There were sports stars and entertainers, business leaders, public servants and artists. Of course, this being Jersey, it’s hard to start any recap of the 2023 New Jersey Hall of Fame inductee ceremony without starting with Bruce.
Springsteen, however, was not at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on Sunday night to be honored. Rather, he was there to introduce his wife, Patti Scialfa, who was part of the 12-member inductee class.
Springsteen offered a heartfelt tribute — recalling the first time he met (or rather, heard) Scialfa.
“I met Patti at the Stone Pony — where else?” he said to a roar from the crowd. “She was sitting in with the house band, Cats on a Smooth Surface, and I heard that voice of hers and I wondered: ‘Who is that girl?’”
Springsteen said he had to find out.
“We went out for cheeseburgers at the Inkwell in my ’60 Corvette — and the die was set for many cheeseburgers to come,” he said. “Patti was street smart, fascinating, lovely, sexy, beautiful redhead with a sound completely her own.”
She was what Springsteen needed in more ways than one.
“The E Street Band was good at many things, but singing harmony was not one of them,” he said. “So, when I met Patti, I felt like I found my secret weapon.”
In 1984, she joined the band. In 1991, she and Bruce were married.
Scialfa said her life has been a dream — as she has performed with dozens of top artists as well as with her own band. It’s all she ever wanted to do, she said.
“Music is powerful,” she told the crowd. “It can inform you. It can resonate back to you — to your heart — who you are, who you’d like to become. I was fortunate to work and meet with so many brilliant musicians and artists and find a piece of that world, a little piece of that world, for myself.
“I’m so deeply grateful to the many people I have worked with who have reflected back to me the beauty and transformative power of music.”
The night, which marked the 15th class of the New Jersey Hall, honored many greats, from sports stars Tiki Barber and Sue Wicks to business leaders Finn Wentworth and Josh Weston to a former secretary of state (George Schultz) to the creator of “The Sopranos,” David Chase.
Those who spoke all had one thing in common: Difficulty expressing their gratitude.
Tony Orlando, the pride of Union City whose more than 60-year career is best noted for that sing-a-long song involving that famous yellow ribbon and an old oak tree, put it this way.
“I know I’m supposed to make this a short one,” he said. “I understand — but put yourself in my shoes: How do you make a 64-year ‘thank you,’ to you, the people who make the dreams possible?
“This is all I can say to you. I am now humbled, and I am now forever grateful to all of you out there who have given me 64 years of a dream come true. Honest to God, I can never repay you.”
A look at the New Jersey Hall of Fame Class of 2023:
Arts & Letters
- George Segal*, South Brunswick Township: An American painter and sculptor associated with the pop art movement, he was presented with the United States National Medal of Arts in 1999;
- Dorothy Porter Wesley*, Montclair: A librarian, bibliographer and curator, she was the first African American to receive a library science degree from Columbia University.
- Finn Wentworth, Mount Tabor: An entrepreneur, philanthropist and investor in numerous major commercial real estate and sports ventures;
- Josh Weston, Montclair: The former CEO of ADP also is a notable philanthropist;
Performing Arts & Entertainment
- David Chase**, Clifton/North Caldwell: The filmmaker is best known as the creator of the award-winning HBO drama series“The Sopranos”;
- Tony Orlando, Union City: The singer, whose career spans over 60 years, is best known for his work as part of Tony Orlando and Dawn;
- Patti Scialfa**, Deal: The singer-songwriter and guitarist has been a member of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band since 1984.
- Steve Adubato Sr.*, Newark: A politician and teacher, he was the founder of the North Ward Center;
- Charles Edison*, West Orange: The 42ndgovernor of New Jersey (1941-44), he also was a businessman, inventor and animal behaviorist — and the son of inventor Thomas Edison;
- George Shultz*, Princeton: He was an economist, businessman, diplomat, statesman — and one of only two people to have held four different Cabinet-level posts, including secretary of state.
- Tiki Barber, Florham Park: The former running back played 10 seasons for the New York Giants;
- Sue Wicks, New Brunswick: The former Rutgers women’s basketball star also played for the New York Liberty in the WNBA.
**Previous inductee, but being formally inducted this year.