Radio shows put Sparta couple in media spotlight

The Beebes have back-to-back programs on AM970

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  • Retired Sparta Police Lt. JP Beebe and his wife Erika Lupo-Beebe in their studio at AM970 in New York, where they tape their back-to-back radio programs. Photos provided

  • West Orange Police Capt. Will Varinelli (rear) and Sparta Chief of Police Neil Spidaletto join JP Beebe to discuss school security on his radio program All That is Blue.

  • JP Beebe and Erika Lupo-Beebe with Joe Piscopo, at the AM970 broadcast studios in Manhattan.

  • Erika Lupo-Beebe interviews celebrity stylist Engie Hassan while taping a broadcast of her radio show, Women in the Loop.

By Mandy Coriston

— Retired Sparta Police Lt. JP Beebe and his wife Erika Lupo-Beebe, who is the owner and CEO of Acting A-Part Theater Company, are the newest voices on AM970 The Answer, and they couldn’t be more excited about the venture. The couple, who were married just last summer, are the hosts of “All That is Blue” and “Women in the Loop”, which air back-to-back on Saturday mornings on the popular New York City radio station and which are available nationwide as podcasts.

Beebe, who retired after 27 years with the Sparta Police Department, said his first participation in the media came when he served as a Public Affairs Specialist during a five-year enlistment in the United States Coast Guard. While stationed at the 9th District Headquarters for the Great Lakes Region in Cleveland in 1987, Beebe had the opportunity to meet and have his work recognized by radio legend Paul Harvey. Harvey would go on to feature two of Beebe’s stories on his radio program, and in 2012, Beebe penned an essay about Harvey’s respect for law enforcement, titled “What Would Paul Harvey Say?” Beebe also did a stint as the Public Information Officer during his tenure with Sparta. Since retirement, he has taken his expertise into the private sector as a security coordinator in New York City.

Lupo-Beebe is no stranger to the world of entertainment, but this is her first major foray into radio broadcasting. The daughter of acclaimed film producer and talent agent Otto Salamon, Lupo-Beebe spent a decade as an English teacher and drama club advisor in Maplewood and Ramsey before moving to Sparta. She founded Acting A-Part Theater Company and Movie Studio sixteen years ago. The acting school offers classes for children as young as four, as well as stages performances, holds workshops, and produces films. They will also soon be offering life coaching for tweens and teens, and a major motion picture based on Otto Salamon’s autobiography, “Dodging Death”, which details his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, is in the works.

So, how do a police officer and the owner of a theatrical company meet, fall in love, get married, and end up with radio shows?

“We first met about 15 years ago,” Lupo-Beebe said, “I was making short films and whenever I would need to film in a police station or needed someone to portray a police officer, I would give him a call. He was my go-to guy.”

“She would film re-enactments for crime shows,” Beebe said, “We filmed all over town, and set things up to recreate locations all over the country.”

The two had a working relationship for over a decade, until one day when Beebe asked her out to dinner.

“It was love at first date,” Lupo-Beebe said. “We got married last July.”

Radio shows weren’t something the pair had initially talked about when they discussed the different directions in which Lupo-Beebe wanted to take Acting A-Part Productions. But in 2014, Lupo-Beebe, who was interested in franchising her Acting A-Part brand, attended the International Franchise Association Expo at the Javitz Center in Manhattan. It was there she was a guest on a broadcast about women in business, and was later asked to guest-host a radio show live from the Expo. Station executives were impressed by her performance, and Lupo-Beebe was presented with the opportunity to develop her own show.

“It was a natural progression from television and film to radio,” she said, “I was trying to branch out with Acting A-Part Productions.”

Having been offered the chance for a show, Lupo-Beebe pitched the idea for her husband’s program as well. After a year of development, and the public announcement of their programs by famed comic Joe Piscopo, both broadcasts debuted a few weeks ago. Piscopo hosts the popular morning drive show on AM970 and emcees the station’s special events, such as an annual media cruise.

The couple tapes each week’s broadcasts on Tuesdays at the Trinity Building in Lower Manhattan, and they air early on Saturday mornings. Lupo-Beebe’s “Women in the Loop” leads off the morning line-up at 6 a.m., and it features women who are making a difference in their chosen fields.

“This is about women who’ve really forged their way and broken the glass ceiling,” Lupo-Beebe said, “We want people to take inspiration from each guest, to remember not to give up and don’t not dream.”

Interviews on the first few broadcasts have included Lupo-Beebe’s entertainment industry colleague Danielle Wilkinson, who is a renowned casting director, and author and nutrition expert Stacy Antine, the founder of HealthBarn USA.

“We’re tailoring the guests so that each show has a benefit for the listeners,” Lupo-Beebe said. “This is about highlighting a female wave of change.”

Airing next at 6:30 a.m., Beebe’s one-of-a-kind program, “All That is Blue” is an in-depth look at the issues facing police officers and the public they are dedicated to serving. Guests on his first few shows included his former colleague Sparta Chief of Police Neil Spidaletto, and Sussex County First Assistant Prosecutor Greg Mueller.

“I wanted to start with people local to me,” Beebe said, “I thought it would give me some credence as a host. Here are people who are using a model that we know works.”

Beebe was referring to Sussex County’s relatively low crime rate and reputation for exceptional training for its law enforcement agencies.

Spidaletto is excited about the advent of Beebe’s new endeavor.

“Knowing JP for many years, it was no surprise to me that this is something he wanted to do. He was our point of contact with the media for quite some time while at Sparta Police and did the same during his time with the Coast Guard,” Spidaletto said, “JP is a creative, quick-witted individual with flair and many years of experience. This combination is great for radio. So much has changed since both JP and I started our careers, but the initial principal of law enforcement has not changed — that being that the police are the public and we serve to assist, aid, and protect the public. I hope the show brings the public and law enforcement closer together.”

Spidaletto said he was pleased Beebe asked him and Spidaletto's my FBI academy friend, West Orange Police Captain Will Varanelli, to come on air and discuss school violence and security.

"Both Sparta and West Orange have worked very well with the schools in their communities to bring a safer and healthier climate," Spidaletto said. "JP and I have been friends and colleagues for a long time and I think that relationship allows us to communicate very well on air, to speak frankly and get to the crux of certain topics.”

Having addressed school safety protocols and the opioid crisis in his first month, Beebe intends to discuss PTSD among police officers in an upcoming show.

“All the episodes will pick an issue, delve into the root of the problem, and discuss how to deal with it,” Beebe said, “My target audience is fellow law enforcement, but the public needs to also have awareness of these important issues.”

The couple do not have producers in-studio, and are responsible for lining up their own guests with the help of their engineer, Matt Borzi. Borzi has been with AM970 for twelve years, and both hosts give him credit for his invaluable assistance.

“Matt’s a great engineer,” Lupo-Beebe said, “He’s got lots of experience and he helps with everything from managing the technical aspects of the shows to doing our voice-overs.”

Beebe and Lupo-Beebe say they’d love to go from pre-taping their shows to working live, maybe more than one day a week.

“It’d be great to be able to take live callers,” Beebe said. “So we’re working hard to get listeners, and we hope we’ll get popular enough to move to another time slot. We’re just rookies, but we’re hoping to move on up.”

“Who knows what’s next?” Lupo-Beebe said, “Maybe someday we’ll even move to television.”

The programs have already found their way to social media — on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — and websites for each show are currently under construction. Closer to home, the couple’s blended family of four children, three high-schoolers and a college student, think the programs are "pretty cool."

Lupo-Beebe laughed. “High praise from teenagers.”

The pair said that being able to work on these projects as a team, but as people separately established in their own right, has brought them even closer.

“We get to spend time together, driving into the city, talking about these big ideas,” Lupo-Beebe said.

“We’re this Sussex County couple, sitting in a studio in New York City,” Beebe said, “It’s awesome to think about, and Sussex County is the gateway to every success I’ve ever had. We’re very lucky. This opportunity is an honor and a privilege.”

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