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The whirlwind continues! As I mentioned last week, we were up in Alaska. Getting there was an adventure itself, but that story will have to wait till next week. Right now just sit back and hear stories from my cousin AJ's wedding.
We received our invitation six weeks ago. Since his fiancee, Jamie, is on TV, the coordinator had privacy concerns. We were not told where the wedding would take place – only that it would be in the New York metropolitan area. At first I thought that was weird, but now I realize it had to be done, because she is hounded by the paparazzi. However, a week prior to the wedding guests received another letter in the mail, this time with all the details: location, time and transportation. The wedding coordinator also added that we please keep it on the DL (Down Low), and not bring any cameras. Now THAT was a bummer.
On Thursday the wedding party boarded a bus to Brooklyn. My out-of-control niece and nephew (the flower girl and ring bearer) kept us entertained. We arrived at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens for the practice ceremony at 6 p.m. We quickly went through the steps, checked out the beautiful grounds and headed back to Manhattan for dinner.
Dinner was at Baldoria's restaurant on West 49th Street. There were 50 guests: the wedding party and close family members. We had the entire restaurant to ourselves and the food was reeeeally good. Then again, what did you expect? It's owned by Rao (actually, Rao's heir). You know the expensive ($7) jar of tomato sauce you buy in the grocery store when you don't have time to make it from scratch? That’s Rao.
For some reason I forgot we were having a traditional Italian meal, so when the waiter offered me seconds on the tasty pasta I said yes, and so did my dad (he's letting me take pictures of him again). BIG MISTAKE! To our surprise out came the third course: chicken, veal, and some kind of fish. Also a whole bunch of vegetables (the mashed potatoes were amazing). There was so much food on the table, there was nowhere to put your drink. And we won’t even talk about the desserts. I walked (I mean, crawled) out, rubbing my belly. Baldoria, 249 West 49th Street.
The dinner was a very nice time. Many of the guests gave toasts or read poems. I didn't, because I was scheduled to speak the next night.
As best man, one of my duties was to take care of AJ. Therefore, after dinner we said good-bye to our girlfriends and went out. AJ wanted to go to Suede Club on 22nd Street to meet his friend James. This was no ordinary James: It turned out to be James Worthy from the L.A. Lakers. I sat there having drinks with one of the top 50 basketball players of all time. He and his girlfriend were very nice, and easy to talk to. Then other sports stars starting coming by to say hi. I met a bunch of the Philadelphia Phillies (who were in town to beat up on the Mets) and Chuck Knoblauch, who used to play for my beloved Yankees. I was like, “Chuck! What's up?” After an hour I hauled AJ away. He had a big day coming up.
AJ and I stayed in a mini-suite (I slept on the pull-out couch) at the 730-room Le Parker Meridian on 57th and 7th. Our room was nice -- except for those evil mini-bars. You know the ones: As soon as you pick something up you get charged. Immediately! I said, “Damn AJ, I guess you just bought me all these candy bars. I was just checking out the fat grams.” The hotel is perfect for travelers as long as they don't open the mini-bar. The location is prime, and there is a huge desk, comfortable chair, two phone lines and free high-speed internet access in each room. And don’t forget about Norma’s, located in the lobby (more ono that later).
Even though AJ and I have played pranks on each other our whole lives, I fell for another one this time. I admit, it was my fault. Like an idiot, before we went to bed I mentioned that I was indeed nervous about giving my speech. That was like an elk telling a lion he's got a hurt leg. AJ feasted on me, and I can't blame him. He said, "Man, you better not mess up because there will be four TV cameras doing an In Style wedding special for NBC.” Then he rattled off all these famous people I admired growing up. He named every hot girl I had a crush on, and sport stars from teams I worshipped. I wouldn't have believed him, except we had just shared drinks with a legendary Laker.
In the morning I told AJ I hadn’t gotten much sleep, because I couldn't get my damn speech out of my head. I spent the night staring at the ceiling. He laughed and said, “Are you kidding? You bought that garbage last night?” I said, “You were joking? All those people aren't going to be there?” He said, “Of course not -- only Jamie's cast members and a handful of other celebs.” I said with relief, “And there won't be four TV cameras in my face for an NBC special?” He said, “Well, that part was true." Darn!
It's not hard to give a speech, but when you’re talking about something so emotional in front of 320 people -- most of them family members who have known you forever – it’s not so simple. Then add four TV cameras in your face, Sopranos cast members in the audience. Sweat danced down my face. Couldn't Jamie at least be on a show whose cast members were a little more sensitive... like Sex in the City?
On Friday morning Steve and Brian (Jamie's father and brother) joined AJ and me for breakfast at Norma's, which is one of the best places to eat breakfast in NYC. (I wrote about this place last fall.) How could you forget the $18 waffle? I sure didn’t, and on Friday we went back for more. This time was even better. The free smoothie in a shot glass was delicious. So was the $7 fresh-squeezed OJ. They give free refills on the OJ, so I kept chugging. This time I had the crispy french toast , coated with Rice Krispies. Steve had the chocolate french toast, which I had to try. They were both damn good, but too rich to finish. Norma's, 118 West 57th Street, tel.: 212-245-5000. It's open Monday-Friday (6:30 a.m.-3 p.m.), and Saturday-Sunday (7 a.m.-3 p.m.).
The reason the wedding coordinator didn't put the location on the original invite was because Jamie is on the Number One show on TV, and is hounded by everyone (especially the paparazzi). Hanging out with these guys has exposed me to a whole new world. Whenever they go out on the town the photographers snap pictures of her, and this weekend they were out in full force. Many camped in front of our hotel all night long.
Their goal was to get a money shot of Jamie. They thought she was staying in our hotel, but she pulled a fast one and stayed down the street at the Palace with her bridesmaids. Here's an example of how ruthless the paparazzi can be. At 8 a.m. Friday they called Jamie's father's room. They knew he was sleeping, so they could weasel some info out of him while he was not coherent. The caller pretended to be the limo service and said they wanted to double check what time they would be needed and where they were going. Luckily, he didn't fall for it. Avoiding the paparazzi is a grown-up game of hide and seek.
After spending Friday with AJ, I realize getting married causes the same butterflies as does playing in a championship game. The day lasted forever, and all we wanted was to get the thing started. We didn't want to think about it anymore. So we did what every sport team does on Big Game Day: We saw a funny movie. Fortunately, " Old School" was on our in-room pay-per-view TV. A bunch of us watched it over and over. Did you know you can now rewind, pause and fast-forward hotel movies? How cool is that!
The rewind button made the day go by much quicker. Before we knew it it was 4:30, and the limo was picking us up in half an hour. It was show time. We quickly got ready . But then the real limousine company called. They said they were stuck in traffic and would be 30 minutes late. Can you believe that? So we took a friend's limo that was parked out front. It turned out perfect. Instead of piling 15 men into two limos we all rode in one phat stretch Hummer. That was a cool ride, even though we couldn't figure out how to turn the damn flashing disco lights off.
We arrived at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on time. Early, actually. We had to wait five minutes in the parking lot for Jamie to go in before us. We even covered AJ's eyes so he wouldn't accidentally see her. We were sent to some offices to hang out until 7:30, when the ceremony began. That was torture, because AJ and I wanted to hang out with the rest of the wedding party and the guests outside.
At 7 p.m. the wedding coordinator barreled in and said, “AJ, the skies are getting dark and the radar shows rain coming our way. We need to go now!" AJ asked if Jamie was ready?” She said “YES!" And we said "excellent, let's do it!” We rushed out, the guests were seated, and just before we started to walk the rain began. Everyone rushed back inside. It came down so hard, they wanted to move the wedding inside.
Catering did an amazing mad-rush job rearranging the dinner tables to make theatre-style seating on the dance floor. To loosen AJ up (and get revenge) I told the groomsmen we should play a little trick on AJ (I got Jamie's approval). When it was time to give AJ the rings, I was going to check my pockets like I didn't have them. Then the groomsman next to me would do the same thing, and so on all the way down the line. Finally the last person was going to reach in his pocket and pull out the rings.
The last groomsman was Jamie's older brother Adam. However, when we were about to begin the ceremony he was nowhere around. It turned out one of the caterers told him to use a bathroom that was out of order. It was out of order because people could get in not out. He got locked in, and no ONE could get him out. Jamie and her Dad stood right next to the bathroom door, and Jamie didn't even flinch. How cool is she? Even security could not open the door. After five minutes (which felt like five days) the coordinator said we had to leave him in there. I said, "We can't. He has the rings!" The coordinator went crazy. Luckily, a few minutes later we found a worker who had the key. Talk about drama!
The ceremony was amazing. It was so tight in there that I was literally pushed up against AJ. When Jamie came down the aisle she looked so beautiful. AJ had tears in his eyes (I did too). I was so close to Jamie that I felt like I was taking the plunge myself, which made me even more nervous. But seriously, I don't think I have ever seen any couple more in love. They stood there and stared at each other for 30 minutes. I think they were playing the staring game.
After the ceremony, the sun came out and everyone went outside for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres (more like a meal). We had a feast out there -- and so did the paparazzi. They were all lined up in the windows of the apartments. They must have paid the owners for access to shoot pictures. But they were a little late because we heard on the radio coming in that the Hamptons were buzzing with paparazzi helicopters looking for their wedding.
After the photographs (the official ones, that is) we mingled with the guests and ate some food. Of course, I couldn't eat more than one meatball. My nerves were starting to kick back in, because I knew my speech was around the corner. My heart pounded harder and harder, especially when we were all told to go inside for dinner. Jamie's father gave a great welcoming speech, then the DJ called me up for my toast. It was an amazing experience. The moment I grabbed the microphone all of my fears vanished. It was just like playing in the big game: the instant the whistle blows, the butterflies fly away.
Many friends and family members asked for a copy of my speech, so I guess it went over okay. Here it is. When you read it, keep in mind it sounds a lot more emotional and funnier out loud than on paper.
"Wow! What a night! For those of you who don't know, my name is John DiScala and I am Abraxas's -- I mean, AJ's -- cousin. I have known AJ from Day 1. We grew up only a few miles apart in Connecticut. I saw him often, especially every Sunday at Grandma's house for pasta (hey our fathers are Italian). Because AJ and I were the youngest and the only cousins in our age group, I got to know him really well. He was the only person other than me at the "little" table!
I could stand here and tell countless of funny stories about AJ. I’m sure you all of you could. We all know he's hilarious, athletic, fun to be around, has an unbelievably good heart and.... (ahem), well, he’s a ladies’ man. At least, that’s how he used to be -- until Jamie came around. That is why I have some bad news for all you women out there. As of tonight AJ DiScala is officially off the market. Therefore, I need to collect any keys to his apartment that might still be floating around. So if any of you have a key, please come up now. (NOTE: Amber Airplane had handed out 11 keys to beautiful women -- and one to a guy. Of course, I had gotten Jamie's approval for this gag before I did it. All 12 people came up, and everyone roared with laughter. The last woman to come up was Carly Simon, which really made it special.)
(Back to the speech) Now that that's out of the way, let me tell you my version of how it all started between these two. A few years ago AJ opened up his management company, and asked me to travel with Jamie and the boy band he represented. Since I like to travel, and have a travel website, I figured it would be fun.
Well, from the moment I met Jamie I saw trouble. She was totally AJ's type. After seeing those two interact in a business meeting, I remember pulling AJ aside and saying, "AJ, I see what's going on between you two. Don't you dare mix business with pleasure, unless you think you’re going to marry her -- and I don't think you will, since she's only 19 and let's say she did want to marry you. I don't think her buff father, who would crush you like a cracker, would be too happy. And let's not forget about her TV family, because if you’re going to mess with them I'm outta here today!” He laughed and denied he had any romantic feelings, for her but I knew he was lying.
A few months later the two of us were riding in a taxi, and sure enough he admitted to me he was in love with Jamie. He asked me what he should do. I shook my head and said, “Do me a favor. Don't make me give my speech again – but don't mess with her unless you think you are going to marry her.” He told me he was, and I said, “Yeah, right!”
Well, I guess I was wrong. Now look at these two. They’re inseparable.
How many of you have gone on a double date with AJ and Jamie? Now, I am sure you will all attest it gets a little uncomfortable when you’re sitting there waiting for the food to come out, and have to watch these two just maul each other. Every time we go out I either end up saying, “Please put your hands on the table” or "STOP IT! You’re embarrassing me!” To top it off, when we leave my girlfriend always says, "Why can't you be more like your cousin?” Just what I want to hear!
Now for the tough part. Well, AJ, you sure did find yourself an amazing wife. Jamie, you are so special. AJ is so lucky to have you, and vice versa. I know that AJ is missing some loved ones here today, especially his grandmothers, grandfather, and my mom. I know if they were physically here they would give you both some words of wisdom. AJ, you were my mom's third son, and I am sure she would tell you how happy and proud she is of you. But you can also bet she would've pulled Jamie aside and given her some good advice on how to deal with our crazy Italian family! If Grandpa was here he would say something like, "Jamie, welcome to the DiScala family. There is a lot of love here for you...and we embrace you and your family.” And if the matriarch of our family, Grandma, was here she would have tears in her eyes and say, "Tommy, Nicky, Joey, AJ...” (This is a family joke. My grandmother would always start out by saying, "Tommy, Nicky, Joey,” and then the male cousin's name. I think that’s because she spent the most time with my cousins Tommy, Nicky, and Joey). What a beautiful girl Jamie is... not only physically but soulfully. And she is so close to her amazing family...are you sure she’s not Italian?"
Italian or not, you two are a perfect match. And if love is what makes the world go around then right now it's spinning.
Thank you for making me your best man. But tonight, AJ, we all know who the Best Man really is. Congratulations!
The moment it was over, AJ and Jamie gave me a big hug. Then Amber Airplane and my sisters came up with tears in their eyes, and said the nicest things to me. "That was the best speech ever.” "Mom would be so proud.” They might have made it up, but it made me feel good. The monkey was off of my back!
It was remarkable. The moment my speech was over my appetite and energy came back full force. I was finally able to enjoy the party. I have been fortunate to attend some pretty nice weddings, but this was like a fairy tale. Jamie sang "Someone to Watch Over Me" to AJ (from when she played in Broadway's “Beauty and the Beast”). Then she introduced Carly Simon, who came up and sang four songs. The last was the most memorable live performance I have ever seen. She sang her hit song "Nobody Does It Better” (you know: “Baby, you’re the best!”). We were seven feet away from her, and every one was dancing and singing. To top off the guest performances, Dominic Chianese from the Sopranos (he plays the Uncle) sang a beautiful song in Italian. Then the 16-piece band and the DJ got people to shake their booties.
At last it was time for the bouquet toss. Amber Airplane stood in the middle of the back row. Twenty single, anxious women were ready to grab the bouquet. The whole toss happened so fast, and the next thing I remember is Amber Airplane emerging from the pack with the flowers raised high above her head. She looked like a baseball fan who just grabbed Barry Bonds’ 72nd home run ball. I was standing next to James Worthy, and he joked, "Damn, Johnny! Amber just knocked four girls down to get that!" It was funny, but not true. It actually came right to her.
After AJ pulled Jamie's garter off with his teeth, it was time for the garter toss. All of the single men (including me) were on the dance floor with their hands in their pockets. I turned around and busted Jamie motioning to AJ to throw it to me. I gave him one of those "Don't even think about it!” looks. Then AJ winged the garter about 100 mph and 10 feet in the air. It landed on the table behind all of us. Guess who was the closest one to it? WRONG! It wasn't me - it was… James Worthy. I think he was trying to hand it to me, but as soon as he grabbed it the DJ said, "James Worthy, step right up.” How funny is that? They put Amber Airplane in a chair in the middle of the dance floor. Just before James put it on her leg I yelled, "James!" and gave him one of those punch-in-the-hand threats. Obviously I was joking, and he was too funny. He said, “Here you put it on, I got it for you!” I said, “Heck no!” Hopefully they show that on TV, because he and Amber Airplane were hilarious.
We had the best time catching up with relatives, meeting new friends (and family members) and dancing. The worst part was we couldn't have cameras, and the photographers and cameramen there weren't too interested in taking pictures other than of AJ, Jamie and the other celebs. It would've been nice to have a bunch of pictures, because everyone was in black tie and looked so nice. But thanks to my cousin I got some bootleg shots you have been seeing.
The night flew by. In no time it was 1 a.m., and everyone was saying goodbye. It felt like opening the last present on Christmas as a kid. You know, you’re disappointed that it's over but happy for how it turned out.
On the way out there were late night snacks for everyone. They had Twinkies, Devil Dogs, every color of plain M&M's, and a big box of tasty Ethel M chocolates with a cookie inside (with AJ and Jamie's picture imprinted on it).
There were eight paparazzi out by the bus looking to get the money shot. But AJ and Jamie went out the back. When Amber Airplane walked by the bulbs started flashing like crazy. They were taking pictures of her because she caught the bouquet. Now how funny is that?! Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1000 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, tel.: 718-623-7200
Next week: Plenty of pictures from the 49th state.
ARTICLES OF AJ & JAMIE
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14 years ago, extending BART to the San Francisco airport
was tagged as a high priority project. Finally, trains are now operating
- the ride takes 29 minutes, costs $4.70, and trains run every 15 minutes
during weekdays and 20 minutes in the evenings and on weekends. Part
of the reason for the delay was funding. So as to be able to use airline
landing and related fees as a partial contribution to the development, negotiators
worked out a deal that gives airline employees a BART discount in return!
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Hertz. Avis. National. These are the three best car rental companies on wheels - at least according to a consensus of customer surveys and my own customer interviews. I thought I'd get that out of the way first, because it's the easiest (and easily the most important part) of this column. Where should you rent your next car from? Hertz, Avis and National. In that order. > Details in Power Trip.
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Escape from Car Rental Traps • Steer Clear of Car Surcharges • Car Rentals on the Skids
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Six Tips Toward Keeping Your Identity To Yourself From BestFares.com
Stolen wallets or cars are major annoyances, but a stolen identity can be much worse. With the proliferation of people being known by their numbers, identity thieves have a fertile field. Before your next trip take a look at our six tips toward keeping your identity to yourself.
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