I never thought the God of Thunder himself would grace Old Bridge, NJ with his presence. KISS sings about losing their minds in Detroit Rock City, and meeting girls in the Ladies Room, but apart from concerts, the hottest band in the world have not yet had an intimate encounter with the toxic waste capital of the world, until now.
New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.23: Gene Simmons Comes to Old Bridge
After catching a glimpse of Gene’s sprawling mansion on A&E’s Gene Simmons Family Jewels, you’d never understand why he would want to leave the place, especially to fly to New Jersey!
GENE: “We’re going to the east coast”
SHANNON: “What’s it called Genie?”
GENE: “Old Bridge, New Jersey”
In the season 4 episode “Godfather Gene,” a friend of the Simmons family, Uncle Tony, asked Gene to be the Godfather of his grandchild. Being the nice, sweet Demon that he is, Gene accepts. When landing in Newark Liberty International airport, the first impression of the state is far from favorable. The industrial backdrop visible from the NJ Turnpike is not exactly an accurate example of how the rest of the state looks. In sum, NJ’s hellish compared to sunny California.
Aside from the areas of the state you’ll see when landing in Newark, there are actually plenty of beautiful towns, gated communities, and mansions here. Uncle Tony clearly lives in one of these ritzy areas. It’s a part of Old Bridge that I’ve never had the privilege of driving through before.
Uncle Tony welcomes Gene and Shannon with a “Welcome to New Joisey.” Here’s the thing about that: If you aren’t from New Jersey then you should be aware that NOBODY talks like that in this state. In fact, somehow, we NJ folks get blamed for the terrible offenses against the English language that New Yorkers and Staten Islanders have committed. I’ll admit, there’s certain idiosyncrasies in the speech of Jerseyites, but they aren’t as prevalent as the rest of the population has been made to believe.
The episode is chock full of terrible Jersey stereotypes, a Soprano’s-esque intro montage signalling their arrival in NJ, and too many bad Godfather impressions to count! It’s also worth noting that Uncle Tony is a not a good representation of males living in Jersey. Not all of us walk around the house pretending to be “Goodfellas” to our guests, and surprisingly, we’re all not living in the past.
Shannon Tweed left NJ with the idea that the women in the state are all backward and still living in “barefoot and pregnant days.” In the episode, the ladies of Uncle Tony’s family served the men, waiting on them dotingly until Shannon helped them turn the tables on the guys. Shannon baffled, said, “Why can’t them come out and get it themselves?” Shannon also stated that “The women’s movement hasn’t hit home there because it’s not welcome…no one opens the door for it.” Shannon, please, take it from a guy who knows first hand, the women here in Jersey are quite independent and you don’t want to mess with them! It’s a safe bet that the producers of the show urged everyone to play up the “old fashioned Italian” angle for the show, but they claim it’s “reality” right?
Tony’s 1st question: “Can you smell my meatballs?”
Residents of California, New York, and Florida are numb to hearing their sports venues, addresses, and local establishments named dropped on TV and in movies. For example, if you’re a life long New York City resident, then it’s no big deal for you to pass by a film crew or to turn on HBO and catch a scene in a movie that was filmed in the building you live in. Although Jersey has a rich history in entertainment, and it’s the birthplace of the earliest films, we’ve never enjoyed the prominence that the aforementioned states have in the media until The Sopranos premiered.
The Sopranos brought several NJ towns, a local ice cream parlor, and an average strip club into the minds of millions of viewers everywhere. It made us feel important. So, when I heard Uncle Tony tell Gene Simmons that “there’s two malls, the East Brunswick Mall on 18 or Freehold Mall take 9 south,” my face lit up. The thought of The Demon stomping around The Sexy Armpit is so cool. Even Shannon paid a visit with the other women to the popular Ciccone’s Italian Deli in Old Bridge.
Of course the episode wasn’t without wacky hijinks. Gene ran into a speed bump on his mission to become Godfather. Tony’s church prohibited Gene from being a Godparent because he’s Jewish. In an attempt to prove himself to the priest who handled the baptism, he not only unleashed all of his religious knowledge onto the priest, but he also frantically served as safety patrol for local school kids. Those kids have no idea how lucky they were to have had the legendary Dr. Love help them into their cars that day! In the end, all the loose ends were tied up and Gene was able to become Godfather. If only Gene spit the Holy water onto the babies head while churning out a bass solo, that would’ve been an awesome ending.
Gene rocking NJ designer Marc Ecko’s Cut & Sew shirt
Old Bridge, NJ is also known for being the town where the metal band Overkill formed, the hometown of Brian O’Halloran, Dante from Clerks fame as well as pop singer/actress Vitamin C.