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Patch Q&A With NBC Host George Oliphant

The Montclair resident will be the guest speaker at a special Van Vleck luncheon on May 31.

George Oliphant is coming to town.

The popular Emmy award-winning host of NBC’s George to the Rescue live right next door in Montclair. He's the father of three boys ages four and under and he's restoring the English Tudor home on Ingleside Road purchased by his grandparents in 1942.

And, on Thursday, May 31, Oliphant will be the guest speaker at a garden luncheon scheduled at The three-course catered luncheon will be held under a canopy tent in the formal garden that will accommodate 200 people. Then, on Friday, June 1 and on Saturday, June 2, Van Vleck will be sponsoring the 13th annual Roses to Rock Gardens Tour, a tour of seven gardens in Montclair.

A general admission ticket of $30 prepaid (Friends $25) or $35 at the door (Friends $30) includes a self-guided tour of the gardens. The cost of the luncheon is $75. You can attend the luncheon and the tour for $100. All proceeds benefit the historic and nonprofit Van Vleck House & Gardens. For more information on the luncheon and/or the tour, visit www.vanvleck.org, call 973-744-4752, or email info@vanvleck.org.

On Tuesday, Montclair Patch sat down with Oliphant at Van Vleck to find out more about this famous Montclair resident.

The warm and bubbly Oliphant said he got his start as a touring children's theater actor. He launched his TV career as a veejay for MTVu, MTV's college music channel, and then on MHD, MTV's first high-definition music channel. Eventually, he began working on an NBC show called Open House to the Rescue, which led to George to the Rescue. The show started out in New York but has been picked up by NBC stations across the map. Each week, Oliphant and his crew set out to change lives by "rescuing" the homes of people in need.

Q) So how did you come to live in Montclair?

A) My grandparents bought a house here in 1942 on Ingleside Road. That's the house I live in and I'm restoring. I believe my grandmother was president of the Junior League. And my grandfather wore a beret and always walked the dog around Anderson Park. I was raised out West but my grandfather and my father were raised here. So I spent a lot of time in Montclair growing up. I've lived here off and on since I graduated from the University of Colorado in 2000. After college, I was trying to decide between Los Angeles, New York, or Chicago. We all know that if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere. So I decided to come out here. When I first moved into the home on Ingleside, there had been a window left open on the third floor in the middle of a winter cold snap and there was lots of flooding. I walked in and I just heard "drip, drip, drip." I thought, "this is not the way I want to start my post-college life." But it threw me into the world of home improvement. Since 2000, I've lived in various parts of New York City but, in November of 2009, my wife and I decided to move permanently to Montclair. We have three boys who are 4, 2, and two months old. Yes, we're very busy.

Q) What should people know about home improvement?

A) You have to start from the guts and make sure the electrical work and plumbing are up to code. Then, everything else will be gravy. Trying to rebuild these old houses around here ... it can be a labor of love and it can be a money pit. There are a lot of people who call themselves a Jack of all trades who are really a master of none. So you have to be careful.

Q) So your first job was in children's theater?

A) I got a job with a company in New Brunswick that paid me $250 a week to go from one school assembly to another. Working for kids for a year was the best training I could have had because if you can keep their attention you can keep anyone's attention. Adults will be polite if they don't like you. Kids won't.

Q) So when did you start doing George to the Rescue?

A) I was doing Open House to the Rescue. And I also was asked to do the Winter Olympics for NBC in 2010. [Oliphant is an avid skier.] I was nominated for an Emmy for specialty reporting and I won. In July 2010, NBC gave me and my team George to the Rescue. We are now working on the 8th episode of Season 3. I love doing it and I love helping people.

Q) Do you ever film in Montclair?

A) We just got the green light to do a rescue of a Montclair house for the show. We'll be doing it this summer. It's the home of a stay-at-home dad and his wife. They bought the house a year ago. We're going to turn the garage into a home office and playroom. We like to make a difference with the show.

Q) What do you love about Montclair—and not love so much?

A) I love the sense of community here in Montclair. I play on a men's soccer team at the soccer dome on Sunday nights and I just love it. I love that everything is so family based. You really can walk to a neighbor's house and hitch a ride to the soccer dome. Even though there are six elementary schools, and I grew up in a town with one, there is such a feeling of community here. I also love how healthy the town is ... with Whole Foods and great restaurants and lots of outside activities. But the taxes are ridiculously high. Everyone knows that. With taxes so high, I just wish someone would come and fix the sidewalk in front of my house. The other thing that angered me is when they closed the Bellevue Avenue library branch. In a town like this, one with these kinds of taxes, you have to be able to find a way to make this work. Having it open only one day a week is ridiculous. It's just not enough.

Q) What are your favorite places in Montclair?

A) My favorite sandwich in the whole world is from I love the sweet and spicy Sopressata. I also really like the Sloppy Joe at I like as well. My grandparents went there. You can always trust them to give you great service. When I was a little kid, I loved and am guessing I'll be going there a lot with my kids. And who doesn't like Tierney's? As their motto says, it's the place where friends come to meet. I love their burgers. I love how simple their menu is. It's the best of the best.

Q) So what will you talk about at the Van Vleck luncheon?

A) I told them that I can talk about all sorts of things. I can tell them how to build a house! I can talk about my family's history. I can tell them how I came to host George to the Rescue. Van Vleck is a beautiful place and I'm thrilled to be able to speak at the event.

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