They say Frank Sinatra campaigned for John F. Kennedy like a man possessed, and while Jon Bon Jovi hasn’t exactly re-donned his 1980s big hairdo for Phil Murphy, he does represent that supposed dose of Jersey hipness transposed like stagecraft hypnosis to the smaller spotlight of Murphy’s 2017 run for governor not unlike the way Sinatra hipsterfied Kennedy in 1960.
The Kennedy mystique means something to Murphy.
If you have an eye for politics, one of the first things you see when you walk into the Democratic front-runner’s Red Bank office is a candid picture of John F. Kennedy framed behind his desk on the wall. The picture may even contain Murphy’s mother, possibly in a coffee klatch moment with the future president. A Boston native, Murphy grew up with a reverence for the Kennedys augmented by ethnicity and proximity that inevitably made its way into his own narrative, as he undertook an ambassadorship to Germany (with family in tow) that imitated Joe Kennedy’s ambassadorship to the Court of Saint James; and then later of course into his own appetite for a gubernatorial bid.
And if Kennedy had Sinatra and ultimately the country, Murphy has Bon Jovi – and maybe New Jersey.
Governor Chris Christie wanted Bruce Springsteen, but at his inaugural ball at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center had to settle for a cover band that blue jeaned and bandannaed its way through the Boss’ hits and even gave the governor-elect a turn at the microphone. The only time the real Bruce showed up for Christie was when he slammed his pension and benefits overhaul agenda in an Asbury Park Press op-ed, then lampooned him at the height of the Bridgegate scandal on Jimmy Fallon.
Out-of-towner Murphy’s candidacy actually comes welded to a warm blooded actual New Jersey entertainer who signed on early, even pulling curious Republican insiders into that first event he staged with Murphy back in 2015 in Atlantic City, when the pair of millionaires sat in plush chairs and talked earnestly about the fears and hopes of New Jersey’s middle class.
Tonight, Bon Jovi is fundraising for Murphy, who a week from today looks to ensnare the Democratic nomination for Governor.
Sinatra was from Hoboken.
Bon Jovi is Sayreville.
Kennedy was from Boston.
Murphy is from Boston.
Sinatra pulled the Rat Pack along for the ride (minus Dean Martin, who didn’t like politicians). Richie Sambora is to Murphy what Dean Martin was to Kennedy: missing in action.
Of course, it didn’t up well for Kennedy and the New Jersey Italian American songster who sang “High Hopes” for him on the campaign trail to help get Kennedy elected president. After personally overseeing the planning of Jack’s inaugural ball, Sinatra wanted JFK to party with him in Florida at a crash pad he built especially for the occasion, and went nuclear when Peter Lawford – with RFK leaning on Liaison Man about alleged Chairman of the Board mob ties – couldn’t pull off the upscale encounter. But Murphy and Bon Jovi have already been pals for years, their Middletown homes right around the corner from each other, with no evidence of a collateral damage waiting to happen Peter Lawford-type personality required to bring together what is evidently a cellphone to cellphone friendship.
Only if Murphy ends up winning Drumthwacket and Bon Jovi has a helipad custom built for the governor’s chopper and Murphy decides landing there wouldn’t be good for his fast inflating image and Jon Bon takes umbrage, Sinatra-style, will we start worrying. Until then, it’s simply another in a series of parallels of NJ singers and Boston politicians that will take on the delineations of a true pattern when Hoboken’s own Pia Zadora hits the campaign trail in a high octane supporting role.