I still can’t believe they spent five-and-a-half minutes in the middle of a four-hour radio show talking about my two fingers.

Okay, let me backup and explain.

Monday night I was searching through photos on my BlackBerry (go ahead, roll your eyes) and I came across this shot I took of the skyline when I was driving over the RFK Bridge Sunday. I had landed earlier at JFK from my weekend trip to Denver and was riding in a car back to Manhattan with a few friends.

I thought the photo might work well on the radio station’s Instagram and so I loaded it in to the app and started messing with the filters. I landed on a final product that for the most part, I was satisfied with.

“Most part” gets thrown in there because when I was done changing the settings, I noticed that the reflection of my index and middle finger, which I wrapped around the back of the phone to stabilize it, was now noticeable in the photo.

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Did it matter? Ultimately I naively thought that I was the only one who would notice it enough to detract from the cityscape. So I posted it, people started to like it and I continued on with my show.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning at 11 am. I woke up, looked at my phone and saw 8 missed calls. Every call was from either a private number (which the studio hotline comes up as) or Johnny on the Street.

Turns out that the reflection mattered, at least to Todd and Jayde. In the 8 am hour, right in the middle of the show and on a day when later that hour Ed Sheeran would join the program, the entire cast spent five-and-a-half minutes contemplating what was in the photo.

Jayde guessed a falafel before finally admitting that she thought it looked like “female genitalia.” Annie wondered if it was a fortune cookie. Johnny’s guess was along the lines of Jayde’s but then he went with lips. Monk and Todd joined in on that sentiment… perhaps wax, candy lips? No, too wide they concluded.

How would they really know that?


Anyways, Todd and the crew eventually settled on fingers… the kind that look like everything but fingers. After that, the discussion turned to whether or not I realized the reflection when I posted it.

“Nah I don’t even think he saw it,” Todd stated definitively.

I’ll tell you what I didn’t see: writing a 400 word blog post about a five-and-a-half minute conversation on the morning show about my two fingers.

I don’t need many excuses to book a weekend trip when the destination is a city I’ve never visited before. This proves exceptionally true if the city lies within a state that I haven’t been to.

Wait and a buddy is throwing his bachelor party there? Click. Click. Booked.

I took a long weekend ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day (which I’ll be working; usually the norm) to fly west to Denver, Colorado. I did not try a Coors; I did receive a first-class tour of the Breckenridge Brewery though in beautiful Breckenridge, Colorado. The town is apparently a hot spot for skiing as well but I wouldn’t know; I didn’t ski.


I did try many of the great beers that Breckenridge has to offer. The Agave Wheat, made with all natural agave syrup, was my favorite. It’s lighter as far as craft brews go so it’s a solid choice when you’re thinking of having a few (enjoy responsibly, of course). The Vanilla Porter was heavier but tastier. And the Mango Mosaic Pale Ale had a nice well, twist to it.

My Friday night capped off with dinner at the brewery’s adjacent restaurant before a couple of Ubers took the party back to downtown Denver. I stayed at the Magnolia, a nice boutique hotel that is within walking distance to most of the hip spots in the area – including Fluid, a new coffee bar that opened up right outside and served up a solid pour to kick off my Saturday morning ahead of a 3 mile run.

Thankfully during my less-than-48 hour trip I learned that there are a number of different neighborhoods in Denver worth exploring. Situated south of the Capitol Building in the Capitol Hill section of town is an awesome vegan restaurant called City O’ City. Google describes it as “bohemian,” I would use “earthy” along with “delicious.” The cafe has a couple of great characteristics, one being that its brunch menu can be ordered with or without meat and dairy. For example if I were to bring my parents we could all order the city breakfast; they would just order their eggs normally while I’d ask for scrambled tofu instead.

None of the furniture or mugs match, which adds a certain type of homeliness to the ambiance. Our server was more than patient as I weighed my many food options; I had never been able to choose between so many vegan brunch dishes! I went with the tempeh bacon hash, and the Bloody Marys and coffees I drank paired wonderfully with it.

Oh, I should also mention that I rolled down there with Scott Patrick! I usually see Scott when he visits the city so it was nice to catch up in his neck of the woods.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


I rejoined the bachelor party at a restaurant downtown called Baur’s. Most guys went with brunch items and I of course skipped right to the Baur’s signature Bloody Mary, a homemade mix garnished with fresh mozzarella, bacon and olives… for the win!

In between my stop at Baur’s and Blake Street Tavern to watch the first half of the Syracuse/Boston College game, I did stop inside a dispensary. I left thinking how well-done the whole operation is, from the moment you step in through check-out. The staff is thorough and helpful; the environment is clean and welcoming.

And following a Saturday night that included copious amounts of pizza, beer and playoff football, I left Denver thinking those same thoughts about the city and the people who live there.

So I was eating brunch on Wednesday with my friend and long-time show contributor Jordi Lippe at one of my favorite restaurants in the city, the West Village’s Monument Lane.

Sorry but I need to pause this story for a second: a colleague gave me grief when I was telling him this because apparently “brunch” is only a weekend thing. My definition of brunch is breakfast food between 11 am and 3 pm, regardless of the day. Monument Lane has excellent everything and their Breakfast Bowl with poached eggs, barley, squash, red onion, radish and parsley-garlic pesto hit the spot.

Anyways, I look up from my coffee and I see a familiar face strolling down the street, just kind of looking around and smiling; taking it all in.

It was Andy Cohen! He was walking his dog. We made eye-contact, offered a quick nod of the head, and continued about with our business.

What struck me the most about this “celebrity sighting” (which by the way, despite my profession, I am terrible at in the city), is just how happy Cohen looked. Granted it was a relatively nice day outside; I’ll take 40 degrees and clear any day of the week in January. But still, it was nice to see a public figure enjoying a rather normal activity with no one bugging him.

Of course, I took to Twitter after Jordi and I parted ways to post, “I want to feel as happy today as @Andy looked when I saw him walking his dog just now.”

Cohen responded: “my moment of zen!”

And if Cohen, who juggles his reality TV empire at Bravo, his talk show, his satellite radio station and numerous other ventures, can make time for that moment then so can we.

It definitely came as no surprise to long-time fans of One Direction and long-time listeners of my radio show that Niall Horan is a “massive” fan of President Barack Obama. Horan revealed his admiration for the First Family during a chat on my show back in 2012; the aforementioned quote attributed to the singer became a popular Tumblr meme (only second to the GIF-able moment when Louis Tomlinson decided to crash our interview).


“I’m a big fan of their dad,” Horan told me as we talked about Malia and Sasha Obama, the President’s daughters, who at the time had recently just hung out with One Direction at a concert in Fairfax, Virginia. “They were sitting on the side of the stage, so I was waving at them.

“They’re just regular kids,” he continued. “They got to have a childhood and then they became ‘the President’s daughters.’”

Fans of Horan retweeted a clip of the interview that I had posted after the Irishman posted a message to Twitter about the Obama’s on Wednesday.

“Don’t get me started but I’m going to miss the obamas (sic),” he said online. “The nicest family on earth.”

Horan and his bandmates connected with Malia and Sasha at the Kids Choice Awards that year. The First Family said that if One Direction couldn’t make it to the White House, then the kids could go to one of their shows. So with Secret Service in tow, the daughters traveled out to the Patriot Center where they hung out with the guys backstage.

“We just had a conversation about everything,” Horan said. “It went from food to roller coasters to life to them having loads of security all the time.”

Which at least on some level, One Direction could relate to, although even Horan was taken aback by the Secret Service detail – which at the time struck me as one of the more surprising moments of our interview.


Sure some women grow up with the dream of one day becoming Miss America – but how many of them also envision the crown’s travel schedule, which involves a different state every 48 hours?

“I live in airports and in hotels out of my suitcase,” the current titleholder, Savvy Shields, told me on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. The two of us chatted for a few minutes on the third floor of the Good Morning America building after her TV appearance. “It’s been good. I don’t really remember much of it so that’s why I’m trying to journal and if I look at my social media then I remember everything I did.”

The journal idea was something Shields, who represented the state of Arkansas in last year’s competition, mentioned to me when we chatted the day after she won. Since that interview, the 21 year-old hasn’t sat still, but has experienced some cool moments including a trip to the American Music Awards where she joined Florida-Georgia Line on stage.

“(B.K. and Tyler) were fantastic,” she noted. “I mean, we’re southern people so we get along right away.”

With Shields’ personality, it’s hard to envision her not getting along with anyone, nor is it a stretch to think that she’s now getting recognized throughout these travels.

“I’ve gotten a lot of ‘Are you on TV?’” she said. “So it’s like, they know who I am, but it’s not until I have the crown on that they put two-and-two together.”

And contrary to popular belief, Shields isn’t always wearing the crown. Matter of fact, it wasn’t on her head at the AMAs; that and her new hair style that night which featured bangs lead yours truly to not recognize the titleholder, an occurance Shields did not let me forget during our interview. However she also joked that there is another time when people don’t realize she’s Miss America.

“If it’s an ‘airport day,’ they don’t really believe me,” Shields said. “So I mean it really depends!”

There are certainly more “airport days” on her docket, but also some once-in-a-lifetime destinations such as the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Billboard Music Awards, both of which take place this spring. “Miss America” is produced by Dick Clark Productions, which also handles all of the aforementioned award shows along with “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” another show that Shields participated in. The Arkansas-native didn’t seem to mind the December climate in New York too much.

“Maybe it’s everyone dancing that’s making it not as cold?” she wondering out loud. “I was expecting to be layered in like 7 parkas but I’m actually just down to one so we’re good to go.”

Hopefully for Shields that meant not having to pack or travel with as much; right after witnessing the ball drop she skipped the champagne toast and received an escort out of Times Square to grab a head start on the next part of her never-ending itinerary. Although I’m sure at this point, she couldn’t envision her night any other way.

My first trip of 2017 involved both people and places that I am quite fond of along with a method of transportation that I find very enjoyable.

For me, an outing on Amtrak that is four hours or less is one of the best ways to travel. You don’t have to deal with TSA, the departure and drop-off in the city is right below the radio station, the ticket is usually relatively inexpensive and the trip is pretty comfortable. Amtrak offers decent Wi-Fi free-of-charge, you’re allowed multiple carry-on baggage items and it’s not a hassle to bring food or drink with you on the train, especially given that you’re departing from Penn Station (Don Pepi’s is my go-to and in my opinion, makes one of the best quintessential NY Deli sandwiches in the city).

With that, I grabbed my normal order (2 eggs on a wrap, prosciutto and mozzarella on a roll, bottle of water, small coffee) and walked over to check-in. Amtrak offers e-tickets via an app but I opted for the antiquated paper ticket. Thanks to a complimentary upgrade, I rode in business class on the trip; not the same as a first class plane upgrade. The seats are a bit bigger and more comfortable but not measurably more than coach. You also receive free non-alcoholic beverages with the upgrade, a note I found out after I made my purchase at Don Pepi’s.

My itinerary started at Penn and ended for Friday in New London, Connecticut. Then I hopped a ride to Mohegan Sun in Uncasville to spend the evening, see a few old friends and naturally, lose a bit of money. To be honest, the only thing I left the property upset about was that for my second consecutive trip, I failed to dine at Todd English’s Tuscany, my favorite restaurant in the resort.

Peak-boughieness right now on this blog.

Caught a Connecticut vibe this weekend. @mohegansun, the real MVP.

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Saturday a car trudged through the snow and brought me back to the train station, where I rode Amtrak up to the Kingston, Rhode Island station. An Uber brought me across the Pell Bridge to Newport where Cumulus Media was having its annual holiday party.

This party is fantastic for a number of reasons: it’s scheduled after the craziness of the holiday season, it’s held in the Newport Marriott which is gorgeous (just like the rest of that beautiful town), the food is delicious (I love seafood) and most importantly, the crowd is lovely.


A different Uber brought me back to the train station on Sunday morning and I encountered perhaps the most New England Uber experience ever. It had stopped snowing at this point but there is almost no one on the roads; some areas are plowed more than others. I notice there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts on the way and I could really go for one of their coffees (especially given the alternative was to buy one aboard the train; no offense Amtrak). I ask the driver if he’ll stop and he obliges. I then inquire if he wants anything.

“Yeah, you know what? I could go for a coffee,” he responded. “Medium dark, no sugar. Team work, getting the job done.”

You’re damn right. And just like the other people, places and methods of transportation I encountered over the weekend, what’s not to enjoy about that?

I rang in the New Year in Times Square. Just two nights later, my Father and I stepped on to the ice after the Sabres beat the Rangers inside Madison Square Garden.

Yeah 2017 is off to a pretty solid start.

So one of my Dad’s good friends from back home in Niagara Falls is this guy named Ron DeFazio. Ron is a little older than Ralph Sr. and the owner of my Dad’s go-to watering hole, a venerable spot called Stadium Grill on Hyde Park Boulevard. Now even though he lives and works in Western New York, Mr. D is a life-long New York Rangers fan.

And he’s never been to Madison Square Garden. Period. Not even for a non-hockey event.

A few months ago, my Dad and his buddies were at the bar and they decided that it was time for Mr. D to see the Blueshirts on Broadway, especially with Ralph Jr. (me) working literally above MSG.


I made a few calls and scored us tickets to see the Rangers, who conveniently enough were playing the Sabres on January 3. The men booked their travel accommodations and those few months passed in seemingly a few days; next thing you know I’m hanging out with my Dad, my cousin Mike Hooper, Paul Parise and Mr. D inside Smith’s in Hell’s Kitchen. We did a bit of bar-hopping on Monday night with stops at Rudy’s and Jimmy’s Corner. Then on Tuesday, we started off the evening with happy hour at the Oyster Bar followed by a beer at Stout, a tour of the radio station and then a trip downstairs to The World’s Most Famous Arena.


Thanks to my friends at MSG Networks we were able to get Mr. D’s name on Gardenvision during the first period. Then my friend Nicole hooked up this once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity after the game.

The Sabres ended up beating the Rangers to Mr. D’s chagrin but regardless, it turned out to be a trip that none of us will ever forget.

As the band prepares for its upcoming tour that kicks off later this month, DNCE looks back on 2016 rather fondly.

“Getting a VMA for Best New Artist, that’s really special for us,” was one of the first things lead singer Joe Jonas told me he’ll remember about the year, besides of course releasing the quartet’s debut, self-titled album. “Touring with so many amazing artists and growing our fan base more and more, and we can’t wait just to be able to do it all over again hopefully.”

The LP, which dropped November 18, came out over a year after DNCE’s initial EP. According to Jonas, the prolonged success of “Cake By The Ocean” was one of the reasons for its delay.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he admitted. This was the first time that I had chatted with the group since the album’s unveiling. “Yeah the album’s out, and what a great way to kind of cap the year off with being in Times Square and celebrating with all of these amazing people that are kind of bearing the cold.”

I sat down with Jonas and his bandmates Jack Lawless, Cole Whittle and JinJoo Lee in their hotel suite before the group performed “Cake” and “Body Moves” on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” It was Jonas’ third time performing the event; in 2007 and 2009 he did so with his brothers Nick and Kevin. Lawless, who played drums for The Jonas Brothers, joined those times as well. But for Whittle and Lee, joining a million people to ring in the New Year was a new experience.

“We’re all wearing adult diapers underneath actually, just to keep things legit,” Whittle cracked when I inquired how they were staying warm. He eventually told me that because of how much the band moves around on stage, they wouldn’t have an issue with the temperature outside.

“It’s amazing how many people are waiting all day for this awesome event,” Lee said of her first New Years in Times Square. “I can’t wait to celebrate with all of those people.”

DNCE, which played the Orange Bowl Halftime Show in Florida the night before New Year’s Eve, now heads west for their headlining tour that starts January 17 in San Diego.

“We think the world needs more love,” Jonas responded when I asked if the band had a New Year’s Resolution. “And hopefully we can bring some joy and happiness to people.”

Imagine standing in the middle of Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Now picture that you’re live on the radio. And add in the fact that you have no producer, no intern, no assistant… no one. Well, no one to help you; there are obviously plenty of (read: a million) people surrounding you.

Welcome to my New Year’s Eve broadcast in Times Square on 95.5 PLJ. This was the third straight year that I had the honor of hosting the show and the second consecutive broadcast where we partnered with Dick Clark Productions so that I had space inside ABC’s Good Morning America studio. Thanks to our friends at Times Square Alliance, I had full-run of the “Center of the Universe” as well; I spent my evening literally running between the third floor of the GMA studio (without using the elevator mind you) and the crowd with stops in between to interview DNCE, Miss America, Gavin DeGraw and a few revelers.

But even as I managed to book, edit, produce and host the show, there were some difficulties simply out of my control. No my in-ear monitors didn’t go out, rather our entire wireless broadcast system went down. So as the clock struck midnight and the 11,800 pound crystal ball completed its descent, I dialed in to the studio to ring in 2017 over the phone.

When you’re live in a setting like Times Square for New Year’s, these are issues that you actually can prepare for; you simply create backup plans for everything because anything can go wrong. Over the 7 hours I spent in the Theater District I dealt with a broken audio recorder, a late interview and faulty internet connections on top of everything else you would normally expect: heightened security, large crowds and the weather.

Although the temperature hovered around a balmy 40 so that wasn’t awful, but I digress.

It’s stressful but in the moment, a lot of fun. At any moment I’m in a hotel suite with Joe Jonas, editing audio on my laptop, talking with a couple from the Philippines who is visiting the city for their first time or simply pausing to take it all in. Because despite all of the difficulties that I encounter with the show, I still couldn’t imagine spending my New Year’s Eve any other way.



Took me what, almost 10 years? But I finally figured it out. When I return home to visit family in Western New York for Christmas, I should stick around for about four nights.

Here was my issue in years past: I would only visit my parents back in Niagara Falls about three times a year. Also, I would usually end up with a ton of vacation to use before the end of the year otherwise it would be lost. So between not wanting to give up too much of my free days (I would inevitably lose some anyways) and falling victim to my mother’s guilt trip, I would stay home around Christmas for close to a week.

And by the sixth or seventh day, I would end up singing the same tune: next year, I can’t stay home for this long. I love my family but hanging out back in the house I grew up in just makes me a bit stir-crazy.

So this year I switched it up. First, I spread out my remaining vacation days over the final month-and-a-half of the year to ensure that I wouldn’t lose any. This also gave me a bunch of long weekends and quite frankly, one of my most enjoyable holiday seasons in recent memory. Then, I scheduled my trip to WNY around Christmas but made sure to just give myself enough time to see my family and attend an extra event or two, nothing more.

Mission accomplished. Saw all of my family plus a bunch of my friends, attended a few holiday parties, visited Orchard Park to watch my Bills lose to the Dolphins (don’t get me started) and drank a few Labatt Blue Lights in the process.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


Other food highlights included my favorite meal of the year: Christmas Eve’s Feast of the Seven Fishes and a final night pit-stop to GoodFellas’s in Niagara Falls for my favorite pizza and wings.

Of course the most important part of the trip was my time at home. Almost as enjoyable was leaving Niagara Falls and not thinking that next year I should spend any less time there.