Staten Island as a Cultural Icon: How We’ve Influenced the World

by | Mar 4, 2016 | Life This Way on Bay


We all know that Staten Island is a great place to grow up. While those from Brooklyn and Manhattan might disagree, there’s plenty of people from plenty walks of life breathing life into Staten Island’s cultural scene.

With so many reasons to love the place, it’s little wonder that Game of Thrones author, RR. Martin, has cited Staten Island as one of the inspirations for his hit novels (Westeros in particular). Coming from a Blue Collar background, Martin told the Observer that his world was “five blocks long,” but the sight of Staten Island across the water from his home in Bayonne, New Jersey, gave him a chance to dream.

With his mind inflamed by the mysterious island across the way, Martin began to write and, to this day, he credits Staten Island as one of the reasons he was able to write Game of Thrones. Of course, since then the novels have become cultural icons thanks to TV and media. In fact, it’s possible to say that Staten Island has indirectly spawned a plethora of cultural and entertainment pursuits.

The HBO show is the most obvious example of this, but Game of Thrones can now be found in all manner of places you wouldn’t expect. The online casino world is one such example. Spotting the immense popularity of the series, online casino operator 32Red jumped on the Game of Thrones bandwagon by offering a hi-tech slots game filled with sights and sounds from the show.

The fact that Titanbet and Gala offer similar versions of the game, joining 32Red in understanding that when books and TV shows cross cultural borders they often bring new fans with them, demonstrates the immense popularity. Because of this, 32Red actually offers two versions of the game (one with 15 win lines and minimum bets of $0.15 and one with 243 win lines with minimum bets of $0.30) and it’s this ability to cater to both ends of the gaming spectrum (novices and pros) that’s not only increased the popularity of the game on 32Red, but increased the popularity of Game of Thrones across the board.

Beyond the likes of Game of Thrones the TV show and slots game, you can buy all the usual merchandise (t-shirts, glasses, costumes etc) and even play the board game. Essentially, if you were in any doubt that Staten Island hasn’t influenced modern culture in recent years then you should look no further than Game of Thrones.


Staten Island’s Famous Alumni

Wait: you’re still not convinced that Staten Island is a cultural Mecca? OK, if you don’t like Game of Thrones then what about some of the other great actors, musicians and directors that all grew up on the island:

Wu-Tang Clan

You can’t have a discussion about Staten Island music without talking about the Wu-Tang Clan. Arguably one of the most influential and innovative hip hop acts of the last few decades, the Clan has gone on to achieve worldwide fame since the release of its debut album, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), in 1993. Although the group has gone through its ups and downs, many still consider the fusion of Staten Island culture with Asian influences groundbreaking and something that helped change the hip hop game in the nineties.

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward

When it comes to movie royalty, few can touch Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Before he was an international star, Newman lived in St George while he was trying to break into the industry. Absorbing the hustle and bustle of Staten Island, Newman eventually met a photographer in the local area who took his first headshots in 1952.

That was the break Newman needed and just a few months later he was acting in Picnic at the Music Box Theatre. From there he went on to marry Joanne Woodward in St. George and the rest, as they say, is history.

Gene Simmons

The final cultural figure of note from Staten Island is the irrepressible Gene Simmons. The make-up loving bass player and front man for KISS spent many of his formative years in Staten Island at Richmond College.

Although he was sans makeup and metal for much of his time on campus, the Staten Island vibe (one that’s inspired music acts such as Wu-Tang Clan and Christiana Aguilera) gave Simmons the inspiration he needed to become one of the most charismatic men in rock.

In fact, like Newman, the Clan and Martin before him, Simmons found something in Staten Island that many outside of the borough fail to see. Blinded by the bright lights of Manhattan and Brooklyn, many people tend to forget the cultural influence Staten Island has had on the world at large.

Of course, for those of us in the know, it’s a tradition we’re not only aware of but hugely proud of.

Written By Ettore

Ettore grew up working in the restaurant & catering business from the age of 12. He graduated from the College of Staten Island with a Bachelors’s in Mathematics & Finance in 1985. In 1986 he started Chez Vous caterers from the basement of his home in Dongan Hills and caters parties at homes and businesses in the tri-state area. In Oct 1987 he rented the first floor of Edgewater Hall at 691 Bay Street. A few years later he added the party rental division to Chez Vous. In 1998 he purchased Edgewater Hall and renovated the first and second floors making them party spaces. Shortly thereafter he purchased from his tenant the cellar bar creating Dock Street Underground a live music venue. His creative projects include his CD Sweet on You, his book, It’s Your Right to be Fit, Sexed, and Happy, So Claim It, and he is developing a TV series called Business Underground. His record labels Hanz On Music and Dock Street Records has produced Method Man’s “The Meth Lab.” and produces 2nd Generation Wu projects.

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