A quaint upstate town nestled in the foothills of New York's Catskill Mountains, Oneonta is a place most people can't pronounce, let alone have heard of. With a population of 13,901 according to a 2010 US Census, it's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it town halfway between Binghamton and Albany. As an Oneonta native, I spent 23 years of my life there, from birth to high school and college, feeling like the rest of the world was beyond me.
Over the last several years, though, Hollywood started to notice my humble hometown, and its ways of acknowledging Oneonta are hilariously priceless. From Orange is the New Black to 30 Rock, here are five times Hollywood made shout-outs to New York's own "City of the Hills."
1. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
In a 2015 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson joined Fallon in providing the Oneonta High School class of 1989 commencement speech. Bobby Ristick (Fallon) and Logan Duffy (#TheRock), the students with the two lowest GPAs, reflected on eight years of high school.
The two shared their "words of wisdom" on what they have learned at OHS, and they also showed off their martial arts skills. Though they made no specific references to Oneonta itself (unless Sunshine Plaza is a real place after all), they did nail our school's mighty mascot. Go, Yellow Jackets!
2. 30 Rock
The State University of New York at Oneonta was buzzing after Tina Fey's #30Rock took a hilarious swipe at it. In the Season 6 episode "Idiots are People Three!" Devon Banks (Will Arnett) blackmails network producer Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), possibly ruining his daughter Liddy's chances of attending an exclusive preschool. As Donaghy becomes increasingly horrified by what could become of Liddy's future, Banks teases:
"See you in 30 years, Jack. I wonder what Liddy will be doing with her degree from SUNY Oneonta."
For those of us who had already graduated, this jab hit hilariously close to home. Today's incoming freshmen, however, have little to fear. Oneonta has been making a name for itself over the last few years, becoming much more than just another party school. Furthermore, U.S. News & World Report ranked SUNY Oneonta No. 44 in the category of Regional Universities North in the 2017 edition of Best Colleges. Just don't graduate during a recession, or else you will find your English degree gets you as far as stocking shelves at Bed Bath & Beyond for one too many years.
3. Orange Is The New Black
When thinking of upstate New York, several thoughts spring to mind, including rolling hills, maple syrup, lake country and prisons. Yes, prisons. New York State has 54 correctional facilities –– 55 if you count the fictional Litchfield Penitentiary, where the hit #Netflix show Orange Is the New Black is set. The made-up penitentiary is located in the real Herkimer County, about an hour from Oneonta (because in upstate we measure distance in hours, not miles). It was only a matter of time before Oneonta was name-dropped on the show, and Season 4 saw us briefly shine.
In the #OrangeistheNewBlack episode "Bunny, Skull, Bunny, Skull," warden Joe Caputo (Nick Sandow) irritably mentions Oneonta when chastising Danny Pearson (Mike Birbiglia) for being tardy:
“First you make me meet you in Oneonta, then you’re 45 minutes late.”
They meet at a nondescript dinner/convenience store that reminds me of the gas station on the corner of Main and Maple. If they had to meet in Oneonta, they could have at least gone to Joe Ruffino's pizzeria for some Roni Rolls.
4. The King Of Queens
Nobody could forget the long-running sitcom The King of Queens, nor the lovable Arthur Spooner (Jerry Stiller). The eccentric and demanding Spooner spends his later years living with his daughter Carrie (Leah Remini) and her husband Doug (Kevin James) in Rego Park, Queens. Spooner lived an exciting life in his younger years, claiming to have served in the military and worked as an actor. But did you know that in his glory days he was also a SUNY Oneonta athlete?
In the Season 7 episode "Wish Boned," Spooner mentions to Doug that he was once the star player on Oneonta State's basketball team:
"Did I ever tell you I used to play for the Oneonta Red Dragons?
"The other players nicknamed me Crazy Legs Spooner. Prior to that I was known simply as Legs Spooner."
It seems Oneonta adds a dash of crazy to everyone. Next time you find yourself at a Red Dragon's game, try picturing Spooner out on the court.
5. Marvel's X-Factor
Beyond television, Oneonta has been noticed by none other than #Marvel Comics. In the X-Men offshoot comic X-Factor, a pregnant Rahne Sinclair, a.k.a. the Wolfsbane, was on the run from demons and gods hunting her unborn child. While helping Multiple Man and Banshee find Wolfsbane, Pip Gofern, who can locate any individual in any place, described Oneonta as being on Route 88 and surrounded by "forest... lots of forest..." If he had mentioned the National Soccer Hall of Fame, his description would have been complete.
Meanwhile, in Oneonta, Wolfsbane met Agamemnon, a half-Asgardian demigod who offered shelter in his home. Yes, you read that right: Oneonta has been home to at least one Asgardian. Knowing that in high school would have made Oneonta infinitely cooler. In the comic, Oneonta became the site of a pivotal moment in Wolfsbane's life. It also had readers all over the world trying to pronounce the name Oneonta. Go O-Town!
Has your small town gotten fun shout-outs from Hollywood? Share your stories in the comments below.