By Samantha DeVeau
There he was, in a small destitute apartment on the Lower East Side of New York City, weeping as he listened to The Smithereens’ first single on the radio. “Blood and Roses” played in the background as Pat DiNizio realized that he and the Smithereens had finally made it.
“I went to bed one night as a garbage man and woke up the next day with a hit record on the radio,” DiNizio said in an interview last week with Professor of Communications Gerard Hirsch’s Feature Writing class.
Now, almost 25 years after their first single, the New Jersey-based Smithereens are back. Their newest CD, 2011, is full of completely new material while managing to keep the same Smithereen sound.
According to DiNizio, the band had wanted to release a new CD for a while; its last original album was released in 1999.
“No one was interested in original albums back then, so to keep ourselves going, I came up with ideas: Beatles tribute albums, a tribute to Tommy by The Who,” DiNizio said. “It got to the point where the guys in the band said, ‘No more tribute albums,’ and I said, ‘If we do Tommy for the label, they’ll finance an original album.’ That’s how it came to be, but it isn’t like we didn’t want to.”
DiNizio is as much a chameleon as he is a rock star, constantly reinventing himself.
“About three or four years ago, Pat was doing a film project for ESPN,” said Hirsch, who invited DiNizio to speak to his class. “It drew parallels between rock stars and professional athletes and how they each wanted to be doing the other thing.”
For the documentary, DiNizio interviewed people such as Gene Simmons and Cal Ripken and even played catch with Bruce Springsteen.
“I’ve been entrepreneurial,” DiNizio said of his work. “I had to be in order to survive in this business all these years, and sometimes you maintain the course of what made you what you are but you sort of take little detours to reinvent yourself.”
DiNizio has worked at the Jim Beam liquor company, as the on-air voice for Bally’s Total Fitness and acted in films such as Singles and his own documentary, 7th Inning Stretch. He has also been a disc jockey, a trash collector and toured around the country 300 days a year for 10 years. He has played a hand in a lot of projects but his first love is always his music.
“I’ve pretty much done it all,” DiNizio said. “I love what I do more than just about anything and I’m one of the lucky few walking the planet that can say I look forward to my job.”