Books I Couldn’t Put Down

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I love reading.  I don’t get as much time to do it as I’d like.  I have a stack of books on my “to read” pile right now.  I really need to stop going to the library because every time I do, I bring home three or four and the “to read” pile doesn’t go down.

I was challenged to write this blog by another blogger I follow.  Interestingly enough, a different blogger had posted a few blogs about books and we had brief conversation about doing a blog like this, and then I received the challenge from a second blogger.

I took a piece of paper out and jotted down the first few books that came to mind and stopped when I reached 5 for the three categories.  Included is a brief description of each, should you be moved to read them.

Fiction

Pandora’s Clock – John Nance

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A plane carrying a “super virus” that could leave all the passengers dead within hours.  Word gets out about the plane and no one wants them landing at their airport.  Reviews I read afterward were not that great, but I enjoyed the book.

True Crime – Andrew Klaven

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A man is about to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit.  He tells his story to a reporter who investigates and finds the real killer.  It is a race against the clock to stop the execution.  I read this in one day!  I couldn’t put it down.  The movie made based on this book was a huge disappointment.

The One Man – Andrew Gross

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One of the best historical thrillers I have read.  A man is sent to sneak into Auschwitz concentration camp to save a man who has information that can start a war – or end it.  Loved this book!

The Godfather – Mario Puzo

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A classic!  I can re-read this over and over.  The story of the Corleone Crime family, which was turned into an Academy Award winning film.  A story you can’t refuse!

11-22-63 Stephen King

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What an amazing premise for a story!  Already fascinated with the assassination of JFK, this was a must read for me.  I was not disappointed.  A high school English teacher is recruited by a friend to stop the Kennedy Assassination by going back in time through a time portal in the neighborhood diner.  This is also on my “books to read again” stack.

Non-Fiction

Hiroshima – John Hersey

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Powerful and eye opening story of the bombing and aftermath of Hiroshima, Japan.  It is truly amazing to read the stories of people who survived this horrific event.

A Night to Remember – Walter Lord

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The minute by minute account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.  I first read this in high school for my Survey of Non-fiction class.  It remains one of the most accurate accounts of the tragedy.

Maus – Art Spiegelman

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I read this for one of my first college classes.  The true story of a Holocaust survivor, as told by his son. It is a graphic novel based on conversations between father and son.

The Michigan Murders – Edward Keyes

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One of the first true crime stories I ever read.  Between 1967-1969, there were many murders of young women in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area of Southeastern Michigan .  The killer was being called the Ypsilanti Ripper.  At times gruesome, the story was fascinating.

Exit The Rainmaker – Jonathan Coleman

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I first learned of this book from a co-worker who was reading it one night at the radio station.  The book tells of the true story of Jay Carsey, a college president, who walked away from his wife, work, family and friends to start a new life.  I learned afterward that he not only did this once, he did it twice!  Carsey died in 2000, but his story makes you wonder just what makes someone do what he did!

Biography

Sid Caesar – Where Have I Been?

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Sid was a very funny guy, but boy did he have demons!  I had no idea just how many issues he had until I saw this one on a library shelf and picked it up.

Jack Benny – Mary Livingstone

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There are many other biographies about Jack Benny (by Irving Fein, Milt Josefsberg, and his daughter Joan Benny), but I chose this one written by his co-star and wife, Mary Livingstone.  I have read this one a few times, and even though the stories are the same, it just makes me love Benny even more.

One Fine Stooge – Steve Cox

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Steve Cox and Jim Terry do such an amazing job with this book on one of the most underrated classic comedians – Larry Fine.  Great stories, great photos, and a wonderful tribute to my favorite Stooge.

Moe Howard and the 3 Stooges – Moe Howard

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Moe on Moe.  In his own words, and with lots of pictures, Moe shares many stories from his days as leader of the Three Stooges.  This was one of the first books I ever bought on the Stooges, and remains one of my favorites.

Soupy Sez – Soupy Sales

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I wasn’t young enough to watch Soupy in the 60’s, but I did get to see his 70’s revival show on TV as a kid.  I also loved listening to his Moldie Oldies Show on the radio.  Soupy tells some great stories in this biography.

Closing Thoughts

I am sure if I really thought about it, I could come up with many more books I enjoyed.  For now, this satisfies the challenged posed to me.  What books are your favorites?  Tell me about them!  I’d love to add them to my list of books to read!

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100

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Sometimes I feel like I repeat myself in my blogs.  If I do, I apologize.  In all honesty, sometimes I forget if I have mentioned something in a previous blog.  I have been meaning to hook up with my friend and fellow blogger, Max, to learn how to index the content that I have already published.  I guess I should do that sooner than later. So pardon me if I have said this before.

When I started this blog, I did it primarily for me.  It was a place for me to (1) write about the things I was dealing with in my life (2) write down memories for my children to look back on and read in the future (3) occasionally rant about things that bothered me and (4) share memories of things that interest me (movies, music, TV, etc…).  I first began blogging in the days of My Space.  This would have been around 2005-2007.  To my knowledge, my My Space page is still in existence in cyber space, but with the dawn of Facebook, I haven’t done anything on it in years!  I used to blog on there all the time, the blogs used to pop up on your front page.

Some time ago, My Space removed the blogs from everyone’s page.  I contacted them because many of those blogs had personal things I wanted to remember.  I blogged often in the months and weeks proceeding my mother’s death.  I blogged about the birth of my second son.  All of those were gone.  They provided me a link to go in and download all of my blogs.  All of the comments were gone, but the original content was there.  For that, I am glad.  Re-reading some of them is emotional – they capture a moment in my past and give me a sense of what I was feeling at that time.  Some of those old blogs have been updated and additional thoughts have been added here.

At any rate, during the time I was blogging, I was told by someone I was once close to that “nobody cares about the things you write about”.  For whatever reason, I was constantly being told by this person to stop writing.  Occasionally, I would write a “note” on Facebook, which was similar to the My Space blogs.  These were also met with negative responses and the request was again made to stop, which I eventually did.

Fast forward to almost two years ago, when I started to blog.  I had been in therapy trying to sort out things in my life and it was suggested that I keep a journal.  I mentioned that I used to blog and my therapist asked why I had stopped.  She encouraged me to begin blogging or keeping a journal – and this is it. Blogs have ranged from fun stuff to serious stuff. I began to share links to my blog on Facebook, and many of my friends began following it, and sometimes, even sharing it on their page.  Through Word Press, I began to follow other blogs written by people who share my love for music, old movies, and classic TV.  Often times, my blogs will inspire someone to write one and vice versa.

All of this brings me to why I am writing this blog.  Today, I was informed that this blog now has 100 followers!  I am humbled that 100 people would find the topics that I write about worth reading, let alone wanting to be informed every time I write something new!  I thank you for reading and I thank you for interacting.  If there is every anything you’d like to see this blog explore, I would love to hear it.  Writing is often met with what some call “writer’s block” and I often face the “What should I write about today?” dilemma.  Feel free to offer suggestions.

There are those who say that bloggers/writers/authors should write everyday, no matter what – even if you are just scribbling a sentence or two.  For me, time is an issue.  Finding the time is always the challenge.  I try to write as often as I can. Sometimes, the stuff I write never makes it here and ends up as a Facebook status.  For example, this week marked the anniversary of my grandma’s passing, today is the 117th birthday of the great Larry Fine of the Three Stooges, Sam is starting to feel our baby move, and it’s Homecoming week – all things that I could probably blog about (and probably should).  I just have to find the time!

Thanks for following!  Thanks for reading!

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It’s a “Guy Thing” …

I can’t wait for this weekend!  I have my tickets.  I am anxiously awaiting 2 hours of laughing.  I will exit the Redford Theater on Friday night with my sides aching from laughter!

My dad, as I have mentioned in many blogs, introduced me to many things – music, movies, old radio and more.  One of the things that I am forever grateful for, is his introducing me to three of the funniest men who ever lived – The Three Stooges.  Now there are many folks who say that they are “a guy thing” and this is just not true!  I know many females who love the Stooges.  My friend Roxanne and I are forever referencing the Stooges in phone calls and social media posts!  There are plenty of Stooge fans, both male and female, and many of them will be in the audience with me watching and laughing.

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There is something to be said about watching them on TV or at home on video or DVD.  Yes, they are funny. There is, however, nothing like watching them on the big screen with an audience laughing with you!  That’s exactly how audiences saw them in the first place – in the theater!

I bought my tickets this past week and am looking forward to going to see “the boys” with my sons, my father-in-law, and my brother-in-law.  I was finally able to see the shorts that will be showing this weekend, and it only adds to the excitement!  There are some classics playing!!!

Men in Black

This was the third short the Stooges ever released.  For those who say that the Stooges never did anything worth watching – this short was nominated for an Academy Award!  This is such a wonderful short full of quotable lines and running gags (“Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Doctor Howard”, “For Duty and Humanity”).  The Stooges are new doctors who reek havoc on the hospital. Larry has two very memorable moments – when he sings into the stethoscope and when he is in the operating room, both which crack me up every time!  Comedian Billy Gilbert’s cameo is funny, too!

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Hoi Polloi

One of the great Stooge stories – and an idea that came from Moe’s wife, Helen.  The boys are garbage men, who are the subjects of a bet.  A professor and a colleague are debating whether environment or heredity make a man.  The professor bets that he can take the lowly Stooges and make gentlemen out of them.

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The Stooges often went head to head with the folks of “high society” and this was one of the great examples.

Ants in the Pantry

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Here is another short where the Stooges go up against the upper class.  They are exterminators who are looking for business.  In an effort to drum up some, they actually plant mice, ants, and other pests in homes!  Of course, they are then hired to remove the pests that they planted.  A highlight is the destruction of a piano due to mice and cats!

The boys are then invited on a fox hunt and end up with a much different, and smelly animal.

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Violent is the Word for Curly

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This one is a classic that will forever be remembered for the song “Swingin’ the Alphabet.”  The Stooges are working at a gas station giving “super service” to customers.  They come across three professors who are off to speak at a college.  They toss their luggage into a truck so they can “do their job.”  The Stooges end up blowing up their car and jump in the truck to get away.  They dress in the professor’s clothes and are mistaken for them by a college staff member.  Their speech is the song mentioned above.

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I don’t care how many times I watch the scene where they cut to Larry – I laugh because of him staring off into space!

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Priceless!

Dutiful But Dumb

The Stooges are photographers who fail to get a photo of a starlet.  They are fired by their boss, then rehired and sent to a country where taking pictures is punishable by death (LOL).  Of course, they are asked to take pictures!

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This short has two of my favorite Curly moments.  The boys are hiding from officers of the law.  Curly is hiding inside a huge radio and when one of them goes to turn the radio on.  Curly has pulled almost all the wires out of it.  When they wonder what is wrong with the radio, Curly pulls out a harmonica puts a cymbal on his head and begins to play music.

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The other Curly moment is his wonderfully orchestrated fight with an oyster.  Curly orders some oyster stew.  Each time he puts a cracker in it, the oyster eats it.  It is such a masterpiece and a great example of just how he can make you laugh without saying anything!

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Out West

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There is a great debate over who was funnier – Curly or Shemp.  I avoid this debate at all costs, because in my opinion, they were both very funny men.  They each had their own style.  I love that the Redford plays one Shemp short at their Stooges festivals.  While this one is not one of my favorites, it still is worth watching.

I always love when the Stooges do a period piece, and this one is obviously set in the Old West.  Anytime the amazing Christine McIntyre plays alongside the Stooges, it’s fun.  Jock Mahoney, who is probably best known for playing Tarzan in a few feature films, also stars in this one.

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It’s going to be a blast, for sure!  The Redford Theater is a beautiful theater and has a Barton organ that has been in the theater since 1928!  It really is a wonderful place and they often show classic movies for a very reasonable price.  If you are a fan of the Stooges and live in Michigan, you need to make it out to their annual Three Stooges festival!  Check out their website for upcoming events –

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If you already have your tickets …. I will be laughing with you!

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A Shemptastic Day in History…

 

Throughout history, some truly great people never got the respect they deserved simply because they had big shoes to fill.

* John Adams following George Washington as President of the United States.

* Ryan Seacrest following Dick Clark hosting New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

* Ray Combs following Richard Dawson as host of Family Feud.

*Daniel Craig is forever compared to Roger Moore and Sean Connery as James Bond.

* Dick Sargent never fully got the credit he deserved as an actor because he replaced Dick York on Bewitched.

There is one “under rated” comedian who truly never got the true respect that he deserved … Simply because he stepped in to fill the shoes of a comedy GIANT! This modest blog hopes to give him some recognition.

Shemp Howard was born today in 1895. Shemp was born Samuel Horwitz, but his mother had a very heavy Lithuanian accent so when she called his name it came out “Shemp”. That name stuck and he was Shemp for the remainder of his life.

Shemp and his younger brother, Moe, watched a lot of vaudeville shows and eventually started their own act. They did an act entirely in black face. This wasn’t unusual as many performers like Al Jolson, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll we’re doing just the same.

Moe and Shemp teamed up with Ted Healy, and eventually Larry Fine joined the group. Ted Healy and his Stooges were a vaudeville hit.

My pal, Eddie Deezen, who you may know as Eugene from the movie Grease and many other great films, wrote an very nice article about Shemp for Neatorama. In it he addresses one of Shemp’s “issues”:
According to Shemp’s wife, Gertrude “Babe” Howard, whom Shemp married in 1925, Shemp was “just a big old ‘fraidy cat.” Everyone has a particular fear or phobia (many of us have more than just one); Shemp was “afraid of his own shadow,” according to his friends, with a whole litany of fears:

*He lived in constant fear of cars, never driving or getting a driver’s license. According to Moe, this fear was rooted in an auto accident Shemp experienced when he was a youth. (In his films, when Shemp had to fake driving a car, he was towed by prop men in a simulated car but was still scared, nervously holding the steering wheel until the scene mercifully ended.)

*Shemp also refused to fly in airplanes, travelling only by train.

*He was terrified of strange dogs and would carry a big stick with him, just in case a strange dog approached him.

*He refused to swim or go in any body of water larger than a bathtub. Shemp always carried a pair of rubber overshoes in his pocket, lest he be caught in the rain.

*It also became fairly common that, before Shemp appeared live on stage, he would throw up to relieve himself.

*And Shemp was a chronic bed-wetter. He had actually served in World War I, but his stint was truncated due to his bed-wetting.

Ted Healy was a jerk. He saw these things and often used his knowledge of Shemp’s fears to scare him. Because of Healy, Shemp left the group to do solo projects. He was replaced by…Curly Howard (Shemp and Moe’s younger brother). Curly went in to become the comedy icon with the Stooges and was loved by millions.

Shemp had great success working alone. He can be seen in some of Abbott and Costello’s films, but according to Eddie Deezen’s article, Costello was very jealous of Shemp and most of his funny stuff ended up being edited out. He also appeared with WC Fields in The Bank Dick and he also played Knobby Walsh in the Joe Palooka films. While off on his own, Shemp was called (and billed as) “The Ugliest Man in Hollywood”!

 

In the 1940’s, it is evident by watching the Three Stooges comedies that Curly’s health was on the decline. In 1946, while waiting to shoot a final scene for Half-Wits Holiday, Curly had a massive stroke. With Curly no longer able to perform, Moe turned to his older brother, Shemp, who agreed to return to the group.

Shemp made over 70 comedies with the Stooges. He never stepped in to copy Curly, nor did he want to. He was Shemp and that was what makes his comedies with the boys unique.

Shemp had his on vocal sounds. Curly “woo woo woo’d” and “n’yuk n’yuk n’yuk’d while Shemp did something totally different. His most notable characteristic as a Stooge was a high-pitched “bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee!” sound, a sort of soft screech done by inhaling. This was rather multi-purpose, since Shemp emitted this sound when scared, sleeping (done as a form of snoring), overtly happy or dazed. It became as much a trademark sound of Shemp as the “nyuk nyuk” sound had become Curly’s.

Shemp was always compared to Curly. In my humble opinion, this is like comparing baseball to football or apples to oranges. They are both unique and each have their own attributes! There is no way to compare them to each other! Curly was Curly. He was energetic, childish, silly and graceful. Shemp (who was already in his 50’s when he rejoined the group) was more flippant. He was a wise cracking, all talk no action kinda guy. The dynamic was different, but it still worked.

He played with the human language wonderfully. One of my favorite Shemp lines comes from the short Sing a Song of Six Pants. The boys are dry cleaners/tailors. A customer comes in and Shemp says “Where did you get this mess?” (Referring to the man’s suit). The customer replies ” I bought it here!”. Shemp’s reply: “Oh, what a beautiful messterpiece!”

On November 22, 1955, Shemp went out with his friends to a boxing match at the Hollywood Legion Stadium. After the fights were over, Shemp hailed a taxicab to take him to his North Hollywood home with friend Al Winston. Shemp set back and lit up his cigar and told a joke. Suddenly he slumped over into Winston’s lap. Shemp had a heart attack and was dead at the age of 60. His friend, Al, thought Shemp was playing a joke, since Shemp was laughing moments earlier, but realized he was actually dead. Moe’s autobiography gives a death date of November 23, 1955, as do most subsequent accounts, because of Moe’s book. But much of that book was finished posthumously by his daughter and son-in-law, and some specific details were confused as a result. The Los Angeles county coroner’s death certificate states that Shemp Howard died on Tuesday, November 22, 1955, at 11:35 [PM] PST.

Many Stooge fans know “the rest of the story” (to quote Paul Harvey), but for those who don’t, Eddie Deezen’s article shared the odd final chapter of Shemp’s film career :

Columbia Studios still needed four new Three Stooges shorts after Shemp died, so they hired a replacement named Joe Palma to “be Shemp.” Joe became Shemp’s “double,” or stand-in, faking scenes by not facing the camera, just standing with his back to the camera and running off or bumbling. Old footage from previous Stooge films was intermixed with the Joe Palma footage, and thus the last four Three Stooges films with “Shemp” were made.

To this day, to “get a Shemp” or “a fake Shemp” or “a Shemp” is Hollywood nomenclature for “get a double” or “use a stand-in.” Director Sam Raimi (Spiderman), a big Three Stooges fan, always credits stand-ins or doubles in his films as “Fake Shemps.”

While people who talk about Shemp often say things like, “he’s no Curly” and Stooge Festivals often promote being “all Curly”, let’s give Shemp some credit! He was a brilliant performer. He was quick, funny, and helped to keep Stooges Comedies in theaters for years after Curly left the group.

 

As with any team, everyone plays a part. While the team took on a new look, the slapstick was still there. The puns are still there. Larry’s facial expressions and reactions are still there. Shemp Shorts are still funny, but people who automatically cop an attitude at the opening credits before the short even starts will never come to appreciate the genius of Shemp…and that is sad.

Happy Birthday, Shemp!