Lisa Lampanelli stopped by the studio on Friday to talk about “Stuffed,” her off-Broadway show that kicks off October 5 at Westside Theatre. Tickets are on-sale now here.
The insult comic also talked about her alma mater (hint: it’s also mine – Go Orange!), her time on “Celebrity Apprentice” with Donald Trump and much more.
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Lisa Lampanelli stopped by the studio on Friday to talk about “Stuffed,” her off-Broadway show that kicks off October 5 at Westside Theatre. Tickets are on-sale now here.
I just realized that this post isn’t as super-belated as I initially though; I ate birthday cake about a week ago.
My actual birthday was on June 6 and regardless of my Mom celebrating in late fashion with both my sister (June 14) and Uncle Dave (this past Wednesday), I still felt compelled to at some point write a “thank you” for everyone who both sent their well-wishes and/or joined in on the fun in person.
So I turned 21… on June 6, 2006. I was still attending Syracuse University that summer and working in the city. My cousin and best friend Anthony (who ties the knot next weekend) was in law school at St. John’s. My Dad and my buddy Vinnie drove from Niagara Falls to Syracuse, where on midnight we threw back a few celebratory shots at Chuck’s (hashtag never forget). You should’ve seen the bartender’s face when she realized that for the past year that she had served me, I wasn’t of age. Whoops!
The next day we drove to Bayside, met up with Anthony and headed over to the Bronx. The Yankees beat the Red Sox 2-1 thanks in part to Melky Cabrera robbing Manny Ramirez of a home-run.
Now 11 years later, the Yankees were in the Bronx, playing the Red Sox. A friend-of-the-show, Eric, has season tickets and invited me to go to the game with him. Of course I obliged, and despite a much different outcome, was happy that I spent at least part of my birthday at the Stadium.
The celebrations continued Saturday, where I headed back to the Stadium with my friend Riana, John Foxx and his better half. The outcome was much more favorable as the Yankees went home-run derby on the Orioles. I watched the last few innings back in my neighborhood, chowing down on hibachi with my friends Ryan and Gina.
With me in town the weekend after my sister’s birthday for my cousin Anthony’s stag, my Mom thought it would be a nice idea to have a little cake that celebrated quite a bit, none-the-more-evident than by simply looking at it.
Since leaving Niagara Falls, New York for Syracuse University in 2003, I haven’t spent Mother’s Day with my Mom often. The 2007 SU commencement was on that Sunday in May and I can remember at least one other time when my Mom visited me but otherwise, I’ve been away from the family. It was mostly a byproduct of the job; the only holiday you’re really guaranteed to have off in radio is Christmas. The fact that pretty much my entire family, sister included, are still back in Niagara Falls also factors in to it.
But on the flip side, it makes a Mother’s Day spent with Rachele that much more special because I certainly don’t take it for granted. And so you can imagine my joy that this year, as the Yankees readied to retire Derek Jeter’s number on May 14, my Mom floated the idea of coming to the city for it. While my Mom isn’t a huge baseball fan, she does root for the Yankees and likes getting to at least a game a year in the Bronx.
She, like many of us, also loves Derek. When we visited New York for my first time in 1998, my Mom was the one who overheard a worker at Niketown talking about Jeter. Minutes later I was standing in front of the shortstop and shortly thereafter, thanks to my Mom, this photo was taken.
And so my Mom and sister Raquela flew down Saturday morning in to a rainy Manhattan where they shopped, napped and then met me for dinner at Dafni’s on 42nd. They love staying in Times Square (I’ve stopped fighting it) and have eaten at this Greek restaurant before; after our meal, I would sign up for a return visit.
That night, the two of them walked up a few blocks to see Josh Groban in “The Great Comet” (Rachele gave it high marks). The next day, we grabbed a nice early Italian dinner at Pomodoro Rosso on the Upper West Side. This quaint red-and-white tablecloth restaurant served generous portions for a moderate price. We left with full stomachs and walked to the C train so we could transfer to the D at 125 and end up at 161st and River.
Once we got inside the ballpark and made it to our seats, I ran back downstairs to spend too much money on hats, shirts, pins and programs marking Jeter’s (second) Day at Yankee Stadium. I made it back to our Jim Beam Suite seats in time for the start of the ceremony, which in typical Yankee fashion was a fantastic stroll down memory lane.
Ironically the most forgettable part of the trip was the game itself; the Astros jumped out to an early 8-0 lead after the first few innings. But the score didn’t matter; my Mom enjoyed herself so to me, it was a winning weekend.
I spent all of last week silent on Facebook, which no one probably noticed for a number of reasons: I was active on other social networks, I was still frequently in touch with family and friends and of course I was on live on the radio every weeknight.
To me, it felt weird. Last weekend I returned to Syracuse to catch the Orange (don’t get me started on the tournament snub) beat Georgia Tech and attend the annual WJPZ reunion dinner. On Monday I joined my friends on TV at “Chasing News” to talk about my Vinny Guadagnino interview. Wednesday I made the trek down to Brooklyn to watch the Orange lose in the first round of the ACC Tournament (and probably cement that aforementioned snub). And of course, I spent the week counting down the days until my trip to Las Vegas Tuesday, which yes I know might not even happen now with this pending blizzard.
But guess what? None of it mattered this week.
Saturday I was leaving the bookstore inside the Schine Student Center on SU’s campus when I looked down to see a new text notification on my BlackBerry. It was from a coworker with a link to an article on Billboard’s website.
My former colleague, Tommy Page, was found dead in an apparent suicide. I immediately felt numb.
I first met Tommy in May of 2009. I lived in Wilkes Barre, and was as Tommy would later refer to me, “a baby DJ.” At the time, Page was working A&R at Warner Bros. Records. He was so excited about his new act, a boy-band called V-Factory, that he decided to personally bring them by the studio for an interview.
Tommy and I hit it off right away, but to be honest a lot of it was more circumstantial; I think he immediately took a liking to me or at least gave me the benefit of the doubt because he was close with my Program Director at the time, A.J. He also was a bit fan of 97 BHT, particularly the station’s position in the market as the younger, hipper pop station that wasn’t afraid to lean rhythmic or electronic (example: WBHT broke Lady Gaga in the metro when other stations across the country declared that “Just Dance” was “too dance-y” – whatever that jargon means).
And of course, Tommy loved Northeastern Pennsylvania. He raved about his vacation home in East Stroudsburg, and also had recently purchased a fixer-upper in Jim Thorpe.
Tommy and I would spend 2010 through 2014 crossing paths at various events, either in New York or out in Los Angeles. I remember my first GRAMMYs; I attended Billboard’s after-party at The London in West Hollywood. Tommy was its publisher at the time, and immediately left his conversation when he saw me just to come over and say hello. That meant a lot.
Then in 2015, he joined our company as a Senior Vice President of Brand Partnerships. I enjoyed this because not only would I see Tommy in our building occasionally, but I’d get to work with him at some of our signature backstage broadcast events, including the Billboard Music Awards and the American Music Awards in addition to the aforementioned GRAMMYs.
The weekend after our first BBMAs working together in Vegas, Tommy and I both headed down the shore to Point Pleasant for 95.5 PLJ’s Summer Kick-Off. We sat down at the client party and talked about where the company was moving before he tasked me to help write a spec promo for an upcoming event we were working on called “Malibu Mansion Live.”
I’ll never forget, while music played and people partook in the open bar, Tommy and I sat alone in a corner of the room and wrote the script; Tommy throwing out ideas followed by me feverishly typing away on my BlackBerry and reading lines out loud to see what if any changes he wanted.
After a few more revisions, that promo was eventually voiced, produced and presented to company executives and our marketing department. The following November, Tommy and I were in Malibu for the two-night promotion that featured country singer Cam (who he sang “Happy Birthday” to while I walked out with a makeshift cake/candle for her), Nick Jonas, Tori Kelly and Fall Out Boy.
As the second, successful night winded down, Tommy pulled me aside.
“Remember when we first started talking about this and we wrote that promo in Point Pleasant?” he asked. “The whole thing came to life. It was like you and I wrote a hit record together.”
Of course, it was Tommy and his team that did all of the hard work. But coming from a guy who scored a number one hit in 1990 with the single, “I’ll Be Your Everything,” that compliment really struck a chord with me.
That was a unique trait of Tommy’s; working with others and making them feel like they belonged. It’s one of the reasons he was adored by so many, and certainly it’s one of the reasons why I and many others will miss him.
The following was written while I waited Sunday morning for my plane leaving Syracuse and headed to JFK to be de-iced. I had missed my flight to LaGuardia by about 60 seconds; thankfully the saints that work for Delta got me on the next flight to the city which thankfully was departing from the gate next door a few minutes after. It was originally posted to my Instagram and this version has been edited lightly for grammar and spelling.
Greetings from my ✈ back to the city. Let me tell you about my past 30 hours.
I snapped this selfie on AirTrain headed to JFK Saturday morning. The plan was to take-off at 9:30, land around 10:15 and make the noon tip of yesterday’s Syracuse/Georgetown game at the Dome. My cousin Anthony (who for those that don’t know is my best friend; I have the honor of standing as his best man next year when he takes the ole plunge) was riding the train in from Niagara Falls. He had never visited the Cuse so we were going to do it up – tickets at the game (thanks L) followed by a tour de force through my old stomping grounds: Marshall Street, Chuck’s, Faegan’s, Varsity – the whole thing.
And then my flight was delayed until it was canceled. Anthony ended up rolling to the Dome and subsequent venerable campus locations solo. I caught the first few minutes of the game from the bar at the LIRR Jamaica station (and yes they’ll make your cocktail to-go). Then I hopped back on a train towards Penn and checked the Amtrak schedule. There was a 1:20 Empire Service departure that could get me to ‘Cuse by 6:40. Should I go?
I grabbed another cocktail from the Friday’s in Penn (no they will not make it to-go) and hopped aboard.
I had a great night in Syracuse. Ate dinner at an awesome spot called The York. Ran in to an old friend and his wife. Got to relive a bit of my college days with my best friend.
If I’ve learned anything this year it’s that family and friends have to come first in my life. It’s cliché but true and sadly, I haven’t always had my priorities straight. But I’m thankful for those around me who have always understood and supported me regardless.
I’m also thankful that I realized this now as opposed to never because that would be unfortunate… much more so than a canceled flight.
The week of Thanksgiving has turned in to one of my favorite times of the year. It starts in Los Angeles, covering the American Music Awards. A trip to In-N-Out Burger and red-eye flight later, I’m back east and for the next two days, my show airs at its normal time. Then Thursday morning, I’m up at 6 am so I can shower, grab a hot chocolate and walk over to the start of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I stay on the parade route until Santa passes me, which is usually about 10 am. Then I head back to my apartment, edit all of the celebrity interviews and videos I recorded from the morning and begin to figure out what the rest of my evening looks like.
Clearly, this week isn’t busy enough, so this year I added a new wrinkle: after the parade, I was going to fly home to Niagara Falls to see my family for Thanksgiving. It would be the first time in nine years that I was eating turkey in Western New York for the holiday.
This wasn’t my idea; my Mom was adamant on me returning home for the holiday. I think part of the reason is because she felt bad that for the first time in three years she and/or the rest of my squad wasn’t trekking to New York for Thanksgiving.
Back to my now-crazier day: I settled back in to my apartment and started to edit, (temporarily) wrapped at 11, finished packing at 11:30 and called a car to take me to LaGuardia.
There would be no editing at 30,000 feet because our Wifi wasn’t working. But there was this!
— Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) November 24, 2016
My sister picked me up from Buffalo-Niagara International Airport and drove me home. I spent the rest of the evening (sans a break for turkey) finishing the social media updates and editing necessary for both 95.5 PLJ and our sister station, NASH FM 94.7. A coffee and amaretto or three later and I was done for the night.
On Friday I slept in before running 5 miles through my old neighborhood and linking up with my cousin Anthony for some drinks and leftover antipasto at my house. Then I headed down to Buffalo, where I met some old high school friends at a spot called Buffalo Proper. It’s a dimly-lit cocktail lounge with a full kitchen and pretty fantastic vibe. I would recommend the Tatanka and this, the Smoke Break, served on an ash tray.
The trip home was a quick one, as I flew out Saturday morning because I wanted to catch Syracuse play South Carolina at Barclays Center, a game they would lose. But with friends in town for the weekend, I ended up having a fun Saturday night (slash Sunday morning) out, along with a solid Football Sunday that saw my Bills notch a win.
And then, in a new Thanksgiving week tradition (because it’s the second year it happened), my Christmas tree went up.
After all, I clearly didn’t have enough going on this week.
Wow, what a run.
My alma mater, Syracuse University, gave us fans quite a March to remember. Entering “Selection Sunday,” me and other members of Orange Nation weren’t quite sure if the team would make the field of 64 or not. Would we play in a “First Four” game? Would we be one of the first four out of the tourney, relegated to the NIT?
The NCAA Selection Committee gifted Syracuse a 10-seed and a first round match-up against a team that had beat us in tournament a few years ago, Dayton. That game took place in 2014 at Buffalo’s First Niagara Center. Coincidentally this year, due to circumstances beyond my control, I would be watching the game with my friends back in Western New York.
SU took care of Dayton with ease and hung around for a second game in St. Louis, against 15-seed Middle Tennessee State. This team had for sure busted brackets across the country with its upset of Michigan State, a two-seed.
Lighting did not strike twice. The ‘Cuse manhandled the Blue Raiders and moved on to the Sweet 16. I caught the game with my buddy Ryan on the Upper West Side. In the process, I found out that there is a Syracuse-supporters bar blocks away from my apartment!
This was the beauty of the run for me. I had little to no expectations for the Orange this March. The team’s march to the Final Four served not only a pleasant surprise but also as a wonderful opportunity to create memories with family and friends.
And for that matter, former March legends who continued on to have successful NBA careers. Syracuse’s Sweet 16 matchup pitted the Orange against Gonzaga in Chicago. The game was on a Friday night and tipped around 9:40 pm, meaning I would have to watch the first-half in studio and then hustle to that neighborhood bar for the second.
I arrived at Firehouse to a room full of ‘Cuse faithful, an empty spot at the bar and former UNLV and Knicks standout Larry Johnson… cheering on SU.
Of course, we overcame a second-half deficit to beat the Bulldogs and move on to the Elite 8. I was elated… and as I write this, I still can’t believe I was telling “L.J.” that yes, Trevor Cooney was in-bounds and that the ref blew the call. After he saw the replay, Johnson agreed with me.
Syracuse’s victory over Gonzaga meant that we would play top-seeded Virginia on Easter Sunday. I had 6:30 reservations for Easter Dinner with my family… in Hollywood, Florida. I immediately alerted my Mom that we’d have to eat early or I would probably not be at the restaurant.
Our 4:30 dinner was excellent and afterwards, my Mom and sister dropped me and my Dad off at a sports bar in Fort Lauderdale to watch the game. At first, it wasn’t fun; Syracuse trailed by double-digits at the half and at one point after halftime, the lead swelled to 16. My Dad, who for the record didn’t give us a chance from the tip, was ready to call it an evening and move along.
And for the record, my Dad as a witness, I can state that I never lost faith. I knew Syracuse had one more big run in them and figured that a number of players the team relied on were due for a hot streak. Thank goodness I was right, and the game turned in to an instant classic. Down went the number-one seed Cavaliers and off went the Orange to another Final Four.
Fittingly, I watched the semifinal game against North Carolina back at Syracuse. The trip was pre-planned; our annual WJPZ Alumni Birthday Banquet was pushed back a month this year to April. So I sat (stood) in the Sheraton on campus with classmates and other alumni, along with my professor Dr. Rick Wright, and watched SU’s season end.
For the record, I expected Syracuse to upend the Tar Heels and had requested Monday off from work to fly to Houston for the National Championship. But as Saturday night wound down, instead of sulking over a change of plans, I grabbed Pita Pit on Marshall Street and reflected back on all of the great times the Orange gave me this March.
All I could think was simply, “Wow. What a run.”
Keeping with tradition, I stayed in the city for Thanksgiving and worked, however I took a lengthy vacation around Christmas. By lengthy, we’re talking nine days. Almost a week-and-a-half. I love my family, but it was a bit much.
Nonetheless, it is always nice to return back to Niagara Falls and visit with family and friends that still live in Western New York. I flew out on Sunday the 20 and snapped this shot as the sun was rising over the RFK Bridge.
Rarely does returning back to WNY solely consist of resting, especially around the holidays. But it’s nice when I’m home for events that normally I would have to see on Instagram or hear about after the fact. Example: My very talented niece Taylor had an art showing at a local wine bar in Niagara Falls the night I landed. She is ridiculously talented (you’ll see later) and the place was packed. It was great to be able to not only join family there but support her.
On Monday we had a family dinner with my Mom’s side and on Tuesday my Dad’s favorite bar, DeFazio’s Stadium Grill, had its annual Christmas Party. Here’s me and my cousin Mike.
Yeah, it was a good night! Attending with my Dad has turned in to an annual tradition that hope doesn’t end anytime soon.
Had a chance to spend some quality time with my cousin Anthony on Wednesday. I ran a few errands with him and we grabbed lunch in Lockport – home of course of the Erie Canal.
V ARTSY as the kids say. Thursday was Christmas Eve aka my favorite meal of the year: The Feast of the Seven Fishes. It’s an Italian thing, and I love it because I want all of the seafood.
Then Santa stopped by. We opened gifts as a family on Friday and then went to my brother’s house for brunch. That’s where my niece, the aforementioned Taylor, gave me this!
How amazing is that?! Her and I both share a love for Coldplay. All-in-all, Santa treated me well.
It was just great to be able to hang with all of my nieces and nephews.
Saturday was a blur of a day, spent mostly visiting with friends from high school and grade school. Then on Sunday, I headed off to the Carrier Dome to see Syracuse play Texas Southern.
‘Cuse won and I got to see one of my old college roommates and my family that lives there, so it was a solid trip back to Central New York. I kept with the sports scene Monday night, heading to Buffalo to see my Sabres play the Caps. Sadly they lost but it was still nice to get back to the First Niagara Center and see all of the great development happening in downtown Buffalo.
Of course it’s not a trip back to Western New York in December if you don’t have inclement weather.
But soon enough I was back in the air and en route to the city.
Definitely a trip home for the books and a solid way to end my 2015 travels.
I appeared on HLN’s “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell” Friday evening to discuss the allegations surrounding Syracuse basketball Associate Head Coach Bernie Fine.
Thanks to Mark Goldman of Goldman & McCormick PR.
Download the segment
NBC iVillage Entertainment Editor Jacki Garfinkel and I actually lived in the same dorm at Syracuse University, so I figured she wouldn’t mind if I asked her about covering red carpet events – as I’ll be covering my first this Sunday with the MTV Video Music Awards.
Read more on iVillage here.