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Saturday, July 28, 2012

AN ERA WHEN PEOPLE DIDN'T TAKE THEMSELVES SO SERIOUS


"This is probably the greatest honor that I've ever had in my life."   Elvis; after making his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956.

In many ways I miss white picket fence America.  For me, that era lasted from about when I was born in 1941 in Florida through growing up in Cincinnati in the ‘40’s, ‘50s and early ‘60s.  It was an era when the norm was mom, dad, and a couple kids growing up in American suburbia in a nice little home with the ubiquitous white picket fence surrounding it.

The comfort of a white picket fence
In the late afternoon, dad would usually be getting off the bus up the street and walking home as his kids would run up to greet him.  Mom would have been home all day doing household chores and getting a nice roast in the oven for the family dinner at about 6:00.

During dinner the family would talk about their activities that day.  After dinner, the kids would help mom with the dishes before starting their homework while dad lit his pipe and read the evening paper.

It was a sedate lifestyle much the same as illustrated in the popular television series “Father Knows Best” which ran on CBS and ABC from 1954 to 1963.  Robert Young played father Jim Anderson with Jane Wyatt as his wife Margaret.  That show gave a good look at life in the ‘50s when dad would sit in his easy chair to read the paper without even taking off his suit coat or loosening his tie.

It’s pretty mundane stuff compared to family lifestyles now where every member has their own agenda and if the family does accidently eat dinner together, it is something picked up at a fast food joint.

September 9, 1956:  Elvis makes his first
appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show".
In those “Father Knows Best” days, television was a luxury.  In many neighborhoods, maybe one home on the street owned a TV and lucky were the kids who were invited to watch “Howdy Doody” at 5:30 each afternoon in beautiful 12” black and white.  TV didn’t even come on until 5:00 in the afternoon and would go off the air at about midnight after a late movie.  There were three networks:  ABC, NBC, and CBS.

Hit songs were heard on the radio and sold in music stores on either a 78rpm or 45rpm disc.  Most record stores had a listening booth where you could play the record before buying it.  Needless to say, most of us kids would go listen to the songs in the booth and never buy anything much to the chagrin of the store owner.

Friday nights usually meant walking to the theater to see a double feature.  No multi screen places in those days but there was a balcony in some of the larger shows.  No one cared if we got to the show for the beginning.  Usually we walked in half way through and when the film cycled back to that point someone would whisper down the row that “This is where we came in.”

We hitchhiked everywhere, rode streetcars, walked to and from school, went to football games on Friday nights, counted the days until we were 16 and could drive,  and spent as much time as possible at Cincy’s great amusement park of that era, Coney Island.  It was a special treat to take the paddle wheeled “Island Queen” up the Ohio River to Coney from downtown.  I will always remember the calliope playing.

The kids of today don’t know what they are missing by not liking cars.  We loved hot rods and Sunday always meant going to the Beechmont Levee drag strip.  We also didn’t have Twitter, Facebook, and iPhones which meant that we played a lot of outdoor pickup games of football, basketball, and baseball.   We didn’t know the meaning of “obese.”

 I also can’t remember anyone ever having an accident because of a distracted driver.  With stick shifts and a car full of buddies with the windows wide open, we didn’t have time to be distracted. 

There was no air conditioning in houses or cars then so making it through a hot and humid summer in Cincinnati was quite a feat.  I never lived in an air conditioned home until I was 29 and living in Kansas City.

Growing up in the 40s, 50s, and 60s was quite an experience.  America seemed a lot more relaxed then even as we feared “the bomb.” 

A lot of things look better in retrospect so I can’t say that those days were better but when comparing the two eras, it seems that life was a lot more lighthearted compared to now.  Today, I see a lot of unhappy people who don’t know the meaning of “common sense.”  It’s too bad they can’t return to that simpler era when we all liked Ike and watched “Father Knows Best”.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"IF YOU'VE GOT A BUSINESS; YOU DIDN'T BUILD THAT"


“One thing not subject to debate is what government owns.  It owns nothing.”
Gary Burk, American Thinker

Edward Klein’s bestselling book on Obama is called The Amateur.  I have purchased it but have not read it yet although after the events of the past week, I can’t think of a better title for a book about Obama.

The cracks are starting to show on this president as evidenced by his unfortunate words of last week (unfortunate for him; great for most of us).  By now we know them by heart:  “If you’ve got a business; you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.”

I wonder how my friend Bob Wilson feels about those words.  Bob is a guy who has busted his butt for more than a few years building a single Subway franchise into a six store chain.  Bob knows all about long hours and sweat and toil to get his small business going.  I’m sure he and many like him in this country have contempt for words like “you didn’t build that; somebody else made that happen.”  Gee; do you think the prez might be referring to his beloved union members as the straw that stirs the drink?

Obama is a guy who couldn’t survive without a teleprompter.  Maybe that is why we rarely hear him speak without the use of one.  In the case of the above comment, it was said on a rainy day in Virginia and perhaps the prompter shorted out and he had to assume the role of the emperor who had no clothes. 

When will I learn?
Adlibbing is not a strong suit for the prez.  We have heard him try it a few times and when he speaks it reinforces our belief about why he keeps his supposed college records and everything else about his past sealed tightly.

As predicted, Obama came back with a denial that he made such a statement but the proof is in the video.  It doesn’t matter how many times he denies it, it is etched in the recording and in the minds of millions of angry small business owners in this country.  It’s just another example of why Klein refers to him as an amateur.

I agree with Michael Barone of the Washington Examiner:  “High earners don’t deserve the money they make,” Obama apparently thinks.  “It’s the gift of government, and they shouldn’t begrudge handing more of it back to government.”  There’s more:  He told Charles Gibson of ABC News in 2008 that “even if those higher tax rates produce less revenue for the government….the government should take away more money (from the rich) as a matter of ‘fairness’ “.   Spoken like a true socialist.

That’s your president speaking folks so if you happen to have worked hard and are enjoying your spoils, you better start putting your money in coffee cans and burying them before big sis Janet Napolitano comes knocking on your door.  Remember her?  She’s the one who fears that veterans of this country’s military could be terrorist threats.  It’s a hell of a way to say “Thank you for your service, sir!”  That’s the kind of mentality we have to deal with under this administration.

One last comment:  In his ill fated Virginia remarks, Obama also mentioned that “There are a lot of wealthy, successful, Americans who agree with me because they want to give something back.”  It was another reference to his justification of taxing the rich with higher rates. So, (yawn), what’s new?

Anyway, as a public service I am going to help poor Barack get more money from those rich people he mentioned that want to “give something back.”  I assume he is referring to his entertainment business phony friends who in reality are some of the biggest tax dodgers in the country.

Please send all donated monies to:

Gifts to the United States,
U. S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway 
Room 622D,
Hyattsville, Maryland  20782.

The government thanks you for your support!  Maybe you will even get a receipt from Tim Geithner!


For CJ:



Saturday, July 14, 2012

UPDATING MY STATEMENTS FROM THE ARIZONA AND SCOTTSDALE REPUBLICS


The following are comments I made during 2012 in the Sunday Arizona Republic feature “Plugged-In” and to the Scottsdale Republic for their “Saturday Soundoff” feature.  Following each comment is a current update.

From 5-17-2012:  What is it about academics that some Scottsdale School Board members don’t understand?  There is a proposal being debated that students should have to maintain a 2.0 grade average to participate in extracurricular activities like sports.   A 2.0 equals “C” which is “fair” and isn’t asking too much.  Currently, ”D” (poor) will suffice which even shocks many parents.  Those supporting “D” have their heads in the sand.  Extracurricular activities are a reward for decent grades and indicate maturity on the part of the student.  High school goes by quickly and a transcript full of “D’s” will get the student nowhere.  (Update:  The Scottsdale School Board recently saw the light and decided that a 2.0 average will be mandatory for student participation in extracurricular activities.)

April 29, 2012:  I had to make sure I wasn’t reading the April fool’s day edition of the Republic this morning when I saw a blurb in the Business section about Starbucks.  Apparently, they have been using a red dye in their drinks derived from crushed bugs!  After feedback from customers was negative, they decided to reformulate the dye using a tomato based extract.  Really?  I wonder how the millions of Starbucks’ customers feel now that they know their expensive red drinks contained the juice of beetles.  Will this hurt Starbucks business?  Maybe.  Are the Tully’s stores celebrating?  Yes!  (Update:  Not long after the report on bug juice was made public, Starbucks stopped using it.  Gee!  Really?)

March 4, 2012:  I know some things about young partiers:  they like to drink cheap, drink early, act immature, are not very profitable, and will depart an entertainment area as soon as something new comes along.   In the Scottsdale Downtown entertainment district, at least one club owner knows that the latter two items are true.  Hence, he will be offering live indoor entertainment in an effort to attract a “stable, older” audience.  I’m sure the “stable, older” neighbors living in the area are happy and hoping that a precedent has been set so they can at least reclaim some of their serenity.  (Update:  The beat goes on in Downtown Scottsdale as plans are being carried out to further expand the younger mentality drinking spots.  I have said that when the beach club fad wears out, there will be a ghost town in Scottsdale.  I’ve seen it in other places.  Those businesses are dealing with a fickle crowd that will move on to the next “cool” thing. 

May 29, 2012:  I understand the frustration of having inebriated people stumbling out of the bars during the evening and at closing time but is having a tower with spotlights going to solve anything?  It seems like a Stalag 17 mindset with lights combing the area to catch those heading for the escape tunnel.  How about taking the police off the tower and have them walking a beat watching for the drunks.  Does Scottsdale have an old fashioned “paddy wagon”?  If so, load up the extra snockered boozers and take them to the cooler for the night.  They’ll learn a valuable lesson there.  (Update:  Even though Scottsdale police are frustrated with the drunken behavior in the Downtown entertainment area, it appears that the surveillance tower idea will be shelved for now.  No word yet on my idea of the paddy wagon!

LEFT:  They're young and cute but can they sign their names?

January 17, 2012:  Some school kids are no longer being taught the importance of cursive writing.  Several modern teachers think it is too “old fashioned.”  They say printing can take the place of cursive.  It can?  Can you imagine not being able to sign your name?  What would John Hancock say about that?  As far as spelling correctly, there is computer spell check to save kids.  I wonder if they even take spelling tests anymore.  With texting so popular in their minds “you” is “u”, “great” is “gr8”, and “some” is “sum”.  When you only get 140 characters, I guess you have to improvise, right?   (Update:  This is a trend that will probably not be reversed.  I remember learning to write and print.  Apparently the former is being phased out.   I realize that times change but I can’t comprehend a world where people can’t sign their names.  Will kids now ignore some great signatures of the past like John Hancock?  I hope not.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

AMERICAN COMPOSER LEROY ANDERSON


“I love music all day through although it makes me do the things I never should do.” 

You may not have heard that verse but it was sung by Ginger Rogers and comes from one of my favorite films, Flying Down to Rio (1933) which starred Ginger and Fred Astaire in one of their early Depression era musicals.

Leroy Anderson 
That film inspired one of the hottest dance crazes of the day:  “The Carioca”.  I wonder how many people actually knew the dance came from the movie when they were dancing the night away in the USA and singing “Have you seen the Carioca; it’s not a fox trot or a polka……”

That brings me to the subject of American songwriter Leroy Anderson.  If you are scratching your head wondering, “Who is Leroy Anderson?”  I don’t blame you.  He was a prolific songwriter from the era of the 1930s through the 1950s who, in spite of writing numerous popular songs that are still used today as themes, in commercials, or as background, never achieved the status of others like Gershwin or Irving Berlin.  Maybe it is because his tunes were more of the pop style but I think Anderson has been shortchanged in the popularity department.

For example, What would the Christmas holidays and winter be like without “Sleigh Ride”?  Composed in 1948, we have heard this song thousands of times though the years in different circumstances.  When I hear it, I am a kid again in Cincinnati ready to get up on Christmas morning.  With the horse hoofs and the bells, it’s easy to picture a Christmas winter scene.

Who remembers “I’ve Got a Secret”?  It was a popular quiz show that ran on TV from 1952 to 1967 with Garry Moore as the host.  The theme song was “Plink, Plank, Plunk”, another Anderson song which I’m sure you have heard many times over the years.

“The Syncopated Clock” was written in 1945 and was performed by the Boston Pops with Anderson as a guest conductor.  It was such a humorous encore to the night’s program that CBS started using it as a theme for their late movie presentation.  After one week, they were swamped with phone calls as to how the song could be acquired.   We have all heard it many times since then.

In 1952, Anderson’s “Blue Tango” became the first instrumental piece to ever make the epitome of popular music, the Hit Parade.  It made the top ten on March 29, 1952 and stayed there for twenty-five of the next twenty-six weeks.  That included reaching number one twice.

Perhaps the most heard song that Anderson wrote is “TheTypewriter.”  It only runs about two minutes but I have seen and heard this song in more movies, TV shows, and commercials than about any other vintage tune.  The link is a cute version of it with a bit of comedy added.  It runs about four minutes and you’ll enjoy it.

So, who was this guy Leroy Anderson?  His biography shows he was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1908.  His mother was a church organist who got him interested in music.  He went to Harvard where he received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.  In the mid 1930s he became an arranger for the Boston Pops under the tutelage of Arthur Fiedler.

After serving in World War II and Korea as a linguistics expert, Anderson finally got back into music in 1952 at age 43 doing composing and arranging.

The five tunes I have linked you to above are the tip of the iceberg for Leroy Anderson.  He wrote and performed many more which you can Google and enjoy.

In 1975, Leroy Anderson died at age 66.  As one writer said, “His cheerful light tunes did more than express the optimistic and good humored Forties and Fifties. Their mixture of nostalgia and wit remains fresh and entertaining to people of all ages.”

Sunday, July 01, 2012

"THIS......IS........JEOPARDY!"

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the game show “Jeopardy” and the show’s host, Alex Trebek.  Alex has been doing the show since 1984 so he is a well known guy to trivia lovers like me.

Twenty-eight years is a long time in the fickle television business but Alex has managed to beat the system by remaining a constant on our screens when we hear that magic theme song telling us “Jeopardy” is on the air.

HAPPY 4TH!.........................

Unfortunately, Alex recently suffered a heart attack.  He insists he will be back for the new season’s tapings this month and I hope he is right.  This recent attack follows one he had in 2007 so I have my fingers crossed that at 71 he has a full recovery.

“Jeopardy” is a special show with a lot of fond memories for my wife Barb and me.  Although it has been broadcast as a syndicated series since 1984, the roots of “Jeopardy” go back much further than that to the day it started as a network daytime show on NBC in March, 1964. 


Merv  Griffin has been given credit for inventing the show although his  wife Julann in 1964 actually thought of the idea while they were on an airplane flight.  Merv had been looking for a show to present to NBC and his wife suggested he try a quiz show covering numerous categories where the answer was given and the contestant had to come up with the question.  As an example, under “movie roles” the answer could be “He played gangster Roy Earle in ‘High Sierra’ hence, the question would be “Who is Humphrey Bogart?”





Sarah Whitcomb and  me  at Jeopardy
tryouts in April, 2005
After we got married, my teacher wife Barb would watch the show in the summers at 11:00 a.m. and write down the final “Jeopardy” answer for me.  

While I was in between selling calls, I would call her on a pay phone and try to answer the question.  Those were the days in the late 60s and early 70s before VCRs so that is all the technology we had.   Needless to say, when VCRs came along, we had the luxury of taping the whole show.  Those are fun days to remember and when “Jeopardy” was revived in 1984, it was heaven for us.

In 2005, I was writing a weekly column for the North Scottsdale Independent and had the privilege of covering the “Jeopardy” tryouts at the Phoenician Hotel in Phoenix.   After all the years of being a watcher of the show, I got to meet some of the staff including a member of the “clue crew”, the gorgeous Sarah Whitcomb.

The new season of “Jeopardy” will begin in September.  It will be the start of season 29 for Alex Trebek.  I wish him well and I will be watching.