Questions and Answers #3

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The Facebook “Memories” feed can be a good thing or a bad thing.  Sometimes, I am reminded of times in my life where I was just going through the motions, pretending that all was right in my world, when it wasn’t.  Sometimes I get sad to see picture of my son’s as toddlers and am reminded of how fast they grow up.  Sometimes, I will smile at things from my past radio career and sometimes I smile as I see reminders of the good things that have happened over the past few years.

This blog is just over a year old, and this week I was reminded by Facebook that I asked my Facebook friends to ask me questions they wanted me to answer.  I looked back through my blogs and realized that the last time I did a “Q&A” blog was in October, so I once again asked for Questions…..what follows is the answers to those questions.  (If a non-Facebook friend and follower ever has a question you’d like answered, feel free to ask in the comments.)

Melanie

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Melanie was my next door neighbor in Flint, MI.  Our street was literally behind K-Mart.  Her question, which was probably meant as a joke, is “Do you miss living behind K-Mart in Flint?”  I say she probably meant it as a joke, because the neighborhood, which used to be a very nice one, is a far cry from what it used to be.  The crime level in that part of town is much higher than it was when we were living there.

I have to be honest, I do miss that house.  It was the first home I ever bought.  It is also the home I brought my first son home to.  I remember painting the nursery in tan and putting up all the Noah’s Ark themed borders, building the crib, etc.  I remember watching my dad and son play catch in the backyard.  I remember my mom, who was still in the middle of her cancer treatments, laying on the floor and playing with my son.  I have so many great pictures of her with him in that house.

I remember the old shed in the back and the swing set I built for him.  I remember almost setting the house on fire with the barbecue and ripping out the fence that was between our house and Melanie’s old house.  I also remember pulling my son in his birthday wagon around the neighborhood on summer days.

I also remember the great neighbors we had.  As I said, Melanie and her husband lived next door and were always good neighbors.  On the other side, Jerry lived there with his daughter Terry Sue.  Her kids Jerry and Stephanie would often come over and they’d play with my son.  I would often talk with their Aunt Diane, too, who lived just down the street.  Jerry was a nice man.  He was always willing to loan me a tool if I needed one, or help me with my lawnmower.  He’d often be the guy who cleared my driveway with his snow blower in the winter.  Sadly he passed away shortly after we moved in.

Next to Jerry was Harry and Myrt.  They were an elderly couple who were from down south.  Harry loved to talk politics.  Myrt always made us candy at Christmas time.  You could always find them on the porch drinking sweet tea, and always a pleasure to talk to.  Another elderly couple lived across the street when I first moved in, Ed and Margie.  They were such great people, he was always riding his bike around the neighborhood and always smiling.  We were so sad when he and Margie passed away.

When Melanie moved away, we were blessed with another wonderful couple as neighbors – Jamie and Jason.  Their plan was much like ours, this house was kind of our starter house and we had hoped to move once our son came.  They moved before we did and that was when things started to go bad.  Their old house had a milk chute.  It was next to their side door.  The guy who moved in was probably about 24, and he was up at all hours of the night.  He was renting the house from his aunt and we found out he was using the house to sell drugs.  There were people up and down the driveway all night.  They’d drop their order in the milk chute and come back to get it later.  He never threw anything away and there were bags of trash all over the back yard.  I’m still not sure what exactly happened to the guy, but he suddenly disappeared.  I have heard rumors, but never really found out more.  It wasn’t long after that, we moved away.

James

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Again, probably meant as a joke, but he wants to know my “take on breakdancing”. Here is my take – I can’t do it.  I can do the Curly Shuffle and the Box Step (thanks to high school gym class).  I am amazed that people can do this.  There is talk of it being an Olympic Event, so it must something that interests people.  If I had the chance to take dance lessons, I would opt for ballroom dancing over break dancing.

Marcia

Marcia is a dear friend from elementary school and always loves to ask questions.  Today, she asks “Who was your favorite teacher at Carlson (our school) and why?”

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I moved to the district in 2nd grade.  Any time a kid moves and had to change schools, there is stress involved.  I remember Mrs. Cook being a very sweet lady and made the transition much easier.  I only had her for about half a year, and remember that I liked her very much.  However, if I had to pick a favorite elementary school teacher, (meaning someone who’s class I was in) it would have to pick Mrs. Gallop.

I remember her being very fun.  While I don’t remember many specific things, I remember she made me laugh a lot.  I had a great respect for her and I remember not wanting to ever disappoint her.  Two distinct memories I have of her class both involve reading.  I remember she read many books to us.  It was one of my favorite things about the class.  I remember her reading us “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” by Judy Blume.  There was a sequel she read to us to about the main character’s brother Fudge.  She always was very animated when she read them.  I have those books on my shelf, as I bought them for my sons.

I also remember her reading James and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.   I remember there was a swear word in it (ass or damn, I think) and she prepped the whole class.  “There is a bad word in this story.  I really don’t want to read it, but if I do, remember that it is not nice to say words like that.”  When she said it, some gasped and some chuckled.  She just kept on reading …

Fourth grade was probably my favorite elementary school year.  Mrs. Gallop was instrumental in that.  She was so much fun and made learning fun.  Years after I graduated, I was working for the district as a custodian part-time.  She had moved up to either principal or assistant principal at the middle school.  She was in her office and I remember walking in and saying hello.  I told her she probably wouldn’t remember me, but when I told her my name, she said “Of course I remember you.  You had just got your glasses over the summer and you told me that you were so glad you could see the board, and your friends, and me!”  How she remembered that, I really don’t know.  I assumed she was just saying she remembered me to shut me up, but I had gotten my glasses over the summer, so she remembered.

I may or may not have looked for her on Facebook, some teachers who have Facebook accounts don’t use it to connect to former students.  At any rate, she is not my friend on there.  I have written about teachers in the past, and I firmly believe that they make a difference each and every day in the lives of their students.  They play such an important role.  She was such a wonderful lady and I was lucky that I was in her class.  If any teachers from the district still keep in touch with her, please let her know that I am forever grateful for the laughs, the learning, and for making me feel like I mattered.

Joseph

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Joe is one of my oldest friends.  We met in band class in junior high.  One of the things we have in common is our love for music.  No surprise that his question is “What was your favorite piece of music to play in band?”  I responded and asked if he meant concert or marching band.  He said it was my choice and that he would “go easy on” me.

Trying to pick one song out of four years worth of music is quite a task.  I thought about it a lot before writing this.  I have narrowed it down, but cannot pick just one.  I also looked at both marching band and concert band separately.  I hope you don’t mind, Joe, but here are the Top 5 for each:

Concert Band

5 – The Seventies Medley

4 – Armed Forces Salute

3 – Hall of Fame March

2 – Tin Pan Alley

1 – Four of a Kind

Marching Band

5 – Washington and Lee Swing (for sentimental reasons)

4 – Artistry in Rhythm

3 – Doggin’ Around

2 – We Got the Beat

1 – Sing, Sing, Sing

It was far from easy to do this, Joe!  I also realize I can probably write an entire blog about this.

Vince

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Vince asks a question that I used to get often when I did Career Day presentations at schools while working in radio.  He says, “Radio call in prizes … Ex: Caller #20 wins tickets …. are they legitimate? If yes, is there a strategy to calling in?”

The quick answer (at least in my experience) is yes.  Before I explain, let me talk a bit about contesting.  When I first started in radio, access to the internet was not really a thing.  We used to have many trivia books and often asked musical questions or questions we found in those trivia books to give away prizes.  When Trivial Pursuit came out, we had the boxes of questions in the studio to ask.  It’s hard to do those kind of things today because so many people can Google the answers and it is just not fun to do any more.  I’m not sure why the “be caller # ___” contests have become so popular, to be honest.  I really dislike those contests.  There is no entertainment value to it at all – and it is not fun for the DJ.  When I was at Kiss-FM, we had 6 requests lines, today, it’s usually 3.  So the DJ has to literally answer the phones, “You’re caller number 1 (click) you’re caller number 2 (click) you’re caller number 3 (click)” and so on….

Many stations use their frequency to pick the caller number – 95.5 looks for the 95th caller, 89X looks for caller 89, etc.  How is this entertaining for the listeners who are not playing?  The answer is – it isn’t.  As far as a strategy, I don’t know of any.  Back in the day, you used “speed dial” to get in and just keep redialing.  Today, with cell phones, there is no speed dial.  It’s the luck of the draw.  There are people who we call “contest pigs” who literally sit and listen for radio contests up and down the dial.  They spend all day dialing to win prizes.  There are two things radio DJ hate about those winners – first, when they tell you “I was caller 1, 7, 18, 33, and ….” we usually edit that out of the call for play back on the air.  We don’t want other listeners to know that they couldn’t get through because you and your family were monopolizing the phone lines.  The other thing we hate is when we finally get a winner for a very cool prize and they act like they could care less.  “Hey, Vince!  You just won $15,000!” and their response is an unemotional “Gee, thanks.  Do you like write me a check or something for that?”  That’s the response you expect from “Congrats!  You just won a free taco and tickets to the flower show.”

I don’t do radio full-time any more, so contesting is a bit different now.  Many stations run company wide contesting now.  They’ll tell you this in their promo mentions.  Basically, a company who owns stations throughout the country, all the stations are giving away the prize and all the listeners from all the stations have a chance to win it.  The odds are just a tad worse than when there is a local contest.

Aaron

Of all the questions asked, Aaron asked the most difficult: “If you had to pick your top 5 or 10 1980’s (your choice) movies for a must see list what would they be?”

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For the record, I literally went year by year from 1980-1989 thinking I could narrow it down to 5 or 10.  Then I thought “I can’t do this!” and thought if I divided it into genre, I could make it easier.  That actually made it more difficult.  If anything, it made me realize how many great movies were made in the 80’s.  It also made me realize that some could easily fall into more than one genre.

So, Aaron, from my list here are some “must see” flicks from each year:

1980 – Airplane!, The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack, The Shining, Somewhere in Time, The Empire Strikes Back

1981 – Arthur, Cannonball Run, History of the World Part 1, Night Hawks, Private Lessons, Porky’s, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Stripes, Zorro – The Gay Blade

1982 – 48 Hours, Creepshow, ET, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

1983 – A Christmas Story, The Dead Zone, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Trading Places, War Games, Doctor Detroit

1984 – Beverly Hills Cop, Footloose, Ghostbusters, Johnny Dangerously, The Karate Kid, The Natural, Police Academy, Revenge of the Nerds, Terminator

1985 – Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, Clue, Fletch, A View to a Kill

1986 – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Golden Child, One Crazy Summer, The Three Amigos, Top Gun, The Color of Money, Aliens

1987 – Good Morning Vietnam, Fatal Attraction, La Bamba, No Way Out, Planes Trains and Automobiles, The Princess Bride, Robocop, The Untouchables, Adventures in Baby Sitting, Spaceballs

1988 – The Naked Gun, Rain Man, Scrooged, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Coming to America, Big, Beetlejuice

1989 – Batman, Dead Poet’s Society, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Weekend at Bernie’s, Tango and Cash, UHF, Uncle Buck

After spending way too much time trying to sort them….It was just easier that way.  I had hoped to expand on all of these.  I am sure that I left MANY off.  I even edited the edited list to get to these.  Some of them are on the list because they are personal favorites.  How about you, Aaron (or any other reader)…if you had to pick 5 or 10, could you do it??

Thanks to those who sent questions!  It’s always fun for me to answer them!

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Some Favorite TV Episodes…

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This blog is my entry in The Fifth Annual Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon, which is being hosted by Terence Towles Canote and his site, “A Shroud of Thoughts.” Terence has also written a book entitled “Television: Rare and Well Done – Essays on the Medium”.  He writes about TV’s “Golden Age”, westerns, the spy craze of the 1960’s, and a whole lot more.  It is available on Amazon.

His page can be found at: www.mercurie.blogspot.com/

The guidelines for this Blogathon stated that the shows being written about must be at least 25 years old, so you couldn’t write about anything after 1994. There are many participating in this blog and you can read their entries here:

http://mercurie.blogspot.com/2019/03/the-5th-annual-favourite-tv-show.html

To the tube ….

In all honesty, I could have written about countless episodes from countless shows. I may actually try to make it a point to write more about single episodes of shows in the future.  For this blog, there were TV episodes that immediately came to mind and the issue for me became “Which one should I write about?”  I narrowed the list down to four, and Terence said it was perfectly ok to write about all of them!  The shows I have chosen will give you a glimpse of early TV in the 50’s, classic Sci-Fi from the 50’s, and a groovy look at the 70’s.

Three of the four shows that follow are sitcoms.  One of the shows is a drama (which I will talk about more before that episode’s write-up).  I believe TV Guide once said that a good sitcom needed some specific things:  Good characters (even if they are static and predictable), an interesting and relatable plot, structure, believable dialogue, and conflict.   The sitcoms I am writing about certainly have each of these things.  I’d like to add one more element to this:  a pay-off.  Like a good joke, some of the most memorable episodes have a great pay-off at the end.  Some pay-offs are better than others.  Some pay-offs are funny, some are serious, some simply make a point.  Watch for each of these elements as you read about my four choices.

The Honeymooners

The Honeymooners first appeared on TV as a short sketch on the show Cavalcade of Stars on October 5, 1951. When the show moved to the CBS network and became The Jackie Gleason Show in 1952, the sketch continued.  It became a full half hour sitcom in October of 1955 and ran for 39 episodes, which are now referred to as “the Classic 39.”

The show was about Ralph Kramden, New York bus driver, and his wife Alice. They live on a tight budget in a rundown apartment. Ed Norton, a sewer worker, and his wife Trixie live upstairs.  Ralph and Ed are great friends – they bowl together, belong to a lodge, and work together on “get rich quick” schemes. (If this friendship sounds familiar – yes, this show was the blueprint for the cartoon, The Flintstones!) The first TV episode I am writing about is Show #1 of the Classic 39 – TV or Not TV.

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The Honeymooners – TV or Not TV (Originally aired October 1, 1955)

Trixie tells Alice that their TV set is broken, and they need to get a new one. Alice points out that while they are getting their second TV, the Kramdens have never owned one.  Trixie suggests that Alice try to butter Ralph up by giving him the “pipe and slippers” routine.  She tells her to go out of her way to make him feel special and then, when the time is right, ask him for a TV.

When Ralph gets home, Alice puts the plan in action. She brings him slippers, calls him “sweetums” and “Sweetheart face”, brings him the paper, and is acting more loving than normal.  Ralph is immediately suspicious.  He figures she is being extra nice so he won’t go bowling or that her mother is hiding somewhere in the apartment.  She insists that this is not the case and asks what she can get him to drink.  His response is priceless, “Let me have what you’re drinking.  I want to get loaded, too!”

Once she feels he is comfortable, she says, “Oh, by the way, Ralph…” to which he immediately jumps to his feet! “Ah ha!  I knew there was a ‘by the way’ in there somewhere!  What’s ‘by the way’?”  She tells Ralph that the Nortons are getting a new TV and wants to know why they don’t have one yet.  Alice says that Ralph goes out at night to play pool, go bowling, or go to the lodge he belongs to while she is left to look at the ice box, the stove, the sink, and the four walls of her kitchen.  She pleads, “Well, I don’t wanna look at that icebox, that stove, that sink and these four walls.  I want to look at Liberace!”

When Ed Norton comes in, Ralph immediately yells at him and calls him a troublemaker.  He says that because they are getting a new TV, Alice wants one, too.  Ed confesses to Ralph that he was actually hoping that he could borrow some money from him.  He tells Ralph that the new TV’s are expensive and he really can’t afford to get a new one and no one will give him any more credit. This is when Ralph gets an idea that leads to the wonderful comedy of this episode.

Ralph says that he can’t afford a new TV and Ed can’t afford on either, so he says they can both pool together their money and buy one together.  He says it will solve all their problems.  Ralph can still go bowling, Ed can watch his Captain Video shows, and Alice can watch TV while he is away.  Ed begins to question why the TV automatically ends up at the Kramden’s house.  So Ralph suggests flipping a coin to see where the TV ends up.  “Heads I win, tails you lose,” Ralph says.  It comes up tails – so Ed loses.  Ralph pockets the coin and when Ed suddenly says, “Wait a minute” Ralph thinks Ed has figured out he’s been duped.  Nope.  He just wanted his coin back.

In the next scene, Ed is in front of the TV watching Captain Video.  He is wearing his space helmet, adjusts his disintegrator gun, and recites the Captain Video Pledge.  This is the final straw for Ralph.  He says that for three days he has watched nothing but “space shows, westerns, cartoons, and puppet shows” and tonight he wants to watch a movie.  He turns on a romantic movie and in the middle of it, Ed calls it silly and switches the channel back to Captain Video.  Ed then switches it back to Captain Video. It is like two school children fighting back and forth.  Ralph finally yells at Ed to “get out” and Ed reminds him that half of the set is his, and if he goes, half the set goes with him.

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They finally look in the paper to see if there is something that they both can agree on.  They find a boxing match to watch and once it is on it looks “fuzzy”.  Ed suggests that Ralph take the antenna and move it around the room.  He has Ralph move all over and out into the hallway.  One he is out in the hall, Ed locks him out, switches the channel to Captain Video, puts back on his space helmet and listens to Ralph banging on the door!

The next few scenes are among my favorites.  We see Ralph in front of the TV dozing off while watching a movie.  Alice calls to him from the bedroom and says he needs to get to bed because he has to work in the morning.  He shouts back that he is watching The Late Show.  He continues to doze and Alice again calls to him.  He finally gets up and turns the TV on.  His eyes are half closed, and instead of walking through the bedroom door, he walks into the hallway.  In a very funny moment, we hear a bunch of crashing and banging.  Alice runs out of the bedroom to find Ralph walking back in holding his head.  He simply says, “I fell down the stairs.”  As they walk in the bedroom, Alice yells at him for staying up late instead of going to bed.

What follows is one of the best scenes in this episode.  All is quiet and the door to the Kramden’s apartment opens and in walks Ed.  He is in his robe and pajamas and carrying a bag.  He turns on the TV and we hear the announcer say, “And now for the Late, LATE, show.”  Ed pulls out a huge submarine sandwich from the bag and begins to eat as some scary music plays from the TV.  While Ed is eating, there are gunshots and a woman screaming from the TV.  Ralph comes flying out of the bedroom and sees that Ed is watching TV.  He is furious and tells Ed to get out of the apartment.  Ed again argues that he owns part of the set. The argument continues and Alice comes out of the bedroom.

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When Ralph laments “Why does all of this happen to me?” Alice reminds him that he is the one who was too cheap to buy a TV and so he conned Ed into going in on a set with him, so he could get one for half price.  Alice then says that she doesn’t understand them.  She reminds them that they are good friends and they don’t have any troubles when they bowl or shoot pool together.  She asks them why they can’t get along now.  This, of course makes them both feel awful and they apologize to each other.  Ed asks Ralph if he can stay and watch the end of the movie.  When Ralph hears about the movie, he pulls up a chair next to Ed.  As the movie plays, they both doze off and fall asleep.

Alice returns to the kitchen and finds both men asleep.  She gives them both a blanket and says, “I’ve gotta admit it, Ralph.  For once in your life, you’re right.  We should have never gotten a television set.”

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One of the reasons this is one of my favorite episodes is because of the scene where Norton sneaks in to the apartment to watch his movie.  Jackie Gleason did not like to rehearse.  He read the script and performed it once – when the camera was rolling.  When you see this scene, you will notice Art Carney begins to laugh when Ralph comes running out of the bedroom.  It was the first time doing the scene together and it cracked him up.  It is such a quick moment, and you really have to watch Carney when it happens.  The pro that Art was, he is able to recover quickly and finish the scene.

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The second TV Episode I am writing about is also an episode of the Honeymooners and was also part of the Classic 39.  This episode gives us a look at the Norton’s apartment.  Compared to the Kramden’s, the Norton’s look like they are doing much better financially.  It is much nicer, it has a much more updated feel, and he has a machine to record records (which had to cost him a pretty penny).  We also get to see just how much Ralph and his mother-in-law dislike each other, which is one of the reasons this episode is a favorite of mine.

The Honeymooners – A Matter of Record (Originally aired January 7, 1956)

Ralph is excited that he has two tickets to the Broadway hit play, “Murder Strikes Out.”  It is a play that has everyone talking!  It has a chills, thrills, and a surprise ending! Ralph is excited because he has always promised to take Alice to a real Broadway show and he can finally do it.  He tells her to get dressed because they are going to make a date of it.

Alice asks if the tickets are for that night and Ralph tells her they are.  She tells Ralph that she cannot go because her mother is coming over for a visit.  He cannot believe that she would give up a night to go to a real show because her mother is coming.  She tells him that it is impossible and that she cannot go because he mother is going to arrive any minute.  She suggests that Ed Norton go with him.  Ed agrees and goes up to change.

Ralph is more and more angry at the thought of Alice not going because of her mother.  It is obvious that she and he do not get along with each other.  He cannot believe that he is going to the play with a “space cadet” because of her mother.  He bad mouths her and Alice says that she knows her mother isn’t the easiest person to get along with and tells Ralph that is no reason to act the way he is.  He tells her that he acts that way because “Your mother is a blabbermouth.”

This word is obviously not one that Alice likes at all and tells Ralph to stop calling her that.  He replies, “All right, you’re the expert on crossword puzzles.  Give me another word for blabbermouth.”  He then explains why he dislikes her so much.  He tells Alice that from the moment she arrives until the moment she leaves, she’ll be talking about why she should have married one of her other boyfriends, why he is so fat, and why there isn’t new furniture in the apartment.  He says she is nosy and “if there is one thing I hate, it’s a nosy blabbermouth!”

With this Alice delivers an ultimatum.  “Now listen Ralph.  I am warning you for the last time. You call her that once more, and when my mother leaves here tonight, I just might go with her.” Ralph tells her he won’t say a word to her or her mother.  Alice says that would be fine because there won’t be any arguments that way.  Ralph then asks, “You think because I don’t say a word, there won’t be an argument?  I’ll bet you a million dollars that she won’t be in this apartment three minutes before she starts an argument! I won’t have to say a word!”

With this there is a knock at the door and Alice’s mother comes in. As she enters, in a very funny move, Ralph grabs the alarm clock and sets it for 3 minutes.  He holds up three fingers to Alice as if to say, “She’s got three minutes!”  As soon as mother is in the door, she complains that Alice lives too far from the subway.  She slams Ralph by saying that she guesses that they can’t do better with the rent they can afford and how important it is to have a husband who is a provider.  She then says that Alice looks think and accuses her of not eating – she even goes a step further to slam Ralph by insinuating that maybe she’s not getting enough of the food in the house.  With each little jab, Ralph gets more uncomfortable and rolls his eyes.

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Just as predicted, Alice’s mother then begins to talk about an old boy that “used to be crazy” about Alice.  She tells him how tall and handsome he is and then jabs at Ralph again saying, “I guess a man doesn’t have to get fat if he doesn’t want to.”  She then goes a step further and says “of all the boys you brought to our house, he’s the only one I had any use for.” (Ralph had obviously been to her house – so we have yet another jab at him.)

Alice pours her mother a cup of coffee and asks Ralph if he wants some, but he just grunts (keeping his promise not to say a word).  Her mother asks what’s wrong with him, and Alice tells her he is fine and that he is going to the Broadway show.  When she tells her mother the name of the show, she brushes it off and simply says “oh that.”  Ralph continues to be agitated as Alice’s mother says that her neighbor has seen it.  She goes on about how it was supposed to be suspenseful and give you chills and thrills, and then says, “and all that stuff about ‘don’t tell your friends the surprise ending.’  Well it was no surprise to Mrs. Finley (the camera is on Ralph as Alice’s mother is about to spoil the whole thing). She knew the whole time that it wasn’t the uncle who committed the murder – it was the husband!”

What follows is the moment that brings this episode to my list of favorites:

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As if on cue, as soon as Alice’s mother ruins the ending of the play, the alarm clock rings.  The three minutes are up and Ralph is done.  He stands up and slams his hand on the alarm clock to shut it off.  He turns to his mother and in classic Jackie Gleason style yells, “YOU.  Are a Blabbermouth!  A Blabbermouth!  You!  Blabbermouth!” and then tells her to get out!  Throughout his rant Alice is trying to get him to stop.  Alice’s mother get’s up and leaves.  Ed walks in as Alice walks out.

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Ralph tells Ed that Alice’s mother ruined it all for him.  He tells Ed the outcome of the play.  That doesn’t bother Ed, who still wants to go.  When Ralph questions why he’d want to go now that he knows the ending, Ed says he’ll watch it right up to the end and then get up and walk out.

In the next scene, we see Ralph sulking because Alice is still at her mother’s house.  She’s been gone 5 days and Ralph is miserable.  He tells Ed that if he could find a way to talk to her, he would pour out his heart to her and she’d forgive him.  Ed has an idea.  He pulls out a recorder and tells Ralph he can record an apology on a record and that way, Alice will know exactly how sorry he is.

As Ralph begins to apologize to Alice.  He tells her how miserable he is without her there.  He then even apologizes to her mother.  As he does so, he says that “she doesn’t mean the things she says.  It’s just her nature. She doesn’t mean to be mean.  She’s just born that way.”  The more he talks about his mother-in-law, the more angry he becomes.  It’s like he is reliving the entire moment all over again.  As he continues, he gets louder and angrier.  “When she spilled the beans about the end of the play, I shouldn’t have got mad at that.  I should’ve expected it from her. I know how she is.  It’s never gonna be any different Alice! She’s gonna be the same old way, Alice!  She’s a Blabbermouth! ….”

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Ed jumps in and stops him and asks him what he is doing.  He explains that every time he thinks of her mother he flips. He tells him to stop thinking about her mother and to think about Alice.  Ed puts his last blank record on the recorder, leaves the room at Ralph’s request and Ralph records a very heartfelt apology.  We really see the tender side of Ralph as he records this.  When he is done he calls Ed back into the room.  Ed begins to cry because he has been listening.

Ralph gives Ed Alice’s mother’s address and he addresses the envelope.  Ed asks his wife to hand him the record from the recorder, and she hands him the first record! In the next scene, Ralph is questioning Ed – Did he send it?  Did he send it to the right address? He cannot figure out why Alice hasn’t come home.  There is a knock on the door and it is one of the members of Ed’s stickball team.  He tells Ed that one of the members can’t play the next day because he has the measles.  The boy also says that Ed’s wife told him he’d be down with Ralph and that she was upstairs talking to Alice.

Ralph is excited because she is in the building and MUST be coming home.  He tells Ed to go back upstairs so he can be alone when Alice comes back.  He thanks him for mailing the record.   When Alice comes in, she is quiet.  Ralph asks if she got the record and says he meant every word.  She looks at him and says, “So my mother was born mean, huh? It’s in her nature, huh?  Once a blabbermouth always a blabbermouth ….”  She tells him she is glad he sent her the record because now she knows how he really feels and leaves. Ralph pleads as she leaves and tells her she got the wrong record.  After she is gone, he calls up to Ed Norton to come down.  He wants to tell him “how it came out.”  As the scene fades out, Ralph is smacking the stick from the stickball boy on the kitchen table awaiting Ed’s arrival.

The next scene opens with Ed entering Ralph’s apartment.  Ralph angrily tells him to leave.  He calls him a menace and tells him to leave.  Ed informs Ralph that Alice is coming back.  He took the right record over to Alice’s mother’s house and played it for her.  He tells Ralph that she cried and cried and forgives him.  He tells Ralph that she is on the way home, and will be bringing him a steak for dinner.

There is a knock on the door and it is someone from the Health Department.  He asks if there are any children living there.  Ralph says no.  The doctor explains that there is an outbreak of measles in the building and names off the children who have it – all of who are on Ed’s stickball team.  The doctor asks if Ralph has ever had the measles and he says no.  He gives him a quick exam and says he has them now, and explains that he probably caught them from hanging around Ed.

When Alice finally arrives home, she is prevented from entering by the Health Department doctor.  Ralph begs the doctor telling him that he hasn’t seen his wife in three weeks.  Ralph reluctantly tells Alice to go back to her mother’s until the outbreak has subsided.  Ed tells Ralph how impressed he is, sending his wife away so she don’t get the measles, especially when he really wants her there.  He says how sad it is tat he’ll be there alone to cook and clean.  Ralph grabs the stick, begins to slam it on the table and says, “She didn’t leave me with the mess, stickball coach!” and yells at Ed to put on the apron.

I think that this is just another example of a great story and great writing.  The story has twists to it (wrong record mailed, catching the measles) and we get to see not only the typical angry Ralph, we get to see the tender side and just how much he and Alice love each other.  We also see some wonderful gestures from Ed as Ralph’s friend.  It is just a great all around episode with some very touching and very funny moments.

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My third pick for favorite TV Episodes comes from the pen of Rod Serling.  It also comes to us from The Twilight Zone.

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Personally, I think Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone was such a big hit because of the formula it followed.  Each episode started with a sort of teaser – something to introduce you to the characters or the situation.  This was usually followed by a narration by Rod.  You then have “Act 1” which furthers the story and identifies the “conflict”, if you will.  “Act 2” the characters try to resolve the conflict, we are led to the climax, and the fake or false resolution and the pay-off/twist at the end.

This is far from original, as many radio shows in the 1940’s followed this same format.  You can give a listen to Suspense, The Mysterious Traveler, or The Whistler to find examples of this.  Rod, obviously listened to a lot of radio growing up to the radio and was influenced by this.  He used some of the same elements as he wrote shows for the Twilight Zone.

If you had to pick a show from the Twilight Zone series that exemplified a “classic” episode, Time Enough At Last would easily be one of the choices.  It has characters we connect with and feel for, it has a plot that is believable (and very possible at the time it aired), very real dialogue (Rod was very particular about making sure the words spoken by the actors were genuine), and a very ironic twist at the end.

The Twilight Zone – Time Enough At Last (Originally aired November 20, 1959)

As the story opens, we are introduced to Henry Bemis (played by the amazing Burgess Meredith), a bank teller who sees the world through “Coke Bottle” glasses and loves to read.  As a matter of fact, he is reading on the job, and his reading has caused him to not give enough money to his customer.  He is so enthralled by the book he is reading, he even asks his customer if she’s read it.  He goes on about the characters and the story, but by the time he looks up from the book, she has already left.  No one seems to be as interested in the book as he is.

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Reading on the job is taking a toll on his work.  He is reprimanded by his boss, the bank president who tells him to read on his own time.  He is told that is he is caught reading on the job again, he can basically look for another job.  Reading is also getting him in trouble at home.  His wife detests that he spends so much time reading and has basically told him it is not allowed at home.  His wife is a real witch who says that when he is reading he is “sacrificing conversation”. (In all honesty, she isn’t very pleasant and I can’t imagine conversation with her being pleasant either.

She tells Henry that they are going to visit friends.  He grabs a book from under a couch cushion and sticks it in his jacket pocket.  His wife asks him what is in his pocket and he acts like he has no idea.  It is a book of poetry.  She asks if he would like to read her something from it.  He gets excited that she is interested to hear poems and he opens the book to find that she has gone through with a pen or pencil and scribbled out every word on every page of the book.  He is visibly upset by this and she grabs the book and rips out the pages and throws them on the floor.  He drops to the floor and begins to scoop them up.

I love the opening narration from Rod Serling:

“Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers. A bookish little man whose passion is the printed page but who is conspired against by a bank president and a wife and a world full of tongue-cluckers and the unrelenting hands of a clock. But in just a moment, Mr. Bemis will enter a world without bank presidents or wives or clocks or anything else. He’ll have a world all to himself – without anyone.”

The next day, we see Henry look at the clock, grab his book and newspaper, put up his “this window closed” sign, and he heads off to read at lunch.  We see him walk to the basement, he enters the bank vault, pulls the door shut and sits down to read.  The newspaper headline foreshadows what is to come:  “H-Bomb Capable of Total Destruction”

While in the vault, Henry is knocked unconscious by a huge shock wave.  When he wakes up, he walks upstairs to find total desolation.  The bank is in ruins there is complete destruction.  As he wanders outside, we hear the eerie sounds of howling winds and see a smoldering landscape.

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As he wanders through what is left of the world, the Rod Serling narration returns:

“Seconds, minutes, hours, they crawl by on hands and knees for Mr. Henry Bemis, who looks for a spark in the ashes of a dead world. A telephone connected to nothingness, a neighborhood bar, a movie, a baseball diamond, a hardware store, the mailbox that was once his house and now is rubble; they lie at his feet as battered monuments to what was but is no more. Mr. Henry Bemis, on an eight hour tour of a graveyard.”

As he continues to walk and examine the rubble, he finds what is left of his mailbox.  He calls to his wife, but there is no answer.  It is becoming more and more obvious that he is the last man on earth.  On the bright side, there is plenty of food.  There are cans of food available in the remains of grocery stores.  Sadly, he is alone.  He even states that the “worst part” is “being alone”.

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As time continues to pass, despite Henry telling himself that it’s ok, he is desperately searching for someone – anyone!   He wants to find something to do and someone to do it with. He stumbles on what is left of a sporting goods store and on the ground he sees a revolver.  He thinks of the terrible loneliness, picks up the revolver and decides to commit suicide.  As he puts the gun to his head, and notices in front of him the remains of the public library.

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He runs to find books – hundreds of books!  He picks them up and reads off titles and authors.  He has hit the jackpot!  He can get lost in the stories of romance, adventure, and more!  There is no one to tell him whether he can or cannot read!  No one is there to tell him what to read and what NOT to read!  He has found the mother load of books and they are all his for the reading!

He stacks the books into piles.  He has 12 piles for every year.  Each pile contains the books that he will read for that month.  He has piles for years to come.  He has planned it out and is excited to know that he will be able to spend the rest of his days lost in books.  He was a man who never had enough time to read.  As he sits on the library steps he says that “the best thing is there’s time.  There’s all the time I need.  All the time I want.  Time.  Time.  Time!  There’s time enough at last!”

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We see Henry Bemis in a moment of perfect jubilation, and it all changes in the blink of an eye.  He sees a book on the stairs, and as leans down to reach for it, his glasses fall from his face and the lenses break.  He searches for them with his hands and eventually finds the frames.  He lifts them up and the lenses, which are cracked, fall out and fall to the ground.  In the classic Twilight Zone twist, Henry says simply,  “That’s not fair. That’s not fair at all. There was time now. There was all the time I wanted…! That’s not fair!” He bursts into tears, surrounded by books he will never be able to read.

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As powerful as this is, what makes the ending even more powerful is the final narration of Rod Serling:

“The best-laid plans of mice and men – and Henry Bemis, the small man in the glasses who wanted nothing but time. Henry Bemis, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself. Mr. Henry Bemis – in the Twilight Zone. “

It’s interesting to note that the final narration may be a tip of the hat to actor Burgess Meredith’s acting credits – he was in the 1939 movie “Of Mice and Men”.  Rod Serling must have liked him as he, and Jack Klugman each starred in 4 episodes of the series.  He is also in the episodes Mr. Dingle The Strong, The Obsolete Man, and Printer’s Devil.  he also appears in the Twilight Zone movie.

Why is this one of my favorite TV episodes?  To me it is just perfect.  I don’t care how many times I see it, I am always blown away at the ending – and ending that I know is coming, and yet, still love it.  It is a masterpiece!

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My final entry to this blog is a selfish one.  For 30+ years, I worked on the radio as an on air personality.  So I guess it makes sense to give a nod to one of the greatest “radio” oriented TV shows, WKRP in Cincinnati.  This sitcom is funny to watch whether you work in radio or not.  It’s a bit funnier if you work in radio, because you truly know someone just like each of the characters of this show!

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While in radio, I worked as a Program Director (Andy Travis’ job on the show), Promotions Director, Music Director, Assistant Program Director, Production Director, and even held the position of General Manager (Arthur Carlson’s job on the show) for a short time.  Usually, the Promotions Director and the Program Director get together to come up with an promotional idea for the station – usually a giveaway or something like that.  A Salesperson (Herb Tarlek on the show) then goes out to find a sponsor to tie in with the promotion.  It is then executed on the air with the personalities (Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap on the show).

This episode made my list of favorites because, first of all, it has all the great things that a good sitcom should have (mentioned above), second, I’ve had to deal with radio promotions that didn’t go as planned, the pay-off of this episode is one of the greatest in television, and finally, the premise of the show is based on a real event!  Over the years, the origins are not quite clear, but MOST of the stories say that a radio executive named Clarke Brown who said that an Atlanta radio station did a similar promotion where the turkeys were given away.

As I stated, the pay-off to this episode is so good, it really is the reason why it makes all the “best of” lists.  The story is a slow go to get there.  The first act of the episode sets up the premise and it isn’t until halfway through the show that we start to see where it is going and finally get to the pay-off.

WKRP in Cincinnati – Turkey’s Away (Originally aired October 30, 1978)

General Manager Arthur Carlson just wants to be a part of things.  His mother owns the radio station and he is managing it.  He is nosing around the on air studio, he is asking questions of everyone and Program Director, Andy Travis is hearing all about it.  “You gotta do something about Mr. Carlson…”

The station had just recently flipped formats to a rock format, and Mr. Carlson is starting to feel left out of the day to day operations, and a bit unappreciated.  He seems to be up in everyone’s business.  We learn that Mr. Carlson has come up with a Thanksgiving promotion and only he and Herb know about it.  There is a lot of concern among the staff, but Andy is ok to let Mr. Carlson have his promotion.

As the stage to the second act is set, Les Nessman, WKRP’s newsman has now been brought in to go to the spot where the “event” will happen and broadcast live.  We still don’t know what the secret promotion is!  We just know it will be big and Les will do a play by play.

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The pay-off begins when Les begins his broadcast from the Pinedale Shopping Mall. As he begins to broadcast, we see Dr. Johnny Fever, Venus Flytrap, Andy Travis, and Bailey Quarters in the studio listening to the broadcast.  Les begins by saying:

“I’m here with hundreds of people who have gathered to witness what has been described as perhaps the greatest turkey event in Thanksgiving Day history. All we know for sure is that in a very few moments there are going to be a lot of happy people out here.”

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It is obvious by his play by play that he has really no idea what is about to happen either.  He says he hears the sound of a helicopter.  Andy is also intrigued as he asks those around him, “A helicopter?”

In a very funny moment, Les says there is something being pulled behind the helicopter.  It is a banner.  “and it says H a p p y… T h a n k s… giving… from W… K… R… P!” What is funny to me (as a radio guy) is that he reads it, and even though he works for the station, he drags out the call letters one at a time…..” Even the people in the studio at the station are trying to help him drag out the call letters!

Note:  The Hindenburg was a huge airship that literally exploded and the disaster was broadcast on radio.  When the writers wrote Les’s broadcast, they had that broadcast in mind.

For what happens next, here is the script of Les’s broadcast courtesy of http://www.imdb.com:

Les Nessman:  “What a sight, ladies and gentlemen. What a sight. The ‘copter seems to circling the parking area now. I guess it’s looking for a place to land. No! Something just came out of the back of a helicopter. It’s a dark object, perhaps a skydiver plummeting to the earth from only two thousand feet in the air… There’s a third… No parachutes yet… Those can’t be skydivers. I can’t tell just yet what they are but… Oh my God! They’re turkeys! Oh no! Johnny can you get this? Oh, they’re crashing to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! This is terrible! Everyone’s running around pushing each other. Oh my goodness! Oh, the humanity! People are running about. The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! Folks, I don’t know how much longer… The crowd is running for their lives. I think I’m going to step inside. I can’t stand here and watch this anymore. No, I can’t go in there. Children are searching for their mothers and oh, not since the Hindenburg tragedy has there been anything like this. I don’t know how much longer I can hold my position here, Johnny. The crowd… (Silence)”

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Richard Sanders, who plays Les, is brilliant in this scene.  You can totally see the horror in his face as he realizes what is happening.  That, along with his wonderful read of the dialogue, makes this a very believable story!

Johnny Fever, in shock as are the rest of the staff in the studio, turns on the microphone once he realizes they have lost communication with Les and in a brilliant live ad-lib says:

“Thanks for that on-the-spot report, Les. For those of you who’ve just tuned in, the Pinedale Shopping Mall has just been bombed with live turkeys. Film at eleven.”

We then see Jennifer, Andy, and others fielding complaint calls.  Les walks in and he is stunned and in a state of shock.

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When asked what happened, Les replies:

“I don’t know. A man and his two children tried to kill me. After the turkeys hit the pavement, the crowd kind of scattered but, some of them tried to attack me! I tried to jam myself into a phone booth. Then Mr. Carlson had the helicopter land in the middle of the parking lot. I guess he thought he could save the day by turning the rest of the turkeys loose. It gets pretty strange after that.

When Mr. Carlson and Herb walk in to the station, they look like they have been through hell.  Their clothes are torn, there are feathers on them, and they look disheveled.  Mr. Carlson is in disbelief!  He tells the staff that he doesn’t understand how it didn’t work.  He tells them that he had planned it out down to the last detail. He went as far as to say, “It was perfect!”.

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Mr. Carlson and Herb walk into his office and the rest of the staff continue to ask Les about what happened.  Terrified, Les says that it was like the turkeys mounted a counter attack and were “organized”.  The credits of the show begin to appear on the screen and then we have the classic pay-off.  Carlson emerges from his office and says the ten words that make this episode a classic:

“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

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As I said, it was a slow build up, but the pay-off remains one of the most quoted lines from the show.  As mentioned earlier, the episode is based on a real radio station event.  In real life, the turkeys were thrown off trucks to listeners, and sadly, the results were about the same.

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I chose these episodes after thinking on it for about 5 minutes.  In that time I came up with about 15 episodes and narrowed it down to these.  After I made the decision, I realize that I could have written about my favorite episodes of Perry Mason, Sanford and Son, Mission: Impossible, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Get Smart, The Monkees, and the list goes on and on….  These were just the ones that hit me immediately.  I suppose it is nice to know that I will have a few in the bank for next year’s blogathon.

I want to thank Terence for indulging me and allowing me to write about four episodes instead of one.  Thank you for reading!

How about you?  What is YOUR favorite classic TV episode??

 

 

 

 

Reflections on “Blog Year One”

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One of my Facebook friends noted on his page that this weeks marks the 100th birthday of comedian Red Buttons.  Red was known for his “never got a dinner” and “I was there” bits which he did frequently at celebrity roasts.  I remembered that last year, on his birthday, I blogged about Red and included many of my favorite “never got a dinner” lines.  It was one of the first blogs I wrote when I started this Word Press Blog.  It’s hard to believe that this blog is over a year old!

The beginnings

When I began this blog, I really didn’t have any idea of what it would be.  In my head, I thought that I might blog about some things I liked.  I also knew I would probably write about some favorite memories.  I might also write tributes to important people in my life or just random thoughts to help me deal with emotions or life situations.

This blog was meant for me.  It was to be a “sort of” therapy for me.  I envisioned it as a way to keep track of thoughts, write down stories I didn’t want to forget, and occasionally just vent. I had often joked about writing an autobiography, and in a way, this blog has become “chapters”.

I never thought that anyone would actually want to read these blogs (unless, of course, the blog mentioned them)!  Yet, here I am over a year later and I have “followers” – people who actually make it a point to read this no matter what the topic.  It humbles me.

Looking Back

The last few years of my life have been full of many changes:  job changes, deaths, divorce, depression, stress, remarriage, happiness, bliss, and the rekindling of old friendships.  It is interesting to go back and see the variety of topics this blog has covered through it all.  It really is a hodge-podge of randomness.

There is no shortage of posts about music here!  My iPod selections and the various connections that I make with songs, events, and people in my life are well documented.  There are so many great songs!  Musical blogs are among my favorite to write.  I recently started following another blog (PowerPop) which shares many of my musical tastes and I have enjoyed some great conversations with the owner of that blog.

My love for movies is also represented by blogs I wrote about movies I watched for the first time and movies I have watched over and over.  Television is also represented by a salute to the Dukes, childhood memories of School House Rock, TV Catchphrases, and my favorite cartoons. My hatred of movie and TV remakes was one of my very first blogs.

My radio career is also reflected in this blog.  You’ll find blogs that include some of my favorite radio stories, about listeners who became friends, my first morning show partner, radio mentors, radio bosses and co-workers, and encounters with famous people I met during my career all make up a good chunk of this blog.  One of my favorite blogs about radio is the World Radio Day blog, which thanks many of those people.

My family and friends, who are very special to me, are also well represented in this blog.  Tributes to my mom, my dad, my grandparents, my children, and my uncle/Godfather often were very emotional to write.  A blog about those teachers who were so influential and helpful to me was one of the easiest to write.  As my first wedding anniversary approaches, a long overdue blog about my wonderful wife will appear here.  One of my favorite blogs was about the trip to Florida that my wife and I took, which also doubled as our honeymoon.  Re-reading that one brings back many happy memories!  It still amazes me how we were able to keep it a secret.

The Christmas holiday spawned many blogs.  Blogs about Christmas memories, Christmas specials, Christmas characters, Christmas songs that drove me nuts, Christmas coffee, and yes – even a letter to Santa!  Christmas remains one of my favorite times of the year.  One thing I was unable to really blog about was the Christmas songs I love.  My friend, Chris, asked me to do that and I started it … just never finished it.  Consider it a head start for next year!

It was always fun for me to write about famous people.  As you look over the list of those who I wrote about, it is easy to learn a lot about me and what I like.  Comedians Red Buttons, Jackie Gleason, Shemp Howard, Curly Howard, Soupy Sales, and Rich Little give you a glimpse and who and what I find funny.  Musicians Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Weird Al Yankovic, Frank Sinatra, and, of course, Dean Martin give you a picture of my musical tastes. Other blogs about Mr. Rogers, Jack Webb, Christopher Lloyd, and Wolfman Jack expose you to other aspects of who I am.

At times, my blog can tackle serious topics, too.  Breast cancer is a big one.  Cancer, in general, is a big topic. It took many people from me.   I foresee a blog about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the future. I’ve been there and they do amazing work.  The importance of Music Education in schools is another great cause I will always fight for!  I have yet to write about Autism, but that is definitely on my list of future topics.

One of my favorite blogs summed up a lot about the past and the changes that occurred in me and my life over the past two years.  The subject was “Negativity, Judgement, and Happiness”.  Moving from sadness to happiness and moving from away from negativity and finding positives made a lot of difference!  Living with a positive attitude was such a game changer – and life is good.

The Future

Not so long ago, I was told my someone once close to me to stop writing.  “Nobody wants to read about that crap!  It is a waste of time.  Stop trying to be creative. Nobody cares about what you like and don’t like!”  If I have learned anything from Facebook and this blog, it is that people do care!  People do like to read what I write!  In the end, I don’t really write for others, I write for myself.  The fact that other people read this blog and get some enjoyment out if it is a little bonus.

In future blogs, I will continue to write about things I love.  I will write about things that people want to know about.  I will continue to participate in Blogathons (I have a few coming up that I am excited to write for) on various topics like movies and music. I will continue to write about things in my personal life.  I will continue to write – because I enjoy it.  The minute this is no longer satisfying and I feel that I have written all I can write … I will stop.  Until then, thank YOU for reading my “various ramblings”.  I appreciate you!

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Questions and Answers #1

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I have a blog that is totally ready to post, except that I was unable to figure out how to add audio (some friends have offered suggestions as to how to do that, and I will attempt that in the following day or two).  Since that blog was not ready, I went to my Facebook friends and asked for questions they would like me to answer.  I am pleased with their response, and with the questions they posed, and I have a feeling this is just the first of  many blogs like this.   Today’s blog contains the answers to those some of those questions.

Melody

Melody asked one of the easiest questions:  “What do you miss most about high school?”

I would say without a doubt – Band class.  It is no secret that I was what many refer to as a “band geek”.  When I look back at the people I have stayed in touch with, most of them are from band class.  Some of us spent hours after school practicing our instruments.  I was one of the band librarians, so I had access to the library of songs.  We would often go through the files and pull out music just to play it.  We spent hours after school playing (gee, you would have thought that would have made us better players… )!

As I have said before, I learned more about life from band class than any other class (see blog about thanking teachers). Performing a piece of music with others brings an amazing sense of accomplishment.  It also brings about the opportunity to learn about relationships.  Sure, as with most big groups, there were little “cliques”, but when it was time to play together as one, we did.  It truly was like a big family.

I remains one of those things I miss most.

Jeff

Jeff asked a particularly difficult , yet easy question.  “What sport do you absolutely love to watch, but you believe are terrible at participating?”

My first response was “define terrible” – LOL.  Seriously, though, I am someone who wishes I had been more active in sports growing up.  As much as we played baseball during our summer vacation, you would think I would have tried out for something like that.  Growing up, I thought I might be a good pitcher.  The fact that I always struggled with weight, and didn’t necessarily like the thought of rejection probably led me to not try out for things I may have been good at.

To answer the question, I would probably have to say football.  I love watching football.  Playing, however, I was never that good.  To this day, if a football leaves my hand it wobbles through the air.  I cannot through a spiral to save my life!  Catching a football is always a joke for me too.  I suppose I just never really learned how to reach up and pull it in.

Every Thanksgiving, we used to get family together and play a touch football game.  There is a lot of running involved in football, so you can only imagine what I had to look like trying to run down the field. The following day, after using muscles that I hadn’t used in years, you know exactly how bad the pain felt – and this was when I was much younger than I am today!

Great question!

James

James knows I currently work in the sleep field.  I deal with people who have sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.  His question is “Does MyPillow help with sleep problems?”

The question that comes to mind with your question, James:  What are your sleep problems?

Let me tell you what I have heard from patients regarding this and then give a few quick thoughts.  With the patients who I have seen who spent the money on this, the only real “review” they can give is that they are more comfortable.  The claims that this pillow can help give you more REM sleep, is something that no one can really say, unless a sleep lab is using them with their patients.

We check for REM sleep with all of the electrodes on a patient’s head and face.  Some of the home tests and sleep watches and such can ‘assume’ or “estimate” what REM sleep is based on heart rate, but without being able to see brainwaves, eye movements, and muscle tone, it is hard to determine.

REM sleep IS the important sleep – that is what the body needs to feel refreshed and what we need to function.  A typical human gets about three “REM cycles” cycles a night and this is based on the circadian rhythm.  Sleep apnea is always worse in REM sleep, and people who have apnea usually have this very important sleep stage cut short because of the apnea events.  In all honesty, I personally believe that a person’s pillow has nothing to do with “helping” a person’s sleep – but only helps – possibly – with comfort.

My advice – take the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (you can find it online).  Answer it honestly and if your score is 9 or more, see a sleep specialist.

Jodi

My wonderful Aunt Jodi’s question is “Do you use wooden spoons?”  My aunt was often our babysitter.  The threat was that if misbehaved, she would spank us with the wooden spoon.  This is funny, because there are many T-shirts and posters out there about how Italian mothers used to use the wooden spoon to discipline their kids – Jodi isn’t Italian!

Yes.  I use them.  To stir things on the stove.  LOL

Kristine

Kristine and I were in anatomy class together in college.  We dissected a sheep brain together. She’s a CNA now.  Her question truly made me laugh.  “Why did we never meet under the stairs?”

If memory serves me, I believe there was some couple who were kissing each other goodbye before class or something and we both kinda rolled our eyes at this.  This led to us chatting about how in high school, couples always seemed to be making out under the stairs.  At any rate, this became a running gag throughout school “Meet me under the stairs”.

The answer – there was always some other couple there!  ROFL.  Seriously, Kristine is a good friend and she has some pretty talented kids!  I always enjoyed seeing how proud she was of her boys when she talked about their football games or wrestling matches.

Kathy

Kathy’s question was short and to the point, “Do you still TP houses on the side?”

Back in high school, toilet papering houses was the thing to do for some reason. Our band class alone probably helped Charmin stock rise!  I do not claim to be the one who started this trend, but I guess I was involved in more TP jobs than others.  At one point we printed signs (on a dot matrix printer – WOW) that said, “You have been TP’d by The TP Bandits” and left it at houses we hit.  Fair is fair – if we hit them, they could hit us back.  That was how they knew who to come after.   The real question was “who was with you?”  I was usually driving, but the accomplices often changed.  Sometimes, there would be 8-12 people out doing the jobs with me.  My house was a favorite target.

To answer your question, Kathy, no.  I have been retired from “the Bandits” for some time. 🙂

Dave

Dave writes “Why is Bernie Miller so awesome?”

Bernie and I also went to high school together.  Dave, this questions answer will take me many, many paragraphs to write.  I make you a promise now – Bernie Miller’s awesomeness warrants its own blog.  Watch for it in the days or weeks ahead.

At that time, I will also attempt to answer Bernie’s question about swimming in dry ice.  No promises on a correct answer on that.

Diana

Diana asks, “What is your biggest regret from high school; do you wish you had done anything differently?”

I think that as we get older, it becomes easier to look back on things from the past and find things we regret doing or not doing.  I also think that it is easy to look back and see how you could have handled things differently.  That being said, let me say this:  I am who I am today because of the decisions and choices that I have made and the people who were a part of my life.  There is nothing that I can do today, that can change that.  With all that being said, I do have some regrets, and there are things I wish I had done differently.

I really regret not being a better student.  I regret that I did not take school a bit more seriously.  I can think of two HUGE assignments that I waited until the last minute to throw together, that had I just followed directions and spent the time I should have on them, I would have gotten better grades.  I sucked at studying.  If I had spent as much time studying as I did TPing, well, lets just say I would have been a whole lot better off come report card time.

It’s easy to sit back and look at my sons and think “You gotta spend more time on this” or “You didn’t study enough on this” because that was me in high school.  It is different today because they spend their time on video games and electronics, where as I was out TPing and goofing around, but it really is the same thing.  I wish for my sons that they would spend more time focusing on school.  I don’t want them to wait until after 40 years old to go to college.  I want them to experience success and financial stability sooner than I did.

Not sure that  answers the question, and if not, there are plenty of other regrets I can dive into ….

Angie, Joe, Eric. and John

This “asking to answer your questions” blog has shown me that I have some really funny friends.  Their questions are asked in jest – and I love it.  Life needs more laughter, and here are three examples of friends I surround myself with because they are funny – or smart asses – one way or the other.

Angie asks, “Is that your real hair/hair color?”  Yes, what little there is.  Shaving it and polishing it up to a perfect shine is much easier than coloring the grey on the few hairs that are up there!

Joe asks, “When you throw your bowling ball do you inhale or exhale?” and Eric follows with “Do you cup your ball with delicate fingers or hold on tight before release?”  My answer to both of you will be as silly as your questions – It depends on whether or not I am at Pastime Lanes!

John asks, “What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”  Kudos for a Monty Python reference!  I do believe the answer is 24 miles per hour or 11 meters a second.  Now take your coconuts and beat it!

Jason

Jason is a fellow band geek who poses the question “Do and/or can you still play your trumpet?”

If Tom Shaner were still teaching band, and if we were currently challenging for chairs … I would be guaranteed last chair!  The sounds that come out of it are no longer … quality sounds!  LOL

Now that Dante’ is no longer playing in band, my trumpet is back with me.  I still have a folder with copies of some of the music we played in band.  I still have my big ole Arban’s book for trumpet, and yes, occasionally, I pull out the horn and attempt to play.  I have been debating going back for lessons and perhaps joining a small group like the Salvation Army Band or something like that, just so I can still play.  It really is one of those things I miss a lot.

Vince

Vince asks a political question:  “How come Hilary Clinton blames everyone but herself and the Dems for losing the election?”

Well, Vince, I think that  (The following has been deleted by the US Government because it goes against policies or procedures that even we don’t understand.) …and that would be my best guess.

Chris

Chris wants to know “What was the best vacation you took with your parents and Christopher?”

I have blogged in the past about Caseville.  We went there often on weekends in the summer, but I don’t think that I would put those visits in the category of a vacation.  The only one that really stands out for me is a summer trip to Mackinaw.  I was probably about Dimitri’s age when we went, and I have some great photos to remind me of that trip.

I remember staying at this hotel in a second floor room, and there was a white, metal guard rail along the edge.  There wasn’t a whole lot of room to walk and there were chairs outside the rooms.  I have a picture of my mom and dad sitting outside the room that is one of my favorites.

I remember going to the Grand Hotel, and were were only allowed to stay for a minute or two because we were all dressed in shorts and T-shirts, and maybe there was a dress code or something, I don’t know.  I remember taking the boat to the Island and visiting the Fort.  That was one of my favorite things about the trip!  I remember the cannons and I remember mom taking a picture next to us in the stocks.

We went there when the Dukes of Hazzard was a huge TV hit.  How do I remember this?  Well, we used to ride bikes around the neighborhood and I would always pretend to be Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane.  I had a blue cowboy had that I loved and while at a gift shop I found a sheriff’s badge.  That was one of the only things I remember bringing home from that trip.

I am in the process of scanning some pictures – I am sure some Mackinaw pictures will end up here or on Facebook.

Deb

My cousin, Deb, asks a simple, yet difficult question.  “What is your dream job?”

You know, I think I have been lucky enough to have done a couple of them, but at the same time, there are others that are appealing as well.  I love my current job as a sleep tech.  I get to help people.  That’s a very satisfying thing.  In some cases, what I do leads to life saving treatments for people who are on the verge of a heart attack or stroke.

Radio was a dream I had in high school  I was lucky enough to do almost immediately after graduation.  I had never done it before and I got to learn the ropes from some of the best!  I admit my first 5 years in radio were less than stellar, in that I was so new to the business that I really hadn’t learned how to use my creativity.

Radio is addictive.  The more I listened and learned, the better I got.  I got to meet so many great people, celebrities, and non-celebrities.  I got to shake hands with legendary radio people and producers.  I got to be creative and do things that I envisioned and put those things on the air.  I got to raise money for children with cancer, raise money for local neighbors who lost homes to fires, raise awareness for autism, breast cancer, heart disease and more.  Radio was a dream job come true! (more on this in a future blog).

I think if there were a dream job that I have yet to do – there would be two of them:  teaching and acting.  In a couple previous blogs, I mentioned the want to teach.  I wish I had gone to school for that.  There are so many things about teaching that would validate this as a dream job.

Acting.  I don’t know that anyone would ever want to see my ugly mug on a screen, but I would love to do it.  I worked with a guy, Jeff Kelly, who does it.  I’ve seen trailers for his films and am always amazed at his abilities.  He’s such a jovial and nice guy, yet I saw him in a trailer where he was a mean killer – he was totally convincing!  I think I could do it, but who knows.  I think it would be fun.  I already do some “acting” in regards to voice work, and I would love to try it once, just to say I did it.  I always laughed when people told me I remind them of Dom Deluise…I always liked him as an actor.  I think it would be pretty damn cool to act in a film or on TV.

Phyllis and Shelley

As I read the questions from these two friends, I felt that the answers to their questions would be enough to write separate blogs responses.  Phyllis wanted to know about famous people I have met and more specifically my “OMG moment”.  There are a few of them – and I will tell you all about them.

Shelley wanted to know about radio listeners who have become friends and how that evolves.  I have been lucky enough to have made life long friends through the radio.  Some of them have been friends with me since my first radio job 30 years ago.  Great stories to share…and I will.

Thanks for your questions!  We’ll do this again soon!

 

“World Radio Day” Thank You

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I guess it never ceases to amaze me that there is pretty much a day for everything.  While everyone knows that it is “Fat Tuesday” (the day to eat those huge overstuffed donuts), I was reminded that today is World Radio Day.  I was thinking about one of my deceased radio colleagues last night as I watched a movie and was going to blog about him today.  In thinking a bit more on this, I figured “Why not give props to those who played a significant role in my former full time career?”

WKSG

Jim McKenzie: I guess I start with Jimmy – after all, he is the reason I decided to get into radio in the first place.  I spent many hours working in a boat marina as a 17 year old kid.  Music on the radio, the contesting on the radio, and the radio personalities are what helped me pass the time on both busy and slow days.

Jim did the midday show and he always sounded like he was talking to you as a friend.  He was loaded with music facts and stories.  I never felt like I had his talent, but I certainly felt with the proper direction, I could do what he did.

Paul Christy:  He was the program director and morning show host.  He is the man responsible for giving me a chance – and ultimately my big break.  I started off interning (yes, working for nothing) while I was in high school.  I worked in the news room and then eventually helped out with the morning show.  Eventually, Paul had me run his Saturday morning show – a show which was recorded on reel to reel on Fridays (kinda like today’s voice tracking).  I would interject the live weather report, sports information, and lottery numbers.

Paul was in a pinch one night and asked me to do the overnight show.  I was scared to death.  I told him I hadn’t done a whole who before and asked for direction.  Bluntly, Paul said, “Don’t worry about it.  Answer the phones.  Play the songs.  Be yourself and have fun!”  That was it.  I must have done ok, because they ended up letting the overnight guy go and I was asked to fill in “until further notice”, which ended up being a good year or two before big changes came to the station.

Johnny Molson: John did the evening shift when I got to Kiss-FM.  He was funny.  He could ad-lib.  He was one of the most creative writers I have ever known.  He knew how to use radio to create the “Theater of the mind”.  He was instrumental in my learning to think out of the box, engaging the listener with words and sounds, and how to use a good “drop” (more on this later).

In the 30’s and 40’s, The Golden Age of Radio was full of shows that allowed listeners to use their imaginations.  They pictured what Amos and Andy, The Lone Ranger, and Superman looked like.  Each person imagine what Jack Benny’s old Maxwell car looked like and what fell out of Fibber McGee’s closet because of the use of “sound effects”.  John knew how to incorporate things like this into his show.  One example I will never forget is when he would “hit” one of our staff members on the head with something.  Chaz was often the target.  John would simply throw something at a cookie sheet hung on the wall, which made it sound like he was being hit.

Today, John remains a good friend who is working in the creative services department of his current station.  He produces some of the most creative and powerful commercials and gets results for the sponsors.  Our friendship is one that has lasted nearly 30 years.

WHND – Honey Radio

Before I say any more, let me say that working at WHND was not work at all.  It was like play.  We had so much fun.  Anyone who tuned in and listened to this station could tell that the DJ’s were having as much fun as the listeners.  Honey was the first “Oldies” station in America.  I was honored to work here and honored to work with everyone here.

Richard D. Haase: Richard D. remains to this day one of the guys who offered me some of the most amazing advice.  I was probably a big pain in his ass.  I was always asking him something.  I had this want and need to be better.  I wanted to be the best.  I was forever asking him to listen to my show tapes and offer criticism and advice, which he did always.

One of the things I learned from him, was the importance of talking to one person.  To create the illusion that it is just me and you listening to our favorite songs and hanging out together.  I understood what he meant, and began to drop phrases like “everyone”, “all of you”, and “out there”.  He also connected me with a mentor who would take that premise and continue to grow into a better personality, the late Jay Trachman.

Richard’s show was full of “benchmarks”.  Poor Richard D’s Almanac (This Day In History), The Off The Wall Record (a rare song that he played each day), and “The Top 12 at 12” (His countdown of the top 12 local songs from a specific year).  He also featured many characters on the show that were sometimes referred to and never heard (another gimmick of old time radio).

His show was also filled with insanely bad jokes.  I often kidded him that even Milton Berle (who was known for stealing others jokes) wouldn’t touch his stuff.    He often poked fun of the other DJ’s on the station, which I found to be a unique way of cross promotion.

There were many days that we’d sit in his office and talk about radio, computers, and life in general and we’d laugh until tears rolled down our faces and our sides hurt.  Richard was a legend who had been on the air for many years, a far cry from being young!  Yet, when we worked together, we were like a bunch of elementary kids laughing and hooping it up.

Rob Main: This is the guy who I mentioned as the beginning of this blog.  Rob was a guy who used to work with Bill Stewart, Ron Tavernit, and Jon Ray doing the morning show.  He was a master of voices.  He did, in my honest opinion, the best Elvis “speaking” voice of anyone I have every heard.  He also did a spot on Charles Bronson and Mohammad Ali.  What was great about him was that he also did other original voices, which became characters on the show as well.

Shortly before Honey Radio left the airwaves, Richard gave us the opportunity to work together on the air so that we could create a good demo tape for a morning show.  Those final weeks were some of the best memories I have in the business.  While there was always a “roadmap” of what we wanted to do….he would often break in as a character and I would just follow along for the ride.  It was some of the most insane moments of radio ever.

He was SO good, that he would often talk to himself as two or three different characters!  I was often the referee who had to come in and break up the squabble that the characters were having!  We were two guys in the studio – but if you listened, you’d swear that there were 10-15 guys!  It was amazing.

Rob was the one who took “drops” one step further.  No show had a shortage of them.  A drop is a clip from a movie or TV show that is played mid-conversation, in a sweeper, or as a way of trying to crack up the other person.  He had stacks of drops.  Many from popular movies like Shane, Robin Hood, The Wild One and others.  Some of the drops were from other sources.   Today, I can watch a serious movie and if a “drop” line comes up, I will start laughing because of an instance when it was used on the show.

Health issues led to an early death for my friend and I miss him a lot.  I can hear him laughing with me though, whenever I hear a “drop” from Van Helfin, Alan Ladd, or Jeff Chandler.

WWWW (W4 Country)

Tim Roberts: There is a reason that Tim is one of the most respected men in Country Radio – because he is one of the best programmers in the country and he knows his stuff!  Tim helped me to understand the importance of preparation.  I can still recall the “Bit Prep Sheet” that he gave me.  I remember him stressing to always have a “Feel Good” or a “heart” story to talk about.  His direction expanded on the things I had learned about editing and creating a bit.

I was only a part time air personality for Tim.  Yet, he coached me as if I were a full time talent.  He respected my thoughts, and often asked me to think a bit more broadly.  Create.  Edit.  Make it better.  He got me to think about things that I could bring to the show that I may not ever have thought about.  He helped me hone my delivery.

There is a reason Tim, and so many of the talented people who work under him have won awards – THEY DESERVE IT!

WFBE (B95)

Brian Cleary:  I’ll never forget my first coaching session with Brian.  We submitted a show to him a week before.  He wrote a critique and suggestions that were discussed at the actual session.  I remember her handed me a piece of paper that had one of my bits typed out word for word.  It was long.  He even typed out the “uhs” and “ums”.  He then asked if I had planned the break ahead of time.  I said I had.  He asked if I wrote it out, I said no – I had an outline.  He then handed me a piece of paper with that same bit written out with red lines through various sentences, “uhs” and “ums” crossed out, etc.  It was like getting a rough draft of a paper back from your English Teacher.

I remember thinking “Dude, you have way too much time on your hands”.  However, the more I thought about this, the more I realized that it was a lesson in time.  “Don’t waste your listener’s time” was what he told me.  “Know what you are going to say”, “Know how the bit will end”, “Edit.  Edit. Edit.”  He was building on things that I really already knew, BUT he took it to a whole new level.

I remember after the first day we did our radiothon for St. Jude, he pulled me aside and told me “I’m so used to hearing the jokey Keith on the air, I wasn’t sure what to expect today.  However, you did an amazing job and you really know how to get the importance of what we are doing to the listener”.  I’ll never forget that.

WCEN (The Moose)

Joby Phillips: Whenever a new program director comes into the building, everyone freaks out.  You never know what the plans are.  It is not uncommon for the PD to come in and fire everyone and bring in their own people.  Joby came in and taught me a lesson that I took with me as I went into management.  “You are all here to do a job.  I trust that you can do it.  If I think we need to correct something or address something, I will.  Do what you do best”.

In today’s society, we see micromanaging in almost every occupation.  I truly admired Joby for this attitude.  When I programmed my station, I had good DJ’s who knew what they were doing.  I let them do their job.  If there was an issue – it was addressed.  Other wise, I left them alone.

In critiquing, both Joby and Brian always started out by pointing out your strengths or something good about the show they were going over with you.  Then you went on to work on the thing that needed improvement.  Positive reinforcement.  Discipline when you have to and praise often.

A few others

Jay Trachman: What an amazing guy.  He was the authority on One to One communication.  His weekly tips were always something I took to heart and brought into the studio.  He helped many personalities and sadly passed away before I could get him to do a critique session with me.

Jaye Albright: One of the reasons I loved working with Jaye, is that she believed much of what Jay Trachman believed.  Her coaching sessions when I first began at WFBE were loaded with information.

Joel Raab: Joel is right up their with Tim Roberts.  He knows country music.  He knows the audience.  He is respected in the business and is a class act.  As a Music Director, I often found our weekly music calls frustrating.  Music can be a passion.  When you hear something that you think is amazing, its important to remember that not everyone feels the same way.  Joel always was on the side of caution.  He looked a music a bit different and it helped me to really think about songs more objectively.

Brian Wright: Brian was the last real consultant/coach I was able to work with before going in to the management end of the business.  Brian’s laid back demeanor and wise observations and suggestions were of great help to me as I began to critique my own staff.

….in closing:

I have met some of the most amazing people throughout my radio career.  I have had the chance to work with some of the best.  Maybe we worked together, but didn’t mention you in this blog.  Please do not be offended.  I consider myself extremely lucky to have worked so many talented people.  Maybe you worked in Sales, maybe you worked in Production, or maybe you were a member of the on air staff with me. Maybe you are someone who started as a listener, and are now a friend.  If radio was the connection that brought us together – I am truly thankful for it…and you.

I miss doing radio full time, but I still enjoy the time I get to do it once a week.

Happy World Radio Day!