NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A who’s who of luminaries from entertainment, sports and the arts were being inducted into New Jersey’s Hall of Fame on Sunday night.
Actor John Travolta, singer-actress Queen Latifah, singer Tony Bennett, lifestyle guru Martha Stewart and former New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne were among the 13 members of the 2011 class being inducted.
“New Jersey pride has now become part of the state’s culture, and we’re happy to have it,” Byrne said as he walked the red carpet leading into the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, where the induction ceremony was taking place.
Onlookers gathered behind the ropes holding cellphone cameras as inductees past and present entered the venue, stopping to speak to the media or greet fans and friends.
Rounding out the hall’s 2011 class are World War II heroes John Basilone and Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, football greats Franco Harris and Joe Theisman, novelist Mary Higgins Clark, jazz great John “Bucky” Pizzarelli, actor Bruce Willis and businessman and former Jets owner Leon Hess.
The hall honors New Jerseyans who have made their mark in the fields of history, entertainment, enterprise and sports. There’s also a general category for educators, military leaders and politicians.
Previous inductees include Bruce Springsteen, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Yogi Berra. Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Les Paul, Count Basie and Carl Lewis were inducted in May.
Nominees must have lived in New Jersey for at least a 5-year period and must have “made a signature contribution to New Jersey and beyond,” according to organizers.
Many inductees were born or raised in the Garden State; some still live here or have other significant ties to New Jersey. Travolta was born and raised in Englewood, for example. Higgins Clark is active in several New Jersey charities. Hess, who died in 1999 and was being inducted posthumously, once owned the Jets professional football franchise.
The hall, which had existed virtually, mounted its first exhibit on the boardwalk at Asbury Park last fall. Items on view included Nicholson’s second-grade report card and an Edison High School cheering jacket that once belonged to inductee Susan Sarandon.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)