The formula was simple: Merge stolen horses from Monmouth Park and a jockey who might have been a fifth grader at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School – cross your fingers and pray for hay. Throw in a publicist, three disgruntled OTB operators, a salsa dance instructor and two race fixers and you’ve got the makings of a first rate equestrian team. The league producing Cleopatra Whyte, warrior horse woman of Asbury Park legend, who, aboard the chimerical steed, Ethiopian Flicka, rode to a fourth place finish at the 1970 FEI European Show Jumping Championships.
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While the US halted the printing of the $10,000 bill and feet were mired in the mud of Woodstock, boxing mania swept through the West Side of Asbury. The son of a prominent Nicaraguan lawn service manager, Jose ‘Joey Blades’ Jardena was an obvious target when Sandinista rebels hijacked a San Carlos bound flight from Teterboro, NJ in April of 1969, ultimately putting numerous rounds through the budding boxing impresario’s body. After several years and as many surgeries, he would break ground in founding and forming Asbury Park’s first boxing institute. These (mostly) child pugilists, whether fastidiously trained or shockingly green, included 10-year-old Institute member Irv Abramson, who, fighting under the moniker ‘Kid Moskovitz’ earned a shot for the Super Mini Flyweight belt at the 1973 Parve Championships held at the Red Bank Armory in July of that year.
By 1971, Asbury Park, NJ, once a finalist for a Tree City USA distinction by the DEA, had succumbed to despair, laissez-faire and general malaise…putting a weighty lid on a city that once cooked up world changing talent. Enter Lee ‘Fort’ Lee. Already a living legend for his work at the Garden State Parkway’s Exit 102 toll booth; Lee channeled his talents for horse rustling, mountaineering and sailboat rigging into forming and coaching Asbury’s first tug of war club. Aiming to keep the kids off the streets, out of gangs and in the school house via the centuries old sport of tug of war. Lee, along with 1966 TWIF bronze medalist Nutley Jackson, forged a sporting society from which young Asbury men and women corkscrewing downward could ride the tug of war groove onwards and upwards.
Paved by Beverly ‘Bev’ Bender and Denise ‘Double D’ DeVito; they led a younger, more introspective generation of archers out of the Ramapo Mountains and into Asbury city. While the ethos was forged in those Northeastern Jersey weather beaten hills, they were tempered and reborn on the streets of Asbury Park as something like a precursor to Katniss Everdeen. Where the bowling and kung fu obsessed Bender and DeVito were aiming is anyone’s guess, perhaps part put on and part hustle. The alliance was sustained by their compensation as freelance sonic alchemists, sneaking into the Howard Johnson Panorama room to utilize as their after-hours laboratory. Past members included 1971 Via Copa Merengue Championship hopefuls Vernetta Bryant and Cass Cooney.
The skee ball universe of Asbury Park circa 1972 was one of strangeness and disrepute. Enter sisters Gussie Solomon and Jean Kabatchnick. Leaving thriving careers; Solomon as a coat check girl at the renowned West Orange, NJ discotheque, The Mushroom Farm and Kabatchnick as one of Columbia Records most in-demand session drummers; they stitched together a skee ball sisterhood whose power was rarely eclipsed during its day. Born of beauty school rendezvous and squalid apartment circumstance; the society was the most exhaustive attempt thus far to unite and document the Asbury Park skee ball sphere and developed Jayne ‘Triple X’ Essex, who fashioned an exploding slice of skee ball boogie that unfortunately never found an audience outside the Palace Amusements mirror maze. Get reintroduced to the Ocean Ave Skee Ball Society; a boardwalk creation that clawed and threatened its way to Asbury crossover glory.