Nicholson, DeVito join NJ Hall of Fame

Olympic athlete Carl Lewis, actresses Vivica Fox, and Rhea Pearlman with her husband actor Danny DeVito as they pose for pictures on the red carpet before the start of the N.J. Hall of Fame induction ceremony at New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, N.J., May 2, 2010.

May 3, 2010 6:57:48 AM PDT
Actors Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito, author Judy Blume and 11 other prominent New Jerseyans returned to their home state Sunday to be inducted into its Hall of Fame.

Bruce Springsteen introduced DeVito, and the two teamed up for a performance of "Glory Days" in tribute to their shared Jersey Shore youth.

"No one inducted to this point physically and tempermentally personifies our state (like DeVito)," said Springsteen. "We are small but mighty, he is small but mighty. We have attitude. If you've seen Danny in any of his roles, on TV or in the movies, he has Jersey attitude pouring out of him when he's standing still."

Yogi Berra and Joe Pesci introduced Nicholson, who grew up in Asbury Park.

A devout Los Angeles Lakers fan, Nicholson said he skipped Sunday's playoff game to be in New Jersey because "I'm being honored."

DeVito, who grew up in Neptune and now runs two production companies with the word "Jersey" in their titles, said his roots come through in all his work.

"Jersey is not a place you leave behind - ever," he said.

"There's a Jersey gene."

Blume, the author of 28 books, told the crowd her 29th title is a work-in-progress set in hometown Elizabeth.

Olympian Carl Lewis, architect Michael Graves and singer Frankie Valli were among the notables who attended the ceremony at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark and were inducted into the 2010 class.

Other inductees were astronaut Wally Schirra; musicians Les Paul and Count Basie; author Philip Roth; former President Woodrow Wilson; former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan; baseball player Larry Doby; women's rights advocate Alice Paul; and actress Susan Sarandon.

Sarandon, who grew up in Edison as the eldest of nine children, remembered Jersey corn and tomatoes, camping at Bass River Park and Stokes State Forest, and running after mosquito trucks as they sprayed for the bugs.

Comedian Joe Piscopo, who presented the award to Les Paul's family, said the New Jersey Hall of Fame showcases the state in a well-deserved, positive way.

"We get rocked in some of the images, but we're stronger than anybody else," the Essex County native said. "Our work ethic is better than anybody else. It's all about one place, the greatest place on the planet earth - New Jersey USA, baby."

Recipients were chosen by fellow New Jerseyans and by a voting academy made up of 100 state organizations.

This was the third class to be elected into the hall, which currently exists as a virtual museum on the Web.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, were honorary chairs of the event.

Christie in his opening remarks wondered how difficult it is to get into New Jersey's Hall of Fame if Woodrow Wilson - a former Princeton University president, New Jersey governor and president - didn't get inducted until this year.

"That's how great New Jersey is - Woodrow Wilson made it in the third round," Christie said.