Monday, July 27, 2009


"Always Exit With A Smile"-- it fools creditors and history all at the same time"
Mark Twain

Time does pass quickly. On this day in 2003, six years ago today, we lost an absolute legend-- the one and only Bob Hope. Bob was declared by Congress in 1996 to be "the one and only" honorary veteran. And he truly was. He gave up every Christmas for decades to go and entertain our troops in battles and skirmishes all over the weary world. So today, let us pause and think of him in some way. How many times did he make us laugh? I remember and I actually had a copy of the classic old show that he appeared on once. It was a Jack Benny hour long special episode that featured a very special guest star-- none other than Walt Disney. himself. Now as funny as it was to see Jack trying to hustle from Walt, himself one hundred and five free tickets to Disneyland, it was also hysterical seeing Bob Hope appear with Anita Eckberg in a spoof of Mary Poppins called "Maria Poppanini" --too funny for words. Today is also the birthday of that rascally rabbit, himself "Bugs Bunny". Yes, dear old Bugs very first cartoon was released. Bugs was "born" in 1940 in Brooklyn, New York, created by Tex Avery According to Mel Blanc, the character's original voice actor, Bugs Bunny has a Flatbush accent, an equal blend of the Bronx and Brooklyn dialects. His catchphrase is a casual "What's up, Doc?", usually said while chewing a carrot. His other popular phrases include "Of course you realize...this means war" and "Ain't I a stinker?"-- And speaking of "stinkers" dear old "Tricky Dick" was nominated to be president today in 1968. Boy was that a mistake. Oh well, dear Nixon was an excellent foreign ambassador so I will give credit where credit is due. The news for me is a bit bad-- my new job has been delayed until they get more phones in. I sure hope that happens within a couple of days. I am however going to a Career Fair on Wednesday, July 29th in Anaheim. I'm going to go visit dear old Disneyland for a possible job. I've already submitted my application to them on line. And I read where Rupert Holmes who handled the book on Kander & Ebbs "Curtains" is writing the book for the new musical "Robin & The Seven Hoods" featuring the songs of the late great Sammy Cahn and Sammy Fain. He's also supplying the lyrics to Marvin Hamilish's new musical to be directed by Jerry Lewis based on the movie "The Nutty Professor"-- boy has this movie had legs or what? He's quite a busy man. And Barbra Streisand has got anew album coming. Johnny Mandel is doing all the arrangements. Well, that's it for now!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Today would have been the 100th birthday of one of the greatest second bananas of all time. She was of course the legendary and the absolutely amazing Vivian Vance. I absolutely dare anyone not to laugh any time she is not with Lucille Ball in one of those endless re-runs of "I Love Lucy" You could watch each one of those amazing episodes over and over and over gain and you will you find some little thing you never noticed before and laugh all over again. And it just wasn't in "I Love Lucy". Later when Viv played Vivian Bradley in "The Lucy Show" she demonstrated just how amazingly funny she could be. My favorite is the episode when she and Lucy are trying to put an antenna on the roof of the home they share. They actually succeed in putting a big gaping hole in the roof during this. Towards the end of the episode, Vivian slips again and almost falls off the roof to what may be injury or death, but on the way down she manages to grab the edge of the hole in the roof and stays there. The funny thing is this: here she is hanging between life and death, struggling to get herself back up and she looks down into the hole which is right above her bedroom in the house. She looks down and says "Ew, I should have made my bed this morning!" And you just scream. You forget all about the danger, and the almost calamity of the situation and you hear that line (which is honesty in it's purist form) and you laugh long and hard. Of course, the written line is funny but ONLY if delivered by an absolute genius that Viv was. When Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball were casting their new television sitcom I Love Lucy in 1951, director Marc Daniels, who had previously worked with Vance in a theater production, suggested her for the role of landlady Ethel Mertz. She was not the first choice, however. Lucille Ball wanted actress Bea Benaderet, a close friend. Because of a prior acting commitment, Benaderet had to decline playing the role.Arnaz then began searching for another actress. Daniels took Arnaz, along with producer Jess Oppenheimer, to see Vance in the John Van Druten play The Voice of the Turtle. While watching her perform, Arnaz was convinced he had found the right woman to play Ethel Mertz. Lucy was less sure, since she had envisioned Ethel as much older and less attractive. In addition, Ball, firmly entrenched in film and radio, had never heard of Vance, primarily a theater actress. Nonetheless, the 42-year-old Vance was given the role on the new television program, which debuted October 15, 1951, on CBS Viv's Ethel Mertz character was the less-than-prosperous landlady of a New York City brownstone, owned by her and husband Fred Mertz. The role of Fred was played by William Frawley, who was 22 years her senior. While the actors shared great comedic and musical chemistry on-screen, they did not get along in real life. According to some reports, things first went sour when Frawley overheard Vance complaining about his age, stating that he should be playing her father rather than her husband. She used to skim through the script to see how many scenes she had with that "stubborn-headed little Irishman."Others recall that Frawley loathed Vance practically on sight. Vance, in turn, was put off by Frawley's cantankerous ways, in addition to his age.[4 The hatred that Frawley and Vance had for each other was so strong that when he died in 1966, Vance while at a restaurant is reported to have shouted "Champagne for everyone!" when she received the news. Eventually, Lucy overcame her resistance to Vance, and the two women formed a close friendship.
Honored for her work in 1953, Vance became the first actress to win an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Supporting Actress". Vance accepted her award at the Emmy ceremony in February 1954. She was nominated an additional three times (for 1954, 1956 and 1957) before the end of the series.In 1957, after the highly successful half-hour I Love Lucy episodes had ended, Vance continued playing Ethel Mertz on a series of hour-long specials titled The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show (later retitled The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour). In 1959, she divorced her third husband Philip Ober, who allegedly physically abused her.[When the hour-long Lucy-Desi specials ended production in 1960, Vance and Frawley were given the opportunity to star in their own "Fred and Ethel" spin-off show. Although Frawley was interested, Vance declined. The program was retooled and broadcast as Guestward, Ho!, with Joanne Dru taking the female lead. In 1960, Viv appeared in a pilotwithout Frawley for that same proposed series Guestward, Ho! The pilot didn't sell. In 1962, when Lucy was planning to return to television in a new series, she asked Vance to rejoin her. Vance reluctantly agreed, with the stipulation that she be allowed to appear in more glamorous clothes, as well as having her character be named "Vivian" (as she was tired of the public addressing her as "Ethel"). She appeared on The Lucy Show from 1962 until 1965, as Vivian Bagley, a divorced mother of one son, sharing a house with Ball's character. The character of Vivian Bagley was the first divorcee ever on a weekly American television series.
The strain of commuting from her home in Connecticut to Hollywood was too hard on her, however. By 1964, she appeared in only half of the episodes. The following year, she was offered a new contract with Desilu Studios, giving her the opportunity to direct. This never came to fruition.After her departure from The Lucy Show, Vance appeared occasionally alongside Lucille Ball on reunion shows and made several guest appearances on Ball's third sitcom, Here's Lucy (1968-1974).
In 1973, our dear Viv was diagnosed with breast cancer. The following year, she and her husband moved to Belveder, California, so she could be near her sister. It was during this period that Vance played the part of "Maxine", who wheeled around a catering truck, dispensing Maxwell House coffee to office workers in a series of television commercials. In 1977, Vance suffered a stroke which left her partially paralyzed. Her final television appearance with Lucille Ball was on the CBS special Lucy Calls the President, which aired November 21, 1977.Vivian Vance, who never had children, died on August 17, 1979, at the age of 70, of bone cancer. After her death, Desi Arnaz remarked, "It’s bad enough to lose one of the great artists we had the honor and the pleasure to work with, but it’s even harder to reconcile the loss of one of your best friends."
She was the godmother of Lovin' Spoonful guitarist John Sebastian, and had been very close friends with his mother Jane. Viv's body was cremated, and the ashes scattered at sea.
During a 1986 interview, Lucille Ball talked about watching I Love Lucy reruns and her reaction to Vance's performance: "I find that now I usually spend my time looking at Viv. Viv was sensational. And back then, there were things I had to do—I was in the projection room for some reason, and I just couldn't concentrate on it. But now I can. And I enjoy every move that Viv made. She was something."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Praise God! It looks like I have found a job selling of all things-- packing tape! The interview was flawless, even though I still have my ears clogged from the worst summer cold, I have ever had. The job starts Monday or Tuesday depending on the additional phone lines that this company can put in. That's the great news-- the so-so news is that I must sell one order a day to stay employed. Now I have sold many things in my life before from extended warranties to digital memory cards and everything in between, but quite frankly, I have never sold office supplies before, though I am very sure of how many of them I have used over the years. But every company needs shipping tape? Right? I hope so, because the salary is $14.00 an hour plus commission-- so if I can do this with God's help of course, I could get very healthy financially very quickly. Once again it was Tim Doran who saved the day. He was the one who found the Craig's Ad and sent it to me. So God love you, Tim, I so appreciate it. Today is also the birthday of Emma Lazuras-- who was born in 1849 and whose amazing poem "Give me your poor, your tired, your wretched masses..." graces the podium of Miss Liberty in New York. It's the whole story of our country in a simple poem. And today in 1934 was the end of John Dillinger, brilliantly played by Johnny Depp in the brand new movie "Public Enemies" So we wait for next week and I ask everybody to pray that I can sell shipping tape. God indeed draws straight with crooked lines.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Tomorrow will hold a total eclipse of the sun-- the longest eclipse this century and the last for several decades. Some people need an excuse to party and I think I’ve come up with one for July. After all, there are no major holidays after July 4th until Sept. 7, 2009, Labor Day. However,tomorrow as I have stated starting at dawn on July 22, 2009, there’s going to be a very lengthy total eclipse of the sun (visible in some part of the world - most notably, India and China). If you are well-heeled (got bucks) you still have time to book yourself on one of the many Solar Eclipse tours that will take you to the best viewing spots in India (Darjeeling) and Bhutan or over to China, reportedly the best viewing locations for this spectacular phenomenon. Researching the net, I found many opportunities to book a Solar Eclipse tour - or even another one ,later on to view another eclipse in a different part of the world (Moon and Sun eclipses seem to occur once or twice per year). The tour that most appealed to me was managed by Astronomy professors, but there are many tour varieties - including some that will also stop at various wondrous tourist attractions in exotic locations. Some of these tours book years in advance, but given the economy, you might luck out and land a spot or two. To be precise about the July 22 eclipse: This July 22 eclipse will be the longest total solar eclipse in the 21st Century; another one like this will not occur until 2132 (long past my bed time). This unusually long eclipse is expected to last up to 6 minutes, 39 seconds or about the same length of that classic old Beatles tune "Hey Jude". It will be visible from a narrow corridor through northern India, northern Bangladesh, Bhutan, the northern tip of Myanmar, central China and the Pacific Ocean, including the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa). You can view the total eclipse in such cities as Surat, Hangzhou and Shanghai. A significant partial eclipse will be visible from most of South East Asia and northeastern Oceania. If you happen to live near these locations, hooray for you - you will experience a once in a lifetime Eclipse! However, if you don’t, I am sure you can catch the views on CNN or YouTube or other up-to-the-moment news channels some time on the 21st or before. Remember that if you do venture there and you get close to the actual Eclipse, not to look at the sun directly . Also, in some locations, you won’t see it at all (Don’t let the sun catch you crying).
I say: time to plan an Eclipse Party. July 22 falls on a Wednesday; July 21st is Tuesday depending on where you live. Not exactly an optimal party night, but hey, we’re talking really, really long total eclipse. Celebrate! Invite your friends over for a drink (how about a Tequila Sunrise?) and some snacks (don’t forget the sunflower seeds) and whatever other appetizers you may want to serve. Finish off with a sweet treat: an ice cream sundae. (I suggest a mix of vanilla and chocolate, with a few Oreo cookies on top). At my party, I’m going to serve pizza: cheese and black olive, to be exact. Oh yeah-- how about a dress code: everyone must wear black (head to toe, hats optional, as are sunglasses. The more someone looks like a Blues Brother or a Man in Black, the better). A little thematic
music will be called for: eclipse music, like The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis. But the music selection is entirely up to you; it’s your eclipse too. (If you’re stymied, you might want to think about Elton John and his going-down Sun or Andy Williams and his moon river). Whatever music you choose, get creative and have fun with it.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Where were you on July 20th, 1969? Well for me, I was still living in my family's home in San Gabriel, California at dear old 142 West Live Oak Street. My dad had died in January of 1966 and I was attending Pasadena City College hoping to become a teacher. This was long before I ever wrote a single lyric or a single song. My dear mother used to play the piano and my dear Uncle Mario would come over every Wednesday afternoon and sing. My uncle was a baby furniture salesman, but oh he loved to sing. But I do recall getting up very early that morning to watch the launch-- 2AM believe it or not. I thought the space program was so damn exciting and yes, I watched the late great Walter Cronkite get so damn excited about it all. I was twenty-one years old. I was so damn proud! The Apollo 11 mission was the first manned mission to land on the Moon. It was the fifth human spaceflight of Project Apollo and the third human voyage to the Moon. Launched on July 16, 1969, it carried Mission Commander Neil Alden Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Eugene 'Buzz' Aldrin, Jr The mission fulfilled President John F. Kennedy's goal of reaching the moon by the end of the 1960s, which he had expressed during a speech given before a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." Other memorable things today-- Gus Grissom's space capsule was finally rescued from the bottom of the ocean in 1999 after thirty-eight years at the bottom of the ocean and dear old FDR accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party for an unprecedented fourth term. Most people do not realize that George Washington could have president of the United States for as long as he wanted. There were no moves to unseat him. He literally could have become "The King of America" and thus John Adams and Thomas Jefferson would NEVER have become president. Washington died in 1799. Adams would have been president at age seventy- four-- (and there was a very big anti-French sentiment at the time. It is very doubtful that John Adams would ever have negotiated with Napoleon about the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory. Funny thing about history. Still looking hard for a job-- responding to everything I even come close to qualifying for! I just wish these people who advertise would answer with SOME KIND of bloody answer! A one sentence "no, thank you" If its required of casting directors, why can't it be required of every one else. Be courteous you guys! It won't always been these desperate times. By the way-- Mr. Governor-- want to make up your shortfall-- easy. Every time somebody gets a speeding ticket increase their automobile registration by $100.00-- you won't believe how many millions you will raise on that one! A CHP officer told me that in ONE YEAR the CHP in the state gives out six hundred THOUSAND tickets per year. Now multiply that number by a $100 a throw. You say people won't renew their registration-- I don't think so. I have been caught every single time I tried it in my foolish youth-- once on the way to Disneyland back in 1979 with my nephew, Troy-- I was depressed all day about it and it cost me even back then $76.00. Well until next time!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Well, indeed, it has been a long time since I posted something here. But running out of disability and down to fourteen weeks of unemployment is pretty damn scary. But with great friends like Tim Doran and Tony Westbrook and of course Almighty God, I may get through this. Tim Doran has been so terrific. He sends me all the Craig's List stuff that he finds and I respond to just about 95% of them. I have even applied at Disneyland. Now that would be a hoot! I have now begun a campaign of submitting to just about anything that I qualify for. I turn 62 on September 24th and could actually "retire" and get about $1400 a month from the government which is the equal of unemployment insurance. Then I could get a part time job and earn about six thousand dollars more a year. Hell, I could be a Wall Mart greeter-- what the hell would that require? I am such a great salesman! And who would ever predict that Ritz Camera-- the largest camera retail chain in the entire world would collapse so suddenly and so totally. Back in March of 2008 they still had over a thousand stores. In January of 2007 they had eleven hundred and eighty stores. Their big mistake was that they simply never listened to we store managers. These guys were the experts! Huh! I gave them so many wonderful ideas. They had gift cards already in place in values from $10 to $100 each. I told them get these cards out into super markets, drug stores, everywhere. People would have bought them creating instant cash flow or as I like to call it "Found Money" I suggested that they get together with Hallmark cards and create combination camera and card shops. I know from whence I speak. I ran one of these in Goleta, Ca in the 1970's just before my mother died. When I didn't do well in cameras, I did excellent in Halmark products. Trust me when i tell you that to this very day, not a soul on earth, not the cheapest guy on the planet will walk into a Hallmark card store and ask for a discount. It just doesn't happen. Hallmark today offers discounts with a membership card, but it must be obtained by earning points with purchases. There's just something unique about that brand name. I was working in a Ritz store in Studio City, Ca that was actually earning over a million dollars a year. Beverly Hills, Newport Beach and Riverside (they owned the building on that one-- no rent!) were more million dollar a year stores. What sunk Ritz was too many chiefs and not enough good earning Indians-- that and a little venture of theirs called Boater's World. One hundred and thirty ones store selling boating supplies! And six of them were actually selling boats! In this economy? They had a little membership card that they sold to the public for $15.95. What did it get you? A little discount here, a lower price there-- it was almost pure profit. They gave us associates $3.00 to sell the damn thing-- that amount should have been $5.00 minimum. I never seemed to get any holidays off, but I didn't care too much-- because John, my partner usually had to work that day as well. One Memorial Day back in 2007, I actually made $11,500 in sales all by myself-- and there were two other associates working that day. So I am sorry to see Ritz go because I could have retired with them, but I am not giving up. With God as my help and good people like Tim and Tony and my John, I am going to beat this thing if it kills me! Dear Ritz Camera-- how sad that you didn't listen. I even offered (and actually recorded professionally a jingle you could have used FREE. My first district manager Darius Jameson used to chide me because he thought I was trying to use "Mom and Pop store" business philosophy on a major corporation in coming up with ideas-- you know what, "mom and pop" ain't bad-- especially if the customer perceives it as value--and I'm telling you it would have worked. Why didn't you go public while you could? Instead of opening new stores you were trying to OWN, why didn't you sell franchises-- do you think Seven-Eleven needs to OWN their stores? You dropped the ball, kids. You went into the boating business because you needed write-offs. Why weren't you in the portrait business instead? Why weren't you buying cheap buildings and turning them into camera stores? Camera stores that you wouldn't have been paying incredible rents for? Instead of going into expensive malls where they not only got rent, they got a percentage of your business-- and they told you when you had to open and when you had to close! You trashed a business in existence since 1918. I was there when you guys took over your first West Coast stores in July of 1980! I still remember the seven key executives from Beltsville, Maryland that all were trying to run a camera chain their own way. There were seven talking heads and seven different opinions. Years later, I managed a store for them in Sherman Oaks where the rug had never been replaced in ten years and had a cash register so from the past that it broke down continually. They even had free printing equipment from Xerox Corporation at every store! -- who did that to rocket fire the new imaging business. Oh my! Well, too bad. There were so many of us who worked so hard for you! You just didn't listen to us! Happy Birthday to the late great Red Skelton-- one of my all time favorites and a great big nod of respect to Walter Cronkite-- his passing at ninety-two is the end of an age. What an amazing life he had! And dear Michael Jackson, I hope that you can finally rest in peace and can sing for the angels-- Lord knows they need it.