Thursday, December 23, 2010

Xmas Time

If you're Christian, don't be offended. The "X" is an ancient Greek symbol for Christ. Anyway, the Princeton Tour Company hosted a "Party Like A Rockefeller Caroling Fest" involving a tour, pre-show party and a performance of "A Christmas Carol" at McCarter Theatre, in Princeton, New Jersey. They stopped to sing carols at the rectory of Trinity (Episcopal) Church where the pastor's two sons peered out the window to see what heavenly sounds were emanating from outside their residence.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Caring Christmas

Sunday night, December 17, 2010, you have the opportunity to do good, feel good and hear some great music at The 11th Annual Ernie White Band And Friends Christmas Benefit Concert at the beautifully restored Patriots Theater at the Trenton War Memorial. (Personal note: If you're now thinking "Oh, I don't want to go into Trenton" then wake up. The place is right off the highway, Rt 29. You don't have to walk the streets.) This year's beneficiary is The Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. I've got to stop. This is starting to sound like a press release. Here's the deal. Ernie's an acquaintance. We both went to St. Anthony's high school at the same time. I can recall him playing with a rock band of his on stage at a school assembly. It was quite a cool and radical departure from the usual school assemblies we were used to at a catholic high school in the seventies. Fast forward to now and when I show up for the photo shoot for the Good Times cover, here he is with the same guitar I specifically remember him playing back on that stage in high school! (I'm a guitar player, too, so I notice these things.) For eleven years now, Ernie has been using his musical ability and influence to raise awareness and funds for local charities. That makes me proud of him.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Football Fun

I've missed photographing the last two Philadelphia Eagles NFL football games :( but I did find these two brothers in the beautiful Mill Hill section of Trenton turning the street and sidewalk into their playing field. It was so cold, normal people were covering their mouths to not directly inhale the icy air, but kids aren't normal people. I used to do that!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Take my life ... please!

This appeared in The Times today:

EDITOR’S NOTE: Michael Mancuso is an award-winning staff photographer at The Trenton Times. He recently graduated from comedy school – and has decided to keep his day job. Here is his first-person account of that adventure.

Take my life ... Please!

Catch A Rising Star Comedy School offers hope for would-be stand-up comics

On the first night of class, the main message longtime Philadelphia radio personality and
stand-up comic Steve Trevelise gets across to me and seven other students enrolled in his
comedy school is that you don't want to do other people's jokes, instead, he says mine your
own unique life experiences for humor.

Sounds personal. It is.

Co-instructor Jimmy "Roundboy" Graham, also a veteran comic, stresses the same idea -

So this isn't going to be a "comedy karaoke" where, after a few lessons on microphone
technique and audience rapport, I can walk up onto the stage under the lights for five
minutes and safely recite time-proven one-liners from the likes of Henny Youngman.

I'm supposed to make people laugh telling stories from my boring life?!? I've been working
diligently for 50 years to keep my soul hidden. I have to bare it now?

When I surprised my family and closest friends with the news that I had enrolled in the class,
held at the Catch A Rising Star Comedy Club inside the Hyatt Regency Princeton, I never
heard anything like "Oh yeah, I can see you doing that!" The reaction I got more commonly
was nervous laughter: "Oh ... heh, heh, really? ... Y-y-you did?" In fact, I got my first taste
of getting a really big laugh unintentionally, when I told my 22-year-old son Andy that I had
enrolled in comedy school. This normally reserved guy who laughs one shot at a time, like a
starter's pistol, suddenly became a semi-automatic weapon.

"We're gonna have a lotta fun!"
Steve Trevelise

Class 1
I am playing it fairly cool so far, as I listen to extremely supportive talk from our instructors,
two guys who have very long resumes in the business. My first wave of deep terror creeps
up and hits me while I watch Steve talk about how to hold the mic. I don't want to hold a mic.
I don't really belong here. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Nonetheless, minutes later,
I get my first chance at standing on the comedy stage under the lights at "Catch" (as we
insiders call it) and speaking into a microphone - the whole experience ... minus the room full
of (potentially hostile) strangers.

My classmates are supportive. They know it's going to be their turn next. Steve, in his
relaxed and friendly way, asks a few questions from the darkness beyond the stage lights
and pretty soon, I'm holding the mic in the right place, chest-high and away from my
face while I'm telling a story from my youth, about the time I was working in the Sixties at
downtown Trenton's Mayfair Theater as a 16-year-old usher wearing a powder-blue blazer
going down the aisle with my flashlight, quietly asking older, stronger and way cooler guys,
right in front of their friends, to "Please keep the noise down" or "Please keep your feet off
the seats."

My classmates respond positively to my recollections. I grin inwardly, feeling giddy, even
dizzy, as though I had just downed a Red Bull with a whiskey chaser and I don't drink either
one. I'm normally very reserved and I was becoming uncomfortable at how comfortable I was
becoming, standing in the spotlight, talking about myself.

"It takes a year to get a good tight 25 minute set."
Jimmy "Roundboy" Graham

Class 2
One week later, I come to class wishing I had had more spare time during the past week.
I didn't work hard enough thinking of topics, premises and punch lines. Some of the initial
glow is fading. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. We're getting into the technical side and
analyzing the mechanics of comedy and I fear I'm losing some of the romance. I want
comedy to be my mistress, not my wife.

Steve calls comedy the last vestige of free speech. I guess I'd better stop my internal
whining, pull myself together and go on with renewed resolve. This isn't grammar school. I
don't have to be here. I asked for this.

Jimmy, who calls himself "Roundboy," has the gravelly voice and rambunctious manner of a
football coach, which he also is, speaks to us about energetic, enthusiastic stage presence,
until he glances my way and mentions "... or maybe a deadpan delivery could work for
some." He's got me pegged. Deadpan is my only shot.

Class 3
We have a guest comedian sitting in with us tonight - Joe Fortunato, a long-time friend of
Steve's. He's also a filmmaker and he's the one who will be videotaping our graduation
performance. When I observe Joe's face, I can envision a team of comedy writers inside his
head furiously scribbling notes on scraps of paper and handing them to his brain so he will
be ready at any given moment with a comment or a comeback.

As the class progresses, I notice that he and Steve are instantly coming up with funnier
lines off the tops of their heads than anything in my homework, which I had a whole week

to prepare. When I get onstage to read some of my lines, Steve encourages me to "sell"
my material in my own unique "voice." Meanwhile, magnified by the microphone, I hear my
actual voice echoing in the empty room, quivering like a bowl full of jello in the club car of a
moving train. I'm not the only one in trouble. Tonight, classmate Stephanie has a migraine
and struggles to finish her five minutes.

Class 4
With graduation, and our first five minutes in front of a live, paying audience only 24 hours
away, the time to hesitate is through. It's time to light our fire. After a pre-game pep talk from
our coaches, we each take the stage for final run-throughs of our acts and this time, there
are no do-overs.

As in any art form, the greatest practitioners of stand-up comedy have done so much
studying and practicing behind the scenes that when they perform, it appears to be effortless
and so natural that it seems easy for anyone to do. Based on my performance tonight at
dress rehearsal, on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being, say, George Carlin, tomorrow I will
definitely be a proper fraction.

The room at Catch a Rising Star in the bottom floor of the Hyatt is packed with people eager
to laugh. It's up to us to deliver. Tonight, we sink or swim - or tread water ... or perhaps do
a dead man's float - for five minutes. Can you feel my confidence? The clock is running and
the heartbeat is racing. Just before I go on, coach Jimmy grabs me by the arm like I'm his
quarterback about to run onto the field in sudden-death overtime and tells me "Silence is OK.
Leave room for the laughs." We each had to write our own introductions. Steve reads mine
to the audience. “And now here's a guy who's down on himself, so you don't have to be...
Michael Mancuso!" I take the stage to polite applause and lay a cue card down at my feet.
That's not totally professional, but then, neither am I. And so I begin.

Things aren't coming out exactly the way I wanted to say them, but inside I pat myself on
the back for heeding the advice of coach Jimmy. I do let the jokes breathe. I get through
my five minutes of fame, wind up my act, thank the crowd and tell them they've been great.
Wait. Do they really care what I think? I'm the vulnerable one standing under the bright lights
begging for approval. They don't need me. Maybe not, but they are nice to me and for that I
am most grateful.

As each of us has our turn on stage and then retreats to a designated corner of the room,
I look around and suddenly I feel a tangible bond with my comedy school classmates. I'm
proud of each one. I have an idea of what they've gone through. And if I don't pursue a
career as a stand-up comic, and believe me I won't, I at least gained some poise for my daily
interactions with people. Now that I've been there, I can paraphrase a line my brother, a
physician, uses from his professional education and adapt it to my experience. "So you think
you're funny? Where'd YOU go to Comedy School?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Halloween Pt II

Bill Hock was the official photographer for Halloween at The Cactus Grill. Here are a couple of me. I might decide to keep the tattoo arms. I only wish I could have kept the hair.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vegas, PA

Big Chill (the classic rock in which I play) performed at the Halloween Party at our home base, the Cactus Grill in Pipersville, PA. The theme was "Vegas." I managed to make a few photographs between the notes. This one of my bandmate and his lady is my favorite.

There are a few more here:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Buddy Guy

Blues icon Buddy Guy influenced and continues to influence many people. He influenced Jimi Hendrix. That's all I need to know. He stopped by Trenton, New Jersey to perform (in spite of a cold) at Patriots Theatre in the War Memorial. A Buddy Guy concert is an education. Here's how he would look if I were a painter.

On this song, called Skin Deep, he plays an electric sitar. How cool is that?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Battle of the Birds

Philadelphia Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin makes a TD catch in the 2nd quarter despite the best efforts of Atlanta Falcons CB Brent Grimes. Maclin had a banner day, 7 receptions for 159 yds and 2 TDs.

New acquisition, RB Eldra Buckley only has one speed, top. Here he gets hit during a run in the 4th quarter by Atlanta Falcons #28 DeCoud, Thomas & #92 Chauncey Davis.

LeSean McCoy led in rushing with 21 carries for 64 yards, most, but not all of them with at least one foot on the ground.

Eagles TE Brent Celek runs after a catch.

Eagles head coach Andy Reid watches the clock before calling a timeout.

DeSean Jackson is helped off the field after a brutal hit.

Jeremy Maclin doesn't like the ground either.

QB Kevin Kolb releases...

...stands in cool light...

...and gets off another throw. He went 23 for 29, for 326 yds and a QB rating of 133.6.

Trent Cole celebrates a sack.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Who says you can't go home?

The much-anticipated return of Donovan McNabb to Lincoln Financial Field (in his first time as the Washington Redskins quarterback) was full of unanticipated happenings.

Here he takes to the field for pre-game warmups before fans were admitted to their seats.

Later, he scurried in (under armed guard) and when his name was announced, the fans greeted him warmly, with applause and a standing ovation.

Donovan flies like an eagle to celebrates his first TD pass.

His replacement on the Eagles, Michael Vick nears the end of a gutsy 23-yd run to the goal line...

...where two Redskins converged and made him into a broken-rib sandwich.

Vick's a warrior. He got up to walk off but fell to his knees, reminding me of an old photo of NY Giants QB Y.A Tittle. If you know what I'm talking about, you're over the same hill I am.

Eagles FB Owen Schmitt comes back to earth after attempting to hurdle a defender.

RB LeSean McCoy contributed an impressive 174 combined yards, receiving and running.

On the final play of the game, a "Hail Mary" pass into the endzone, Eagles WR Jason Avant has a firm grip on the ball...

...but only for a fraction of a second, and the Eagles can't steal a victory.

However, McNabb and his ex, Eagles head coach Andy Reid, can steal a hug on the field after the game, while McNabb's new head coach Mike Shanahan , isn't looking.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Renaissance Faire fare

Hard to believe I've never been assigned to one of these before, but I finally got one yesterday. I brought my "fairy boxes" to Columbus, New Jersey and photographed the New Jersey Renaissance Faire. There weren't cameras back then, so I had fairy boxes. And I wasn't a newspaper photographer while I was there I was a "scribe". I tried to keep a low profile during the wench auction and I kept my cell phone in my pocket to avoid being exposed as a bad wizard.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


This past weekend was the Philadelphia Eagles home opener followed the next day by a high school soccer game. Vastly different levels of playing fields, but they do have something essential in common - contact.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Labor Day in America is the unofficial end of summer. In need of a weather picture and intent on avoiding the usual places, local pools, lakes, rivers and fountains, I ventured across state lines to the one and only Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA. Their motto used to be "Take my face to Sesame Place." That's quite and expression on that young face.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Family Vacation 2010

My brother Tom graciously and generously rented a house on Cape Cod for his family, mine and my sister's and invited all of our kids, too, including his one grand niece, my granddaughter Gianna. The house was beautiful and accommodating and I think had more bathrooms than my house has rooms!

Even though I was supposed to be relaxing, I got a most welcome wake-up call one morning!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Uncle Andy

How comfortable and safe does my granddaughter look being held by her Uncle Andy?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It's like a heatwave, burnin' in my heart...

Wait a minute. It IS a heatwave, here on the eastern seaboard of the United States, anyway. For a photojournalist that means photographs of people (preferably kids) getting wet.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It can't be denied, he tried.

Trenton Thunder ss Luis Nunez makes a diving attempt but can't reach a ball hit in the 2nd inning of the Thunder's game vs the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Isyou featuring Sharon Kenny

What was billed as "an amazing night of local artists that have no singers. A night of pure instrumentals" at The Mill Hill Saloon in Trenton, New Jersey, got even better, when Sharon Kenny joined Isyou for some of their set, including a wonderful rendition of a song written by David Bowie and made famous in 1972 by Mott The Hoople, "All the Young Dudes".

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Members of various Christian churches spent a weekend at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on West State Street in Trenton, New Jersey participating in an event called Revive! , a weekend of worship and proclamation in support of immigration and incarceration reform. On Sunday, the last day, they didn't rest, they took to the streets, stopping for prayer and reflection at four neighborhood locations. Michael Mancuso/The Times

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Music at Grounds For Sculpture

I stopped by the one and only Grounds For Sculpture located in Hamilton Township, New Jersey to see the one and only D.J. Haslett, left accompanied by Autin Wright in a musical performance. D.J. is retired from a career in corporate life and now works at GFS and is an artist and musician as is Autin.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Smoke and the Water

By the time I got to this house fire in Trenton, the flames had been put out, but there was still plenty of smoke and water, and heat. For these working firefighters, the weather report could have read, temperature, 76, feels like 120!