New Jersey Hall of Fame Event Draws Jon Bon Jovi, George R.R. Martin, Jason Alexander

Jon Bon Jovi went home Sunday night (Oct. 27) for the 11th annual New Jersey Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The rocker helped induct Southside Johnny Lyon with the honor at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. Bon Jovi was reverential, telling the audience that without Southside Johnny, there wouldn’t be a Jon Bon Jovi. “I grew up on the sounds of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, but I always wanted to be an Asbury Juke,“ Bon Jovi said.

A clearly moved Lyon, who noted how he never understood why “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson always made cracks about New Jersey, said he always felt a need to defend the state with an “axe to grind.” Said Lyon: “I wanted to prove that New Jersey was just as good as any other state.”

Backed by the house band The Kings of Suburbia, Bon Jovi and Lyon then teamed up for a performance of “I Don’t Want To Go Home.”

E Street Band bassist Garry Tallent was on hand to induct Carteret’s The Smithereens into the Hall, speaking with admiration how the band is soldiering on after the death of front man Pat DiNizio. “Lesser bands would have thrown in the Rock and Roll towel,” he said.

Smithereens guitarist Jim Babjak read a letter from DiNizio’s mother, who said her son would have been “thrilled and honored” to be inducted with bandmates Babjak, bassist Mike Mesaros and drummer Dennis Diken.

The Smithereens closed the show performing the hits “Blood and Roses,” “A Girl Like You” and a cover of The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There” with vocalists Marshall Crenshaw and Robin Wilson of The Gin Blossoms.

Other highlights included a speech by Martha Stewart, inducted by Dr. Mehmet Oz, who recalled babysitting for the children of Yankees Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle; Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin regaling the audience with tales of writing fictional stories about monsters, his battling pet turtles and imagining faraway lands watching the “big ships” sail away as a child in Bayonne; and “Seinfeld” star Jason Alexander’s hilarious, Jersey-centric speech covering the smells of Elizabeth and joking about following Martin (“He has an Emmy… I lost eight times,” cracked Alexander.).

Additional honors went to Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez; restaurateur, musician and philanthropist Tim McLoone, who was inducted by Darlene Love; and a posthumous honor for “Jaws” author Peter Benchley.

Whoopi Goldberg was on hand to induct celebrity photographer Timothy White and Love opened the show with Tina Turner’s “River Deep Mountain High” and Steve Van Zandt’s “Among The Believers.”

The Hall will be moving to the American Dream retail and amusement center at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, officials said.

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