The Top 10 Pop-Culture References to Westchester in 2007

So, this is it. My last blog post of 2007. Season’s greetings, Happy Festivus, auld lang syne, and all that rot.

No self-respecting blogger would let herself end the year without some sort of ginormous top-10 list. It’s in the unwritten, unspoken, possibly made-up-in-my-own-head blogger’s code. So, without further ado (and in reverse order to ratchet up the tension), I give you:

The Top Ten Pop-Culture References to Westchester in 2007

#10. The Clique‘s Capers
This year saw publication of two novels in the “Clique” series of young-adult books by Lisi Harrison: It’s Not Easy Being Mean and Sealed with a Diss. In the series, all the backstabbing, gossip-mongering, and other forms of rich-bitchery take place within the borders of the county. Think of it as a pre-teen Gossip Girl, only moved from the Upper East Side to Upper Westchester. According to the series website, “The Clique tells the story of an elite group of socially precocious thirteen-year-old girls from the wealthy suburbs north of New York City, the likes of whom the world has never before seen.” Chances are, Lisi, we have seen teens like these. They hang out at The Westchester. I will give this to The Clique, though: the characters do have good taste. How do I know? On the very first page of the very first book, one family patriarch is flipping through a copy of Westchester Magazine.

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#9. The Olde Stone Mill’s Kitchen Nightmare
You know you’ve arrived as a county when celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay shows up to yell at someone. In this case, the guy at the business end to all that shouting was Old Stone Mill owner Dean Marrazzo, but the “Best Cameo” award goes to Yonkers mayor Phil Amicone, who gets the VIP treatment from the restaurant throughout the episode. Does Amicone have an
Ed Koch-like showbiz career ahead of him? I sense the “It” factor. Book him on Saturday Night Live

#8. The Office‘s Auxiliary Branches
This October, the scrappy town of Scranton, Pennsylvania got to experience all of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood as The Office held its first-ever convention. Fans of the employees at the fictional Dunder Mifflin corporation (called Dunderheads) got to meet their favorite writers and stars who, in turn, got to actually see the places they’d been writing and talking about for the past year. It sounded like an all-out lovefest, and Westchester should get in on the action. And there’s hope! According to the
Dunder Mifflin website, where else have the DM head honchos placed a regional office? Right here in Yonkers. Yes, Yonkers joins the ranks of other fabulous metropolises like Akron, OH, Camden, NJ, and Albany, Utica, and Buffalo, NY, as a hub for the ailing paper chain. (Sorry, Fairfield: The Stamford branch was downsized.) Can you say satellite conventions?

#7. Mount Vernon’s Rise to Fame
Quietly, Mount Vernon is becoming the reality-show capital of the world. The ‘Vern’s Chris Jobin led the way last year, getting cast in an episode of 30 Days, where he got to chill in India for a month with the outsourcees that put him out of a job a few years before. This past summer, MV MVP Sam Friedlander got a taste of glory in Steven Spielberg’s On the Lot, coming in fourth among the cast of aspiring directors. It’s a shame no one in the world watched On the Lot—probably not even Steven Spielberg. (It’s okay, Spielberg, I’d rather watch A.I. again, too.) But it was Asia Nitollano who brought the top prize home to Mount Vernon, winning The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll. Dontcha wish you were all hot like Mount Vernon? Now, with the writers’ strike—which seems to be around for the long haul—affecting all TV except reality shows, Mount Vernon should just open its own studio, and keep local casting directors on call.

#6. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery’s Close Up
Westchester real estate has always been big news. But usually the headlines are reserved for the real estate of, well, the living. So when two larger-than-life New York personalities—socialite/philanthropist Brooke Astor and real-estate mogul Leona Helmsley—both wound up interred at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, it was an odd bunch of headlines for the county real estate. And why? With quiet neighbors, Hudson River views, and the mess that the rest of the market is in, getting a plot in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is probably the easiest and least risky real-estate investment to make right now.

#5. Big Shots‘s Loaded Question
In the series premiere of Big Shots, ABC’s short-lived male response to Sex and the City, a shady character saunters over to Duncan Collinsworth (Dylan McDermott) and asks a question obviously full of subtext: “Have you ‘been to Yonkers’ recently?” It turns out, that was shorthand for: “I saw you pick up a transvestite prostitute and get it on in a Yonkers gas station bathroom, and now I’m blackmailing you.” To me, this is the ultimate example of Hollywood outsiders writing about Westchester without fully understanding it. Everyone here knows that the Westchester sex trade is further north, as the Greenburgh and Bedford dominatrix cases demonstrate.

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#4. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead‘s Pivotal Location
Director Sidney Lumet is known for gritty crime dramas like Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon. So, for his most recent film, he took his story to the mean streets of…Westchester? It’s true. When the film’s protagonists, brothers Andy and Hank (played by tours-de-force Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke), decide to rob a mom-and-pop operation, they mean their mom-and-pop’s operation: a boutique jewelry store in Westchester. Of course, things go horribly wrong, which will make for an awkward family Christmas card, I suppose. Unfortunately, the store is in a shopping center that doesn’t look like any Westchester strip mall I’ve ever seen, but IMDb says the crew filmed some hospital scenes at Agnes Hospital in White Plains, so we are represented in some small way.

#3. Peter Kelly’s Iron Chef Victory
We love it when there are references to Westchester on television. We love it even more when those references underscore our natural superiority at everything. So when Peter Kelly, homegrown Yonkers boy and now Yonkers restaurateur, bested grill guru Bobby Flay in the kitschy Kitchen Stadium of Iron Chef, the victory really was something to write home about. Kelly had to woo Queer Eye‘s Ted Allen, Karine Bakhoum of KB Network News, and Isaac Mizrahi for the win—but his real triumph in 2007 was
winning over our own tough-cookie critic Julia Sexton.

#2. Michael Clayton’s Detour
When we first meet Michael Clayton, a powerful law firms in-house “fixer”—which I believe is the legal term for the guy who goes around breaking the law on behalf of the firm, which totally doesn’t count—he’s summoned to our fair county to clear up a little matter of a hit-and-run conducted by a Westchesterite. (Ouch, Michael Clayton, that hurts. It’s really the New York City drivers who don’t know how to handle the skinny, twisty curves on the Saw Mill.) Once Clayton gets here, he does what every city-to-suburb reverse-tourist does, and pulls his car over to the side of the road to stare, slack-jawed, at some horses. (Sheltered Manhattanites.) This actually turns into a major plot point, which shows it pays to slow down and gawk at our bucolic scenery.

#1. Werewolf Bar Mitzvah’s Venue
It started as a six-second throwaway joke on 30 Rock. Popular character Tracy Jordan (played by the inimitable Tracy Morgan) made a passing reference to his novelty party song, and the show cut to a cheapo
“Thriller”-like video set which featured Jordan singing just a few now-immortal words: “Werewolf bar mitzvah: spooky, scary. It’s boys becoming men, men becoming wolves.” The video clip—which is really more hilarious than you could ever picture in your head—went viral, which prompted NBC to create a full-length version of the song, chock full of werewolf/Jewish tradition crossover jokes. So when it came time to celebrate the lupine milestone of manhood, where was the reception held? None other than the Larchmont Country Club (fictional), which, according to the song, “served a real nice brisket and an eight-foot party sub.” We hope the folks over at Bonnie Briar aren’t too jealous.

See you all in 2008!

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Have a better pop-culture reference to Westchester? Then I’m surprised, because I really wracked my brain for these. Let me know at

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