2016
08.29

World of Pure Imagination

Gene Wilder died today at the age of 83. A big part of my life.  The soul he put into his characters , – – especially Willie Wonka (along with Anthony Newly and Leslie Bricusse’s music) was hugely influential and important to me.

Image result for willy wonka

“We are the music makers… and we are the dreamers of dreams”

Hold your breath…..make a wish,….count to three

“Wanta change the world? There’s nothing to it. There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there you’ll be free if you truly wish to be.”

2015
05.17

It was the summer of 1980 before my 9th grade year. My mother was having the house painted and we wandered in and out of the house in the morning watching the painters and going back to the TV. Right after Family Feud there was a new talk show with a new personality who immediately caught my attention. His show had a great feel to it and the theme song (written by Michael McDonald of Doobie Bros fame) was the perfect feel for a summer morning.
This smart alecky David Letterman juxtaposed with the no cares morning show feel was a great treat to tune into. I’ve long thought I had an eye for talent and I knew this guy was something the moment I saw him. It was short lived but he quickly got his own late night show not long after.

I was there for the first episode of his new late show and kept watching almost religiously for many years after wards. Thus starting a long standing practice of not getting enough sleep for real life. Much like watching Johnny Carson this was also part of my schooling. I studied the craft and art of show business and put as much stock in this learning as I did my real studies in high school and later in college. Maybe more.

I’ll admit I haven’t really watched Letterman in 10 years or more but I’ll miss Dave. Not a lot of quality or talent left in entertainment or the world these days. And that’s not old man, sour grapes talking.

It’s true.

I’ll also miss the great Paul Shaffer and his encyclopedic knowledge of songs – – ready to go at a moments notice. I’ll miss Tom “Bones” Malone and the only other original member of that band,…bassist, the great Will Lee.

A clip from Dave’s first morning show.

Paul would play this song occasionally on the new show going to a commercial and I’d put money on the fact that I’m one of the only ones who caught it. I remember Michael McDonald coming on the show once and Paul played it with him. I remember thinking that was cool.

Here’s to the beginning of it all,….and to it coming to an end.

Here’s to David Letterman.

2014
02.06

Snow

Even though we had to go to work it was fun being out in this.  It brought to mind this.

 

2013
12.23

Haven’t done this in a while.

Maybe somebody (if anyone’s reading this) can tell me how to block all the spam I get.   But at any rate, to quote Charles Grodin in “Heaven Can Wait” (which I seem to do a lot of these days) ……I think the statement speaks for itself.

Merry Christmas, Earth, one and all.

2013
07.11

5

 

 

5 yr old

5 yr old

 

Doing this thing I don’t do very often or have time for. A personal blog.

My little one is 5 today. Such a big boy. Already older; acting and looking. Sleeping till 11:00

like a college boy.

Happy Birthday to my boy!

2012
10.06
An old friend

Grey Sky

The sky was grey on this dreary cold day in 6th grade. It actually, in a weird way was of some solace to me. It summed up loneliness, melancholy. Precursors, I guess, to depression. Life long companions I’ve learned to let go of to some extent. It was a deliciously sickly sweet, intoxicating feeling that at the time I just drank in.  It was beautiful.  I let it envelope me regularly. I had found early on, this was my personal emotion. It, he and I, were friends. Sometimes I thought maybe my best and only friend.

As I said,…it was a grey skied day. This sky would color the whole day, my whole perception of life, during the fall and winter months. Texas may be known for blazing hot weather but I believe Abilene has a private corridor of cold air from the jet stream that runs through it, or however that works, that lets you know there’s something cold up there.

It was a Friday in 6th grade. My class would go across the hall some mornings and join Mr. Wilson’s 6th grade class. It was kind of a dead time for teachers and students that they would never allow in schools today. Odd that this non structured, non instructional time is one of the moments I remember most in all my early schooling. It was, I guess in retrospect, a detoxing time from studies, and I know now, just a time to breath for the teachers. Another thing that is not allowed anymore.  I saw my sky as I looked out the window of the old style, brick, three storied school building with radiators on the wall and metal firescapes that went all the way to the ground.  We would stay in this combined class format for about an hour before lunch. Just sit and exist and watch TV while the two sixth grade teachers talked and sometimes left the room all together.  This was about 10:30 which was when “The Electric Company” came on. I was always excited to see ‘Spidey Super Stories’ on it. I would conceal my excitement from my classmates, but it was s bright part of the morning. ‘Spidey Super Stories’ were weak offerings of the character even if it was a kids show. But it was a take on my favorite character and it was on national TV. I’d take it.

After that, the channel would get changed and we’d watch “The Gong Show”. It seemed that everyone else in the room was oblivious to what was on the TV. Or that it was even on. Mr. Wilson had been in World War II. He had discipline. He had order. That was known to everyone,…so it wasn’t bedlam. But everyone was talking and it was definitely what would be called free time today. Another thing that doesn’t exist much anymore. They were all carrying on conversations and just enjoying socializing. I was not oblivious. TV was my refuge. I studied and understood what was being shown. “The Gong Show”. An odd choice to show to children. I watched the judges interacting on the show. Jamie Farr, crazy Pat McCormick, and resident ‘dirty chick’ JP Morgan, with her suggestive dress and manner, and who was regularly bleeped on camera.  Even if I couldn’t hear everything that was being said on the lone little TV and the noise of the room, I could tell it wasn’t exactly kid fair and was more adult behavior than one should see at that age, let alone in school. Again, I seemed to be the only one who noticed or was actually watching. Through all the chaos and noise there was a strange sensation of seeing through to the real prize. I have noticed throughout my life that when there is a breakdown and disorder around me I suddenly have a focus that none around me seem to possess. For whatever reason I have found I thrive in this environment. I was repulsed by most of the people I went to school with and didn’t count any of them friends. Truly. But this day I had another friend in the room in the form of Chuck Barris, his guest judges, their dirty jokes and the bad acts on display. Showbiz! And I studied it like it was the template of life.

There was a book club that we could place orders from every week. I had almost forgotten I’d put in an order the previous week. This particular day our order had come in while we were in Mr. Wilson’s class. While all the other kids were getting their Curious George books and such,…. at the bottom of the box was my order. A Dynamite Magazine with Farrah Fawcett on the cover and my Marvel Supereroes poster,… drawn by Sal Buscema. It was a big fold out poster with Captain America, Spider-Man, The Hulk and others. I knew better than to bring it out amongst the base civilians I was around. Never take anything to or out in the open at school that you want to keep in new order and one piece. I did peek a little under the table and noted it was Sal Buscema art when I noticed his big characteristic Hulk feet he drew.  Even then I was getting to the point I could identify different artists.  I had plans of putting it up on the wall in the room between our bedrooms when I got home in the adjoining room we called “The Comic Book Room”.

Among the feeling of loneliness and just existing in school everyday, as the noise and confusion of the room surrounded me, and I sat amongst the rabble I attended school with, –  I sat there with my prize, knowing that I was the only one in the school who could appreciate it’s significance; it’s superior worth. A warm glow suddenly came over me and an inexplicable feeling of,…. a kind of safe pocket of safety and warmth enclosed me. It was like drinking hot chocolate on a cold day. I have seldom felt that way again.

I don’t believe I ever placed an order through the book club again. There could never be a better selection offered than what I had already perceptively and cunningly snatched up that day. I had mined all there was from that well. I mean, what was the point?

 

Edit:  and an addition here,…because it makes me so happy to see it.  The Gong Show at it’s best (depending on how you look at it) and it reminds me of of those times…..

2012
08.16

Now, find me a 6 yr. old boy who has a birthday cake like this. In 2012.

 

I think this post speaks volumes for itself. My boy!

2012
06.14

Man out of time

I’ve long thought I was a bit of a man out of time. My interests and tastes tend to skew at least 10, 20, 30 years older than I am for a lot of things.   If nothing else I exhibit a healthy interest in the history of what was.  Of what used to be the standard.

I love, and would rather hear Mel Torme, Perry Como, Bing Crosby than most of the people performing today. I’ve also long had an appreciation for other genres from bygone eras,…movies, style, art,…etc.   So, when my boy shows interest (and I think an advanced and intuitive, understanding and appreciation) for the many, (unsolicited on my part), interests in older things; particularly things I held dearly as kid – I’m thrilled to go through this discovery with him.  There’s something to genetics, eh?   His latest obsession speaks for itself.

like father, like son

like father, like son

2012
06.03

Richard Dawson played Cpl. Peter Newkirk in the comedy television series

There is a philosophy I have often referred to in my life, I call, “The Newkirk effect”. I don’t refer to Ingrid Newkirk, president and co-founder of PETA, but Corporal Newkirk from Hogan’s Heroes.  In a nutshell it’s the act of doing something instinctively, through sheer will power and natural innate ability, without really thinking about it, planning for it, or having the required training to do so.  I have relied on, and been rewarded with, this way of doing things many times in my life.

There was a particular Hogan’s Heroes episode where Carter had found he had some American Indian blood in him from way back,…or something like that. He took up and started practicing the bow and arrow.  Hogan of course thought of a way to use this new, silly plot device in that week’s episode.  A munitions truck was to pass by the POW camp ( didn’t those Germans figure it out after a while?) and Hogan was tasked with the assignment of blowing it up.  “Let’s get Carter to shoot a flaming arrow at this canvas covered truck.”  Carter, as played by the late Larry Hovis (a Texas boy) practiced all through the episode for the fateful moment.  At the appropriate time the truck made it’s way past the camp.  They opened the window of the barracks.  Carter lit the arrow, took aim at the truck,….even figuring out how much to lead the truck ……and,….he shot it into the window shutter.  Without even thinking Newkirk took the bow from Carter, pulled the arrow out and made a perfect, yet maybe slightly unskilled, shot right into the side of the truck.  My point being with this has always been,..that sometimes raw talent outdoes over thinking and over schooling.

I have fond memories of Hogan’s Heroes which was on at 6:00, right at dinner time, and just after Star Trek.  It was also followed by Match Game.  That line up of TV was always a ‘warm fuzzy’ after a day of school on a cold winter’s day.  Richard Dawson was part of that.  I also, like the rest of America, was entertained to see him on Family Feud.  For some reason I felt a certain amount of pride for what a great fit he was and what he made that show. Watching it right after David Letterman’s original morning show. Those were fun summer moments. Good memories. Here’s to Richard Dawson. RIP.

http://todayentertainment.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/03/12033690-family-feud-star-richard-dawson-dies-at-79?lite

And here’s a clip of that very scene from Hogan’s Heroes.

2012
04.07

 

I saw William Shatner March 22nd in Dallas.   A day that also happened to be his 81st birthday.   I was there at The Majestic Theater to see a childhood idol.

Shatner in my town - Dallas

As I was growing up the influences on me were great.  I was part of that generation that re-discovered and kept alive in some ways, The Monkees, Batman and Star Trek in it’s syndication run.

My influences from that time were many.  As well as the above mentioned shows featuring Adam West, Davy, Micky, Peter and Mike, my other influences were Robert Conrad from “Wild Wild West”. Robert Wagner from “It Takes a Thief”.  Bob Crane from “Hogan’s Heroes”.  (Lotta Bob’s there, eh?)  There are others to include on this list but in particular the biggest influence was the great William Shatner.   I loved the way he chose to tackle a situation.  I loved the way he took charge and faced an opponent or dilema.  I loved the way he approached….life!

I know he has his detractors and I don’t care.  I kept up with and watched the man all through his career whenever I found him on the TV.  After Star Trek I discovered he was human.  Sure. I discovered he had his foibles.  I watched him with whatever wife he was on as he sat in ‘The Banana Section’ on the Game Show “Tattle Tales” with Bert Convey.  I saw him do guest spots on “Colombo”, “The Six Million Dollar Man”,and as Captain and anchor of the tug of war on “Battle of the Network Stars”.  I watched him all through the years but I knew that the man who brought those qualities to life in Captain Kirk was special to me too.   He affected a lot of people my age, my generation; from Ben Stiller to Jason Alexander.   So, again, I care not what others say.  To quote the line from the movie “My Favorite Year”,  “He was special and real to me!!”   Still is.

As a musician I’ve sat in the pit many times playing a show but never to see a show. Pretty cool. I was literally on the front row right underneath him all night.

As to the show itself.   It went over some highs and lows of Shatner’s life.   How he got into acting.  A nice story about his father.  Some very funny moments also and all done in the manic Shatner way.   I actually think his book “Up Till Now” is the best accounting, and maybe of all his books, the most intimate telling of his life one can hear.  I highly recommend the book on tape as read by the author himself.  Some good stuff in there and a lot of it used in the stage show.  But that’s not what going to the show was about.   It’s a celebration of Shatner and I was there to see it.

My view from the pit front row

Some other observations….that stupid xylophone ring tone that famously brought a New York Philharmonic performance to a halt a few months ago needs to be banned. Or wait,…maybe people need to turn their phones off. Right in the middle of a touching story of a beloved horse he owned  – – that dumb tremolo of a D and an E going off. Embarrassing. Sorry Shatner. I apologize for Dallas that night.

Also,…last time I was at the Majestic in Dallas I saw Frank Gorshin do his one man show of “Say Goodnight Gracie”. I talked to Frank backstage afterward and I told him the sound system didn’t do him any favors. He said “That sound system sucks!” He was right. That was nearly ten years ago and it still sucks! C’mon Majestic. Hire an acoustician and fix that thing. It’s a great old historic theater. Get the sound up to date. (Maybe get Dr. Sevrin to help.) Or is it just the problem of nobody knows how to mix a soundboard anymore? Cranking the bass up to 11 doesn’t work for everything, every show, every time. We’ve lost all sight of what a good mix is, I believe.

Other thoughts: many tried to yell Happy Birthday to Shatner at the start of the show. After many people doing it he gently told the crowd, “Thank you. And let’s let that be the last interjection of that during the show.” They complied, and we sang Happy Birthday to him at the end of the night. Complete with a cake.

Believe it or not that's Shatner in that pic

One final note, I saw David Lee Roth perform in a little club with a Van Halen cover band backing him up almost 15 years ago. At the time I thought he worked harder than I’ve ever seen anyone work. No break,… like a man possessed. One song after the other.

I saw Bernadette Peters in Gypsy working like a warrior on stage with that little body. Incredible energy output. And I’d put Shatner up there as hard working performers on stage too. Kind of made me nervous at times. Was afraid he might fall or hurt himself. Man! He’s got energy for a man his age.

It was good to see him and he sure still looks good for 81. Heck for 60 he looks good. I’m glad I saw him in my area.  What do they call that?   ‘I’m supporting local’.  I include myself in that statement.

Shatner has left the building

Shatner b-day back drop