Jason Alexander, Southside Johnny, Smithereens Inducted into NJ Hall of Fame

The October 27 ceremony at Asbury Park's Paramount Theatre welcomed the class of 2018 with performances by Bon Jovi, Darlene Love and more.

Stars at the induction ceremony, from left: Dr. Oz, Martha Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, Timothy White and Michael Bolton. Photo by Gary Gellman/Gellman Images

It was a night for nostalgia in Asbury Park as the New Jersey Hall of Fame celebrated 19 new inductees Sunday at the Paramount Theatre.

Dennis Diken of the Smithereens recalled the “creative and fun-loving kids” he and several bandmates grew up with in Carteret. Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin remembered stickball games in Bayonne. Actor Jason Alexander harked back to teenage jobs at the Livingston Mall and meals at the much-lamented (and now-defunct) Don’s Diner nearby.

And Martha Stewart, a member of the class of 2011, finally accepted her honor in person. She spoke fondly of growing up in Nutley, where she got her first lessons in baking from a neighbor and her first brush with stardom babysitting for Yogi and Carmen Berra’s boys.

Among those also honored last night were the late Jaws author Peter Benchley, musician Southside Johnny, restaurateur/philanthropist/musician Tim McLoone, football greats Harry Carson and Bart Oates, the late basketball star and coach Anne Donovan, and Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez, who at 19 became the youngest inductee of the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

It was the Hall of Fame’s 11th induction ceremony—and likely the longest. Planned at 2-1/2 hours, it ran for four. It was almost 10 pm when Whoopi Goldberg, on hand to induct her friend, the photographer Timothy White, joked, “It’s past my bedtime.” Jason Alexander, the night’s final inductee, took repeated jabs at the ceremony’s length.

Despite the wait, Alexander was in great form, ad-libbing his acceptance speech with a characteristic mix of pride and self-deprecation. “This is great for me,” he declared. “I don’t know what it does for Jersey.”

Southside Johnny performed with Jon Bon Jovi. Photo by Gary Gellman/Gellman Images

The evening featured musical performances by McLoone with singer Darlene Love, and Southside Johnny with Jon Bon Jovi, who introduced Southside as “a friend, a mentor, a bad influence and sometimes a cranky son of a bitch.”

Other presenters included Gov. Phil Murphy and wife Tammy for the late educator Elizabeth Allen and the late businesswoman/philanthropist Mary Roebling; Dr. Oz for Martha Stewart; former Gov. Tom Kean for the late entrepreneur J. Fletcher Creamer Sr.; E Street bassist Garry Tallent for the Smithereens; author Harlan Coben for Peter Benchley; and former New York Met Ed Kranepool and current Met Todd Frazier for George R. R. Martin, a rabid Met fan.

Leaders of the Hall of Fame announced that the organization had exceeded its capital-campaign goal of $10 million for the hall’s eventual physical location in the new American Dream shopping and entertainment complex.

The Smithereens closed the long evening with two songs alongside guest vocalists Marshall Crenshaw and Robin Wilson; the quartet’s original vocalist, Pat DiNizio, died in 2017. By the time the group was joined onstage for an ensemble finale, only a few hundred people were left in the audience.

For a complete list of this year’s inductees, click here.

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