Saturday, September 30, 2006

Today would have been Truman's Capote's 82nd birthday. I think there is no author that I can think of who was more of a character than any writer ever could be. At one time, Capote's photographic memory allowed him to interview people and retain verbatim 94% of the entire conversation-- word for word! Now that is pretty amazing. But more importantly than that was just how amazing this man could put words together. The picture of his youth shown here was one of the most controversial when it was published along with reviews of his materials in 1948. Truman was born in New Orleans as Truman Streckfus Persons in 1924. His father and mother (who was only 17 at the time) divorced four years later and Truman was sent to Monroeville, Alabama to be raised by relatives. When his mother remarried, his step father adopted him and he was renamed Truman Garcia Capote. As a lonely child, Truman taught himself to read before the first grade. He began writing when he was eight years old. When he was ten, his short story "Old Mr. Busybody" won an award. When he was eleven he began writing seriously in daily three hour sessions. When he was 17, Truman completed his formal education and rejected the notion of going to college saying "I was determined to never set a studious foot inside a college classroom. I felt that one WAS or WAS NOT a writer and no combination of professors could influence the outcome". Of course, he is best known for his novels "In Cold Blood" and "Breakfast At Tiffany's" and his "Christmas Memory" was a classic in its own right! Twenty films and TV dramas and one Broadway musical ("House of Flowers") has been taken from his writings. The Random House publisher Bennett Cerf gave Truman his first advance in 1946 and the result was the novel "Other Voices, Other Rooms" Capote stood at Five foot two and was openly gay when it was common among artists but rarely talked about. One of his first serious lovers was Newton Arvin, a professor of literature at Smith College, famous for his unique biography of Herman Melville ("Moby Dick" etc) Poor Truman claimed to know people he had never met such as Greta Garbo and bragged that he had an affair with Errol Flynn. He had a famous friendship with icon classic artist Andy Warhol-- who had a crush on him! His addiction to cocaine in the 1980's is what did him in. But all in all what a character and very fine author he was. God love you, Truman. I hope at last you have found your peace! Today also is the day that dear Mae West was cleared of obscenity charges by a hung jury in 1934. Atta girl, Mae! Tim and I were presented an opprtunity with the Sierra Madre Theatre to have a first production of "Traveling Companion" so that is very exciting and we both of us will work on making this a reality in early 2007. It turns out that some of the people there worked with the actors and actresses I knew at the San Gabriel Little Theatre back in the 1960's. Those were amazing days for me and provided me the background for working in theatre today. I remember dear Elizabeth Gregory, (she was the best) John Higgins,( I truly loved this man) George Von Ravensburg and Jay Buck to name a few and of course Toni Perrine who was so helpful in producing a later play of mine called "Irish Leftovers" Everything now comes from something way back when.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Today is the feast of Saint Michael, the Archangel and my patron saint. I am amazed at just how much this great and caring angel has been in the history of the world. Venerated by the Jews for centuries and of course winning the great battle of heaven is only a few of the things this great protector has accomplished. He aided Daniel in his great struggles, He hid the tomb of Moses to prevent the Israelites from demagodery and body worship and even guards the grave of Eve. He appeared to the great emperor Constantine and aided in his great struggles and helping in his great conversion to Christianity and he continues to be of great protection and comfort to many people on Earth right to this very day. We also celebrate and venerate the angels Gabriel (who announced to Mary that she was to become the Mother of God and also told Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth (even in her old age) was to bear a son to be known as John (The Baptist) I am convinced that my patron saint has protected me and saved my life more times than I can ever count. There have been times on the road when I had close calls with a crazy driver. I remember one time on the freeway in Orange County when I felt the wheel of my car being commandeered away from a crazy driver and what would have been a fatal accident for me. Just recently, on the street that I live today some crazy driver was barreling out of the Seven-Eleven parking lot and once again I felt heavenly intervention: this time the accelerator and the steering wheel. So today I place my cares and concerns and hurts and wishes and dreams into his hands. He will guide me and place me in his care. It is also the feast of another great archangel: Raphael. So on the good holy angels I will rely. Saint Gabriel's statue sits above my writing area. He is the "great communicator" and helps when I need a phrase or a lyric or a line of dialogue. And so on this day let me repeat a great prayer to Saint Michael: "Saint Michael, the archangel, defend me in battle. Be my protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray and may you, the prince of the Heavenly host cast into hell Satan and the other evil spirits who roam the world seeking the ruin of souls. Of course, the devil's finest strategy is simple "Hey, you got plenty of time-- do whatever you want to do- live any way you want to live-- you can always ask God to forgive you at the last moment. Well of course, sometimes that last moment we never see coming! It's like being hit by that infamous ton of bricks that we all hear about. So I place my trust in his care. So far he's done one hell of a good job!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Today is the birthday of perhaps the finest composer in the entire world. His name was George Gershwin and bar none, in my humble opinion, no composer of the modern age could quite touch the level of genius that George (with Ira) reached. What can one say about "Rhapsody In Blue" or an "An American in Paris"? Simply brilliant. In the new "Fantasia" George's "Rhapsody" is put to animation-- and perhaps here (finally meshed with a visual)one can see just how brilliant he was. "Porgy & Bess" is another masterpiece. Of course, one knows full well just how much Ira contributed and just how much Ira loved his brother. Right after George had been felled by a brain tumor at the tender age of thirty-seven, Ira went into mourning. The last melody that George had written lacked a lyric. Two weeks passed, then three and finally five and an anxious MGM called Ira and told him just how badly tey needed this lyric to complete the picture. Ira knew that George would want him to finish. So a broken hearted Ira wrote a lyric that everybody thinks is to be sung by two people in love-- a man married to a woman, or vice versa. But the lyric to the song "Our Love is Here To Stay" was written by Ira as a tribute to his brother. He could not ever hear that song in the future years without breaking into tears. Dear Ira lived another forty-two years after George's untimely death! If you examine that lyric you will see just how brilliantly it was composed. Today also marks the 50th anniversary of writing for another two incredible song writers: Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman-- aka "The Sherman Brothers" I have been fans of these guys for over forty years-- long before "Mary Poppins" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious" came along. Now that his dear wife has passed away, Robert has retired to London where he is taking up his second passion in life-- painting. I used to represent them back in the agency days along with Robert's son Robbie. Of course the new Mary Poppins opens soon and the boys are working on another musical called "The Merry Go Round". The one thing that I have always strived to achieve in my songwriting has come from them-- hummability and catchy and clever lyrics. I will always be grateful for their influence. Today also is the birthday of another great pope-- Paul XVI-- who led many reforms along with his predecesor John the XXIII. Of course the incredible John Paul II took his papal name from each of these great men. Going to a big motivitational meeting for Ritz tomorrow in the city of Commerce at Wyndham Garden Hotel. Should be interesting!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Today is my 59th birthday-- the official "autumn of my years" as Frank Sinatra sung about in the song "It Was A Very Good Year" The reason I am a bit chagrined by it all is that my dear father, Louis Ricciardi never made it to age 59. He died of a massive coronary occlusion on January 26, 1966-- forty years ago! Imagine losing your father (whom you were just beginning to really appreciate and relish) graduating from high school and losing your idol to death also-- that of course was Walt Disney on December 15, 1966. We also lost Ed Wynn and Verna Felton in the same year. I began college in 1966 as well learning things that I never imagined I would-- even a course in ballroom dancing. I remember an amazing history teacher in college that got me very devoted to American History. Her name was Dr. Eve Jones. What a informative, interesting and incredible teacher-- with an amazing sense of humor. I still tell the joke that she told on opening day of class forty years ago. "You know you're having a bad day when you're rushing to give a history exam about Little Big Horn and a cop stops you and says "Hey, lady, didn't you see the arrows? And you answer: "Arrows?-- hell, I didn't even see the Indians!" How many of us rush around on a daily baqsis and we are so wrapped up in our petty p-roblems that never see the "big picture"-- the arrows much less "the indians". It still gets a big laugh-- 40 years later. Lord knows, I don't see the arrows a lot these days! There is so much I wish to accomplish in my remaining days on this planet! I strive to be a successful songwriter. God knows the desire of my heart. The gift of music was given to me in a much hidden blessing-- by pure accident! Happy accidents are God's best work sometimes. Finding Tim Doran, discovering Tony Westbrook and of course my life partner, John Long. My John is my tower of strength. I think I would have turned to pure jello long ago without his keeping my feet on the ground. For a guy in his mid thirties, he is one of the smartest men on the planet. And his good heart? That, friends is purely amazing. For a guy who is not big on going to church, he has given more of himself to everyone around him (especially me) than any individual I can name-- other than my beloved parents. So today I go to my sisters and celebrate the great day. I thank the Good Lord for being alive-- now past my dad! I really need to be a lot more patient, however and need to be willing to wait for God's will to be manifested. Work is getting better and overall I am very happy! Of course, God knows what will make me the happiest man alive. In prayer, I have told him "Dear God, I don't seek to be a millionaire-- just one great mindblowing success will do-- "one for the angels". In a Twilight Zone episode, the late great Ed Wynn cheated death by claiming he had "unfinished business" until he had accomplished "one for the angels" He got what he wanted-- but not in the way he expected. So, okay, dear Lord-- surprise me-- grant me before I die "one for the angels".

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mickey Rooney is one of the last of the true Hollywood legends. Today is his 86th birthday! Happy Birthday! He was born (as Joe Yule Jr.)in Brooklyn in 1920. His parents were Nell Carter and vaudevillian comedian Joe Yule Sr. His career took off at the age of seventeen months. While hiding underneath a shoeshine stand on stage during his father's act one day, baby Mickey sneezed. The noise caused a spotlight to find him. Not knowing what to do, baby Mickey (then Joe) blew on his tiny mouth organ that was hanging around his neck. The audience went nuts and a show business legend's career was born. The show's manager got him a pint sized tuxedo to wear on stage from then on. Young Mickey then began performing small balads and speeches on stage. Mickey took the name "Mickey Rooney" in 1932after his first film break in the "Mickey Mcguire" comedies in 1927. Mickey always claimed that Walt Disney named the mouse after him-- doubtful-- since Mickey Mouse had been around since 1926. Mickey also claimed that he gave Norma Jean baker her famous name of Marilyn Monroe. Mickey had eight marriages,with five sons, four daughters and two step sons and has two grandchildren and two great grand children. He has two movies coming out this year. One is called "Bamboo Shark" and the other is "Night at the Museum". Of course the picture I loved him in was "Boys Town" (1938) and the "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1939) and best of all "Pete's Dragon" from 1977. Well, dear Mickey, you've had quite am amazng life. Judy Garland would be proud!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Fiddler on the Roof is perhaps one of the finest musicals on the planet. It was on this day in 1964 that it opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre and ran over four thousand performances. It made a star of the late great Zero Mostel and featured Bea Arthur as Yentil and Bert Convy as Perchek. A lot of men have played the famous role including of course Topol, Hershel Bernardi and Theodore Bikel. In the very latest 2005-2006 revival Harvey Fierstein played Tevye and Rose O' Donnell played Golda. It was the very first musical that I was privileged to see. The year was 1980. I had just obtained the role of the Scarecrow in the Gallery Theatre production of "The Wizard Of Oz" (yes, that very same production that launched my songwriting career) It was simply amazing and I knew after watching that show just how much I was going to be in love with the Broadway type musical. It was only a community theatre production, but I was simply enchanted and went back to watch it many many times. I wanted to write songs like that-- songs that you could remember-- songs that you could whistle home. And of course, I'm still trying. I have an incredible friend, collaborator and partner in Tim Doran and as I apprproach my 59th birthday, I thank God each day for his guidance and help. Together we have written a new show called "The Traveling Companion" based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale that I am so excited about. I have loved this story since I was a little boy and together we are working on getting this produced in a the big time. A friend of Tim's (big in the theatre world) said he loved it and that the story made him cry. Well, that's encouraging. So let us hope. The storyteller CD is out and I'm having a new cover designed for it. I'm really going to start getting this out just as soon as possible! So thank you "Fiddler On The Roof". You were the catalyst that made it all begin. And I also thank Mr. Mark Shipley of the Gallery Theatre. We had our disagreements over the years, but you were the place where many of my first songs were performed. It was your production of "The Wizard of Oz" that offered that first big opportunity! You issued the challenge that I accepted and I am very happy that I did! But the man who remains warmest in my heart, outside of Tim, is David Holmes. He certainly made the difference when I needed help the most! God Love you! I also thank Mr. Bill Lewis whose friendship since 1989 has been one of the best things of my life! Funny how we meet people! I met Tim from an introduction by a singing teacher that shouldn't have been teaching singing! And then there is the amazing Tony Westbrook-- what an absolute blessing that simply by chance meeting was! One of the last songs he recorded for me before moving to New York City was "Crazy As It Seems"-- what a beautiful rendition. And so it goes! Our lives are all based on chance encounters! Oh well! It's so true-- God indeed draws with crooked lines!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Jim Croce was one hell of a singer-songwriter. Who could forget "Time In A Bottle" "Cat In The Cradle" or "I 'll Have to Say I Love You In A Song". The world lost this great and very mazing artist in a plane crash on this date in 1973. His infant son, A.J. (a great singer-songwriter in his own right was not even two when he lost his father. Jim and his wife had just moved into San Diego, just before the accident! "Time In A Bottle" was written expressly for hia infant son. "A.J." was to find a great deal of hardship two years after his father died (at the tender age of four) The young boy developed a brain tumor and was essentially blind in both eyes for 10-12 years. Only after many years he managed to re-gain very limited sight in his own . As a songwriter, myself , I understand the delicacies of the proper lyric and music balance. Today is also the 72nd birthday of Sophia Loren-- still one of the world's most amazing actresses of all time to come! Wow! Its also the 82nd birthday of another singing star legend--her name is Gogi Grant. Wow a real trip down memory lane today!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Well, tonight the magic of "A Chorus Line" happens once again opening tonight at the Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway. This time with a brand new cast and a brand new production. Dear Michael Bennett is gone and so is lyricist Edward Kleban in 1987 Gone too from this globe of blue is James Kirkwood (1989) and Nicholas Dante (1991) the authors of the original libretto. Only Marvin Hamilich remains alive. But the story of a "A Chorus Line" who prior to "Phantom Of The Opera" was the longest running Broadway musical of all time. The show ran for Six thousand, one hundred and thirty-seven performances! It opened at the Schubert Theatre on July 25th, 1975 and closed in that same theatre on April 28th, 1990. Neil Simon was called in to do some uncredited additions to the libretto. It was from he that the show has most of its great one liners! Never beforte had a Broadway show been shaped so much by one man-- and that one way was the late great Michael Bennett. So tonight's Michael's long time lawyer and the man who administers his estate produces this great comeback. Its funny, Marvin Hamlish has never had another hit on Broadway. Everything else has flopped. The money from this show must be phenominal because edward Kleban's estate has been giving grants of $75,000 a year since the year after he died to deserving new composer-lyricist teams! The soundtrack with the new stars will be released soon. This is a show that belongs on the "Great White Way", The motion picture version of this classic while a noble effort by director Richard Attenborough was a pure disaster. I remember how uncomfortable I was watching it. But no doubt about it the stage version of "A Chorus Line" is simply incredible and tonight it opens again after sixteen years! Tonight in preview. Its official opening night is November 8th. The world may have changed after 1990, but one thing for sure: the dream inside a young performer's heart has never dimmed after all of these many years! I wish everyone on this great grand show all best wishes! Break a leg! They will sing "I Can Do That!" "Dance Ten, Looks Three" and "Tits and Ass" with an exuberance that will make this a classic all over again! These performers will I'm sure make it all seem fresh, original and new!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Today is the birthday of a true Hollywood legend: the one and only Lauren Bacall. Today the grand lady is eighty-two years old. Of course she is known for her husky voice and sultry looks she was born on this day in 1924 in New York City. Her father and mother separated when she was six and she never saw her father after the age of six! She formed a close and tight bond with her mother. The movie that brought this amazing actress instant fame was the classic "To Have and Have Not" Bacall was nervous in front of the camera so director Howard Hawks suggested that she tilt her head and pull her hair over one side of her face. Tthen then told her to press her chin against her chest and tilt her eyes upward to face the camera. The effect became known as "the look"-- Bacall's trademark! Of course, she also met actor Humphrey Bogart on the set of this picture and their long relationship began! When she was still twenty years of age in 1945, she was asked to pose for a picture and sit on a piano that was being played by President Harry Truman! The photos caused a deep scandal and a big embarrassment for the President! She was a big part of 1953's "How to Marry A Millionaire" in which so co-starred with another legend-- Marilyn Monroe! Bacall was known to turn down scripts that she didn't find interesting and that philosophy gave her the reputation around Hollywood that she was "very difficult". Her saving grace in the late 60's when her film career waned was Broadway. Her Broadway plays included "Goodbye Charlie" (1959) "Cactus Flower" (1965) "applause" (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). She became very pro Democratic and a very big liberal! After Bogart's death in 1957, Bacall had a relationship with Frank Sinatra. She was later married to actor Jason Robards from 1961 to 1969. Some amazing things. In 1953, (at the premiere for "How To marry a Millionaire") she refused to press her hand footprints in the cemented forecourt of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre-- the only major female film star to ever do so! One of her most famous movie lines came from her first major picture "To Have or Have Not" when she quipped to Bogart's character "You know you don't have to act with me, Steve! You don't have to say anything and you don't have to do anything. Not thing! Oh, maybe just whistle! You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow!" Miss Bacall had far reaching influence in modern culture too! In the song "Rainbow High" from Andrew Lloyd Weber's and Tim Rice's "Evita" the main character Eva Peron orders her stylist to "Lauren Bacall Me". Today is another famous birthday as well: the wonderful Peter Falk, better known as Detective Columbo. He is seventy nine years old today. Whata great actor. One of my favorite films of his is Neil Simon's "Murder By Death"-- one of the funniest pictures you will ever see! Tim Doran and i are ghoing to an important Music Supervisor convention in Studio City on Tuesday night! Should be very interesting!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

You know flag day of course! Well this should be "National Anthem" day. For On this date in 1814 while watching a battle of our troops vs the British at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the historic words to the "Star Spangled Banner" How many of us know all the words of even the first stanza? "Oh say, can you see, by the dawn's early light?" Imagine that our greatest allies today is the only nation with whom we have gone to war against twice! And they even burned down the White House during this same war! Funny how things go sometimes. This was a historic day in American History in other ways. I wrote back on September 6th about William McKinley being shot by an assassin -- we'll today on this date in 1901, Mr. McKinley died of his wounds and Theodore Roosevelt at 42 became the youngest man to become president of the United States until then. As an ironic twist to the Anthem anniversary, it was also on this date in 2005 that a Federal judge in San Francisco declared that the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools was unconstitutional. Also on thgis date in 1982, the world lost another Princess-- Princess Grace of Monaco who was killed in that bizzare accident on that very road where a friend and I had had a wild cab ride on in 1978. Funny how things are in perspective of others. So I think it might be a very good idea today if we take a good look of the words of the National Anthem and reflect on just how lyrical and beautiful that they really are! We live in a great country! Let's acknowledge that today in a special way! Much cooler day today-- even a little drizzle-- which is very welcome after such a long period of hot weather.
well not too much else happening. Until next time!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Without a single doubt, I love cats. I think they can be the most wonderful pets and some like my dear Simon Peter seem to have more personality than some people. I have cats in my life since I was a little kid-- although my first was not exactly a warm and endearing relationship. I was a kid of four and used to chase poor "Teddy" every time I saw him. I am very happy to say that there was a moment when he was quite old for the two of us to bond. The cat of course that I can not forget was one of the homliest cats you have ever seen. I guess I was about nine years old when someone dumped two cats on our door and finally a third. The first was Torty a beautiful tortice cat of magnificent color. The second was "Bugsey" a gray and white tom cat who was cute and playful and the third-- because she was the last of the three we called "Caboose". Caboose as I said was one homly looking cat. She was always pregnant-- "loose with her morals" we kids used to always claim. I swear this cat had no more weened five or six kittens (and we had found homes for them) when she was pregnant again. We'd lift her up and of course we kids all could tell and we'd say to her "Oh, Caboose, not again. She'd meow in some self resigned way almost to say "I can't help it!" Now my current cat "Simon" that John and I have adopted is a Maine Coon. These cats came over on the Mayflower and used to live and reside in the bowels of the great ships where they learned to be great micers. Simon is the most affectionate and amazing animal I have witnessed in some time. He really seems to communicate with you. If you call his name, he answers you with a definite meow greeting. He loves to cuddle, sleep and oh yes-- eat! He's huge. He weighs at least twenty pounds and it takes two full hands to pick him up. He is such a joy! Cats are indeed very independently minded and Simon is no exception. You never have to guess what he wants. He will meow in a certain way and will be very persistant about it. Then you will say to him "Show me" and I swear that cat will get up and "show you" the problem. The litter box needs changing. His drinking water is clouded. God help you if there's a hole in his dry food-- he wants the plate to be always full. If the world was as good as communicating with others as good as this cat can, we would all be much better for it. Not much else happening today. I was pleased to hear from a music supervisor last night in an e mail asking me to send him Christmas music. It came from out of the blue. At first I had thought I had e mailed this company, but it tuirns out that I hadn't. So I have sent an enthusiastic response and we shall see what happens. It is so true: we simply have to let God do his wonderfulness and things fall into our laps. Praise God! I'll keep you posted on this latest development.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The day after.... what can we add? Perhaps something that I wrote many years ago might be appropriate. We must realize that preventing future tragedies like these depends on two things: obtaining wisdom and perfecting communication. I wrote once "Great communication is an accident: only anger, silence and hidden agendas are deliberate" Whatever these people who use violence to promote their cause say are only using words-- nothing more. They blame the United States and Israel for all their troubles and yet these individuals biblically come from the same cloth. Father Abraham in the bible was impatient for a child: an heir and had relations with a maid servent instead of waiting for God's time in this matter. The descendents of this woman with Abraham-- sent away and forced to live in exile became the seeds of the entire Arab world. Everything comes in God's time, but we poor humans, imperfect as we are are so impatient-- that we take things so many times into our own hands. The consequences are so far reaching that we are paying the price five thousand years later. Why haven't we learned that Almighty God has the best plan of all? Poor Job in the Bible cursed his life and couldn't understand why God had allowed the things he had. God's answer (and of course I paraphrase) was basically "Were you there when I hung the stars in the sky? "Did I do a good job on the sunrise or the sunset or the rainbow? Why do you question me? Well we all do it. Me. You. Everybody. We just can't understand why something in our lives goes so wrong. Why someone in our lives betray us? Why our financial tree falls in the forest of our lives--with us barely jumping out of the tree in time! But the more wisdom we obtain and put to use in each of life's lessons makes us stronger and more resilliant the next time. There is always a hidden blessing. Something we do not see! Any soul who thinks that 9/11 was the worst that could have been has absolute no concept about the forces of evil! If that plane that God allowed to crash in that Pennsylvania meadow had reached its target of the White House--or worse the US. Capitol, I am of the opinion that we would NEVER have recovered psycholigicly from such a disasterous event. Not only would every represenative of our government been killed or seriously injured but the American Spirit would have been wounded beyond capacity. God spared us all with this latest plot discovered in England-- I think that alone should make us all trust Him with every single tick of the clock and every single event that happens. We've just got to trust Him. In a song I wrote that not only does God "draw straight with crooked lines" but also in that same song I wrote that "The hardest words to say: thy will be done! I wrote something many years ago that also illustrates this a bit more: "Obtaining wisdom is like coming across a sunrise-- we can't believe how dark it was only moments before and we can't fathom that it took us all night to find it" We must trust God and with each thing that goes wrong: learn from it: gain the wisdom it teaches-- instead of being shocked by its lesson days or months or years later. We must be vigilent. We must pray! We must trust! Don't hand a problem or a hurt to the Lord, trusting he will fix it and then "yank it away' in impatience or give up on it and be sad or angry or indifferent. I hate it when somebody says "Whatever"-- it means "I don't care about you and I don't care about life and I don't care about anything that could make it better-- because it won't" Wrong! We have so many blessings and yet like the guy finding the sunset he is shocked at its sudden appearnce, but amazingly not grateful that he has been given the opportunity to seek it, or experience it or wonder at it --- but more perplexed that it took him so long to find something he wasn't expecxting in the first place!

Monday, September 11, 2006

What can one say about the saddest day in American History since December 7th, 1941? We learned in a very big way that Lincoln's prophecy that "no one could by force make a trek on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years" was simply not a reality. I will always maintain that Osama Bin Laden was and remains the very worst of our enemies-- of all time in all of history! Not even Hitler, himself praised God for act of violence succeeding. Imagine a war mounger who thinks Almighty God is on his side-- now there, dear friends beats any rhetoric any villain could possibly conjure up. Not since the devil, himself offered all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God if only Jesus would fall down on the ground before Satan and worship him has any evil soul said something so brash as this. I, myself, would love to be a fly on the wall when this hideous creature Osama meets his maker. Funny thing about the date Sept 11th in history. Interesting things have happened! On this same date in 1814, an American fleet scored a decisive victory over the British in the War of 1812. This was amereica's first war after the Revolution! We all know that one of the plots of these 9/11 heathens was to destroy the White House. During the War of 1812, the British actually burned the White House to the ground. It was Dolly Madison of course who saved the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington. On this date in 1936, FDR dedicated Boulder Dam (now Hoover) And Nikita Khrushchev died at age 77.Good old Khrushchev threatened to "bury us" at one point, but the old boy was more bluff than reality! Well at least he never saw Disneyland-- I wonder what he would have thought of the Magic Kingdom? Also on this date, we lost Fred Ebb (the magnificent lyricist and one half of Kander & Ebb) in 2004 ("New York, New York") and actor John Ritter died at age fifty-four in 2003. Yes, this is a day that will also live "in infamy" as FDR called Pearl Harbor. Perhaps it will surely teach us a few lessons. By the way a happy birthday to Harry Connick, Jr who turns 39 on this historic day! actor Earl Holliman who turns 78. Good news: I am told that my dear friend Bill Lewis has had his Disneyland contract renewed through January 2008. He is playing the fife and singing in the new Pirate band show at New Orleans Square. He is so talented and i am so lucky to call this man my friend!His recent staging of "Forever Plaid" won very appreciative and enthusiastic standing ovation audiences in Oregon, but not make back its expenses. Theatre staging is expensive. How well, we all know that one! That's it for today! Let us all say a prayer for the families of the victims of this most tragic day anniversary. Let us learn to be vigilant and ever ready. Let us learn to be on our guard at all moments! May God Bless America!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

This very strange looking device is believe it or not: the first patented sewing machine. The invention was made and patented by the gentleman pictured to the right. His name was Elias Howe. Elias Howe was born in 1819 in the town of Spencer, Massachusetts. He had apprenticed at the age of sixteen then lost his job in the Great Panic of 1837-- a precursor to the Great Depression of 1929. Actually the very first individual to invent a functional sewing machine was a French Taylor by the name Of Barthelemy Thimonnier in 1830. But the French tailors of the time feared that they would have been put out of business by the labor saving machine and so they stormed and destroyed his eighty machine plant, setting it on fire. The poor inventor fled with his life and died in bankruptcy. Ah the poor French-- they simply wouldn't recognize genius if it bit them. I illustrate that point with the fact that the French executed the last criminal by guillotine-- not back in 1900, or 1930, or even 1950, but on this date September 10th in 1977. Blows the mind! Another inventor by the name of Walter Hunt feared what had happened to the poor Frenchman and abandoned his idea. Ario Davis, Howe's employer at the time and a Puritan bible thumper thought it would be immoral to invent something that would take jobs-- something God would surely punish! Well, back to Mr. Howe, he gets layed off from work by the same Mr. Davis. While unemployed he watched his faithful wife take in sewing to pay the bills. Watching her at work, he realized that no machine would be able to duplicate the motions of hand and arm in sewing. Instead, he hit upon a process that used thread from two different sources. A needle with its eye at the point would push through the cloth creating a loop of thread on the far side; then a shuttle would slip through the loop creating a tight lock stitch. But as genius as this sounds he was overwhelmed with trouble. His workshop burned down and when he started from scratch his machines were priced at three hundred dollars. That was a lot of money in 1845. Even when a demonstration he held in public view proved without a doubt out sewed five seamstresses. He couldn't sell a single machine. He fled to England but was swindled out of his British royalties. He pawned his prototype to get home to America only to have his faithful wife die suddenly-- the inspiration for the invention itself! If that wasn't bad enough, upon his return in 1850, he found the sewing machine business flourishing , unsurping his original invention. The leader of this pack of thieves was none other Isaac Singer who's real genius was marketing-- after all he simply had adapted Howe's patent by employing a needle that went up and down instead of sideways and was powered by a treadle rather than a hand crank. Funded by a mortgage on his father's farm, Howe went to court to sue the infringers and years his patent was upheld in 1854 and Singer was ordered to pay Howe fifteen grand. Rather than face similar prosecution, the other sewing machine inventors agreed to give Howe a five dollar royalty for each machine sold in the United States and one dollar for each one sold in Europe. The deal brought Howe two million dollars-- which in the 1850's would be like thirty million dollars today. He helped finance the Civil War and helped build a college with the money, but died at the age of forty-eight-- the very year his patent expired. Patents are not copyrights: they last only twenty-one years! My mother was an avid sewer and used to brag how wonderful her Singer Sewing Machine was-- Ha! If she only knew!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Today is the birthday of a master showman and an amazing lyricist who gave the world the lyrics to some of the greatest songs ever written. His name was Billy Rose. Now most people associate Billy with producing "Jumbo" starring Jimmy Durante and the amazing Martha Raye. But he really was a master showman and was once married tothe amazing Fanny Brice.He discovered stripper Sally Rand, swimming star Esther Williams and Tarzan legend Johnny Weismuller. Billy was producing a new show at his legendary "Diamond Horseshoe Club back in 1939 and he needed a choreographer who could make "tits and ass" look spectacular. His associate, John Murray Andersen reccomended none other than Gene Kelly. Gene was hired under protest until Rose saw him work-- and this was the biggest step in Gene Kelly's career. As far as songs go Billy wrote the lyrics (or co wrote the lyrics for) "Me and My Shadow" (how many times did I sing this as a kid!), "Does The Spearmint Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Over Night?" (that one too-- at camp) "I Found a Million Dollar Baby at a Five And Ten Cent Store" and "It's Only A Paper Moon" He also produced "Carmen Jones" in 1943 with an all black cast, taking the Bizet opera Carmen and transplanting it to World War II. Oscar hammerstein did the lyrics and the libretto--it was an instant hit! It was from a stage play he did called "The Great Magoo" --that the cartoon of the fifties was derived and whom Jim Baugus immortalized. Billy came up with the concept of the classic movie "San Francisco" starring Clark Gable. (yes, the one with great earthquake sequence) Billy died in 1966-- yet another show business legend dying in that year. He operated the Billy Rose Theatre on Broadway for decades. His estate maintained it with his name until 1978 when it was sold to the Nederlander and that theatre is currently hosting another Broadway legendary show called "Rent". One more lyric he wrote was with the amazing composer Al Dubin-a little ditty that continues to earn his estate royalties (besides "Paper Moon" and "Me and My Shadow" -it was a song my mother used to play on the piano-- it was called "A Cup of Coffee, A Sandwich and You" -- classic title and the kind of thing nobody would coin today! Well it looks like the Space Shuttle got off the ground on the fifth attempt-- Go NASA! We need to complete this space station. I am also reading this morning that we will soon have foods that you buy in the supermarket and somehow they will have their own heating devices within the package-- progress goes on! Well until next time! And oh yes-- one more thing-- this the third month anniversary of my writing a blog. I must say, I really enjoy writing it. It gives me a chance to write something down and be creative at least once a day!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Big Big day in American History! Thirty two years ago -- the first sitting president of the United States is impeached and resigns and his successor pardons him unconditionaly on this date for all crimes against the country. Now one might squabble with Mr. Ford and this decision certainly cost him a term of president on his own, but I was there back in 1974 operating a camera and Hallmark business in Goleta, California when all of this came down. I think Mr. Ford was a pretty brave man. I think that hanging Nixon would simply have divided this country in more ways than anyone could imagine. Certainly Ronald Reagan would NEVER have defeated Jimmy Carter. And although I certainly applaud Mr. Carter's efforts as an ex-president (so many ineffective presidents make much better ex- presidents) I simply don't think he handled the presidency and the country between 1976 and 1980 very effectively at all. Richard M. Nixon was certainly an amazing man in many respects. He showed the world he could be an effective leader and statesman-- but like so many men in power, his own personal ego got to him. He simply was deliciously in love with his own self and all the prestiege that came from the office, itself! He knew he had ultimate power and unfortunatly, he simply mis-used it. Once gain, I think he was a better ex-president than he was an actual one. As for Mr. Ford-- I thought that what he did was a courageous act, but like Edmund Ross in Lincoln's era (who was the sole vote that prevented the impeachment of Andrew Johnson) his courage cost him greatness. On another note: I went to the Los Angeles Zoo with John yesterday. We hadn't been there since we first got together seven years ago. It was not a hot day as it had been on many days prior. There was a cool breeze and it was a great hike. We actually got to see a great Condor spread to his entire wing span-- how great is the majesty of God! I found out that a giraffe has a tongue that is thirteen inches long! And get this: not only can camels go three days without water, but when they do drink they can take in as much as thirty galons at one sitting-- Wow! Now thats what I call a great drinker! That's about it for today!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Here is something that just might make you feel really old. This day, September 7th would have been the 70th birthday of Buddy Holly, the legendary entertainer who died tragically in that air crash along with Richie Vallens and "The Big Bopper", Jim Richardson. Here are two things that I did not know. The first was that Buddy Holly won his seat on that fateful plane ride by the toss of a coin-- and the lucky individual who missed a destiny with death on that same plane ride was (is) legendary country-western singer Waylon Jennings (before he went country) The second thing I did not remember from the movie was that Holly's wife Maria was pregnant on that flight. She survived, but miscarried the child. It just goes to show you that sometimes our lives and destinies are decided sometimes by no more than the toss of a coin! We just never know the time and the hour and the moment! I also was surprised to learn that the Beatles actually chose their name as a tribute to Buddy Holly's Crickets. And in the audience that last night of his life was a then unknown would be legendary performer Bob Dylan. How Holly's (whose real last name was Holley) survival might have changed the world of rock and roll. It's funny, I used to work in a record store when I was a teenager-- because I really wanted to learn the world of retail. The owners simply could not afford to pay me-- so I made them a deal. This was 1965-- over foty-one years ago. I agreed to work after school until closing and on Saturdays all day for $1.00 a day plus lunch-- crazy huh? But guess what retail and salesmanship (and even owning a business or two) is what has supported me all these years. You still can't learn the art of retail sales in any college that I know of-- so I guess that was a pretty smart move. Not much else happening, but today is a cooler day! Only 85 degrees instead of over 1oo! Bye for now!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Well, today is another big day in American History. For on this day in 1901, William McKinley, the 25th president of the United was shot and mortally wounded at the Pan American Exhibit in Buffalo, New York. He died eight days later. Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th president. Funny thing, McKinley was the one president who established tariffs that are still in place today and won us Hawaii, Cuiba, Puerto Rico, Samoa and Saint Thomas after the Spanish American War. At any rate, McKinley was on his way West to visit California and Catalina Island. No other American President has ever attempted a visit to this beautiful island off the coast of California since. It's an amazing place, that I simply adore! I almost moved there to become a teacher oh so many years ago. Can you imagine, teachers of the world out there: that you have only twelve to fourteen students in each class? Mindblowing! Well anyway, back to the Mckinley story: There are flower boxes all over Avalon in many windows all along the storied streets even today! They are simply everywhere! They were all placed there in anticipation of Mckinley's visit-- which of course never occured. Today is also the 69th birthday of Jo Anne Worley- a great funny lady. Happy Birthday, dear one -- you have provided much laughter to me during all these many years. I still remember laughing out loud at your antics on Rowan and Martin's "Laugh-In". Off to work on another hot day-- but not much else happening!

Monday, September 04, 2006

You will probably never recognize the gentleman pictured here at the left. Well, don't worry, few people recognized him when he walked down the streets of Rochester, New York in his own era. Now I might give you a few clues-- say like "Watch the birdie!" or "Smile!" The gentleman you see here is none other than George Eastman who of course founded the Eastman Kodak Company in 1880. Today is the day in history that he obtained his patent for the Kodak. Boy would he be surprised today to see that his beloved photography through film was fading into obscurity. The Kdak company has announced by official letter to photo dealers like my company (Ritz Camera) that they make amateur film only until Christmas of 2010. Only professional film such as Portra 160 and 400 will be made and of course the price will rise dramtically! . After 2014, there will be no film made PERIOD. Crazy and sad, but time marches on. I've been selling films and cameras since 1972 and its hard for me to fathom this as well. Nikon has announceed that it will no longer make any new 35mm cameras. The old ones will continue to be made until the Spring of next year! And Kodak has been booted out of Disneyland-- again! They were booted way back in 1978 by GAF ("the color you see is the color you get") and later by Polaroid. The world of photography is changing greatly. Well another scorching day today-- whwn will it end? Good news, it looks like the price of gas is going below $3.00 a gallon for the first time in ages!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Today is an important day in American history. We all know and celebrate the 4th of July and some may even observe other days of note, but today, The United States of America officially became a nation. For on this date, September 3rd, 1783, the Second Treaty of Paris was signed by John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens and William Temple Franklin (no relation to Ben) The treaty officially recognized the thirteen American colonies as free and independent states and established the boundries between this country and British North America. It also granted fishing rights to all Americans in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and off the coast of Newfoundland. Without these fishing rights, the infant states would have had a very much tougher economic plight.We might not have made it past the first ten years without these very important fishing privleges! In addition, all debts were to be paid by each others side, confisicated lands seized after the date of the treaty were to be returned or paid for, prisoners on both sides were to released and here's a surprise: Both Great Britain and the United States were each to be given perpetual access to the Mississippi River. At the same time, Brittan signed agreements with France, Spain and the Netherlands. The colonies of East and West Florida were ceded to Spain. The Bahamas and the island of Saint Kitts were returned to Brittan-- who owns them to this day! Sumatra was ceeded to the Netherlands. Congress signed the treaty on January 14th, 1784 and the British took until April 9th of the same year. Isn't it amazing that everyone assumes our country began in 1776 with a simple Declaration of Independence! But it was not. England took until March of 1782-- almost six years after this Declaration to decide that she would no longer use military force to try and regain control of the thirteen colonies. Our first war was the longest one other than Vietnam. By the way, the reason the painting by Benjamin West in the blog today looks incomplete is simply because it is! The British refused to pose as the treaty was signed-- still angry over losing the thirteen colonies-- and yet today she is one our strongest allies. And so the treaty was signed today by each side's representitives but the official end of the Revolutionary War did not take place officially until April 9th, 1784 when the treaty itself had been finally ratified by the British government and good old demonic King George III. American history is fascinating. We all should be aware of what it has taught us. Well off to my old neighborhood today as I visit the San Gabriel Mission for its annual fiesta-- its great fund raiser. I'm going to buy a raffle ticket for the big cash prize for both myself and Tim Doran my arranger-- who knows-- maybe one of us will win! Play a little bingo too! My sweet dear mother sure loved to do that when she was alive! And oh yes-- my very favorite I will be buying their amazing roast beef sandwich. You can't believe how good this is! Well, Bye for now!!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Donald O Connor in "Bring Back Birdie"

Yesterday was the anniversary of a sad day in the story of war on this weary globe of blue we call Earth and today, September 2nd is the anniversary of a great day for peace. For on this day, Japan officially surrended to Douglas Macarthur aboard the USS Missouri at 9:03 am. Macarthur signed the document at 9:07 am. The once bold and brash nation of Japan who had dreamed of world conquest by means of war and ultimate destruction was now agreeing not only to a complete surrender and ceasation of hostilities, but for the first time in her long ancestrial history to be occupied by the United States and international peace keeping forces of the world. And the crazy thing is this: had she waited to attack Pearl Harbor by just two years-- if she had attacked Austrailia or South America instead of America in 1941, she just might have succeeded. America was NOT looking to become involved in World War Two, whatsoever. We didn't take the attitude back then that we do today-- that an attack by one nation over another is tantamount to attacking us. There was no United Nations then. There was no O.A.S (Organization of American States-- North and South) Japan was simply greedy-- not smart. She was the first nation at war in World History to use the "suicide bomber" or "kamakazie" . Funny thing, Japan had cut off that "fourth wave" of attack on December 7th, 1941 -- had she been smart and simply not greedy, that fourth attack would have done the United States in. That fourth attack would have destroyed every other battleship at Pearl Harbor! And you can't go to war with a nation completely across the ocean without battleships! Today is also the anniversary of the opening and closing of the biggest failure on Broadway in Broadway history! The music was by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams ans starred the one and only Donald O' Connor (God rest him) in a sequel to the smash musical "Bye Bye Birdie" It was called "Bring Back Birdie". It opened and closed in onenight! Now I loved Donald O' Connor -- but the dear actor had gained quite a bit of weight as you can see in the attached picture-- Donald O' Connor in a jump suit just doesn't make it for me! Funny thing Charles Strouse had two other spectacular failures Thr others were "Annie Warbucks" (sequel to Annie) (opened and closed in three nights and a collaboration with thae late Alan Jay Lerner in a show called "Dance A Little Closer" that opened and closed in two nights! Sometimes you just can't win!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Today in history is the one reason we should all seek peace in our lives. For on this day in 1939,World War Two began as Hitler invaded Poland on a flim flam excuse and without a formal declaration of war. She warned all nations that she simply would start shooting at planes-- any plane that Germany found in Polish airspace or on the ground. Sad day! But this is the reason we must all strive for peace! Today is the birthday of some pretty famous folk as well-- so Happy 84th birthday to Yvonne De Carlo-- better known as Lily Munster. In her heyday, she was simply one of the most beautiful women in the world. Happy Birthday also to Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees who turns 60 this day! Wow does that make you feel old or what? I would also like to wish a most Happy 46th birthday to the gentlemen who got me to start writing songs again-- way back in 1998-- Mr. Tony Westbrook. Tony is a wonderful singer and he recorded some of my best songs. So Happy Birthday, Tony, and thank you for sharing your wonderful talents with me. I remember some of the great tunes that you recorded. My personal favorites "Miles To Go" and "Crazy As It Seems". Well gotta run! Another busy day at work!