Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was inducted in the Hall of Fame’s first class in 2008, was in attendance to present and accept an award for David Sarnoff, known as the “father of electronic communication.”
“When I was first notified [I was being inducted in 2008], I thought they’d been doing this all along,” Aldrin said. “I thought, ‘Wow, I am in the company of some pretty impressive people.’ Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Frank Sinatra and a few other stars.”
On Tuesday, the red carpet was rolled out in the center of the Ming Dynasty art exhibit for what honoree Joe Piscopo called, “a very local, Jersey class.”
“These are people who really live here, work here and have given back here,” said Piscopo. “To be part of that class, that’s what’s special to me.”
A Jersey class indeed: Inductees included make-up mogul Bobbi Brown, world-class track athlete and Olympian Joetta Clark Diggs, recording artist Dionne Warwick, philanthropist Raymond Chambers and Governor Tom Kean. Half of the class was also honored posthumorously, including President Grover Cleveland, revolutionary writer Thomas Paine and, notably, Whitney Houston.
Warwick, Houston’s cousin, said it was “amazing” to be included in the same class as Houston, who died in 2012 at age 49. “It’s double the pleasure, knowing she’s being inducted as well,” she said.
Houston’s sister-in-law and manager Patricia Houston accepted the award alongside Houston’s mother, gospel legend Cissy Houston. Cissy said she was proud to accept the award because, “all [Whitney] ever wanted to do was sing.”
The ceremony was a departure from previous inductions, which were held at NJPAC and included musical performances, sometimes by the honorees. This year, the event began with a cocktail and dinner reception where videos of past inductees were projected. The induction ceremony followed in a small auditorium. About 300 people were in attendance. New Jersey journalist (and New Jersey Monthly columnist) Steve Adubato served as emcee.
But it was not only New Jersey natives who made the grade. Bobbi Brown, originally from Chicago but a resident of Montclair for many years, joked she was extra deserving of her award because she, “chose New Jersey.”
“It’s awesome to be honored by New Jersey because I actually love the state of New Jersey,” she said. “I’m a better person because I live in New Jersey.”
Make-up mogul Bobbi Brown accepts her award alongside friend and presenter Elvis Duran, of the Elvis Duran and the Morning Show. Photo by: Gary Gellman/Gellman Images