Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo: The Real Life Romeo & Juliet

The 1980s were defined by a rock-and-roll voice so profound, so powerful, that women today still define love as a battlefield. Lindenhurst [Long Island] native and four-time Grammy Award winner, Pat Benatar’s songs of female empowerment, both tragic and hopeful, have transcended decades. Benatar and her husband and guitarist, Neil Giraldo, aka “Spyder,” have a real-life Romeo and Juliet story, but with a not-so-tragic ending.

Over the summer, together, in conjunction with Guild Hall, Jamie Cesa, and Bel Chiasso Entertainment, they presented a free concert and staged readings of “The Romeo & Juliet Project” at Bay Street Theater’s “Under The Stars” at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor.

The concert, which debuted for the first time, had the crowed all fired up with its modern-day twist on a classic; Old English is outlawed, the Capulet’s grand party is at a warehouse, there’s a budding homosexual romance, the list goes on. Attendees were left enthusiastically wondering, ‘will it end up on Broadway?’.

Prior to the concerts debut, I caught up with Pat Benatar herself.

What was your reaction the first time you came across ‘Romeo & Juliet’?

The first time I read it was in seventh grade and I fell totally, and madly in love. I was a romantic fool. It was perfect. It was everything I loved — the historical fiction, the romance, and the entire life. I was 13. It fit right into my lexicon of the universe at that time.

How did all of this come together?

About four years ago, Spyder and I met with Jamie Cesa, the producer of the show. We met with him with the idea of doing a biographical musical, a jukebox musical. We were working on that for a couple of years, getting our writers and false starts, meanwhile continuing to do performances. In the first two years, Bradley Bredeweg was producing a small version of a musical called “Romeo & Juliet: Love Is A Battlefield.” You obviously can’t have two performances going on at once, so we sent people down in Los Angeles to check it out and they said it was really good. I said, “Oh shit.”

So, we shut the production down. We had to. He didn’t have the rights to the music anyway; it can only go so far. Then he was at a benefit and came up and introduced himself. Then, Spyder and I decided we didn’t want to do another biographical musical. So, we called Bradley. What he had done was so brilliant, it was amazing. The songs that are being played are done in the form they were written in but it wasn’t the form we wanted. Then, we all got together, us, Jamie, and Bradley, and we came up with what we have now. A reimagined story of “Romeo & Juliet,” the original in some places with a detour into things more relevant for right now.

What is the music like in the show?

A hybrid. It’s our music reimagined as a musical theater number. It’s remarkable how the lyric content fits in the story.

Out of all plays to emulate, why ‘Romeo & Juliet’?

Everyone has always called us the Romeo and Juliet of rock and roll because they’ve thrown everything at us on Earth — trying to split us up, all of this horrible stuff that people do — and we’ve managed to survive it. It has relevance for us. We’ve been married for 37 years and have been together for 40. You know, I’d love to say that this has been a picnic, but it has not.

How did you and Neil Giraldo meet?

I signed to Chrysalis Records and the company put together a group of studio musicians. We were putting things together and doing demos with wonderful studio musicians. It just wasn’t raunchy enough. It wasn’t rock enough. I mean, it sounded beautiful, but it wasn’t what I meant. I met with Mike Chapman a few times and I told him what I was trying to do, so he said he had a guy. So, Spyder came down the day I was doing auditions for the other band members and just came so we’d meet. He was already too accomplished to audition. He came in with everybody else. I didn’t know he was there. Someone told me Neil Giraldo was there, but I didn’t turn back.

Then, I heard someone behind me say, “Hey, man, can I borrow your axe?” And I thought, oh my gosh, he didn’t even bring his guitar? I was ready to turn around and skewer him. Then I saw him and that was the end of that. My brain literally shut down, the rest of my body lit up on fire. I tried to compose myself, like “What the hell are you doing?” I was madly in love with him. I composed myself, shook his hand, and he got on stage to play the most unbelievable guitar chord I have ever heard. I wouldn’t have worked with him if he hadn’t been the right guy, the right guitar player, but he was exactly what I was looking for.

Was the first song about you two?

“Promises In The Dark.” We were dying to be together. I was still married; he was in a relationship. So, we were not together. We made that whole record with all of that emotional, physical tension going on. We were trying to figure out how to start the relationship, because they don’t make it. We were crazy about each other but didn’t want to blow the career. It was a hard to decision to make. We took it really slowly, and the first song we actually wrote about the relationship was “Promises In The Dark.” It’s our signature thing.

How does this rock ‘n’ roll journey differ from others?

We’ve had a really amazing life. It hasn’t been perfect, there have been lots of struggles, but we came out on the other side. We have two daughters, two grandchildren. We’re so grateful. To be able to circle all the way around, go back to my Long Island roots, and be able to start this whole other adventure, where music that has been so critical and important to your life is now being put into another format. It’s amazing. I’ve never heard the songs sung by anyone but me. To hear them all singing these words that we wrote, we played, that have never been sung by another person, is spectacular.

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper on August 13, 2019, prior to the concerts debut. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here

Planting A Future

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here


Imagine planting an idea. Dig deep, lay the foundation, and watch as it takes form. With enough practice, patience, and knowledge, that single idea can grow over a lifetime into a movement. It can change a person’s way of living.

That is the goal behind the annual fundraiser, “A Moveable Feast,” held at Dodds & Eder Landscape Design Showroom in Sag Harbor. The benefit raises money for local school gardens, held by Slow Food East End with the Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation in partnership with Edible School Gardens Group.

“Gardens are a gateway to learning, discovery, health, and much more. They increase self-esteem, concentration, and observation skills. Children develop more of a sense of ownership and learn to foster more relationships with family and the community,” said Justine Oudeans, the science coordinator at East Quogue Elementary School.

The Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation was initiated by Myron and Susan Levine after losing their son, Joshua, to a tragic farming accident. Together with SFEE, they are dedicated to furthering education on healthy eating and sustainable environmental practices.

In the 2017-2018 year, Oudeans initiated the Earth Rangers program, a kids’ conservation organization, at the school, and is furthering her education through the Cornell Cooperative Extension program. “All schools should implement a garden program, because it gets children outside learning and off of their screens. Gardening increases responsibility and also fosters imaginative play and creativity. And most of all, it’s fun, and every kid loves to get digging in the dirt,” she added.

Roxanne Zimmer, a third-year master farmer, collaborates with students in pre-K through high school to launch and sustain these gardens. “Thanks to the financial support of Slow Food East End and the Joshua Levine Foundation, the 30-plus schools participating in the Edible School Garden Program receive mini-grants, visiting chefs, as well as the assistance of a master farmer,” she noted of the “outdoor blackboard” for learning. By placing the seeds in children’s hands, it allows youth to create a direct connection to the foods they consume, watching them root, sprout, and grow, Zimmer noted.

As a means to increase participation, schools are encouraging student recipe contests, incorporating the produce directly in their cafeterias and even piloting a multi-week “learn how to be a chef” curriculum. Slow Food is a non-profit and the East End chapter encompasses the North and South forks. These children, their teachers, chefs, and master farmers are all part of a network of over 100,000 members across 150 countries, and growing. Each member aims for good, clean, and fair food for all.

“By growing vegetables, fruit, and herbs in the school garden, all students learn how to source some of their own nutritious and delicious food. This is a critical lesson for our students who experience food insecurity, especially those receiving free or reduced meals. The seeds, like the children themselves, are full of promise,” Zimmer concluded.

Submerge in Sound

It was 9 AM on a Saturday, also known as my busiest day of the week. I was mentally clenched, preparing for all the event coverage ahead in the Hamptons and somehow lacking my routine cup of morning caffeine, before submerging in my first Sound Bath experience at Donna Karan’s Urban Zen studio in Sag Harbor. While I dabbled in tune forking, for a brief five-minute session, I laid down and welcomed what was ahead.

Partnered with Unplug Meditation for the summer, Los Angeles-based instructor Susy Schieffelin guided a roomful through this ancient healing practice for 30 peaceful minutes. Four bowls, each with a different sound, were IMG_4387used. Each took me further away from a chaotic state of mind and deeper into a lucid, dreamlike state of being.

The first was infused with Dead Sea salt and tuned in between the third eye and crown chakra, used to detoxify and clear my busy mind, releasing any blockages not serving me. The next was infused with Mother of Platinum and tuned into the heart chakra, aiming to connect with the divine feminine and unleash my power to create, as well as open the heart to self-love and compassion. The third bowl was infused with Egyptian Blue, also known as calcium copper silicate, to aid in unleashing the ancient wisdom of the Egyptians, a universal wisdom that requires tapping into what we already have access to. The last bowl was clear quartz crystal, tuning into the solar plexus, my power center, allowing me to take action and step into my truth.

The above might sound a bit hokey to those unfamiliar with the process, but the experiential effects were quite the contrary. Upon fully awakening from my sensory journey and resubmitting myself to the present moment, it felt as though I had just gotten a full eight hours of blissful sleep. The anxiety-ridden New Yorker in me was calm and refreshed, as though I had just taken a mental bath in purifying waters — in this case, frequency waves.

Schieffelin was once a chronic anxiety sufferer herself, where no amount of medication seemed to work. Like so many of us today, she suffered from stress of life happening to her, as though she was a passenger in the car of her own life. Of course, you’d never know it now, having been conducting these sessions full time for a year, off all meds and caffeine. “This has given me the ability to really heal,” she said. “I can respond rather than react.” Her energy was aligned with that of the room, calming, inspiring, and genuinely open to positivity.

Unlike some other meditations that require a certain level of practice to reap the benefits, Sound Baths only call for the ability to sit still. It’s recommended to bathe once a week for about an hour, more or less as you feel necessary, to feel the true effects in reduction of anxiety and stress.

Follow Susy Schieffelin at @thecoppervessel or download the Unplug Meditation app to listen to sound baths on your own time.


This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here


(This article first appeared in the December 13, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


Sag Harbor resident and educator, Kristen Dehler recently completed her five-week course initiative, Beginning Mindfulness for Kids, a program at The John Jermain Memorial Library. Through the help of two middle school volunteers, Lyra and Ava, 13 children from Sag Harbor ranging in ages from seven to 10 years old participated in a free course that aimed at practicing gratitude and creating an overall selfawareness.

What is Mindfulness for Kids?

Mindfulness is defined as a specific way of paying attention in the present moment, non judgmentally.

The practice at any age of bringing awareness to each moment is simple and profound. It involves learning how to create greater self-awareness in our lives. As an educator, bringing this practice to young children in my classroom was something I began years ago. As a mom, it continued with my own children. When I talked with Cathy Creedon and Jaime Mott over The John Jermain Memorial Library they were on board and supportive in offering these classes to children.


How did you create the program? What made you decide to involve particular exercises and lessons over others?

The first thing I absolutely wanted the kids to learn about and study was their brain; How mindfulness can help the thinking part of their brain process the raw emotion of the limbic system. Understanding what is happening in our brain and body when we’re stressed, in a challenging situation or when we’re neutral, calm, joyful is so important to regulating emotions and choices.  It’s an exciting time with neuroscience showing us brain changes in people who practice mindfulness.
For this series of classes, I chose practicing gratitude, mindful eating, breathing, seeing, and listening as mindfulness exercises. Through reading children’s books like Lemonade Hurricane and Peaceful Piggy Meditation and incorporating hands-on projects of glitter jars and mindful eating placemats, the kids could bring something tangible home each time as a meaningful reminder to practice the teachings.


Describe the progress from first class to the last class?

There was definitely a consciousness in launching this during a time of thanksgiving and the holiday season. Each class reinforced and built upon the one before it. In every class, we practiced an awareness of breathing because your breath is something that’s always with you. It’s why we use the breath to ground. For mindful eating, we did a raisin meditation and that’s always interesting because kids who are not fans of raisins will actually eat the raisin. Slowly. We looked closely at rocks and pine cones and followed sounds and chimes until they dissolved. We felt our feet and legs rooted to the ground by bringing awareness to different areas of the body.


In what specific ways, the most impactful ways, did you see a change?

I felt kids come into the room with a particular kind of energy, settle in, and sometimes leave in a different state. In the beginning, kids who found it challenging to sit still or to try closing their eyes, seemed to grow more comfortable with it. Other kids, some just seven years old, settled in right from the first class. That’s the beauty, the seed is already there. A teacher is there to help wake the seed, allowing it to sprout and grow.


Do you feel it should be longer than five sessions?

Some of the kids expressed that it “felt short,” and asked if we would have more. It’s a good start and if they’re practicing even one minute of stillness each day it’s better than no minutes of stillness. The hope is kids continue to experience these teachings through school and at home. I’d like to keep going with the classes because it takes practice to cultivate and embody this way of being.


Why is this important to children?

We tell kids to pay attention. We tell kids to calm down and focus. We don’t teach them how to do these things. We need to show them. Once a child is already upset is not the time to teach them these things.


Was there a lot of community feedback on the program?

There is a group of kids assembled for the next series at the library. People are curious. The library is a bustling place and after each class I had a few seconds of time to hear from a few parents that they were grateful for the class. That this was something so important. Most inquired about a class like this for adults. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who began The Mindfulness Based Stressed Reduction Clinic in 1979, has said this is not something that’s a luxury, it’s a radical act of kindness and sanity.


Being the first of its kind, will there be more sessions? If so, what ages and when will it begin?

Yes. I’m so thankful to our library for the opportunity to bring this to our kids. We are figuring out schedules and deadlines and how we can reach more of our kids and parents. I wish this existed when I was in middle school. I’d like to offer the teachings to some of the older kids. We’re looking at another kids class in February and an adult class in the Spring.


As a mother, what are you most thankful for in your children’s upbringing?

Thank you for this beautiful question. I love that we live in a place of astounding nature and that my husband, Kevin, had the foresight to bring our family to the east end.

The work that goes into raising aware, compassionate, and attentive human beings starts at home and is supported by our schools, libraries, and places of business.


Now, what what would you say is a societal disadvantage to children growing up today?

Children pick up on the nervous systems of the adults around them. We are, as a culture, addicted to stimulation and have become human doings, forgetting that we are human beings. Young people are suffering from higher rates of anxiety.   There’s a paradox of kids experiencing so much so fast and then we see young adults emotionally and socially stinted.

Our greatest challenge is to do the work ourselves so we can be a model of what mindfulness looks like when we eat, listen to each other, and come into contact with the world. I believe every person is at their own stage of evolution and a lot of people are trying to shift from a default mode of mindlessness to presence.

It’s a muscle we build over time. Just as we can transform the body with exercise, we can build the muscle of attention and awareness.



Rather than wait until the next sessions in 2018, you can begin practicing your own sense of mindfulness right now. Dehler recommends Henepola Gunaratana’s, The Book Mindfulness in Plain English. For those more interested in a proactive approach, begin writing one thing you are grateful for each day and take three quiet moments to notice your breathing. Become aware during the idle times your hand reaches for the phone and consciously choose to leave it.


Look out for future mindfulness classes in the John Jermain Memorial Library newsletter. Sign up at

Lulu Kitchen & Bar Review

(This article first appeared in the November 15, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)



It’s a Thursday night in Sag Harbor and the scent of crisp air and cozy fireplace smoke blankets me — an emblematic combination for fall. Neighborhood fireplaces aren’t the source of the delicious fragrance; it’s the wood-fired oven at Lulu Kitchen & Bar. Since opening in April to a nonstop rush, Lulu’s well underway for the off-season month. The relatively packed room was a sign of good things to come.

“It exceeds expectations. We’re having a very strong off-season so far,” said managing director Steven Jauffrineau. Executive chef Philippe Corbet, native to the French Alps, brings with him training and experience from Michelin-star restaurants.

The front of the restaurant greets with floor to ceiling glass patio doors, opened during the warmer months, flowing to a wall of lofty mirrors and a zinc bar adjacent to the semi open kitchen. Step farther back to the curved tufted banquettes and darkened walls — an ideal place to sit with families, large groups, or that special date night.

Toward the back are bleached brick walls and dim lighting, with live music by local cultural sensation Alfredo Merat — a great way to spend time socializing or for a girls’ night. Since I arrived with my friend Sara, we opted for a livelier experience amid the music.

Décor aside, it’s time to eat. Immediately we were greeted with two “Shades of Autumn” cocktails. The Holly Goose, for those who enjoy the taste of a Cosmo, and the Summer’s End, a twist on a classic Manhattan. As we sipped, we savored wood-grilled flatbread and hummus, topped with seasonal espelette peppers and pumpkin seeds. The hummus surprised with a new flavor in every dip, and I would be remiss had I not eaten every last chickpea of it.

As Merat effortlessly transitioned from English to French to Spanish, our appetizers arrived. Escargot soup (made with local Peconic Escargot snails) offered a creamy, coconut milk base as the tiny escargots burst in my mouth. The richness in flavor almost had me picking up the plate to sip every last drop — almost. For those like Sara who choose to pass on gastropods, the Iacono Farm poached egg and duck confit with parmesan cheese emulsion has a unique texture on the tongue. The roasted figs added a new sensation of flavoring while creamy polenta blended seamlessly with the easy-to-tear duck.

Before moving onto the main courses, two Autumn Thymes arrived. I’m a good, ol’ Old Fashioned girl but the slant with Aperol, grapefruit juice, and thyme made it my official go-to drink at this restaurant.

Thursday night’s special was Lobster Thermidor served on a skillet — lobster with a creamy mix of egg yolks, oven-browned cheese, a hint of mustard, and more. Corbet showcases his French talent in the making of this sauce. (I recall saying aloud, “I want to swim in this sauce.”) For two women splitting it, after some rather heavier starters, it was exemplary in both taste and portion size. For those with a heavier appetite, I advise ordering additional sides or a heftier entrée.

The chimichurri sauce on top of the 10-ounce skirt steak was just the right amount of garlic, vinegar, and oil. The steak comes with some house fries that are worth noting to request as part of any dish.

“I want people to feel like home, very comfortable,” relayed Corbet, who wants others to have the sensation as he did growing up in a French kitchen. “A slow cooking meal on a Sunday, that was the best meal I had.”

Lastly, the dessert. Coffee aficionados, like myself, should indulge in the espresso and hazelnut daquoise — moist yet crumbly at the same time. The real wow factor is the raspberry Eton mess with yuzu chantilly, white chocolate mousse, a macaroon cookie, crème fraiche ice cream, and fresh berries. If you don’t have time to enjoy a full meal stop in for this dessert alone.

Lulu Kitchen & Bar is located at 126 Main Street in Sag Harbor. Call them at 631-725-0900 or visit