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Turning A Curse Into A Blessing

By Gary Wien

Sometimes karma can play strange games with us. Nik Everett, a Delaware-based singer-songwriter was attending his cousin's funeral when he met Christina Eliopoulos, a filmmaker working on a documentary about Asbury Park. As it turns out, Nik's cousin who loved Asbury Park was one of the early supporters of the film The two struck up a conversation and the next thing you know, he's back in Asbury Park and playing a significant role in creating the soundtrack for Christina's film, "Greetings From Asbury Park".

"We turned a curse into a blessing," said Nik Everett. "Christina called me up and said let's see if we fit and if you can work with George (Vahamonde). So, I came to Asbury Park and one thing led to another."

Nik was no stranger to Asbury Park. In fact, he had been coming to the town throughout his life. Asbury Park was his father's hometown and the family had many relatives live along the Jersey Shore between Point Pleasant and Deal.

As with many documentary films, "Greetings From Asbury Park" took several years to complete and faced an uphill battle to raise the funds needed for completion. Since shooting first began in 2001, the film went through several incarnations, but the theme about eminent domain abuse remained to the end. The film tells the story of Angie Hampilos, her 91-year-old aunt who came to Asbury Park from Greece, as she learns that her home of over 50 years is to be taken away from her through eminent domain to make way for luxury condominiums.

"I took an emotional stake in this film because my dad's side of the family came here from Greece and started a life here," explained Everett. "They worked on that boardwalk and I can relate to Aunt Angie, the primary character in the film In addition, St. Georgie's Church is our family's Church. So, there are people in the film and even some relatives who are no longer with us who were in the film This project was definitely more than ‘hey, you're hired for the film'"

"I'm proud of the film," he continued. "It became a different film as we went along. It was a longer film and now it's been edited down. You always have to leave some good stuff on the cutting room floor, but it tells the story well. It's not a happy film Emminent domain is a national problem. Government is the problem and private interest is also a problem."

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The theme of eminent domain became a universal one throughout the country in 2005 (while the film was still being shot) when the Supreme Court ruled that cities may use eminent domain solely based on a projected increase in tax revenue in the Kelo vs. City of New London decision.

Nik Everett worked with George Vahamonde for the film's soundtrack, "A Short Walk Home". Several of Everett's songs appear in the film in both vocal and instrumental versions. The film also utilized such material as a jingle written about Asbury Park by Jeff Saxon in the early ‘80s, a couple of old-time songs -- "Wear A Boardwalk Smile" and "On The Boardwalk in Asbury Park -- that were composed from the sheet music. Bruce Springsteen even lent use of his song, "Tunnel of Love" for the film, a big coup for any documentary.

The film spent some time on the film festival circuit (highlighted by winning the top prize for Best Documentary at the New Jersey International film Festival and an Honorable Mention at the Columbus International film and Video Festival) before reaching the big-time for a documentary this year -- multiple showings on PBS stations across the country.

Nik Everett performed at the initial PBS screening party held in May at Mattison Park in Asbury Park. After a brief scare when the show began airing without the sound on, the screening went fine and eased the nerves of everyone involved. The film has since gone on to have several screenings on PBS stations throughout the tri-state area.

"Being on PBS is very cool," said Everett. "It's very exciting. After you've been so close to it for so long… to finally get a chance and some space to get away and then turn on the television and see it. It's a very cool thing."

In fact, since becoming involved in the "Greetings From Asbury Park" film, Everett has added Asbury Park to his list of regular places to perform. He started out as a last-minute addition to the "Save the Wonder Bar" benefit and has since gone on to become a regular at the Twisted Tree Café.

"Asbury Park is like the American version of Liverpool," said Everett. "It's always a pleasure to just drive here, but I'm hoping I can make this a second home."

His main stomping ground includes clubs in the Philadelphia area like the Tin Angel and World Cafe. Other regular venues for Everett include the Kennett Flash in Kenneth Square and Puck in Doylestown. In March 2009, he took part in the Robert Hazard Tribute in Cape May and opened the 2009 Southern Shore Music Festival in June (formerly known as the Bridgeton Folk Festival) sharing the same stage as artists like Arlo Guthrie, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Hoots & Hellmouth, Bonerama, and Highway 61.

After 20 years of recording, Everett says he's interested in creating an anthology or greatest hits disc to show his progress as a songwriter. It's definitely a good time to take a look back, but his plans for the future should keep him busy for quite a while. He wants to make another record, expand the number of band shows he plays, and hopefully work on another film There's even talk about a possible side project involving some musicians that played together at the Robert Hazard tribute.

Sometimes it's funny how a chance meeting at a funeral can change someone's life forever. In Nik's case, it not only gave him a great opportunity to expand his music, but, in a way, helped bring him home.

You can find out more information about Nik Everett at http://www.nikeverett.com For more information on the film go to http://www.greetingsfromasburyparkmovie.com

Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at gary@newjerseystage.com.

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originally published: 08/10/2009



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