The Rahway Redemption #1: Arrested Development

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Welcome to a new recurring column here at The Sexy Armpit called The Rahway Redemption. The legendary Rahway Prison, a.k.a East Jersey State Prison has quite a menacing look about it. Whenever I drive by the monstrous institution, I definitely get a little creeped out. Thanks in part to it’s unsympathetic and raw reputation, this slammer is a star in it’s own right. Well, at least a star enough to get a column dedicated to it here at The Armpit! I’m attempting to break out of the prison but I need your help! In this column I need you to read on as I present Rahway Prison’s most notable appearances in pop culture. 

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In Season One, Episode 6 (12/7/03) of one of the funniest TV shows of all time, Arrested Development, Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) attempts to get his father George Senior (Jeff Tambor) out of prison. First, Michael tried to get to the bottom of some of his father’s shady transactions. Michael decided to get some answers while visiting him at Orange County Prison. George Sr. was too busy to talk about anything important since he was practicing softball with other inmates.

Michael: 
I hate to be buzzkill, but I’m trying to get you out of here.

George Sr.: 
Yeah well, I’m trying to get us out of last place Michael! 
We’re playing Rahway next week…word has it that they’re getting Jose Canseco!

Michael: 
I’m starting to wonder why I even bother coming.

<inmate softball player>
BLUTH…RIGHT FIELD!

George Sr.
That is ridiculous!

Michael:
You won’t even talk to me?!?!

George Sr.
I’M CATCHER OR I’M NOTHING!

New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.14: Nada Surf’s Popular Video filmed at Bayonne High School

The summer of ’96 saw N.J’s Bayonne High School make national headlines when rock band Nada Surf filmed their “Popular” video there. Popular is a track from their debut album High/Low produced by Ric Okasek featuring lyrics ripped from the pages of Penny’s Guide to Teen-Age Charm and Popularity (Gloria Winters 1964). The video featured some actual Bayonne High Cheerleaders, and several scenes where the B.H.S football team hits the showers, leering at each other.

After the video was a hit on MTV, Bayonne High publicly announced how offended they were and claimed that the video made their football team out to be gay. God forbid anything’s ever said about a high school football team. I can’t speak for other states, but in N.J high schools, football players are the golden children. They’re basically exempt from ever getting in serious trouble, and many of them get passed through classes they have no chance of ever passing. So take that football players! I busted my ass in high school while I personally knew players who didn’t put in half the effort I did, got horrible grades, and still passed with no problems. It’s looked at as if the players are doing the school a favor so the school pays it back.

The primadonnas who ran Bayonne High School 12 years ago couldn’t take a friggin’ joke. I bet this Nada Surf video is their biggest claim to fame. B.H.S’ case is irrelevant because we’re bound to notice a bit of homoeroticism anytime we’re shown scenes depicting male athletes showering together. It’s universal, not just in New Jersey. Nada Surf rebutted by explaining that the video wasn’t meant to poke fun at the football players and that the video actually maintained a heterosexual vibe. Leave it to a school system in N.J to come out with such a ridiculous claim. Can’t we take a damn joke? Many of the employees in N.J’s various educational systems (ASIDE FROM THE HARDWORKING TEACHERS!) are paranoid, corrupt, fogeys. If they had any reserves about filming a sarcastic rock video at their school, they shouldn’t have let them film there in the first place!

The Toxic Avenger Musical Review

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DANGER: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS!

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – A musical version of Troma’s classic cult film The Toxic Avenger made it’s debut at the George Street Playhouse on Friday night October 10th 2008, and The Sexy Armpit crashed the premiere party. OK, so we didn’t crash, they actually let us come. I’ve never seen a play on the George Street stage, but as I crossed the street and saw flood lights and a huge Toxie billboard, I knew they were providing a fitting reception for Troma’s first son Toxie. My imagination was sparked before I even made my way into the building. Instead of a red carpet, a black carpet covered the ground and stairs leading up to the entrance. The carpet was splattered with bright green “sludge” and boot prints as if Toxie walked into the playhouse just before I did. It’s the cool little details that impress me.

After having a wacky conversation with creator and director of Troma films, Lloyd Kaufman, my colleague Big Sal (formerly of ECW) and I got our tickets ripped, sat our asses down, and then just let the anticipation and excitement fester until showtime. Apprehension came over me as I worried how a musical version of the cult classic The Toxic Avenger would turn out. Was there a need for a Toxic Avenger musical? Hell yes! Toxic Avenger is a well known character but mostly with fan boys and the cult film obsessed folks. Toxie is finally getting his due.

“This is disturbing…”
“This is disturbing…”
“This is disturbing…”

“This is disturbing,” an older woman sitting behind me whispered at least four times. She felt the need to announce her declaration to the people on her left and right. The play was only a few minutes underway and I felt like showing her what was disturbing! I suppose she had no clue what kind of images were in store for her as the tale of Toxie unfolded. Was she at all familiar with the first superhero from New Jersey? Would she be even more appalled when she realized that people would be maimed and beaten with their own limbs on stage? Would she be aghast at the blind jokes? Had she ever lived a moment of her stuffy life as an outcast? Could she related to Melvin Ferd the 3rd’s feelings of rejection? I would soon find out. Although, I can bet that this minuscule piece of glowing, radioactive pop culture has no place in her hoity-toity lifestyle. Toxie was made for us, not them!

The George Street Playhouse, thanks to it’s stadium style seating, enables everyone in the house to enjoy an unobstructed view of the stage. The set, designed by Beowulf Boritt, was adorned with vats of fuming toxic chemicals and an old beat up turnpike sign. The sign warned the audience they were no longer in New Brunswick, but Exit 13, Tromaville. The set atmosphere made me feel like I was in a comic book and it was the perfect combination of gross and eerie. Thankfully the show did not rely on over the top special effects, but there were plenty of sight gags, costume changes, and a revolving set piece in the middle of the stage that helped suspend our disbelief. My attention was fixed on the infinitely talented actors who dazzled the stage. The full band was ready to rock as the actors seized the spotlight.

A guy coughs from the awful fumes rising from the NJ turnpike while a nun prays “Who will save New Jersey?” From the looks of it, we actually do need a savior! The once beautiful Tromaville is being polluted by New York City and the corrupt mayor is to blame. Meanwhile the geeky Melvin Ferd the 3rd is in love with a cute blonde and blind librarian named Sara. Melvin stumbles upon the Mayor’s plans that could further ruin the environment and the Mayor’s career if they were released. The Mayor instructs her thugs to “get the geek,” but it backfires after they drop him into a vat of toxic chemicals. Melvin emerges deformed and oozing with toxic neon green sludge. Makes you want to think twice about moving to Jersey, huh? Hence, New Jersey’s first superhero is born, The Toxic Avenger! Toxie plans on dethroning the corrupt Mayor and eliminating pollution from the Garden State. Minor details of the original film were altered in order to modernize the story. Although, If you’re a hardcore Toxie fan, don’t worry you won’t be disappointed! Live theater is usually the perfect venue to see some stellar performances but on this night, there was an air of magic. It was obvious that the players were enthusiastic about there roles and there were no “I can’t believe I’m doing this” attitudes.

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Deformed and doused in sludge, was Nick Cordero as he bravely took on the main role of the geeky Melvin Ferd the Third and the legendary superhuman Toxic Avenger. The Mayor of Tromaville proclaims him a terrorist, even though he’s trying to rid New Jersey of it’s toxic waste. Cordero’s performance as Toxie at times recalled the despondence of the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera as well as the zealous and fiery performance of Sebastian Bach several years ago in Broadway’s Jekyll & Hyde. The operatic rock songs flourished thanks to Cordero’s rousing, dynamic voice. Toxie even made his way into the audience during “Everybody Dies.” I thought the lady behind me would have a coronary.

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Nancy Opel’s (Urinetown) performance is truly dazzling as she takes on double duty playing Melvin’s mother as well as the Mayor of Tromaville. As Melvin’s mother she’s noticeably disgusted at how he can never get anything right. Even when her son becomes a toxic monster she wonders “Could you at least put your left eyeball where it’s supposed to be?” It was apparent that Opel sunk her teeth into this role especially during a fun and frantic scene where Toxie’s mom and the Mayor have a run in (It‘s impossible!). It’s a scene right out of a Three’s Company episode. There were plenty of winks at the audience like the moment where the Mayor’s searching for Melvin and claims “I’ll find him, I know his mother.” Watch out for Opel and Demond Green’s steamy performance of “Evil is Hot,” it was so freakin’ hot!

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Certain actors are born performers while others hone their skills, and chip away in a never-ending attempt to be great. Audra Blaser (Bandidas) is a born performer. Her portrayal of the innocent, blind librarian Sara, love interest of Toxie, proved to be a highlight of the play. How can that snooty lady behind me get offended at blind jokes when such an adorable, and refreshing actress is the butt of them? I was surprised by Blaser’s knack for comedy which obviously didn’t pass by the casting director’s radar either. Not only is Sara funny but also compassionate as she wonders why Toxie isn‘t mauling her: “If you’re gay, we can still be best friends and watch American Idol together.” I’m glad the casting folks stayed true to the original characters. Blaser showed no signs of worry, although she had some pretty big shoes to fill since the role of Sara previously belonged to some of the quirkiest, and offbeat actresses including Andree Maranda, Phoebe Legere, and Heidi Sjursen. The dreamy Blase was joined by Demond Green and David Josefsberg during the song “My Big French Boyfriend” which was possibly the funniest moment in entire the show.

The sentence “As black dude and white dude, Demond Green and David Josefsberg are quite versatile actors” holds the record for BIGGEST understatement of all time. I don’t think I can count how many different characters these two guys appeared as. Whether they were guys, girls, thugs, Springsteen wannabes, or hairdressers, they were thoroughly entertaining and proved to be an immense force of comic relief.

Having two famous Jersey guys on the writing staff didn’t hurt a bit. Joe DiPietro (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) wrote the book and lyrics while David Bryan (keyboardist of Bon Jovi) wrote music and lyrics to this rocking musical. The ingenious songs proved to be the productions’ throbbing, slimy nucleus. You’ll only need to experience the show once and you’ll realize they’re just as memorable and catchy as songs from the soundtracks of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Little Shop of Horrors. I want the songs on my iPod already! I’ve probably been to almost 50 live theater performances in my life and the minority of them featured songs that I would actually think of listening to elsewhere. This exuberant soundtrack has joined the minority!

Toxic Avenger the Musical was directed by Tony Award winning director John Rando (Urinetown). Props (no pun intended) to another Jersey native John Dods for creating superb special effects and prosthetics. Dods has worked on some of my favorite films and TV shows including Monsters ‘88-‘91, Ghostbusters II, and Black Roses!

The spirit of Lloyd Kaufman’s film making style was ever present. Judging by this show, you don’t need a cast of hundreds to put on a successful and entertaining production. Perhaps other productions can take a lesson from The Toxic Avenger (or they should read Lloyd Kauffman’s book All I Need to Know About Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger). In this case, improvising is the catalyst for some of the musical’s best moments. For the true Toxie fans, you’ll see nods to the original series like when Toxie slam dunks some thugs severed head. In another signature Toxie move, he pulls open his pants to check out how the size of his manhood mushroomed! I’m sure Sara will be pleased!

The Toxic Avenger musical completely squashed my apprehensions with it’s outlandish fun. In classic New Jersey fashion, the audience gave a raucous standing ovation while clapping and rocking out. Expect your cheeks to hurt from laughing and your eyes to be glued to the stage. At the end of the show, for the first time in my life I wanted to be doused in some of that hazardous neon green ooze emitting from the marshes of Exit 13. Oh, and if you’re at all like that woman sitting behind me, then stay home and watch Masterpiece Theater or I may toss your big old pretentious ass into a bubbling vat of toxic sludge!

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO PURCHASE TICKETS

Photos displayed above from The Toxic Avenger Musical by David Saint and T.Charles Erickson.

Now here’s some photos from the Premiere Party!

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Nick Cordero (Toxie!) and The Sexy Armpit.com

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Nancy Opel (Mayor/Mom) and The Sexy Armpit.com

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The Sexy Armpit.com and Audra Blaser (Sara)
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Demond Green and The Sexy Armpit.com
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David Bryan of Bon Jovi and Jay Amabile
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Lloyd Kaufman, Sal, The Sexy Armpit.com

New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.7: Who Watches The Watchmen? New Jersey Does!

If you’re worth your weight in geek, you can’t wait for The Watchmen movie to be released. It’s sure to be an excruciating 6 months, and even the slightest Watchmen reference doesn’t calm my anxious anticipation. Hopefully the court will rule in favor of allowing Watchmen to be released on schedule that way we won’t have to continue pulling our hair out and re-watching the first chapter of the motion comic on iTunes for the fifty-thousandth time! In the meantime, you’re in luck you Sexy Armpiters! You can temporarily calm those nerves because there are a few references to New Jersey in the pages of the classic Watchmen comic book series! Don’t worry, there’s no spoilers here, so if you haven’t read Watchmen you can still enjoy this post! Shame on you…READ WATCHMEN NOW!

Chapter IV: Watchmaker centers around the most interesting and cool looking character in Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan. Jon Osterman a.k.a Dr. Manhattan holds a PH.D in Atomic Physics from Princeton University, in New Jersey. An Ivy League school, Princeton boasts graduates ranging from U.S presidents to dropouts such as Bruce Wayne, as well as serving as the location for several scenes in the upcoming Transformers 2 Revenge of the Fallen.

According to Wikipedia here’s what Osterman DIDN’T learn while matriculating at Princeton: “Manhattan’s powers include superhuman strength, the ability to teleport himself or others, the manipulation of matter at a subatomic level, and near total clairvoyance.” Oh yeah, Manhattan can also fix watches which isn’t traditionally that cool but proves to be a gift that gets him laid!
In this chapter, we also find out that the mother of Manhattan’s former flame Janey Slater lives in New Jersey. Janey and Jon decide to kill some time at an amusement park while waiting for Janey’s mother to get home.
Dr. Manhattan reflects on an old photo of himself with his past girlfriend taken at Palisades Amusement Park in N.J. You may remember Freddy Cannon singing about falling in love at “Palisades Park,” a song he recorded that was written by Chuck Barris and later covered by The Ramones. Palisades Amusement park featured the largest salt water wave pool in the country, thanks to water pumping in from the Hudson River. (ewwww! what were they thinking? lol) Presently there’s a high rise luxury apartment complex built on it’s property, but in it’s day the wildly popular Palisades Park was the place to be. Dr. Manhattan wasn’t reminiscing about Coney Island now was he? How ’bout that, huh?

New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.6: Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle

They weren’t lying in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, we New Jerseyans can really put away massive amounts of White Castle burgers. Although, I’d hate to disappoint you, not everyone in New Jersey is a stoner but we definitely have our fair share of characters who are. The legendary Jay and Silent Bob oh so proudly enjoyed some herbal refreshments: “who smokes the blunts, we smoke the blunts!” and then Harold and Kumar followed in their footsteps, albeit in a more nerdy and culturally diverse way. The film depicts their wild and outlandish journey to get some White Castles to feed their craving.

As I’ve mentioned in the previous installments of New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments, (or NJ’sGPCM’s if you’re into the whole brevity thing) is that seeing a film or TV show where your state and surrounding cities get name dropped is really freakin’ cool. Even though the film gives the impression that it’s 100% Jersey, Harold and Kumar was filmed mostly in Canada and Los Angeles. Filming in New Jersey is expensive but there are some scenes filmed in Hoboken N.J and on the Garden State Parkway.

On their quest for some sliders, Harold and Kumar hold up traffic at a toll because their change didn’t activate the light to go green. Every car horn explodes because the impatient Jersey drivers can’t handle the delay. In usual Jersey style, the raging, belligerent a-hole behind them sticks his head out the window and screams at them: “Hey MOVE YOUR ASS!…MOVE YOU FUCKING TWAT…MOVE YOU RETARDED COCK SUCKER! MOVE!” That’s a typical day on the road in Jersey. God has granted you peace if you live in another state. If so, bless you, you’ll be able to live a calm, stress free life.

After getting cursed off, Harold and Kumar get off at the wrong exit and wind up in Newark. Kumar had the exact same sentiments we all have when we’re driving through Newark: “You know we’re gonna get shot!” From there, the boys get to New Brunswick just to find out that the lame Burger Shack has replaced White Castle! It seemed to be one disappointment after another until the guys are hiding from security in the girls bathroom. Then they had to suffer through two hot British girls playing a little game called “battleshits.”

The film featured a few notable cameos. Jaime Kennedy turned in possibly the creepiest performance he’s ever done, and Ryan Reynolds played a supergay doctor. It’s just a hunch, but something tells me that the Johnny come lately’s are going to be snatching copies of Harold and Kumar up so they can see Silk Spectre II’s boobies if they missed it the first time. That’s right, Malin Akerman plays Liane the hot girlfriend of the disgusting Freakshow. And I cannot forget Neil Patrick Harris’ brilliant, horny, drug induced appearance before he came out with his gay revelation.
Look out for Kumar’s love montage with a gigantic bag of weed to the tune of Heart’s “Crazy on You.” It’s one of the most hysterical scenes ever, especially after Kumar backhands the bag of weed: “Learn how to make coffee you fucking whore!” Even though I haven’t watched the sequel yet, I salute Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle for being a modern Jersey classic!

New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol. 5: Bon Jovi – New Jersey

Earlier today, just about 15 miles south of where I’m sitting at my computer Jon Bon Jovi hosted a fundraising engagement for Barack Obama and the Democratic National Convention at his mansion on the Navesink River. According to the Associated Press article, it cost each of the approximately 100 attendants over $30,000 to be there. You know me, whenever Barack is brought up I can’t help but spew the obligatory word play. Like when I sit around and wonder if Jon Bon Jovi and Barack Obama were Barakken like Dokken and Baracking out with their cocks out! There’s about 2 people in the entire world who will get a chuckle out of that. It’s those 2 middle aged South Koreans whom I write this blog for.
For the past several years, Jon Bon Jovi has been heavily involved in fundraising for the Democratic party, but he’s also known to spread his benevolence around in various other ways. For instance, Jon Bon Jovi also donated $1 million dollars to the city of Newark, N.J to build housing for homeless people with special needs such as AIDS.

A while back in 1988, Bon Jovi did another cool thing for Jersey. The band released their 4th album and simply named it New Jersey. For those of you who were caught up in the “hair band” scene at that time then you know this album was pretty damn special. Perhaps, it was more special to those of us from Jersey. Imagine owning an album named after your state that featured colossal hits like “Bad Medicine,” “I’ll Be There For You,” “Born To Be My Baby,” and “Lay Your Hands on Me.” Those are songs you probably all know, some of you probably hate, but you ALL know how they go! Wikipedia confirms that New Jersey holds the record for most Top 10 singles from a rock album with 5! The record still remains. Let’s see if lamos like Daughtry and Nickelback can pull off something like that, huh?!?!
Even though Bon Jovi had successful albums prior to it’s release, New Jersey showed that mega stardom wasn’t going to make them turn their backs on the state that put them on the map. Naming the album after their home state illustrates how they revere N.J. It’s rare that people who have made it big from Jersey talk about it highly. Usually people can’t wait to move away and then immediately turn around and trash the state. They’ll rip N.J a new asshole without flinching AND in public no less. Fortunately, guys like Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and Kevin Smith proudly admit they’re from Jersey. Even with all of New Jersey’s faults and underhanded reputation, they aren’t afraid to hail the state and give back to the community. When I first heard that Bon Jovi was naming his album New Jersey I thought that was one of the coolest things ever. It’s a moment that I consider a proud one no matter how minuscule it may seem.
Track to Download Now:
Bon Jovi’s New Jersey contains “99 In the Shade” and is one of Bon Jovi’s most underrated tracks!

New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol. 2

A southern New Jersey coal mine is represented in the movie Zoolander. This movie is chock full of comedic gold and the fact that one of the funniest scenes takes place in New Jersey just makes it funnier, and even more pathetic!

Just before Derek Zoolander decides to leave the modeling firm, Maury Ballstein explains to Derek how hot Mugatu is: “Right now this guy is so hot he can take a crap, wrap it in tin foil, put a couple of fish hooks on it, and sell to Queen Elizabeth as earrings.”

DEREK: “I’m going back home. I need to get in touch with my roots…figure out who I am…see ya around Maury”

Derek’s coal mining family (Pop, Luke, and Scrappy) are played by Jon Voight, Vince Vaughn, and Judah Freelander. They’re noticeably surprised at the sight of their long lost brother, or just by the hideous snakeskin suit he’s wearing! What follows is an absurdly funny montage to the tune of Loverboy’s “Working For The Weekend.”

Super Cycles – Motorcycles of Pop Culture

Now that Halloween has come and gone, it’s time for a cheap plug! A while back I came up with a new idea for a blog. I mulled it over in my head for a few weeks and I finally decided, why the heck not? This new blog is in addition to The Sexy Armpit, so there will be updates to both blogs a few times a week. What is this rookie blog you ask? It’s called Super Cycles – Motorcycles of Pop Culture. The title is pretty self explanatory but allow me to needlessly elaborate. Remember the motorcycles you thought were amazing when you were a kid? Motorcycles seemed to be all over the place from the toy aisle to the television set and I was obsessed with them! My new blog will take a look at these “Super Cycles” from past and present. I hope you’ll take a look and let me know what you think! www.supercycles.org