Neighbor: Jon Bon Jovi

Local hero Jon Bon Jovi is many things to many people. He is a rock god. He is an actor. He is an activist. He is a husband and father of four. He is a man doing good in the world. He is a Jersey boy and he has never forgotten that. He loves the East End, is part-owner of the Blue Parrot in East Hampton and we get to see him on occasion  signing autographs, being a nice guy. He was voted Sex Object of the Year by Kerrang Magazine in 1985. He has an Honorary doctorate in Humanities for his entertainment success and humanitarian work. He was awarded the Humanitarian of the Year by the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in New Jersey. He won the title Sexiest Rock Star three times from People Magazine. Sexiest Artist number 14 by VH1’s list of 100. You cannot go to any bar that has karaoke or a jukebox without hearing his mega hit single “Living On A Prayer” once a night.

And now that house painter of your dreams, in Moonlight and Valentino, Bon Jovi’s first speaking role in 1995 (he played a corpse in Young Guns II before that), has opened a community restaurant for the homeless, called Soul Kitchen. How much more can we love this Jersey boy?

The JBJ Soul Kitchen, a non-profit community program, opened its doors on October 19, 2011, in Redbank New Jersey. There are “no prices on the menu—customers can volunteer or donate to pay for their meal,” according to Soul Kitchen’s website and a note from Bon Jovi himself. Soul Kitchen was born out of need and awareness and a desire to give back to the community. “At a time when one in five families in New Jersey are living at or below the poverty line and one in six children in New Jersey are food insecure, this is a restaurant whose time has come,” Bon Jovi says. Their manifesto states: “All are welcome. Happy are the hands that feed. When there is love, there is plenty. Good company whets the appetite. Friendship is our daily special. End the meal with a slice of happiness.” The point is, there is good food to eat and no one is refused. You can work for your supper by serving, clearing or washing the dishes. You can pay if you have the money and feed someone who doesn’t. You don’t need a reservation.

The chef is no slouch either. Chef Terrence of Soul Kitchen’s “love of cooking was nurtured in his aunt’s and mother’s kitchens…anyone who gets to taste his cooking can taste the love and passion that Terrence puts in each dish,” says Bon Jovi in his Soul Kitchen notes. Chef Terrence arrived at Soul Kitchen via the Culinary Jobs Training Program through Monmouth County Foodbank. On January 25, Project Homeless Connect 2012 joined together JBJ Soul Kitchen and the Monmouth County Department of Human Services for a Community Resource Day. People in need were fed at Soul Kitchen after they were clothed and medically screened and offered jobs at Pilgrim Baptist Church, around the corner. A fundraiser on Febuary 27 had celebrity chef, Mario Batali, of “The Chew,” cooking up his delicacies to raise money and awareness for Soul Kitchen.

It sounds like a song, which is a story after all, an old mechanics shop is transformed into a community kitchen. A gathering place to feed the belly but also the heart and soul. There is a vegetable garden. A metaphorical bed of roses where community came together and brought this very necessary dream to life. Many people of all walks of life donated time and materials and elbow grease to see this heartwarming project come to be. Bon Jovi does not forget them. In his notes, he thanks each one and says: “to all of the individuals who pulled weeds, washed dishes, pushed a broom, stopped by to give words of encouragement—your support is what sustains this project.”

A grateful man is this three-decade rockstar, who perhaps remembers sweeping his cousin Tony’s recording studio floor when he was seventeen. The very studio, known as The Power Station, where Bon Jovi recorded “R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” for the Star Wars Christmas album in 1980. The band we all know and love was started in 1983 and hit the charts with their debut album, Bon Jovi, in 1984. The name is a catchier spelling of Bon Jovi’s surname, Bongiovi. He is the son of two former Marines. His father, John Francis, a barber, is part Slovak and his mother, Carol Sharkey, a florist, of Russian and German descent. He has two brothers, Anthony and Matthew. Bon Jovi married his high school sweetheart, Dorothea Hurley, in 1989 and they have one daughter and three sons together, from eight to 18 years old.

Aside from his charitable works like the Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, Pediatric AIDS, First Founding Ambassador of Habitat for Humanity’s Ambassador program, Bon Jovi has been active on the political front. He toured for John Kerry in 2004. He was part of the Live Earth concert introduced by former Vice President Al Gore.

In 2008, Bon Jovi supported Barack Obama for President, hosting a major fundraiser for him. Bon Jovi performed the Sam Cooke classic “A Change is Gonna Come,” at the Inauguration Concert. In 2009, he and Richie Sambora, his longtime bandmate and Andy Madadian recorded a musical message of worldwide solidarity with the people of Iran. “We are one,” is what the Persian sign in the video means.

A Grammy award winner for his duet “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, the band Bon Jovi has received numerous music awards and nominations including MTV Music Awards, American Music Awards, Academy Awards (nominated for best original song, “Blaze of Glory”), Golden Globe Awards, and countless international music nominations and awards. Jon Bon Jovi’s acting credits include “Sex and the City,” The Leading Man, Destination Anywhere, Homegrown, No Looking Back, “Ally McBeal,” “The West Wing,” “30 Rock,” And last year’s film New Years Eve.

It seems Bon Jovi’s role as an humanitarian is most fitting. A singing, acting humanitarian. A Sexiest Rockstar humanitarian.

Soul Kitchen’s soul. That painter who brightened our screens and Elizabeth Perkin’s house with that dreamy butter yellow and his charm. Yes, go get a bite at Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen when you’re out Jersey way. “Hope is Delicious,” Bon Jovi says.

Who says you can’t go home?

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