Thursday, October 25, 2018


Dame Angela Landsbury turned 93 on October 16 as Broadway singers celebrated at The Green Room 42 with a Power Playlist.  It was an evening of nostalgia, emotions and great talent with many recalling either meeting her or portraying a part that Lansbury was noted for.
Opening at the Yotel Hotel, The Green Room 42 only got started on Valentine’s Day of 2017 as Daniel Dunlow was afforded the opportunity to take on the Director of Programming role and producing the contents for the room.  Dunlow had previously worked at their signature restaurant Green Fig.  Now, Green Room 42 has become the newest hot spot for cabaret with no food or drink minimum and cover prices running as low as $15 that will get you a seat at a table in the back. 

Dunlow had directed Power Playlist, one of his own monthly shows.  “Alexandra Silber had presented a list of her favorite Angela Landsbury songs and why she loved them, which gave me the idea to do this live on Landsbury’s 93rd birthday,” said Dunlow. “I had the job of casting it.  Having asked around I was able to get Christine Pedi, Mark Willam, Alice Ripley, Christina Maxwell, Willy Falk, Monet Sabel, Lawrence Merritt, Nathan Lee Graham, and Natalie Walker. My next directed show is on Election Day although not announced as yet.” 

Playlist Live opened with the band playing Substitutionary Locomotion from Bedknobs and Broomsticks followed by Christine Pedi belting out It’s Today (Mame) with a backup from Mark William, Mike Ruocco, Hunter Brown, Arnie Rodriguez, and Michael Bingham.  William came back to sing A Parade in Town from Anyone Can Whistle.

After viewing a clip from Sweeny Todd, Alice Ripley gave us her rendition of Worst Pies in London. Back to Bedknobs and Broomsticks as Maxwell sang The Age of Not Believing.  

Three more Broadway stars went for a song from Mame; Willy Falk with If He Walked Into My Life and a Nathan Lee Graham/Alexandra Silber duet of Bosom Buddies.  

Monet Sabel went emotional on Beauty and the Beast with unscheduled tears at the end.  Lawrence Merritt, for instance, was in the Dear World with Angela Landsbury   Meritt sang I Don’t Want to Know.  Walker gave us Rose’s Turn from Gypsy.  

Graham treated the audience to a deserved long thunderous applause when he performed Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music ala Landbury.  Each line was as dramatic as the next.   

Silber conclude the evening with Old Friends from Merrily We Roll Along.  Piano and band arrangements were provided by Eugene Gwozdz, Roger Cohen was on the drums, and Noel Mason played the bass. 

Green Room 42 will certainly continue with Broadway singers.  Kelli Rabke, who was the “Narrator" in Broadway’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, “Eponine” in Les Miserables on Broadway, and “Yonah" in the American Premiere of Stephen Schwartz’s Children of Eden, makes her Green Room 42 debut on Saturday, October 27 in Feels Like Home, a “deeply personal show that traces her journey from stage to motherhood and back again, sprinkled with a healthy dose of humor and honesty.” 

“Diva” the music of Celine Dion takes that stage on Monday, October 29 that features the talents of Marty Thomas, Brie Cassil, Samantha Duval and Yvette Rovira.

On the funny side, join this venue for a hysterical evening featuring the songs of TITANIQUE! running for  several days beginning on November 30.  It is said to be “an unforgettable celebration of Celine Dion, her music, and the film Titanic, experience “My Heart Will Go On,” "Power of Love," "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," "Because You Loved Me," and "I'm Alive" like never before! Featuring an all-star cast, this concert is produced and directed by Tye Blue, with musical direction and arrangements by Nicholas Connell, and co-written by Marla Mindelle, Constantine Rousouli, and Tye Blue.”

Halloween afternoon is reserved for The Rat Pack Undead with “ghoulish” parodies of songs sung by Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. Come see the hits  like “Come Die With Me”, “What Kind of Ghoul Am I?”,  and “I've Got my teeth in your skin”.   For tickets and more upcoming events:


JFK is now home to the world’s first privately-owned animal reception terminal and quarantine facility at New York's John F. Kennedy known as the ARK (Animal Reception at Kennedy).  Approved by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as JFK’s exclusive provider, the ARK is a comprehensive facility that includes animal handling services and kennel accommodations, 3- and 7-day equine import quarantine and equine export center, veterinary medicine, and a bonded isolation area for avian and other exotic animals.

To date, ARK at JFK has welcomed a diverse variety of animals for their pre-, post or in-transit care and accommodation including horses, cats, dogs, turtles, baby goats, rabbits, birds, race pigeons, a pot-bellied pig, an agouti rat, snakes, scorpions, ferrets, capybaras (very large rats), porcupines, sloths and many others. 

“All horses that come through JFK must be processed here,” said Managing Director Elizabeth Schuette. "They get washed and have a veterinarian inspection where sometimes blood is taken. When the blood is cleared they are allow to continue on. We have 48 separate quarantine stalls in case there is an issue.”

“On a personal level where someone is taking their own animal, the animal can be boarded here in case there is a heat restriction or if the plane is canceled or delayed.  As an import the animal may not have the proper documentations to be admitted into the United States. There have been many that have been denied and sent back to their original country.” 

“There are thousands of dogs imported such as rescues and training dogs. With those that are brought on the plane that include service dogs.  One problem with when people check their dog is in regard to size.  If you are traveling out of the United States and then have to be checked like a piece of luggage, they don’t investigate the arrival requirements of a particular country, don’t have the proper papers and have to be sent back.”  

Mismatches in time and temperature restriction may warrant that the passenger is not traveling in the same plane as the animal.

 “Transporting live cargo by plane can be a complex and stressful process for owners and animals alike. “Our goal is to create a more efficient and safe process by reducing the need for additional travel and offering trained animal care staff immediately pre- and post-flight,” said John J. Cuticelli, Jr. CEO, Racebook and Founder and Chairman of ARK Development?The ARK at JFK. “The ARK provides a healthy and comfortable environment and sets new international airport standards for comprehensive veterinary, kenneling and quarantine services.  The ARK also provides critical national bio-security measures, compatible with federal requirements, preventing the introduction of foreign animal diseases and vetting insects and plants that could bring diseases and agents that could have serious health, economic and trade implications. The existence of the facility mitigates potential security risks by impeding the importation of illegal property and preventing dangerous goods in animal transport crates.” 

Here are the facility’s facts: The ARK is the world’s first privately owned, 24/7 animal terminal and airport quarantine; located at Building 78 at JFK, with 14.4 acres of surrounding ground area, including large cargo aircraft ramp parking and land use for animal handling; comprises seven sections: 1.) Air cargo and ground handling operations by Worldwide Freight Services (WFS); 2.) The ARK Pet Oasis providing care for in-transit companion animals; 3.) Equine and Livestock export stables; 4.) Equine Quarantines; 5.) Bonded in-transit isolation facility; 6.) veterinary/medical space; 7.) Ramp Area for cargo delivery and container cleaning.  

More facts: The 178,000 square-foot facility features 40,000 square-feet of quarantine and in-transit animal care, 26,000 square-feet of support services, 20,000 square-feet of pet boarding, and 92,500 square-feet of cargo ground handling operations; is a sustainable facility featuring electric forklifts and equipment, automatically dimming lighting throughout, energy efficient HVAC systems and an EPA approved incinerator for disposing of international waste; is the first import facility approved by the EPA and USDA to utilize the Virox product line – a non-toxic hydrogen peroxide based disinfecting agents for cleaning and disinfection;  
The $65 million project will create more than 150 jobs airport wide and garner the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey an estimated $108 million in rent over the span of the facility’s 32-year lease with a 5-year renewal option.

Here is a list of the services and amenities. The full-amenity center offers in-transit companion animal handling (ARK Pet Oasis), USDA-approved equine and aviary import quarantine and export facilities, veterinary clinic, cat and dog boarding with training, spa and grooming options;
Domestic pets, horses, birds, livestock and exotic animals are transported to and from aircraft, terminals, cargo warehouses and other airport locations, to be cared for by The ARK’s animal handling and veterinary staff; the Pet Oasis is a central resource available to all airlines, pet parents, federal agencies brokers and shippers servicing the needs and promoting the welfare of companion animals traveling as live cargo.

The ARK at JFK features an equine departure lounge, where horses and livestock rest and receive appropriate food, water and care while their travel documents are being processed. Under USDA oversight, The ARK provides three and seven day equine quarantine staff observes the animals and guides them into specialized climate-controlled stalls equipped with bedding and natural light.

Designed to allow planes to taxi directly to The ARK’s “airside” loading docks, the terminal establishes the gold standard in animal handling, transportation and veterinary care, and provides ancillary travel resources for pets, horses, birds, livestock and exotic animals in a seamless fashion that is more efficient, safe and significantly reduces stress on animals.

The ARK Import Export Center offers pet shipping services including veterinary exam and documentation review, procurement of USDA endorsements as needed, freight bookings and coordination with arrival station for domestic and international transportation from JFK,
LGA and EWR airports.

Located at Cargo Building 78 at JFK, The ARK’s address is 78A North Boundary Road (cross street is Old Rockaway Blvd), Jamaica, NY 11430. Parking lot is on the 78A side.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Take a Tour of Italy at Mama’s

What may appear to be a small deli on the corner of 104th Street and 46th Avenue in Corona, is just the beginning of a set of stores that will give you access to a replica of an Italian Piazza.  The history goes back to Irene and Frank Leo, who came over from the Italian city of Bari, opening Loe’s Latticini back in the 1930s at a different location.  

Their daughter, Nancy De Benedittis and her husband Frank De Benedittis, took it over and brought the business to Corona.  Nancy, known as "Mama", was the matriarch of the family and the person that expanded the deli to include the Southern Italian recipes of hot foods.

The above is a sandwich made with her delicious pork roast.   
In 2011 after Nancy passed, the corner street was named after her, with the deli acquiring the name of Mama’s of Corona. Her three daughters, Irene and Maria DeBenedittis and Carmela Lamorgese took over what is now a complex, one part of which is the deli. Abutting was a store devoted to the making of fresh pasta, which after several years was closed to the public.
Fresh pasta is no longer made at this storefront as it is now leased to a florist.  It could not be a better choice having some tables and plants sitting just outside near the deli. As for the pasta, you can be certain that it doesn’t come out of box….still made the old fashioned way.  

More than 50 years ago Mama came up with a sandwich the now famous Special Italian Hero, which is also sold at Citi Field.  In fact, USA Today conducted a contest of fans voting for their favorite food at all ballparks in the country. Mama’s came in at 4th place In case you haven’t tried this long standing hero, it consists of: pepper ham, salami, store-made mozzarella, marinated mushrooms and sweet peppers.  

Mama’s offers both sandwiches and hot foods on the daily lunch specials to include sliced pork roast with gravy.  “Our roast pork and roast beef are made from scratch. There is always a daily pasta dish available.”  Twist my arm, I just had to sample the roast pork and roast beef.  OMG! Perfectly seasoned with nothing overpowering and both quite juicy and tender.  Can it get any better?  Oh yes….the gravy!   

You will also see the Italian deli meats hanging in such a tempting way and are welcome to explore the shelves for the many Italian imported products in jars, cans and packages.   
Breads are baked in their bakery, the third part of the group. There is no seating in the deli.  Take the food “to go” or bring it to the bakery known as Mama’s Backyard CafĂ©, where you can casually sit at a table along the side or the one large table in a room towards the back. 

Feast your eyes on the Italian pastries such as sfogliatelles, cannolis, Italian cheesecake, lobster tails, rainbow cookies, biscotti, and rhum baba, resting in the extended glass cases.  Enjoy a cappuccino.  Take home some of the breads like ciabatta, great for making a quick pizza.  They sell their store made sauces as well.  My taste buds were having a huge party celebration with the pastries.  Bet you can’t eat just one….sorry…maybe you can resist…At least I waited until I go them home.  

You will feel as if you are in Italy as you enter the backyard, a replica of an Italian piazza complete with a water fountain, white wrought iron furniture, herb wall garden and a mural that includes a statue of St. Francis.  “We renovated the garden with new furniture and a wood slatted covering under the mural,” said Irene.  “It separates the abutting back apartment building and seems cozier and changing from the black wrought iron to the white certainly makes the garden brighter.”  

Having the deli closed on Sundays and Monday’s it is quite common to see the community gather in the backyard especially on Sunday after people attending mass at a nearby church.  Deli sandwiches are available at the bakery these two days to accommodate the steady customers.  

With the recent passing of Maria, Irene and Carmela continue to run the operation.  As Irene continues to do most of the work, (She did all of the recent Halloween decorations.) she always has Maria in mind and the way she would want the women owned and run enterprise to be represented to the community and beyond.   May this landmark Italian enterprise go on for many more years.  


Artists are abundant in the areas of Long Island City and Astoria. Long Island City Artists, (LIC-A), a non-profit organization is based out of Plaxall Gallery, a 12,000 square foot gallery that opened in 2016. Neither Board member and artist Nancy Gesimondo, or artist Elsie Apacible realized that there was an arts foundation in their own backyard, namely the Rainforest Art Foundation until they were invited to the opening reception of an exhibit, 80 and Still Going Strong. Running through November 27, the focus is on artists over the age of 80 that are still active.  

What were their reactions to the gallery and meeting both Marlene and James Yu? “It was such a wonderful surprise to visit this gem of an art space amidst an industrial block of warehouses and a carwash,” said Gesimondo. “One can easily walk right by the simple modern three story building.  There is no obvious banner announcing its presence. Its understated soft white facade is punctuated by large decorative gates painted a cheerful chartreuse. Entering the building I sensed I was about to discover something very special.”

“James and Marlene Yu were so warm and welcoming. James immediately greeted me and my guest, fellow LIC artist Elsie Apacible, and he showed us to the buffet. There were several large round tables filled with artists and friends laughing and enjoying a meal. It was like being at an intimate family gathering. It was amazing to meet the artists, to see their work and learn of their long and accomplished careers.”

“Marlene was so friendly and vibrant.  After dinner she led us up to her studio on the third floor.  We packed into the small elevator totally unprepared when the doors opened to a vast open planned studio filled with several enormous paintings. Marlene's work is a joyful expression of her love of nature. Her color palate is as lush and lovely as nature itself, from the cosmos to the depths of the ocean and everything in between.  It was absolutely astonishing to comprehend how this petite woman created work of this scale.  Her many decades of making art is evident in the amount of paintings on display and on large movable walls that she herself pulls back and forth to show us one after another of her gorgeous paintings.” 

“I am delighted that both James and Marlene have asked me to curate an exhibition with LIC artists who also share a passion for nature and preserving the environment.  Elsie and I are looking forward to working with them soon. As a curator and board member of LIC Artists I can think of several artists whose work would be in harmony with the exhibition goals of the Rainforest Art Foundation.  LICA is very happy that discussions are underway for an upcoming exhibit.”
Elsie Apacible shared her reactions as well. “It was an amazing event as if my relatives got together; warm and welcoming. James and Marlene are an amazing host and hostess. Good team. It was a wakeup call for me to aim bigger, in terms of my artwork. Marlene is an inspiration. When we went to her gallery/studio, the amount of artwork that was displayed was mouth watering and jaw dropping. I almost could not believe how a tiny woman could make such an enormous amazing pieces. AMAZING work; both charged and full of energy and somehow put me to shame when I feel lazy and re-evaluate my work and accomplishment. I immediately put something in my canvas as soon as got home a small piece that could remind me of my experience with them.”
“I also hope that we can entice them to share the space for LIC Artists for few selected events as they are so concentrated on their goals in preserving the rainforest. As mine and Nancy's observation, the building is way too low key for the amount of energy and intention of the foundation. I am sure, we can contribute to give awareness for the same cause and maybe raise funds, or even for social reason because these people are so great.”