wirth mohammed harvardNow Available from Arcadia Publishing!

PHOTO: George Wirth, Khadijah Mohammed and Joe Harvard are among the musical guests helping author Tom Chesek celebrate the classic characters and memorable personalities from Asbury Park's history during a Book Launch event for "Legendary Locals of Asbury Park," Wednesday May 20 at the Where Music Lives museum.

ASBURY PARK, NJ - Whether you grew up there, whether you're a recent arrival...or even if you never lived a day of your life in the place Where the City Meets the Sea...there's something about Asbury Park, NJ that makes each of us feel like we own a piece of it, no matter who we are or where we came from. Famous for its waterfront and its grand palaces of leisure and amusement, it's  also been home to an energy that's stoked the imaginations of storytellers from Stephen Crane to Bruce Springsteen and beyond. Now a new book from the local history specialists at Arcadia Publishing takes a fresh look at this still-young town...traced not through the footprints of landmark buildings, but through the fingerprints of the diverse and dynamic cast of characters who helped a small Jersey Shore town cast a big profile on the popular culture.

LEGENDARY LOCALS OF ASBURY PARK captures the people-powered lightning of an ever-evolving city of summers, where the grandest sandcastle dreams have often crashed against the realities of changing times and cultural tides. Profusely illustrated with over 140 vintage and contemporary photographs, period cartoons and original illustrations, it's a pocket history that comes with a soundtrack, as each of the chapters is keynoted by a song that speaks to its historical era, and the people who made the music.

Asbury's 1.5 square miles has spawned Hollywood royalty, chart-topping singers, Pulitzer Prize winners, pro wrestlers, billionaire businessmen, United States Congressmen, and at least two athletes known as The Fastest Man in the World. The town has given us the Five and Dime Store, the Hess Toy Truck, Three-in-One Oil, Charms Candies, a pair of Jokers and a Penguin.  

Then there are the vivid personalities who put their indelible stamp on the beaches, boardwalk and boulevards: Mr. Fashions and Mrs. Jay...the Queen of Little Italy, and the Prince of the Pitchmen...Mad Dog Vini and Maggie the Cat...Putt Putt Petillo and the One-Armed Arab; Cuba Lopez and Madam Marie; Big Bill, Big Danny, and Frankie the Hat.

It's a saga told by visionaries and vagabonds; shopkeepers and showpeople; poets and politicians; the activists on the front lines of social change, and the stalwart stewards of the status quo. The witnesses who chronicled the passing parade in words and pictures and music...and the passers-through that ranged from Presidents to pugilists, and celebrities to sermonizers. From the Methodist founders who envisioned a pious paradise by the sea...to the next generation of true believers who brought new life to a city once given up for dead...LEGENDARY LOCALS OF ASBURY PARK is a rollercoaster ride through 145 years of only-in-America history.

A veteran culture correspondent and critic for the Asbury Park Press, Tom Chesek has interviewed and profiled hundreds of national and local figures in the fields of entertainment, arts and media, over the course of a 35 year career. As a contributor to numerous periodicals and websites, he has covered topics ranging from the scientific to the supernatural, and from the seriously newsworthy to the satirically silly. Like so many of the subjects detailed in this volume, Tom has made Asbury Park, NJ his adopted city; serving as “writer in residence” at The Stephen Crane House, historic onetime home of the classic American novelist-poet-journalist. The author had an instrumental role in the campaign to place the former Arbutus Cottage on the state Registry of Historic Places — and his regular activities at the Crane House can find him conducting tours, welcoming special guests, and programming arts-related events at its in-house theater. A genuine fan of Asbury Park's mix of cultures, and its ongoing role as incubator of art, music and ideas, the author is grateful for the opportunity to make this contribution to the lore of a forever fascinating little city. 

Order LEGENDARY LOCALS OF ASBURY PARK from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, or Arcadia Publishing...or ask for it wherever books and local souvenirs are sold!

Follow LEGENDARY LOCALS OF ASBURY PARK on Facebook, for details on a May 20 Book Launch event at the place Where Music Lives...AND for updates on reading and signing events happening all around the Shore and throughout the summer season!