Sunday, December 31, 2006

THE LAST DAY OF 2006 AND REMEMBERING RICKY NELSON




Today is the last day of 2006. It's been a troubled year for me and yet a year with a new job and better pay. I continue to write and hope that something clicks very soon. Sometimes it's very hard to keep your chin up. The accident of course was the decided low point of my life, but I am healthy and God and my dear Blessed Mother protected me from being seriously injured. There should n't be any way I walked away from that night except a miracle of God! Poor John has had more teeth problem in 2006 than at any other time in his life! But overall, things were okay and Christmas for me was wonderful! I will spend a quiet evening alone I guess. Today is also the anniversary of the passing of Ricky Nelson.Ricky Nelson began a rock and roll music career in 1957 recorded his debut single, the Fats Domino song "I'm Walkin'", seeking to impress a date who was an Elvis Presley fan — Nelson's first song was a hit, reaching #4 on the charts. Soon, each episode of the Ozzie & Harriet television show ended with a musical performance by "Ricky". It was during the sitcom's run that Ozzie Nelson, either as a move to keep his son's fans tuned in each week, or as an affirmation of his reputed behind-the-scenes persona as a control freak, kept Ricky from appearing on other TV shows that arguably would have enhanced his public profile, American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show in particular. Ironically, Rick finally did appear on the Sullivan show in 1967, but where his career was at that time made it seem irrelevant. In spite the promotional aspects of his career, it is clear that Nelson knew and loved music, and was a credible performer before he became a teen idol, largely due to his parents' musical background. Unlike many teen idols of the time, Nelson showed his personal taste in working with strong musicians including James Burton, Joe Maphis, The Jordanaires and Johnny and Dorsey Burnette.From 1957 to 1962, Nelson had 30 top 40 hits, more than any other artist at the time, except Elvis Presley. Many of Nelson's early records were double hits with both the A side and the B side hitting the Billboar charts. When Billboard introduced the Hot 100chart on August 4 1958 Nelson's single "Poor Little Fool" became the first song ever in the #1 position on that chart.While Nelson preferred rockabilly and uptempo rock songs like "Hello Mary Lou", "It's Late", "Stood Up", and "Be-Bop Baby", his smooth, calm voice made him a natural to sing ballads. He had major success with "Travelin' Man", "Poor Little Fool", "Young World", "Lonesome Town", and "Teenage Idol", which clearly could have been about Nelson himself at the time.In 1963, Nelson signed a 20-year contract with Decca Records, but he had no further major hits after 1964's "For You". In the mid-1960s, he began to move towards country music but did not reach the Top 40 again until 1970, when he recorded Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me" with the Stone Canyon Band.
In 1972, Nelson reached the top 40 one last time with "Garden Party", a song he wrote in disgust after a Madison Square Garden audience booed him when he tried playing new songs instead of just his old hits from the 1950s and 1960s. "Garden Party" reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and was certified as a gold single. (Coincidentally, "Garden Party" was a hit at the same time Nelson's influence Elvis Presley was having his last top 10 single, "Burning Love", as was Chuck Berry with "My Ding-a-Ling" Rick Nelson sadly never regained his career's momentum. By the late 1970s, Nelson's life was in shambles. His wife had divorced him and taken their four children. He wasn't making records anymore and when he played live at all, it was in very small, insignificant venues. Nelson began using drugs, especially marijuana. In 1985, he joined a nostalgia rock tour of England. It was a major success, and it revived some interest in Nelson. He tried to duplicate that effect in the United States, and he began a tour of the South. While on that tour, he died in a plane crash in De Kalb, Texas in 1985. He was on his way to a New Year's Eve concert in Dalla, Texas. Nelson was interred in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in LosAngeles, California The last song he sang on stage before his death was Buddy Holly's "Rave On." I was a big fan of Ricky Nelson and his two sons come into the camera store where I work every now and then. So Happy New Year to everyone and may 2007 be a most Blessed year. May your every dream come true.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A TRIBUTE TO THE LATE RICHARD RODGERS AND COLE PORTER'S "KISS ME KATE"


On this day in 1979 the world of Broadway musical theatre lost a giant to cancer. He had survived an earlier bout of the dreaded disease (cancer of the jaw) and a larenectimy robbed him of his voice, but before death nothing silenced this incredibly amazing man. He was a man who didn't even finish college. He and Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein all attended Columbia University and Rogers dropped out in 1923. He had been introduced in 1919 to Lorenz Hart by Phillip Levitt a friend of his brother and he and Hart struggled for years to be successful. Five years after they had begun-- believe it or not-- Richard Rodgers thought of quitting show business to become a children's underwear salesman. That little fact shocked the hell out of me. Can you imagine how much poorer the poor old world would be without the music of Richard Rodgers? Only a very successful and critically acclaimed benefit show ("The Garrick Gayities") convinced Rodgers to stay in. Rodgers was born in New York City to a prosperous Jewish family, Rodgers attended the same public school as Bennett Cerf. Rodgers and Hart struggled for years in the field of musical comedy, and finally broke through in 1925. By the way that benefit' show's biggest hit was the song that Rodgers believed "made" Rodgers and Hart. It was called "Manhattan." The two were now a Broadway songwriting force.Throughout the rest of the decade, the duo wrote several hit shows, including Dearest Enemy (1925), The Girl Friend (1926) and A Connecticut Yankee (1927). Their 1920s shows produced standards such as "Here In My Arms " "The Blue Room and "My Heart Stood Still"So the years passed and then with the Depression in full swing, the team sought greener pastures in Hollywood during much of the first half of the 1930s. The hardworking Rodgers later regretted these relatively fallow years, but he and Hart did create some classics while out west. In particular, they wrote the score for Love Me Tonight (1932) (directed by Rouben Mamoulin who would direct Rodgers' Oklahoma! on Broadway) which included such hits as "Isn't It Romantic?" Also, after trying several different lyrics that didn't quite work, they put out a song that became one of their most famous, "Blue Moon."In 1935 they returned to Broadway with a vengeance, writing an almost unbroken string of hit shows that only stopped when Hart, a troubled alcoholic, died in 1943. Among the most notable are Jumbo(1935), On Your Toes (1936), Babes In Arms (1937), The Boys From Syracuse (1938) and of course Pal Joey(1940). Today is also the anniversary of the opening of "Kiss Me Kate" by the late great Cole Porter. Porter thought his career was over after the disastrous accident in 1937 that brought him continual pain, but "Kiss Me Kate" proved that Cole Porter was an amazing talent and a bright light to the world of Broadway Theatre. I have the day off today as well as tomorrow-- how nice! It's a beautiful day but very cold and I plan on going to see a great movie today. Well, that's it for today!

Friday, December 29, 2006

The bravest president of the United States was born today. Andrew Johnson succeeded the assassinated Abraham Lincoln on April 12, 1865. The Radical Republicans of his day took an obscure unconstitutional law and trumpeted it into a case of impeachment against a most innocent man. Andrew Johnson was a man of peace who simply wanted to continue the work of "binding the nation's wounds" of the great Civil War. Had Andrew Johnson been removed from office this country would have been dealt a blow that would have made the Great Depression look like a recession. Had this happened the most radical of all men would have become president of the United States.During the American Civil War, Benjamin "hot head" Wade was highly critical of President Abraham Lincoln in a September 1861 letter, he privately wrote that Lincoln's views on slavery "could only come of one born of poor white trash and educated in a slave State." He was especially angry when Lincoln was slow to recruit African-Americans into the armies-- for obvious purposes.
Wade was also critical of Lincoln's Reconstruction Plan; in 1864, he and Henry Winter Davis sponsored a bill that would run the South, when conquered, in their own unique way. The Wade-Davis Bill mandated that there be a fifty-percent White male Iron-Clad Loyalty Oath, black male suffrage, and Military Governors that were to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. It passed in the lower chamber on May 4, 1864 by a margin of 73 ayes to 59 nays; in the upper chamber on July 2, 1864 it passed by a similar percentage of 18 ayes to 14 nays and was brought to Lincoln's desk. Lincoln vetoed it-- soundly. So a good man was spared by the courage of Edmund Ross --who voted against Johnson's conviction. I urge you all to read John Kennedy's 1956 book "Profiles in Courage" --it is a most fascinating read!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

REMEMBERING TWO PRESIDENTS




I am just old enough to remember Gerald Ford known as "the accidental president" the first and only president who was never elected to either the Vice Presidency or the Presidency. Ford was awarded the "Profiles in Courage" award in 2001. In case you are unaware of what that is: President John Kennedy wrote a book in 1956 called "Profiles in Courage"-- it was even made into a television program in the 1960's following Kennedy's assassination in 1963. In the book, Kennedy outlines the stories of American men and women who through acts of extraordinary courage made decisions that protected democracy and this country by making decisions that might be considered as "political suicide".Edward G. Ross in Lincoln's era was perhaps the bravest-- for he voted against the conviction and removal from office of president Andrew Johnson. If you were a history buff like I am, you would know that single decision saved the nation in leaps and bounds. For if Johnson had been removed as president, a gentleman named Benjamin"hot head"Wade (the president pro Tem of the Senate) would have indeed become president of the United States with the most disastrous results.He was next in line in presidential succession and he was a Republican who hated the South with such passion even in 1867) that the Civil war would have been re-ignited and the result of that? The Industrial Revolution would have been delayed by at least ten years! (Computer geeks-- consider that dismaying observation) Gerald Ford was indeed a most brave individual. His total unconditional pardon of Richard Nixon was one of the noblest things a sitting president could do. It healed the nation's wounds at a time when trust in the American government was at all time low. Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace and that was enough I feel. Watergate divided us like no other act since the "Tea Pot Dome Scandal" in Warren Harding's administration. There have been many brave presidents. Woodrow Wilson was one. Today on this date, Mr. Wilson would have been one hundred and fifty years old. The bravery of Mr. Wilson who kept us out of the first years of World War One and then pushed for the creation of "The League of Nations" was incredibly brave and absolute "political suicide". I encourage everyone to read Kennedy's book-- it is absolutely fascinating! We approach the end of 2006--a year of great change and great upheaval for me and my good friends. Let us pray that 2007 is better. The years ending in "6" have always been bad years for me-- so I have another ten years before the next six decade approaches.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

AN AFTER CHRISTMAS ENTRY... BUSY BUSY BUSY


It has been a while since I've done a blog entry but being in the world of retail really precludes very much time these days. My camera was store broke all records and we doubled last years sales. The proof of the pudding will come this week-- just how many people will return merchandise that they don't want, don't work or don't understand. We shall see what we shall see. It was a wonderful Christmas for me and I really didn't expect to be. The expenses to fix the car, certain family issues and other frustrations had really put me in a funk. What helped was watching the movie "The Nativity Story"-- a most beautiful film that really brought my "spirit of Christmas" to a much higher level. The constant Christmas music on the radio helped a lot too. And then on Christmas Eve my family gathered at my older sister's beautiful house in Rancho palos Verdes. I have two new grand nieces. The first is Christina Grace Dillon-- oh my-- this child is so beautiful and such a character. She will exhibit great drama and style in her life I'm sure. The second grand niece is named Grace Rene Dillon and she is just a joy. She is named after Grace Dillon my brother-in-law's mother to whom I was simply devoted. If any woman could have been an equal to my own dear mother, it would have been she. I loved her because she almost literally adopted me after my own mother was killed in a car crash back in December 1974. Both my mother and she had great hearts-- actually amazing hearts. The other good news is that my nephew Troy has finally marred at age forty-one to a beautiful Burmese beauty by the name of Nim. And within a few days I will be a great uncle again as my niece Stephanie and her husband Mando finally have their child. It will be a boy-- but we don't know the name yet. Christmas was simply wonderful this year-- and I never expected it be so. God does great things for you when you're feeling badly. He lifts up your soul when you least expect it! The origin of Christmas we may know, but the history of the grand holiday we may not.It is unknown exactly when or why December 25 became associated with Jesus' birth. The New Testament does not give a specific date. Sextus Julius Africanus popularized the idea that Jesus was born on December 25 in his Chronographiai, a reference book for Christians written in AD 221. This date is nine months after the traditional date of the Incarnation(March 25), now celebrated as the Feast of the Annunciation. March 25 was also considered to be the date of the vernal equinox and therefore the creation of Adam Early Christians believed March 25 was also the date Jesus was crucified The Christian idea that Jesus was conceived on the same date that he died on the cross is consistent with a Jewish belief that a prophet lived an integral number of years. The identification of the birth date of Jesus did not at first inspire feasting or celebration. Tertullian does not mention it as a major feast day in the Church of Roman Africa. In 245, the theologian Origen went so far as to denounce the idea of celebrating Jesus' birthday "as if he were a king pharaoh " He contended that only sinners not saints celebrated their birthdays.The earliest reference to the celebration of Christmas is in the Calendar of Filocalus an illuminated manuscript compiled in Rome in 354. In the east, meanwhile, Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus as part of Epiphany (January 6), although this festival focused on the baptism of Jesus. Christmas was promoted in the east as part of the revival of Catholicism following the death of the pro-Arian Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. The feast was introduced to Constantinople in 379, to Antioch in about 380, and to Alexandria the Great in about 430. Christmas was especially controversial in 4th century because Constantinople was (until his great conversion to Christianity) was known the "fortress of Arianism". The feast disappeared after Gregory of Nazianzus resigned as bishop in 381, although it was reintroduced by John Chrysostom in about 400. And now I am told that Christmas died out again in 1790 until the publication of "The Night Before Christmas" in 1812 and then again a few years later until the publication of "A Christmas carol" by Charles Dickens 1843. And that novel did it. For from that date until today Christmas has never wavered as a great feast or a great celebration. How about that? A great writer and a great poem and then a great story brought Christmas back to the world. And great family brought Christmas back to me when i was feeling very down and lonely. So a belated Christmas to all of my friends and family who may read this.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Believe it or not-- on this day in 1969, the Tonight Show staged an event that garnered a fifty million person audience. It was the wedding of Tiny Tim to "Miss Vicki" on national television. Does anybody remember this incredibly odd performer. Oh I do! I worked at a record shop in my youth where Tiny Tim in the 1960's had become a cultural phenomenon. Fifteen minutes of fame had never lasted this long! Tiny Tim already had something of a cult following around New York when he appeared in the film You Are What You Eat. This led to a booking on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In an American television comedy and variety show, which turned out to be his big break. Other appearances on the shows of Johnny Carson, Ed Sullivan , and Jackie Gleason followed, and he made a name for himself as a novelty performer. Apart from his extraordinarily high falsetto voice, his appearance—long curly hair, large nose, tall stature (he was six feet one inch), and his relatively tiny ukulele all of these —helped him stand out distinctly from the crowd. In 1968, his first album, God Bless Tiny Tim was released. It contained a version of his signature song, Tiptoe Through The Tulips, which was a hit when released as a single. The other songs displayed his wide-ranging knowledge of the American songbook, and also allowed him to demonstrate his baritone voice, which was less often heard than his falsetto. On one track, a version of "I Got You Babe", he sang a duet with himself, taking one part in falsetto, and the other in the baritone range. "On the Old Front Porch" extends this to a trio, including a boy (Billy Murray), the girl he is courting (Ada Jones), and her father (probably Murray again). Another notable song was a cover of "Stay Down Here Where You Belong", written by Irving Berlin in 1914 to protest World War One.. It is written from the standpoint of Satan talking to his son, and is a powerful condemnation of those who foment war. The comedian Groucho Marx also used this song as part of his own act, at least in part to irk the patriotic Berlin, who in later years tried in vain to disown the song: "To please their kings, they've all gone out to war, and not a one of them knows what they're fighting for... Kings up there are bigger devils than your dad." At the end of the year, he appeared with the Beatles on their 1968 Christmas record exclusively issued to their fan club, singing "Nowhere Man" The following year, Tiny Tim recorded and released two more albums and a collection of children's songs. In order to cash in on Tiny Tim's popularity, the album Concert in Fairyland was released by a small record label. It consisted of some of his pre-fame songs with faux crowd reactions dubbed over them to create a fictional "live concert" recording. So for the wedding on television that I speak of Tiny wrote his own marriage vows, including the promise to be "not puffed up." Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki made more news a month later with the announcement that they were expecting a baby. Comedians at the time suggested the name VicTim. Miss Vickie miscarried; however a later attempt at childbirth succeeded.
In contrast to the romance-oriented publicity of their wedding, Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki mostly lived apart, and divorced eight years later. Their daughter, Victoria Tulip, is now married and living in Pennsylvania with four children. In August 1970 Tiny Tim performed at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 in front of a crowd of 600,000 people. His performance, which included English folk songs and rock and roll classics, was a huge hit with the multinational throng of hippies . At the climax of his set, he sang "There'll Always Be an England through a megaphone which brought the huge crowd to its feet. This can be seen in the 1995 movie of the event, Message to Love"After this career highlight, however, Tiny Tim's television appearances reduced, and his popularity began to wane. He continued to play around the United States and made several lucrative appearances in Las Vegas By 1985 , he resorted to joining a circus for eight months. He briefly lived in Australia , then moved to Des Moines, Iowa before marrying for the third time (his second marriage had lasted for just one month) and moving to Minneapolis] , Minnesota This final marriage also took place on "The Tonight Show," then hosted by Jay Leno -- this came as a real surprise for me! But I did discover that no other Tonight show has ever reached that fifty million person mar again on this show! In the 1990s, interest in Tiny Tim seemed to pick up a little. He began to release records again, including I Love Me (1995) and Girl (1996). He also recorded his last music video with NYC's punk rock band Ism.(1996) It was a punk remake of Tiptoe Through The Tulips and was never officially released. He frequently appeared on The Howard Stern Radio Show and in Stern's movie, Private Parts (1997), as well as occasional appearances on other television programs. Tiny Tim also worked with a number of other artists, including Brave Combo (his backing band on Girl) as well as Sydney based rock band His Majesty with whom he recorded the albums Tiny Tim Rock and Tiny Tim's Christmas album. In September 1996, he suffered a heart attack just as he began singing at a Ukulele Festival at the Montague Bookmill in Montague, Massachusetts. He was hospitalized at the Franklin County Medical Center in Greenfield, mass Massachusetts for approximately three weeks before being discharged with strong admonitions to no longer perform due to his state of health and the difficulty of proper dietary needs for his medical conditions i.e. diabetes and congestive heart failure. He continued to play concerts despite warnings from his doctors that, due to the fragile state of his heart, he could die any moment. While playing Tiptoe Through The Tulips at a Gala Benefit at The Woman's Club of Minneapolis in November of that year, he suffered another heart attack on stage. He was led out by his wife who asked him if he was okay. Tim responded, "No, I'm not!" Those were to be his final words. In 2000, the Rhino Handmade label released the posthumous Tiny Tim Live at the Royal Albert Hall. This recording had been made in 1968 at the height of Tiny Tim's fame, but Reprise Records saw fit to never release it. It sat on the shelf until its limited internet-only release some 32 years later. As I said before fifteen minutes of fame has never lasted as long! Well until another day! More Christmas in retail! We did over $12,000 yesterday and we were open one extra hour-- wow what a long day! This sure beats Christmas at Hooper's. Well on to church! bye for today!

Friday, December 15, 2006

FORTY YEARS WITHOUT WALT!




December 15, 1966 was a very sad day for me and for most of the world. For on this day at 9:32 am Walt Disney passed on from this weary Earth to what he liked to call "greener pastures". I was nineteen years old at the time attending Pasadena City College in the same year that I had lost my father (in January) and the same year I graduated from San Gabriel Mission High School. I remember I came home from school and my dear mother said "I have some bad news for you" And she proceeded to tell me that Walt had died. Trust me when I tell you that I cried on my bed for two and a half hours. I truly thought that imagination, itself had passed away as well. For me, Walt Disney was the most original thinker and the most imaginative power in the universe. There simply was no one individual like him all. Here was a man without formal education and yet he knew intrinsically what the public wanted and needed. He could tell engineers facts about the original Disneyland property that they said was impossible to be true. But he knew these facts to be accurate because he had physically "walked every inch of it" Walt was simply a genius. He was a gift to the earth from God at a time when this weary world needed it most. I can watch "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" from now until eternity and never tire of it. I will cry at the very same parts of the picture that i have always cried and not feel one ounce of guilt. Walt Disney took chances that few people born to this Earth take. He gambled everything for his dreams. He sought and demanded perfection but was a great listener. He loved his family. He adored his country. He simply made this planet of blue a much better place. So now it's forty years without Walt. Walt was in business and in charge for forty three years (1923-1966) So far, there have been five men who have succeeded him.Most have simply been Walt wannabees. They all asked "Gee, what would Walt have done?" The question "How many people does it take to replace Walt Disney?' might be an infinite number but I must say that Robert Iger has come damn close to the best job of all. I think this man has the right ideas to turn this company towards the infinite future. And so, dear Walt, wherever you are inspire the world below you to never be afraid of using their imaginations-- imagination is the greatest power in the universe. Don't be afraid of chasing your dream-- no matter how elusive it may seem. God love, Walt-- boy, are you missed!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A CHRISTMAS AT THE WHITE HOUSE 1901



Sometimes episodes from American History can make delightful Christmas tales. Presidents of the United States make very loving fathers as was the case with John Kennedy in the 1960's. But if we take a trip in our "Way Back When" machine this 14th day of December, let us stop at the year 1901. In this cartoon, from the magazine Harper's Bazzar Santa Claus is about to deliver Christmas presents to the six children of President Theodore Roosevelt: Alice (17 years old), Theodore Jr. (14), Kermit (12), Ethel (10), Archibald (7), and Quentin (4). Santa’s expression of pleasant surprise upon learning that so many children were at the White House reflects the fact that the children of past presidents had usually been adult or fewer in number when their fathers occupied the White House. The three babies of Grover Cleveland had charmed the American public during his second administration (1893-1897), but here in 1901 was a bevy of boisterous children who could really enjoy the holiday season. It was the first Christmas at the White House for the nation’s youngest president (43) and his family.
President Roosevelt brought the same dynamism that he displayed in politics and sports to his role as father. He loved his children dearly and spent as much time with them as possible, even with the weighty demands of the presidency. “I love all these children and have great fun with them, and I am touched by the way in which they feel I am their special friend, champion and companion,” he wrote to his sister-in-law. He played games and sports with them, took them hiking and picnicking, read them bedtime stories, joyfully indulged their many household pets, and joined them in pillow fights. As his friend Cecil Spring Rice aptly characterized Roosevelt, “You must always remember that the President is about six.” Roosevelt had grown up in a close and affectionate family, and enthusiastically followed that example with his own children. He revealed to his sister, Bamie, that he had “the happiest home life of any man whom I have ever known.”
Tragedy, though, had struck the optimistic Roosevelt in his early adulthood. On February 12, 1884, a telegram reached Roosevelt in Albany, New York, where he was a Republican
assemblyman, bringing him the good news of the birth of his first child, Alice Lee. A few hours later, a second telegram informed him that his wife, Alice, and mother, Mittie, were both dying, so he took the next train for Manhattan. His mother succumbed to typhoid fever early the next morning, but he was able to hold his wife during her last hours before she died of Bright’s Disease the following afternoon. He was devastated by the loss, and entrusted the care of “Baby Lee” to his sister. In 1886, he married Edith Carow, and they had five children.
The Roosevelts unsuccessfully tried to shield their children from the press, but Alice loved the limelight. During the White House years, she was a beautiful young lady who captivated the American public. After she christened a ship in Philadelphia for the German royal family, the press nicknamed her “Princess Alice,” and the blue-gray color of her dress inspired the clothing industry to manufacture “Alice Blue” dresses and Tin Pan Alley to publish a popular tune called “Alice Blue Gown.” In 1902, her formal debut at the White House was attended by 600 guests. Alice’s strong, independent will prompted considerable commentary, but when the president was asked why he did not try to control her behavior, he explained, “I can be president of the United States, or I can attend to Alice.” In truth, he was quite pleased with his eldest daughter. His confidence in her was such that he dispatched her as his personal representative to Puerto Rico in 1903 and the Far East in 1905.
On February 17, 1906, Alice married Congressman Nicholas Longworth (later speaker of the house) in a spectacular wedding at the White House. In adulthood, Alice became a fixture in Washington society where she was called “Washington’s other monument.” Delighting and offending numerous people with her lively and caustic wit—“If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me”—she famously described Republican president nominee Thomas Dewey (1944, 1948) as the little plastic man on the wedding cake. Alice Roosevelt Longworth was the longest-lived of Theodore Roosevelt’s six children, dying in 1980 at the age of 96. But is nice to know a grand Christmas tale from American History! Maybe somebody should make a movie about that-- six kids at the White House in the year 1901! Well, that's it for today! Except to express sadness at the passing of Peter Boyle of "Everybody Loves Raymond" fame. His famous line "Holy Crap! makes me chuckle--especially from a guy who spent at least three years as a Christian Brothers monk in what he described as "living in the Middle Ages!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN DAVIDSON & DICK VAN DYKE




Today is John Davidson's 65Th birthday. Now if that doesn't make me feel old, I don't know what does. I used to watch John when he was very young (and I was younger too) on the Kraft Summer Music Hall on NBC television. He would find older couples celebrating their anniversaries and sing songs that had become famous in those kind and wonderful years. John also starred in a couple of some wonderful Disney musicals of the 1960's. One was "The Happiest Millionaire" and the other was "The One and Only Genuine Original Family Band" Both had Lesley Ann Warren as his co-star! It is also the 81st birthday of the one and only Dick Van Dyke. Dick made his first fame with the Broadway musical "Bring Back Birdie" and then on to playing Bert in Walt Disney's classic movie "Mary Poppins" and Carracticus Potts in "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" He was a huge fan of Stan Laurel and even delivered the dear man's obituary in 1962. Of course, I am a giant fan of Laurel & Hardy myself! I read where the great Mr. Van Dyke can be currently seen in the current Ben Stiller comedy "A Night in the Museum". Busy days at work all this week! Well until next time!

Monday, December 11, 2006

THE MEDICCI- RICCIARDI PALACE AND HAPPY 75TH BIRTHDAY TO RITA MORENO

RICCIARDI PALLACE AND THE CHAPEL OF THE MAGI-- FLORENCE, ITALY





This is my 150th blog entry since June 9th of this year. It's been interesting noting down the events of my life since that date and commenting on the events of and around my life as well. Although I don't have "daily adventures" I manage to write an "almost daily blog" entry. Today is Rita Moreno's 75th birthday. She is really an amazing performer. She is the only Hispanic performer who has earned an Oscar, an Emmy, A Golden Globe and a Tony award in her life and only one of nine total performers of any race who has achieved the same. Of course one of her greatest roles was in 1961's fiolm version of "West Side Story"-- an amazing musical. I did find out today something interesting. My family (under the Ricciardi name) once owned a pallace in Florence, Italy. This was in the late 16th century Unfortunatly, they had to sell the pallace in 1839. Michaelangello was born and spent the first seven years of his life in this magnificent pallace! My family herritage is one the most important monuments in Florence, a prototype of Renaissance and Baroque architecture. The Medici Riccardi Palace hosts temporary exhibitions and experimental virtual envinronment for museums and galleries. By 1460 the palace was complete (it was also the residence of Lorenzo the Magnificent), although in 1517 the original building was altered by closing the loggia and adding the two "kneeling" windows according to Michelangelo's project.After the transfer of Cosimo de' Medici to Palazzo Vecchio in 1540, after he became Grand Duke, the palace continued to be inhabited by the lesser members of the family until 1659, when Ferdinando II sold it to the Ricciardi marquises. (my long ago ancestors) It was at this time that the palace layout was enlarged and significantly altered. The most important works consisted in the large hall decorated with the frescoes of Luca Giordano that is one of the most significant examples of Baroque architecture in Florence, and in the new entrance staircase built by the architect Foggini. Baroque decorations were added also to the courtyard through the addition of old marbles belonging to the Ricciardi collection. Perhaps the most important section of the palace is still today the Chapel frescoed in 1459 by Benozzo Gozzoli representing the [Procession of the Magi. The frescoes explicitly referred to the train of the Concilium that met in Florence in 1439. As a matter of fact many of the personalities portrayed are wealthy protagonists of the time and members of the Medici family.This is the most typical example of a civil Renaissance palace. It was constructed according to an austere plan drawn up Michelozzo for Cosimo the Elder in 1444. Home of the Medici for 100 years, it was then acquired by the Ricciardi family and today is the seat of the Prefecture and the Provincial Administration. Inside one finds an elegant courtyard, a small garden in the Italian style, and Benozzo Gozzoli's celebrated chapel, which he decorated in frescoes, representing the Appearance of the Magi (1459). In 1839, my family's ancestors ceeded the pallace to pay for taxes due the Italian government-- figures, huh?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARGARET HAMILTON




I usually don't do birthday tributes a day late, but when it comes to dear Margaret Hamilton, aka, the Wicked Witch of the West and Cora of Maxwell House fame, I will. Margaret Hamilton was born December 9Th, 1902-- the same year my dad was born! She liked to be called "Maggie" by her friends and was a kindergarten teacher before she became an actress in 1931. One of her students turned out to be Jim Backus ("Mister Magoo") She starred in such films As "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" in 1938 and "State of the Union in 1948. She was married briefly in the 1930's and had one son whom she raised by herself. Her role as the Wicked Witch was not only her most famous role but one the silver screen's most memorable villains! Maggie was chosen as the witch when glamour star Gale Sondergard who had been previously cast refused to wear makeup that made her look ugly. Maggie suffered severe burns during the filming of her fiery exit from Munchkin land. The trapdoor elevator malfunctioned and Margaret Hamilton was forced to recuperate in a hospital and at home for six weeks. . She appeared regularly in films until the early 1950's and sporadically thereafter even making an a late career with the amazing Buster Keaton. In 1960 producer/ director William castle cast her as the maid in his Thirteen Ghosts spook fest. And of course, Maggie made those incredibly charming Maxwell House coffee commercials. In a later interview (when she was asked what her favorite part of "The Wizard of Oz was she replied "When the wizard gave all of the gifts to the Scarecrow, The Tin man and The Lion. My favorite line from the film is uttered by the great character actor Frank Morgan as "The Wizard" when he says "And remember, my sentimental friend that a heart is not judged by how much YOU love, but how much YOU are loved by others" Great words! Great lady!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

PEARL HARBOR IS A SENIOR CITIZEN THIS DAY!




Imagine that! Pearl Harbor happened to this amazing country sixty-five years ago this day at 7:03 am: a quiet Suinday morning! I guess that makes it a senior citizen. And sixty years later, we were attacked again in New York City and Washington DC. on September 11th, 2001. Both times, we were not at war! Both times, we were in a period of advocating peace. One wonders about the ambitions of men who wish ultimate power. Why? Have they not learned the folly of this persuit. I have a friend who is writing a time travel story in which a pilot goes back in time with the Enolla Gay-- the plane that dropped the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima in August of 1945. He goes back in time to Sunday afternoon with that same plane and that same bond and drops the atomic payload four years earlier on an unsuspecting Japan! Well, I guess that would have really changed the world-- but I wonder how much and in what way! Interesting to think about I would say! I was amused this morning to find out that the milk council plan's to increase milk awareness and milk purchase by putting the smell of cookies in a bus shelter has met a lot of complaints. If you are wondering why the reasons given are that the smell of cookies could give alergic reactions-- pure rubbish and that it is unfair to the homeless and poor who can't afford to buy milk and cookies. Now I really laughed at this one because I have been homeless in my life and trust me when i tell you that if you are homeless and broke, you are not about to sit in a bus shelter when you have no money to pay for the bus. The smell of cookies in these shelters will NEVER reach your nose, if you are not sitting on the damn bus bench! If you don't have a dollar to buy a cookie and starve off hunger for three hours or so, you are not about to use whatever limited funds you may have to take a bus a couple of miles down the street! Ah, Mark Twain said it best "I think God created man, because he was disappointed with the monkey!" What inane thinking would complain about the great smell of cookies. Complain about the smell of cookies-- somebody give me a break. Longfellow said "A critic is like a lazy chimney-sweep-- he compalins about everything on his way up and then stands on the roof boasting as if were responsaible for everything he can see from the rooftops". That idea was pretty damn creative! Oh well. Last night I watched Walt Disney's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea!"-- an incredible Disney classic motion picture with amazing performances directed by Richard Fleisher son of Max Fleisher-- a pioneer animator and rival of Walt in the 1930's. It was great to learnthat the two who had never met (and were enemies) while they were rivals had a chance to finally meet after this picture was made and became great friends! Peace lost and peace gained! Well until next time

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

WALT DISNEY'S 105TH BIRTHDAY

A MOST AMAZING MAN!


December 5th 1901-- a very long time ago, a genius by the name of Walter Elias Disney was given to the world and became perhaps the single happiest and dedicated gift to every dreamer who ever lived. With no qualms, I will tell you that Walt Disney was and continues to be and will be forever my idol. I got to meet him once when I was a kid. And the story, I am posting here, today, I actually wrote for a newspaper article that I wrote in July of 2005-- on the occassion of Disneyland's 50th anniversary. How sad that his many grandchildren have not taken the reins of this incredible man's company. He would most certainly be sad about that. But this is Walt's 105th birthday and in grand tribute I re-publish this story. In 1966, I lost my father and Walt Disney in the same year and that was tough. I was nineteen years old and had barely graduated from high school when my world came crashing down. Both were profound influences on my life. And so in tribute to my dad and to the man who created Mickey Mouse and was not afraid to chase any of his dreams, I dedicate this story. Disneyland is my "laughing place": a kingdom where I can go and forget all of my troubles-- even if it's for just a little while. For every dreamer who has fought daily battles with demons because they dare to dream in the first place, for those who listen to their heart more times than their heads and for those who use a good heart for the betterment of the world, I dedicate this story. Walt has been gone from this planet of blue for forty years. Forty years without Walt might be considered as the greatest limbo ever imposed upon the world, but if we never fail to use our imaginations and we never give up our dreams, no matter what, than Walt Disney lives in each and every one of us: every day, every month, every year of our lives. We are the better for it! We are the inheritors of his amazingly grand legacy!
THE DAY I MET WALT DISNEY

By Michael L. Ricciardi


There’s going to be a grand and glorious celebration on July Seventeenth of this year. The celebration itself I am told will go on for eighteen months with more pomp and circumstance than a king’s coronation. The place: Disneyland, the “Happiest Place On Earth”. The pure essence of grand imagination and childhood wonder are in constant abundance here.

And this writer was the lucky kid who won the grand prize: a chance meeting or bumping into, quite literally the great dreamer, himself, Walt Disney. But more of that in a bit.

I was picked on as a kid and not always happy because of it. But even if you were like me and not very happy in ordinary life, you certainly will be once you pass through Disneyland's gates and castle doors. I was. I passed through the gates three days after the notorious “Black Sunday” – opening day, July 17, 1955. The crowds were unbelievable even back then.

Just imagine, this incredible place wasn’t designed by an award winning architect or a giant corporation, but rather a simple farm boy from Chicago, and later Marceline, Missouri: Walt Disney.

Walter Elias Disney gambled everything on this venture and the gamble not only paid off, but became the financial threshold of the entire Disney organization as it exists today. Without the multitude of theme parks that the original Disneyland made possible the Walt Disney Company as we know it would most certainly have passed away shortly after Walt did on December 15, 1966.

So flash back to July 20th, 1955-- my aunt’s birthday. My dad, my mother, my three sisters and of course my aunt and uncle and my notorious cousin packed a picnic lunch and headed to the Magic Kingdom called Disneyland.

It was incredible. I even tried out my newly rehearsed “Mickey Mouse” voice imitation – much like Walt had always done it. It was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

The day was perfect until that very same notorious and very spoiled cousin decided he wanted my newly obtained Neapolitan ice cream cone from the Carnation Palace. When I would not comply, I received a black eye and a split lip from this nine year old holly terror.

I screamed and starting running down Main Street. My father couldn’t catch me. My mother couldn’t catch me. Nobody could. I wanted out of there—pronto. I was crying like crazy. Hey, that black eye hurt!

As I rounded past the Swift Market House like a bolt of lightning, I ran into a tall mustached man very hard. It was then I heard the words “What’s the matter, what’s the matter? Nobody cries at Disneyland” Huh, thought I – this guy obviously didn’t ever have a black eye or a split lip.

I looked up to protest and recognized him immediately. I had only seen every Wednesday night for a year hosting the Disneyland television show. Yes, there was a time that Wednesday was the magic day of the week--not Sunday! At any rate, I knew who he was. I was simply spellbound that he was actually looking and speaking to me! Stiffling tears and amazement, I uttered aloud to this amazing man “How do you do, Mr. Disney?” I was hurting, but I was always polite when I addressed adults. But then again, this was no ordinary adult! This was Walter Elias Disney!

That world famous eyebrow of this incredible man shot up at that moment and the great man said “Well, I’m not sure about, Mister Disney, but Walt’s fine”

I stopped crying and told him what had happened. He listened with great sympathy saying “Boy, what a shiner you’ve got!

My father caught up to us by then just as Walt reached into his pocket and presented me with FIVE magic key coupons—good for anything in the park that day. He looked at my dad and said “The next ice cream is on me!”

“Even Neapolitan” I exclaimed. Walt quipped “Even Neapolitan”. My dad followed and Walt Disney, the great American genius, the guy who hawked his life insurance to help make his dreams come true and the guy who knew instinctively what people needed to make them happy bought seven year old me a Neapolitan triple Decker ice cream cone from the carnation Ice Cream pallace-- a favorite even today!

He became my hero and remains in my heart even to this day. I must confess: I cry still at Snow White. I cry even more when I watch the great man’s story on film and Neapolitan remains my all time favorite flavor of ice cream. He never was afraid of persuing his dream. He allowed his heart to overule his head, but never forgot simple practical wisdom from any experience! He knew instinctivly how and why and whether something would work. Oh sure, like every one of us, he had a few blunders alonmg the way-- and he had a temper. But being human is simply that. Absolute perfection is not even valid from heavenly angels!

I only hope that the man who now heads Walt’s great company will begin to appreciate that even though you don’t go around saying “Gee, what would Walt do?”, you should embrace the great man’s philosophies.
Not everything has to make a buck. Don’t add on to theme parks with almost everything you’ve done before in other ventures. Be different. Be original—like he was—every single day of his life! “You can’t top pigs with pigs” he used to say—and its so true. Be bold! Be imaginative. Think outside of that envelope.

Be willing to take a chance—the public (as Walt said so many times) will reward you. And guess what? With a little more imagination, you might just not have to offer the public two theme parks for the price of one.

Open the castle doors and let your boldest imagination build what’s inside. The public will reward you! And so will your life! Thanks, walt for always being my inspiration and the courage to persue what i dream of as well!

Written April 25th, 2005
Reprinted December 5th, 2006

Friday, December 01, 2006

WORLD AIDS DAY AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY REMEMBRANCES




Today is World Aids Day-- the 19Th such occurrence. The masks worn here were done so by students in Agaratella, India yesterday. India bears the horrendous distinction of having the most HIV infections since all of this began-- that number is 5.2 MILLION. Rates of infection continue to grow with four million new infections every single year. Today is the 25Th Anniversary of the first case of AIDS that was identified and ten years since the formation of UNAIDS, the United Nations arm formed to fight the virus. Twenty-five million infections and cases reported in twenty-five years-- incredible. The disease took my amazing cinematographer cousin, James Crabe back in 1990 and my own John has it as well-- but now, thank God, so well under control! A public commemoration was held yesterday at Saint Bartholomew's Church in New York City I am told. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the audience that this virus "is the greatest challenge of our generation! We simply need to work as hard as we can to fight this dreaded disease. This morning, my good friend Tony Westbrook sent me a link to a "Light the Candle Bristol Myers web sight. For everyone that "lights the candle" on the web site, Bristol Myers will donate one dollar to AIDS research On a happier note, I would like to wish a Happy Birthday to Bette Midler, the Divine Miss "M" (born in 1945) -- who made her career by starting to sing in bath houses and the great comic Woody Allen who was born on this date in 1935 and a special memory of Mary Martin was born on this date in 1913. Today should also see big advances in retail sales. Bye for now!

Monday, November 27, 2006

IN MEMORY OF HARVEY MILK AND GEORGE MOSCONE




I wonder .... Does anyone remember Harvey Milk?-- the first openly gay man who ran for public office in 1977? Along with Mayor George Moscone Harvey was murdered in cold blood by the former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White who admitted in a later confession that he had actually planned to kill Carole Silver and Assembly leader, Willie Brown-- Speaker of the Assembly then and in 1995 he became the first African American mayor of San Francisco. He even planned to kill himself. For the cold blooded murder of two incredible men, Mr. White received a sentence of seven years and served only five before being pardoned. At the time of his conviction, the homophobic backlash and sentiment of people in government at this time were simply unbelievable. White had a friend drive him to City Hall that fateful morning and he had snuck into City Hall through a basement window. He confronted first Harvey Milk, killing him in cold blood and then White rushed into the mayor's office. The mayor asked him to move the argument to a smaller private room. Dan White wasted no time in murdering Mr. Mosconethe moment he arrived in the room and shut the door, proceeding after shooting him in the chest with two bullets to the poor man's head. White fled and was then confronted by an unsuspecting Dianne Fienstein who was then the head of the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco. White escaped and then the two bodies were found. White's trial coined the phrase "twinkie" defense and it was a dark time for the gay movement. Dianne Fienstein became the mayor of San Francisco and her career was subsequently begun. Harvey Milk was a brave, no holds barred openly gay politician. He was perhaps the first leader to openly oppose prejudice, hatred and discrimination of gay men and women. One thing I was surprised to learn. Not only are two schools named for this brave man (along with George Moscone) but Harvey (before politics) was the owner of a very large and popular San Francisco camera store. Our movement has had its trails and tribulations. Thank God for valiant men like Harvey Milk and George Moscone! Rest in peace!

Sunday, November 26, 2006




At the left of this writing is Edwin Booth, the famous actor and brother of the man at the right John Wilkes Booth, the presidential assassin of Abraham Lincoln. On this date in 1864, Edwin Booth portrayed Hamlet at the old Winter Garden Theatre in New York City in what is known today as the finest performance of the piece in dramatic history. How sad that in one family, there can be three brothers and a father who are incredible actors and one who will fail and die because of his hatred of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States. I learn that John Wilkes actually performed a play at Ford's Theatre for Abraham Lincoln in 1863 even directing a line at Lincoln, himself. Lincoln was so impressed by John Wilkes Booth that he had asked to meet him-- and Booth refused. Another little tidbit about Edwin Booth. He actually saved the life of Robert Todd Lincoln, Abe's only surviving son from serious injury and death by saving him from falling between two cars of a passenger train in 1864-- just one year before the other Booth killed Lincoln and had plotted to kill William Seward, and Vice President Andrew Johnson. American history can be absolutely fascinating. Another tidbit, Booth actually had the opportunity to kill Lincoln at his second inaugural address-- he was that close-- but failed to do so. Edwin actually begged Andrew Johnson for the remains of his brother John Wilkes. It was years before his request was honored! American History continues to fascinate me! But more of this story later!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

THE DAY AFTER "BLACK FRIDAY" AND AN ANNIVERSARY FOR "ONCE UPON A MATTRESS"


Today in 1959, Carol Burnett made her debut in show business by appearing in the lead of a show written by Mary Rodgers (daughter of Richard Rodgers) and Marshall Baher (who also wrote "The Mighty Mouse Theme". It went went on to do 540 performances which in the late 50's wasn't too bad. Jack Gilford played the minstrel and Edward Everett Horton played the mute old king. It literally launched Carol Burnett's career. It was directed by the legendary George Abbott. My favorite songs in the show are "Shy" and "I'm In Love With A Girl Named Fred". It's a fun show and based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Princess and The Pea" To date it represents the only Broadway musical to be based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. My writing partner, Tim Doran and I have a great show called "The Traveling Companion" based on one of the great storyteller's earliest works. We have great hopes for it and will enter the piece in the ASCAP showcase contest later this month. Well, "Black Friday came and went and the store did a little over $7,000. That was about three grand less than last year, but the rest of the month should not be so hard to beat. Today is Saturday and the store's big sale continues. We are giving away $80 fleece jackets with certain cameras. Let's just hope we have in stock what the people want today. John and I got an early Christmas present yesterday. My cousin Sue sent us a beautiful electric blanket for our bed-- wow-- is it comfortable! It was so funny though. It arrived and John opened it up and laid it out on a big chair and almost immediately our Maine Coon cat, Simon jumped up and curled up almost all day in it. Who says cats aren't smart. He was so damn cute-- that look on his face was like "Ah, I'm in paradise now!" Well on to work. This time I work 11am to 7:30 pm and we shall see what the day brings!

Friday, November 24, 2006

BLACK FRIDAY AND THE PASSING OF A BROADWAY LEGEND


Well this is the day-- "Black Friday", the busiest shopping day in the world and I'm working at one of the busiest camera stores in the state. Ritz Camera in Studio City. The last two years I spent the Christmas season at Hooper Cameras in North Hollywood and didn't exactly have a mind boggling sales day there for either 2004 or 2005. So we shall see what the day brings. I pray to God I can make some great sales! We are not in a mall--thank goodness, so I guess it won't be as bad as it could be. But i do need to leave early today to find any kind of parking! Our little parking lot off of Valley Heart in Studio City has to be (bar none) the busiest little parking lot in a five mile radius. I work noon to 8:30 so we shall see what the day brings. All of you who have the day off-- be happy that you do. Only when I was a talent agent for about seven or eight years was I able to enjoy the day off! Well on to retail madness. I would also like to comment on the passing of Betty Comden , a Broadway and Hollywood superstar lyricist and librettist. Amazing lady! Amazing talent! Her partner, Adolph Green passed away five years ago in 2001. I do hope they dim the lights for her tonight on Broadway

Thursday, November 23, 2006

THANKSGIVING: THINGSTO BE GRATEFUL FOR AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY BORIS KARLOFF


Thanksgiving Day. John and I spent the holiday with our neighbors this year. It was so nice not having to drive anywhere this year. I am grateful for many things even though this year is going to be so difficult paying for the expenses of the Halloween night accident. But i am very grateful to God for my new job-- which makes paying for this even remotely possible. I am so grateful to my sister Rosemary who came through with a loan and I am most grateful for my John whop stands beside me every day with love and support. I am grateful for my dear friend Tim Doran and the good people at work who are so helpful and friendly. Now if I can just turn my arrogant manager around-- that would indeed be a miracle! I am grateful to my cousin Susan in Texas and all of my family members who have helped in this little crisis. I'll get through it-- somehow with God's help. It has been said that when God closes the door, he somehow opens a nearby window! I simply need to sell a lot this Christmas season and earn as much money as I can. Today also would have been Boris Karlof's one hundredth and twentieth birthday. I read where dear old Boris was a wonderful cook. His real name was William Pratt and his aunt Anna Leonowens was the Anna in the "The King and I" stories. Some time after emigrating to Canada, he chose the name Boris Karloff after a character in the novel "The Drums of Jeopardy!" He was considered "the black sheep of the family" for becoming an actor! After coming to Hollywood, he made lots of silent films but had to resort to digging ditches or driving a cement truck to earn steady money in between movie gigs. Although mot famous for his three Frankenstein movies, 1845's "The Body Snatcher" was considered to be his best role. He co-starred with Jean Arthur in "Peter Pan" portraying good old Captain Hook. He passed from this planet earth in February of 1969.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL

Tomorrow of course is Thanksgiving Day and i would like to wish all of my family and friends a most happy and blessed day. I can remember as a kid always eating way too much turkey and dressing, but this year will definitely not do so. I am very grateful this year because I was spared from injury in my Halloween night accident. God was certainly "taking the wheel" that fateful night. I will spending the day with my neighbors this year-- something far different than I have ever done before. But John and I will be together. He has been so supportive of me during this very difficult period. Thank God, I have him at my side! I am grateful also to my dear friend Tim who makes my songwriting possible and my dear sister Rosemary who came to my aid with a loan for the car. I am really going to try and become much closer to her for the rest of my life. I am grateful to for my cousin Susan in Texas and my sister Annette who's been supportive too! This has simply been a crazy nightmarish experience, but with God's help, I will get through it. I simply have to tighten the belt and not do any impulse buying. Christmas gifts this year are going to be very simple. John has tried to decorate the house and has made it as festive as he possibly can. Thank goodness! So to everyone a most happy Thanksgiving. Keep me in your prayers!

Monday, November 20, 2006

CABARET OPENS ON BROADWAY AND HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY TO KAYE BALLARD AND ROBERT KENNEDY







On this day forty years ago, the first musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb opened at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York City starring the incredible Joel Grey as "The Emcee" The initial production was produced AND directed by Hal Prince and ran for three years (1966-1969) Bert Convy (remember him?) played Clifford Bradshaw and Jill Hayworth played Sally Bowes. It was the show that launched Kander and Ebb's career. Veteran star Jack Gilford was also in the production. There was a 1987 revival that also starred Joel Grey as The Emcee. The story takes place in Berlin in the years 1929-1930 when Hitler had just taken power in Germany. the 1998 revival starred the amazing Allan Cumming as "The Emcee" For me, however (as much as i love an original Broadway show) it was the 1971 movie version that made it for me. That movie of course won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1971. The movie version of course made the Sally Bowes character a very talented performer whereas in the stage version, she is only marginally so. The subplot involving the landlady is gone and the movie really focuses dead on to the issues being portrayed. Recently, another revival has starred Neil Patrick Harris as "Emcee". He really looks strange in that getup-- but hey, a great Broadway musical has lots of room for very different interpretations. One can only point to new recent adaptations of "Sweeney Todd" or "Company" to illustrate that point. Today is also the birthday of legendary comedian Kaye Ballard. Kaye is eighty years old today. She has those amzingingly beautiful blue eyes and an incredible smile! I remember her from the classic television show "The Mothers-In-Law" from the 1960's. Her classic routines are some of the funniest ever! And today, had he lived, Robert Kennedy would have been eighty-one years old. To me, Robert Kennedy's legacy still lives. I remember that fateful night when he was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. I had just gone to bed and my mother who was a night owl was listening to the radio in her bedroom. All of a sudden, I hear her cry out "My God, they've shot Robert Kennedy!" I got up and watched with her on television in horror that awful June morning. How different would this world have been if this sweet gentle man had become president of the United States. Who knows? But i do think that the Vietnam war would have come to a screeching halt. Well the Christmas retail season starts with a bang this week and I'm hoping I will sell very well this week. I have a big expense that needs to be paid for, but with God's help, I will get through this!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

NOVEMBER 19TH: AN HISTORIC DAY FROM GETTYSBURG TO THE JAY TREATY




It was comprised of ten sentences in two hundred and seventy-two words, but Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Gettysburg Address is certainly the most brilliant and best known of any speech given by any American president. Lincoln's involvement in the day's program had simply been an after thought. Edward Everett, the world famous orator spoke for two hours before Lincoln did. Contrary to legend, Lincoln DID NOT compose this speech on the back of an envelope, nor did he compose it on the train on his way from the city of Washington D.C. to Pennsylvania. The battle raged over three days from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863. The speech itself was composed four and a half months after the infamous battle in which seven thousand, five hundred American soldiers lost their lives. The stench of rotting corpses had made hundreds of people ill in this Pennsylvania community. The dedication was supposed to occur on September 23rd of the same year, but Edward Everett told the dedicating committee that there simply was no way that he could prepare a worthy speech for the occasion in just thirty days. Everett had served as Secretary of State, US. Senator, A congressman and as Governor of the state of Massachusetts. Fifteen thousand people and the governors of six states attended. Lincoln used the word "nation" five times and never the word "union". Lincoln's purpose was clear even in great sorrow. It was also on this day in American history, that we signed the famous "Jay Treaty" of the Revolutionary War and the Senate rejected the Treaty of Versailles of World War One. It was also the day that Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev met for the first time in 1985-- the start of a peaceful Russia. Happy 87th birthday to Alan Young who of course was the co-star in TVs "Mister Ed" and happy 73rd birthday to Larry King. I went to church this morning and went away feeling that somehow this accident mess will somehow work out. I may have to go to Small Claims Court but it has taught me a most valuable lesson-- and as the priest told me "Sometimes it's not that God is not answering your prayer-- He just needs you to learn well your life lesson before he offers the solution. Pray, dear friends that it may yet be okay-- eventually!

F

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A LESSON LEARNED THE HARD WAY

This is the most difficult blog entry to write because quite frankly, it is without question, the very hardest thing to bear! . My Ford Focus ZX3# was involved in a traffic accident on Halloween night, on my 7th anniversary of being with my John. The foolish woman was on her cell phone and made an illegal left hand turn in front of me turning on to a busy street which had no signal. The street was filled with kids who were going trick or treat. She was rushing to pick up her two year old child from a private home caregiver. As it turns out, she lied to the policeman who was on the scene maintaining that she was currently insured (and he believed her-- even with an expired certificate of insurance.) False to both! On top of that the agent who sold me my policy went out of business taking my renewal check (which had an order for all the upgrades I had ordered), cashing it and not turning it into the insurance company--all he managed to turn in was basic liability (and pocketing the difference) so as to not alert the DMV or Ford Motor Company who is doing the financing. He did this to thirty-seven other victims because he was bailing in his failed insurance business. There is now a warrant out for his arrest! So now, I face $5,000 to repair the car like new with a six months parts and labor warranty. The only good thing is that the loss will give me back a 100% refund on my taxes. The lesson? NEVER trust an independent insurance agent again. If that agent insists on one making the check to the agency itself-- RUN!-- get the hell out of there. Because the man sold all kind of insurance under the business name of SOHO CAPITAL -- not just policies for Auto, the Auto Insurance company claims it could have been for any kind of OTHER insurance. Of course, I will go to Small Claims Court and I have filed a DMV report-- but even if I get a judgement against her, if she pays everything by cash without a checking account, I may be out of luck! This person needs only to move away to escape a judgement. If she's only living with the father of the baby and not working or working "under the table" there is absolutely nothing to attach. We will pursue to the fullest part of the law-- so say a prayer. The auto body shop is working on financing with me. I even went to the state insurance commissioner and he says the same-- I could have bought anything from this man-- including office equipment he was selling. He moved out of the building twenty-two days after "renewing" my policy. Another lesson-- if it even LOOKS like a business is in trouble (not open regular hours etc) RUN AWAY! since I paid two months ahead, the first deduction from my checking account was not scheduled to happen until November 6th-- the accident happened on Halloween night! TRUST but VERIFY everything is the big bitter lesson I have learned here. I even went to a lawyer and he wanted $3700 up front. The chances of making all of my money back with that liability added is pretty damn bleak! Especially if she's uninsured and unemployed! But I am going to to even report this to child endangerment services-- driving a baby around in an unprotected car is a big jeopardy to a child's life! Make certain also that all levels of insurance are enough to protect you. The last time I was ever in an accident that was my fault was in 1972 when I was eighteen years old! I'm fifty-nine now. The only ticket I have ever gotten was back in December of 1979! That's twenty-five years ago! So live and learn and trust only AFTER you have verified whom you're dealing with. God certainly protected my life that night. There should not have been any way that I walked away from that accident! I was looking over the car today and noticed that the air bags had failed to inflate-- which is what I remembered at the accident scene. I need every body's prayers that I make it through this challenge!

Thursday, November 16, 2006


HAPPY BIRTHDAY SOUND OF MUSIC
On this day in 1959, the Sound of Music opened on Broadway at the Lunt Fontaine Theatre and played there for 1,443 performances. It was the last collaboration of Rodgers and Hammerstein as Oscar Hammerstein died of cancer, nine short months after it's premiere. The production featured Mary Martin as Maria and Theodore Bikell as Captain Von Trapp. Within the first year, a very young Jon Voight replaced Brian Davies as Rolfe and subsequently married Lauri Peters who was playing Liesel at the time. Patricia Newley played the Mother Abbess. The production shared the Best Musical Tony Award with "Fiorello!!" It also won a Tony award for Mary Martin. The choreographer was Broadway legend Joe Layton. The show enjoyed revivals in 1961, 1981, 1987, 1998 and now the current production in London being produced by Andrew Llloyd Webber. Many people believe that "Edelweiss" to be a traditional Austrian song or even their national anthem. Not so! "Edelweiss" was actually the very last song that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote together and was actually added to the score in tryouts prior to coming to New York. One of the big misconceptions derived from both the play (and most especially from the 1965 hit movie was that pre-war Austria was a peaceful, idyllic place to live. Not so! Poor Austria in the 1930's had suffered through a great civil war and a major depression, only to fall under the spell of Hitler, a right wing oligarchy. Fact #2: Expressions of Austrian nationalism were by no means forbidden-- they were actually mandatory. Fact # 3: All titles of nobility in Austria had been cancelled. The word "Von" was a title of nobility-- so in actuality, the family would have been known simply as "The Trapp Family" Believe or not, the real Maria sold the rights to her story for a mere $10,000-- so the Von Trapp family did not benefit greatly from the musical's enormous success throughout the years. Imagine that! Another writer cheated! The stage version differs greatly from the movie version, (with two of the stage version's songs cut) however the current London production incorporates the two songs that Richard Rodgers wrote solo for the motion picture version in 1965. One is "I Have Confidence In Me! and the other is the hauntingly beautiful "Something Good" which Maria sings to the Captain once he tells her that he loves her. I have always loved "The Sound of Music". It is simply a perfect musical and so well structured that it perhaps all other R&H shows will remain in performance forever! Mary Poppins makes her official opening tonight at the New Amsterdam theatre. "Break a leg!" to everyone involved. It's a different show than the movie, but still wonderful. The Sherman Brothers songs still shine and always will! Keep up on those prayers for me that I can get this accident thing behind me! Well until another day!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


GILBERT & SULLIVAN'S 1st SHOW

Today is the anniversary of the first show in the long and stormy career of Gilbert & Sullivan. That show was "Thespis" in 1871. Gilbert wrote the fanciful words for these operettas in which an absurdity is taken to its logical conclusion. In their shows, we rub elbows with flirting English Lords, and gondoliers ascend to the monarchy: not to mention pirates who turn out to be nobleman who have gone wrong! Gilbert's lyrics employ double and sometimes triple rhymes and great punning! They served as a model for later composers such as Cole Porter and Ira Gershwin. Gilbert and Sullivan had a strained working relationship at best partly caused by the fact that each man saw himself allowing his work to be subjugated to the other's criticism and review. Well so much for collaboration! Gilbert was often confrontational and notoriously thin skinned (though proned to many acts of extraordinary kindness) Sullivan loved conflict! Sullivan loved realism and emotional content and Gilbert infused his libretto with "Topsy Turvey" situations in which the social order was turned upside down. Gilbert political satire poked fun at those in the circles of privilege-- many of these were Sullivan's friends-- and whom he assumed were being offended by these swipes and put downs. "Thespis" was their first collaboration that was performed for the first time on this day in 1871. In this show the "gods" of the classical world who have become elderly and ineffective are temporarily replaced by a troupe of actors and actresses. . The piece mocked "Orpheus In the Underworld". No one thought they would continue together as a team because the show lasted only sixty-four performances on the English stage. In fact, the pair did not work together again for another four years for what was to become a major hit. It was called "Trial By Jury" . But it was only one act. Only the later (1877) "The Sorcerer" was the first full length Gilbert and Sullivan in what became known as the Savory Operas. This was the first comic opera. It was about a cockney businessman who just so happens to be a great unappreciated sorcerer who offers both blessings (not much called for) and curses (very popular) for those with the right state of mind and funds to buy it with. It ran 131 performances and established the team! I have always wanted to write a spoof on Gilbert and Sullivan. I imagine it to be called "The Revenge of Gilbert and Sullivan" In my original notes, Gilbert and Sullivan are up in heaven and are constantly arguing and fighting driving poor Saint Peter crazy. He can't take their fighting and bickering any longer and he sends them back to Earth to do one last production using all the knowledge they have now and have gained in eternity. Well that sounds fun, but I think now it might be really fun to take that original production of Thespis and combine it with "The Sorcerer" The plot would be the same-- but instead of using Saint Peter and saints and religious folk, why not put the pair on Mount Olympus where now Zeus and the other Greek gods are old and ineffectual. Of course, we assume these guys aren't myth at all! On Mount Olympus where G&S reside in eternity they are are still fighting and Zeus himself can't stand the fighting and constant arguments anymore. So Zeus proposes to the pair that they go back to Earth and find actors who are tired of "the weary Earth and would love to portray the aged gods for reasons of image, literature, even "publicity"-- after all-- what fun is it to be a "god" if nobody believes in you anymore --even English majors! And all because you're too old to make your presence known anymore? If they succeed and the "gods" are impressed, the actors can stay and go G&S operettas in eternity forever-- living as "gods' usually do. But if they fail-- its off to the Underworld where the aged "gods" may not have usable replacements, but they won't have to listen to G&S fight anymore! This prevents anyone not into religion to enjoy the show as pure satire. So G&S go back to Earth and find the decedent of that same Sorcerer who has all of his great grandfather's old potions stored away. The poor magician is almost destitute and doesn't even think these potions work. But they do! And G&S (who did all the casting of their shows and made performers outstanding by continually working with and coaching them) decide to do the same, but this time use the magic potions to give these actors great wit, personality, power, magic-- all the things a Greek god replacement would need. Would any actor give up their uncertain life and uncertain success on earth for a chance of eternity "playing" a Greek god? No more worries! No more bills! No more taxes! Well, you get the point. Well at first everything is wonderful at first and the "Greek gods" are very impressed and happy. But "magic" isn't forever and the actors and actresses are starting to lose the powers that the potions from the Sorcerer gave them. Not wishing to lose "eternity on Mount Olympus" they resort to their own talents without magic and their own built in ego from earth-- that spells big trouble. It may be "Underworld time at any moment. Hey life was hell-- but not the kind they face! And so G&S take matters into their own hands-- they simply tell the actors troupe that they must ditch the magic (which wears out more and more each day) and G&S coach the actors trouper just like they did in the 1800's. The old adage "Be yourself" is more magic than any potion and the actors troupe save their life in paradise by showing the gods -- that they can be their old persona's again too by simply believing in themselves as they used to and letting the actors remain in eternity to entertain them doing simply what they do best-- brilliant theatre! Brilliant Gilbert & Sullivan! Sounds fun-- And the Sorcerer? Well, he knows when his goose is cooked and leaves Olympus pronto for his old life on Earth! Paradise isn't always what you think! Will it work? Will I ever get to write this thing-- well we shall see what we shall see!