Turntable Talk – Cover Me

This blog is part of the next installment of Dave from A Sound Day’s Turntable Talk. This time around, the subject is “cover songs.” Per our instructions:

This time around, wanting to get your thoughts on Cover Songs…what makes a really good one, maybe what your favorite bold one is. Do you like ones really faithful to the original, or ones that spin it in an altogether direction? Or conversely, what one is atrocious to you & why.

By ‘bold’ I mean covers of songs that were already known, and hits. I won’t set any minimum guidelines but as examples, most people never heard The Arrows version of ‘I Love Rock n Roll’ or The Clique’s ‘Superman’ so it was easy for Joan Jett & REM respectively make them their own.  But to do a Beatles song, like Joe Cocker did only a couple of years after the original was released… that took …something. 

So what cover songs work great for you?

Cover Songs

If you do a Google search on “cover songs,” there are plenty of links to articles containing lists of “the best” ones. There are also links to video’s that feature countdowns and lists of “best and worst” cover songs. Those lists, no doubt, will include: Twist and Shout by the Beatles, Proud Mary by Ike and Tina Turner, Hurt by Johnny Cash, Last Kiss by Pearl Jam, Mony Mony by Billy Idol, All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix, and many many more!

Many people are unaware that some of their favorite songs are actually cover songs. A lot of the early Rolling Stones and Beatles songs were actually covers of songs they loved by other artists. In a way, a cover song is the ultimate “hat tip” to a band’s early influence.

Personally, I tend to love cover songs. If you were to grab my iPod, that becomes very clear! I recall a time when I was married to my ex-wife and her iPod was dead. She wanted to go walk and asked if she could take mine instead. Upon returning home, she said to me, “How many different versions of a song do you need?!”

Cover Song Example

Dave asked “what makes a good” cover song? He also asked, “Do you like ones really faithful to the original, or ones that spin it in an altogether direction?

It is difficult for me to say what exactly makes a good cover song because I think it can be one that is faithful to the original, spun in a different direction, or a mixture of both of those elements. Take for example, the Rodgers and Hart song – Blue Moon.

The song was written in 1934. There were recordings made as early as 1935. One of the best known versions is the Doo Wop hit from 1961 by the Marcels. Dean Martin did a stripped down version with piano and drums that was performed as a slow ballad. Frank Sinatra’s version was more “swingy”. Sam Cooke’s “bounced” and in 1997 a swing band called the Jive Aces covered it as a bouncy boogie woogie sounding cover. Every single version I mentioned, I like for different reasons.

Some of My Favorite Covers

If I were to make a list of all the cover songs I have on my iPod and feature one a day on my blog, I would have enough songs to write about for about 6 months! Instead, I grabbed a piece of paper and off the top of my head started jotting down the cover songs that came to mind. I gave myself 5 minutes to do this and came up with about 18 songs. The reality is that I know that I will complete this blog and after it posts say, “Oh, man! I forgot (insert cover song here)!” That’s ok.

While it may be hard for me to tell you exactly what I love about cover songs, maybe by giving some examples of some of my favorites, the music will answer the question for both of us.

The first three I came up with are all from movie soundtracks. There is no shortage of cover songs in the movies. These covers will often give new life to old songs – examples include Sweet Child of Mine by Sheryl Crow from Big Daddy, Hallelujah by Rufus Wainwright from Shrek, Hazy Shade of Winter by the Bangels from Less Than Zero, Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon by Urge Overkill in Pulp Fiction, and, of course, I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston in The Bodygaurd.

Johnny B. Goode – Marty McFly and the Starlighters

From Back to the Future, this is the song Marty McFly plays at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. In the movie, He goes off on a Eddie Van Halen type solo and the entire crowd looks at him stunned. On the soundtrack, however, there is a full version with an additional verse not in the movie. What I love about this version is the stripped down instrumentation, the saxophone and piano, and the whole feel of it. It really sounds like an “early” version of the song. It’s actually quite good.

https://youtu.be/RelL4BS2lEQ

All Shook Up – Billy Joel

From the soundtrack of Honeymoon in Vegas, which contains some very good Elvis covers. This one is my favorite. It has the feel of the Elvis version, with a little “boogie woogie” piano feel to it. Simple background vocals enhance the Billy Joel version. One addition I love is the bass drum hit after he sings, “I’m in love ….”

https://youtu.be/IsktHpH5QGk

I’m Ready – Taj Mahal

I stumbled on this by accident. This cut was used in the movie Little Big League. I’ve always been a fan of Fats Domino, but this version is just so much better. It has “meat” to it. The driving bass line keeps it moving, the piano is still there, and those saxes in the background – LOVE them. Add the electric guitar and Taj Mahal’s vocal to the mix and it is just perfect! This is one that I find myself listening to at work when I need a “pick up”

https://youtu.be/KZkRSP2oe8c

Sea of Love – The Honey Drippers

Phil Phillips did the original of this, but how can you NOT love this version?! First and foremost, you have Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page as well as Jeff Beck in the group! Add a beautiful string arrangement and background singers to compliment them and you have a top 5 record!

https://youtu.be/2BoUzzFXuVU

Tainted Love – Soft Cell

Not many people are aware that this is actually a cover song. It was originally done in 1964 by Gloria Jones. The song was written by Ed Cobb, who was in the Four Preps, and was actually the B-side of a song called My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home. The original had a “Motown” feel to it, while Soft Cell certainly has more of an 80’s feel to it.

Here is Soft Cell: https://youtu.be/22mYcScS_88

Here is the original: https://youtu.be/NSehtaY6k1U

Hard to Handle – Black Crowes

This one was written and recorded by the legendary Otis Redding. Otis’ version is already great, but I love this one equally. It certainly has a great feel to it. It doesn’t sound dated at all. It’s funky and a great jam!

https://youtu.be/BRcs_OzQb14

You’re Sixteen – Ringo Starr

The original was done by Johnny Burnette, who was known for rockabilly, in 1960. It’s not that I dislike the original, I just think Ringo’s version is … more fun. For years I thought Paul McCartney was playing Kazoo in this, however, one article says, “Michael Verity has quoted the song’s producer Richard Perry as revealing that it wasn’t actually a kazoo: “In fact, the solo on ‘You’re Sixteen,’ which sounds like a kazoo or something, was Paul singing very spontaneously as we played that track back, so he’s singing the solo on that.” Ringo’s version remains one of the few No. 1 singles to feature a ‘kazoo-sound’ solo. (It sure sounds like a kazoo to me!) I also love the driving piano bassline in his version.

https://youtu.be/vkR7u_sOtHI

I’m Down – Aerosmith

Originally done by the Beatles, this is almost a carbon copy of the Beatles version. I like it because I think Steven Tyler’s vocal perfectly fits the song.

https://youtu.be/oYGmtGnhdks

Look at Little Sister – Stevie Ray Vaughn

I picked this song in the recent song draft and you can read about it here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2021/08/10/song-draft-2021-round-3-look-at-little-sister-hank-ballard-stevie-ray-vaughn/

Steamroller Blues – Elvis

Elvis did his share of covers, and this is one that comes from his Aloha From Hawaii concert special. I have always preferred this version to the James Taylor version. To me, it is more “bluesy.” I love everything about this cut!!

https://youtu.be/4vAuXP4hIoo

Baby, I Love You – Andy Kim

This one was originally done by the Ronettes in 1963 and featured Phil Spector’s “wall of sound.” Andy Kim recorded his version in 1969 and had a top 10 hit with it. It mimics the “wall of sound” but if you listen in headphones, there is a lot of little stuff going on in the background – jingle bells, glockenspiel, castanets, and more. I remember hearing it a lot as a kid.

https://youtu.be/kdrpRKiVwi8

Since I Met You Baby – Dean Martin

This remake I stumbled on by watching MTV!! The original was done by Ivory Joe Hunter in 1956. I remember seeing the Title and Artist show up on the bottom left side of the screen when the video started and couldn’t believe that Dean Martin was on MTV. He recorded it for his The Nashville Sessions Album and I love that it stays true to the original, yet is purely Dean.

https://youtu.be/9Ls6X0-rgd4

Think – Joan Osborne

It better be good if you are covering the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and this one is! Aretha did the original in 1968 and then covered herself for a version in the Blues Brothers. I don’t remember how I stumbled on Joan Osborne’s version, but it is different enough that I love it. It has such a cocky attitude to it. Dig it –

https://youtu.be/RNskLOOwvvI

Mustang Sally – Buddy Guy

Originally done by Wilson Pickett, this is one of greatest soul songs of all time! I heard this on the Blues channel on Sirius XM and fell in love with it. I’ve always dug Buddy Guy and while this stays pretty true to the original, it has a sound of its own!

https://youtu.be/eAyFynJXe4g

Blue Suede Shoes – Elvis

Carl Perkins seemed to have all of his songs covered and many times, his songs became associated with the other artist rather than him. That’s the case with Blue Suede Shoes – it is Elvis. Elvis’ version is so much better than Carl’s in my opinion.

https://youtu.be/HeXnFx7aPOE

Your Cheating Heart – Crystal Shawanda

Originally done in 1952 by the late Hank Williams Sr. this takes a whiney and twangy song and cranks it up about 10 notches. We had Crystal in for a show when I worked at the country station and she was fantastic. This was on her debut album. I’m not sure she isn’t a huge star. Her voice is amazing and she is very talented.

https://youtu.be/GLVYxAKT12g

Dirty Laundry – Lisa Marie Presley

Written by and a hit for Don Henley, I have always loved this song. The content of the song is about mass media and how they exploit just about everything. Henley had a top 5 hit with it. I didn’t even know that Lisa Marie Presley had done this song until I heard it on some Pandora playlist. Her vocal is sultry and sells the content lyrically. A great cut!

https://youtu.be/u9_Bf1pVWOk

As a bonus – here is a live and unplugged version:

https://youtu.be/8jUBEj_8x5s

Please, Please, Please – Delbert McClinton

A cover of James Brown’s classic! James has a hit with this in 1956 and it went top 10 on the R&B charts. I think Delbert McClinton is someone who just doesn’t get enough praise for all he does. He’s a singer songwriter who can play many instruments and has released many albums. This version comes from his Honky Tonk and Blues album, which is a personal favorite.

https://youtu.be/HCs8m27CiCM

Call Me Irresponsible – Michael Buble’

Jimmy Van Heusen composed this song in 1962 with lyrics by Sammy Cahn. According to Mel Torme’, the song was written for Judy Garland to sing on her TV show. It was written as a parody to her well-known problems. Many people have done versions on the song – Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Eddie Fisher, Julie London, and more. Michael Buble’ used this as the title track for his 2007 album. It get’s me right from the opening “walking” bass lick. Buble’ has made a career out of covering so many songs from the Great American Songbook, as well as many originals. He has a great band backing him and he sings this effortlessly.

https://youtu.be/oj_eUUaWBu0

Ok – Just One That I HATE

Lean on Me – Club Nouveau

I love Bill Withers. he wrote and recorded this for his 1972 Still Bill album. It was a smash and was a number 1 song. I never cared for the cover version. Yes, it stayed very close to the original, but I just never cared for the arrangement at all. It’s almost annoying to me. It is actually playing in my headphones as I am typing this. To me, the whole 80’s synth sounds just sound out of place. Not to mention the whole “We be jammin” part – URGH!! One good thing about this was that it won a Grammy for Bill Withers as the writer for Best R&B song.

I reluctantly post the link to the video here ….

https://youtu.be/kbyjaUJWWmk

Final Thoughts

So what can we say about cover songs? Are they done as a tribute to the original artist? Are they done because it’s a favorite to perform? Are they done to “improve” on the original? Are they done because an artist feels it should be presented in a different way? Who knows, really!? One could easily ask the same questions about all the crappy movie remakes that have come about.

Some of my favorite concert memories are hearing the singer do a song that is totally unexpected. My favorite memory of the Billy Joel concert I attended wasn’t Piano Man. It was when he talked about loving the Motor City and breaking into his own version of I Heard it Through The Grapevine! Magical!! Aaron Tippin played a county fair for us and one point he threw on a fedora and sang Fly Me To the Moon, which blew my mind! Very cool songs – never released – but covers, nonetheless.

In the end, a good song is a good song. I love listening to a great song done by many other singers. It says something about the song melodically and lyrically. I don’t always love the cover, but that’s ok. It’s fun to hear the artist’s take on it.

I want to thank Dave for allowing me to ramble on and on about this month’s topic. I’ve wanted to feature cover songs on my site, but just couldn’t figure out how to present it. I guess I better stop typing because the more I think about it … the more songs are coming to my head!

Thanks for reading!

TV Show Draft Pick – The Honeymooners

For my next pick in the Hanspostcard TV Show Draft, I chose a show that is one of my all time favorites. I don’t remember when I first was introduced to this show, but I am guessing my dad had something to do with it. Early on in the draft, I chose Police Squad, which only aired 6 episodes. This show is known for its “Classic 39” – The Honeymooners.

This isn’t my first blog about the show. Some time ago, I took part in a “Favorite TV Episode” Blogathon and picked 2 of my favorite episodes to present. You can read that blog here:

When you examine 50’s TV shows, there was very little struggle involved. Think about it. I Love Lucy, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Andy Griffith Show, and Leave it to Beaver all showed families who were living in nice homes or apartments, showed no signs of financial struggles, and while there may be a misunderstanding here and there, it was mostly “bliss.” In 1955-1956, however, The Honeymooners focused on two couples from New York, who were struggling to get by.

The show focused on the lives of Ralph (Jackie Gleason) and Alice Kramden (Audrey Meadows), and Ed (Art Carney) and Trixie Norton (Joyce Randolph). One article I found on the show says this about Gleason’s Kramden character: Ralph was the get-rich-quick scheming, short-tempered, soft-hearted guy who was always striving for greatness, but never made it out of that two-room Brooklyn apartment. And that’s one of the main attractions for even the most casual of viewers: the characters are so identifiable. As Jackie himself said at the time, “Everything we did could have happened. People like the show, because we are them.”

The show began as a simple sketch on the DuMont Television Network, on the Cavalcade of Stars. The original hosts were Jack Carter and Jerry Lester, but in July of 1950 comedian Jackie Gleason took over the hosting duties. In the process, Gleason took the struggling show and turned it around to be a hit. The show, which featured comedy skits and a number of different performers each week, was broadcast live in front of a theater audience. In 1951, Jackie and his writers came up with the idea for a sketch called The Honeymooners. It was about a struggling couple living in Brooklyn who frequently fought, but in the end, there was no question that they loved each other.

Leonard Stern was a writer on both The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show. In an interview with the Archive of American Television he stated, “We started doing one sketch of The Honeymooners every five or six weeks and the response of people on the street was tremendous. So we started doing them every other week. Eventually, though, everyone, including Jackie, lost interest in the other characters in the different sketches, so we started to do them every week until the fatigue level hit its high and we’d have to take a break. I think Gleason had fun doing them, because he recognized the impact Kramden and Alice and Norton and Trixie were having on the audience. I’m not a great fan of ratings, but let me say that 53% of the total television audience was watching the show. There’s nothing like that in existence today. It was astonishing and the show itself was live. Remember, the audience of 3,000 people filled that theater. You earned your laughs. It was a resounding success and very exhilarating for all of us. It was opening night every week.”

When Gleason left the Dupont Network and went to CBS, he hosted the Jackie Gleason Show, where the Honeymooners sketches continued. In the 1952 season, the sketches usually ran between seven and 13 minutes. In the following season, and those sketches ran for a minimum of 30 minutes, and sometimes longer. Then, in the 1954-55 season, they actually filled the entire hour of The Jackie Gleason Show, and was doing so well in the ratings that it occasionally surpassed the viewership of I Love Lucy. That is almost unheard of!

In the 1955-56 season, The Jackie Gleason Show literally became The Honeymooners! It aired as a half-hour sitcom that was filmed in front of a studio audience. In total, 39 episodes were produced, and these episodes are the ones that are still being broadcast today. These 39 episodes are the ones that most people remember.

I read an article that said Jackie Gleason had actually been given a three-year contract from CBS for 78 episodes of The Honeymooners to be produced in the first two seasons. The contract also included an option for a third season of 39 more. For whatever it is worth, Gleason felt the quality of the scriptwriting couldn’t be maintained, and the show was mutually canceled by him and CBS.

A Closer Weekly article says: What’s particularly impressive about The Honeymooners living on the way it has is the fact that back in the day, there needed to be a minimum of 100 episodes of a show available so that local stations could run it five days a week. Any less made syndication difficult, since the cycle would be repeated that much sooner. But then there was The Honeymooners, with a mere 39 episodes to offer up, yet it worked. And continues to do so.

In a 1996 appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Jackie was asked why the show ended. He told Carson, “We were running out of ideas. I liked The Honeymooners and I liked doing them, and I didn’t want to denigrate them by forcing scenes that didn’t mean anything. So I wanted to quit, but they didn’t believe me. They thought I had another job someplace, but I didn’t. I’m glad I did stop them, because what we had done was good and if we had gone any further, we might have spoiled it.”

Those “Classic 39” are classic for a reason. They are still funny. The situations that The Kramdens and the Nortons muddle through every week will make you laugh, cry, think, and smile. They still hold up today. Each one of them has memorable scenes and quotable lines.

In one episode Ralph tells his boss he is a great golfer and is immediately asked to go play a round with him. Now Ralph needs to learn how to play – and fast. He finds the perfect teacher in his best friend Ed Norton. In pure Art Carney fashion, Ed reads from a book that you must “address the ball,” to which he takes the club, stands in front of the ball, looks down and says, “Hello, Ball!”

An episode of the show was featured in the movie Back To The Future. When Marty McFly winds up in 1955, a family is watching the episode The Man From Space. Intending to win the $50 first prize at the Racoon Lodge’s costume ball, Ralph decides to create his own outfit. And what an outfit! After appropriating (among other things) a faucet, a pot, a radio tube and the icebox door, he presents himself as the Man from Space.

In another episode, Alice says she wants to go dancing. Ralph has Ed come over to teach him how to dance. Ralph’s outfit is hilarious (he tells Alice it is “what all us cats wear! I’m hip!”). The dance (to the song The Hucklebuck) is worth the watch.

To me, sometimes the funniest stuff can be as simple as Ralph’s face …

In another classic episode, Ralph and Norton appear on a TV commercial trying to sell their Handy Housewife Helper, a kitchen gadget that can, among other things, open cans, remove corns and “core a apple.” In the inspired, ad-lib-laden episode, “Chef of the Future” Ralph demonstrates the wonders of the gizmo to “Chef of the Past” Norton. Rehearsal goes great, but in front of live cameras, Ralph freezes up.

Art Carney was the perfect second banana. The play between him and Gleason is classic. In one episode Norton’s sleepwalking becomes a waking nightmare for Ralph. Ralph can’t get any sleep because he’s been asked to keep his pal from wandering off on late-night strolls around the neighborhood.

Another classic episode takes place at the pool hall where Ralph gets into an argument with the diminutive guy named George. “My friend is even bigger than me,” he tells Ralph. “I have a friend Shirley that’s bigger than you,” Ralph counters. But then he comes eye-to-chin with George’s friend, the towering Harvey, who challenges Ralph to a fight. This prompts Norton to observe: “He’s even bigger than your friend Shirley.”

Many of the plot lines from the classic episodes made it into the Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy novelty hit “The Honeymooners Rap.”

In the 1980’s, Jackie Gleason announced that in his vault he had found a number of Honeymooners skits from The Jackie Gleason Show that had been shot on Kinescope, which is a way of filming directly through a lens that actually focused on the screen of a video monitor. 107 of those skits were released on DVD and syndicated to television stations. These would have been shot before the “Classic 39” and two of them stand out to me.

Jackie had been a guest star on the Jack Benny show, so Jack makes an appearance in one of those “lost” episodes as the Kramden’s landlord. The rent is being raised and Ralph is mad. When there is a knock on the door, Ralph opens it and Jack Benny is standing there. The audience chuckles in anticipation. Ralph calls to Alice that “the Landlord’s here” and the audience erupts. Benny stands there quietly as Ralph reads him the riot act! He calls him a “penny pincher” (which plays into Benny’s “cheap” character”) and says that he pinches a penny so hard that when he is through “both heads and tails are on the same side of the coin!”

In another lost episode, Ralph must lose weight for work. All through the episode he is starving. Finally, he is left alone in the apartment and sitting at the kitchen table. He notices a cake pan. He lifts the lid and sees the cake. His eyes bulge and he goes nuts. As he is about to tear into the cake Alice walks in. “Everybody get back,” he yells! The brief 3 minutes of him staring at the cake before getting ready to eat it is comedy genius!

As brilliant as Jackie Gleason was as Ralph Kramden, he never won an Emmy Award for it. Art Carney, however, won 5 Emmy’s for Best Supporting Actor on The Honeymooners and the Jackie Gleason Show.

The Honeymooners influenced a huge 1960’s cartoon – The Flintstones. It is a blatant rip off of the show, and was a huge hit. It is said that Gleason considered suing Hanna-Barbera Productions because of the similarities, but decided that he did not want to be known as “the guy who yanked Fred Flintstone off the air”

The Honeymooners is over 65 years years old! Joyce Randolph, who played Trixie Norton is 97 years old and still going strong. I wonder if Gleason ever thought that those 39 episodes would still find an audience today and that they would still bring much laughter.

In 1990, Audrey Meadows joined Bob Costas on Later to discuss the show. You can see that footage here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKhMKQaqn7w

If you have never seen an episode, I encourage you to do so. The two episodes I mentioned in a previous blog are good places to start – TV or Not TV or A Matter of Record. Most are available on Youtube.

Thanks for reading!

The Challenge: #PayClassicsForward for Christmas

pay

A blog that I follow, Once Upon a Screen, posted a challenge that she has done for a few years now.  The idea is to share some of your favorite movies with others – by “paying classics forward”.  You can my friend, Aurora’s post from this year here:

The Challenge: #PayClassicsForward for Christmas

From the above link, you can also click on her posts from previous years.  She loosely follows the “format” of The 12 Days of Christmas.  Another buddy at Movie Movie Blog Blog II posted his here:

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/157990146/posts/1162

What follows is my attempt to share some movie “classics” with you.  Perhaps you can check some out during your holiday break?  Here goes:

One AMAZING performance –

James Cagney as psychopath Cody Jarrett in White Heat.  He had given up playing gangsters a few years prior, but returns with this electrifying and mesmerizing performance in this film.  The ending is classic!!

cagney

Two Musical Brothers –

Jake and Elwood Blues are on a “mission from God” to raise money to save an orphanage, but first, they need to put their band back together.  Based on two characters they did on Saturday Night Live, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, along with an amazing band, great cast, stellar cameos from legendary singers, and the Bluesmobile are a MUST see!

blues

Three Movie Trilogies

The Star Wars Original Trilogy.  Yes, I know that there are prequels and sequels, but the original trilogy (Episodes 4, 5, & 6) are required viewing for everyone!

sw-episodeiv_0_0

The Back to the Future Trilogy.  Time travel has never been so much fun! While I still feel that Part 3 could have had a better ending, I still love watching the adventures of Doc Brown, Marty McFly, and Biff Tannen.

back to

The Godfather Trilogy.  Movie perfection!  Godfather 1 & Godfather 2 are such masterful works!  While Godfather 3 was panned by many critics, I still find it to have some wonderful moments.

gofather

Four Star General

George C. Scott won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of General George S. Patton.  I have always loved him as an actor, and his performance in this film is truly worthy of the award.

patton

Five Card Stud

I love a good western.  I could have had an entire list of westerns to suggest to readers (maybe that’s a future blog).  Five Card Stud stars two of my favorite actors, Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum.  I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s good stuff! Shuffle the cards….

STUD.jpg

The Sixth Sense

I remember seeing this one in the theater. I remember exactly how blown away I was at the ending.  If you have never seen it, you need to!  Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment are terrific.  Still one of my favorites of all time.

the-sixth-sense

Seven “Hoods”

Robin and the 7 Hoods is one of two Rat Pack films on this list.  Take the story of Robin Hood and set it in 1920’s Chicago and you have a fun flick.  There are some great musical numbers, including a Sinatra classic, “My Kind of Town”.  Peter Falk is brilliant in this film, as is Bing Crosby.  Then, of course, you have Dean, Frank & Sammy!

robin-and-the-7-hoods-md-web

Favorite Eight film series.

The Harry Potter series.  Whether you are a child or an adult, this wonderful world of wizardry is very well done.  What makes it extra special is that the main characters are played by the same people throughout the entire series.  I saw the movies before I read the books.  My kids and I love watching these together.

harry_potter_footage_header

Nine Players

I’m talking baseball movies.  I’ll give you a drama and a comedy.  For laughs, Major League is my pick.  The all star cast includes Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, and Wesley Snipes! Bob Uecker as the Indians announcer is worth the watch!

9751290-large

In the drama category, The Natural with Robert Redford is my suggestion.  Roy Hobbs and his bat “Wonderboy” lead the Knights to many victories in this wonderful film!  Wilford Brimley is great as the manager.  Watch for Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Barbara Hershey, and Robert Duvall as well!

The-Natural

Ten Commandments

The Cecil B. DeMille epic is an amazing movie with a phenomenal all-star cast and pretty cool special effects for 1956!  Charlton Heston is Moses.

the-ten-commandments-1956-movie-05.jpg

Others in the cast include Vincent Price, Anne Baxter, Yvonne De Carlo, Yul Brynner, and Edward G. Robinson.

yul eddie.png

Watch this.  “So let it be written.  So let it be done.”

Ocean’s Eleven

The original!  Not the George Clooney, Brad Pitt remake!  This is my second Rat Pack selection.  Sinatra is Danny Ocean, and him and his old military buddies are going to rob all the major casinos in Las Vegas.  I have always loved the ending of this film – so much is said (and felt) with nothing but silence and no dialogue.

oceans-11 small

Twelve Angry Men

Henry Fonda leads an all-star cast of jurors who must decide whether a teen is guilty, sending him to a death sentence.  In the film, we see 12 very different personalities all trying to work together to come to a conclusion.  The clashing of these various personalities is what makes the film so brilliant.  Martin Balsam, Jack Klugman, Ed Begley, Jack Warden, and Lee J. Cobb all put in thrilling performances.

12

Now it is your turn – pay it forward.  What movies are must sees for other film fans?  You have freedom to pick what you want and use your numbers how you wish.  Use my post and the examples of my friend as a guide.

 

 

What’s Up, Doc?

Doctor's Office

This week I found out that the doctor’s office where my primary care doctor practices is going private. To be honest, this is the first time I have ever had this happen. They offered all of the current patient’s the option to stay with the practice – at a cost. So for $90 a month, I can stay with my doc, get his cell phone number for after hours questions, unlimited visits with no co-pays or deductibles, “unhurried appointments that start on time”, and a bunch of other “perks”. While this sounds great, I still have to pay my monthly insurance in case I need to go to ER or have a hospital stay. Bottom line: it’s gonna cost me more money.

I think the hardest part about this is the fact that I finally found a doctor I like. He’s Italian (we’ve talked about Italy and Sicily often). He listens to me. He doesn’t rush me. He is honest. I trust him. I’ve really only had a few doctors where I felt like this. Now, because the entire practice is going private, I have to begin a new search for a doctor!

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Finding the right “doc” should be an easy task, right? Well, it really isn’t for me. Because I work an hour and 15 minutes from home, AND work for a health system, I have to take the insurance provided by them. I have to use doctors that are affiliated with the health system. This is not really a big deal. What makes it difficult is that the closest practices are about 30-50 minutes south of where I live.

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Not only do I have to find a new doctor for me, but the new doctor has to be one that I can take the boys to as well. The options keep getting fewer and fewer, especially since there are only a few practices in that area.

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The old doctor will see me through the end of December. So I have about 2 months to research, visit, and make a choice. Oh, and amidst all of that, it is time for open enrollment and there are all kinds of changes in that too that I need to look at and consider.

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Why must health care and insurance be such a major pain in the ass?! Urgh! I am really hating that my doctor’s office is doing this!! I understand why, though. I mean, really, if I were a doctor and could avoid all the insurance company bullshit, I’d do it too! It’s just very frustrating and unfair to the patients who are established. To assume that a patient can afford an extra $1100 a year on top of what they already pay for insurance really sucks!

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It is no secret that in many cases all it would take is one major medical emergency to put a family into financial distress! Hell, one ER visit with my son, at the health system I work for cost me over $800! He wasn’t even admitted! Health care costs are astronomical (not to mention pharmaceutical costs)!

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So the search is on … I have a short time to interview, research and make the decision on my new doc. I am loathing ever damn second of it. Who is the right Doc??

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Doc Bricker?

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Doc Brown?

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Doc Severinsen?!?!

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Doctor Howard? Doctor Fine? Doctor Howard?

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Dr. Van Helsing??

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Dr. Nick?!?

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Gratuitous Grey’s Anatomy photo (cause my wife loves that show)

Doctor McSteamer? McSteaming? Or McDreamy? Whatever the hell they call him?!?!

Wish me luck … I am NOT looking forward to this at all ….

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BLOG ADDITION!!!

My brother read this blog and reminded me that there are many other doctor options that I forgot.  So, here are a few more I will look into:

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Dr. David Banner – although his temper may be an issue.

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Dr. Samuel Beckett – though he is often in and out

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Dr. Bombay – he’s magical!

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Dr. Frasier Crane and Dr. Niles Crane – they are crazy fun!

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Dr. John Watson – The game is afoot!

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Dr. Rumack – I am serious!

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Dr. Honeydew  and his faithful companion, Beaker.

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Dr. Richard Kimble – although he’s on the lamb

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Dr. Bob Hartley

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Another Dr. Bob …

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Dr. Zhivago

Dr Zaius

Dr. Zaius

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Dr. Strangelove

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Dr. Fu Manchu

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The Family Practice of Dr. Jones and Dr. Jones

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Dr. Frankenstein – it’s not pronounced how it looks.

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Dr. Cockroach – he creeps me out a bit

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These doctors!

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Dr. Spaceman – not pronounced how it looks either!

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Dr. Teeth – I have all his albums!

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Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz – He has his own jingle and nemesis.

With all of those wonderful choices …. I may just go with the Dr. I can relate to the most … perhaps you have heard of him….

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Dr. Johnny Fever!

Thanks to my brother for reminding me that I have many more options … LOL!

 

Back in Time?

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All writers get writer’s block.  I am hardly a “writer”, but sometimes stare at the blank page and wonder what to write about.  Since I began blogging, I have stumbled on blogs written by others who share some of the same interests as me.  I have followed blogs that feature movies, TV, music, nostalgia, positive thoughts & quotes, and more.  There have been many instances where I read another blog and an idea will pop into my head.  My friend Max and I tend to “borrow” ideas from each other often.

Many ideas I adapt from those blogs.  For this blog I am literally stealing the idea, and giving credit, and creating some rules for it.  The Anxious Teacher wrote a blog after watching Back to the Future III.  You can read it here:

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What a great idea for a blog!  If you had a time machine – where would you travel?  As I thought about this, I wanted to limit myself to a few things.  First of all, because I have watched the Back to the Future movies, I know that if you go back and change something in the past – it will affect the future.  So Limit #1:  If I go back, I am simply there to observe.  Many of the things I thought I would like to go back and witness happened over a period of time, so Limit #2 – no real time limit.  Limit #3 – wherever I go, I will be dressed appropriately as to not raise suspicion.  I know, it’s silly, but it’s my blog and my rules.

I actually thought about adding what I would call the “Ebenezer Scrooge” element to this.  What is that?  Well, remember when Scrooge was transported into the past, present & future?  He could witness everything, but he could not interact with anyone.  Those events happened and the people were not aware he was even there.  Perhaps that would be the best thing, right?  That way, if I went back in time, I would not be tempted to change things.

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General times and places

As my blogger friend said, I think it would be very cool to visit the old west.  I have watched many westerns on TV and in the movies.  I have read many books set in the old west.  I think it would be pretty cool to walk through one of those western towns.  How cool would it be to visit the saloons, or the general store?  I think it would be cool to don a cool cowboy hat, boots & spurs and ride a horse to get from place to place.

I also think it would be cool to visit the ancient times and watch the building of the pyramids, or buildings like the coliseum.  Those historic buildings are still standing.  How awesome would it be to see just how they put them together?

As someone who has been a huge fan of the 1950’s, I would love to live a year or two in this decade.  It’s fun to see how the ’50s are portrayed in movies like Back to the Future, and I would love to see it in person.  I would love to hear the old radio stations playing those early rock and roll songs.  I would love to see those classic films in a theater.  I would love to have a meal at a real 50’s diner or drive a classic car!

I would love to visit the 1940’s, too!  The music of the great band leaders, the early music of Sinatra, and of course, those great old radio shows! Of course, World War II was going on, but it would be interesting to see how life in America was at that time.

Everyone wants to visit the future … that peaks my interest, but is it something I would do?  I don’t know.  I’d be tempted to come back to the present and use the information for personal gain, or to alter outcomes.   I’m not sure visiting the future would be something I’d want to do – unless I knew it was something specific I wouldn’t be able to see.

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General People of Interest

I would love to watch Beethoven or Bach (or any composer, really) writing and composing a piece of their music.

I would love to watch someone like Edgar Allen Poe or William Shakespeare writing a poem or story.

I would love to sit on a set and watch them shooting a Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy film.

I would love to be in the room where the First Continental Congress held meetings and watch men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others in action.

I would love to attend a taping of an old episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson or a taping of the Dean Martin Show.

I would love to be in the audience at a Rat Pack show in Chicago or Las Vegas.  Come on!  Dean, Frank and Sammy!!

I would love to be an extra in one of my favorite movies.

I would love to watch Elvis in the recording studio.

I would love to watch Thomas Edison working on the phonograph or the electric light.

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Specific Events

I would love to watch the moon landing (on TV or from space).

I would love to watch the first flight with the Wright Brothers.

I would love to see JFK’s inauguration.

I would love to see a Beatles concert.

I would love to see Lincoln deliver his Gettysburg Address.

I would love to witness the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I would love to witness the launch of Titanic on her maiden voyage.

I would love to be in the stands at Tiger Stadium at the final game of the 1984 World Series.

I would love to be in the crowd at 1985’s Live Aid concert.

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Personal Things

I know I put some limits on what can or cannot happen if I went back in time, but if there were no limits there are a few things I would like to do with that time machine.

I would love one more conversation with my mom.

I would love one more pinochle game with grandma and grandpa.

I would love one more Christmas Eve with grandma and grandpa.

I would love one more radio show with Rob.

I would love one more cribbage game with my grandpa.

I would love to play my trumpet in one more high school band concert.

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Just One Day

For whatever reason, writing this blog made me think of the Nat King Cole song, “That Sunday, That Summer”.  The lyrics of the song say:

“If I had to chose just one day, to last my whole life through, it would surely be that Sunday, the day that I met you.”

With a time machine, you could go back to one day.  You could pick the day.  You could relive whatever happened that day.  What day would that be?

I don’t know that I could pick just one.

What I do know is that there are plenty of days that I am looking forward to that haven’t happened yet – the birth of my daughter, the graduations of my sons, etc…. I am perfectly content moving forward and experiencing the days to come.

Here is sit, remembering the past – loving the present – and looking forward to the future.

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Favorite Films – The 80’s

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This blog is a continuation of a series I started earlier this week. Somebody had the idea to post a list was to consist of your favorite films from each year of your life.  So, you start with your birth year and move ahead year by year and list all the films from each year.  A post from the Avocado site came up in my “Reader” list of blogs that had the same principle, but with one exception – you can only pick one movie from each year. My last blog focused on my favorites from the 1970’s and this one will feature the 1980’s.

I have a feeling that there will be more movies per year for me to pick from in this decade.

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1980 was a year for sequels.  Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason returned for another adventure in Smokey and the Bandit II, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker faced off in The Empire Strikes Back, and Christopher Reeve was back as Superman in Superman II. We were first introduced to Jason in the first of many installments of the Friday the 13th franchise.  Queen provided the theme song for the film Flash Gordon.  A few years before he was dealing with a Delorean, Robert Zemeckis directed Kurt Russell and Jack Warden in Used Cars. Jack Nicholson yelled “Here’s Johnny!” in the Shining and Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin dreamed of knocking off their boss in Nine to Five.

I mentioned in the last blog that I had a feeling it would be more difficult to pick just one movie per year as I headed into the 80’s.  That was proven to be true as I looked over the movies for 1980 and saw three of my all-time favorites were released.  ANY three of these could easily be my one pick for the year for the following reasons (1) all three of them have an amazing cast (2) all three of them are funny (3) all three of them are all full of great movie lines!  I want to break the rules and make this a three way tie!  Alas, I have to pick just one.

The first runner up – Caddyshack. Such a funny movie that is quoted every day on golf courses all across the country!  Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase all combine their talents to make this such a funny movie!  Second runner up – The Blues Brothers. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd are Jake and Elwood Blues.  It is a comedy of epic proportions and has one of the best soundtracks ever.  Also, very quotable.

The pick for my favorite, though, has to be THE most quoted movie of the ’80s – Airplane!  “I am serious.  And don’t call me Shirley!”

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Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Hayes and SO many more!  The Zucker Brothers brought us this comedy, a direct rip-off of a film called Zero Hour (look for the comparison on YouTube), and it is a joke after joke laugh riot.  Having serious actor say these comedy lines straight makes the line even more funny!  The scenes with “Johnny” are worth the price of admission!

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1981 brought us some great films.  Some of my favorite action movies from ’81 include Burt Reynolds in Sharky’s Machine, and Sylvester Stalone and Billy Dee Williams in Nighthawks. Adventure films included stop-action creatures from Ray Harryhausen in Clash of the Titans and our introduction to Indiana Jones with Harrison Ford starring in Raiders of the Lost Ark (the face melting scene still creeps me out!).

1981 was full of comedies, some better than others (Remember Ringo Starr’s Caveman?!).  Dudley Moore was brilliantly funny in Arthur.  The Muppets return for fun in The Great Muppet Caper.  Chevy Chase, Dabney Coleman, and Nell Carter appear in the underappreciated Modern Problems.  George Hamilton plays dual roles in a film I recently blogged about, Zorro The Gay Blade.  Not his best, but I still laugh at Jerry Lewis’ Hardly Working.  And Mel Brooks offered up History of the World Part I (and left many of us longing for Part II).

Stripes starring Bill Murray, John Candy, and Harold Ramis comes in as a close second here.  It could easily be THE favorite for this year.  It is still funny today, and I find myself quoting it often.  Just edging it out as my favorite is The Cannonball Run.

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Burt Reynolds leads an all star cast in the race across the country!  Silly fun and many funny lines.  Dom Deluise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. Farrah Fawcett, Bert Convy, Jamie Farr, Roger Moore, Jack Elam, Adrienne Barbeau, Peter Fonda, Terry Bradshaw, Mel Tillis, and so many more star in this comedy, which will always remain one of my favorites!

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In 1982, Sylvester Stallone introduced us to Rambo in First Blood while Harrison Ford starred in Blade Runner (which finally just recently got a sequel).  ET phoned home, Sean Penn was stoned out of his mind in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Scott Baio had super powers in Zapped!  Airplane II: The Sequel recycled some old jokes and was not as good as the original.  Michael Keaton drove Henry Winkler crazy in Night Shift.  Creepshow was creepy (and had a cool cameo from Stephen King).  A favorite from this year is Steve Martin’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, which is shot in black and white and Steve interacts with old movie stars.

My top pick for 1982 has got to be Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

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I didn’t care for the first Star Trek film, but this one was excellent.  Again, we have the original cast back on the Enterprise.  This film goes back to the original series for a tie in.  Ricardo Montalban played the character on the series and now, years later, he finds Kirk and plans to get his revenge.  It is a great story, and the film has a powerful ending.  The best of the entire series in my opinion.  Montalban is just amazing in this movie!

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The scene with William Shatner screaming “Khan!” – how can you not love it?

1983

I can already sense the backlash I am going to get for my pick from this year, please remember this is MY list and not yours!

In the comedy category, 1983 had Michael Keaton stepping in for Teri Garr in Mr. Mom. Gary Busey, Marsha Warfield, and Mr. T are a riot in DC Cab while Bob and Doug McKenzie (Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis) get their first feature film in Strange Brew. Dan Aykroyd takes on “mom” in Doctor Detroit while Rodney Dangerfield takes on his mother-in-law in Easy Money.  1983 also introduced us to the Griswold family as they make their trip to Walley World in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

The Skywalker’s were back for the third part of the original trilogy in Return of the Jedi, while Christopher Walken woke from a coma with psychic powers in The Dead Zone.  And who can forget Al Pacino’s thrilling performance in Scarface?  My pick for favorite of this year is a holiday classic – A Christmas Story.

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So why this film?  Because it remains one that I faithfully watch every Christmas.  Who can’t relate to the way the Parker boys feel as Christmas approaches?  While it is set in the 1940’s, their excitement mirrors what every child feels during the holidays.  It’s a classic!  I had the chance to see the Christmas Story house this year (and blogged about it) and it was fun to walk through.

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As I looked over my list from ’84, I once again see more comedies than other genres.  Eddie Murphy went to Detroit to film Beverly Hills Cop, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis took on the spiritual realm in Ghostbusters. Michal Keaton and Joe Piscopo are mobsters is Johnny Dangerously.  We meet the first batch of recruits in the first Police Academy movie, while Cannonball Run II fell flat, despite a great cast. Sight gags and puns galore were seen with Val Kilmer in Top Secret, and we first met Sarah Connor in the first Terminator movie.

1984 was the year the Detroit Tigers last won a World Series.  I will never forget the excitement of that series or the season that led up to it. Perhaps that is why my favorite flick from 1984 is The Natural.

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Robert Redford is Roy Hobbs and he is an amazing ball player.  The film is based on a 1952 book by Bernard Malamud.  (Spoiler, in case you haven’t seen it) In the book, Hobbs strikes out at the end.  However, in the movie, there is an amazing homerun that knocks out the lights and sparks fly all over the place – one of my favorite endings!

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“Knock the cover off the ball ….”

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My list of favorites from this year is not too long.  Not that there weren’t some great films released, because there were, but many of them didn’t make an impact on me.  I enjoyed the James Bond film A View to a Kill (Roger Moore as Bond), Harrison Ford in Witness, and Chevy Chase as Fletch.  The “Brat Pack” film The Breakfast Club was released with your “stereotypical high school teens”. The Goonies was one I watched once. It was ok, but I didn’t see the hype that everyone else did.  As stupid as it was, Transylvania 6-5000 always made me laugh.  Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr., John Byner, Geena Davis, and Michael Richards are all part of the cast, and there are some funny (and some very dumb) scenes.

Who would have thought that a board game could inspire a very funny film?  Clue came out in 1985 and had three different endings (it varied on wherever you saw it).  Christopher Lloyd, Tim Curry, Martin Mull, Madeline Khan, Michael McKean, Eileen Brennan, and Lesley Ann Warren play the various people from the game and it is just a blast to watch.  This easily could be my pick, but there is one film that stands out far above the rest.

As someone who always loved stories about time travel, I was hooked immediately by the trailer for Back to the Future. It remains one that I can watch over and over today.

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There is just SO much to love about this film!!!  Great story.  Great characters (and a great cast).  Comedy.  Suspense.  Good music and a cool car that when it hit 88 miles per hour, you saw some “pretty serious sh*t!”

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1986 really doesn’t have a stand out film for me.  I enjoyed Top Gun with Tom Cruise (it also has a sequel coming out).  Little Shop of Horrors was an ok movie (Steve Martin as the dentist is a high light).  Tough Guys had some good scenes, but with big stars like Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, I expected more. One Crazy Summer had some funny scenes, but wasn’t a laugh out loud riot.  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was good.  I loved the premise of this kid skipping school and doing all that he did … and still making it home before his folks found out (what kid didn’t want to do what Ferris did?!).

The only film that stands out to me from 1986 is one that you may question.  It gets the my pick as favorite for sentimental reasons.  The Three Amigos starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short.  I don’t care how many times El Guapo yells “It’s a sweater!”, I laugh!  But that is not why I picked this one.  Back when my oldest son was just diagnosed with autism, we were watching this movie.  There is a scene where the Amigos are sitting around a campfire and they begin to sing the song “Blue Shadows”.  My son walked to the TV and just stared.  He loved that song.  At that time, we had no idea if he would ever really speak more than a few words.  He would watch this scene over and over! I even have it on my iPod because it makes me think of him.

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After the song, we used to have to wait for the turtle to say “Goodnight, Ned” before we had to rewind that scene.

1987

1987 offered up some classics.  Who wasn’t freaked out by the rabbit scene in Fatal Attraction? Even though you saw it coming, you cried when Richie Valens died in La Bamba. Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World was given new life on the radio thanks to Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam. “Nobody gets outta here without singing the blues” is one of my favorite lines from Adventures in Babysitting.  Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks team up for a Dragnet movie that misses the mark.  Danny Glover and Mel Gibson first teamed up for Lethal Weapon and Kevin Costner played Elliot Ness in The Untouchables.  We also enjoyed the fairy tale The Princess Bride and Mel Brooks parodied Star Wars and space movies with Spaceballs (“We Break for Nobody!”

If you loved Airplane, but have never seen Amazon Women on the Moon, you need to.  It’s as silly as Airplane and has some very funny scenes.  For years, I’ve joked that I’d like my funeral to be like a roast.  I said I would want people to share funny stories about times we shared together.  In this film, there is actually a funeral that is a roast – with a dias that includes Steve Allen, Slappy White, and other comedy greats!

My 1987 favorite goes to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

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This is just one of the best John Hughes films.  You get every emotion watching this film.  There are times that are laugh out loud funny and there are times where you are wiping tears from your eyes.  Steve Martin and John Candy are just great together.  This film makes me miss John Candy.  He was such a great actor.

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In 1988 Dirty Harry returned in The Dead Pool, Tom Hanks wished he was Big, and Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall were Coming to America.  Bruce Willis starred in the first Die Hard and Michael Keaton was Beetlejuice.  I was impressed by the interaction between humans and cartoons in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and (as a Monty Python fan) loved John Cleese and Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda.

With my favorite movie that kicked off this decade (Airplane), it should come as no surprise that my pick from 1988 is The Naked Gun starring Leslie Nielsen.

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Shortly after Airplane, the Zucker brothers created Police Squad.  It was a short lived TV show starring Leslie Nielsen as Lt. Frank Drebin.  It aired just 6 episodes.  The show is the premise for the movie.  George Kennedy replaced Alan North and OJ Simpson (pre-murder trial) also starred.  Ricardo Montalban plays the villain in this and is just great.  Not as many lines as Airplane, but just as funny!!

“It’s Enrico Palazzo!!”

1989

As I come to the last year of this decade, I am faced with the same issue I had with the first year.  I have many favorites from this year and wonder just how I can pick only one movie as a favorite!

Comedies included Eddie Murphy in Harlem Nights, Weird Al Yankovic starred in his first film UHF, John Candy was Uncle Buck in another John Hughes film, and Charlie Sheen was Wild Thing in Major League (“Just a bit outside!”).  Bernie is dead, but he still has quite an adventure in Weekend at Bernie’s. Jack Palance plays a wonderful bad guy in Tango and Cash and the Griswold’s host Christmas in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. And I can’t forget to mention that Doc Brown and Marty McFly return in Back to the Future II (which some people hate because it goes back and forth from time to time – but that’s what I love about it! That, and the fact that they reshot original scenes from Part I and then had the characters interact within that scene.)

Two films that really stand out from 89 are not comedies, but adventure movies.  The runner up for my favorite is Tim Burton’s Batman.  As a fan of the 1966 Batman, I was excited to see how this film would be portrayed.  Michael Keaton played Batman and I thought he did ok.  Jack Nicholson as the Joker was amazing!  I loved his interpretation of the character (though I still believe Cesar Romero is the best).  It was really well done.  This brings me to my favorite film of 1989 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

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In the Indiana Jones series, I always felt this was the strongest of them all.  Harrison Ford is again great as Indy, but his father, played by Sean Connery, steals the scenes.  I can easily see my dad and I fighting with each other like these two do if we ever were off on an adventure like this.  I just love their interactions with each other.  They are both just perfect in this film.  The final scene is also just a picture perfect ending!

So with that, let’s ride into the sunset.  When we return, let’s dive into the 90’s, ok?

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Thanks for reading!

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31 Years Ago

The year is ….

1988

  • Ronald Reagan is President of the United States.
  • It cost 24 cents to mail a letter.
  • A gallon of gas was 91 cents.
  • The Washington Redskins beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII
  • The Winter Olympics were held in Calgary.
  • The average yearly salary was $24,500.
  • The LA Dodgers beat the Oakland A’s in the World Series.

1988 movies included Rain Man, Die Hard, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Big, A Fish Called Wanda, and ….

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1988 music included:

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…and Sweet Child O’ Mine from Guns ‘N Roses, too!

It was also a very special year for me …

Always an Abe!

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I was reminded by Facebook’s “Memories” feed that it was 31 years ago this week that I graduated from Lincoln High School. (25 years later – to the day – I would graduate from college.) It’s hard to believe that it has been that long. Some days I can’t remember where I put my car keys, but I can remember graduation day like it was yesterday!

The ceremony always happened outside, unless it rained. If it rained, less people from your family could attend, because it was moved indoors to the auditorium. Luckily, the weather cooperated June 9, 1988, and we walked the stage outside in the stadium. The band performed some songs prior to things getting started. As a senior, we played through most of them. I remember conducting a number – it was called Tin Pan Alley. That is a memory I will never forget.

At the required time, the seniors left the band to go line up to walk in (to Pomp and Circumstance). I will always remember in the days leading up to graduation, sitting in band class and the seniors having to “sit out” during a number because we weren’t going to be there when they played it. Sitting in class listening to Pomp and Circumstance while the underclassmen played it was weird. It was then that I knew exactly how the seniors the year before felt when they had to listen while we played it.

I remember someone telling me that your senior year will go fast – they were right. There were times I wish there was a pause button. It was my favorite year of high school hands down. Our football team was undefeated. I had a solo in the marching band show. I went to all the dances and the prom. I got my first new car and spent many hours with my friends driving around listening to mix tapes I had made.

Things I Miss Most

It’s 31 years later and there are times I wish I could go back. There are so many things I miss about high school:

Friday Night Football Games. Yes, I miss playing in the Halftime Show, but I also miss watching our boys win! My classmates were always out their playing hard, and as I said, were undefeated my senior year. Coach Jim Benefield was the BEST! Hands down.

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Movies in Class. Whenever you walked into a class and saw the TV and VCR, you were instantly excited. Even if it was some dumb educational film, it was a welcome event!

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School Holidays. Winter Break! Christmas Break! Extra days surrounding other holidays! We had a lot of extra time off! And who can forget Summer Vacation?! In some countries, extra days off and built in vacation time is looked at as a must. Productivity in those countries are high and workers are happy. Sadly, once you graduate, you seem to work to death and often have to fight to get time off! I miss those holidays!!

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Yearbooks. There was a time where you didn’t know what your picture looked like until the teacher passed them out. 9 times out of 10, mine came out looking terrible. Even Picture Retake Day didn’t help! There are plenty of bad yearbook pictures of me! There are also plenty of other kids with bad yearbook pictures. Today, I love sitting back and reading the things people wrote in my yearbook.

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Less Responsibilities. This holds true for most adults. We tend to look back at the days of ‘freedom”. Who wouldn’t want to be in a position to not worry about whether or not you have enough money to pay bills?!

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Working While Going to School. My first job was at a boat marina. They worked around my crazy band and school schedule. I don’t remember the hourly rate, but I do remember getting a check for $150-$250 every two weeks. It was like “mad money”. I used it to buy albums, tapes, books, and gadgets. I really had no bills, and a teenager rarely saves money.

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Passing Notes. Long before texting, we used to write notes and pass them back and forth in classes and in the hallways. Sometimes, I’d get caught passing one in class. I did most note passing in the hallway. Many times it was just stupid gossip, a drawing, or the “Do you want to go to the dance – check yes or no” type note. Some folks even got real creative about the way the notes were folded, too!

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Lockers. I am sure my locker partner, Joe (who was always good at numbers), can remember our locker combination! I remember it was outside the library, under the clock, on the second floor. I rarely used it after freshman year. I kept most of my books in the band room or in a backpack. A lot of girls decorated the inside of their lockers, and on game days, they often decorated the lockers of the football players. I think my locker was basically a storage place for whatever I didn’t want to take home.

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Less Technology. I’ll be the first to admit that I am connected to my phone today. But, back in school, we weren’t connected to it. We talked to people. We had to use the card catalog to find books and encyclopedias to write reports. We used maps. We watched film strips! We had to thread the film projector. We rewound tapes to listen to a song again. Yeah, technology is great, but there were advantages to not having it too.

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Field Trips. You had to have your permission slips! I never did the Washington DC trip. I did do a Florida Trip to Disney. I also loved those little trips to places like the Detroit Science Center or Cranbrook. I remember having my mom chaperone a couple times. Field trips were probably more frequent in elementary and middle school, but the ones in high school were always great fun!

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Young Love. As you flip through a yearbook, you can often see those high school romances (the ones that lasted, and the ones that didn’t). I know a few people who married their high school sweetheart and they are still together!! That’s amazing! With young love comes hurt in many cases. I witnessed that at a prom I DJ’d recently. I remember seeing this guy sitting on the floor with his face in his hands and I thought, “I know how you feel, pal.”

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Dances/Prom. It wasn’t until high school that I even attended a dance. It always seemed like it was just me and a few friends going to get out of the house. We never danced with anyone, we sat and talked and listened to the music. We walked around and drank that really crappy punch that always seemed to be the drink provided. I remember going to Homecoming with a gal who asked me. I had no idea even how to dance! After that night, though, I realized dancing with girls was a whole lot more fun than sitting eating those stale mints and drinking that punch! I remember using some of the money I was making at that boat job to rent a tux and go in on a limo for the fancier dances.

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Teachers. No surprise here. Go back and read some of the many blogs I have written about the teachers I had in high school. They were the best! Mr. Shaner, Mr. Benefield, Mr. Balos, Mr. Yanoulaki, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Beltz, Mr. Harvey, the list goes on and on. I am friends with many of them on Facebook. I am also friends with other teachers who I never had in class, but always respected and made an impact on me. I was lucky to know them in high school – and after!

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Friends. My core group of friends and I have pretty much stayed in touch since high school. With My Space and Facebook, I have been able to reconnect with those I lost touch with. That’s one thing about technology that I am ok with. A downside to this is that since we all are connected on Facebook, our chances of a real reunion probably won’t happen (Not that we ever really had one – we didn’t. We tagged along with the Class of ’89 once, but nothing official for my class.) What was great about high school is that you always saw your friends every day. It was always extra cool when they were in the same class as you. The ones that weren’t, you couldn’t wait to meet them in the hall to tell them about something silly that happened or to plan something for after school. I miss that, but at the same time, when I am finally able to hook up with a friend on the phone or on social media, I enjoy picking up where we left off.

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The Future. In high school, the future seemed so unclear. There were infinite possibilities. Your career path had not been chosen yet. There was a blank canvas for you to paint on. You had so many choices. You were in control over what you did next. The future was bright and it was something to look forward to. I’m not saying that 31 years later, I have no future, I do. It’s just different to look at it and know that the future is a bit more narrow since there is a lot less time ahead of me. I can still look ahead and know that there are a lot of good things awaiting me. I still look forward to the future, but I am looking at it through eyes that have seen more than an 18 year old. I have experienced more hurt. I have seen more cruelty and negativity. I have seen more dishonesty and hatred. I have lived through much difficulty. I look at the future a bit more cautiously now than I did at 18. I am smarter now, I hope.

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Final Thoughts

Would I love to go back to the days of my youth? Would I love to have less responsibility, no bills, and have more time to just have fun? Yes. Without a doubt! However, if I were to go back to those days, I would live through some hurtful times, through depression, and shame. I would likely make some of the same bad decisions. I would make the same mistakes, maybe more.

Truth is, if I had the opportunity to go back and change things, I probably wouldn’t. Anyone who has watched Back to the Future or any time travel movie knows that all it takes is one small change to change everything else in the future. Would I like to go back and erase embarrassing moments? Would I like to go back and take back words I said in anger? Would I like to correct a mistake? Sure. But if I did that, it changes where I am today.

Yeah, I went through some real crappy times, but they all brought me to where I am today. Today, I am a happily married man. I have an amazing wife. I have two wonderful sons. I have some of the most amazing friends. I have a loving family. Life is good. Why would I want to change it?

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“Made in 1938”

 

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Introduction

Since I started blogging about a year ago, I have stumbled on some great blogs that focus on old movies, film noir, music, books, and various other things that I find interesting.  Some of these blog sites have hosted Blogathons, and I have participated in a few of them.  A while back, the “Pop Culture Reverie” and “In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood” sites announced their “Made in 1938 Blogathon”.  The only real rule that was that whatever you wrote about had to be something “made” in 1938.  This blog is my contribution to this blogathon. I am posting a day early, but you can read the other participants blogs by clicking:

https://popculturereverie.wordpress.com/

or

https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/

At first, I began to look at movies from that year, hoping there would be one of my favorites from that year.  Then, because of the celebrity birthday page I had on Facebook, I wondered if there were any famous people born in ’38 that I might find interesting to write about.  In looking over the list of celebrities, three stood out as having a significant part in my life, so I chose to write about them.  I hope you find this blog interesting and entertaining. What follows is a brief salute to a great impressionist/comedian, a great radio personality, and a great actor.

Rich Little (Born November 26, 1938)

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Rich Little shares the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Voices” with the great Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc).  While they both have many voices that they do, Mel’s were more original voices and dialects for cartoons, while Rich did impersonations or imitations of real celebrities.  He claims to be able to do about 200 voices, and he has had quite a career “being” other people!  He even eludes to this in the title of his 2014 book “Little by Little:  People I’ve Known and Been…”

I remember when we first got cable TV.  HBO often featured stand up comedy shows and specials.  One of the first specials I ever saw was Rich Little’s A Christmas Carol. I was mesmerized by this guy!  This special was like an awesome dream come true – all these big celebrities playing the different roles of the Dickens classic – except, they were all done by one man, Rich Little.  Can you imagine WC Fields, Jack Benny, Peter Sellers, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Falk (as Columbo), Jimmy Stewart, Richard Nixon, Johnny Carson, Laurel and Hardy, and Groucho Marx all in the same show?!  He made it happen!

As a kid, not knowing what I really wanted to do with my life, and thinking I was funny, I thought maybe I could do what he did.  After watching him often, and listening to him, I began to try out voices on relatives.  I really thought I did an excellent Richard Nixon, but in reality, I was doing a bad impression of Rich Little doing Richard Nixon.   (Later on in my radio career, while on Honey Radio I did create a few generic voices that I used on our morning show, but never anything close to what Rich has mastered!)

I was always excited when there was some new Rich Little Special on HBO, whether it was his stage act or his take on Robin Hood (which is where I first saw him do his Carol Channing, which blew me away).  Every time he did a new celebrity I hadn’t seen him do, I would watch in awe. There was no shortage of people he could do.

One surprising fact that I was unaware of was one of my favorite singers played a big part in his American TV debut.  He was asked by singer Mel Torme’ to audition for the Judy Garland Show in 1964.  He did, made an impression (pun intended) and made his first appearance on American TV on her show.  He stated in an interview that if you watch this appearance, you should watch Judy.  She had never seen him perform before they taped the show and her reactions are very genuine.  He went on to appear on other TV shows like Love on a Rooftop, That Girl, The Flying Nun, and Petticoat Junction in guest roles.  He is probably best known for his appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Kopycats (a show featuring impressionists), and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.

Rich is often asked which impressions are his favorites.  He says he has many, but the two that stand out are Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Stewart.  His Reagan is just wonderful and President Reagan loved it too!  He did two albums as Reagan – “The First Family Rides Again” and “Ronald Reagan Slept Here”.  I owned them both, and they are very funny (one of them features a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards)! His Reagan is a great example of how Rich can find something unique about someone and use it in his imitation.  I’ll be honest, I never knew how many times Reagan started a sentence with the word “Well…” until I saw/heard Rich doing it in his act!

Jimmy Stewart was the first celebrity impression he worked on (and it is amazing).  Rich was on the dais of The Dean Martin Roasts when Jimmy was the “Man of the Hour”.  He got to the podium and began to school Jimmy Stewart on how to do Jimmy Stewart!  After Jimmy tries to do all the things Rich is telling him, Rich finally tells him that there is no hope for him and that Jimmy was doing “The Worst Jimmy Stewart” he’d ever heard! Rich even went as far as to have the audience stand up and do Jimmy, to which Rich tells Jimmy that everyone does a better Jimmy Stewart than he did!  Word is this was all ad-libbed and Jimmy, being the amazing guy that he was, went along with it all.

It would be hard for me to pick my favorite Rich Little Impressions, because they are all so good.  Among his best, in my opinion, are Reagan and Stewart (just mentioned), Richard Nixon, Jack Benny, Don Rickles, Raymond Burr, Truman Capote, James Mason, John Wayne, Paul Lynde, and Johnny Carson.  His Carson was so good, he was asked to play him in the movie about the David Letterman/Jay Leno feud called “Late Night”. After seeing Rich do an impression of him, Jack Benny sent him an 18 karat gold money clip  that was engraved; “With Bob Hope doing my walk and you doing my voice, I can be a star and do nothing!”

How good are his impressions?  When David Niven was ill, he actually dubbed in lines for Niven in a couple Pink Panther movies.  He did the same for James Cagney in the 1984 film Terrible Joe Moran and for Gene Kelly in a 1991 Christmas special.  I’m not sure how true it is, but some people say that there was some fierce competition between Rich and Frank Gorshin (The Riddler on TV’s Batman), who was also a good impressionist.  Those sources say that this little rivalry only made Rich work even harder to perfect his voices.

In researching for this blog, I came across a quote from Rich that really made me admire him even more.  He said, “I don’t like it when people imitate someone for political reasons or if they hate somebody.  I’ve never imitated anyone that I’ve really hated.  Usually, it’s people I admire.”

Thanks Rich, for the many laughs you provided throughout my childhood. Sorry about my Nixon impression!

Wolfman Jack (Born January 21, 1938)

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Radio Legend!  What more can I say?!  He was one of the best.  He knew what people wanted and gave it to them.  He was a master at talking to his audience.  He could be making you laugh out loud one minute, and crying  the next.  I never had the chance to hear a live show of his, but I was lucky enough to hear some of his syndicated stuff growing up.  I can tell you this, I can only WISH to be as good and as talented as he was! In my 30 year radio career, I have never come close!

With the creation of the Internet and access to YouTube and other radio websites, some of Wolfman’s radio stuff is available to listen to and enjoy.  I’m no dummy, I know that he must have done a lot of prep for his shows, but everything seemed so spontaneous and ad-libbed!  Maybe it was, I don’t know, but I do know that it was good.  His interactions with listeners were always entertaining.  His random thoughts about peace, love, and brotherhood always hit the nail on the head.  In this world where hatred runs amuck, we could use more people like Wolfman spreading the “love” on the air.

I got into radio because of the guys I listened to growing up (Paul Christy, Jim McKenzie, Richard D., Boogie Brian, Dick Purtan, etc…), and so did Wolfman Jack.  To keep him out of trouble, his parents bought him a radio and he fell in love with R&B music.  He listened to Jocko Henderson from Philadelphia, Dr. Jive from New York, the Moon Dog from Cleveland, Alan Freed (who coined the phrase “Rock and Roll”), and his mentor John Richbourg from Nashville.  He spent a year at The National Academy of Broadcasting and landed a radio gig in Virginia where his on air name was “Daddy Jules”.

Three years later, he took his “Wolfman” character to XERF, a Mexican radio station that broadcast at 250,000 watts (5 times the power of any US radio station), and people listened!  The station pretty much covered most of the US.  The music he played (lots of great R&B) and his vocal stylings started to make news. His popularity grew and there were feature stories about him in Time magazine, Newsweek, and Life magazine.  Newspapers from all over the country all wrote about him, too, wondering, “Who is this guy and where did he come from?!”

In 1972, he became the host of an NBC show called “The Midnight Special” where he co-hosted and interviewed musical guests.  Director George Lucas grew up in North Carolina and was a fan of Wolfman’s show growing up.  In 1973, he cast him in the film “American Graffiti” and made sure that he got a small percentage of the profits from the film.  The success of the film brought Wolfman to New York to do a radio show on WNBC, but the commuting back and forth to do TV and radio became a hassle, so he moved back to California.

Wolfman Jack became the first radio DJ to nationally distribute his radio show.  The show was heard on over 2000 stations nationwide and in 53 countries! Along with his radio work. he continued to do movie work  and appeared on TV shows like The Odd Couple, What’s Happening, Vega$, Wonder Woman, Hollywood Squares, and Married…With Children. He also appeared as himself in the 1974 hit single by The Guess Who entitled “Clap for the Wolfman.”

In 1995, he wrote his autobiography (a must read for people in radio) “Have Mercy:  Confessions of the Original Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal,” which received good reviews in The New York Times and LA Times.  On July 1, 1995, after finishing a broadcast from The Hard Rock Café in Washington DC he boarded a plane and flew home.  He had been away from his family for days promoting his book.  He told his limo driver as they pulled in front of his house that he was happy to finally be home.  He walked inside, hugged his wife, and collapsed after having a massive heart attack.  He was 57 years old.

To close this section of my blog – here are some of my favorite Wolfman quotes:

“We are put on this earth to have a good time.  This makes other people feel good.  And the cycle continues.”

“I know it may sound corny, man, but I like to bring folks joy and I like to have a good time.  I know folks like to be with someone who’s having a good time.  You sure as hell don’t want to be with somebody who’s having a bad day.”

“Love is not a matter of counting the years – it’s making the years count.”

“If you do right.  Everything will come out right.”

And my favorite quote, which I often used (giving him credit, of course) to close my own radio show:

“Remember to keep smiling because a smile is like a light in the window letting people know your heart’s at home”.

Thanks, Wolfman, for being an inspiration to young DJ’s like me, and for being a positive in a world full of negativity!

Christopher Lloyd (Born October 22, 1938)

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When I first saw the trailer for Back to the Future, I was filled with anticipation.  It was everything a 15 year old boy could ask for, action, adventure, and time travel! I’ve always been a fan of time travel stories.  I have a collection of old radio shows that all have time travel as a theme.  What kid didn’t wonder, “What would it be like to see my parents as kids?  What would it be like to go back to the past?”  I had to see this movie!

The Back to the Future trilogy remains one of my favorites (second only to the Godfather).  Looking back now, I can’t imagine anyone but Christopher Lloyd playing Doc Brown.  While there are great characters (and actors) in the film, Lloyd makes it all worth watching!  He’s the epitome of a crazy scientist!  He’s everything you expect one to be!  He’s manic!  He’s constantly moving!  He’s always thinking and processing!  In an interview he said that there were times he was so into the role that he didn’t know exactly what he had done until he saw it on screen!  Believe it or not, he almost passed on the role!!

In an interview I found, he said that when he was initially contacted about playing the role, he had some doubts about it and seriously considered passing on it.  He was in Mexico when his agent called to tell him that the producers wanted to meet with him.  “I was anxious to do a play that I had been offered back east, and I wasn’t sure this was something I wanted to get involved in at that point.”  Luckily, his future wife Carol reminded him that “I always told myself never to turn anything down without at least checking it out.” After the meeting he says he was “ready to put on the wig and hop into the Delorean!”

Doc Brown is probably one of two roles that Christopher Lloyd will forever be identified with.  The other is that of “Reverend” Jim Ignatowski on the TV show Taxi.  That character won him two Emmy Awards!  I have always appreciated when a TV show has a great ensemble cast – Taxi was one of them.  Each character stands out in their own way, and Reverend Jim never ceased to make me laugh!  One of the greatest scenes in this show is when Jim has to take his driver’s test.  Almost all of the gang is there while he is taking it and trying to help him.  If you’ve never seen it – it’s comedy gold! Here is the link:

Christopher is one of those actors who is believable in comedy roles as well as dramatic roles.  I have always felt that is what makes a great actor.  He reminds me a lot of Robin Williams, in that he can play comedy for comedy, play straight for comedic effect, and nail a dramatic role perfectly.  In his first movie role, as a psychiatric patient in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, he is brilliant!  It is one amazing performance!

He is one of those actors that has so many memorable roles.  It would be impossible to give space to each one of them.  One movie that sometimes gets over looked is the 1985 comedy Clue.  As Professor Plum, we are treated to Christopher playing straight for comedic effect.  In one of my favorite scenes, the characters are paired off to search areas of the house.  Plum is paired with Mrs. Peacock (played brilliantly by Eileen Brennan) and he looks at her and says, “It’s you and me, honey bunch.”  As strait as he says it, that line cracks me up every time!  What an amazing cast in this film!

As someone who doesn’t care too much for movie remakes, I was pleasantly surprised at the Addams Family films.  I loved Christopher as Uncle Fester.  I always felt like the TV show was more comedy than dark comedy.  The films were closer to the comic strips and I thought Christopher captured that dark comedy and mischievous aspect of the character in his portrayal of Fester. This is probably because he was a fan of the comic strip and claims to have always read the New Yorker Magazine (where the strip was featured in every issue).

Two of Christopher’s roles were so powerful they scared me!  The first being that of Klingon Commander Kluge in the 1984 film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.  He is just so vicious, and over the top in this film.  One of my favorite scenes is where one of his crew destroys a ship and he yells that he wanted prisoners.  The crew member says it was a lucky shot.  At this, his anger boils over and Kluge kills the crewmember.  After this, he simply says “Animal.”  He really does a great job of showing us how crazy the character is.

The other role that scared me was his role as Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?  As much as I hated him throughout the movie, when he snaps and goes nuts at the end, wow!  When he is run over by the steamroller you are almost happy!  When he melts, you are ecstatic! When an actor makes you hate a character he is playing that much – he’s done it right! He says that people come up to him often and mention how much this character scared them, so I am not alone.  He also says that he loves playing villains, because it’s a “license just to be as bad as the script allows you to be”.

There are many other movies that Christopher has played in that you may be familiar with, like The Dream Team, Dennis the Menace (Switchblade Sam is an awesome villain), and My Favorite Martian.  He has done so much more that I wish I had been able to see.  For example, in 2010, he starred as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman in a Weston House Production. I can only imagine how well he played this iconic role.   In 2008, he played Scrooge in a production of A Christmas Carol with John Goodman and Jane Leeves.  WOW – I would LOVE to see him as Scrooge!!!!  Many have played Scrooge, and played him well…but I know that Christopher’s interpretation would have been off the charts!

He continues to do voice work (my kids loved him as the Hacker on Cyberchase), television, and movies and is very active on social media. If you don’t already, follow him.

Thanks, Christopher for entertaining so many over the years!  You are a treasure!

In Closing

I want to thank the hosts of this blogathon, “Pop Culture Reverie” and “In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood”,  for allowing me to participate.  It was a lot of fun for me to think about these three influential men and their work, and ultimately write about them.  I hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.