Category Archives: Celebrities

For Music’s Sake – Asbury Park’s Upstage Club and Green Mermaid Cafe Scrapbook – The Untold Stories


by Carrie Potter Devening
255 pages
To order: http://www.authorhouse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-000411026
Or: http://theupstageclub.blogspot.com/

Part One – A Review

“There once was a place and time that contributed to a generation in a most beautiful way. This place and the characters accomplished many things…In a bustling tourist town saturated with entertainment and intense nightlife, Asbury Park, like much of the East Coast, offered little to people under 21. When there was nowhere to go, the Green Mermaid Cafe and Upstage Club offered them a home.” – Carrie Potter Devening, Introduction

If you ask most rock and roll fans to name the club where Bruce Springsteen got his start in Asbury Park, chances are pretty good they’ll say it was The Stone Pony. But they’d be wrong.

Because it was actually inside another club, up the road from The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, where for three extraordinary years (1968-1971) Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, Southside Johnny and many others made their musical mark and met most of the other musicians who would become part of the Sound of Asbury Park (or S.O.A.P) and in many cases band mates for life. Fifty-two steps straight up a steep, narrow stairway, on the third floor of the old Thom McCan shoe store in downtown Asbury Park sat The Upstage Club, where the greatest musicians from all over New Jersey would converge “after hours” from between 1 and 5 in the morning to jam and compete for a chance to play rock and roll. The stage sat at the far end of a long narrow room. The stage had its own amplifiers and behind that stage was a wall of speakers where loud, raucous music would emanate.

To those musicians, it was the highest honor to get a chance to jam, and they played their hearts out till the sun came up.

But in 1971, civil rights unrest and race riots hit across the nation in cities like Asbury Park. The unrest brought about the demise of most of the businesses in downtown Asbury. As if that wasn’t enough, Tom and Margaret Potter, the artistic, bohemian lovebirds who had created this haven for young people were splitting up. The beloved, mercurial, iron-fisted operator of The Upstage, Tom Potter, suddenly found himself alone in Asbury, facing retirement and suffering from increasing health problems. Seeing the writing on the walls of his once-great club, Tom Potter cashed in his chips and moved away from the cold, sea storms of the Northeast to the warm beaches of Florida.

For the next 40-plus years, the legendary Green Mermaid and Upstage Club remained locked up and abandoned. While biographies of Bruce Springsteen and other histories of the Asbury music scene gave The Upstage its due respect, each year the “glory days” of The Upstage began to fade more and more. Springsteen fans and local musicians would always pay homage to the old brick triple-deck structure, but the building remained closed and off limits.

But deep in the heart of Texas, Tom Potter’s granddaughter Carrie was growing up and learning about “Grandpa’s” legendary past and amazing accomplishments. In his final years, the old man moved in with Carrie’s family in Texas and he would tell her stories of his fascinating past. Finally, several years ago, armed with her grandfather’s stories as well as a huge collection of photographs documenting the history of The Green Mermaid and The Upstage, Carrie set out to document the history of those clubs. She went online and asked for stories from anybody who had ever set foot inside The Upstage. And she was flooded with more stories. Eventually, Carrie made the pilgrimage to Asbury Park, several times actually, and met a number of people who were more than happy to help her with her project. She got a chance to go inside the shell of that building several times. And she started putting on slide shows featuring her “grampa’s” photographs.

And all of a sudden, there was a whole lot of interest in The Upstage Club.

With some help from her new friends, Carrie Potter Devening has published a new history of The Green Mermaid and The Upstage Club that is as much a work of art as the club itself. It contains more than 1,000 photos from Tom Potter’s collection and text made up of the memories and recollections of those who went there. The stories are supplied by Upstage notables like Albee Tellone, Joe Petillo, Tinker West, Billy Ryan and many others. This illuminating coffee table book transports you back in time to the place where so many young musicians, artists and fans spent their long evening journeys into daylight.

Carrie begins her “scrapbook” by giving a brief history of her family, including newspaper clippings, portraits of relatives and stories of Tom’s wild years. Tom Potter was an eccentric artist whose main job for years was as a hair stylist (a career which ended after Tom developed allergies to hair products). The future manager at The Upstage also had quite a talent for art and photography (not to mention short story writing), and examples of all are included. Carrie finally introduces the reader to Tom’s partner-in-crime at The Upstage, the tomboyish, horse-ridin’ Margaret Romeo, who eventually would become Tom’s third wife and was, according to Carrie, “the first lady of Asbury Park’s music scene.”

Tom and Margaret’s love affair is described by Carrie as “fast, tumultuous, imaginative and non-stop.” Margaret was 20 years Tom’s junior, so despite “stiff opposition” from Margaret’s family, the two were married in 1961. They settled into a “swinging” apartment above their beauty shop on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park, just two doors down from the Thom McCan store. It was apparently quite a pad, complete with a rooftop garden. (Years later, Bruce Springsteen would live in this very same apartment and wrote some of his first album there.)

Soon after they married, Margaret learned to play guitar; she would later be a fixture onstage at both the Green Mermaid and The Upstage. The reader is also treated throughout Carrie’s “scrapbook” to some tasty samplings of Tom’s funky photography and art, which were featured on the walls on The Upstage.

Tom and Margaret’s place on Cookman was the scene for many years of huge parties and jam sessions for Margaret’s band, The Distractions, and soon it became obvious that more room was needed, especially since Tom and Margaret wanted to have a place for the underage musicians to “kick out the jams.” So they rented the two floors above the Tom McCan store; two floors which would become home to the Green Mermaid and The Upstage. As Joe Petillo remembers in one of dozens of stories, “50 gallons of paint, a few dozen mannequins painted day-glow, several dozen backlights later, we were open for business.”

Petillo adds that Margaret Potter and The Distractions soon became the “premiere Jersey shore band,” as well as the house band at The Upstage. Petillo says Margaret’s band would start off the night with other musicians joining in as the evening progressed. As time wore on, the big difference was that the music on the second floor tended to be more mellow and the tunes played at The Upstage on the third floor more rockin’. There was always food served in both clubs. One full page is dedicated to a full menu, featuring Ham or Roast Beef sandwiches for $1, Pepsi for a quarter, and the big treat, a full half-gallon ice cream sundae, which was free if you could finish it.

However, the meat and potatoes of this scrapbook are the many stories and the colorful photos of young musicians at play: Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt (always hatless), both with hair to their shoulders, chests bare except for suspenders; a 15-year-old David Sancious; an equally fresh-faced Danny Federici; Garry Tallent; Vini “Maddog” Lopez; Upstage favorite Bobby Williams on drums; lefty guitarist Rick Desarno, Bill Chinnock – all legends around the Jersey Shore, even if you don’t recognize the names.

Perhaps the highlight of this long overdue history are the wonderful stories: like that of the “Spoon Girls” whose main purpose was to smack “hot guys” like Steve and Bruce on their backsides with spoons as they passed by (fun!); Tony “Boccigalupe” Amato’s own admission of having to hide under Tom Potter’s desk from his father because he was too young to be out so late, and most of all how each of these young, aspiring musicians would creatively try to gain the favor and respect of Tom and Margaret Potter. Through the stories, one can see how each musician tried to outdo or upstage the other and we see how much respect they all had for each other’s talents. Margaret Potter comes off as something like a “den mother,” while Tom Potter is portrayed as a somewhat-irascible, task-master with a real heart of gold. The greatest thrill, according to many, was to be invited into Tom’s office and offered a beer. If that didn’t happen, then you weren’t among his “favorites.”

And then there are the words that Bruce Springsteen wrote for the back of Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes first album, which Carrie included in this scrapbook, mainly because they describe The Upstage so eloquently. After listing a number of musician’s names, Springsteen writes:

“…they’re names that deserve to be spoken in reverence at least once…because they were each in their own way a living spirit of what, to me, rock and roll is all about. It was music as survival and they lived it down in their souls, night after night. These guys were their own heroes and they never forgot.”

Inevitably, there’s a chapter dedicated to stories and photos of the Asbury Park riots that brought chaos, destruction and fires to downtown Asbury Park. It was, after all, these riots and the civil rights unrest that changed the downtown area so dramatically and brought about the demise of Tom and Margaret’s dream.

Carrie wraps up her history lesson with details or her visits to Asbury Park, a “Last Jam Farewell” that took place inside the empty Upstage in 2006 and some thoughts about the future of that building.

This isn’t a slick book. Instead, in the spirit of the Upstage, it’s an artifact. “For Music’s Sake…” is, after all, a tribute by Carrie Potter Devening to her grandfather and what he accomplished. Its a must-have book for anyone who ever gave a damn about the Asbury Park music scene.

The book is just $50.00 and can be ordered directly, here: http://www.authorhouse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-000411026

Note: In Part II, I’ll feature an interview with the author, Carrie Potter Devening.

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For A Dancer, Clarence Clemons

For A Dancer
By Jackson Brown with David Lindley on violin

Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
I don’t remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must have thought you’d always be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you’re nowhere to be found

I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing
I can’t help listening
And I can’t help feeling stupid standing ’round
Crying as they ease you down
’cause I know that you’d rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away
(right on dancing)
No matter what fate chooses to play
(there’s nothing you can do about it anyway)

Just do the steps that you’ve been shown
By everyone you’ve ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours
Another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone

Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
(the world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
But you’ll never know


Clarence Clemons, Bruce Springsteen, and Danny Federici

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Farewell, Clarence Clemons


Clarence Clemons – January 11, 1942 – June 18, 2011

Now there’s a loss that can never be replaced,
A destination that can never be reached,
A light you’ll never find in another’s face,
A sea whose distance cannot be breached – Bruce Springsteen

He was like a family member. And like all family members we fool ourselves into believing that they will never die. Even through sickness and surgeries and suffering and pain, we delude ourselves. We keep telling ourselves things like, “miracles can happen,” and “God will see them through.” We delude ourselves because the pain of considering the alternative seems so huge.

And then some dark and lonely night you get the call that you’ve always dreaded. There’s no way to prepare yourself for it. You force yourself to breath. You place your hands on your head. You say it can’t be true. This person that you loved so much cannot be gone from this world. But it’s true and sometimes there’s nothing to do but cry.

Clarence Clemons, the longtime saxaphone playing member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, passed away last night and E Street Nation today is mourning his passing and celebrating his life. People are gathered at the Stone Pony as I write this to help each other grieve.

As for me, I was foolish in my thinking. I actually believed that Clarence was a force larger than life and was indestructible. I believed that despite poor health, despite countless operations on failing hips and knees, despite the painful recuperations, despite the stroke that he suffered a week ago…despite all this, I believed Clarence would survive. I refused to believe otherwise. I’m still not sure I fully have accepted it.I guess it’s called denial.

Every time I went to see Bruce Springsteen and The Legendary E Street Band perform, I smiled and laughed to hear Springsteen’s trademark, incomparable, built-up description and introduction of Clarence Clemons.

So how could I believe that death would ever touch Clarence Clemons? Bruce’s exaltations were more than a show-biz bit. It was Bruce “testifying” to how much he believed and how much he loved his friend. How could we, as fans, ever believe that Clarence Clemons was anything but indestructible? And now he’s gone, gone, gone.

When the news broke that Clarence Clemons had suffered a stroke, Bruce Springsteen rushed from Europe to be at The Big Man’s hospital bedside in Florida. Bruce Springsteen stayed with Clarence all week long, through the good days when it seemed like Clarence was doing much better to the darker days, at the end of last week, when Clarence’s condition began to worsen. It’s also been written that Bruce was with Clarence all day yesterday, with his close friend, playing music with his children until the end. Wow.

If the news of Clarence’s passing is difficult for fans like myself to accept, one can only imagine the grief that is being experienced by Clarence’s original family, his closest friends, loved ones, longtime band members and, perhaps most painfully, by Bruce Springsteen himself. To them, I send my deepest condolences.

Last night, Bruce issued this statement on his official website (www.BruceSpringsteen.net).

Clarence lived a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years. He was my great friend, my partner, and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.

Since the news leaked out around 8:00 last night, people from all over the world, of all ages and backgrounds, people who were his friends and people who barely knew his name have been flocking to Twitter, Facebook and Springsteen discussion boards, like Backstreets.com/BTX to offer condolences, to grieve and to celebrate Clarence’s life and his music.

The first time I ever truly experienced a rock and roll epiphany was in 1976. I was 15 years old and listening to Jungleland. In those glorious 8 minutes, I understood for the first time the full spectrum of human emotions and possibilities. Since that day, I’ve probably heard Jungleland and Clarence’s magnificent saxaphone solo a thousand times or more, but it never ceases to amaze me and strike to the very heart of what it means to be a human being fully realized:

In 1988, I attended the Human Rights Now! concert, in Philadelphia. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band were the headliners and before the concert I attended a press conference at the downtown hotel where all the band members were staying.

After the press conference, I had time to kill and, as luck would have it, I happened to bump into Clarence in the hotel lobby. I walked up to Clarence and thanked him for all the many years of happiness that his music had given me. I remember the huge smile on his face as he shook my hand and said, “No, I wanna thank you for being a fan and coming to our shows.” It’s a moment I’ll never forget.

Later that night, Bruce unexpectedly called for the band to play Jungleland. Drummer Max Weinberg says the expression on Clarence’s face when he realized he would have to once again perform that taxing sax solo was priceless. But he nailed it. Perfecto!

The last time I saw Clarence perform was the final show of the last tour in Buffalo. It was a special weekend, because on the way to Buffalo, my beautiful fiancee Janet and I stopped and stayed overnight in Niagara Falls, Canada. At dinner the night before the show, with fireworks in the background over the Falls, I got down on my knee to ask her to marry me. (Happily, she said yes.)

That night Clarence, still in pain from all the surgeries and other ailments that were wracking his 69 year old body, moved gingerly and had to sit for parts of the show, just like he had to for most of the last couple of tours. You could tell that his days of touring were numbered, but nobody really wanted to admit it to themselves.

And now that this very spiritual man has made the passage from this world to the next, it is hard to imagine not ever seeing Bruce and Clarence onstage together; hard to imagine not ever seeing Clarence play the Jungleland solo or any other song; hard to imagine an E Street Band show without Clarence.

But I’d rather not think about that now. Instead, I’d prefer to celebrate the life and music of Clarence Clemons. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, but Clarence’s spirit lives on forever in his music and the joy he brought into the millions of hearts around the world. Not bad for a guy with a saxaphone.

As Bruce Springsteen said last night, Clarence Clemons loved people and that made people love him. That’s a lesson that we should all take to heart.

All of us who loved him will always miss Clarence Clemons and perhaps we’ll get to hear that sweet saxaphone again in the next world. All I know is that we were all very lucky have had Clarence Clemons be such a huge part of our lives for so long.

Farewell, Big Man.

Sleep long and sleep well.

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An Evening With Jackson Browne – A Review

Backed, quite literally, by 20 acoustic guitars, Jackson Browne performed a sold-out solo show at an intimate Michigan Theater in the college town of Ann Arbor last week delighting his adoring fans with an evening packed full of his resplendent and timeless songs. Walking out to center stage with a shy wave to the crowd, many of whom were still being seated, (why, oh why, can’t people get to events like this on time?), Browne alternated between acoustic guitar and a simple keyboard that, at times, sounded more like a grand piano. The singer/songwriter who continues to amaze audiences with his Dorian Gray-like good looks was in excellent spirit and and voice, charming his aging, well dressed disciples with songs both new and old. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening full of songs “for everyman (and woman).”

The Michigan Theater is located right in the middle of the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, but this was not a act that attracted many young people. They apparently have not inherited the same kind of affection for Jackson Browne as, say, Bob Dylan or The Beatles. Rather, it was a well-dressed, wine-drinking congregation who turned out; many of them baby boomers who may have been graduating from college when Jackson Browne first arrived on the music scene some four decades ago.

The California native still seemed spry and quick-witted, even if he struggled to remember the exact chords and lyrics to one of his older songs. But who can blame the man and the audience cheered even louder when he recovered from his momentary memory lapse. I mean, who of us can’t relate. The man has more than a dozen albums; a huge catalogue of music and prefers, unlike many of his peers, to avoid using the evil teleprompter. (And more power to him, I say.)

Jackson Browne began by saying how happy he was to be playing in Ann Arbor; specifically to be performing in a “theater” and not “a hockey rink.” Browne was apparently poking some fun at his recent shows in Canada. Indeed, the acoustics sounded pitch perfect. And though there may have been, what his sound engineer complained to me as “a cloudiness” to his voice at times, (apparently due to the fact that they were forced to stack, rather than hang the speakers) I doubt many in the audience noticed. Most were happy just to hear the old classic Jackson Browne songs, songs they might have played endlessly on their record players, like “Something Fine” and “Late For The Sky.” They were content to hear Jackson Browne’s stories of days long gone by. (That’s the funny thing about nostalgia. It never gets old.)

Browne balanced out the evening by also playing several newer songs. In fact, he opened the night with “The Barricades of Heaven” and played several songs from his most recent studio album, Time The Conqueror. Jackson laughed as he related a conversation he had recently with fellow singer/songwriter and troubadour James Taylor about performing new songs. Jackson said Taylor tells his audiences not to worry, that basically “the new songs are just like the old ones anyway.” And he had a point. Other than some unfamiliarity with lyrics, the newer songs blended in splendidly with his early material to form one solid and consistent sounding body of work. He even worked in one Mariachi-flavored song, written recently about , guess what, the old days. It seemed to be the night’s theme.

It was fun to watch the ease with which Browne selected a particular guitar from the rack of acoustic guitars behind him, sometimes picking one up only to put it back and select another. It was as if each guitar has a personality of its own and only certain guitars could be used to play certain songs. Browne performed the three-hour concert (including a half-hour intermission) without any kind of paper setlist, although he seemed to know in his head and intuitively what songs would work well next to one another. Browne was also quite flexible in song choices, happy to take requests/suggestions from the crowd as they shouted out many of his most familiar songs.

Perhaps the highlight of the evening came at the end of the first set when Jackson Browne played two of his greatest songs back-to-back on piano. First came the elegiac, “For A Dancer,” with Browne’s gorgeous voice reaching up to into the higher octave range quite comfortably. This was followed by a transcendent, gorgeous, anthemic rendition of the enviromentally apocalyptic, yet hopeful ballad, “Before The Deluge.”

Now let the music keep our spirits high
And let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal it’s secrets by and by
By and by–
When the light that’s lost within us reaches the sky

Lyrics like these sung so movingly are what has garnered Jackson Browne the devoted following he’s had for the last forty years. They were also what had the audience at the Michigan Theater on their feet at the end of the night cheering; fully satisfied and renewed.

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Paris Hilton – Eye Candy Arrested For Nose Candy

It is a sad and somber day today for Paris Hilton Nation.

The vapid 29-year-old celebutante was busted last night in Sin City itself – Las Vegas, Nevada, for possession of “the White Lady,” “the Devil’s Dandruff,” “Bolivian Marching Powder,” or just plain old cocaine. According to Associated Press reports, Paris Hilton was riding down the main Las Vegas Strip in a black Cadillac Escalade driven by boyfriend and nightclub mogul Cy Waits, when a motorcycle cop smelled marijuana “wafting out of the car” and pulled the vehicle over. Police say they found a yet to be reported amount of the white stuff in Hilton’s purse, a place usually reserved for one of her dogs.

Paris Hilton was arrested for felony cocaine possession, while Cy Waits was busted for misdemeanor suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A crowd quickly formed around police and the not-too-happy couple late on The Strip and Hilton was escorted by police into the hotel “to keep her safe” during the initial investigation, said police Lt. Wayne Holman. Later, the scene queen and her 34-year-old boyfriend were taken to taken to Clark County jail where they were booked and then released without bail around 2:45 this morning.

In a bizarre twist, the starlets Tweeter account was updated after her arrest to indicate that she was in bed and watching “The Family Guy” and then she would be going to sleep. It’s unclear whether the tweet came from her or some other “party.”

If convicted, Paris would probably face probation, which if violated, would send her to the Nevada State Prison for between one and four years, which has none of the amenities to which Ms. Hilton is probably used to. It’s probably far too early to even speculate what would happen to any of her pets.

2010 has not been a good year for Paris. She was arrested this summer after the Brazil vs. Netherlands World Cup match in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on suspicion of possession of marijuana. That case was quickly dropped. Earlier this week, there was a frightening incident when police say a 31-year-old man wielding two large knives tried to break into Hilton’s Los Angeles home. The suspect was arrested and faces burglary charges.

These last two incidents involving partying and suspected drug use might come as a surprise to some, after Hilton was sent to the clink for 45 days after she pleased no-contest in 2007 to alcohol-related reckless driving. After spending 23 days behind bars, Hilton appeared on television with talk show host Larry King and said that experience had caused her to re-evaluate the role that partying played in her life. She said at the time that she wanted “to help raise money for kids and for breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.”

But the temptations are very strong when you’re a multibillionaire starlet, especially in Las Vegas, a place where the house always wins.

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