Livingston native Jason Alexander — best known for “Seinfeld,” though he also has been a Tony-winning Broadway star — gave perhaps the funniest acceptance speech in the history of the New Jersey Hall of Fame, Oct. 27 at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park.
But it was also quite touching, as Alexander’s Livingston High School drama teacher, Robert Lampf, gave the preceding induction speech for Alexander, and Alexander took the opportunity to pay tribute to Lampf — and all those who help to nurture young talent.
“His belief in me, and his attention to me, are in large part the reason that I had the confidence, and the chutzpah, to go out and try and achieve all that I’ve been lucky enough to achieve,” said Alexander. “Without him, there is no me. I think everyone in this Hall of Fame has at least one Bob Lampf in their life, and as far as I’m concerned, their contributions to this amazing state are as valuable as ours, maybe more so.”
Alexander was last inductee to get his award in the four-hour induction ceremony; fellow inductees included Southside Johnny, The Smithereens, Martha Stewart, Tim McLoone, gymnast Laurie Hernandez and former New York Giants Harry Carson and Bart Oates.
Here is the text of some of Alexander’s speech. Below it is a video of the speech, and also, as a special bonus, videos of scenes from two Lampf-directed Livingston High School plays that Alexander starred in (in the ’70s) under his birth name, Jay Greenspan.
This is a very unexpected honor. If I’m being honest, all the honors I’ve received in my life are pretty unexpected. And many would say undeserved. But to hell with them. I am very flattered. This is great for me. I don’t know what the hell it does for New Jersey, but it’s great for me. I’m not sure that my picture gracing the walls of the Newark International Airport, as people arrive from around the world, will quite convey the majesty, wonder and delight that is New Jersey. But I don’t know. Who knows? Maybe this (points to face) is what New Jersey is all about, I don’t know.
I am honored. This night is proof positive that I was right and my father was wrong when he told me that I should become an orthodontist like my cousin Ronny. Not that there’s anything wrong with it! No, my cousin Ronny is an excellent orthodontist, but no one’s putting his picture up at Newark International Airport, that’s all I’m saying …
New Jersey has given me so much. I was thinking about it back in my hotel room, when this award show began, yesterday, and this is just another gift of the many that New Jersey has given me, personally. I want to say, as Bob Lampf was a part of my amazing public school education at Seth Boyden Elementary, Heritage Middle School, Livingston High School, completely fantastic free public education that I would put on par with my children’s private school education that costs $7 ½ million. They are no smarter than me. In fact … well, we’ll see.
Fawn Ridge Day Camp, I thank you. Six years in Parsippany, or Whippany, I don’t know where it was. I was not aware of New Jersey geography. I had a little shirt that said Fawn Ridge Day Camp. I was there for six years. I loved it. The community pools, the public tennis courts, the playing fields that I was beaten on mercilessly for years. Fantastic! Fishing on Lake Hopatcong. Oh yes! Right. Hopatcong being a Native American word that means Jews can’t fish. Never caught a damn thing. Is there fish in Lake Hopatcong? They would swim around going, “The Jew just dropped in a worm … short kid, fat, he can’t fish”
Friendly’s ice cream and Don’s Diner. Don’s Diner! Oh my God, where I began building this Adonis-like figure that I have today. The Paper Mill Playhouse, the Garden State Arts Center, where I began my love affair with the theater. The Teen Theater Program of Livingston, N.J. The Pushcart Players, where I began my own personal journey and entry into the theater.
The Livingston Mall, where I worked three fantastic jobs. Spencer Gifts, where I sold lava lamps and black light posters of Farrah Fawcett and Bruce Lee to little pimply teenage boys like myself. Puppy Palace, where I actually posed as an animal expert to get these animals out of there, saying things like, “Yes, of course, a Doberman Pinscher loves kids, it’s a fantastic match.” And of course Baskin-Robbins, where I worked for two years, yes indeed, and again adding to this fabulous figure which allows me to buy suits that I believe are a 44 toddler, when they ask my size.
I worked at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J. My mom ran the School of Nursing there. She wanted me to have a medical career, and so she arranged for me the three most disgusting jobs I have every had in my entire life. There was poop and there was all kinds of blood and things. I’m not good … I can’t play a doctor, I just can’t do it. There was Troop 5 of the Boy Scouts of America in Maplewood, N.J., where I learned … still, I can do a square knot. I’ll make a square knot right out of this (points to microphone), you won’t believe it.
Incredible days of summers of joys right at the Jersey shore, Seaside Heights, right here in Asbury Park, loved it! My days at the shore. Eventually Atlantic City, N.J., where I would learn exactly how many cards do not add up to 21. The Meadowlands. The Meadowlands Racetrack. I also learned things there, that the horses with the cutest names don’t really always win the race, and I was there with my father, absolutely true story, where he bet more money than he ever should have, on a horse … this horse went off at 68 to 1 odds, it shot out of the gate, it was ahead of the field, and dropped dead on the track. True story, hand to God. Dropped dead on the Meadowlands Racetrack. God, ya gotta love New Jersey.
I also have to give thanks for … the New Jersey-New York bus line, that used to charge 75-cent student fee, to get into New York, enabling me to audition in New York City, even when I couldn’t drive, and where on each and every trip, as we passed through the town of Elizabeth, N.J., the whole bus would turn to each other and ask, “What’s that smell?” Fantastic times! And Elizabeth remains true to that even today. It’s fantastic.
It brings me to tonight, where I am, again, being honored for my contribution to my industry, and to the state of New Jersey. And I have to say that there are a whole bunch of people who deserve to be honored with me. I know, and you have heard from many of our fellow inductees tonight who would agree that no one gets to enjoy this kind of success and notoriety unless they have the support and encouragement of a lot of other people. We get the attention and the accolades, but those people deserve equal acknowledgement, and that is why I am extremely honored that my friend, Robert Lampf, introduced me tonight. Bob was, as he says, my high school drama teacher at Livingston High, he was also my mentor, my director, my cheerleader, my colleague, and my friend. His belief in me, and his attention to me, are in large part the reason that I had the confidence, and the chutzpah, to go out and try and achieve all that I’ve been lucky enough to achieve. Without him, there is no me. I think everyone in this Hall of Fame has at least one Bob Lampf in their life, and as far as I’m concerned, their contributions to this amazing state are as valuable as ours, maybe more so. So thank you, my friend, for all of it. …
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