The Top Ten References to Westchester in Pop Culture: 2008 Edition
No blogger worth her bandwith end the year without some kind of superlative year-end list. So, from biggest stretch to best bet, I present to you the most excellent references to Westchester in popular culture this year.
10. Will Shortz’s Simpsonization.
Fine, he never specifically says he’s from Westchester—but bloggers are allowed to fudge a little to round out their top tens. And who wouldn’t jump at the chance to compliment someone on their performance on The Simpsons? Pleasantville’s Will Shortz did an excellent job of wrangling the cruciverbalists of Springfield—and he looked fetching in yellow.
9. Grand Theft Auto’s Cutting-Room Floor
Sometimes, the references don’t actually make it into the final product. When the newest installment of the Grand Theft Auto series debuted this year, everyone raved about the insane attention to detail in the in-game world. Well, that world almost included us! Dan Houser, Vice President of Rockstar Games, told New York: “We went from maybe doing the whole of New York State. And then it was just Manhattan, then it expanded out again and was going to be a bunch of suburbs, maybe like Westchester or out to Long Island with woods so you could go bury people.” Man, I would’ve loved to see a virtual body-burying in one of our neighborhoods. Where do you think they would’ve done it? My guess: the Sound Shore. That’s where that torso washed up on the beach that time.
8. Yonkers Joe’s Awesome Movie Title
Look, the reference is right there in the title! What does it mean? I’m not sure—the movie has only screened at festivals so far. It has something to do with a con man. But it’s on the release schedule for January, maybe we can figure out the details soon. (Perhaps the movie will end up on this list again next year.) Bonus Westchester references: real-life Westchester resident Chazz Palminteri plays the titular Joe and the Olde Stone Mill’s Dean Marrazzo is also listed in the credits.
7. Big Boi’s Confession
I received an unexpected e-mail one night from a friend who knows it’s my business to collect these kinds of references: “Tonight, on Law & Order: SVU, Big Boi from Outkast just confessed, ‘I’m just a black guy from Westchester.'” Apparently, in the episode “Wildlife,” the hip-hop star played a rapper named “Gots Money” who talks a big game and has a suspicious pet tiger. Then, after his emotional confession that he’s from our county and not really from the streets—violent spoiler alert—the tiger-smuggler gets angry that he blabbed and feeds him to hyenas. I’m not even kidding. That’s what happens when you deny your Westchester roots.
6. Our Chefs’ Close-Ups
We know we have great food in the county, and it looks like the Food Network is finally learning that, too. First up, White Plains resident Jeffrey K. Vaden was a contestant on The Next Food Network Star, where he showcased his upscale riff on soul food. Then, this October, Liv Hansen of the Riviera Bakehouse in Ardsley competed on Food Network Challenge, where she had to build a Halloween-themed gingerbread house. Yes, our chefs are movin’ on up—but, unfortunately, neither won. Maybe next time!
5. Jeanine Pirro’s Judicial Transformation
This year saw our one-time D.A. take the bench in a televised court show and, from the sounds of things, you guys still don’t care for her very much. But she still likes you! She’s always referencing her experience as our D.A. in her new show—which is filmed in Chicago, so it’s not certain that her plaintiffs and defendants have any idea who she is. “I was a D.A. for thirty years,” she says in the show’s pilot. “I ran an office in a major metropolitan area.” She neglects to mention what that major metropolitan area thinks of her, though.
4. How I Met Your Mother’s Veiled References
How I Met Your Mother has been described to me as “Friends…if Friends actually knew anything about New York and its geography.” It’s true. The show’s creators know the area, and are always making insider references to famous New York institutions. Occasionally, these make their way up to Westchester. (For example, recently the character Barney mentions the girlfriend he has in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.) My personal favorite is a certain old-timey amusement park they occasionally talk about: Tuckahoe Funland. Hmm, what could that be? Unfortunately, their amusement park doesn’t have better luck than ours, as one episode found a newspaper with headlines that read “Funland Safety Scandal,” and “Three Die at Funland.”
3. Vicky Christina Barcelona’s Real-Estate Concerns
In Woody Allen’s most-recent film, poor Vicky (played by the beautiful Rebecca Hall) is in a conundrum. She has a wonderful, dependable—if somewhat bland—fiancé (Doug, played by Chris Messina), but she can’t help but be attracted to the wild-card, loose-cannon artist (Juan Antonio, Javier Bardem, minus the silly No Country For Old Men haircut). How does Allen highlight Doug’s bland, uninteresting nature? By having him drone on about Westchester real estate. “I’m leaning towards Bedford Hills,” he says. Who wouldn’t love a man with such passion?
2. Mad Men‘s Mad World
I know, I know. Mad Men is supposed to be the best show on television. But, I confess, I’ve never seen an episode. Maybe that’s why it took me so long to learn that the dapper Don Draper is actually a Westchesterite. The Draper family lives in Ossining. Maybe the homestead is an homage to the landmarked John William Draper House in Hastings-on-Hudson?
1. Wall-E’s Shout-Out
Wall-E is certainly one of the best films of 2008, in part because a little, sweet hunk o’ metal deals with some pretty large problems—namely it’s his job to clean up Earth after it’s been trashed by conspicuous consumers. And yet he does so cheerily, as if he’s a character from a movie musical like, say, Hello Dolly! In the opening moments of the sequence, the filmmakers set up this entire dynamic quickly and beautifully, by juxtaposing a garbage-choked solar system with music from the aforementioned musical. The lyrics: “There’s a world outside of Yonkers!”