Former Hofstra Student Now a “Gossip Girl”

By Kelli DeWalt

The hit series “Gossip Girl” may dish some pretty dicey rumors, but Margaret Colin, who plays the catty mother of Blair Waldorf, knows where real gossip thrives: on the Hofstra campus. That’s where Colin first learned her craft, thirty years ago.

Photo Eric Liebowitz

Photo Eric Liebowitz

A Long Island native, Colin chose the University because of its great reputation and fabulous alumni such as Francis Ford Coppola and Madeline Kahn. Hofstra also provided her with a generous scholarship and grant aid, which was important because she’s one of five kids. Fortunately, she says, it worked out for the best.

“My first semester there, I was enormously comfortable. I was cast right away,” Colin says.

The professor who cast her and became her mentor was Dr. Richard Mason. “He didn’t really take anyone under his wing; he focused the laser of his attention on you. So, he hurt you and tortured you at the same time,” she says.

Fellow drama student Jean Tafler remembers Margaret in college as having “a sophistication that was beyond her years at Hofstra . . . she was always 30 years old.” She’s not surprise by her success because, “with that maturity and sophistication, she was more savvy about the business side than the rest of us.”

Tafler recalls that when Margaret and two other girls were on the publicity crew for one of the shows at the University, their supervisor was another student, Tom Savage. Whenever he had notes for them, he wrote on the board “Tommy’s Angels” – a reference to the then popular television show “Charlie’s Angels.”

While most actors struggle for years after college before landing a substantial role, Colin received hers in her junior year at Hofstra. “I was doing a ‘Clearing in the Woods’ when an actor came to see me and left his agent’s card backstage. I auditioned and got a job.” That job was “The Edge of Night” a half hour soap opera on Channel 7. While she went back to take classes a couple of times, she never graduated, yet she would like to.

“I think I have to set a better example for my children and actually get my degree. . . I wouldn’t mind going back to school for it but I’m not going to take math. So, if Hofstra felt like giving me an honorary degree I’d be really thrilled,” Colin says.

From “The Edge of Night,” Colin starred in such popular soaps as “As the World Turns” and “Now and Again,” as well as movies such as “Pretty in Pink” and “Independence Day.” Currently she’s on the ever-popular “Gossip Girl.”

Colin was given the pilot and was impressed by its flashiness. “After you do theater you need a money gig,” she says. “It was a put together, slick and glamorous show that was shot in New York.”

The show soon became a success and with that success came perks. “I love the clothes,” she says. “Watching that wardrobe room explode with more and more designer bags — it’s become very contagious.” She’s also impressed by her costars’ instant fame as well as hers. In reference to Leighton Meester and Blake Lively, she says: “I’ve never seen anyone with only a year and a half of being on a television series under their belt, be on the cover of W and Vogue.”

While Colin hasn’t been on the cover of the latest fashion magazine, she has a following of her own. “I can’t go to high schools; I can’t go see my cousin and nephew in plays because I’d be swamped,” she says. “It’s very entertaining. I’ve never been on such a television hit such as this and certainly not for this demographic.”

Colin’s favorite episode was one in which all her models for her show at fashion week disappeared. “It was such a wonderful out of control moment and she was so sabotaged by these vicious young women,” she says. She also admits how brutal her own character can be: “I think Eleanor at her best is an absolutely, wonderful reason why Blair is so obnoxious.”

gossipgirl1Hope Lybeer, a 15-year-old from Georgia and avid viewer of the show, expands on this point, noting that Eleanor is always very strict and critical with her daughter Blair, because she doesn’t want anyone to do something that would detract from the ‘Waldorf’ name.”

In real life, Colin is the honorary co-chair of “Feminists for Life,” an organization of women who oppose abortion. She heard about the organization from her mother, who was an active member. “The idea that the unborn don’t have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the rights to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, she didn’t accept and neither did a lot of people 36 years ago,” says Colin.

She believes that the early feminists were very much in support of a child’s right to be born and she doesn’t see this view as conservative. “I think it’s a kind of radical idea that you want everyone to be born,” she says. “You want everyone that’s been created to be born, wanted or unwanted, planned or unplanned.”

Colin takes pleasure in this often controversial subject and enjoys speaking to people about it, especially the younger generations who grew up with abortion as right. She was even invited to the White House along with her friend, actress Patricia Heaton, to speak on the subject when President George W. Bush was in office.

While Colin has been in the business since college, she has no plans of stopping any time soon. “I really want to play more dynamic women on stage, more powerful, life-changing women on stage,” she says. She’d also like to be more involved with her community. Montclair State University, near her home in New Jersey, has asked her and her husband, Justin Deas, to teach master classes.

What would she do if she weren’t acting? Colin notes that she’s also a mom, political activist and “runs an empire.” But, she adds, “I’d make an excellent president.”

Watch a clip of Margaret Colin as Eleanor Waldorf:

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Published in: on April 16, 2009 at 9:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sway

By Emily Lovejoy

A ghoulish tale of sex, drugs, rock and roll and murder is told by English professor Zachary Lazar in his novel, Sway.

Photo: Emily Lovejoy

Photo: Emily Lovejoy

With his second novel, Sway, Hofstra’s own Zachary Lazar has received the kind of literary attention most writers can only dream of.

Set in the 1960s, Sway weaves together the stories of the Rolling Stones, filmmaker Kenneth Anger and the infamous Manson family into a haunting mix of both fact and fiction.

The three intersecting stories in Sway have a ghoulish quality and the novel reads almost like a sophisticated campfire tale. The book contains elements of Satanism and murder. “Things like Charles Manson were recent enough that they were still in the common culture and they were sort of like ghost stories,” Lazar says. “It was always stuff I was really interested in when I was a kid growing up.”

Sway is considered a work of fiction, but it is based in fact. According to Lazar, “none of the events are made up, except for little mundane things, conversations, behind-the-scenes kinds of interactions, but the big events are all true.” For someone who is not well acquainted with the Rolling Stones, the Manson family or Kenneth Anger this may seem hard to believe; the exploits of these people are larger than life. “The challenge of the book was to stick to what was true because it was bizarre and extreme in a lot of ways, murders and crazy drug episodes and this sex, drugs and rock and roll stuff. The trick was to make it seem real,” Lazar explains.

Although he wasn’t alive during the 1960s, Lazar says he consulted a wide variety of sources before writing the book. “When you read many accounts of the same event they’re always different so you can kind of make an educated guess about which is the best or truest version,” he says. The ultimate test of the novel’s truth came when it was released in England: “There were a bunch of people who were a part of the Stones’ circle in the ‘60s and several of them read it and said I got it right,” Lazar says.

Kenneth Anger, says Lazar “was someone I didn’t know really about until I started this book and his name kept cropping up in books about the Rolling Stones that I read.” According to Lazar, Anger, now in his eighties, wasn’t thrilled about his portrayal in Sway. Lazar isn’t aware if Keith Richards or Mick Jagger have read the novel. Was he nervous writing about real people? “Not as nervous as I should have been,” he says. “I just didn’t really think of the possibility of them even really reading it. … I’m glad I didn’t think about it before because maybe I wouldn’t have written it.

The critical response to Sway has been impressive. “It got a lot of good reviews,” Lazar says. The New York Times gave one of those rave reviews, saying, Sway “reads like your parents’ nightmare idea of what would happen to you if you fell under the spell of rock ’n’ roll.”

Lazar’s third book is already completed, but not yet released. The book will focus on his own father’s tragic murder after testifying against a Bernie Madoff-style real estate billionaire. Again, Lazar will be putting a creative turn on true events, but this time around, the novel will be considered non-fiction.

Like every great writer Lazar is influenced by others. “My favorite writers are still people like Fitzgerald and Hemingway,” he says, “who I read when I was in college and formed my idea of what I wanted to do.”

Lazar is well aware of the difficulties that come along with trying to become a successful published author, “Just persevere because you face lots of rejection and struggle for many years before any of this happens like Sway. So, you just have to be very patient,” he advises.

Lazar recently received a fellowship to write a Princeton for a year, but hopes to return to Hofstra, where he currently teaches part-time, offering courses in Creative Writing.

Published in: on April 16, 2009 at 4:25 am  Leave a Comment  

“Dark Knight” Inspiration for New Hofstra Film

By Sabriana Raco

Backed by the Drama and Dance Department, seniors Louis Aquilar and Chris D’Amato and their professor created and produced a detective film, “On the Rocks.”

Photo: Sabriana Raco

For Louis Aquliar and Chris D’ Amato, the success of their film series “On the Rocks” could not have come at a better time.

Both students are seniors, hoping one day to bring the film to the big city. In a project that began their sophomore year, the drama majors where able to get hands-on look at what it was like to write, produce and act in their own film with the help of Professor David Henderson.

Q: What was your biggest inspiration for the film series “On the Rocks”?
D’Amato: It all began when the premiere of the “Dark Knight” came out. Me, Louis and David had met up during the summer to see the film and while we were waiting on line to purchase tickets, David thought it would be a great idea to create and write our own film. David had been on sabbatical and invested the time and money to help us construct the film.

Aquliar: Another major part of the inspiration for the film came from a show that we do at Hofstra on Wednesdays in the Drama Department called “Cabaret;” it is theater, acting and music. Chris and I had always had the desire to write, produce and act in our own film and seeing it happen was a thrilling feeling.

Q: What were the main ideas and themes behind the film?
Henderson: Much of the film is based around class movies and old black and white films. This was the angle both Chris and Louis wanted. Some of the themes derive from old movies like “Casablanca” and “Third Man.” The movie [has] a detective story line.

Aquliar: The shining star is the main character, Jack Bullet, who is this unstable, depressed character with his own inner problems. His costar is the complete opposite; Sal is this all-around family man who has everything together. It shows how these two opposites are friends and need each other in their life. It has a positive theme because it shows the importance of friendship and having supportive people in your life.

Q: Did you always know that you wanted to pursue a career in the film and theater industry?
Aquliar: Ever since I was little, I wanted to act. I love it all, from theater to films to anything where I perform for people. It has been a passion of mine for a long time.

D’ Amato: I have always enjoyed acting. When I was younger I would pretend I was an actor and act out different roles in my house. My family always gave me support and encourages my dreams everyday, so I am very lucky.

Q: What are your thoughts about the film and theater industry today?
Henderson: Being a professor in the Drama Department, I see many students who have the passion and drive to want to pursue their dreams within the entertainment field. In the Drama Department you have to be passionate, especially when starting out. These students know that theater is not something you get into for the money; you do it for the passion and heart.

Q: While constructing the film what were some of your fears during production?
Aquliar: My concerns mainly had to do with the comedic area of the film. My biggest worry was that people were not going to understand the film; we wanted to be both serious and funny at the same time. In the end it all worked out, so my worries were put to rest.

Q: How did you both handle acting on film? Were you nervous?
Aquliar: If you are going to pursue a career in the theater and film industry, you have to know how to separate your fear from your performance. It’s very natural for me to be on camera. When I would audition for roles, I would say the waiting would get me nervous. Once I would get in there and start acting, my nerves would calm down. I feel it’s like that for many people.

Q: What were some of the funniest moments you can recall from filming?
Aquliar: Going to the three locations where we shot the film. The scene for Jack Bullet’s office was filmed in David Henderson’s dining room. There was a night club scene called the Fat Brass; it was suppose to be this old hip 1930s night club. We filmed it at a spot called “Brasserie Julien”. In Red Hook, Brooklyn, we went into this alley way and we saw a man laying there. We tried to figure out how we could get him to leave so we could film. We ended up giving him twenty dollars and a pack of cigarettes and he left.

Q: What are your plans after college? Will you still pursue film and theater careers?
D’ Amato: Absolutely, I want to take this career as far as I possibly can. I plan to move into Manhattan with a few of my friends and Louis. We are hoping to take “On the Rocks” to the next level and hopefully some producer will like it and use it in film or theater.

Q: Are you looking forward to the Hofstra opening this spring?
D’ Amato: It will be interesting to see how the students react to the film. People who know about the film and understand the theme behind it will appreciate it. For those who do not, hopefully they can have laughs and just enjoy a night of people getting together and having fun.

Watch the pilot episode of On the Rocks and visit their Facebook page

Published in: on April 16, 2009 at 3:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Hall of Fame Sports Writer Shows Off Versatility

By Ashley Kooblall

Photo: Marianne Vecsey

Photo: Marianne Vecsey

George Vecsey has been living the life most writers could only dream of. He’s covered everything from sports to religion, in all corners of the world. And if you the think the 2001 National Association of Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame inductee is ready to call a quits, better guess again; He’s just getting started.

His latest work, Baseball: A History of America’s Favorite Game, was published in 2006 and is proof that Vecsey is still performing in his prime. It is the first sports book of its kind to fit into a history series whose authors include Karen Armstrong, Hans Kung, Ian Buruma and Alan Brinkley.

Born to two journalists on July 4, 1939, Vecsey pursued an English degree at Hofstra University. As an undergraduate, he worked as a student publicist in the athletic department, and right before he graduated in 1960, he began covering Yankee games for Newsday. He continued at Newsday until 1968, when he then joined The New York Times, covering a variety of sports.

In 1970, Tina Roberts, an editor at The Times, asked Vecsey to become a national correspondent in Louisville, Kentucky, where he covered a range of stories from coal mining to the Kentucky Derby. It was here he wrote what he now considers his favorite article for the Times, a story of an earthen dam giving away in West Virginia, killing 150 people. His reporting exposed a coal company for not being honest with those who lived nearby.

“It was the best reporting I’ve ever done,” Vecsey said.

When he returned to New York, he became a Metro reporter, covering Long Island until May 1977. He spent the next four years serving as a national and religion reporter for the Times.

Religion was a different field from what Vecsey was used to, but he welcomed the challenge. “As reporters, we learn to be quick studies of what we’re covering, and that’s what I did,” Vecsey said. “I learned as I went along.”

He’s had the privilege to interview the Dalai Lama, Pope John Paul II, Tony Blair, Billy Graham and a multitude of other significant figures.

Out of all of these, he was most impressed by the Dalai Lama. “I remember his intelligence, humility, laugh and warmth,” Vecsey said. “He had messages for America laid in between the lines. He had a lot to say about hedonism in a more developed world.”

Vecsey returned to the world of sports in 1980, becoming a feature sports writer. In 1982, when legendary sports writer Red Smith died, Vecsey was chosen to write the Sports of the Times column.

On the international front, Vecsey has covered seven consecutive World Cups.

vecsey“He has a breadth of interests rarely seen today,” said Roy Johnson, former Times writer and editor-in-chief of Men’s Fitness. “He’s as passionate about soccer as sports are popular in the U.S. He was my role model in that regard. Now we are in an area of specialization in which few writers have the interest in reaching beyond their comfort zones.”

Vecsey says he loves soccer because “some of the world’s greatest players like Cristiano Ronaldo add so much spontaneity and creativity to the game.”

He’s also covered all of the Summer Olympic Games, from Los Angeles in 1984, to Beijing in 2008.

Sports’ writing has evolved greatly from the time Vecsey began his career. “We didn’t have the Internet back then,” he says. “I had my misgivings about the Internet because it’s untouched by human hands. Nowadays, people who aren’t necessarily working in the field can get the word out in print via the Internet, like bloggers.

“It’s very easy for the general public to read something online by someone sitting in their underwear,” Vecsey said. “It bothers me that people take them seriously.”

Having lived through a number of steroid scandals, Vecsey said that he’s “surprised by how far we’ve come in 10 years.”

“People criticize reporters for not telling the truth about baseball steroid use,” he says, reflecting on the recent Alex Rodriguez buzz, “but what people don’t realize is that baseball players don’t approach reporters to confess.

“[Baseball players] toss a few socks to keep the wolves away; they do things and sort it out later,” he says. “I’m surprised that great players have been disgraced but at the same time, I’m not surprised, given the human condition.”

Vecsey is often praised for his astute observations on the human side of sports. “He’s got a worldliness that you also find less and less on the sports pages now than when I began my career,” said Johnette Howard, author of The Rivals and former sports columnist for Newsday. “He’ll go on these rambles where he drops down someplace and he writes as if he’s part of the story. He gives you these impressionistic takes on things, sets the scene, gives context, makes acute observations about what he found when he got there, all in 800 or so words.”

In addition to articles, Vecsey has wrote over a dozen books, five of which are best-sellers. Among his books are: Joy in Mudville in 1970, a history of the New York Mets; One Sunset a Week, the story of a revolutionary coal-mining family in Appalachia, 1974; and the Coal Miner’s Daughter, with Loretta Lynn, a 1976 best-seller which was made into an Academy Award winning motion picture in 1980, starring Sissy Spacek.

Martina, another best-seller, is an autobiographical story of Martina Navratilova. Martina is a “deeper and far more textured portrait than just about any other sports book I’ve ever read,” said Howard. “Vecsey is among the deans of American sports columnists.”

Vecsey, who resides in Port Washington, Long Island, is married to Marianne Graham, his co-editor of NEXUS, the Hofstra yearbook. They have three children and five grandchildren.

“I consider myself blessed,” Vecsey says. “There’s nothing in this business that I wanted to do that I didn’t have the chance to do.”

Published in: on April 16, 2009 at 3:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Passion for Dance

By Amanda Domurad

Seniors Autumn Dolan and Kristen Collins share the stage with modern greats.

Autumn DolanKristen

For the past two summers, Autumn Dolan has studied at the American Dance Festival at Duke University, where she has danced for such high profile choreographers as Trisha Brown and David Dorfman. Back at Hofstra, Dolan has worked with such guest artists as Martha Clarke and Nathan Trice.

Fellow dance major Kristen Collins has spent her summers dancing in repertory projects at New York University and Bates Dance Festival, working with companies and people she has long admired, including Keigwin + Company and Nora Chipaumire of Urban Bush Women.

Dolan hopes to land a job with a modern dance company when she graduates this May, and Collins hopes to become a choreographer. But first, we got them to stop moving long enough to answer a few questions.

Q: When did you start dancing?
Autumn Dolan: My mom enrolled me when I was three at a local dance school taking ballet, tap and jazz. At 12 years old I studied at Miami City Ballet. During the summer before my senior year of high school I went to Boston Conservatory and fell in love with modern. My modern teacher there convinced me that dancing is what I needed to do and when I got back home I changed my major on all of my college applications.
Kristen Collins: I started dancing when I was three, here on Long Island, and continued seriously through high school. Making it my major was an obvious choice for me.

Q: What’s the most embarrassing moment you’ve had, either on stage or at rehearsal?
KC: On opening night of my first performance freshman year at Hofstra, my foot got caught in my skirt and I fell straight down to the floor. Apparently it only lasted a split second and no one noticed, but I felt like I was down there forever.

Q: What’s your favorite style of dance? Least favorite?
KC: I am most interested in the exciting experimental world of post modern dance, but I still love and appreciate the classics in ballet and modern. My least favorite style of dance is one that is a product of marketing and advertising, like “lyrical” dance, which for me involves no rich history or practice.

Q: Who or what are your inspirations?
KC: Anything and everything has the ability to inspire me – teachers, art, music, bodies, a nice day, a bizarre dream. Ordinary pedestrians have been inspiring me lately.
AD: Ah so many! My parents really inspire me as well as my peers who I dance with. As far as the dance world goes, I am incredibly inspired by Jennifer Nugent, Miguel Gutierrez, Robert Battle, Martha Clarke, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Laura Halzack, Doug Varone, Twyla Tharp just to name a few. I know and/or have worked with all of them, well… except for Twyla and Doug Varone, but one day! As a young artist and choreographer, I find myself being like a sponge – taking everything in and using it toward how I perform and what I choose to create. It is vital to be open- minded.

Q: What’s going on through your head when you’re on stage doing a solo and the audience’s eyes are on you?
KC: You can feel when the audience is with you or not, and when they are, it allows you to take hold of the space on a more intimate level.
AD: When I am onstage I know there is an audience in front of me but I can choose to acknowledge their presence or not. I like to play with the level of vulnerability between the audience and myself. It is sometimes hard to not think, ‘Oh, no, don’t mess up,’ but if I do, the audience won’t really know since they do not know the choreography. I have actually been working on a solo since September, which I am performing at Dance Theater Workshop in NYC. I’ve performed it several times at Hofstra and still have the original feelings of a bunch of eyes staring at me but I just have to get that out of my head and live in the moment because with dance it is here and then it is gone. You can never reproduce that moment.

Q: Do you find music to be essential when choreographing?
KC: My most recent choreography, “There’s Nothing I Hate More Than Stopping for Pedestrians,” was a 10-minute piece with no music, that was sent to the Northeast’s Gala Performance at the American College Dance Festival. Silence gives you the ability to set your own pace and rhythm, which I think can be very exciting.
AD: I do not think music is essential. I have used it in different ways during the creation process; sometimes I have used a song or piece of music first, which allowed the movement to come later. I have also made movement first, from an emotion or story, and then found music or just left the piece in silence. One time when making a piece, I created the movement using a random artist or song like Wu -Tang Clan and then would perform it to Bach; there is something about the opposition of the percussive bass of movement to the light strings.

Q: Do you see dance as an integral part of your life in 10 years?
AD: Of course! This is my passion and my life and there isn’t a way that I can’t see this not being a part of my life in 10 years, whether it is performing with a big company and traveling the world or with a small Brooklyn-based group or even just creating my own work. I know it will transcend in my life somehow. It is like my own form of therapy.

Published in: on April 16, 2009 at 3:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Live from Washington

By Stephany Pena

Samuel Rubenfeld chases the news.

Professor Maurice Krochmal was vacationing on Fire Island last year when he received an 11 p.m. phone call from journalism student Samuel Rubenfeld.

While reporting on the New Hampshire primaries, Rubenfeld had decided to hop a bus to Manchester. But when he arrived downtown, with little money and no local connections, he found himself stranded on a dark Elm Street with no place to stay. With Krochmal on the phone guiding him, Rubenfeld made his way to a Dunkin’ Donuts, where he spilled his predicament to a young man behind the counter, who said his friend could give Sam a mattress for the night.

The next morning, undaunted, Rubenfeld was back on the reporting trail. Krochmal, who acted as Sam’s online editor as he covered primary and national conventions, says Rubenfeld’s “prototypical journalist personality will allow him to apply his passion and quest for the truth in all places.”

Though still an undergraduate, Rubenfeld has already contributed to his hometown’s weekly newspaper, The Times of Middle Country, and interned for Newsday, The Village Voice and Dow Jones Newswires, where he edited business news as a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund Intern.

Recently chosen as one of the Top Ten Journalism Scholars in the country by the Scripps Howard Foundation, he is currently senior news editor of the Hofstra Chronicle, where he’s led coverage of the 2008 presidential election, including directing live online coverage of the Super Tuesday contests. Currently, Rubenfeld interns at the Congressional newspaper, The Hill, in Washington, D.C., where he contributes to the Congress Blog.

“His ability reflects the ability of people who have been in the field a long time,” says Stephen Cooney, editor-in-chief of the Chronicle. “He is journalism.”

Covering last year’s campaigns and being present at Obama’s first, “Yes We Can” speech were the most defining moments for him, Rubenfeld says. His coverage even caught the eye of Martha Stewart, who asked Rubenfeld to appear on her show to discuss expectations for the final Presidential debate.

A political junkie since high school, Rubenfeld decided to pursue a career in journalism in the spring semester of his freshman year, when he took a journalism ethics course with Dr. Steven Knowlton and learned how journalism could be used as a force for good in the world.

“He’s certainly inquisitive, well-read, thoughtful, opinionated, loud, abrasive—just about all the things we want in a journalist,” says Knowlton, who currently teaches at Dublin City University. “As is almost always the case with 18-year-olds, particularly the best ones, we had a little trouble getting him calm and even-handed enough to be considered credible. But that is a result of a passionate commitment and a deep belief in justice and in journalism’s ability to fix things.”

Rubenfeld has investigated and reported stories ranging from Governor Eliot Spitzer and the “Truth about Troopergate,” to Rudolph Giuliani’s business ties with the man who sheltered the 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Many of his investigations involved tough obstacles: sources who wouldn’t trust a young reporter or attempted to withhold information. He responded by devoting more time to his reporting.

“Everyday the hunt is different, and the battle is diverse, but journalism is not a routine job,” Rubenfeld says. “It takes drive, ambition, and vigor to navigate around those challenges and come up with the story that one is looking for.”

At a time when the media is under fire, Rubenfeld stands out as a stunning example of someone who has succeeded because of his ethical judgment and drive to present the truth. “There’s nothing like a real-world experience,” Rubenfeld tells a rookie reporter. “It puts you into a state of ecstasy so transcendent that emotionally you will not be able to handle it.”

Published in: on April 15, 2009 at 7:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Hofstra Students Bring Back the 80’s

By Sara Kay

An ‘80s rock phenomenon is going on now, on Hofstra’s interactive website.

C-OH-BRA

Photo: Sara Haile

“Oh yeah. Oh F*** yeah.” The first words ever uttered in a C-oh!-bra episode set the mood for the rest of the series.

Hofstra senior Ian Meltzer plays Rip “Thunderdome” Richards, a lead singer of a retro rock band, modeled after ‘80s rockers Kip Winger and Steven Percy. Mike “The Misery” Michaels (played by alumni James Appleton), Phil Smith, (senior Stephen Dworkin), and Sam Kolls (senior Erik Delosh) round out the C-oh!-bra band, that attracted hundreds of followers at Hofstra and has lately attracted more far-flung fans as well.

“We’re huge in Canada,” says Ian.

The guys knew they wanted to do a series about music, but it took some brainstorming to put the concept of C-oh!-bra together. “About a year ago, we were just sitting around talking about music, and how I wanted to be in a ‘80s band,” says Meltzer. “And then it kind of progressed to, well, let’s be in a ‘80s band. And then, let’s make a joke ‘80s band.” However fun it sounded at first, the guys came to realize that it would take a lot of work. “I wrote down a concept from what we all were talking about,” says Meltzer. “From there we kind of went with it.”

After agreeing on the general idea of the show, the writers had to develop its characters. Rip, Mike, Phil and Sam needed depth, dialogue and a cool wardrobe. To make for good comedy, each band member had to be unique. “We wanted Rip to be the eccentric, front man who, there’s something clearly wrong with,” says Meltzer. “Sam we wanted to be the one who has the talent, who actually does rock, which is funny because he rocks the hardest but he doesn’t talk about it.”

“Mike’s character was kind of a joke,” Meltzer adds. “He’s the biggest out of all of us.”

“He’s also very sensitive,” says Dworkin.

“And to play on that,” Meltzer adds, “Phil is the smallest of all of us, but he’s just so damn mean.”

Steph, (pronounced Shteph), played by Jen DiMatteo, serves as the love interest, resulting in a love triangle between Mike, Steph and Phil. “We wanted something real life,” says Meltzer. “We figured it would be funny because she was with Mike who’s the complete opposite of Phil, and then she left Mike for Phil, so it’s like, what’s going on?”

“Then Mike constantly tries to win her back,” Dworkin says.

“We wanted the big and little guy to be the main conflict, always at each other’s nerves,” Meltzer says.

But C-oh!-bra wasn’t just about being funny, it was about being authentic. “As far as costumes go, we just watched a lot of ‘80s rock music videos,” says Delosh. Each character had his own look, and the guys made sure to match the hair and clothing accordingly. “We knew that Ian’s character would have the most outrageous clothes since he’s lead singer,” Delosh says. “As far as everyone else, Sam was pretty plain with ripped jeans and a white t-shirt or no shirt at all, since he’s a pretty bland character. For Phil and Mike we went with what would be funny, something typical back in the ‘80s.”

“The hair was typical of the time; bleached and disgusting,” he continues. “We tried to match our hair colors with the wigs. We wanted Ian’s to be a David Lee Roth rip off.”

The reaction from the audience of C-oh!-bra is something the guys considered from the beginning. “We wanted it to be a life changing experience,” says Delosh, laughing.

“It was a very specific group of people that would get it,” he adds. “Eventually it would branch out, though.”
Meltzer says even for people who don’t know ‘80s rock, the show “still has elements you would find funny. People still laugh.”

All the cast members agree the seven-episode web series was a great learning experience. “When you watch TV, or you watch web content, you think it’s easy to do,” Delosh says. “But when you actually go to do it, it’s a lot more than you think it would be. It’s frustrating at times, we got on each other’s nerves, but there were more than enough occasions when we would have fun.”

It was hard finding crew, because few were familiar with web TV.

“Sometimes we found that it was just the five of us with a camera,” DiMatteo says.

Aside from the shortage of help, there were other bumps in the road.

“We re-wrote three times in production,” Meltzer says. “The last scene, James wrote literally two hours before we went and filmed it. Everything was kind of on-the-fly production. In the middle we stopped for two weeks, because we all wanted to kill each other. We had to decide if we thought it should be done or not done, but then we decided to finish it up.”

“It was definitely frustrating, to say the least,” says Delosh.

After all the conflicts, mishaps, fights and laughs, C-oh!-bra has made its presence known not only to Hofstra students, but also to other followers who have found them on the web. Currently, they are being reviewed by Tilzy.tv. “If you get reviewed by them, it’s a really big deal,” says Meltzer. “We’ve submitted to all types of web TV awards, so hopefully we’ll hear back from them.”

“Promotion, especially self-promotion, is the key,” says Delosh. “Nobody is going to find out about you unless you promote yourselves.” With Internet-based promotion, the band managed to pick up a following. “We spent hours after midnight just posting links, trying to get people to watch it. Every little bit helps.”

Now that C-oh!-bra is over, and the guys have retired their wigs and instruments, they are already cooking up their next web series. “We’re currently writing a pilot,” says Meltzer. “It’s much different; it’s like a comedy drama, like real life, much less specific.”

How would C-oh!-bra band members say good-bye to their fans?

“Mike would be emotional, use big words the wrong way. He would start crying, and compare C-oh!-bra to a flower,” says Delosh and Meltzer.

“Sam Kolls would move onto the next band on the list of bands” says Delosh. “He never had a reason to pick C-oh!-bra, he just fell into that slot as lead guitarist. He never really cares about anything. As long as he’s playing he doesn’t care.”

And Phil would say, “If any ladies are interested, I’m now single, drop me a line.”

Want to catch up on the 80’s rock web series? Go to C-oh!-bra’s interactive channel, and as Mike would say, “get some.”

Published in: on April 13, 2009 at 8:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Graduate Student Makes a “Green” Difference

By Samantha Davies

Graduate student makes a difference by making things “green”

LaFemina hosting an Art of Healing event

LaFemina hosting an Art of Healing event

Spend five minutes with Michael LaFemina and you might just feel empowered to make a difference in the world. While studying education in grad school, LaFemina chairs the Student Affairs Committee for the University Senate.

For the last ten months, he’s been trying to create a full time Officer of Environmental Sustainability position for the University. He helped bring about the Styrofoam ban on campus and the plate first policy and he is currently working on a ‘ban the bottle’ campaign. Along with saving our planet, he has also done his part in educating students about politics through the 2008 debate.

Q: What makes you angry about our youth today?

A: In general we are impatient, we are not self-motivated, and we have expectations that are too high of others and too low of ourselves. It takes a lot for us to look past our televisions, MySpace pages, iPhones and the many other distractions to things that have influence on our lives and the lives of others.

Q: Why did you become a vegetarian?

A: My reasons are ever evolving. My original reasons were animal rights because I was blown away by the lack of humanity that was in the factory farming industry. Then I learned about how to be a conscious consumer and it dawned on me that I shouldn’t buy sweatshop made goods. This is another level of ethical disagreement I have with the production of an item that I consume.

I also found out that the meat and dairy industry are the number one producers of global green house gases. I read a statement that said if you want to do something great for the environment don’t drive a hybrid, give up meat, you will have a bigger impact.

Q: What have you done at Hofstra that you’re most proud of?

A: For the last couple of years I have been sharpening what I believe in and making sure that I understand what I am talking about. I have been educating myself, focusing my energies and then acting on them. It’s good to have beliefs, but if you don’t carry them out, then they are useless.

Q: Anything you didn’t get to do?

A: I wish I could have spent more time learning how to play the cello. It’s a beautiful instrument.

Q: You majored in music as an undergraduate. Are you trying to do anything with that at the moment?

A: My studies in music were not so much that I could be a musician or a music teacher; I originally had intentions to be a researcher of music. My studies have kind of evolved to be just a deeper appreciation for music as an art form and a community. I value it and its part of my life, but as far as being active in my music that’s not really my focus right now.

inaugurationmonument

Q: What would your friends say about you?

A: They would tell you that I am pretty sincere, hardworking, concerned for their well-being and our planet. I would hope they would say that I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk.

Q: You have made many friends here at Hofstra, but have you made any enemies?

A: My reputation is not one of confrontation. I am more of a coalition builder, not someone who believes fighting with people who disagree with you is a way to further your agenda. There is no reason to make enemies in this world. It’s just counterproductive.

Q: Is there any story that your friends would tell me but you wouldn’t want them to?

A: I don’t get embarrassed by the things I do, I revel in them.

Q: What has made you the person you are today?

A: Everything I have done, everywhere I’ve been and every person I have interacted with, has had an influence on me one way or another. Of course there have been milestones and there have been people who have had more influence than others. I’m constantly reevaluating myself as an individual, as a learner, as an activist, as an organizer, as a spiritual person in every dimension possible. The more time you spend with people and pay attention to who they are, the more you learn about yourself.

Q: If there was one message you could tell everyone what would it be?

A: Look in a mirror: if you’re happy with what you see, you’re doing something right. If you’re not, fix it. I can’t tell you anything that you can’t tell yourself.

Published in: on April 13, 2009 at 7:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Brother’s Legacy Helps Family Fight Against Cancer

By Adam Malmut

Hofstra lacrosse head Michael Colleluori keeps his brother’s spirit alive in a foundation supporting the fight against blood cancers.

Photo: Stephen Cooney

Photo: Stephen Cooney

In his final days, Nicholas “Head” Colleluori spent all his time trying to cheer up fellow cancer patients and brainstorming with his brother, Michael, about new ways to give people hope. On Nov. 28, 2006, after 14 months of intense chemotherapy, radiation and stem cell transplant, Nick lost his battle against non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. Nicholas was just 21.

Today Nicholas’s legacy and vision lives on through the family-run organization Nicholas started shortly before his death. The HEADstrong Foundation, named after Nicholas’s nickname on the field, provides support to patients, raise finds and spread public awareness about blood cancer.

In conjunction with the Hofstra University lacrosse program, the HEADstrong Foundation holds several yearly events, including the annual Nicholas Colleluori Lacrosse Classic, held at Ridley High School in Folsom, Pa. Seth Tierney, head coach of Hofstra lacrosse says the second annual Nicholas Colleluori Classic was his most unforgettable moment in his work with the HEADstrong Foundation.

“This past year’s tournament was hands down the most memorable for me,” says Tierney. “What was originally just a thought came true. To see where it has gone and how much money they made for research is amazing. Colleluori’s work ethic on and off the field is top notch. [Colleluori] went through such a difficult task losing his brother… and he has done an unbelievable job enduring.”

Nick’s mother, and Foundation President, Cheryl Colleluori said that she expects the upcoming Lacrosse Classic to spread awareness about blood cancer, as well as raise over $200,000, up from $175,000 last year. Between 16 and19 teams will take part in games across three lacrosse fields.

Michael, who also doubles as vice-president said, “Last year about 10,000 people showed up, we expect even more this year. I want what my brother Nick wanted; he wanted this foundation to be as big as the Lance Armstrong Foundation.”

colleluori2The HEADstrong Foundation also sponsors grant programs for survivors of lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma, in the age range of 18-45, with up to $1,000 in assistance, as well as offer help to those who lose their health insurance. “Everything our organization takes part in relates back to Nick and his vision of helping people with this disease,” says Colleluori.

Colleluori recalls his brother’s last six weeks, when he was in hospice care. Shortly before Thanksgiving in 2006, Colleluouri withdrew from Hofstra so he could spend more time with Nicholas. Colleluori said his brother’s courage grew stronger as his body grew weaker. “His mentality during the whole thing was unbelievable. I’ve never seen anyone deal with an illness like this and still be focused on helping others.”

As the Headstrong Foundation looks toward the upcoming year, Colleluori revealed the campaign for 2009: “Score for the cure.” The campaign is designed to get child and teen lacrosse players involved in the drive to raise money for blood cancer research in the name of the late Nick Colleluori. The program will challenge students to find sponsors to donate 5 cents per goal to their teams during the season. Donors will be eligible for prizes, like lacrosse sticks or hats with the foundation’s lime green logo.

“We try to keep people involved,” said Colleluori. “We have a whole committee dedicated to finding new ways to keep Nick’s dream alive and we will continue to do so in the future.”

Vote for Michael for Lowe’s Senior Class Award


For the full story, check out the Spring issue of Pulse, available now.

Published in: on April 13, 2009 at 3:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Web Entrepreneur

By Samantha Schatz

As a Hofstra undergraduate, Jeffrey Saliture founded the burgeoning networking site MyWorkster.com.

Jeff Saliture

Jeff Saliture

It all started in a Hofstra University dorm room. In 2005, frustrated with the difficulties of finding an internship because he lacked connections, Jeffrey Saliture founded a website that acts as a networking utility for professionals, providing access to millions of jobs and thousands of human resources.

Now headquartered in Plainview, N.Y., Saliture says MyWorkster operates on the same principles as networking utilities like Facebook. The site’s promise to “help advance ambitious professionals with their career goals” seems to have special appeal in the current economy; Saliture says the site had more than 250,000 new visitors in the first three months of 2009.

To accommodate the increased demand, he plans to build up MyWorkster’s infrastructure. “More people than ever before are signing up with MyWorkster to find the job they want and deserve,” says Saliture. “We just have to ensure that we have the proper pieces in place to support our growth.”

Recently, MyWorkster launched Facebook Connect, a utility that enables users to import Facebook friends into MyWorkster, giving them a larger database of professional contacts.

Recently, with Saliture’s help, Hofstra University became the first higher education institution in the United States to provide online career advising through MyWorkster. MyWorkster@Hofstra allows students and graduates to find alumni advisors in a wide variety of professions, and offers current students and graduates an innovative way to connect with their alma mater. Other schools on the MyWorkster network now include Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and the University of Michigan.

Saliture was inspired to start MyWorkster by a senior he met during freshman orientation who was starting his own business. “I remember thinking how far off and impossible starting my own business seems for me,” Saliture recalls. “Little did I know then, that two years later, as a junior, I would be that same guy and have that exact conversation with an incoming freshman.” His first business venture was an online site for buying and exchanging textbooks, SaveandTrade.com, co-founded with his friend Yusuf Qasim.

Another friend and coworker, Tarek Pertew, describes Saliture as “quite different than most people I have ever met.” Jeff is a sleepwalker, he says; once, when Saliture was traveling on business, he was discovered in a hotel lobby reading a newspaper, sound asleep.

Saliture credits his success with his “impassioned avoidance of settling for less.” Indeed, he still hopes to achieve a goal he set for himself as a history major at Hofstra: to attend law school.

Register on MyWorkster now

Published in: on April 12, 2009 at 3:56 am  Leave a Comment