“For the record …”

In keeping with my tradition of following Jack Benny’s example, today I celebrate the 10th anniversary of my 39th birthday.

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My wife is the best gift giver – hands down.  She picks up on things that I say in passing and turns it into an amazing gift.  She knows I love the Godfather and mafia related stuff.  For Christmas, she found the Godfather Notebook, which is a simply amazing book compiled of some of the novel, Francis Ford Coppola’s notes, and some very cool pictures.

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My dad and I were talking about how my grandpa used to use a cup and brush to lather up to shave one day.  For our anniversary, she bought me this sweet shaving set with razor, cup, brush, and more.  Truly a unique and wonderful gift!

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She topped both of those for my birthday. I guess one day my dad and I were talking about vinyl records.  I was talking about how I would sit in on the floor in our front room and listen to them.  I was raised listening to vinyl records – and just a few blogs ago talked about them!  As a kid, I had this red and white record player and played my records on it – if you’re old enough, you probably did too!

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My wife has a hard time keeping secrets.  She tried to give me hints:  “It’s something you were talking to your dad about.” That could be anything from music to TV to movies…you name it!!  “You were just talking about it.”  Again, no help.  I told her to stop trying to tell me or give me hints.  I told her I would wait until my birthday and see what it was.  She was obviously quite happy with whatever she was giving me and said, “It’s gonna be hard to beat this one…”

Over the weekend, my brother came up from Ohio for a visit.  He wanted to visit my mother’s grave for Mother’s Day.  I also had my sons for the weekend, so she decided that when I got home from work on Saturday, we were doing a small birthday celebration.  She got a cake, ice cream, and I had to open my present.

No doubt, you know what it is based on what I have written.  She had me open the album she got me first.  A perfect choice –

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A double album of Sinatra!  I have to be honest, it had been so long since I held an album, I thought it was a picture or something.  I mean, the cover art is beautiful and could easily be framed!  Then, I opened the main present –

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I’m not going to lie, I got emotional.  What an amazingly thoughtful gift!  I was speechless.  My brother captured the moment in pictures, but the angle makes me look awful, so I am not posting those pictures!  This machine is wonderful.  It has speakers on the front, a headphone jack to listen privately, the capability of recording to a USB device, and RCA outputs to play through my DJ equipment, if I am so inclined.

As I pulled the album out of the sleeve, I could feel my hands shaking.  I carefully put the album on the turntable and dropped the needle gently in the grooves……and there was Frank singing “One For My Baby”.  Wow.  The sounds of Sinatra on vinyl.  Only those who appreciate the sounds of music on vinyl can relate to what I was experiencing.  I probably could have sat in the corner with headphones on and spent the rest of the afternoon like that.  What a surreal experience.

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As I mentioned a bit ago, I had just blogged about missing record stores a few days ago.  You can read that blog here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2019/05/08/i-miss-record-stores/

She thought I was on to her when I posted that blog!  What a coincidence, huh?  What are the odds?  She literally had purchased the record player a few days earlier!

This weekend, she has more plans for me.  She let the cat out of the bag that we are celebrating my day throughout the weekend with more surprises.  She did let me in on one stop – we are going to make a trip to the record store, so I can purchase a few albums to listen to on my birthday present.

Thank you, baby, for your wonderful gift!  I love it and I love you more than I can say!! Thank you for making my birthday and my life so special!

 

 

The Comedian’s Comedian

Introducing – Jack

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125 years ago, in 1894, a blue-eyed baby named Benjamin Kubelski was born.  He would grow up to be one of the world’s most beloved comedians – Jack Benny.  He was given the gift of a violin at an early age and his parents had hopes that he would grow up to be a concert violinist.  His career, however, took a different turn.

This is one of those blogs that was very difficult for me to write.  I know that many readers may not even know who Jack Benny is.  Because of this fact, I thought maybe I should write a “biography” type blog.  On the other hand, when I think of Jack Benny, I think of the way he broke ground on the way comedy was done.  His shows really were the early blueprints from which modern day sitcoms were based on.  I don’t know that this blog will fit into either one of those formats.

Even after sitting and pondering, I still really don’t know how this is all going to come together.  So let me apologize up front for what may be a very disorganized writing about one of the greatest comedians to ever live.  A man who was loved by so many probably deserves a blog with much more structure.  I hope you can still walk away from this blog with a greater appreciation for an amazing entertainer.

Evolution of his character

If you were to go back and watch an early episode of Seinfeld, Friends, or any sitcom for that matter, you would notice how “different” some of the main characters are.  Their idiosyncrasies, their personality traits, their quirks, mannerisms and what “made” them who they are and who you THINK they are, have not fully developed.  Those things developed over time.  The same is true of Jack’s character.

If you are unfamiliar with Jack’s persona, here is a partial list:

  • He was always 39.  His birthday was always in question.
  • He was cheap.  He did not like to spend money and hoarded it in a vault in his home.
  • He was a terrible violin player.
  • He was a bad actor and made bad movies (The Horn Blows at Midnight)
  • He drove an old Maxwell car.

The aspects of his character were things that developed over time.  He wasn’t always cheap, for example.  Jack once said that they wrote a gag about him being cheap and it got a big laugh, so they wrote another joke the following week.  The more jokes about it, the cheaper he was perceived in real life.  The truth is, in real life, Jack was a very generous man.

Jack understood that “extremes are funny”.  Take something that is grossly exaggerated and it can be a funny bit.  Examples of this are the fact that on the show he had a pet ostrich and polar bear!  One of the great bits about his cheapness, which is considered to be one of the biggest laughs on radio, took his cheapness to the extreme.   Jack is walking down the street at night when he is asked by a stranger for a match.  The stranger then pulls a gun on Jack and says, “This is a stick up.  Your money or your life!”  A master of comedic timing, Jack pauses (the audience begins to chuckle in anticipation), and the crook gets inpatient.  “Look, bud,” the stranger yells, “I said your money or your life.”  Jack simply replies, “I’m thinking it over!”  Comedy brilliance!!!

His violin playing was also always made fun of on the show.  Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny) often played Professor LeBlanc, Jack’s French violin teacher (using a voice that was similar to Pepe LePew).  Many shows consisted of Jack during a violin lesson and playing badly.  He once stated in an interview that it was harder to play bad than to play normal!  While he was no concert violinist, he was a good one.  Over the years, he raised millions of dollars doing benefit orchestra concerts.  However, he’ll always be remembered as a terrible violin player.

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During one lesson, his teacher yells, “Mr. Benny, please!  A violin has a heart and a soul.  You’ve already broken its heart – have pity on its soul!”  Another time, while describing Jack’s playing, he says that the “bow is made of horse hair and catgut.  In order to describe your playing, picture a cat being stepped on by a horse”.

As I said, the traits developed over time.  Jack wasn’t always 39 … until he got there.  Once he got there, he stayed there!  Jokes surrounding his age were plentiful on the show.  They often joked that he was so old, he was friends with famous people from history.  Jokes about the number of times the year had been erased from his birth certificate and his driver’s license were other ways to establish this major part of his character.  In his New York Times obituary in 1974, it was pointed out that “decades of insistence on the air that he was only 39 years old, made the joke better than cornier” calling it one of “show business’s most durable hits.”

His Timing

If there was every anyone who was a master of comedic timing, it was Jack Benny.  It was something that he mastered in his time on the Vaudeville stage.  He knew just how to pace himself.  Timing was effortless for him.  He seemed to know the perfect time to tell a joke and when he should remain silent.  Sometimes, the silence brought more laughs than the joke itself.  As with the “money or your life bit”, in many cases the anticipation of the line …. preceded by silence … made the audience laugh before the joke was even finished!  This was due to great material – and the establishment of Benny’s character.

Jack was a different kind of comedian.  Bob Hope, Red Skelton, and Milton Berle often got on the air and told joke after joke after joke.  They would tell three jokes to Jack’s one.  Jack was meticulous in how a show was prepared.  He was involved in the entire process.  He very rarely ever strayed from the script unless there was a flub. He was very serious during the writing and rehearsing.  He was detail oriented and hired very good writers who knew how to write things based on his character or the others on his show.

The Joke’s on Him

One of the most admirable things about Jack is that he was one of the first comedians to let others share the laughs.  So many comedians needed to be the center of attention.  They needed to be the star.  Jack and his writers often gave the best lines to the other people on the show.  His co-stars Mary Livingstone, Don Wilson, Dennis Day, Rochester, and Phil Harris (to name a few) became big stars because of this.  The cast of his show often told jokes that made Jack the butt of the jokes.

As I mentioned before, his show was the predecessor of today’s modern day sitcoms.  Each character had their own persona.  For example, Phil Harris was a playboy bandleader who was often drunk.  Don Wilson was a big man and so his weight and eating habits were poked fun of.  Dennis Day was an adult who was a dimwit.  He was child like and he played it to the hilt.  Rochester was one of the first African American stars on radio (in an era where many African American roles were played by white actors).

It should be noted here that Jack Benny, his cast, and his writers were creating entertainment over half a century ago.  During this time cultural norms were very accepting of great amounts of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia (a dislike or prejudice of people from other countries).  It is important to remember that the show was a product of its time, much like many of the cartoons made during that time.  It should also be noted that while Rochester’s role on the show was that of a butler/valet and stereotypical, Jack was very good friends with him.  While their radio show was on the road, the cast was slated to stay at a certain hotel.  When they refused to give Rochester a room because of his color, Jack took his entire cast to another hotel.

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Television

With the dawn of television, Jack embraced the new medium.  At first, he did a show every six weeks.  Then he did one every four weeks.  As time went on, he did TV more frequently.  Sometimes, the writers would adapt a radio script for a TV show.  One of these is the classic Christmas Shopping episode.  Mel Blanc plays a clerk that Jack buys a wallet from.  At first he has to chose between a cheap wallet or an expensive one.  It is for Don Wilson, who has been with him a long time, so he opts for the more expensive one.  Over the next 25 minutes, he is constantly back bugging the clerk to change the card he wrote for Don, to sign the new card, and eventually, change the wallet.  Blanc’s performance is priceless and even cracks Jack up.

There were some challenges with the move to TV.  On radio, it was “theater of the mind”.  Listeners would hear Jack going down the steps to his vault, with Jack describing his steps (“watch out for the aligators”, etc).  To a listener, the vault was HUGE and had all kinds of booby traps, and such.  How do you show that on TV?  He still was a great success bringing on big stars like Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, and Marilyn Monroe.  In many cases, the play on extremes led to some very funny visuals!  After the TV show went off the air, he did many specials.  He did “Farewell Specials”, “Anniversary Specials” and more.  The last special aired shortly before his death.

Jack on Humor

He was called the comedian’s comedian because they could all make him laugh.  His best friend, George Burns, could make him laugh by just looking at him.  George would look at him and say, “Why are you laughing, I didn’t do anything.”  Jack would reply, “Yeah, but you did it on purpose!”  George called him “the greatest audience”.  When he laughed, he was often laughing so hard, he’d fall on the floor.

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In 1968, Jack said, “To become successful your public must have a feeling like, ‘Gee, I like this fella.  I wish he were a good friend of mine.'”  This is one of the great principles that we were taught in radio – “be a friend to your listener.”  There is no doubt that lots of people liked that “fella.”

In reading things for this blog, a great nugget that I found was Jack’s thoughts on comedy.  He believed that comedy is based on 7 principles, and he used every one of them often during his career.  Those principles were:  1) The joke 2) Exaggeration 3) Ridicule 4) Ignorance 5) Surprise 6) The pun and 7) The comic situation.  Jack once said, “Never laugh at the other fellow; let him laugh at you.  I try to make my character encompass about everything that is wrong with everybody.  On the air, I have everybody’s faults.  All listeners know someone or have a relative who is a tightwad, a show-off or something of that sort.  Then in their minds, I become a real character.”  With those principles and attitude – he became a comedy giant!

The following “rules” Jack used could be applicable today in any sitcom or radio show.  Rule 1:  Don’t just rattle off a litany of old jokes.  Instead, create conversations between the speakers and characters on the show.  Real conversations lead to great comedy situations.  Rule 2:  Let your speakers unique personalities and voices shine as individual, quirky characters.  Listeners will get to know them, and hence, build a relationship with them and connect with them.  Rule 3:  Don’t be afraid to turn the humor on yourself.  His character was a self-confident braggart often, and usually made a fool of himself in the process.  Jack said that with a character like that, you laugh at him, but you also pity him a little, too.

One piece I read stated that Jack’s radio character “suffered all the indignities of the powerless patriarch in modern society – fractious workplace family, battles with obnoxious sales clerks, guff from his butler, the withering disrespect of his sponsor, every woman he met, and Hollywood society.  And yet, he was a lovable schlemiel.”  Think of how he can be compared to modern sitcom characters like Jerry Seinfeld, and others!

What others thought of Jack

Comedian Don Knotts said, “My idol was Jack Benny and he was the master of subtlety and timing.”

Comedian Bob Newhart said, “Jack Benny was, without a doubt, the bravest comedian I’ve ever seen work. he wasn’t afraid of silence.  He would take as long as it took to tell a story.”

Bob Hope said at Jack’s funeral, “For a man who is the undisputed master of comedy timing, you’d have to say this was only time when Jack Benny’s timing was all wrong. He left us much too soon. He was stingy to the end. He only gave us eighty years and it wasn’t enough.”

After Jack passed away, President Gerald Ford said, “If laughter is the music of the soul, Jack and his violin and his good humor have made life better for all men.”

What I think of Jack

Jack passed away when I was 4 years old.  Thanks to my dad, I was introduced to old radio shows early in my childhood.  The Jack Benny Program was one of those shows he played for us.  Growing up there was a show called “When Radio Was” that aired on one of the radio stations at night and we’d listen to old shows every night.  The Benny shows always were a treat.

When we got cable, I don’t recall if it was WGN or WTBS, but one of them aired old Jack Benny TV shows at night.  That was the first I ever saw of them.  They still make me laugh even though I have seen them numerous times.  In high school, as a senior, I took an elective class called “Life in America”.  It had an entire unit on Jack Benny.  We watched one of the tribute specials (which is still available on YouTube) called “A Love Letter to Jack Benny” and another called “Jack Benny: Comedy in Bloom”.  They are two specials that I would highly recommend if you are a fan.  They are loving done and wonderful tributes to a man who brought many laughs to the world while he was alive, and still brings laughs long after he has left us.

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Happy 39th Birthday, Jack!

 

 

Picking a Partner

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a radio buddy who is now out-of-state. He was surfing around the internet and came across an article written by one of my radio mentors, Jay Trachman. It is probably a huge coincidence that just a few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about him, but then again, sometimes the stars line up … as you will soon see. The article was one that Jay had written based on an email I sent him. Let me set this up for you.

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In 2007, I was hired for a second stint at B-95. This time I was coming back to do mornings. Upon arriving, I worked with the amazing and talented Jeff Kelly, who always had me in stitches. The program director, Coyote Collins, pulled me into the office one morning and said that we were going to do a contest. The contest was going to let some non-radio person be my co-host for a year.

As a radio guy, I really had some deep concerns about this. How do you bring someone in who has never done this before and expect them to “get it”? I was scared to death. I was doing full-time, making decent money, and this whole thing could literally leave me without a job! It made me very nervous.

I found out that we were going to run auditions at the local mall. People were going to come in, come up on stage, we’d ask them some questions, jot notes and rate them and narrow the field down to like the top 20 people. From that point, we had those people come in and record a “Hi I am contestant # ___ in the Bee a Radio Star Contest. Vote for me” greeting. Those ran throughout the weekend and then the field was narrowed again. The top contestants came in and had pictures taken and they went up on the website with “Why you should vote for me” audio. Once we had our top 5 contestants, they each came in and did a show with me. Five contestants – five days – five shows. Then the audience got to vote for who they felt should be my co-host.

Back to the article – I asked Jay what kinds of questions he thought I should ask. I asked him what things I should be judging the contestants on. The article was his response. As I sat I read this 12-year-old article, and saw Jay’s suggestions, it made me smile. At that point, we didn’t even know if any one would show up to the auditions! The fact that people did was awesome. In hindsight, looking back at the article and his suggestions and knowing who eventually got the gig, the winner was the absolute PERFECT co-host.

The Auditions

There were more females than males who auditioned for the position. One by one people walked up to the stage and the panel of judges asked questions. I remember getting in trouble because I was asking questions that you really couldn’t ask in a job interview (about family, marital status, etc). “You can’t ask that,” I was told. I replied, “Well, I need to know if the candidate is going to have life content to bring to the show.”

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While many of the people auditioning were a little shy when they got to the microphone on stage, Stephanie grabbed it and showed no fear. I remember she was asked to tell us about herself. She mentioned that she was married with a house full of kids! I remember thinking that there would have to be many great stories to share there (I was right). Steph recently reminded me of the question I asked her and her answer. I asked her who her favorite country singer was and she said George Strait. I asked her why and she said something about him “rocking a pair of Wrangler jeans”. Pure Steph! I don’t remember much more about the rest of her audition, but I know she stood out.

There were some really great people who auditioned. Steph told me that she almost didn’t go through with the audition. I guess there was a young red-headed gal who auditioned and Steph was like “I’m voting for her!” She called her husband, Thom, and said she wasn’t going to do it and he told her to follow through – THANKS THOM! Long story short (so I can share some funny Steph stories) – She won.

The Bee Morning Buzz With Keith and Steph

We always prepped a show. We had some sort of idea of what we were going to do on the air every day. We almost always knew the day before a few of the things we were going to talk about. If I am being honest, most of that stuff was NOT our best stuff! Much of the “greatest hits” material came from unexpected moments, bloopers, and ad-libs.

Before I move on, I have to give major credit and kudos to Hal Maas. He was our news guy. He was also on the morning show at WHNN. Since we both did news at the top and bottom of the hour, we recorded Hal from Saginaw at quarter after and quarter to the hours. When it was time for Hal, we’d record while music or commercials played on the air. Sometimes we knew we wanted to ask him about stuff we were going to do later, most of the time we’d just start rolling tape and some of the passing conversations made it on air. Hal is a MASTER. Hands down, he is the best damn newsman I have ever worked with. He could set you up for a line, or have the best line of the bit. While our show would have been funny without him, it was hilarious with him. He was an equal part in the success of the show!

Hal often ended his newscast with what we call a “Kicker” story. It’s those funny little stories about crazy people like the woman who recently was drinking wine from the Pringles can in Walmart on her scooter. We never knew what the story was going to be, so many of the comments made were on the spot or ad-libs. Sometimes they were funny, sometimes they fell flat. A lot of these stories and punchlines were featured weekly on our “best of” shows.

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Favorite Bits

Let me say here that we were probably very lucky that we recorded these newcasts before they aired. You see, Steph sometimes forgot that some things (while they were very funny) were inappropriate for our “family friendly” show. Many kicker stories were followed by a Steph comment with some sort of innuendo to which I was forever saying “No! No! Not on this show!” “Absolutely not!” “Are you crazy?! I need this job” and so on and so forth…..Off air, we had some big laughs. Here’s an example:

Right around the time of the Kentucky Derby, there were many stories about a horse named “Big Brown.” He was on pace to be a Triple Crown winner and it seemed like he was talked about for weeks. Right around the same time, Barbara Walters had admitted to having an affair with African-American Senator Edward Brooke. After Hal read that story Steph said, “Well, I guess, he was her Big Brown!” I can’t even begin to tell you how glad I was that we were not live!! I pictured hundreds of complaint letters rolling in and me in the unemployment line!!

A line that DID make it on the air had me waiting for the complaint letters: Steph was telling me about how her and Thom were watching this little squirrel who was outside their window tossing acorns onto their trampoline. She kept saying how it was the funniest thing and they couldn’t stop watching him. Then she says, “You should have seen him bouncing his nuts off the trampoline!” How we weren’t called into the boss’s office, I will never know!!

I was often the butt of jokes from Steph and Hal. One time we were talking about elementary school pictures. I mentioned that kids in grade school always have pictures with teeth missing. I told them about my 2nd grade picture which I had three or four teeth missing. Steph had the best ad-lib, “Let’s get the visual, Hal. That’s back when Keith had hair and no teeth, now he has teeth and no hair!” That was ALL her! It still remains one of my favorite lines!

With all of her kids, she was often on the phone with them as they got ready for school and such. Sometimes I would be giving her the “eye” that said, “the song is ending – we need to talk here” so she would get off the phone. One day, I heard something seconds before we had to go on the air and it cracked me up. Naturally, I had to point out on the air that “Steph just said to he kid – ‘don’t forget to wear pants today’!”

One day, Steph and Hal did something that comedy legend Jack Benny would often do – there would be a joke early in the show and as his show went on, that joke or a variation of it would show up later to bigger laughs. I don’t really recall what we were talking about, but Steph called me a “bald-headed freak” going into a newscast. Hal did all his stories, does his kicker story about a groom who baked an engagement ring in a cake for his fiance (who swallowed the ring). Steph says something about it being ‘karat” cake, and as I went to say how bad a punchline that was, Hal chimes in and says, “Karat cake – did you get that you bald-headed freak?!” to which I was left rolling on the floor in laughter!

Another great bit (well, we thought it was) was about Sarah Jessica Parker. One of the radio personalities that I exchanged bit ideas with shared a website (www.sarahjessicaparkerlookslikeahorse.com) which shows Sarah Jessica Parker’s face next to horses that look like they are in a similar pose. For whatever reason, this website kept coming up in conversation. The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup that year, and we were talking about how each team member got to take the cup for a day. The bit we did asked what listeners would do if they had the Cup for a day or what celebrities would do with it. Hal, without skipping a beat said that SJP would “eat her oats out of it”!

One of my favorite bits started with an argument. Steph asked for a sheet of paper, so I grabbed one off the printer in the studio. Whether someone had sneezed on it, or someone got some food on it, something had hardened on the edge of the paper. She literally asked me “Why do you have to give me the one with the booger on it?” I told her I didn’t do it on purpose and that I had grabbed it off the printer. She told me how gross it was and that I was sick for putting “boogers on the paper.” Hal jumps in and says, “That actually has the makings of a great country song.” and I started singing “Our love’s like boogers on the paper … but it’s snot” which led to hilarious laughter. Another great ad-lib.

Speaking of boogers. We got into a discussion one morning about raisins. I don’t recall why. I told her that I couldn’t eat raisins made from green grapes. She asked me why and I told her that they looked like boogers. I even call them Booger Raisins! I am sure we had some sort of phone bit with the topic and listeners were calling about it or foods they couldn’t eat. I remember we were sitting in our boss’s office and he commented how “Maybe the topic of boogers wasn’t such a good thing to discuss while people were eating breakfast. But I thought it was funny as hell!”

One of the great tricks I played on Steph came from a kicker story from Hal. The story was about someone who got struck by lightning twice. Steph said “Lightning doesn’t strike three times in the same place” and Hal said, “No that’s knock three times on the ceiling if you want me” (a hit for Tony Orlando and Dawn) which led to a long discussion on our COUNTRY station about this 70’s song. I waited for Steph to leave the studio and quickly found the hook from “Knock Three Times” and had it ready on our audio player. I waited for her to read the sponsorship for the traffic or weather (I don’t remember) and as soon as she started to read it – I played the hook from that song. She couldn’t hold it together. I faded it out. Waited for her to gain her composure and as soon as she started reading it again, played the hook again! I did this off and on a few times because it just made me laugh.

One thing that I will forever associate with Steph, and she can probably remember how this topic came up (because I can’t), was a character from a Flintstones spin-off. On Saturday mornings, there was a Pebbles and Bam Bam show which features the kids from the Flintstones as teenagers. There was a character who always moped around and had a cloud over his head that was raining. His name was Shleprock. She probably called me that once, I don’t know, but whenever I see that character – I think of her.

The station partnered with a bowling alley to do a bowling league. We invited listeners to come out and bowl with us once a week. We had bowling shirts printed up and many of our listeners came out and joined the league. Steph’s bowling was always the talk of the show the next day! She would throw the ball down the lane and dance and swing her arms and try to “control” the ball and where it was going. It was hilarious! I’m not sure who had more fun, the listeners or us!

We worked together for two years. We had three bosses. Two that “got us” and liked what we did on the air, and one that may not have. I can’t be sure. We were told that they wanted to save money and they brought in a semi-syndicated live show which was based in Grand Rapids and Flint. Our positions and salaries were eliminated.

Perfectly Aligned

The words “Steph – B95” have been on the pad of paper where I write ideas for future blogs for some time. I knew there were stories to share – I wasn’t sure how to present them. For example, I think the fact that she called the Tampa Bay Devil Rays the “Tampa Day Bevil Rays” is hilarious! Oh, I suppose one day, I’ll have to tell you the story about the “Hoover Maneuver”!!

At any rate, just like the “stars aligned” to set me up to write this blog, they also aligned to make her the winner of the contest and my co-host. I couldn’t be happier for that. She brought so much realness to the show. She was funny. She was entertaining. She was genuine. She was literally our target audience!

Jay told me to consider the following things in a co-host:

* Do they have something to say?
* Do they have a colorful way of expressing themselves?
* Are they reasonably comfortable with who they are?
* Are they emotionally varied?
* Do they like their lives?
* Do they respond to things you say?

He then said, “Get them to talk, and listen to how it feels. If they’re expressive and varied, and they make you respond to them, then you’ve got a decent chance of success.”

She was PERFECT!

After B-95

You would think that when we got let go, we’d have gone our separate ways. I mean, we got her to leave her full-time job to work in radio – only to get fired two years later for no reason! Thankfully, we have been friends ever since! Over the years, it is not odd for one of us to call each other with some story and say, “Man, that would have been a great bit to tell on the air!” I have looked back and seen her children get married, go off to college, give birth to her grandbabies….there is no shortage of great stuff that she could share on the air.

Over the past few years, she has been a true friend and was always there to lend an ear in tough times. She was honest and supportive through my divorce and rejoiced with me when I got remarried. How cool is it that a radio contest not only gave me a co-host, but a life long friend?!

Thanks for the wonderful memories, Steph!

“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)

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson - Season 12

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.

 

 

 

Birthday Tribute to “Fred”

If you have read my blogs in the past, you know that it consists of a mixture of pop culture things (like movie, TV and music thoughts) and personal things (radio stories, school memories, and things from my childhood).  As I thought about today’s blog topic, I realized that without this man in my life – this blog would probably not exist!  I guess I didn’t really realize it until now. As I scrolled back over the blogs of the past, I see just how much influence he has had in almost ALL of them!  I am talking, of course, about my dad.  Today – is his 72nd birthday.  So here are some birthday thoughts for dad.

In March I wrote a blog about his musical influence.  My musical taste is very broad, because I was introduced to so many different genres by him.  He introduced me to rock and roll with the music of Little Richard, Bobby Darin, Roy Orbison and Elvis.  He introduced me to the “Great American Songbook” with music from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Bing Crosby.  He introduced me to Jazz with Louis Prima, and Ella Fitzgerald.  He played me music from Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard to introduce me to country music.  The list goes on and on … but what about other influences?

Movies

I could spend an entire week writing about the various movies he introduced to me!  As far as the classic films, most of those were introduced to me because he saw that they were playing on the Monday Night Movie on regular TV or something.  You have to remember VCR’s and DVD players were not a staple in the home yet.  You also have to remember that I grew up at the time where “pay TV” was just being incarnated.  One of the first pay services was “ON TV”.  It came on channel 20 at like 8 or 9 at night.  They put an antenna on your roof and it unscrambled the signal so you could watch movies.  I remember one time I wanted to record Smokey & the Bandit – but as I said, VCR’s were not for home use yet.  The last showing of it on ON TV was at 1am one Friday night.  My dad actually stayed up with a cassette recorder in front of the TV and recorded the audio for me.  What makes this even better is there were scenes that were so funny to him, you could hear him laughing in the background as the movie played.

With Cable TV came The Movie Channel and HBO.  As more and more channels became available, American Movie Classics, Turner Classic Movies, and others were the way to watch them. So he’d tell me “You gotta watch AMC at 3 today – they’re playing ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’!”  Growing up, I remember hearing my dad talking with my grandparents, my Uncle Tom, or his friends about actors and actresses and the movies they were in.  “Great Movie!” or “What a great flick!” I’d hear him say.  Well, if he thought it was great – I wanted to see it!  Movies I remember watching – only because I had heard him talk about them included The Godfather, White Heat,  Little Caesar, Key Largo, Patton, Midway, The Maltese Falcon, and Night of the Hunter.  Many of these were films that I’d walk in to the living room and dad would be watching and he’d tell me about them and catch me up so I could watch it with him. I was introduced to Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, The Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Mitchum, Burt Reynolds, and SO many actors just be casually walking into a room where he was watching TV!

The Godfather Part 1 & 2 and Patton are probably some of my favorite films.  I remember watching Godfather the first time trying to keep all the names straight.  Don Barzinni, Don Stracci, Luca Brazi, Sonny, Fredo, and Tom Hagen were all characters that I had to remember (amongst many more).  Dad was there to explain so many things to me as I watched this film the first few times through.  I have found myself doing the same thing when I sit and watch it with someone who has never seen it.  (On a side note, for one class I had to read books and write book reports for it.  I remember dad wrote a book report for me on The Godfather! He got an A!)

TV

Look through my DVD collection and amongst the movies are entire series of classic TV shows.  This, again, is a direct result from my dad’s influence.  I remember watching re-runs of The Honeymooners on channel 50.  I remember when dad told me that Ralph Kramden and Sheriff Buford T. Justice from Smokey and the Bandit were the same person!  I don’t know if I would have known that as a 7 year old!  I remember staying home sick and watching re-runs of the Dick Van Dyke Show on channel 9 out of Canada.  I knew about Carl Reiner because he was one of many cameos in the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (which should have been mentioned in the movie section of this blog).  The other stars of “Mad World” were also known to me because of my dad:  I knew Mickey Rooney from a flick called Quicksand he rented.  I knew Milton Berle from The Dean Martin Roasts and other TV appearances. I knew Jonathan Winters from a classic Twilight Zone episode (Loved watching TZ with him).  Among the other “classic” TV shows he introduced me to:  The Untouchables, F-Troop, The Munsters, Car 54, Where Are You?, McHale’s Navy, Perry Mason, Combat, Star Trek, Hogan’s Heroes, Mission: Impossible, and Get Smart.

With the availability of video rentals, I remember dad bringing home TV shows that were not shown on TV anymore or shown late at night.  You couldn’t really watch The Little Rascals, Laurel and Hardy, or The Three Stooges on TV unless you stayed up late for comedy classics – which usually was on at 11pm or midnight.  With the VCR, though, we could go to the store and rent them!  I had listened to Jack Benny and Amos and Andy on cassette tapes of old radio shows (again, thanks to dad), but now I was able to see these TV shows – and they were amazing! I used to love watching these shows with him.  One thing I always love seeing is my dad laughing and these shows (and a couple I will mention in a minute) always made him laugh – I mean big belly laughs!

I guess you could say that I grew up at a time where some of  the “current” shows are now considered classics.  Those shows, my brother and I watched on a weekly basis and watched in re-runs.  These shows included The Love Boat, Mork & Mindy, Happy Days, Lavern and Shirley, The Dukes of Hazzard, Emergency!, Welcome Back, Kotter, All In the Family, The Jeffersons, The Carol Burnett Show, Barney Miller, Fantasy Island, and Charlie’s Angels.  Some of those dad introduced me to, while others he really couldn’t stand.

Sanford and Soupy

The one show that I will forever associate with my dad is Sanford and Son.  These shows, no matter how many times we see them remain funny.  I can be on the phone with my dad and say, “So last night I watched “the piano movers” and we will both start laughing!  Years later, we can quote this show to each other and still crack each other up.  Why do we and can we bond over this show? Perhaps it’s the fact that the show is about a father and son and their relationship.  I remember how I thought it was odd that Lamont always called Fred, “Pop”.  I never used to call my dad that, although somewhere over the years, dad has become “Pop” to me.  I call him that all the time now.  As a matter of fact, he still often calls me “Lamont”!  It is not used flippantly, I use it as a genuine term of endearment!  He’s my Pop – and I use it with much love and affection!

Another show that dad introduced me to was The New Soupy Sales Show.  He grew up watching Soupy at lunch time.  My grandmother often told stories of how Soupy would say “Tomorrow, we’re having bologna sandwiches for lunch” and if dad didn’t have them, he was pissed!  Soupy’s new show on channel 20 was pretty much just like the old show.  It was full of puns, bad jokes, clips of old movies, funny horoscopes on the radio, the Words of Wisdom, and his friends White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie and Hippy.  It may have been on right after school and before dad came home from work, because I don’t recall him watching it too much with me, however, when it became available on video – we talked about it just like we talk about Sanford and Son.

Traits of a Good Dad

When I became a father, I remember reading something about what makes a good dad.  Let me say here that none of us is perfect.  My dad was not perfect and neither am I.  My point is that when you look at these things, we can assess things we are doing well, things we can improve, and things that we will start doing.  As I think back on those things – I can see where I strive to achieve those things and, at the same time, can see a lot of those things in my own father.

For example, a father must be a good disciplinarian.  All dad’s love their children, but you know and I know that you can’t let them get away with everything.  Dad was this way.  The old story about mom saying “Wait till your father get’s home” and the child being scared to death?  Yep!  That was me!  You didn’t want to make dad mad!  I would say I made him mad more than a few times.

One time in particular I remember telling him I was spending the night at a friends house.  I was out with my girlfriend at the time.  We were still in high school, and it was a weekend.  We had no money, so we weren’t going to a hotel or anything like that.  We just planned on staying out all night.  I don’t remember how he found out, but  I remember getting a page from the friend who I said I was staying with and he asked why my dad thought I was there!  I think my girlfriend’s mom had called my house or something.  At any rate – I was in BIG trouble! Dad’s punishment was a fair one (even though I didn’t think so at the time).  He proved a point and I NEVER did that again.  He let me know that he was in charge.  Another time, I got in trouble at school for something.  We had a meeting with the teacher and he said what he would go on to tell every teacher afterward in parent teacher conferences, “If he gets out of line again, you have my permission to smack his ass!” (Yes, this was back before a teacher giving the kid a paddle was considered wrong).

A good dad allows his kids to make mistakes. Dad watched me make a TON of them, but he knew that if I was going to learn, I needed to make those mistakes.  He’d never let me make a mistake that was life threatening or would put me in danger, but he’d let me make mistakes that he knew, when all was said and done – I’d mature and learn from it.  While there were things he questioned, he never really interfered.  I learned a lot from that – even though there were times I wish he HAD said something!

A good dad has an open mind.  Times change.  The way that things were done when he was growing up, well, they may be handled differently now (the paddling in school is a good example).  He respected that and embraces it to a degree.  As someone who loved all kinds of music, I will never forget the time he called me into the living room to play me this “cool song” he heard and liked.  It was “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-lite.  The song was not like anything he’s ever played for me, but he liked it and played it at DJ jobs!  He embraces change!

A good dad teaches his kids to appreciate things.  Those things can be anything.  My dad certainly taught me how to appreciate family and friends.  He taught me how to appreciate good music, movies and TV.  He taught me how to appreciate what you have and the importance of living within your means.

A good dad accepts that his kids aren’t exactly like him. This may or may not have been a lesson he learned from my grandpa.  My dad had always been very accepting of my brother and I.  While we all have a lot of similarities, we are all SO very different.  He respects that our religious and political views may not be the same as his.

A good dad spends quality time with his children. This is one of those things that is difficult to do in today’s society.  We spend so much time working and trying to get things done, that we often spend the hours we are not at work doing these things.  As a divorced father with limited time with my boys, I really try hard to make the time we spend quality time, even if it is just a car ride.  Some of my favorite memories with my dad are just him and I throwing the ball around in the front yard.  That meant more to me than he will ever know!

A good dad leads by example.  Dad was never really the “Do as I say, not as I do” kind of guy.  He was a hard worker and knew the importance of providing for our family.  I never once thought of growing up and not having a job.  Dad wasn’t always perfect in this area, but because of that, I was also able to take some of the things that I didn’t like him doing (like smoking) and not doing them.

A good dad is supportive and loyal.  I am sure that in my 30 year radio career, my dad probably thought “he needs to get out of that career and find something more stable”.  If he thought it – he never once told me that!  He was nothing but supportive!  If I ever came to him with something that he questioned, he might ask a question or two regarding the opposite viewpoint, but that was it.  He might ask “are you sure you want to do this” or “have you thought about what might happen if…”, and then he let me decide.  Whatever the decision, he supported it.  I have a great respect for that.

A good dad is someone who challenges his kids. I’m sure that there were many ways that dad challenged me.  I know there were times I wanted to quit something and he gave me the pep talk to keep going.  I cannot recall specific incidents, but I know they were there.

A good dad is a teacher.  While dad taught me how to throw a “submarine” ball and how to swing a golf club, he also taught me some valuable lessons.  One of the things I have hoped to do is to write down some of those lessons and pass them down to my own children.  To illustrate my point: there is a cartoon I saw once of two guys standing in front of three piles of stuff.  The one guy asked what they were.  The second guy points to the first pile and says, “this stuff is the stuff my dad gave me that I want to pass on to my kids.”  He points to the second pile and says, “this is the stuff my dad gave me that I don’t really need.” He points to the third pile and says, “this is my stuff that I want to pass on to my kids.”  That’s the way it is – as a father, you take things that you learned from your dad and keep the stuff you want to share, throw out what you don’t, and then add stuff of your own.

A good dad protects and provides for his family.  When times were tough and money was tight, my dad would DJ or play in the wedding band to bring in extra money.  I remember as a young boy my dad going back to college to get a degree so he could move up in his place of employment.  It took me over 20 years, but I also decided to go back to school to better provide for my family.  I know that my dad would do anything for us, and I would do the same for my family.

Finally, a good dad shows unconditional love.  I read where this is the greatest quality of a good father.  Even though his child may let him down, upset him, make him mad, disrespect him, and disappoint him … the love remains constant.  Not to get theological, but it is one of the great principles spoken of about God in the Bible.  It says that no matter how much a child of God angers Him, ignores Him, or disappoints Him – His love is never ending and ever present.  THAT is the kind of love a father has for his children.

I am lucky that I have never had to question whether or not my dad loves me.  He has done so much for me during my lifetime and continues to do so.  I can only hope that he knows how much he is appreciated.  I can only hope he knows how thankful I am that he was chosen to be my father.  I can only hope that he knows of the impact that he has made on me.  I hope that he will never have to question how much I love him.

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Thanks, Pop, for being such an amazing man!  Thanks for being a wonderful example to me.  Thanks for everything you have done to support, encourage, accept, and love my family.  Today, I wish you a very happy birthday and wish you many more in the future!  I love you, Pop.

“Lamont”