Barbed Wire

The Abington suburbs – a.k.a. the area’s epicenter of all things gentrified and affluent – once again seems to be swinging its pendulum back to its hipster, scenester roots thanks to the soon-to-be opened Be Life Café and Marketplace at 639 Northern Boulevard in Chinchilla.

Located where area restaurateur Vinny Lam – he of Blu Wasabi and Kyoto fame – formerly dished out Shabu Shabu (a Japanese version of hot pot), the esoteric eatery simply boasts “opening soon” on its newly hung signage as vegan elves seem to be re-doing its groovy interior well after the midnight hour.

Like the enigmatic Wonka factory, no one seems to go in or out, but big things are happening at the corner locale.

Just up State Street, the newly opened Jaya Studio has fitness enthusiasts rolling out their yoga mats in droves, while the area’s tragically hip have been crowding nearby Duffy’s Coffee House, where original music and open mic nights are served up alongside daily homemade quiche and Ethiopian Tchembe.

By the way, musician Mike Dillon will be strumming his six-string at Duffy’s this Friday from 7 to 9 p.m.

These new kids on the NPR listening block are joining granola crunching, tree hugging colonists like Everything Natural and Sole to Soul Shoes (where Birkenstocks and Dansko Clogs roam free) in their efforts to transform the bustling downtown shopping area into Clarks Green-wich Village.

Gag me with a neti pot.

To those who oppose these high-in fiber, low-in-fat vegetarian communists, fret not. We’ll always have the State Street Grille in order to down our favorite martinis, Lee’s Denim Diner in order to don the most decadent designer jeans, and Treat Accessories to forever dip ourselves in beloved bling. Let the revolution begin.

Meanwhile, yours truly harkened back to my Sicilian roots up Dunmore way this past Friday night as I devoured a most delicious repast dished up by celebrity chef Billy Genovese at the fabulous Italian eatery Gubbio’s, located on Chestnut Street. A veritable who’s who of the area’s most influential movers and shakers can be found bending elbow and raising fork at Gubbio’s on a regular basis and for good cause: Billy’s epicurean delights cannot not be ignored. No matter how many dietary New Year’s resolutions I make, it appears I just can’t quit him.

But what galloping gourmand would want to?

Besides, I’d rather die happy after downing a plate of his signature fried calamari washed down with a supersized cosmo rather than live forever on plankton and protein shakes.

Gubbio’s loquacious silent partner – Dr. Elmo Baldassari – held court in the bustling bar area Friday night, chatting up the likes of the bubbly Butchie Bistocchi, also known as that delicious dish who served up his own delectable vittles at the famed and former Angelo Bistocchi’s Restaurant, also up Dunmore way.

Photographer to the stars, A.J. Sandone, was also in the Gubbio house along with his gorgeous missus, Evelyn, and their beautiful baby girl.

Meanwhile, from over the rim of my absolutely delightful Absolut martini, I caught Times-Tribune Lifestyles Editor Faith Golay in my cross-hairs as she waxed nostalgic with a table-full of her gorgeous West Scranton gal pals including Kristin Janes Yeager, Rosemary Egan Tabone, Megan Duffy, Rosey Duffy DeAntona, Laurie Evans Kucharski and Dawn Doria O’Connor, who brought along her hunky hubbie, Chris, for good measure.

Those West Siders seemed to be having a hot time in Dunmore town that night, thanks to fine food, fabulous friends and a few rounds purchased by Dr. Baldassari. Smooches gracias to you, my good doctor.

Barbed Wire

Thunder bolts are brewing over at Wilkes-Barre’s Cumulus Radio – the stations formerly under the Citadel umbrella – now that at least three daytime personalities were struck by layoff lighting just in time for the holidays.

Word on the grapevine is that the magic is officially over for Magic 93 radio veteran Fran Pantuso while over at WBSX, Jim Bone got boned and Rebecca Frisbie was tossed only four days before Christmas. The bloodletting trifecta allegedly went down Dec. 21 and rumor has it poor Fran was on vacation when she got the call.

For those not in the know, Atlanta-based Cumulus Media closed a merger in September with Citadel in a $2.5 billion nationwide deal that leaves Cumulus the second-largest radio company in America. Locally, the Cumulus takeover included WBHT, MAGIC 93, WARM, The X and WSJR.

Nationally, the bloodletting began weeks ago at newly-acquired Cumulus stations from San Francisco to Detroit, Phoenix to New York, whereupon cost-cutting measures spelled massive hatchet jobs to long-time radio personalities from sea to shining sea.

Sadly, it was only a matter of time before our local favorites were unceremoniously shoved out the door although tongues were wagging that Magic 93 may have been spared due to its popularity and positive profit margin. Alas poor Fran, I knew ye well and wish for well-deserved greener ($$$) pastures in your future.

Lackawanna County’s new contract with Live Nation for concerts at the Toyota Pavilion, in the meantime, will mean less green for county taxpayers. Officials recently voted to extend a previous 10-year lease through December 2021 at roughly $640,000 per year – or $140,000 less than the county’s annual debt service of $780,000 on the venue, according to published reports.

Live Nation previously paid $800,000 for the lease and when asked why they were deeming the concert venue akin to a Kmart Blue Light Special, Commissioner Corey O’Brien told reporters it was either that or no concerts whatsoever with taxpayers left footing the entire debt-service bill.

“The situation was one of two – either don’t have concerts and we’re paying $780,000 on debt service with no revenue coming in, or we continue to have concerts and we’re short,” Commissioner Corey O’Brien said. Sadly, the debt shortfall is expected to come from the county’s general fund, a.k.a. the region’s already beleaguered taxpayers.

Perhaps to make up for the loss, taxpayers could be afforded a pair of concert tickets to the show of their choice this upcoming season, since we’re all still waiting for our front row seats to Paul Sorvino’s magnum opus, “The Trouble with Cali.”

Honestly, that barter would work fine for me, especially now that Van Halen – replete with David Lee Roth – announced an extensive 2012 tour on its website this past Tuesday. Although venues have yet to be named, tickets go on sale Jan. 10 with the lineup including Diamond Dave, Eddie and Alex Van Halen and Eddie (and Valerie Bertinelli’s) son, Wolfgang.

Missing, sadly, will be bassist Michael Anthony as well as Jack Daniels (Eddie is proud graduate of a handful rehab stints), although Ben Gay will most definitely be part of that crew, especially now that the 57-year-old Roth is still gracing the stage with his legendary scissor kicks.

Should the legends of Van Halen hit Montage Mountain this upcoming summer, you can bet Rude Rube will be there, analgesic cream on, as I pay homage to the best band to ever come out of Pasadena. And yes, I’ll be claiming my tickets as a tax credit.

Barbed Wire

Top Gun and Pyscho aside, never have locker and shower rooms been at the center of such mind-bending drama than that of our very own Penn State. First, a collective gasp was heard ’round the world last week once Coach McQueary delivered his “skin-on-skin slapping” testimony regarding Coach Sandusky during a preliminary hearing against Penn State officials.

And you thought Anthony Perkins was creepy and malevolent.

Then, just this past weekend, word got out that Penn State’s starting quarterback Matt McGloin – who hails from our very own West Side – was hospitalized with a head injury after a locker room scuffle with wide receiver Curtis Drake in a scene reminiscent of the fiery Maverick and Iceman.

The former wingmen apparently had a disagreement about what practice plays were called when they erupted into violence.

Sadly, the once mighty Penn State brand is coming apart at the seams and nowhere has it been more prevalent, perhaps, than this year’s treks to the outlet malls. T.J. Maxx, Kohl’s and even The Salvation Army are all selling deeply discounted Penn State gear in the form of sweatshirts, running pants, team jackets and more.

And for those who may have actually wanted a particular form of Penn State gear, PSU officials announced that the university will no longer license the name, likeness or image of legendary coach Joe Paterno. Retailers are allowed to sell Penn State-Paterno gear until they run out and manufacturers have two months to get rid of similar product.

Still, even with a limited inventory and deeply (and I do mean deeply) discounted prices, stores aren’t moving Penn State items off the shelves at all with charities even refusing to accept the tainted apparel in the form of donations.

It’s bad when you can’t even give the stuff away.

On a lighter note, I was giving out good vibrations at McGrath’s Pub up Dalton way last weekend as vintage rockers Mr. Echo brought down the proverbial house. Made up of former members of M-80, The Reigning Toads and Lesson One, the boys and the band – Bob Lewis, Jaconda Cortazzo, Rob Burns and Matt Mang – had the joint jumpin’ with dance floor crowded the whole night long.

Yours truly managed to Texas two-step with the best of them, including the illustrious Trish Heil – who formerly reigned supreme as the doyenne of Dunmore Heil’s Place and now rules the fountain of youth roost with her fabu botanical skin care line – as well as the Waverly Deli’s delicious dish Mari Byron and her fabulous neighbors Kate Cole and Val and Jerry Calpin. The gaggle of gregarious guy and gal pals practically wore out the dance floor, moi self included, dancing and whooping it up the whole night long to the likes of the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, The Who and David Bowie. To the band Mr. Echo, I’d like to issue a resounding “Thank you, thank you,” for providing a kick of a good time. My toes are already tapping in anticipation of your next show.

Of course, my toes, hands and various other appendages are also tapping in anticipation of a visit from Santa this Saturday, even though I’ve been more than naughty on a pretty regular basis. To my readers: Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa and a Fabulous Festivus to you all.

Here’s hoping I get to kiss a plethora of fruitcakes under my merry mistletoe.

Barbed Wire

Superstar Mark Ruffalo – of “Shutter Island” and “The Kids Are Alright” fame – played the role of Culligan man this past Tuesday when he made an appearance in Dimock Twp. to protest the Marcellus Shale gas-holes from Cabot Oil as well as the DEP and state government.

He and “Gasland” filmmaker Josh Fox delivered thousands of gallons of water to affected families whose water delivery ended last week after the driller blamed for contaminating their wells was granted clemency by state regulators.

In an homage to Marie Antoinette, yours truly showed up at said rally toting a few gallons of Grey Goose while proclaiming “Let them drink vodka” as I meandered about. Let’s just say Ruffalo got a little gruff-alo with me when I asked if he brought along any Perrier.

Which reminds me, normally geese are the ones flocking from our parts during the winter season, but recently a spate of media types have flown their respective coops. For starters, music man Alan K. Stout has officially left the Times Leader building, bound for a new position with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of The Bridge. His final “Music On The Menu” column ran at the end of November and already he’s rubbing elbows with media types at posh fundraisers.

Last Thursday, Sir Stout tripped the light fantastic at Mohegan Sun alongside the likes of WNEP-TV’s Tom and Noreen Clark as well as Magic 93’s Frankie Warren and his better half Erin, who are all serving as honorary chairs for the 30th anniversary of Bowl for Kid’s Sake which benefits Big Brothers/Big Sisters. The actual fundraiser is slated for March 31st at various local bowling alleys so mark your calendars and get ready to hang out in a dark alley for a good cause.

Alan and I, by the way, got our start in the entertainment industry at exactly the same time, working for fiercely competitive newspapers and yet maintaining a professional friendship that has lasted for almost two decades. Like soldiers in battle, there are bonds formed when you’re forced to cover historical events such as a sold-out Britney Spears concert or a packed-to-the rafters Lilith Fair amidst torrential downpours, seated right next to each other, and before the days of laptops and email when we had to get back to our respective newsrooms to file our stories.

Happy trails to you Alan and best of luck with your altruistic new endeavor.

Meanwhile, Abington Journal editor Kristie Grier will be out of her office for 12 weeks now that she’s taking care of her beautiful bouncing baby girl, Gigi, who entered the world just last Monday. I’m sure the proud little mama is over the moon now that she and her hubbie will be celebrating a “pink” Christmas this year. Big smooches!

In the meantime, that flirty and fabulous Abington Suburban editor – sweet Ellen Coyle – has also left the Times Building, bound for Altoona to join her hunky hubbie Jack – former PR man for Mercy Hospital who has since landed a job as communications director for Mount Aloysius College. Big sigh that their sunny dispositions are already missed in these parts. A major mazel tov to both of you darlings.

Flying high in Ellen’s chair, mind you, is the newly-named Suburban editor, journalism superstar Stephanie Longo, who bid The Times Leader’s Go Lackawanna arrivederci so she could wish The Times-Tribune buongiorno on her first day this past Tuesday. Buona fortuna to you Stephanie!

Barbed Wire: Poached Eggheads

Seven redneck pipeline workers hailing from Louisiana and Arkansas were arrested last week and charged with illegally killing deer up Wyoming County way.

The frackin’ idiots were caught with 100-plus pounds of freshly-cut deer meat by wildlife conservation officers Sunday night after they were spotted hauling a white-tailed buck into the bed of their pickup truck.

So why in Hades is your local gossip columnist penning about their illegal Bambi plunderings? Because several times in the past few weeks I’ve had the odious experience of running into like-minded gas drilling lummoxes at my favorite area watering holes. For starters, I happened to be dining al dente at Bazil Restaurant up Clarks Summit way with a bevy of beautiful people gathered ’round the fancy and upscale bar. Before you could order a vodka and bromide, a swarm of out-of-town gas company types were seated next to us, clad in their best Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirts, button down flannels, dusty Levi’s and mud-encrusted work boots.

Let’s just say the squadron of squatters could have benefitted from a fistful of Crest Whitening Strips and perhaps a dollop of John Frieda Hair Pomade or two.

Then, just last Friday night, yet another crew of beer drinking boors made the scene at Camelot up Waverly way, clad in similar non-fashion and crop dusting patrons with their own natural gas as they made their way throughout the packed establishment.

Now I imagine local business owners don’t see past the green of their cash as the pipeline interlopers infiltrate our area. But is it wrong to ask the lusty laborers to elevate their fashion sense should they decide to rub elbows with the area’s beau monde?

Besides, if they really want to lay some pipe, they’re going to have to clean up their collective acts.

In the meantime, I polished my Jimmy Choos and headed for downtown Scranton this past weekend to check out the newly-named Beko Restaurant which is located where the Martini Grille formerly hung its shingle. While supping on some succulent sushi, I caught site of local movers and shakers Art and Tara Russo who were hosting a gathering of their West Scranton Class of ’86 classmates after a much heralded high school reunion at the nearby Colonnade.

The night before, the power couple also hosted a happy hour at POSH for their Invader brethren and it sure looked the gang was having a kick of a good time. Let’s just say I was dazzled by the gathered gorgeous glitterati which included the likes of Steven Harris, Robert Gasper, Faith and Mike Golay, Regina Piazza, Kristin Janes, Carolyn Jerowski, Gus Gschiedle, Warren Walters, Mitchell Simon, Mark Granahan, Doug Evans, Leo Ciullo and more! A night spent with old friends apparently injected new life into the celebrating clan. They all looked simply marvelous.

Meanwhile, the old Molly Brannigans will have new life injected into in it the form of yet another Irish bar just around the corner on Lackawanna Avenue. Ron Kamionka, who brought us Scranton’s Hardware Bar and Wilkes-Barre’s Mulligan’s Pub, has signed a letter of intent to take over the prominent empty corner property and hopes to have it open in time for the celebrated St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Here’s hoping Kamionka’s luck of the Irish continues with this property.Send e-mail to