Barry’s signature show as a sophomore, “Rich’s Friday Afternoon Happy Hour,” quickly became a popular listen around campus. In between spinning records, Barry played sounds from a bar in the background — people opening beers, friends laughing, others sharing conversations swallowed by the din of happy hour. The best part of the show, said his friend, Greg Valerio, was the “Spin-to-Win” segment. Valerio would come into the studio and Barry would blindfold him on air, spin him around three times and guide him to the record wall to pick out some vinyl to play.
“Whatever you picked, that’s what got played,” said Valerio, a towel slung over his shoulder as he heated up a tray of sausage and peppers during the tailgating party at the People’s United Center parking lot.
What kind of records did Valerio pull? The Rolling Stones, The Who, maybe Led Zeppelin? Not exactly. “I go back to the mix tapes we used to make for parties,” Barry said. “Trust me, it’s painfully ’80s. It’s a lot of bands that didn’t make it out of the ’80s.”
The guys in 42A and 42B were a different story. They made out just fine, leaving Quinnipiac as college graduates and lifelong friends. Barry and Valerio, along with Joe Belanger, Matt Caraluzzi, Chris Gennarelli, Rocco Labbadia, Sal Penta, Matt Titus and Desi Walker, shared more than a social balcony.
On this particular Alumni Weekend, they also shared a flag. OK, so maybe it was a sweatshirt, but it absolutely hung high over Barry’s truck on a mast and rigging skillfully crafted from PVC pipe and those black paper-clip clamps that hold term papers together.
The sweatshirt has become the stuff of legend here. For the better part of his college career, Tim Theriault, another member of this group, wore the sweatshirt several times each week — Valerio, Belanger and Barry swear to it. The sweatshirt shows a shirtless man sitting on a sofa on top of a wave with the words, “Couch Surfing.”
Theriault, who lives in Dallas now, couldn’t make it back to Hamden in October. Instead, he mailed the next best thing — the fabled “Couch Surfing” sweatshirt, a treasure that has survived more than 30 years. In a makeshift ceremony, Valerio sliced open the manila envelope with the Texas postmark and pulled out a sleeveless piece of history.
“It’s a perfect flag,” Valerio said with a good laugh, holding up the sweatshirt like one of those oversized lottery checks.
A few feet away, Belanger nodded and laughed, too. Like so many of his friends at Quinnipiac, he studied physical therapy. Belanger grew up in North Providence, Rhode Island, and earned a varsity letter on the men’s tennis team at Quinnipiac.
“When I was looking at colleges, I knew I didn’t want to go to a bigger school,” said Belanger, who now lives in Middletown, Connecticut. “I couldn’t have been any happier with my decision.”
The guys in 42A and 42B recall the house parties that shook the floor and raised the roof. “I was a Catholic kid who never missed a holy day of obligation, and then I met these guys. It was a whole new world, trust me,” Belanger said with raised eyebrows. “Let me tell you, it was an eye-opening experience for this sheltered kid from Rhode Island.”
Before Belanger could say more, Gennarelli chimed in: “He spent more time in confession….”
Gennarelli never got to finish his joke because they both started laughing. It was that kind of day filled with those kinds of stories.
Gennarelli grew up in Rye, New York, not far from the Connecticut border. After two years at Boston University, he transferred to Quinnipiac and was assigned to share a balcony — and the rights and privileges that came with it — with the guys in 42A and 42B.
Gennarelli, who now lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, recalls that they personalized their balcony with a convenient shelf. “Rocco still has that shelf. We all etched our names in it.”
For Barry, the momentum from those days helped him become the program director at WQAQ as a junior and general manager as a senior. From there, he leveraged his radio experiences to land an internship with The Howard Stern Show in New York City.
“Just having the radio station on my college resume was enough to get me in the door,” Barry said. “I worked for Howard for about three months. Honestly, he was the one who got me into Nickelodeon.”
Barry spent 27 years at the Nickelodeon network. He started as a production assistant and finished as the vice president and creative director, global, for Nickelodeon until June 2018.
“I basically was on a plane about every three weeks — Australia, Argentina, China, everywhere,” Barry said. “The only two places we weren’t in were North Korea and Iraq. Everywhere else was OK with SpongeBob.”
In the fall of 2018, Barry launched his own company, Speed Social Marketing. He’s the CEO, executive creative director and the driving force for global campaigns. His wife, Lisa, and son, Luke, accompanied him to the reunion.
“Let’s be honest, it’s not as easy to walk in the door when you don’t have Nickelodeon on your shoulders,” Barry said. “But I really enjoy being my own boss, and I love what I’m working on right now with motorsports. I race cars myself, so I’m a little envious watching the guys go by.”
But as much as Barry enjoys checkered flags these days, he will always have a soft spot for that “Couch Surfing” flag when the guys from 42A and 42B get together.