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June 14, 2018

My Day at Damon House, New Brunswick: Since 1974, a long term Residential Rehab for Individuals with Addictions. A MUST Read. By Calvin Schwartz June 15, 2018 | addiction

Filed under: November 2009 — Tags: , , , , , — earthood @ 10:20 pm

 My Day at Damon House, New Brunswick: Since 1974, a long term Residential Rehab for Individuals with Addictions. A MUST Read.  By Calvin Schwartz  June 15, 2018













with Adminstration Team of Damon House


with Executive Director Ileen Bradley


Many of my articles, interviews, discoveries, begin far (geographic or intent) from the source. My day at Damon House a perfect example. Six weeks ago, I was at the Stress Factory in New Brunswick to see the showing of a John Hulme film, ‘Blood Sweat & Tears: A Basketball Exorcism.’ Several of the New Brunswick High School basketball team from 1987, from Hulme’s documentary, were there including James Jackson. Just after a group picture, James and I talked. He is an Outreach Liaison at Damon House. I’m a journalist for NJ Discover. Done deal.

In the weeks before, I researched like a model journalist. Damon House in New Brunswick has been around since 1974, serving people with addictions. The building itself, an old armory, built in 1914, is owned by the city of New Brunswick and leased to Damon House. What moved me to want to do this interview is the fact that no person has ever been turned away because of their financial status or inability to pay. That is a wow. Funny thing, I’m around New Brunswick often and I never knew about Damon House. Indeed, an inadvertent best kept secret. I’m a journalist, promulgator. That’s why this article. Hope is that when this is read, some fires are lit. Help. Support. Recognition. All needed.




Dining Hall

James brought me into the conference room in the next-door building. I met the administrative team. Ileen Bradley, Executive Director. James Johansen, Director of Program Services. Paul Hoffer, Clinical Director. Tim Miller, Clinical Supervisor. (also, a former executive at NBC-Universal) And we talked for hours. I’m overwhelmed with information and exuberance.

Every journey begins with a first step. I asked about the building; constantly being refurbished. Way back, unions helped doing work pro-bono. Damon House maintains 64 clients (patients, residents) and are a long-term facility doing counseling supported by a therapeutic milieu including cognitive therapy, behavior modification, motivational counseling, psychotherapy and guided group principles. Teaching individuals coping skills and dealing with peer pressure under the guidance of credentialed staff with extensive life experience. They teach many practical skills ranging from cooking, budgeting because addicted people lived on the outer fringes and need life lessons. A renowned poet, Glenis Redmond, even came to read poetry and conduct three workshops for the residents; some wrote their own poetry as a result. Ages of residents range from 18 to 60.





Group Community Outing

And the clients, residents. It was explained that some started using drugs at 11 or 12 and are dealing now with maturation issues. Translated, it could mean at 40 years old, their thought process could be like a 15-year-old. Issues of re-parenting extant. James Johansen added, “When they leave us, we want them to be completely ready for the outside…. When here, they’re pretty broken…. If they can make it at Damon, they can make it anywhere.”

I was curious where the name Damon came from. Ileen Bradley smiled and asked if I knew about Damon and Pythias. I smiled back. “Just the other day, researching, I discovered their story. Two friends, so loyal, they would give their lives for each other.” Ileen added, “If we ever open up another facility, it would be called Pythias House.”

Most clients come from the criminal justice system; demonstrative that nobody wants them. I asked about what really mattered to me; funding. Ileen spoke. “There is funding from the Federal government which goes to the states, and Department of Health, Division of Mental Health, Addiction Services…. Through the drug courts…. Mutual Agreement Program…. State Parole Board…. Then also if a client is eligible, Medicaid….”

Their food bill is over $100,000 a year. They have a relationship with the Community Food Bank in Hillside. I spouted the haunting statistic that in 1980 there were 40 food bank/pantries. Today there are 40,000. Shop Rite and BJ’s Club in Flemington helps on Fridays. They also get product donations.



with James Jackson whom I met at a Basketball Documentary Premiere and C Wiest

Additionally, they have a wonderful working relationship with the Salvation Army just across the street who were instrumental as community partners in getting everything on client’s kids toy wish list at holiday time.  Damon House also works with the Hub Teen Center which includes indoor recreation and movies for clients on Friday mornings. With Rutgers nearby, there is a high level of community involvement, right down to working on Rutgers Big Chill and helping with a race, soap box derby. To continue to help prepare and develop client’s lives.

James Jackson also works with Outreach Marketing. “We work with Vinnie Brand from the Stress Factory in New Brunswick who has helped with fund raising. The first event brought over 200 people.”

Paul Hoffer, Clinical Director described their High Intensity Residential Status. “We stress nutrition, meditation with a Monk, Yoga, and a complete holistic approach.”





Dorm Resident Room

Damon House and Rutgers University have collaborated on various projects. Third year medical students come for five-week rotations where they have an opportunity to learn about addiction. Damon House developed a 4th year medical student elective with other programs and the Psychiatry department where these students spend time in several levels of care in working with addiction. They work with the MSW/ACT program providing one-year internships for students interested in working with individuals suffering from addiction.  There are several other programs that they continue to work together with graduate level students to assist in professional development.

Ileen added, “We are client centered, so we even deal with vision, eyeglasses, dentists and have a legal department to help…. We are full service…. With a family therapist here…. Covering the whole state of New Jersey…. Fitness, food, nutrition, exercise part of our program.” Mind and body is stressed so clients feel good about themselves without drugs or alcohol.

I asked about the percent of clients who finish the six-month program. Once the clients transition from orientation those individuals tend to complete the program and it is very high. Those that complete the program have done everything to move to the next phase. Damon House is a place where they can put life back in order for no cost. How precious, rare and special that is. There was palpable genuine energy and caring sitting around the conference table. I find the transference of particulates of energy fascinating. Tim Miller, Clinical Supervisor, looked at me and I at him. It had to be simultaneous. He asked if I’d like to speak to the clients on things that I do well; networking, reinventing, selling, communicating and spirituality. My answer immediate and enthusiastic. “I’d love to.”  So down the yellow brick road, I’ll have more to write about. My experiences with the resident clients.

Next up, with James Jackson was a complete tour of the facility. From the dorm style rooms, to laundry (individually washed), new showers, barber chair, kitchen, dining room, lounge, gardens outside and new flag flying, waiting for the Fire Department to paint the pole. Indeed, thorough.

Final stop was Tim’s office to view promo films. Then he asked if I’d like to talk to a special resident, recently released from jail to Damon. “Absolutely.” For me a highlight of the day to interact and talk with a client. I was thrilled.



Joe V. A fascinating , emotional, eloquent story

Enter Joe V.  At intake in jail, he was told by an inmate how bad Damon was. “He told me they make you work, sit in corners. So, I didn’t want to come here. Thinking about it, kept me up at night. I was in county for four months. I pleaded with the judge for 45 minutes. And it was all based on hearsay. The judge asked me where I was getting my information. People who were there, I answered. The judge told me I was listening to the wrong people. I told the judge to give me my prison bed. He got really angry. My lawyer from drug court said things may be better at Damon. Counselors tried to talk me into. My family and fiancé checked things out on the computer. They researched other drug rehabs and told me that Damon House had a great program, it’s tough but changes lives. So, I came here. And I am so happy that I did. It’s the first meaningful program.”

I was so blown away by Joe’s eloquence, sensitivity and insight. I told him so. What a special person. I said my goodbyes to James and the staff. Curious, walking down the red cement steps, I felt just a bit elevated, like six inches higher. I’d been to a place of something of value. Then a thought popped into my head how I’d end this article. Pete Seeger, the great folksinger, on stage in a concert, was introducing the song, ‘We Shall Overcome,’ one of my all-time favorites. Pete said, (and I remember his words exactly) “If you want to get out of a pessimistic mood, go out and help someone (down in Birmingham, Alabama)” In small steps, I think my day was all about that.  Now here’s the website link. Enough said.



Calvin Schwartz  6-14-18   addiction


May 23, 2018

Meet STEPHANIE ANGEL from Angelight Films. An ‘Angel’ who gives Children with Brain Tumors the Opportunity to Shine by Co-creating Their Own Short Film. You need to READ this. By Calvin Schwartz May 23, 2018

 Meet STEPHANIE ANGEL from Angelight Films. An ‘Angel’ who gives Children with Brain Tumors the Opportunity to Shine by Co-creating Their Own Short Film. You need to READ this.  By Calvin Schwartz   May 23, 2018








with Stephanie Angel pre-interview


An integral part of this story is how I met Stephanie. In keeping with the ‘film’ motif of the title, throw in my usual ‘cast of characters,’ synchronicity and a red Rutgers hat (branding), and a scene at the recent Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park. Action was opening night gala cocktail party for filmmakers, actors, actresses, media and the usual suspects. Me in my Rutgers hat and camera doing my thing for Artist Nation TV, a division of NJ Discover. A woman walks over, initiates a conversation mentioning Angelight Films, the recipient of the 2018 Garden State Film Festival Broader Vision Award for Filmmaking Dedicated to the Greater Good. Synchronicity extant in that Stephanie walked over randomly, was featured recently by HoopLaHa for her work. The plot formed. I had to do a story.




Stephanie at an Award Dinner


from film ‘The Kyle Show’ check website.


Yesterday. Stephanie and I sat down and talked for nearly three hours. To prepare, I watched most of Angelight short films that the children with brain tumors co-created. It is their self-expression, determination and hope that Stephanie captures for them personally and for sharing and for posterity. The concept of giving, caring and working with these special children and families is ‘beyond words’; my highest praise statement.

To date she has done 12 films. Check the website and come back.





with Sterling Bachman, co-creator of ‘Sterling’s Special Love Holds’


with ‘Dive Deep’ co-creator Kira Corning & Saphira Michaels. Full video available at Angelight website

The energy for Angelight emanated when Stephanie’s sister Ilana, five, died of brain cancer.  Stephanie was seven. In Ilana’s memory, her parents began the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation. I asked her when the vision, that certain something arrived, to do this Angelight work. “Ilana’s birthday is April 10. It was on what would’ve been her sixth birthday that I lit a candle on a cupcake. Something spiritual happened. I felt my sister’s presence. Inspiration to do something meaningful was all there…. Years later, when speaking with the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation social worker, I thought I wanted to make films for children with brain tumors, and then had the thought, no they need to make the films because we have so much to learn from their wisdom.”





with three co-creators of films, all available on Angelight website.


from video ‘David’s Miracle’ also available on website.

An enormous amount of energy sat at the table with us while we talked. So much on my mind.  I fired away. “What is the process of making a film with a child with a brain tumor?”

“First there is an initial meeting with the children; they must want to do this. There are three to four meetings developing the film idea and finally the locations…. Usually it is a one to three-day shoot…. The editing process can be a few months…. Ultimately leading to a private screening and finally the child gets the film.”

Stephanie mentioned one of her child filmmakers, Kyle, who created, “The Kyle Show” which I watched. Kyle poignantly said, “I do what I have to do everyday and get it done. I decided it’s (tumor) not coming back again.”  My point in mentioning this is the observation how special, smart, introspective and upbeat all these children are. The content for all Angelight films is such that it should be watched by other children and adults for perspective on life as delivered by special children. Key word here; perspective. These films are a therapy. What blew me away, was when I asked about the children in the films. I tip-toed around the question, how they are doing today, as if I didn’t want to ask or hear the answer. I was afraid.



Stephanie filming on location


on location

“All 12 of the children are still here today. I started in 2009.” My mind was spinning with realities, probabilities, exigencies and wonderment. Was this film project a kind of therapy in itself, instilling purpose, hope, vision, determination? Stephanie added, “The most fun part for me is there is no agenda. It’s what the children want to do on their own…. Not necessarily about their illness, but what they want to portray, express, imagine and convey.” I noted seeing children dancing, playing the piano, performing comedy, flying to Coney Island, volunteering in an animal shelter, playing sports.

I asked, “How do you find kids for the film project?”  “Mostly through social workers at the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation…. I focus on the positive and shift that focus to creating.”

I raised my voice, “Stop. Let’s talk about the rest of your career and how you arrived so competent, experienced.”  “I’m a Script Supervisor on ‘The Blacklist’…. I did all of Season Three. I started this career as a freelance Script Supervisor in 2003…. I work with the director to make sure all actors say their lines correctly…. I am responsible for continuity, write up all notes for the director, work with hair and makeup for continuity, keep track, time the show, bring up issues and create time of day.”  My wife, sitting next, absorbing, took a deep exclamation breath. The Blacklist is her favorite show. Stephanie has also worked on commercials and feature films.  Her dream is to segue into directing as she does for Angelight.



from film ‘Duane The Great’ available on website


from ‘Interview with Lily’

She grew up in Scarsdale, Westchester and attended Muhlenberg College. It was there on a college rafting trip down the Lehigh River (I did the same rafting trip a few years go) where she met her husband.

“And what about funds, financing for Angelight?” “Newman’s Own gave us a grant. That’s Paul Newman’s food/charity. We exist on private donations.” Those reading this article, absorbing, caring, feeling, checking out the website, seeing the work done by Angelight, donations are a wonderful thing.  Enough said.

Stephanie mentioned transitioning into directing and a recent project, ‘Better Together,’ a short film on bringing two generations together, working and teaching each other. Of course, I watched prior to writing this. Her directing is pure art, sensitive and engaging.




from ‘Fashion Within’


from ‘Melanie the Dancer’

“How was Angelight born?” “The idea just came up to let kids make films…. Sometimes people would ask me how do I get through the shoot, isn’t it sad? But the children are so optimistic, they inspire me to stay positive and focus on creating.”

It was time to go light and fun. I asked, “Living or dead, who would you like to have dinner with?” I caught her off guard but wanted a certain touch to this article. “My sister, Ilana.”

“Five things in life that you can’t live without?” She smiled for a collection of amusing seconds. “Perspective, which is what Angelight gives me. Coffee. My family. My phone. My vision. In no particular order by the way.”

“Before I leave this earth, I won’t be satisfied until I ……………?” “Until Angelight films becomes all that it is meant to be. Reaches its full potential.” Then Stephanie suggested I see the Robin Williams movie, ‘What Dreams May Come’ which was precipitated by our back and forth, in between, bouncing around for three hours, comebacks, to segments on spirituality. We were replete with stories, some evoking goose-bumps, but probably not for further discussion herein.

Stephanie has been working on a book for a long time, called ‘Intumatic,’ a made-up term referring to when intuitions become automatic. Fascinating. I loved the idea.  We both wanted to close “this script” with Angelight references. She proudly added, “Once I made ten films to see if it works, now I know it works and I want to expand it to its fullest potential.”  The End.

 Please check the website:           


Calvin Schwartz & Friend











April 15, 2018

A Rutgers Journalistic Journey to Women Awareness Events: What 15 Days in a Life Can Teach. By Calvin Schwartz April 16, 2018

A Rutgers Journalistic Journey to Women Awareness Events: What 15 Days in a Life Can Teach.  By Calvin Schwartz  April 16, 2018












Panel discussion at Rutgers Hate Symposium



with with Houshang Parsa, Allison Antwi (Douglas Residential College) Prof Deborah Shuford, Calvin Schwartz, Jac Toporek, Dr. Felicia McGinty, Vice Chancellor Rutgers Student Affairs at Symposium

I’ve had the hardest time (for the past two days) coming up with a title for this article. Usually titles are instantaneous for me. I need to make sure the title is understood. I’ve been privileged, with a little help from synchronicity, to have been present at special women’s events, which have fired my cerebral process, moved me up on the learning curves of awareness, sensitivity and knowledge.

Indeed, what an amazing 15 days; gifted to have absorbed, observed and learned. Cut to Tuesday March 27 at the Rutgers Business School for “A Presidential Symposium-Fighting Hate While Preserving Freedom: A Best Practices Forum.” The list of speakers beyond accomplished, from Jeh Johnson, Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Deborah Poritz, Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, Ronald K. Chen, Co-Dean Rutgers Law School, Mohammad Ali Chaudry, Co-Founder and President, Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, Rabbi Francine Roston, Kalispell, Montana, Imam Khalid Latif, Islamic Center at New York University, etc.

I sat for eight hours, taking notes, listening intently, dreaming of a time in the world, when hate is gone. We need to realize that we together are all that there is  to save our species. We’re all brothers and sisters on this insignificant speck of a planet in the middle of a complicated fragile universe and earth time is rapidly running out, passing the climatological and social tipping point.

“Mother, what did I learn in school today!” My NOTES from the symposium:  No one is born to hate. Love is natural. You can kill an enemy but not defeat an enemy. There is strength in diversity. New Jersey is the most diverse state; Rutgers the most diverse public university. Those who forget history are condemned to relive it. (I love that line from philosopher George Santayana).  Best weapons against hate is students and young people. Interfaith partnerships can help prevent expressions of hate. Why an uptake in hate? Is it because a decrease in funding for mental health? The opposite of hate is not love, but indifference.

I could fill several pages with my notes. Last paragraph was a brief extraction. What interested and annoyed, were two student hecklers, yelling and screaming just in front of me. I’m not even sure what they were protesting. A Rutgers official went over to talk to them. They continued their outbursts. At lunch break, I asked why they were not thrown out. An official replied, “First Amendment; they have a right to hate, protest and yell.” To which I smiled, replied, “La-di-dah.”



Hillary with scheduling secretary Lona Valmoro & Eagleton moderator Ruth Mandel


part of the audience for Conversation with Hillary Clinton

A few days later, on Thursday March 29th Hillary Clinton came to speak at Rutgers Athletic Center. The demand for tickets forced the change in venue from the old barn gym to the RAC. I love journalism, being with NJ Discover and wearing my press pass, sitting in the press box with a perfect view of the almost sold-out crowd, including gym floor seating. What I did notice right away was the demographics; it would appear in an unscientific visual appraisal that 80% of the audience were young women.

Hillary Clinton was there to empower young people, women, to go out, register, vote and change things. This was not a political conversation but charge to young people of all persuasions to be involved, vote and work to make a better world. “We all need to be talking about where the country is going.” She mentioned the challenge to convince women to get involved despite how hard it is but so well worth it. If you are new to politics, it’s easy to get discouraged. Biggest challenge is to keep momentum, build coalitions, but all for naught if you don’t show up and vote. She got a resounding applause when she said, “Missing John McCain’s voice which stands up for democracy.”



from my vantage point in the Press box for Hillary Clinton

A bit of a redundant epiphany. When I captioned a picture that I took of the event, and placed it on social media, almost immediately, a woman harshly commented on Hillary Clinton and my being there. I never respond to comments or engage anyone on social media. Wasted energy. I know our political world is dramatically polarized along party lines. No earthly power is changing red to blue or vice versa. So, I broke my rule and commented on her comment. “I’m a journalist covering an event which fascinated sociologically.” To which she responded, “Oh!”

A few days later, on April 3rd, I attended ‘The Douglass Century Book Launch’ at Douglass College Student Center. “Douglass was founded in 1918 as the New Jersey College for Women with 54 students and 12 books in its library.”  Indeed, it has grown to 2600 undergraduate students and over 39,000 alumni. Three Rutgers faculty/professors collaborated on ‘The Douglass Century- Transformation of The Women’s College at Rutgers University,’ Kayo Denda, Mary Hawkesworth and Fernanda Perrone. The event consisted of an Author’s Panel and Alumni and Faculty Panel discussions.  What an absolutely wonderful book!




The Douglass Century


Douglass Panel Discussion

Some themes of the night were how important women’s education, the history of Douglass and the New Jersey College for Women; how in 1915, there was a door to door campaign for $1.00 to raise $100, 000 to establish the school; how the school was not born diverse, with no Catholics, Jews, African-Americans under founder Mabel Douglass; how in 1968, 4% of the students were of color; how arguments surfaced, with Harvard philosophers, on the inappropriateness of educating women because of lower marriage rates of college educated women-all arguments against educating women; how CAWP at Eagleton is the first research institution for women in politics; how in 2017, 67% of Douglass women are of color, 8 %  non-traditional age, 19% Latin, 23% Asian. What are challenges now? In 1930’s, there were 2000 Women’s Colleges; now there are 34.

In a panel with Maurice(Mo) Lee Jr. who came to Douglass in 1966 and retired in 1996, he mentioned Professor Genovese at Rutgers New Brunswick, welcoming the impending victory of North Vietnam and Rutgers President Mason Gross not firing him. I immediately thought back to the symposium on Hate, and the students yelling and protesting and not being thrown out. The same First Amendment issues; a fascinating tie-in to last week.

In 1965, I reminisced, that I had a date with a Douglass student. We were sitting downstairs in the lounge at Katzenbach dorm just past 10PM when a Rutgers police officer escorted me out. The curfew was 10 PM. I’d witnessed history and how far I’ve come.

At the conclusion, I waited in line for the authors to sign my copy of their book along with two hundred or so women at the lecture. Demographics were 90% women. While in line, a woman asked why I was here, to which I smiled, and said, “I’m a journalist covering, learning, experiencing, growing.” To which she said, “Oh.”



with actor Armand Assante at Garden State Film Festival for Artist Nation TV and NJ Discover






Watch how this next part of the story develops. Back on Friday, March 23rd. I attended the Garden State Film Festival Cocktail Party and Opening night Gala. Two hundred people in Convention Hall; many filmmakers, actors, actresses, media. I was covering the event for Artist Nation TV and NJ Discover. I always wear my Rutgers hat; my personal branding.  A woman approached and asked if I was a Rutgers professor because of my hat. I responded immediately, “I wish and dream about that.” The woman was Dr. Gloria Bachmann, MD.

Dr. Bachmann is the Interim Chair in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a Professor of Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS), and the Obstetrics and Gynecology Service Chief at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick, New Jersey. Also, at RWJMS she is the Director of the Women’s Health Institute and the Associate Dean for Women’s Health. So, on Tuesday April 10th, I spent time at Dr. Bachmann’s Women’s Health Institute Meeting in New Brunswick with researchers and students. Again, in such short periods of interim time, my mind was expanded.



At the Women’s Health Institute with research team, students nd Dr Gloria Bachmann on Tuesday


with Dr Gloria Bachmann

I saw an animated film for children that they developed to explain, ever so gently, the topic of transgender. There were also discussions on female athletes (minimizing effects of injury), herbs and their mechanics, autism, One Health Initiative (Humans, Animals, Environment) cancer and aquariums. Of course, my passion in all of the above learning curves and observations is how much Rutgers is doing academically, clinically, sociologically and how NJ Discover’s platform can help tell their story, shout it out here in Central Jersey and beyond. On Monday April 16th I’ll be at a lecture on transgenders in the military. There are 1.4 million transgendered Americans.

It is a brave new synchronistic interconnected world. Best way to end this article, is who would have ever thought all this goes down in a couple of weeks of mind expansion.  The secret is to get off the sedentary sofa, explore and never stop. Wearing a hat helps too.

March 28, 2018

A Time Capsule Review: GARDEN STATE FILM FESTIVAL March 22nd to March 25th 2018 Asbury Park USA by Calvin Schwartz 3-28-18

A Time Capsule Review: GARDEN STATE FILM FESTIVAL  March 22nd to March 25th 2018  Asbury Park USA   by Calvin  Schwartz    3-28-18














Pre show Interview with Artist Nation TV and Lauren Concar , GSFF Executive Director & Heather Brittain O’Scanlon, actress, Board Member.


Friday night Convention Hall Gala cocktail party


The purpose of this capsule review is to light fires for planning next year to attend and perhaps some instillation of guilt, regrets, why you were not there this year. A wondrous event; New Jersey’s own film festival by the ocean, replete with pomp, excitement, energy, film makers, actors, actresses, industry insiders, deal makers.

Represented; the independent film industry. I love the word independent. It makes me think of 1776; spirit, original colonies, strong belief systems, New Jersey, expressing, declaring, creating, proudly showing, winning, competing, producing, directing and the togetherness, cohesiveness, knowledge of participants. Metaphors, verbs, visualizations; whatever, the Garden State Film Festival delivered a wonderful weekend.




selfie with Ed Asner


Friday Night Gala Cocktail Party and First Screening brought hundreds to Convention Hall. My press credentials issued for my work with NJ Discover and Artist Nation TV headed by Noelle Ciumei, doing feature interviews capturing excitement and energy. To me, this party was like a boardwalk amusement park, some fantasy rides, adventure, future, past, present; and the props like people, electricity, business cards, appointments, promises, future think, projects, exigencies and realities. A great accessible party for pictures, selfies and red carpets.

Food, plentiful, imaginative and fun. I’m not a foodie person, but the pretzel, with perhaps the best brown spicy mustard ever, had me perseverating for days.




with actor Xander Berkeley. Lifetime Achievement Award


Screenplay Professional Reading

Accessibility evident. I stopped Xander Berkeley, who was honored with Lifetime Achievement, eating with chopsticks, and moments later, we were sitting, talking, about his prolific career, but with such ease, as if we’ve been friends for decades. He loves the notoriety aspect, lack there-of, so he can sit at a sidewalk café and draw/sketch people walking by. He called it flying under the radar. He talked about living in the now, his spiritual side. There is a power to living in the now, an inner peace. How delightful he was. Of course, it was time to get back to photo-ops and selfies.

Ed Asner, on the Honorary Board, Armand Assante, MVP, honored for his continuing support of the Festival, Christopher Lloyd, a Festival honoree with the Beacon Award, were all mixing in. Such graciousness, a particulate of the energy of this Festival.  Armand Assante, Christopher Lloyd and Xander Berkeley all premiered their films. Check out

On a lighter note, three women excitedly stopped me, “Wait, you’re an actor from Seinfeld. The raisin episode! Can we take a picture with you?” It took me a minute of convincing that it’s not me. But they still took a picture with me.



with actor Garry Pastore


Post Panel Actors on Acting with Diane Raver, Lauren Concar, Monica Henreid, Moderator, Gala Chair, Xander Berkeley, Gary Pastore, Chance Kelly &  Armand Assante & Oana Marcu

A young woman introduced herself. My projection of being a journalist; the blazer, Rutgers hat. Stephanie Angel, from Angelight  Films, recipient of the 2018 Garden State Film Festival’s Broader Vision Award for Filmmaking Dedicated to Greater Good told me about her work, which gives children with brain and spinal chord tumors a chance to express themselves on short films. This blew me away, such that I’ll do a special article on NJ Discover. People need to know. Part of the reason to believe in the Festival; to illuminate, share and learn.

Next up, the film premiere of Armand Assante’s riveting, powerful film, ‘The Wanderers-The Quest of the Demon Hunter’ in the Paramount Theater. Of course, I loved it, engrossed, carpeted to on site locations in Romania, loved the Q and A, honest, engrossing, revealing. Would love a sequel; I told that to Armand directly.

Saturday, with my Rutgers mentee student Marisa, and co-host of NJ Discover LIVE TV Show, Tara-Jean McDonald Vitale, we attended the showing of nine short film entries, animation, comedic, heavy, imaginative, sad, uplifting, but part of this brave new world of accomplished independent talent. Being a former salesman, the film ‘Death of an Umbrella Salesman,’ resonated with me as it conjured up Arthur Miller and Charlie Chaplin as the Tramp.  



with actor Armand Assante. We talked about his film The Wanderers-The Quest of the Demon Hunter and my para-normal activity.


Q and A post showing of The Wanderers-The Quest of Demon Hunter with Armand Assante, Oana Marcu and Lauren Concar


Next the anticipated Panel discussion, Actors on Acting with Monica Henreid, moderating. Her father, one of my all-time favorite actors played Victor Lazlo from ‘Casablanca.’ Present were Armand Assante, Xander Berkeley, Garry Pastore, Chance Kelly and Oana Marcu, who played the ‘heavy’ in ‘The Wanders-The Quest of the Demon Hunter.’  A great hour. I loved Monica’s question, “Who Inspired You?”  For the Q and A., I needed to know about their handling of rejection.

Later that night, Christopher Lloyd’s heavy, true story film, premiere, ‘Making A Killing,’ in the enchanting venue of Jersey Shore Arts Center, formerly Neptune High School, a long time ago, but renovated by the vision of Herb Herbst (an NJ Discover feature story)







with actor Artie Pasquale

Yes, this capsule, a bit long, but needed for reality and enticement, memorization to get you down here next year. It’s “good stuff” being in Asbury Park, smelling ocean air, popcorn, seeing movies, dreams realized, partaking of all that Asbury offers, food, music, boardwalk, escapism. Actually, a capsule is something you take in the morning or at night, then call me next year, in the morning.  We’ll go to the Festival together.

February 14, 2018

SPOTLIGHT: From Astronomy, to Physics, Now Actress, SAG-AFTRA. Meet ANNEMARIE HAGENAARS by Calvin Schwartz February 14, 2018

 SPOTLIGHT: From Astronomy, to Physics, Now Actress, SAG-AFTRA. Meet ANNEMARIE HAGENAARS   by Calvin Schwartz  February 14, 2018



photo credit Metin Oner













at Garden State Film Festival reception in NYC June 2016 with Annemarie Hagenaars


Annemarie role as Dr. Schmidt

When you least expect it, you meet someone who’ll impact your life, make a return engagement, and impress beyond. Two years ago, at a Garden State Film Festival promotional event at a midtown NYC hotel, I met Annemarie, actress and a relative newcomer to America. Somewhere in time, at the Film Festival in Atlantic City, Annemarie also met her fiancé, Paulo Coelho, an accomplished singer-songwriter.  Therefore, we love the Garden State Film Festival (March 22-25, 2018 Asbury Park)

Over the past two years, Annemarie stayed in touch with me at NJ Discover. She had quite the story to share which fascinated, as we’ve just finished sitting, talking, traveling around the world in 180 minutes. Sure, it took two years to implement, but worth the wait.

Annemarie grew up in the Netherlands and by eleven years old, hobbies had materialized; astronomy and acting. “I had the lead role in a school musical called “Ghosts at Griezelsteyn” and discovered I liked acting.”  With Astronomy, there was always an interest in how people (astronomers) got their ideas. We chatted about one of her life’s heroes, Albert Einstein.  Before she took off her coat, I whisked her into my writing office, and showed my picture of Einstein, one of my heroes too. We discovered our commonality which makes for a great interview.  “Einstein had that great imagination and visualization to understand things about the universe.”




post performance
Photo Credit Paulo Coelho


a great attachment to Albert Einstein

“At 14, I really started getting into acting. I’d play roles in school plays and at local theater companies. On top of my school, there was an observatory, where every Friday night during winter, I went up there to observe.” In the Netherlands, acting was not offered at the University level so she studied astronomy. “After my Bachelor’s degree, I went to acting school and eventually went back to university to get my Master’s degree in Foundations of Physics. Then I gave myself a gift in 2010, to study acting in New York City for one intensive month at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute (method acting).”

Back in the Netherlands, she started writing her one-woman show, ‘The Story of the Einstein Girl,’ a haunting supposition story relating to Einstein’s daughter.  In 2012, she was back in New York for a month, studied with Michael Luggio and worked in his classes on the American version of her one-woman show. Annemarie performed both the Dutch and American version of the play at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival. After that, in the Netherlands, “I worked my ass off to find a way to live and work as an actress in New York.”

She worked as a researcher in Rotterdam four days a week and also performed ‘The Story of The Einstein Girl.’  Annemarie explained that in 1986, letters were found mentioning Lieserl, Einstein’s daughter. A friend gave her the book ‘The Einstein Girl,’ written by Philip Sington, which deals with what could’ve happened to the daughter. It’s all fiction besides her actual existence, which is true. “The company in Rotterdam always supported me, by giving me flexibility to take time off to perform.” Interestingly, Annemarie downplayed the strict standards of her company, in that they only hired the top 5% of the country’s grads, of course putting her in such an elite category.



readying for performance


“Embers” credit montage


As a journalist, I thrive on jumping around, digressing, egressing, addressing. So, I asked Annemarie “What are the five things you can’t live without?” To which she thought for a very long second, “Intellectual challenges, chocolate (I saw evidences as she perseverated on my wife’s chocolate brownies), fiancé Paulo, to be on a set, and New York City.”  Spontaneously, the four of us, sitting at my kitchen table, started singing, Christopher Cross’ “Caught Between the Moon and New York City.”

I mentioned that it had to be so hard for her to come to New York, alone, not knowing anyone. “I came to New York with no expectations. I immediately loved it here. The acting community is different. American movies, which I grew up with, because my parents loved watching American movies, are different from Dutch movies. I love the energy of New York. Here the sky is the limit.”  Currently, Annemarie works with two managers, one for commercial and one for film and television, and is now in SAG-AFTRA.





NYC caring for homeless


photo credit Metin Oner

Her first appearance in an off-Broadway show was in ‘Casablanca Box’, which is related to my all time favorite movie, ‘Casablanca.’  Speaking of favorite movies, I asked about hers. “Gladiator with Russell Crowe. Meryl Streep and Jessica Chastain, favorite actors, and if Elia Kazan, director was still alive I would have loved to get the opportunity to work with him.”

My research turned up her recent trip to the Hamptons. I knew why. Her face excitedly illuminated. “I did my first SAG feature three weeks ago, ‘The Artist’s Wife’ where I was on set for two days. It was an amazing opportunity to meet and exchange life stories with Bruce Dern. I was so thrilled. And I met Lena Olin too.”

“What is your greatest strength and weakness as an actor”? She drifted into introspective thought. “My strength is that I am very devoted to a part and I do a lot of research. My weakness goes hand in hand with my strength. Sometimes the hardest thing is when you’ve done your research that you need to let go of all the preparation. You need to be able to truly live in the moment and trust that all the homework will serve you, without consciously thinking about it when you’re performing.”



Post interview in the Green Room


A natural progression of thought, I asked if she was ready to handle prospects of fame, which I strongly sensed was coming. “With this guy (Paulo) next to me, yes.”  My wife and I observed such a perfect magical couple.

Next, we talked about a recent project where she shared the lead. A hugely contemporary project, so news worthy, that it was actually rushed into post production to get it out. ‘Honeypot’ is a seven-minute film depicting how Harvey Weinstein went about harassing. It was written/directed by the successful photographer Jill Greenberg, based on NYPD files. Intellectually, we discussed the merits of the film in bringing more attention, reality and awareness to the Weinstein case. Annemarie played the part of the secretary, facilitator wonderfully. I noted her range of acting, then asked how she got this role. She was found by the casting director, Irene Stockton.



a special couple, Annemarie and Paulo

Winding down, nearing the 180 minutes mark of our time together, on a lazy, rainy Saturday afternoon, now turning dusk, I asked her, “Living or Dead, someone you’d like to have dinner with.” Instantaneously, “Albert Einstein.” I said, “Me too and finally, before you leave this earth, I won’t be satisfied until I…………”  Her answer was rapid fire. “Until I do something meaningful for humanity.”

A perfect ending to a special afternoon. Annemarie has that quality, depth, cerebral connection, conviction, determination and talent to succeed beyond wildest dreams. My conviction is that it’s only a matter of time such that I asked when she’s getting a Golden Globe, Academy Award, Emmy, or whatever, do me a favor, since we’re now friends, get me backstage. It was a deal.




Calvin Schwartz











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