NORTH JERSEY - On this day, 20 years ago, we got our first look at a modern-day gangster, cigar in mouth, driving down the New Jersey Turnpike, to a funky beat. We saw the refineries and the tank farms. And we saw Interchange 13 in all its glory, the airplanes out of Newark, the pizza joint, the iconic New Jersey signs and, in the end, a Jersey-style McMansion. Yeah, we're talking about Tony Soprano. And - Bada Bing! - no one can believe it's been two decades since we first saw the opening to HBO's "The Sopranos," repeated at the beginning of the show for six years. Yeah, people scoffed; what a Jersey joke. Until this show with unknown actors at the time, ended up with 21 Primetime Emmys, five Golden Globes and fans all over the world. Thanks, Tony, for being such a faithful Star-Ledger subscriber and making Jersey so crazy cool.
ON THE ROAD - Traffic fatalities mercifully decreased in 2018 on New Jersey streets and highways, State Police statistic show. All told, 566 drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians died last year. That's a 9.3 percent decline from 624 fatalities in 2017, continuing a two-decade downward trend. A statistician from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety calls the new data "encouraging," telling The Record: "It's always nice to see the numbers go down." Pedestrian deaths, however, are another story. In 2017 and 2018, 358 pedestrians died walking across New Jersey streets, making these the deadliest in 25 years. Remember: Tony Soprano does not heed crosswalks.
TRENTON - Feeling nostalgic for Mr. Magoo, the cartoon character whose near-sightedness put him in sticky situations? Not to worry. His spirit hovers over Trenton. New Jersey has been adhering to the Mr. Magoo style of management - not seeing what's in front of its nose - when it comes to billions of dollars it doles out in lucrative tax incentives. An audit of the programs, released yesterday by the Office of the State Comptroller, raises red flags all around. The incentives are supposed to go to companies for job creation and retention. Yet in a forensic examination of sample projects, the audit concluded that oversight "lacks sufficiently detailed data to confirm whether jobs were actually created or retained and has led to overstated and overpaid incentive awards." Lawmakers, who devised the last round of lavish incentives hand-in-hand with former Gov. Chris Christie, ran for the hills yesterday, laying blame with the Economic Development Authority. NJ Spotlight reports that one critic of the handouts said the findings "highlight corporate cronyism at its worst." It also reports that the latest generation of tax-incentive programs are up for renewal in July. Squint hard as you read today's NJ Spotlight.
PALMYRA - Did poultry poachers commit 'fowl play?' Or, did a pair of wildly popular turkeys just decide to fly the coop? Either way, local fans of "Myra" and "Vinny" are worried after their favorite gobblers vanished Monday from outside a Wawa on Cinnaminson Avenue. The wild turkeys showed up in the store's parking lot in November and NJ.com says they were never chicken about being people-friendly. They posed for selfies with customers, pecked at store windows looking for treats and inspired a Facebook fan page. Borough cops are on the case to find these birds, but police also remind fans that a "Wawa parking lot is not the best place" for Myra and Vinny to spend their days "due to vehicular and foot traffic." Meanwhile, try Wawa's turkey sandwiches to-go; quite delicious.
ATLANTIC CITY - Can anyone make any money owning the former Revel? Once again, this mega-expensive boondoggle is back on the real estate market, the Philly Inquirer reports. You may recall it cost $2.4 billion to build and, last year, was purchased for just $200 million, renamed "Ocean Resort Casino." Apparently, the new owner owes $1 million in renovations to less-than-pleased contractors and gambling revenue is dead last among the Atlantic City casinos since its reopening in June. So, honestly, what is the future for this 47-floor luxury building with enormous carrying costs? We'll find out from the next victim.
IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS
WYOMING, Pa. - Love was not exactly in the air at the Wyoming P.D., where a woman smashed her way into the closed station, looking for an officer she'd been sexually harassing ever since he arrested her. The 27-year-old woman used a large cigarette butt can to smash through the glass doors around 12:45 a.m. Monday. Once inside, she started rummaging through filing cabinets, perhaps looking for love notes and candy. Cops say this woman sent sexually harassing messages on social media to the cop, and would dial 911 just to try to talk to him. Amazed the cop isn't interested; she seems so darn lovely.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY
It was this day in 1982 that Dave Lapham, a 259-pound guard for the Cincinnati Bengals, decided there really was no reason to wear long sleeves, even as the wind chill dipped to 59 degrees below zero in a playoff game with the San Diego Chargers, forever known as the "Freezer Bowl." Lapham, No. 62, played in the NFL for one more year, before likely dropping dead of pneumonia.
WORD OF THE DAY
Crepitate- [KREP-ə-tayt] - verb
Definition: To crackle
Example: As Donald Trump negotiates with the Democrats over the shutdown, expect a nearby candy wrapper to crepitate.
WIT OF THE DAY
"Before you marry a person, you should first make them use a computer with slow Internet to see who they really are."
- Will Ferrell
WEATHER IN A WORD
THE NEW 60
A Jaffe Briefing exclusive
by Andy Landorf & John Colquhoun