10. The Soundtrack to Hawaii Five-O
At its worst, it sounds like a discarded Spector arrangement of a Jim Webb composition crying out for Richard Harris vocals. But the Monday Night Football-like Jack Lord’s hair accompaniment was actually written by a guy from Newark named Morton Stevens.
9. Gloria Gaynor
Most would select her signature anthem, “I will Survive” as her most valuable vocal epic, but purists live and die with Never Gonna Say Goodbye.
8. Tom Paine
His march with the Continental Army across New Jersey – and stop off in Newark – for freedom resembled the demoralizing, hours-long daily crawl in bumper-to-bumper traffic suffered by ordinary New Jerseyans who might have thought those guys suffered so they wouldn’t have to (if they knew anything about history).
7. Shaquille O’Neal
Fans of big man finesse basketball privately hunger for a Hakeem Olajuwon story line here, but even the most ardent Kareem fans would have to acknowledge that billion dollar dunking machine Shaquille O’Neal is one of the five best centers of all time. And he’s a Newark native. Just pray the fate of the free world doesn’t hang on free throws.
6. Marvin Hagler
No, he didn’t grow up here, but he was born here. No boxer better typifies the under-the-Ironbound-train-tracks menace of Hagler, who retired in disgust rather than acknowledge being out-boxed by pretty boy Sugar Ray Leonard. Poor loser? Not at all. He reinvented himself in Italy as a star of Spaghetti westerns. There’s a lesson there.
5. Philip Roth
It ain’t Hemingway, that’s for sure. The navel-gazing novelist served up a half-century plus of weak protagonists assailed by some combination of mother love, suburban girl yearning, and physical cowardice, against a backdrop of modern American dysfunction otherwise known as New Jersey. Roth is to Newark what William Carlos Williams is to Paterson: literature that bears little resemblance to its respective jagged subject.
4. Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Stephen Crane
There are an inordinate number of literary types on this list, and it’s a shame. People really don’t really read anymore, so it’s hard to convey the electric alertness and urgency of someone like Baraka to people who cradle phone devices in their hands and walk into telephone poles. He was engaged. For his part, Crane didn’t stick around. But the creative intelligence who gave the world Red Badge of Courage and War is Kind is another native. Newark got him. Hillside got his remains.
3. The Nutty Professor
Not the Eddie Murphy version. This city gave the planet the creative genius who produced the movie that Murphy made into his own version that people think of when they think of The Nutty Professor. What does the movie teach us about life in America? If you were from Hoboken like Sinatra and not Newark like Jerry Lewis, you were just close enough to New York City to be cool.
2. The Nicolas Cage Film Snake Eyes
It’s a sign of disrespect that when DePalma again made it back to New Jersey he made a picture in Atlantic City instead of in his native Newark. It is worth noting that there is absolutely nothing of social, literary, artistic, or spiritual value in Snake Eyes, so maybe Newark got the last laugh – and bragging rights.
Yep, he’s from here. The guy who won an Academy Award for best supporting actor in the role of Tommy, hails from Newark (just like Goodfellas co-star Ray Liotta), and was apparently a wiz on drums (and could make your shoes shine just like f-ing mirrors) before he became a big screen star, according to fellow Newarker Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28).