Great Conversations at Morris Arts: Yogi on dating; a singing newsman

Peter Elias and Lindsay Berra of MLB.com at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Peter Elias and Lindsay Berra of MLB.com at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Everyone knows it ain’t over till it’s over. And for goodness sake, when you see a fork in the road, take it.

But what was Yogi Berra’s dating advice?

Turns out the late Hall of Fame catcher had some thoughts on that subject, too, according to his granddaughter, Lindsay Berra, one of the guest speakers at last week’s Great Conversations, the annual fundraising gala for Morris Arts.

Yogi had seen a magazine article by Lindsay about a handsome tennis star, and he suggested she should date him. Lindsay said she reminded her grandpa that this guy was used to dating swimsuit models.

“You got swimsuits,” Yogi shot back.

Lindsay, a national correspondent for MLB.com and trustee of the Yogi Berra Museum at Montclair State University, was among 30 guest speakers at Thursday’s $250-per-plate dinner.

Personalities from sports, science, business and the arts each had their own table, for conversing with clusters of patrons who chose that table.

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin

Peter Elias and Lindsay Berra of MLB.com at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Phil Alongi, executive producer at NJTV News, makes introduction at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Guest speaker Guy Adami waves at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Nearly 300 people attended Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Frank Vitolo and Nick Racioppi of Riker Danzig, Sandie Sherman of Sherman Wells, Ashley Higginson of Riker, and Alan Levitan of Morris Arts at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
A table erupts as it's introduced at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morris Arts Executive Director Tom Werder at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Martin Testai, Gina Moran, author Michael Rockland and Martin Prentice at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Robert Wanthouse, Dawn Stewart Harris, Arlene Vital and Peter Gordon at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Kerry and Chris Mowry flank John Weber at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
John Braemer, Amy Lehrer and Kristin Ace at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Gina Moran and Kaity DeLaura of Morris Arts at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dr. Lynn Siebert and Gina Moran of Morris Arts with author Michael Aaron Rockland at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Tom McMillian, president of Morris Arts, addresses Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival promoters Don Jay and Linda Smith with Josh Rockland at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
THE KIDDIE TABLE: Christy Ward, Tom Werder and Tara Skirzenski at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Madeleine Goldfarb and Dawn Stewart Harris at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
France Delle Donne, Lesley Draper and Madeleine Goldfarb listen to speaker at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
NJTV Executive Producer Phil Alongi speaks at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Artists Dan Fenelon and Sassona Norton listen. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Lindsay Berra predicted success for Derek Jeter if the retired Yankees captain succeeds in leading a consortium to buy the Florida Marlins.

“Derek obviously is a winner, and will surround himself with the right people,” she said. “I think he’s pretty even-tempered.

That went for Yogi, too, who won 13 championships as a player and coach.

Lindsay said there were no shades of grey for her grandfather, who died in 2015 at age 90.

“For him, everything was black and white,” she said of the Yankees and Mets legend. 

Before becoming a sports journalist, Lindsay was a pretty fair athlete herself. She captained the boys hockey team at Livingston High School, and played varsity softball at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She remains an avid cyclist and hiker.

Yogi gave her a practical sports tip: Don’t waste energy fuming over defeats.

Phil Alongi, executive producer at NJTV News, makes introduction at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Phil Alongi, executive producer at NJTV News, makes introduction at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“Grandpa always said, ‘If you lose, it’s because you didn’t play well enough to win. You might as well get over it,'” Lindsay recounted.

Another  Great Conversations speaker is trying not to obsess about a possible loss of federal funding.

At least NJTV News Executive Producer Phil Alongi has a fallback plan. He is a tenor who sings in professional opera productions across the country.

“I used to sing in a band called Phillips Head,” Alongi explained. But he tired of shouting over noisy bar crowds at 2 am.  Someone liked his strong voice and suggested opera.

He took some lessons, enjoyed himself (“you get to sing loud!”), and landed at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers. Now, he can belt out arias in multiple languages.

Which would seem to offer intriguing possibilities for NJTV’s next on-air pledge drive…

‘IT SUCKED ME IN’

Federal cutbacks also were on the minds of Morris Arts supporters who packed the Madison Hotel ballroom on Thursday. Year nine of Great Conversations was anticipated to net a record $170,000 for the Morristown-based art nonprofit.

That’s an especially big deal as President Trump is pushing Congress to eliminate funding for the arts, event Co-Chair Tara Skirzenski told the audience.

Skirzenski and Morris Arts Development Director Gina Moran work year-round to make Great Conversations a success, Morris Arts Executive Director Tom Werder said.

“It’s the best part of my job,” Moran said as the evening wound down.

Marcia Hunter, a retired development director for the Mayo Performing Arts Center, took her brother and sister-in-law to the gala.

“I think it’s important to support the arts. And it’s a nice concept,” said Hunter, whose table speaker was David R. Jones, a retired assistant managing editor of the New York Times.

Ashley Higginson, an attorney with Riker Danzig, sat at the table of guest speaker Anthony R. Slimowicz, executive vice president of the Crum & Forster Insurance Co.

Frank Vitolo and Nick Racioppi of Riker Danzig, Sandie Sherman of Sherman Wells, Ashley Higginson of Riker, and Alan Levitan of Morris Arts at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Frank Vitolo and Nick Racioppi of Riker Danzig, Sandie Sherman of Sherman Wells, Ashley Higginson of Riker, and Alan Levitan of Morris Arts at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

She praised him for creating “a comfortable space for people to share, laugh, speak openly and honestly and just enjoy one another’s company.”

Higginson added that it’s “rare to feel amongst strangers that you have made a lot of new friends in one evening, and Morris Arts cultivated a beautiful group of people from this community.

“It sucked me in, and I want to find a million ways to get involved in Morristown and Morris County now! I look forward to going back.”

Guest speaker Guy Adami waves at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Guest speaker Guy Adami waves at Great Conversations, April 27, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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