Television host Kelly Ripa, soccer star Carli Lloyd, and former heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner, who reportedly inspired Rocky, are among the 15 people inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame for 2016, the hall announced this week.
In addition to Bayonne’s Wepner, 77; Delran's Lloyd, 34; and Stratford’s Ripa, 46, inductees include news anchor and Middletown resident Connie Chung, Goodfellas star Ray Liotta of Newark, and Grammy-winning Newark rapper Wyclef Jean.
Ripa, host of Live with Kelly, began cohosting the show in 2000. She served alongside original host Regis Philbin, as well as Michael Strahan, who left the show in 2016 for a gig at Good Morning America. Ripa got her start as a dancer on the Philadelphia teen dance show Dancin' on Air and transitioned to the nationally televised iteration, Dance Party U.S.A. In 1990, she started playing Hayley Vaughan on All My Children, which was created by Agnes Nixon of Haverford.
Wepner, known as "The Bayonne Bleeder," has long been said to be the boxer who inspired Rocky. His 1975 fight against Muhammad Ali reportedly prompted Sylvester Stallone to write the 1976 film. Wepner sued Stallone in 2003, claiming the actor used his life story for Rocky without compensation. They settled for an undisclosed amount. ESPN covered Wepner’s career in the 2011 documentary The Real Rocky; a biopic about Wepner, The Bleeder, starring Ray Donovan's Liev Schreiber, wrapped in January 2016.
Lloyd, a midfielder with the Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League, was named FIFA Women’s Player of the Year this month, for the second straight year. Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald reported this week that Lloyd is taking part in an annual January training camp with the U.S. women’s national soccer team in southern California. President Obama recently appointed Lloyd to the President’s Council on Fitness, along with gymnast Gabrielle Douglas and basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The inductees will be honored at a ceremony scheduled for May 7 at Convention Hall in Asbury Park. The recipient of this year’s Unsung Hero Award has not yet been announced.
The full list of the hall's Class of 2016 follows:
Arts & Letters
- Author Carol Higgins Clark
- News anchor Connie Chung
- Businessman Alfred Koeppe
- N.Y. Waterway founder Arthur Imperatore Sr.
- Singer/actress Connie Francis
- TV host Kelly Ripa
- Actor Ray Liotta
- Musician Tommy James
- Rapper Wyclef Jean
- Activist Peace Pilgrim
- Army officer Philip Kearny
- Professional soccer player Carli Lloyd
- Olympian Carol Blazejowski
- Boxer Chuck Wepner
- Football player Rosey Grier