN Fugitive
Charles Modzir, who was featured on an episode of ‘The Hunt,’ and was found by authorities just days later working in a New York City smoke shop.


All sorts of cases, crimes 

The episodes and kinds of crimes committed by those wanted vary from week to week. Without giving too much away, this past week’s installment profiled two criminals: one wanted on vehicular homicide charges (Christopher Ponce, 24, of Florida) and another wanted on attempted murder charges (David Burgert, 50, of Montana).

Ponce was awaiting trial for a 2012 incident where he was alleged to have killed several people while driving the wrong way up an on-ramp on a Florida highway. He was on bail with an ankle monitor, but he cut it off and has since jumped his bail.

Burgert is wanted after he allegedly opened fire on police officers while he was a member of a militia that reportedly had a list of people — mostly government officials and police officers — whom they wanted to kill.

He escaped after a violent shootout with police, though some interviewed on the show believe he may actually be dead since he’s gone two years without resurfacing.

There have been other cases involving murder, sexual abuse, kidnapping and other crimes. But the bottom line is these cases are getting exposure — and it will become very difficult for these criminals to remain on the run after the episodes air.

So if you’re not busy one Sunday night at 9, turn on CNN.

Perhaps one week you might see someone being profiled whom you’ve seen.

New twist to ‘The Addams Family,’ performed by Teen Drama, at W.H.A.T.



By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 


There’s no doubt you’ve likely seen “The Addams Family” at some point, whether it’s the classic TV show or more recent versions on the large screen. But this week — Wednesday to Saturday to be precise — you’ll find a completely new take of “The Addams Family” at West Hudson Arts & Theater Co. (W.H.A.T.), presented in conjunction with Teen Drama, a local theater company for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade,

This production, says show co-director Michele Sarnoski, is based more on “The Addams Family” comics. It focuses on Wednesday who is all grown up and in love with someone unlike any member of the Addams Family.

“So a lot of the show is how The Addams Family deals with someone who comes from a normal family,” said Sarnoski, a graduate of Lyndhurst High School.

The two most veteran performers in the show are Faith D’Isa (Wednesday) and James Berko (Lurch). Both D’Isa and Berko are longtime members of Teen Drama — but are back, one last time, as ascending college sophomores. And that delights Sarnoski.

“They are just amazing,” Sarnoski said. “And what’s perhaps the greatest part is that this year, there are 11 new kids in the production. And they’ve both grown to embrace the new kids — to show them what Teen Drama is all about — and it’s not an easy task.

“A lot of what James has to do is in his movements. It’s physical. So he doesn’t get to use his voice much to show the other kids things. Yet he does it so well. And Faith, if you’ve ever seen her, she’s always got a smile on her face, she’s always so bubbly. And she plays the ever-stoic Wednesday.

“But they’re both so awesome at showing the younger kids our traditions.”

The rest of the cast includes Dennis Oliveira (Gomez Addams), Maggie Spector- Williams (Morticia Addams), Rachel Spillane (Wednesday Addams in two shows), Abigail Stokes (Pugsley Addams), John McCullough (Fester Addams), Joana Marmelo (Grandma Addams), Michael Oliveira (Beikeke), Samantha Armenteros (Alice Beineke), Tyler Bremner (Mal Beineke), Briana Dickinson, Alyssa Fink, Jillian Fitzpatrick, Lauren Gold, Melanie Hill, Stefanie Pancaro, Spencer Roda, Valentine Rojas, Alyssa Schirm and Julia Truskolawski (Addams Family Ancestors).

5 years and counting 

For Sarnoski, this is year five of Teen Drama. She began the program after several local parents approached her and said they wanted more for their kids to do, dramawise, in the summer months. So Sarnoski and her show co-director, Joe Ferriero, got together to form Teen Drama.

Sarnoski and Ferriero had worked together for quite some time — dating back to 2003 — when they co-founded an immensely successful drama program at the former St. Stephen’s School … and later Mater Dei Academy.

“Joe is my best friend, and I love working with him,” Sarnoski said. “So about five, six years ago, we put the program together for kids who are in kindergarten to the 12th-grade. The first year, we had just 10 kids. Now we’re up to 25. It’s been an amazing experience.”

And the connections with W.H.A.T. have been very beneficial for both organizations, as well.

Many of the youngsters who have performed in Teen Drama shows have gone on to perform in W.H.A.T. shows. And, because W.H.A.T. offers several theater-related educational programs each year, the youngsters in Teen Drama have benefitted from W.H.A.T.’s outreach, as well.

“We’ve been great feeders for each other,” Sarnoski said.

Speaking of feeders, the young performers aren’t just from West Hudson. In fact, this year, there are kids from Nutley, Lyndhurst and North Arlington — from middle schools and high schools, both public and private. And that expansion is very exciting, Sarnoski says.

Sarnoski says she’s most satisfied when people leave Teen Drama shows with a smile.

“We want the kids to feel like they’re part of a family,” she said. “It’s only a six-week program, so there’s a lot to do in a short period of time. Then when people leave happy after shows, and they’re impressed, we know we’ve done things right.

Indeed, they have.

Find out more about Teen Drama by visiting www.teendrama.org, or by calling 973-498-8336 or by sending a message by email to info@ teendrama.org.

Showtimes for “The Addams Family” are Wednesday, July 30, to Saturday, Aug. 2, at 7:30 p.m., with a 1:30 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Aug. 2, at the W.H.A.T. Theater, 131 Midland Ave., Kearny (the former St. Stephen’s School). Tickets can be purchased at the door for $10 or online at www.teendrama.org. Special $7 tickets are available for the Saturday matinee for senior citizens.

W.H.A.T. presents ‘The Addams Family’ July 30-Aug. 2, including preview tonight at Angry Coffee Bean



Teen Drama, a theater company for teens celebrating its fifth anniversary this summer, in association with the West Hudson Arts & Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) presents the modern classic Broadway musical “The Addams Family” this summer. The smash-hit musical comedy brings the darkly delirious world of Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Grandma, Wednesday, Pugsley and, of course, Lurch to spooky and spectacular life.

Performances of the musical, based on the bizarre and beloved family of characters created by legendary cartoonist Charles Addams, are July 30 to Aug. 2 at 7:30 p.m., and a matinee performance Aug. 2 at 1:30 p.m. at the W.H.A.T. Theater, 131 Midland Ave., Kearny (the former St. Stephen’s School).  General admission tickets are $10. A $7 senior citizen discount ticket is being offered at the Saturday matinee.

The cast will make a special appearance on Thursday, July 24 at 7 p.m. for a special preview of the show at The Angry Coffee Bean Café, 89 Ridge Road, North Arlington. (201) 772-5554.

The Teen Drama production features:

Dennis Oliveira (Gomez Addams), Maggie Spector-Williams (Morticia Addams), Faith D’Isa & Rachel Spillane (Wednesday Addams), Abigail Stokes (Pugsley Addams), John McCullough (Fester Addams), Joana Marmelo (Grandma Addams),James Berko (Lurch), Michael Oliveira (Lucas Beikeke), Samantha Armenteros  (Alice Beineke), Tyler Bremner (Mal Beineke), Briana Dickinson, Alyssa Fink, Jillian Fitzpatrick, Lauren Gold, Melanie Hill, Stefanie Pancaro, Spencer Roda, Valentine Rojas, Alyssa Schirm and Julia Truskolawski  (Addams Family Ancestors).

“The Addams Family” is being produced by Michele Sarnoski, who is co-directing with Joe Ferriero. Scott Burzynski, music director; Dana Mannie, choreography (Mary Berko, assistant choreography); Maximo Grano De Oro, crew chief; Matt Lepore, stage manager; and Vincent Venziano and Alex Palomino, stage crew.

Tickets for The Addams Family are $10 and can be purchased online at www.teendrama.org, by phone 1-800-838-3006 or at the door 30 minutes before performances.  Teen Drama can be reached at 973-498-8336 or info@teendrama.org.

Check next week’s issue of The Observer for a full preview of the upcoming shows in our Entertainment section.