Posts Tagged ‘hoboken’


About a month ago, I attended  Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day. I wrote about HSPD before on this blog a couple of years ago. As I put it then, “From the ages of 24 to 26, Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day was my Christmas Morning.” I lived in Hoboken from 2006 to 2008 with my roommate, Mike, and each year we threw a HSPD party at our crappy apartment.

Even after moving out of New Jersey in 2008, I continued to attend HSPD nearly every year. Mike still lived in Hoboken with his wife, Linda, and would still invite me in either to his place or to a party he knew of. It was an excuse for me to cross-state lines and get together with him again. I jumped at the chance to reminisce about our own parties back in the day.

Yet as the years went by I began to eclipse various milestones that took me further from my days in Hoboken: I hit age 30; my girlfriend moved into my Manhattan apartment with me; we got engaged and later married; and my drinking tolerance waned (and I acquired a taste for better beers). As a result, I found it increasingly difficult to muster up the necessary alacrity for yet another HSPD celebration.

Still, this year—just a month after my 32nd birthday—I found myself in Mike’s younger brother Matt’s Hoboken apartment for the second year in a row, huddled into the corner of the room with Mike, his wife Linda, and my wife, Kim.

Just a week before, we were celebrating my belated birthday with two other couples, including Mike and Linda. Kim tried to sell it as a “boozy brunch,” evoking the unlimited mimosa-fueled meals we might have had in our twenties, but in reality the brunch had been decidedly tame—the way we all seemed to prefer it. We had a delicious meal, a great conversation, and no one was sloppy drunk by the end of it.

In the week between the “boozy brunch” and HSPD, Kim said she was worried that she’d feel old at Matt’s party, even though at 28 she was just two years older than Matt and most of his friends who would be at the party. If anyone at the party was going to feel old, I assured her, it would be me.

As the four of us caught up on “adult” topics like house hunting and promotions at work—with Matt interrupting occasionally to make sure we were having a good time—Kim suggested we try to get on the beer pong table for the next game, which Matt arranged for us.

Our game lasted about ten minutes before we lost, albeit respectably, with just a few of our cups remaining on the other side of the table. As we shook hands with our opponents and walked away, I heard a female voice say, “Sir…sir…”

I slowly turned towards the voice, praying that she was talking to someone’s dad standing behind me. But I knew better.

It took about a second for Mike and Kim to process what had just occurred, before they both started laughing. Recognizing that a harsh reaction would only make the situation worse, I smiled and accepted my role as the elder statesman of the party and approached the girl who had called me “sir,” one of our beer pong opponents.

“Did you just call me sir?”

“Yeah. I’m an English teacher. I wanted to say I like your shirt.”

I was wearing an old t-shirt I’d purchased from one of those novelty t-shirt websites back when I was living in Hoboken. Back then I couldn’t afford to “dress to impress,” so my strategy was to “dress to amuse” with an extensive repertoire of funny t-shirts. This particular one bore a bust of Shakespeare with the caption “Prose before Hos” underneath. At 32 I found that HSPD was the only place I could still appropriately wear the shirt—besides, it was green.

Her being an English teacher, I suppose, explained why she liked my Shakespeare shirt. But she’d done nothing to assuage my hurt feelings about being called “sir” at a party full of people in their twenties. The even harsher reality was that she didn’t even realize that calling me “sir” might have been insulting—to her, I was so obviously older than anyone there that it was the only appropriate way to get my attention. I would have much preferred a ruder but more age-neutral “Hey!”

When Mike and Kim finally stopped laughing, we unanimously decided that my youth was officially over. I haven’t yet made a decision on whether I’ll ever come back to HSPD, but if I do I think I’ll avoid the beer pong table.

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From the time I moved to the post-college paradise that is Hoboken, New Jersey, in 2006, until the day I moved out of the oft-flooded mile-square city in 2008, I’d never heard of Buddy Valastro.

I also didn’t know much about his bakery, Carlo’s Bake Shop, though I’d walked past it hundreds of times on Hoboken’s main drag, Washington Street. With its picturesque storefront window and classic gold on maroon signage, Carlo’s always felt very upscale from the outside; it was the kind of place that someone like me, who routinely ate mac and cheese with cut-up hot dogs for dinner, should walk right past without a second glance.

But what I also didn’t know was this: that behind that fancy storefront window I’d been so intimated by, Buddy Valastro was busy building an empire.

Having his cake…
It was my fiancée who introduced me to Valastro’s cable reality show, Cake Boss, in 2009. The show is about a family-owned bakery in Hoboken starring the son of the bakery’s late owner, Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro Sr.

Buddy Jr.’s supporting cast is made up of the other people who work in the bakery, many of them related to him by blood or marriage. They play innocuous pranks on each other, bicker like family often does, and produce elaborate works of edible art in each episode.

Even since the TLC show debuted, I would guess the bakery still sells more pastries like cannoli, cupcakes, and lobster tails than it does its $25,000 masterpieces. Yet it’s the higher profile clients and cakes that the show centers around; they represent a new challenge to Buddy and his bakers in each episode.


Always bet on red…velvet! Am I right??? (Photo credit: http://www.mediaglare.wordpress.com)

Cake Boss, which begun its sixth season this past Memorial Day, is a lot like the storefront window at Carlo’s in that it’s been a showcase for the talents of Buddy and his staff. They’ve made everything from a wedding cake that was fitted to house two live doves, to a roulette table and wheel cake for a local men’s social club. (For Cake Boss‘s “Top 5 Most Impressive Cakes,” click here.)

Upon each cake’s delivery on the show, often by Buddy himself, the client thanks the Cake Boss effusively for using his artistic medium, cake, to transform their vision into a gorgeous and delicious homage to the person, place or thing they’re celebrating. And Buddy, always modest and deferential, seems to understand that the client isn’t really a customer, but a patron of the arts who allows him to make a lucrative living doing what he loves to do.

…and Eating It, Too
For many of us, it would have been enough to propel our family’s mom-and-pop bake shop into a multi-million dollar business with its own accompanying reality show. But Buddy, so it appears, is far more ambitious than his goofy, avuncular, PG-rated disposition might suggest.

The Next Great Baker, his competition reality show, just wrapped up its third season in February 2013. From 2011 to 2012 he hosted two seasons of yet another TLC show called Kitchen Boss, a cooking show where Buddy traded in eggs, sugar and flower for tomato sauce, pasta and meatballs, and shared his family’s Italian food recipes.

Meanwhile, after opening up another facility at the Lackawanna Center in Jersey City to keep up with the high volume of national orders–more voluminous thanks to Cake Boss‘s popularity–he has since expanded, opening a second Carlo’s Bake Shop in Ridgewood, New Jersey. He’s also got a small shop in Times Square. I get the sense he won’t stop there.

Sure, A&E’s Duck Dynasty may have stolen some of the cable reality headlines recently. The hit show has emerged as a ratings machine, beating everything in the Wednesday 10 pm time slot including broadcast network programming.

Like Willie Robertson, the CEO of Duck Commander born into a family whose patriarch started a modest duck call business, Valastro has benefited by being at the right place–and in the right family–at the right time, as the oldest son of a baker with his own bake shop. And yes, if you asked Valastro he might tell you how blessed he feels to be where he is today. But it hasn’t been all roses for Valastro, who lost his father in 1994 and whose mother, as documented on Cake Boss, was recently diagnosed with ALS.

Yet the Cake Boss machine rolls on, all Buddy’s hard work seemingly less about avarice than about honoring the family tradition he was destined to carry on.

Taking His Talents to Upstate New York
Despite everything on his cake plate, Buddy is apparently still up for a new challenge.

Joining Restaurant Impossible‘s Robert Irvine and Hotel Impossibles Anthony Melchiorri, Buddy Valastro is looking to become the next star in reality TV’s small business renovation sub-genre. After all, if you needed advice on running your family-owned bakery, wouldn’t Valastro be the first guy you’d want to talk to?

In the premiere episode of his latest TLC show, Bakery Boss, last Monday night, Valastro visited Friendly Bake Shop upstate in Frankfort, New York. (About 200 miles away from Carlo’s, Friendly is safely outside Valastro’s customer base. For now.)

Friendly Bake Shop after the Buddy treatment.

Friendly Bake Shop after the Buddy treatment. (Photo credit: herkimertelegram.com)

With three old, tired men at the helm of Friendly and their three grown children working devotedly (but fecklessly) for them, it seemed that the former were lacking energy to keep the bakery going, while the latter were lacking the know-how. Buddy’s visit was their last chance to turn things around.

As you might expect with any episode in this genre–as we’ve seen so many made-for-reality-TV miracles performed by Irvine and Melchiorri before–Buddy shapes up Friendly Bake Shop in just a few days. He demands a full cleaning of the shop and its equipment, revises the menu with some of his own best-sellers and shows the staff how to make them, and renovates the storefront to look more like Carlo’s than a crappy dive bar in the middle of nowhere.

Early reports say the shop is now flourishing since the episode aired, though Yelp has just one review from someone in California.

Success Story or Sell-Out?
Former New York Yankee great Yogi Berra once reportedly said about a popular restaurant, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Many of us can relate to the idea of liking things before it was cool. Our favorite indie band gets mainstream radio airplay, and suddenly we can’t get tickets to their concerts. Our favorite TV show, which so aptly captured the zeitgeist of people our age, suddenly got popular among the masses and became prosaic beyond recognition.

So should we stop rooting for guys like Buddy, who was once a great upstart story but has since saturated the market with pre-made cakes sold in grocery stores, a line of baking equipment, and enough TV shows to start his own cable network? There’s no right answer to that, of course, but for me it’s always felt strange rooting for the underdog only until they’re not the underdog anymore.

En route to our Memorial Day weekend away at the beach, my fiancée and I stopped off at Carlo’s to get some treats before getting onto the New Jersey Turnpike.

Arriving on Friday morning, we hoped they would still have plenty of their signature coffee cake–my fiancee’s mom’s favorite–with the crumbs the size of small boulders. Our only concern, with a tight schedule and a long drive ahead, was the length of the line.

As it turns out we were right to be concerned. We had apparently showed up just a few minutes behind a bus full of tourists who had made a special trip to wait on line at the famous bakery from TV. They were queued up along the sidewalk, blocking the path of Hoboken residents whose formerly cute little local Italian bakery was now a nuisance to walk past.

We chose not to wait. In that moment we would have loved to have pulled up and seen no line so we could get in and out. I’m sure Buddy would disagree.

I’ll still be rooting from Buddy from afar, like a high school friend I don’t speak to but keep up with all the goings on in their life via Facebook. In the meantime there’s no shortage of up-and-coming reality stars to latch onto, perhaps even the next Buddy Valastro.

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The Flood Apartment

It was a Sunday morning in April 2007. The rain was coming down hard outside my basement apartment, the perfect excuse to sleep late. The backyard was already starting to look like a moat.

The fridge was empty except for beer, so my breakfast was a basket of Easter candy my mom had given me the week before.

I stepped down from my bed to walk to the bathroom, my only scheduled cardio for the day. The floor felt wet through my socks; I thought maybe I’d kicked over one of last night’s unfinished beer bottles, but the entire floor was a puddle. Upon closer inspection, it wasn’t a spill; the water was coming up through the floor boards.

My roommate, Mike, was an accountant at the tail end of a three-month stretch of 80-hour weeks. It was April 15, Tax Day, and his office had him come in on the last Sunday of the season to tie up any loose ends. He’d already been working every Saturday since mid-January, except for his one allowed “refresher Saturday,” when we hosted a Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day party. I could tell how excited he was for tax season to finally be over. As far as I’m concerned, April 16 may as well be Christmas Morning for an accountant.

I’d met Mike through Nikki, a close friend from high school; Nikki and Mike went to college together. Mike was looking for a new roommate at his place in Hoboken, New Jersey. He’d been unlucky with roommates so far.

When Mike first moved out of his parents’ place and into Hoboken, he’d rented a room in a two-bedroom apartment where another tenant, a woman, was already living. It was clear early on that he and his new roommate weren’t a match. Apparently, he had a bad habit of forgetting to close the kitchen cabinets sometimes, which she abhorred.

After a couple of months and one too many cabinetry calamities, she asked him to move out. So Mike packed up and left one day while she wasn’t home, but not before leaving every cabinet in the kitchen wide open. Take that!

Later, he realized he’d forgotten a couple of items and had to go back. This time she was home. I wasn’t there myself, but I’m sure that encounter wasn’t awkward at all.

I called Mike at work to warn him about the flood. “Listen dude, it’s coming down pretty hard out there and the apartment’s starting to flood. You might want to think about coming home soon.” “OK,” he said. “I’ll get out of here as soon as I can.”

That was around 1 pm. Mike wouldn’t get home until after 6.

For the next several hours, I monitored the water level, which is to say I watched it rise from my ankles to my shins to above my knees.

I called our management company’s emergency line several times. “The sump pump should be pumping the water out,” the voice on the other end calmly explained. “Just hang in there and let it do its job.” I begrudgingly accepted this answer–I’d never even heard the term “sump pump” before–until the storm outside eventually knocked out the electrical power, which meant the sump pump had quit on us for the night.

Mike was in good spirits when he got home from work, despite the circumstances. (After all, it was his Christmas Eve.) Even as our possessions were floating by us in two feet of water, he was making Waterworld jokes. Holding a flashlight up to his face–the living room had become near pitch black since the power had gone out–he said, “Bobby, look at my face. This is the worst moment of my life.” We both laughed at the absurdity of the situation, assuming the worst was over.

The plan was to pack our cars with as much of our stuff as we could fit and seek refuge on higher ground. For Mike that meant crashing at a friend’s place, a non-basement apartment in Hoboken. I was heading to my mom’s on Long Island for the night.

There was one problem with this plan: the defunct sump pump was situated directly underneath the floor just inside our front door. Because the water had gotten so high, the floor panel that covered the sump pump floated away, leaving a treacherous hole right where Mike and I needed to cross in order to make trips to and from our cars. It was only a matter of time before one of us fell in.

It was Mike…while he was carrying the tower from his computer.

When I heard Mike scream, first in surprise (Ahhh!) and then in pain (Owww!), I looked over and saw him only from the waist up. The rest of his six-foot-three frame was in the hole. He looked like he was sitting in a very dirty Jacuzzi.

Then Mike, who just minutes earlier had been cracking jokes, uncorked a stream of profanity so loud and vulgar it was almost comical–though I knew better than to laugh this time. Mike is the most easy-going guy I know, so I was a little scared to see him so riled. I waded over to help him out.

Even in the dark, we could both see he had a deep gash on his shin from the fall. I was worried that with all the filthy water washing over it, he was risking an infection. He shrugged it off and kept moving. The look on his face said, I’ll get a Band-Aid later. It’s time to get the f*ck outta here.

Mike’s calming influence when he’d first gotten home had been a boon to my own deteriorating mental state–I’d been alone, panicking, for the entire day, with nothing in my stomach except for a few Marshmallow Peeps. But now it was clear that he was starting to lose it, too.

Once my car was finally packed with so many garbage bags full of clothes that I could hardly shift from park into drive, I called my mom to tell her I was on my way. I was freezing from wearing the same wet clothes for seven hours straight. I drove the hour to my mom’s house hunched over the steering wheel like an old lady, barely able to see past the windshield, shivering through the full blast of the car’s heater.

I took the next day off from work to regroup, then went in on Tuesday in jeans. In my haste to abandon ship, I’d forgotten to pack a pair of khakis.

When I checked in with the management company, they assured me a service had come in to vacuum out all the water. I went back to the apartment later in the week after work to assess the damage for myself.

When I opened the door I was hit with the smell of damp garbage. (Even at its worst, the apartment never smelled this bad.) The white walls had a brown line about two-and-a-half feet high all around the apartment where the water had sat for days. Anything we couldn’t rescue—random socks, dishes, books—was strewn across the floor.

After just a week away, Mike and I decided to move back in but resolved to find a new place. Our goal was to pay about the same rent and maintain the same proximity to Hoboken’s main drag, Washington Street, and its transportation hub, the PATH station. The only upgrade we requested was something not quite so flood-prone.

But as we visited each real estate office and told them our desired rent, they all sneered. “Try Weehawken,” they said, dismissively, referring to a neighboring town near Hoboken. “You’ll never find anything that cheap in Hoboken.”

“Well, we know there’s at least one place that cheap,” we would respond, “because we live there.” Then we’d explain the flooding issues. One woman actually said, “Well for that rent, I’d just stay there forever. Just put your stuff up on cinder blocks!”

In spite of all the “helpful” real estate agents we spoke to, we found a place just three blocks from the old apartment. The rent at the new place was a little higher than we were paying before, but it had something we couldn’t put a price on: it was on the second floor.

Mike and I have shared many inside jokes over the years about The Flood Apartment. Our “mascot,” a mouse that Mike named Darryl, no matter how many times the exterminator killed him. Our legendary St. Patty’s Day parties. Our upstairs neighbor who claimed he “couldn’t get laid because the floor is slanted.”

Last New Year’s Eve, we stopped outside the old place for a Champagne toast along with our significant others, a sort of tribute to the way we used to live, and how far we’d come. But the building wasn’t there anymore–it was an empty lot of rubble.

In February 2010, 128 Park Ave had burnt down. Apparently, the three-alarm blaze was started by a cigarette.

We went ahead and toasted the empty lot anyway, wondering if they’d ever rebuild it, and praying that Darryl(s) made it out OK.

This story was published at The Good Men Project on March 4, 2012.

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It’s a Monday night in December and I’m sitting in a bar called Mulligan’s in Hoboken, New Jersey, waiting for my buddy Mike to claim the bar stool I’m saving for him. I lived in Hoboken for three years during my mid-20s and spent a lot of that time in bars, but I can’t remember ever seeing Mulligan’s this packed on any night of the week, no less a Monday.

The crowd, which is about 90% dudes, is there for the same reason Mike and I came out: It’s Seinfeld trivia night.

When the trivia host hands us our answer sheet for Round 1, I examine it carefully. It’s made up to look like the cover of a Penthouse magazine–a noticeable departure from the nondescript answer sheets you might find at other trivia nights. The blank white answer spaces, labeled 1 through 10, are strategically placed to cover the otherwise exposed cover models underneath (pictured below). In the bottom right corner, I notice the magazine is addressed to fictitious Seinfeld “dentist to the stars” Dr. Tim Whatley, DDS, who in one episode had an adults only dental practice and a waiting room stocked with adult reading materials.

Not your average answer sheet.

Mike and I are confident going into the first few questions. Between us, we’ve seen every episode 20 or 30 times in reruns. (I’d learn later that our host estimates he’s seen each episode at least 200 times.)

We keep pace with the leaders for the first few rounds, including a perfect 12 out of 12 in Round 2, attributing quotes from the show to the characters who said them. But by Round 4, matching obscure character names to their pictures, and the final round, made up entirely of questions about the “Festivus” episode, we’re toast.

We finish in seventh place. Our only consolation prize is the small laugh we get from the other players when our team name (To See Ramon?) is read aloud.

Still thinking about Seinfeld trivia the following morning, I reached out to Trivia, A.D., the company that put on the event, via Twitter. I wasn’t really sure what I expected to find.

But five days later, I’m sitting in Trivia, A.D. co-founder Dave Oliver’s living room in Hoboken, listening to him tell the story of how the company came to be.

This place looks like The Max from Saved by the Bell! How cool would it be if they had 80s trivia here?

For friends Amy Gerson and Dave Oliver, that epiphany came in May 2009 over drinks and tater tots at their favorite neighborhood haunt, Big Daddy’s on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Big Daddy’s is an 80s-style diner that doubles as a watering hole for locals, which Oliver describes as “like Johnny Rockets but less cheesy.”

Half-jokingly, they bounced the trivia idea off each other for 10 or 15 minutes, after which Gerson (who freely admits, “I have a big mouth”) approached the manager on duty that night about co-hosting a trivia night with her friend Dave at Big Daddy’s, eventually getting in touch with the restaurant’s general manager.

He said yes.

Management didn’t know what to expect as far as turnout, so they set aside a space for Gerson and Oliver in the back of the diner to hold about 25 people. Big Daddy’s email-blasted their customer database to alert them about the event, and Oliver used his graphic design background to create an eye-catching flyer to hang inside the diner.

After just a few days of promoting, Big Daddy’s had 110 reservations lined up.

That first night went well–so well, in fact, that the nascent trivia hosting team was invited back to do 80s pop culture trivia at Big Daddy’s Gramercy location, and later to host more trivia nights at those locations as well as as at two Duke’s locations (owned by Branded Restaurants USA, the same people who own Big Daddy’s).

Before they knew it, Trivia, A.D. (named for Amy and Dave) had become a four-nights-a-month part-time job.

When Oliver approaches a potential client (i.e. a bar) about hosting a trivia night, they typically request “regular” or general trivia. But when one of his Friends or Saved by the Bell trivia nights brings in 80 to 100 people on a Tuesday night, that’s all the convincing they need.

The concept of a themed trivia night isn’t unheard of, but general trivia–topics like current events, geography, music and sports all rolled into one–is far more common in bars. For Trivia, A.D.’s events, though, people aren’t there simply by happenstance; they show up specifically to play trivia about their favorite TV show or movie because they’re passionate about it.

That passion is never more apparent than when Oliver hosts Seinfeld trivia nights, which he started in July 2009. In fact, Oliver says Seinfeld is one of his three passions in life (the other two are baseball and Pearl Jam), but there’s one couple who might love the show even more than he does.

“To date, we’ve won Seinfeld trivia 17 times,” says Jamie Sclafane, who plays under team name Why No T-Bone? with her husband, Dave. They’ve been attending Trivia, A.D.’s Seinfeld trivia nights since September 2009.

(For some more of Trivia, A.D.’s funniest Seinfeld trivia team names, see the comments section below.)

“We had been waiting for something like this for a long time,” says Sclafane. “When I saw the flyer, I immediately called Dave and was like we need to go to this!”

Why No T-Bone? placed second at Trivia, A.D.’s 2010 Seinfeld Trivia Tournament, which took place over three weeks in July 2010 across four Big Daddy’s and Duke’s locations. “The amount of work and detail [Oliver] put into the … tournament was incredible,” says Scalfane.

Each team who made the tournament “finale” received a Seinfeld themed gift, such as a giant marble rye or a box of Jujyfruits. “He also made … a giant clown check made out to The Human Fund and the sign to mile marker 114 for the highway Kramer adopted,” Sclafane says, “which we proudly hang in our dining room.”

Jamie and Dave Sclafane at Trivia, A.D.'s 2010 Seinfeld Trivia Tournament.

Looking to expand beyond bars and restaurants, Trivia, A.D. hosted a “Festivus”-themed Seinfeld trivia night at Comix comedy club in December 2010. Comix advertised the event in the New York Post and Oliver designed inserts promoting the event to put in the playbills for Long Story Short, the one-man show starring Colin Quinn and directed by Jerry Seinfeld.

Long Story Short donated 16 tickets to their show plus some Seinfeld memorabilia for the winners. Unlike previous Trivia, A.D.-hosted trivia nights, Comix sold tickets to the event ($15 plus a two-drink minimum), but still drew an impressive 125 people.

It’s easy enough to Google “Seinfeld trivia questions,” copy and paste the best ones, and pass them off as your own at a trivia night. But that’s not Trivia, A.D.’s style.

For Seinfeld trivia in particular, Oliver has a database of thousands of questions and answers and says he knows where to find just about any scene for any season within his Seinfeld DVD collection. (I detect a hint of pride in his voice when he tells me this.)

So, if I go to one of your Seinfeld trivia nights this month, and then I go to another one six months later, will I get any of the same questions?

No repeats, he guarantees, not at any of his trivia nights.

As we’re chatting, Oliver’s wife, Kara Oliver, stops in to tell her husband that she’s got a friend “who knows a guy who was in the Pez episode who owns a bar.” He appears to make a mental note to track down that lead once I’ve left.

While Seinfeld trivia is Oliver’s forte, he’s getting more comfortable writing questions and hosting trivia nights for themes in which he’s not as fluent.

“If you’re gonna host, you better know your stuff,” says Oliver. “Die hard fans pick up on that.”

Trivia, A.D. gets tons of requests for new themes. “Right now people want Scrubs trivia.” Oliver’s even heard requests for Little House on the Prairie trivia. (Do not look out for that one at a bar near you in 2012.)

“My favorite part of any trivia night is when we announce all the themes we do and hearing people’s reactions,” says Kara, who has hosted Trivia, A.D. events for Jersey Shore, Mean Girls, Mad Men and Caddyshack. “They get so excited to hear their favorite show or movie.”

Other Trivia, A.D. pop-nostalgia themes have included Star Wars, Beverly Hills 90210, Back to the Future, Sex and the City, and more recently, Arrested Development and Harry Potter. Oliver’s always got his ear to the ground for the next pop culture phenomenon that could make for great for a trivia night.

Just a year and a half after its inception, Trivia, A.D. had taken greater strides than Oliver and Gerson had ever imagined it could, but a series of bad breaks in the first half of 2011 left them wondering whether they’d taken it as far as it could go.

This past February, Oliver hosted a Seinfeld trivia event at Gotham Comedy Club, hoping to repeat the success of the Comix show. But a couple of factors were working against them this time–namely, it was the Monday night after Super Bowl Sunday–and the event drew just 40 people.

And in June, Trivia, A.D. and Big Daddy’s mutually dissolved their long-standing trivia arrangement; the two sides are no longer affiliated.

But Trivia, A.D. has rebounded, adding new venues to its roster in New York and New Jersey, including Croton ReservoirVillage Pourhouse, and Liberty Bar, and it currently has trivia events booked through March 2012.

Without giving too much away, Oliver hints at multi-city expansion beyond the New York metro area, and he’d like to further experiment with trivia events outside of bars and restaurants. “I have big plans,” he says.

Well, how’s this for big plans: On January 30, Oliver will host a Seinfeld trivia night at Tom’s Restaurant. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because fans of the show may know it better as Monk’s Diner, the coffee shop where Jerry and the gang spent an obscene amount of time during the show’s 10-year run. (Monk’s is based on Tom’s.)

Though the Tom’s event is already booked to capacity, Oliver is always looking to add the finishing touches. He has reached out to every Seinfeld actor he can get a hold of to get them involved in the event, from Bryan Cranston (Tim Whatley) of AMC’s hit series Breaking Bad to Patrick Warburton (the face-painting David Puddy) of CBS’s Rules of Engagement.

And if Jerry Seinfeld himself happens to show up at Tom’s that night, you can bet there will be a spot waiting for him in his old booth–there might even be room for three of his closest friends.

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