Late night tales from a NJ Diner

Holy Shit – This was a night for the record books. We just got in and its 2am, but I had to write this down while it was still fresh in my mind. It will probably get cleaned up a bit in the near future, but for now, you’re getting rawness.

Lets start at the beginning…

A few weeks ago, Jackie & I were bored watching TV, and I saw that the NJN channel was doing a special on the Star Wars Concert where they perform 16 clips from the 6 movies with a live orchestra. I had heard about it, but didn’t think much about it, but I have to admit the TV special made it look interesting.

Jackie, all of a sudden said “I think that would be really cool to go to.” Now this is a girl who likes Star Wars (when the DVD’s came out we watched all 6 of them over the course of two days), but she was emphatic that she didn’t want to get dressed up as a Star Wars character for the Toms River Halloween Parade that we went to with the 501st Legion (and won 2nd place, thank you). So, her interest in going shocked me, so I called fellow Star Wars geeks (and fellow RiffSurfers) John Kraemer & Jeff Hornlien to see if they wanted to go… They did, and I booked tickets before the show was even over. Then I told Jackie, “Guess what? We’re going!” She was shocked, yet happy..

Fast-forward a week or two, and Jeff was over the house and we had a Star Wars geek mission to complete. He needed pictures in his Han Solo costume in order to be accepted into the Rebel Legion (the Star Wars “good guys” costume group) . So we decided to make a hang-out night of it.

He brought his guitar over because he wanted me to videotape him playing the Smithereen’s “Blood and Roses” to put up on Youtube. Somehow between him & me, we came up with him playing it while dressed in the Han Solo costume. While filming, we also decided to add me in a Darth Vader mask (and NY Mets hat), and my Stormtrooper mannequin wearing a Smithereens shirt in the background…

See here for the video.

We finished it at like 1am that night, and put it up on Youtube. The reaction we got from our friends is that they thought we were goofy (they’re not wrong), but it really didn’t get the appreciation that we thought it deserved. And that was the end of that. Or so we thought.

Friday came, and the Star Wars concert happened. Had a great time there with Jackie, Jeff and John, and we even met some of the 501st legion (the Star Wars “bad guys” costume group that we marched in the Halloween parade with). After it ended, we hung out talking for a while after most of the crowd left. Then John went home, and Jackie, Jeff & I went back to Scotch Plains. I hadn’t eaten all day, so we went to the local Scotch Plains Diner to eat.

As we’re walking in, Jeff notices thru the window that someone is wearing a Smithereens T-shirt (the same one that my Stormtrooper was wearing in the video) – Being the wiseass that I am, I said in a mock snobbery tone “Yeah, Pat DiNizio (lead singer of the Smithereens) eats here all the time. And as we walked a little further, Jeff looked like he was about to crap his pants. Pat DiNizio was in the diner having a late night meal with a bunch of people.

We had met Pat this past summer after he played the Stone Pony with the Smithereens, and he was really a nice guy to us, and took pictures and signed our Smithereens shirt. We even talked about my Richard and the Young Lions documentary that my friend in the video store had pushed on him, but he declined to watch.

So back to the diner – we go in and the host wants to put us on the other side of the diner, but Jeff gave him a “pretty please” (yes seriously) to sit us in the same section as Pat, and now we were about 30 feet away from him.

Jeff was about to sit with his back to Pat, but Jackie, seeing how excited Jeff was, had him sit facing Pat. Originally Jeff wanted to go over to him, but I gave him the “let the man have dinner in peace” talk, and Jeff relented. But kept looking over which was kinda funny, and I started calling him a stalker.

Eventually Jeff said that the people at Pat’s table were starting to look back at him which made him really nervous (he didn’t want to come across as a stalker LOL) so we continued our meals.. Eventually Pat got up and went to the other side of the diner (we assumed it was a bathroom trip, but he got stopped by some fans/friends before he got there)

All of a sudden the woman that Pat was with appeared at our table looking nervous. She showed Jeff her phone, and asked him if this was him. Jeff looked amazed, so I asked if I could see. She showed me her phone and she had THE VIDEO THAT JEFF AND I SHOT LAST WEEK!!!!!!

Apparently she was filming a documentary on Pat for the last two years, and has been doing research on the fan appeal of the Smithereens and found our video on Youtube. She said it was so different from the rest of the fan-videos that she definitely remembered it. She asked if we wanted to be in the documentary, to which we said of course. She also said that she wasn’t sure until she saw Jeff’s Stormtrooper shirt that I had just given him for the Star Wars concert. Then she was 90% sure it was him.

She told us that Pat walked away just in case Jeff wasn’t the guy on the video. Once she gave him the “confirm” that it was the right guy, Pat came over to us and introduced himself. He’s really a nice guy, and told us that he enjoyed the video, and that Jeff did an awesome job – He also offered to teach Jeff the special chord needed to play “A Girl Like You”. All this was filmed by the documentary guys.

Pat then went on to talk about how blown away by Star Wars he was, and he and I had a great conversation about the movie, the conventions, and Lloyd Kaufmann (director of the Toxic Avenger, and the patron saint of my company). I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know this, but the Smithereens were in his movie “Class of Nuke’Em High”, and when Pat was running for Senate, Lloyd offered to help him get elected and sent over a Toxie mask and mop to appear at his events.

We all just had a wonderful conversation, and took some pictures. I passed him a RiffSurfers CD, and my Richard and the Young Lions documentary DVD. It was really cool, and he was very friendly to us – even more so than at the Stone Pony.

We exchanged cards, and signed releases for our footage, and WE WILL BE IN THE DOCUMENTARY!!! Hopefully we’ll be kept in the loop about when its coming, etc.

We left shortly after, as it was like 12:45am by this point, and we held it together until we got outside. Then Jeff, Jackie & I just lost it… High fiving, hugs, cursing all around. It was just a crazy crazy night. All the small coincidences that led up to that moment were insane. There is absolutely no way we could have planned it, and if we didn’t just have it happen to us, we never would have believed it.

That’s our story for tonight. Keep RiffSurfing baby!

James, Jackie, and Jeff

Jackie, James, Jeff, and John at the Izod waiting for the show to begin
Me, John Kraemer, and Jeff Hornlien in front of the Izod
Jeff and Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens at the Scotch Plains Diner
Jackie, James, and Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens at the Scotch Plains Diner


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  1. […] it took up two blog entries and a few Youtube videos to tell it all…  Read about that one here since its way to long to explain in a paragraph. […]

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