Dear Mr Fry,
I’ve been a fan of your comedy for years. When I saw on The Late Late Show that you had a (relatively) new book called Stephen Fry in America, I was thrilled that you were presumably getting some attention Stateside. I immediately rushed out to get your book.
I have now read all of the first section (New England and the East Coast) and some of the second section (South East and Florida). And while I intend to write a full post about your book (which is very amusing), I think you owe my great state of New Jersey a big whopping apology.
I admit that in the introduction, you say that we may not enjoy everything you say about a state, or that you probably didn’t visit our town or some other way of saying that we shouldn’t be cross about what you write. And I was prepared for that. But, of all the states I’ve read so far, New Jersey is the only one that you had NOTHING good to say about it. You called it a hell and couldn’t wait to leave. But worse than that, the only place you talk about in New Jersey is Atlantic City as if that gambling meccas was somehow indicative of the entire state.
Everyone knows that Atlantic City is disgusting and horrifying. But the reason for it has nothing to with New Jersey itself. The reason is twofold: gambling and Donald Trump. And the rest of our fine state has no gambling (aside from the lottery, but who doesn’t) and we aren’t owned by Donald Trump.
If you were to base your assessment of any state by their gambling facilities, you’d reach the same conclusion: Look at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Would you feel comfortable connecting their whole state to the environs around a Native American Casino? Or, better yet, go to any Keno store in the city of Boston. You want depressing… old people smoking, drinking coffee and watching a TV screen drop numbers all day. But would you base your assessment of Massachusetts on that? Of course not.
Atlantic City is as representative of New Jersey as Las Vegas is of America. Of course your trip there is going to be hell. All casinos are depressing. Why on earth would you go lobster fishing, coal mining, hunting and yachting in the Eastern States and then come to New Jersey to go to a casino? Who planned that itinerary.
You also give short shrift to our factories. True they’re not pretty, but as the sign notes: Trenton makes, the World Takes. Without the factories, woe betide the rest of the world.
But yes, so given your itinerary, you went to Manhattan, drove down the eastern seaboard (probably the Turnpike) and got to the dreaded A.C. (all on an overcast day). And now everyone in England is laboring under the misapprehension that New Jersey is a belching armpit.
But did you go to any other place in our fair state? I see that in many of the smallest states you visited several locations. New Jersey is fairly small, you can get from left to right in a couple of hours, why didn’t you visit Princeton? Why didn’t you come out to Western NJ where I live? You could have seen highland cattle, you could have taken the very same hot air balloon rode you took in North Carolina (and landed in a park a block from my house). You could have seen any of the historic houses in our county.
Or why didn’t you visit the proper Jersey Shore? True, late October isn’t the best time to go to the beach, (but it’s not our fault that you showed up then); yet had you visited our beaches, seen pelicans diving in the water, watched sand crabs scuttle under the sand as the tide pulls back or even had some salt water taffy (a delicacy invented in, yes Atlantic City), your tone could not help but be different.
New Jersey is often the butt of jokes. And yes, we can take it. And, sure it’s not your responsibility to make us look good. But as an ambassador to our fair state, how can you possibly find nothing nice to say about us. (And then when talking about a later state, dig the knife further by comparing Trump Tower to the Kentucky Derby). It’s not our fault that Donald Trump is rich and lives close.
So Mr Fry, I implore you: come back to New Jersey. Come in the summertime, or even in the winter, when the snow makes us beautiful: Visit Cape May; High Point State Park, Lambertville, (as gay friendly a place as you’ll find..and with a great brewery to boot), Long Beach Island, or even just go to a diner and chat.
I didn’t need you to say New Jersey was your favorite place. And I don’t want to bash other states because I have traveled to a lot of this country and have great fondness for ever so many places, but you really took the wind out of my sails with this bitter pill (and made me mix metaphors like crazy).
Oh and if you do come back, please bring the taxi and head out to Western Central Jersey. We’d love to see it.
And no hard feelings.