Jaime Franchi

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Jaime Franchi is the Executive Editor of Morey Publishing. She covers education and contributes news and entertainment pieces for the Long Island Press, along with occasional op-eds when she's in the mood for some hate mail. Her work can also be found on Salon.com, Milieu Magazine, Huffington Post and The New York Times.

Jim Breuer Performs 3-Show Valentine’s Day Weekend Treat at The Paramount

jim breuer paramount huntington
Comedian Jim Breuer performs three hilarious Valentine's Day Weekend shows at The Paramount in Huntington on Feb. 11! (Photo: Jim Breuer official Facebook profile)

Valley Stream-born comedian Jim Breuer returns to Long Island on Saturday, February 11 for three hilarious back-to-back-to-back shows.

Long Islanders know Breuer from his stint as “Goat Boy” on Saturday Night Live, from his 1998 hit film Half Baked with Dave Chappelle, from his podcast, from radio interviews with Howard Stern, VHI’s That Metal Show, and for Mets fans, games just aren’t complete without Breuer’s rip-roaring video commentary.

Metal fans love Breuer, too, and follow his rock band the Loud & Rowdy, which killed it at Mulcahy’s this November.

As a live, in-person, Valentine’s Day Weekend box of comedic chocolates, if you will, this laugh god will be treating us to three—you heard that—three shows at The Paramount in Huntington on Feb. 11. The first gig in this day-long residency is at 5 p.m., and all-ages, so parents can bring their whole kid crew along, and when they grow up, can tell them that their very first show was an absolutely hysterical set by none other than Breuer himself! (This parent-to-kid talk is to be accompanied with a full-color photo of “Goat Boy,” of course.) The second and third performances of the night—at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.—will feature Breuer unleashed, wild and hysterical, in his local stomping grounds, delivering a barrage of extra-special Valentine’s Day kisses of hilarity, one joke after another.

Expect to laugh, uncontrollably—and, a lot.

Breuer will set his comedic skills on one thing he’s an expert on: being the ultimate “Marriage Warrior.” This set is perfect for couples, singles who were once part of couple or hope to be, and families. The metal-loving funnyman offers insight into the tedium of marriage, the fights that are seemingly over nothing, and the challenge of raising children. (Breuer has three teenage girls, which makes him a super-expert!) These comedic insights examine the ways in which wives choose to express themselves, versus how men often respond.

Marriage is no picnic. In fact, as Breuer explains via comedy, it can be a war, where couples can devolve into enemy combatants.

Under Breuer’s tutelage, you, too, can be a marriage warrior.

Will he read out loud from a real text message his wife of more than 20 years, Dee, sent him right before he was due to go onstage one night? Will he lay bare the intricacies of that fight and explode on can’t-stop-laughing-it’s-just-too-damn-funny tirade about how it’s not really about a toothbrush? (Seriously. A toothbrush.) In that bit, he discovers how to read between the lines (of the text) to get to the heart of what his wife (and women) really want. Will Breuer, like a true warrior, show the audience how to send love missiles over to the enemy camp, destroying their defenses?!

Breuer’s comedy has a way of getting right to the heart of everyday life, the struggles that make us human. It’s a place where we recognize ourselves, and in doing so, laugh not just at Breuer’s crazy life, but our own.

And our marriages are all better for it.

What better way to kick off Valentine’s Day weekend? There is none!

Of course, no Breuer set would be complete without his spot-on impressions of Metallica front man James Hetfield, or Goodfellas’ star Joe Pesci. Will he do Jack Nicholson? Will he screech in perfect AC/DC falsetto fashion an impression of Angus Young?

Of course he will! But there’s only really only real one way to know for sure! Check him out!

The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington. paramountny.com $19.50- $59.50. 5 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Feb. 11.

Related: Do This: Long Island Concerts & Events February 9 – 15

Rosie O’Donnell Open To Portray Trump Advisor Steve Bannon On SNL

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Photos: WikiMediaCommons, Rosie O'Donnell at the premiere of ‘I Am Because We Are’ at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival by David Shankbone; and WikiMediaCommons, Steve Bannon by Don Irvine Photos via Flickr

Speculation abounded on social media Tuesday about whether Long Island-native Rosie O’Donnell would join the cast of Saturday Night Live to portray Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s assistant and chief strategist.

Word of O’Donnell potentially teaming up with SNL’s Alec Baldwin, another LI native, who’s been killing it with his parody of Trump, and Melissa McCarthy, who recently slayed as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, began Monday when she responded to a tweet expressing she’d be “honored” to play Bannon—formerly the executive chair of alt-right news mouthpiece Breitbart News.

“They know where to find me,” she tweeted.

On Tuesday, she clarified that such a cameo is still very much “just a funny idea.”

A longtime critic—and target—of the billionaire reality TV star-turned-president, O’Donnell would no doubt bring some genuine vitriol to her impersonation of the Trump confidante, should she be given the chance. Trump’s repeated derogatory references to the actress, lesbian rights activist and celebrity blogger during his campaign highlighted for many detractors what critics have characterized as his offensive misogyny. O’Donnell told People Magazine that her repeated attacks from Trump–in response to her assertion on The View in 2006 that “The Donald” had claimed bankruptcy—were “the most bullying I ever experienced in my life, including as a child. It was national, and it was sanctioned societally.”

Trump’s verbal attacks on O’Donnell went global during his run for the White House, with this response to a question regarding his description of women as “fat pigs,” “slobs” and “dogs” from moderator Megyn Kelly at the first Republican primary debate:

“Only Rosie O’Donnell.”

If President Trump’s prior Twitter reaction to Baldwin following one of his SNL skits is any indication of how the commander-in-chief of the free world would likely respond to O’Donnell’s impersonation of his close personal advisor, we may soon be reading 140-character tirades lambasting O’Donnell.

Team Trump was reportedly less than thrilled with McCarthy’s recent lampooning of Spicer, too—apparently since, you know, she’s a woman. The parody featured the former Republican National Committee spokesman gum-chewing, parading out another LI native, Kate McKinnon, as controversial new billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, screaming at the White House press pool, and “apologizing on behalf of you, to me.” It was a huge hit.

Regardless of whether she’d get under the president’s notoriously thin skin, O’Donnell would have big shoes to fill if she tackled Bannon, because so far on SNL the right-wing white supremacist billionaire has been portrayed as the Grim Reaper.

Despite Fierce Opposition, Trump’s Pick Betsy DeVos Confirmed As Education Secretary

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President Donald Trump’s controversial pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, was confirmed Tuesday by the U.S. Senate following a historic tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

DeVos, a billionaire businesswoman and champion of charter schools and vouchers, faced stiff opposition from Democrats, public school advocates, and even some Republicans. Among their criticism, detractors cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education—having neither taught, administered, attended, nor enrolled her own children in public school. Supporters framed her lack of experience as one of her strengths, arguing the nation’s education system needed an outsider to fix it.

Local and national education advocates launched a fierce battle against her confirmation, with countless taking to social media encouraging phone calls to senators and the proliferation of a popular anti-DeVos hashtag, #DumpDeVos. Democrats staged a 24-hour #HoldTheFloor talkathon Monday evening in protest. Two GOP senators, Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) voted against her, bringing the count to a 50-50 tie.

Ultimately, all these efforts weren’t enough to thwart DeVos’ confirmation, with Vice President Pence’s never-done-before vote—the first time in U.S. history a vice president has broken a tie for a Cabinet nominee’s Senate confirmation—securing President Trump’s nomination for education secretary. Both took to Twitter Tuesday afternoon to herald her addition.

DeVos has a long history of promoting school choice through charter schools and vouchers in her home state of Michigan. Despite a billion-dollar investment of taxpayer funds in charter schools in Michigan, test scores were no higher than in public schools and in many cases, lower, according to an investigation by the Detroit Free Press.

Critics of charter schools charge that these privately run schools take much-needed public funds with little to no oversight or transparency, stripping them of much-needed money they require to sustain themselves, and resulting in school closures. This cycle of defunding public schools by diverting taxpayer money to charters, thereby closing underfunded public schools deemed “failing,” is a means to privatize the public education system, they argue.

Critics also contend that because charter school teachers are rarely unionized, the privatization strategy is a means to lessen the power of teachers unions.

“It’s like a cancer or a Trojan horse,” Mark Naison, Forham University professor and public education advocate, told the Press regarding charter schools. “These charter schools are not trying to improve the public schools, they’re trying to undermine them.”

DeVos endured a tense Senate hearing, where she demonstrated what critics believed was a significant lack of knowledge about federal laws governing special education students, showed ignorance of the difference between measuring students’ proficiency and growth, and presented a convoluted argument in support of arming teachers in case of attacks by “grizzly bears.”

Locally, DeVos faced a groundswell of opposition from major education groups, including the New York State United Teachers, the United Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, as well as local groups on Long Island such as the Badass Teachers Association, New York State Allies for Public Education and Action Together Long Island.

Her opponents took to social media Tuesday to vent their displeasure, with Sen. Charles Schumer mocking Pence’s historical tie-breaker as proof of how unqualified DeVos is.

Others lamented DeVos’ ascension, and vowed to fight on.

“Today, 50 Senate Republicans and Vice President Pence have shown their disdain for our nation’s public education system,” New York education advocates Kesi Foster and Natasha Capers said in a statement to media outlets on behalf of the Urban Youth Collaborative and the New York City Coalition for Educational Justice. “Betsy DeVos’s performance during the Senate hearing and her follow-up answers have demonstrated she is wholly unqualified to head the Department of Education. DeVos has spent the last two decades using her family’s fortune to dismantle public education in Michigan by weakening accountability and oversight, elevating for-profit charter schools, and undermining efforts to foster equity for low-income communities of color.

Last month, opponents slammed NYS Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown), former chair of the state education committee, for supporting DeVos.

Jeanette Deutermann, founder of Long Island Opt-Out, characterized DeVos’s confirmation as “a very dark day indeed” on Facebook.

“Anyone who watched those confirmation hearings or dipped even an inch into her background yet still supports her nomination is doing so under a delusional ego-driven political pretense and cares nothing for his young constituents in our Long Island public schools or their parents,” she’d previously told the Press.

Thousands Join Long Beach Super Bowl Sunday Polar Plunge

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The Long Beach Polar Beach Plunge on Super Bowl Sunday is in its 17th year.

Thousands of swimmers braved the cold and tackled the waves as they rushed into the Atlantic Ocean in Long Beach on Sunday during the largest annual polar bear plunge on Long Island.

For many participants of the 17th annual Make-A-Wish Long Beach Polar Bears Super Bowl Splash, Super Bowl Sunday isn’t complete without a quick dip in the ocean. On this cloudy Sunday, temperatures reached a high of 42 degrees, with the ocean temp at 43 when the event kicked off at 12:30 p.m.

“It was super cold,” said 14-year-old Gabriella Scheer, who whooped it up on the beach with excitement after taking the plunge for the first time with her friend and sister. “It got my blood pumping!”

The tradition began in 2000 to honor the memory of Paulie Bradley, a 4-year old beach lover who passed away before his wish of playing on the sand in Puerto Rico could be realized. Since then and thanks to the large crowd they draw, the Long Beach Polar Bears swim has become a major fundraiser for the Metro Make-A-Wish Foundation. Last year, they raised $485,000 and granted 57 wishes for children with terminal illnesses.

An estimated 10,000 swimmers and onlookers gathered on the beach for the plunge, according to a law enforcement official. The sand was crunchy and frozen, but the mood jubilant. Crowds lined the beach, some warming under portable heaters in “warming stations” sponsored by SunNation Solar Heating and Race Awesome.

Many swimmers wore typical beach gear, such as tiny bikinis and board shorts, although some dressed up for the occasion. One wore a Batman costume, another was decked out in full-sized banana suit and a group donned Nordic god costumes, complete with horned helmets. A group of over-50 year-old women sported bathrobes and pajama pants, clutching Styrofoam cups of hot coffee. A girl in sweatshirt and a horse head mask also joined in the fun.

Many profanities were uttered as swimmers emerged from the frigid waters.

Some swimmers started their Super Bowl Sunday at area bars, taking a nip of something boozy to sustain them through the icy plunge.

Tara Ford, 40, of Astoria, Queens began her day with friends at the Half Moon Café with a mug of Guinness she hoped would warm her up. Patrons of the bar passed around a jar to collect donations for Metro Make-A-Wish. They collected $1,800.

She began this tradition—three years in the making—at her brother-in-law’s behest. Her initial ocean dip was on a rare 50-degree February day. This year, she was not so lucky, but despite the cooler temps, she braved the water again.

Her favorite part of the event? “After!” she said.

Tim Breyer, 33, of Levittown, marked his 11th annual Polar Plunge this year.

“It’s fun!” he said. “It makes you feel alive.”

Sebastian Maniscalco Kicks Off ‘Record-Breaking’ Sold-Out 10-Show Residency at Huntington’s Paramount

Sebastian Maniscalco
Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco does a hilarious 10-gig residency at The Paramount in Huntington from Feb. 1 through Feb. 7! (Photo: Sebastian Maniscalco / The Paramount official Facebook profile)

You probably saw the clip of Sebastian Maniscalco on Facebook before you learned to pronounce his name. (If you have, that is.) The viral snippet that helped launch the career of the wildly hilarious and now iconic comedian is something all of us past a certain age can relate to: the excitement of the doorbell ringing. Back in the ’70s and ’80s. Certainly not now.

Back then, the doorbell was met with excited fervor. In the age before cell phones, there was the surprise factor of an unexpected guest. It was the age of in-person drop-ins. And of course, your mother had coffee cake and Sanka at the ready.

Now? When actual phone calls with real voices are a thing of the past? Not so much.

Maniscalco, who kicked off an unprecedented and record-breaking 10 sold-out-gig residency at The Paramount in Huntington on Feb. 1, with performances through Feb. 7 as part of his current Why Would You Do That? comedy tour, has that rare ability to find the hilarity in the mundane and to bring it to extremely funny heights. (Let’s put it this way: Long Island’s own King of Mundane Hilarity Jerry Seinfeld is a super-fan!)

“All 10 Sebastian Maniscalco shows at The Paramount sold out very quickly in what is an unprecedented record-breaking run for any single performer at our venue in our five-year history,” The Paramount’s marketing director, Adam Ellis, tells the Press. “Sebastian is clearly one of the most popular comedians currently touring and we are honored to have him perform on our stage!”

Why Would You Do That? is the also the name of the 43-year-old’s fourth stand-up special on Showtime, comprised of footage from a seven-show residency he did at New York City’s Beacon Theatre. Yet his current stature as a present-day comedic superstar sharing the bill of The Paramount’s ongoing “Winter Comedy Series”—such as Long Island’s own Jim Breuer, who’s performing a three-peat at the venue on Feb. 11—is the result of years of hard work, seizing opportunities, and a few lucky breaks.

Maniscalco moved to L.A. from the outside of Chicago nearly 20 years ago to pursue his comedic dreams, telling the Los Angeles Times from a booth inside his former employer, the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, where he waited on tables and stars from 1998 to 2005, that he’d perform at any venue that had an open mic, including bowling alleys and coffeehouses.

“Whatever had comedy I was there,” he told the newspaper. “I always had it in my head: One day, I’m going to be on this side of the table.”

Eventually, armed with an ever-evolving arsenal of hilarious everyday observations, and the support of his manager at the hosh-posh restaurant, Maniscalco would escape to perform sets at the famed Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard during his breaks.

The rest, as they say, is comedic history.

The cadence of his voice is unmistakably his own, as unique to Maniscalco as his fingerprints. Drawn out, affected, and with emphasis on every single syllable if that is even possible, Maniscalco has a voice that continues to play in your head long after you’ve seen him perform.

And if you are from an Italian-American family (as so many of us here on Long Island are), you will relate not only to the stark differences between his upbringing and his non-Italian wife’s, but his view on parenthood, fashion (“Ladies, get yourself a nice wedge”), gainful employment, how much to share with your mom, and the vision of his grandmother slapping together lasagna in the basement. You are guaranteed to cringe, hold your head in your hands, and literally LOL.

Grab all your cousins and catch one or a handful of his 10 performances at The Paramount. Then go home and give your mom a call.

Italian-American actor, writer and stand-up comedian Sebastian Maniscalco is best known for his comedy specials What’s Wrong with People?, Aren’t You Embarrassed? and Why Would You Do That? Maniscalco also appeared on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He was one of five comics chosen to be in Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show. He’ll be doing a run of 10 shows launching his Why Would You Do That? Tour.

Sebastian Maniscalco kicked off his 10-show residency at The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington, on Feb. 1. It runs through Feb. 7. For tickets and more information, visit paramountny.com

Related: Do This: Long Island Concerts & Events February 2 – 8

Mission 22: Long Islanders Raise Awareness About Veteran Suicide, One Pushup At A Time

Mission 22
Long Islander Stefan Hespeler has been doing 22 pushups for the past year as part of nonprofit Mission 22's '22-Pushup Challenge' to raise awareness about veteran suicide. (Photos: Stefan Hespeler's Instagram)

Martin Wicklow commands a strong presence in faded jeans, a black t-shirt, backwards baseball cap, and arms and knuckles decorated with intricate tattoos. But it’s his deep voice and eyes that tell stories of a hell most of us will be fortunate enough never to experience which hold the room at strict attention.

The former soldier described what Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) feels like to a roomful of friends, family members, and supporters of Mission 22—a nonprofit whose goal is “to raise awareness, enlist support, and end veteran suicide in America”—at the Lindenhurst Youth Center on Jan. 27.

Wicklow was one of several speakers at the event, which was organized by former Lindenhurst resident and frequent youth center attendee Stefan Hespeler to mark his 300th consecutive day doing 22 pushups to spread word about Mission 22 and its important work. Although Hespeler, 37, is not a veteran, his twin brother is, and so he felt a calling to get involved after being challenged to do 22 pushups by a Facebook friend. He decided to take it further, and committed to doing pushups every day for an entire year. In doing so, became involved with Mission 22, Wicklow, and US Marines veteran Patrick Moley.

“We don’t get to put that stuff in our duffel bags and leave that there,” Wicklow said of the trauma that comes with losing fellow soldiers and the constant risk of serious injury. “It comes home with us.”

The former US Army National Guardsman was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2009, when he was hit by a training round and hospitalized. He compared the experience of PTSD to a scene from a horror movie replaying in your head when you try to go to sleep.

“You can’t turn it off,” he told the crowd, which also included Suffolk County Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst).

Wicklow hopes Mission 22 can spread awareness of what veterans like him are going through, and also help eradicate the stigma attached to PTSD and suicide.

Similar to the “Ice Bucket Challenge”—the viral philanthropic social media experiment to raise awareness and funding to benefit the ALS Association, a nonprofit dedicated to combatting the progressive, neurodegenerative amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease—the “22-Pushup Challenge” strives to highlight PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and veteran suicide. Supporters who can’t make donations are asked to simply spend their social media capital getting the word out. There’s also a hashtag associated with the cause: #Mission22.

The challenge is straightforward: Do 22 pushups for 22 days in honor of the grim-and-under-reported statistic that 22 American veterans commit suicide each day. Since the group’s inception, that number has dropped to 20+—still, a remarkably high death toll that calls out for more attention.

By co-opting the selfie cultural phenomena that has made Instagram stars out of fitness enthusiasts, the 22 Pushup Challenge hopes to bring much-needed attention to the heavy emotional weights so many vets carry around with them, a burden some try to hide.

“Our veterans give so much for their country,” Hespeler told the Press. “It’s through their struggles and sacrifice that allow us to have the freedom and liberty that we get to enjoy.”

The Brightwaters resident keeps his Facebook and Instagram profiles fresh with new pushup posts each day, sometimes employing friends and relatives (and often, his dog Cooper), innovative places (his roof, while stringing Christmas lights), and different techniques. Hespeler’s posts always include the Mission 22 statement that he encourage followers to share:

“It’s more than just pushups. It’s a mission to bringing attention to those who need our help.”

Hespeler’s 22-Pushup Challenge to his friend Patrick Moley got him involved with Mission 22, where he now speaks on behalf of veterans, too. Having been deployed to Afghanistan twice, Moley has lost close friends he’d served with, both to battle abroad and suicide at home.

Although Moley does not suffer from PTSD, he says those losses “take their toll,” adding that he sometimes second-guesses himself about whether he could have done something to perhaps prevent those deaths.

“A lot of veterans are afraid to ask for help,” he said at the youth center. “I don’t know if it’s pride, or what. They want to be able to take care of others. They want to be able to take care of themselves. But it’s hard to ask for help. You help others. You don’t expect things for yourself.”

Suffolk County Legis. McCaffrey was impressed with the Mission 22 event and its goals. His son, an NYPD officer, recently volunteered for the National Guard, telling his father he wanted to serve his country.

“The things that they see over there are things that you shouldn’t see,” McCaffrey told the Press. “And it stays with you. We need to talk about it. Let’s create the awareness and say, ‘You served your country, and you have to work through things, and it’s okay.’”

Kathy Skopek has been the director of the Lindenhurst Youth Center for 30 years. She’s known Hespeler since his childhood. He used to visit the center almost every other day until the tenth grade. Watching Hespeler speak with the legislator during the Jan. 27 event, she said she was overcome with an almost maternal pride.

“He wasn’t in the military, and he’s taking this all on himself to do it for a whole year,” she said. “This is his 300th day, and [he’s] talking about the same thing, trying to bring about awareness, and not everyone wants to hear it, to hear bad news. I’m so proud of him.”

“Raising awareness for our veterans’ plight is the least that I can do,” Hespeler said. “I’m eternally grateful for them and proud to be part of this movement.”

The event concluded with an acknowledgement of soldiers lost, a vow to do whatever they could to help veterans who survive, and of course, more pushups.

Crisis support for Veterans and their families is available 24/7/365 at veteranscrisisline.net and via phone at 800-273-8255, “Option 1.” Those in need can also text 838255.

To learn more about the Mission 22 and the “22-Pushup Challenge,” visit mission22.com.

Follow Stefan Hespeler on Instagram to watch him complete his year-long pushup challenge at instagramcn.com/stfnhsplr

State Sen. Flanagan Draws Heat for Supporting Trump’s Education Secretary Pick

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Despite a chorus of critics questioning her commitment to public schools, New York’s most powerful elected Republican, State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, has added his name to a letter supporting Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s controversial nominee for education secretary.

Flanagan (R-Smithtown), who once chaired the state senate education committee, joined elected Republican officials from 50 states in a letter sent to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate education committee, who was holding her confirmation hearing.

DeVos, a Michigan billionaire, has drawn criticism for supporting charter schools in Detroit that take public education dollars without accompanying public oversight.

State Sen. George Latimer (D-Westchester), the ranking minority member of the Senate Education Committee, reportedly slammed Flanagan for his action.

“Majority Leader Flanagan should stand up for New York students, not Trump Administration officials dedicated to stripping our state of needed resources,” Latimer told the New York Daily News.

The letter Flanagan signed doesn’t see DeVos that way. His spokesman declined to comment on her nomination despite repeated requests.

“Betsy DeVos will put children first and empower not only states to lead the way in making critical education decisions,” the letter reads, “but also empower parents to choose what type of education is best for their children.”

Alexander’s senate education committee is expected to vote Tuesday on DeVos’ nomination. Then the full Senate will decide whether to confirm her to the cabinet post.

An advocate of school vouchers as well as charters, DeVos is facing a groundswell of opposition from major education groups, including the New York State United Teachers, the United Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, as well as local groups on Long Island such as the Badass Teachers Association, New York State Allies for Public Education and Action Together Long Island.

During her confirmation hearing on Jan. 17, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) asked DeVos if her nomination was tied to her family’s donation of an estimated $200 million to Republican political candidates. She said it wasn’t. He joined Democrats in the Senate who called for a second hearing to look into DeVos’s recently submitted financial disclosures and ethical concerns. The request was denied by Chairman Alexander.

During her often tense Senate hearing, critics said DeVos demonstrated a lack of knowledge about federal laws governing special education students, showed ignorance of the difference between measuring students’ proficiency and growth, and presented a convoluted argument in support of arming teachers in case of attacks by “grizzly bears.” Critics pointed out that she never sent her children to public school. They also cited her lack of teaching experience,  as well as her work with pro-charter school advocacy groups Children First America, the American Education Reform Council and the American Federation for Children.

At the hearing, DeVos was asked if she would oppose privatizing public schools and commit to funding public education.

“I look forward, if confirmed, to working with you to talk about how we address the needs of all parents and all students,” DeVos said in reply.

“We acknowledge today that not all schools are working for the students that are assigned to them,” she added. “I’m hopeful that we can work together to find common ground and ways that we can solve those issues and empower parents to make choices on behalf of their children that are right for them.”

Michael Hynes, superintendent of Patchogue-Medford Schools, said Flanagan’s support of DeVos is “reprehensible.”

“It shows his true colors, and clearly he does not care about public education,” said Hynes, who has been a leading critic of the reliance on standardized state test scores to measure student performance.

Jeanette Deutermann, a Common Core critic, leader of the Opt-Out movement on Long Island and member of the steering committee for the New York State Allies for Public Education, denounced Flanagan’s endorsement of DeVos.

“Anyone who watched those confirmation hearings or dipped even an inch into her background yet still supports her nomination is doing so under a delusional ego-driven political pretense and cares nothing for his young constituents in our Long Island public schools or their parents,” Deutermann told the Press.

Marla Kilfoyle, social studies teacher at Oceanside High School and manager of teacher advocacy group Badass Teachers Association, said that Flanagan’s support for DeVos proved his lack of concern not only for the students of New York, but for the entire nation.

“John Flanagan has shown time and time again that he will put his own needs and wants before the families and children of New York State,” Kilfoyle told the Press. “To endorse a dangerously unqualified candidate like Betsy DeVos, who had no clue that [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] was a federal law that states had to follow, who had no clue what the difference was between proficiency and growth, and who said that guns were okay in schools so we could shoot grizzly bears, only proves she is absolutely unqualified.”

DeVos had pushed for passage of Michigan’s first charter-school bill in 1993, which allowed public money to be used for semi-independent schools that operated outside of the regulations that govern more traditional public schools. Public and private funds poured into the charter initiatives, but there was virtually no transparency on how that money was spent. A Detroit Free Press investigation reported that students’ standardized-test scores at charter schools were no better than traditional public school scores.

The report also found that lower-income students were “effectively segregated into poorer-performing schools, while the parents of more privileged students were better equipped to navigate the system.”

Tom Watkins, Michigan’s former education superintendent and a charter school supporter, told the Detroit Free Press that “in a number of cases, people are making a boatload of money, and the kids aren’t getting educated.”

DeVos nomination is expected to be approved along party lines.

Long Island ‘Sip And Paint’ & ‘Paint Night’ Venue Guide

Long Island Sip And Paint

Debbie Tavarone commanded the front of the private room in the back of That Meetball Place in Patchogue on a chilly Monday night. Donning a headset and a paintbrush, her voice rose above the chatter of eager painters, ready to get their drink on and get creative. But before anyone could get started, Tavarone demanded the painters under her tutelage pledge an oath:

“I solemnly swear to have fun and relax,” she asked everyone to repeat. “I will not bitch and moan, I will not throw my canvas across the room, I will not say ‘I ruined it!’”

The recitation set the tone for a fun, pressure-free night where Long Islanders could let their hair down and their inner artists out.

“That’s the beauty of ‘Paint Nite,’” her daughter Tammy Tavarone, of Paint Nite Long Island, told the Press. “It’s two hours to have a mini-escape for the soul. Just some down time when you can be in the moment. We connect hearts and minds, not through just a screen but in real life! In such a busy world humans crave face to face connection.”

Related: Long Island Wineries & Vineyards Guide

That Meetball Place is just one of an ever-growing number of venues throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties hosting “Sip and Paints” and “Paint Nites,” such as Tavarone’s. Testament to their ever-growing popularity is the lucrativeness for restaurants and businesses that hold them. Prior to running her Paint Nite business, Debbie Tavarone worked as a medical assistant for a gastroenterologist. She now says Paint Nite has proven more financially beneficial for herself, as well as the artists she employs.

Unlike most other sip-and-paint companies, Paint Nite doesn’t operate out of a storefront, but rather, their team of artists host events at bars and restaurants across Long Island on slow nights. Tavarone credited Paint Nite with nothing less than “saving the American bar,” explaining that there are substantial upticks in revenue on food and beverages at host venues on nights that are typically slower, such as Mondays and Tuesdays.

That Meetball Place event was no exception. Admittedly, chances are that now that I’ve been exposed to this venue and their menu, I too, will return—and my sisters and I most definitely helped out the venue, consuming a decent amount of wine, for starters.

We also sampled appetizers, ordering meatball sliders and an oversized hot pretzel. The wine unleashed our inner critics and let the paint, and laughter, flow. As the night moved on, quiet concentration turned to giddy chatter as patrons interacted with one another, shared tips, or complimented each other’s work. Some friendships were born, others deepened.

The room was quickly filled with positive energy, and the take-home token of such an experience is tangible. My painting rests of my fireplace mantel.

It may not be a Picasso, but it is mine.

Perfect for a fantastic time, regardless of the season, “Sip and Paints” and “Paint Nights” are taking place at restaurants, bars and art galleries all across Nassau and Suffolk counties. Here’s a list of Long Island Sip and Paint and Paint Night Venues:

Painters Restaurant

416 S. Country Rd., Brookhaven. 631-803-8593. paintersrestaurant.com

Momos Sport Bar and Grill

350 Union Ave., Holbrook. 631-648-9669. momossportsbarandgrill.com

667 Montauk Hwy., Bayport. 631-482-1399. momossportsbarandgrill.com

That Meetball Place

54 W Main St., Patchogue. 631-569-5888. thatmeetballplaceli.com

206 Main St., Farmingdale. 516-586-8880. thatmeetballplaceli.com

Cucina

674 Montauk Hwy., East Quogue. 631-996-4550. cucinaeastquogue.com

Harbor Crab

116 Division St., Patchogue. 631-687-2722. harborcrab.com

Dublin Deck

325 River Ave., Patchogue. 631-207-0370. dublindeck.com

Vintage Wine Bar (Wine Glass Events)

185 Main St., Farmingdale. 516-586-8833. vintagewinebarbistro.com

Off Key Tikki

31 Baker Pl., Patchogue. 631-475-1723. offkeytikki.com

L.I. Pour House

650 NY-112, Port Jefferson Station. 631-509-1914 lipourhouse.com

Duffys

95 E Hoffman Ave, Lindenhurst. 631-226-9464. duffysalehouseli.com

Lily Flanagan’s

345 Deer Park Ave., Babylon. 631-539-0816. lilyflanaganspub.com

Bench Warmers

23 NY-25A, Mt. Sinai. 631-509-4077. benchwarmerstavern.com

Flying Pig Café

825 NY-25A, Miller Place. 631-849-6060. facebook.com/theflyingpigcafe

Applebees

1251 Deer Park Ave., North Babylon. 631-242-7575. applebees.com

Houlihans

725 Merrick Ave, Westbury. 516-222-8010. houlihans.com

TGI Fridays

716 Sunrise Hwy., Rockville Centre. 516-594-9074. tgifridays.com

3535 Hempstead Turnpike, Levittown. 516-796-1549. tgifridays.com

Smith Haven Mall, 328 Burr Ln., Lake Grove. 631-366-6289. tgifridays.com

Millers Ale House

4000 Middle Country Rd., Lake Grove. 631-738-6725. millersalehouse.com

Senix Creek Inn

50 Senix Ave., Center Moriches. 631-878-8788. senixcreekinn.com

Laurel Lake Vineyard

3165 Main Rd., Laurel. 631-298-1420. llwines.com

Long Island Vodka (North Fork)

2182 Sound Ave., Baiting Hollow. 631-630-9322. Lispirits.com

Hotel Indigo

1830 W. Main St., Riverhead. 631-369-2200. ihg.com

On The Border

Broadway Mall, 200 Broadway Mall, Hicksville. 516-342-7777. ontheborder.com

O’Briens

3720 NY-112, Coram, NY 631-732-1141. thebarandpubweb.com

Paradise Diner

579 Veterans Hwy., Hauppauge. 631-724-1778 paradisedinerli.com

East Islip Lanes

117 E. Main St., East Islip. 631-581-6200. eilanes.com

North Tap

340 NY-25A, Mt Sinai. 631-743-9679. thenorthtap.com

O’Reilys Pub

927 Montauk Hwy. A, Oakdale. 631-472-4200.

Storefront sip and paint events on long lsland:

Muse Paintbar

837 Franklin Ave., Garden City. 516-874-3500. musepaintbar.com

34 Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck. 516-252-0515. musepaintbar.com

Paint the Town Studio

17 Green St., Ste. 6, Huntington. 631-683-5788. paintthetownstudio.com

Darlings & Divas

65 Merrick Rd., Amityville. 631-608-4710. darlingsanddivas.com

Mini Monet

19 Main St., Sayville. 631-218-9797. minimonetsayville.com

Artsea Studios

65 Deer Park Ave., Babylon. 631-805-1892. artseastudios.com

The Painted Canvas

6278 Rte. 25A, #10, Wading River. 631-886-2444. thepaintedcanvas.org

Pinot’s Palette

61 W. Main Street, Bay Shore. 631-446-4777. pinotspalette.com

The Art Studio Wine Down Fridays

221 N. Long Beach Rd., Rockville Centre. 516-763-2050.

ClayNation Paint & Sip: Adult Night

31 Village Square, Glen Cove. 516-671-8788. claynationonline.com

THIS SIP AND SIP AND PAINT NIGHT VENUE LIST IS CONSTANTLY BEING UPDATED, SO IF YOU KNOW OF OTHERS, LET US KNOW AND WE’LL ADD IT TO THIS GUIDE AND DIRECTORY!

Women by the Thousands Plan to March on Washington This Weekend

Women's March On Washington

Hundreds of thousands of women are expected to gather in the nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington the day after Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

The goal of the protest is to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights,” the organizers’ mission statement reads. “We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”

Sister marches are planned throughout the country, including one set to pass in front of Trump Tower in Manhattan, as well as other demonstrations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Marchers will also take to the streets in Port Jefferson Station on Long Island.

Organizers say that they see the Women’s March on Washington as not being solely anti-Trump but in support of a range of issues affecting women, including abortion rights, health, equal pay and gun violence. They intend to show the country’s incoming administration that women refuse to be taken for granted, despite some disparaging comments made by President-elect Trump that came to light during the presidential campaign.

Jean Bucaria, vice president of (NOW) New York, told the Press that a lot is at stake.

“From our access to healthcare to protection from discrimination and violence, to the self-worth of our girls—everything we have fought for will be challenged,” said Bucaria. “The power of our collective voices is the just the start of our movement to hold the line.”

Julia Fenster, co-president of Nassau County NOW, believes that fundamental rights of women are under threat, but others are at risk as well. Immigrants, the elderly and those whose health insurance is about to be repealed are also vulnerable, she said.

“We stand strong in unity with the diverse community of Nassau County and are marching to remind them that Nassau NOW will stand with them and support them under this new administration and in this difficult climate,” said Fenster in an email to the Press. She added that people will be marching to support women’s reproductive freedom, which she says is being targeted by the conservative new administration and its Congressional allies. She said they will also be protesting “the normalization of assault and violence against women that has been mainstreamed since the election.”

Stopping gun violence is another reason marchers will be taking it to the streets, as advocacy groups like Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action are organizing around that issue. Long Island-native turned actor and comedienne Amy Schumer took to Instagram to announce that it is a “big” reason why she will be marching this weekend. She cited these statistics compiled by Everytown:

  • American women are 16 times more likely to be killed with a gun than in other high-income countries
  • In an average month, 50 women in the US are shot to death by a current or former partner
  • Guns are the weapon of choice in domestic violence murders
  • Approximately 4.5 million American women have been threatened with guns

Schumer became a vocal advocate against gun violence after a man shot people in a movie theater in Lafayette, La., during the opening night of her film Trainwreck, on July 23, 2015, killing two women.

This issue resonates deeply with Donna Dees, a New Yorker who had organized the historic Million Mom March in Washington, D.C., on Mother’s Day in 2000. The year before there’d been a mass shooting at a community center in Granada Hills, Calif. That protest drew more than 750,000 people to the National Mall in D.C., while others demonstrated in all 50 states. This weekend Dees says she plans to join the Women’s March on Washington.

But as Dees knows all too well, the most important work happens after the march is over, when the advocates must build on the momentum and continue the work with clipboards in hand to make contacts that can change elections.

“As I have discovered in the gun violence prevention movement,” Dees told the Press, “after 2000 and the Million Mom March, many women went straight from the march to block some really bad gun laws and get some good ones passed. We got two ballot initiatives in Colorado and Oregon to close gun show loopholes. We got a lot done in the first six months after the march. We got a lot of good people elected, and we threw a lot of bad people out of office. But you can lose that momentum pretty quickly.”

Dees said she plans to march in honor of women who’ve given their lives for the cause.

“I have known women who have died for the gun violence prevention movement,” says Dees. “No, they were not beaten up in jail or shot and killed, but they neglected their health.”

She gave credit to women of color who were the “real leaders” in the movement and wound up dying of broken hearts because they’d lost sons and daughters to gun violence. Dees said the stress of going up against the powerful gun lobby takes its toll. She wants their sacrifice to be remembered.

“I am personally marching for them,” Dees said, “and I think that speaks to other issues I care about: healthcare for women.”

Many men have said they’ll lend their voice to this weekend’s cause, too.

Finding solidarity with Dees on preventing gun violence is Ladd Everitt, a Merrick native and director of One Pulse for America, an advocacy group founded by actor and LGBTQ activist George Takei after the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., last June at a LGBTQ club. Everitt is also taking aim at Trump, whose presidency he regards as illegitimate amid accusations of Russian interference during the presidential campaign.

Everitt told the Press that Trump “might very well have colluded with a foreign power to obtain the office of president of the United States.” He said that Trump “rejects democratic norms and actively seeks to intimidate and silence his critics.” It is crucial, the activist added, “that patriots stand together in this moment of constitutional crisis and demonstrate that we are unwilling to surrender our democratic rights.”

He praised the organizers of the Women’s March for “showing true leadership and giving so many of us a venue to powerfully and peacefully express our dissent,” adding that the right of peaceful protest is protected by our constitutional freedom. Raising a voice that refuses to be silenced defines the American spirit.

Dees believes that the Jan. 21 protests will start to change “hearts and minds” around the country because the movement is being led by women.

“I know how much can be done if you harness that energy,” Dees said. “The Million Mom March really fueled the movement for many years after because it was a women-led, woman-organized march.”

She continued that they relied on something she called “lateral leadership,” which meant women taking on a range of roles across the board rather than setting up a traditional hierarchy. As a result, many women rose to the challenge. Dees cited the bus organizers as the “unsung heroes” of the protest movement.

“Some of these women have no clues they’re leaders yet,” she observed. “They said they have 1,200 parking permit requests. I’m sure they’re going to have more buses than that. To organize a bus of 52 people…really develops your leadership skills. When those people return to wherever they come from, they’re ready to work.”

But first they will come together to march on Washington and around the country this Saturday. Then it will be time to roll up their sleeves, pick up their clipboards and begin the hard struggle to hold the line on rights their foremothers fought for.

L.I.’s Clinton Kelly Reveals a Side of Himself Fans Have Never Seen

Clinton Kelly
Clinton Kelly

TV personality Clinton Kelly has come a long way from his days as a busboy on Long Island to being a well-known arbiter of taste and fashion—first on the popular TLC show What Not to Wear and now on ABC’s daytime cooking show The Chew, which he calls “the best job in television.”

The 47-year-old Port Jefferson Station native knows how lucky he is to do what he loves in the public eye, as he explains in his new book I Hate Everyone Except You. He says it’s a departure from anything he’s put out there thus far—and that’s the point.

“This is a way for me to connect with the people who’ve been watching me on TV for the last 15 years,” he told the Press recently. “Sharing things I wouldn’t have been comfortable sharing before. But this is me—take it or leave me!”

Kelly believes there are sides to him that he’s never revealed before. His audience might know his television persona and what he shows via social media, but he believes that perhaps for the first time, he is letting his real personality, flaws and all, shine through.

“This is a sort of love letter to the people in my life,” said Kelly. “I didn’t want this to be a tell-all. These stories are mine, from my perspective.”

Does this mean those who have wronged him will be spared? Um, no.

“There are some people I let have it because they deserved it based on their behavior,” he said.

Related: Long Island’s Clinton Kelly’s Tips on How to be Ridiculously Happy

Told in his take-no-prisoners, sassy style that his fans have come to adore, I Hate Everyone Except You is a collection of Kelly’s personal essays recounting his childhood, parts of his career, and pinnacle moments of his life, written as if he is confiding in his best friend, an approach he hints at in the title. It isn’t a typical memoir or a celebrity tell-all, but rather a way for him to exercise a muscle he’d long desired to flex.

“I wanted to be a writer when I was younger in my 20s, but I chickened out,” Kelly confided. “I needed to make a living, so I became a magazine editor. Then these TV jobs fell into my lap, and before I knew it, I was on a course very different from where I started.”

That path began with the behemoth that became What Not to Wear, TLC’s longest running primetime-reality series.

“It was incredibly popular,” Kelly said, “and I don’t think I was ready for that.”

The premise was simple: Kelly and co-host Stacy London would give women a much-needed make-over that would empower them with a new sense of style and enable them to transform their lives by looking—and feeling—better. The hard part was convincing the show’s participants that their usual appearance had stopped working for them long ago. It was time for them to finally throw out some of their worn-out but dearly beloved clothing and start fresh. i-hate-everyone-except-youAlthough you’d never know it from watching the program, this negativity weighed on Kelly. He looked like he was having a blast, but viewers might be surprised to discover that it didn’t always sit right with him. In fact, some weeks were no fun at all.

“There were weeks that really sucked,” Kelly said. “I didn’t want to convince people that they looked like crap. They weren’t on the show because they thought they looked like crap.”

But in the end Kelly believes the series served a purpose—and that made it worthwhile.

“There is power in style,” he said. “Having a style is a great way to get what you want from your life. When your style is aligned with who you are, you feel empowered.”

Related: Clinton Kelly: Long Island’s (and Macy’s) Best Man

What Not to Wear established Kelly as a television star and led directly to his current gig on ABC on The Chew, where he is enjoying the process immensely.

In writing I Hate Everyone Except You, Kelly pieced together the pivotal moments in his life to portray the trajectory that led this kid from Port Jefferson Station who once worked as a busboy at Danford’s on the Water to become a successful television personality and author.

“I’ve always been attuned to see signs from the universe,” he laughed. “But I think as you get older, it becomes easier to recognize when something profound is happening in your life.”

Besides his latest book, Kelly is the author of advice guides like Freakin’ Fabulous, Freakin’ Fabulous on a Budget, Dress Your Best, and Oh No, She Didn’t. He has partnered with Macy’s to sell his mix-and-match tabletop line, Effortless Table, and is spokesman for the retailer’s wedding and gift registry as “Macy’s Best Man.” His fashion label, which is intended for all shapes and sizes, showcases his impeccable taste and discerning eye.

So what’s next for Clinton Kelly?

“I’m only going to pursue projects that are intellectually stimulating,” Kelly said. “I’ll never take a job for the money, and I’ll never surround myself with assholes.”

Certainly his former classmates at Comeswogue High School would heartily approve.

Clinton Kelly will be signing his new book I Hate Everyone Except You at the Book Revue in Huntington at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9.