By Alex Mitsiopoulos |
The line outside Atlantic Cinemas reached six storefronts away, as fans, both young and old, eagerly waited to hear Highlands native Kevin Smith speak at his sold-out Q&A event on Sunday.
Smith, an acclaimed writer and director, flew in from Los Angeles, where he currently resides, specifically for this event. He currently operates his podcast network, SModcast, which has six different Smith-hosted shows, including “Fatman on Batman” and “Hollywood Babble-On.”
To go along with the wide array of podcasts, Smith also produces AMC’s “Comic Book Men,” now in its seventh season, which is filmed at his comic book store, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, located in Red Bank.
Though his slate is full, Smith jumped at the opportunity to reminisce about his childhood hometown and raise money for the Atlantic Highlands Arts Council’s “FilmOneFest,” a festival that showcases both local and international films that are under 2 minutes in length, which will be held in the Atlantic Highlands Marina on July 15.
“I loved it. I wish I didn’t have to leave, they made me leave,” said Smith answering a question about his time at Henry Hudson Regional High School in Highlands.
Smith enjoyed his formative years at the school so much that he basically only listens to music from that era, due to the fond memories it evokes. Henry Hudson Regional was the place where Smith formed lifelong friendships, and where Smith realized he wanted to be a director.
This sentiment was explained through a story about his daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, who graduated from high school just the day before the Q&A event.
Smith talked about how, after the graduation ceremony, he had a conversation with his daughter about how she was feeling. She explained how she was going to miss being in high school, but she was ready for her future as an actress.
She spent time alone sitting in her school theater, the black box, after the ceremony had ended, reminiscing about her time performing on the stage, he said.
Smith described that he was in tears after hearing his daughter’s words, as he himself shares a similar affinity for the cafetorium at Henry Hudson.
“Being on that stage made me go, ‘this is what I want to do, I want to make pretend for a living,’” said Smith.
Obviously, Smith achieved his goal and successfully “makes pretend,” for a living, but that is not to say he has forgotten his roots. Last year while filming “Comic Book Men,” Smith, who had been inducted into the Henry Hudson Regional Hall of Fame, wanted to make an episode where his friends – Jason Mewes, Walter Flanagan and Bryan Johnson – also get inducted.
Unfortunately, the episode did not pan out due to Henry Hudson Regional wanting say over the final cut of the show, which the network did not agree to. But Smith still remains hopeful of the idea and will pursue it in “Comic Book Men’s” upcoming season.
While Smith spent a great deal of time speaking about his relationship with Highlands, and his former high school, he also spoke about where he likes to go when he finally gets back to New Jersey.
“Inkwell chicken salad, on a pita, toasted. My whole life I’ve been looking the world over for that chicken salad. Most people make it wrong, they don’t make it like The Inkwell,” said Smith, referring to the Long Branch restaurant that is his favorite place to eat while he is home. “It is the highest bar by which all chicken salad is measured.”
The Inkwell has been a hub for teenagers of Monmouth County for years. The food is known to be inexpensive and the coffee great, and they are open until 3 a.m. on weekends, making it a staple among locals.
Besides eating at The Inkwell, Smith spends most of his time in New Jersey at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, or the set where they film “Comic Book Men” which is supposed to be in the basement of “the stash.” For the past three seasons it has been a block from the store, said Smith.
“Comic Book Men” is held in high regard by fans and critics alike, and so, before the Q&A had started, the audience was surprised by a silent auction which offered the grand prize winner a chance to be in an episode of the show, or have a small background role in Smith’s next feature film.
The winner of the prize, Arunendra Banerjee, of Holmdel, won with a $2,000 bid, and will be accompanying Smith on set with a friend of his choosing.
Banerjee was elated to win, and the crowd was completely engaged throughout the event, howling with laughter at every inappropriate joke. It is safe to say that, though Smith now lives in L.A., he is still treated like an old friend in his real home, the Garden State.
This article was first published in the May 25-June 1, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times
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