New Jersey Hall of Fame center, at American Dream mall, will open on June 28

by JAY LUSTIG
nj hall of fame american dream

JAY LUSTIG

Tommy James, right, sings “Mony Mony” with a hologram of himself at The New Jersey Hall of Fame’s Entertainment and Learning Center at the American Dream mall in East Rutherford.

“This is freaky,” said Tommy James, June 18, before doing something he had never done before in his long career: singing a duet with himself.

More specifically, a hologram of himself. One of the attractions at the New Jersey Hall of Fame’s Entertainment and Learning Center — located on the third floor of the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, and scheduled to open to the public on June 28 — is a karaoke stage where people can sing alongside holograms of James and other hall of famers (including Gloria Gaynor, Wyclef Jean, Tony Orlando and Frankie Valli), and walk away with a video souvenir of themselves doing so. James attended the center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony and press preview on June 18, gamely volunteered to give it a try, and soon was up on the stage, singing a one-man duet version of his Shondells hit “Mony Mony.”

The New Jersey Hall of Fame’s Wall of Fame.

Other attractions or the 10,000-square-foot center include a “Wall of Fame,” honoring all inductees; a “Late Night Jersey TV” booth, where you can conduct virtual interviews with Jon Bon Jovi, Stevie Van Zandt, Danny DeVito, Connie Chung and other hall of famers; “Fly Me to the Moon,” a simulated space ride; a display on the state’s “Everyday Heroes”; the small Jersey Proud Theater, where a short film about the hall’s inductees plays in a loop, and other events can be held; and a gift shop.

Items on display include a Model T given by Henry Ford to Thomas Edison, one of Les Paul’s guitars, Jon Bon Jovi’s denim jacket (decorated with the title of one of his band’s albums, “New Jersey”) and William Carlos Williams’ typewriter.

Attendees of the June 18 event included Gov. Phil Murphy, First Lady Tammy Murphy, many state politicians, and hall of fame inductees such as Smithereens members Jim Babjak and Dennis Diken, Joe Piscopo, Olympic champion Joetta Clark Diggs, soccer star Heather O’Reilly, and entrepreneur and philanthropist Finn Wentworth.

“Today’s about talent,” said Gov. Murphy. “We punch way above our weight, whether it’s historically, whether it’s in the performing arts, letters, the business community, academics. Trailblazers and pioneers: Think of the Paul Robesons of the world, Albert Einstein. The list goes on and on and on. … We may be the fourth smallest — geographically speaking — state in America, but we are America’s No. 1 talent state.”

Tommy James point to his circle on the New Jersey Hall of Fame’s Wall of Fame.

The hall started inducting people in 2008, and now has more than 200 honorees. This marks the first time it has a permanent home.

” ‘A long time coming’ is the only thing I can think of,” said New Jersey Hall of Fame president Steve Edwards, adding that this is the first state hall of fame in the nation to have a state-of-the-art center like this.

“I was very recently interviewing Gov. Kean,” Edwards said, “and we talked about Jersey pride, and how when people feel like they’re proud of where they come from, they feel anything is possible about the future.”

For more on the center, visit njhalloffame.org/entertainment-learning-center.

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