Our special island has hundreds of hidden gems, the first of many being one that connects us to the island’s history and celebrates those who succeed in the area. Beginning as the brainchild of Norm Prusslin and James Faith in 2003, the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame (LIMEHOF) has been operating for almost twenty years.
At its earliest stages, the Island’s music history was memorialized and taught through local colleges and music institutions like Stony Brook University, then the organization rolled out a bus that acted as the mobile museum before finding a permanent home on Main Street in Stony Brook last year, just centered between Montauk and Queens. The Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame opened its newest exhibit paying homage to Long Island legend Billy Joel on November 24, 2023.
The exhibit speaks for itself as it guides visitors through each stage of Joel’s life, including those that are commonly forgotten, like his time with The Hassles and Attila, rock bands active in the 1960s. The memorabilia lent to the museum came from a variety of fans, collectors, and even Joel himself, who allowed full reign of his personal storage containers.
While the Billy Joel exhibit takes over the ground floor of the building, the second floor hosts the Hall of Fame’s original exhibit featuring memorabilia from over 120 inductees, including Twisted Sister and Taylor Dayne. Upstairs, visitors can also screen live performances of the inductees in the museum’s theater.
According to Ernie Canadeo, Chairman of the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame, it is the “first major Billy Joel exhibit ever.” The pieces presented are unique, one of a kind, and can’t be found anywhere else. Christopher Collora, LIMEHOF’s Public Relations Manager, took The Messenger through ‘My Life, A Piano Man’s Journey’.
“It is really about his influences as well as his impact on popular culture,” says Collora. “It’s kind of a mix of both. He liked this idea of ‘what influenced me?’ Billy called it ‘A Party with my friends.’”
Collora explained that Joel does not tend to like things being all about him. It was important to him that visitors and fans understood what made Billy Joel the Piano Man. The exhibit tours through Joel’s life, as well as through the influences that put him in music. A Beatles performance was the first influence that showed Joel doing music as a career was truly possible. The exhibit also shows how Joel’s career came full circle when he performed with Paul McCartney for the first time.
Aspects of the exhibit feel familiar to fans as notes of the singer’s life are portrayed in his music. Joel, who grew up in Levittown, lent the Hall some old photos, including one of the elementary school class he shared with Virginia, who he references in “Only the Good Die Young.”
The exhibit is also interactive, and acts as a learning experience for younger generations who did not grow up with Billy Joel. The exhibit allows visitors to play the records that inspired Joel’s music and listen to his favorite artists. Original records of Joel’s are also included in forms of music that redesigned the industry, many of which were carefully collected and maintained by fans of Joel and historical collectors.
“The passion that they have to find, and preserve these, it’s really something interesting,” said Collora.
Fans have lined up at the doors of LIMHOF for weeks already to see the finds of their favorite musician, some even from out of state.
“The response has been very, very positive,” says Norm Prusslin, co-founder of LIMEHOF. “We had a pre-opening for sponsors, and Billy came to that. It was like a presidential visit. He was very happy with the layout; he was very impressed with Kevin.”
Kevin O’Callaghan is a world-class exhibition designer with an individualized and unique taste for transformative designs. He has experience working with industry leaders like Milton Glaser, has been inducted in the ADC Hall of Fame, and has designed exhibits in some of the highest trafficked places like New York City’s Grand Central Terminal.
The Hall opened its doors to the exhibit for a soft opening on November 21 where Joel and O’Callaghan were able to enjoy the Hall’s hard work.
“This was a real joy to do. When this concept came up, I said ‘of course’. It was a wonderful journey,” said O’Callaghan in an introductory speech at the soft opening.
The journey through his own life came as a new experience for Joel.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” said Billy Joel when called up to the stage during his visit. “Where did they get all this junk?” he says standing next to the grand piano from his Face to Face tour with Elton John. When asked what strikes him the most to see in the exhibit, Joel pointed to it and said, “This piano. This is a big piano. This is the one I used with Elton? Where is Elton by the way?”
Bob Buchman, radio DJ and founding board member of LIMEHOF also attended the opening. He introduced Joel to the stage with kind words relating to his humble character and appreciation for his home.
“Very few people know the commitment he has to Long Island, just we know,” says Buchman. “He is always there when Long Island needs something, certainly when we want to honor him.”
“I know there is a house on the market, but that doesn’t mean I’m leaving Long Island,” responds Joel. “This is my home, it will always be my home, we will always have this as our home.”
“I always wondered ‘did I pick this life or did it pick me,’” adds Joel. “Because I really didn’t think I had much of a choice, I was going to do this no matter what because I love music and most people do, so I’m very glad that we all ended up loving the same thing.”
“Thanks for coming to check this out, I guess I’ve lived,” concludes Joel. “I’d like to thank the Hall of Fame for this honor, and all of you for coming.”
The Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame is located at 97 Main Street at the easternmost end of the Village Center in Stony Brook.