Favorite Film – The 70’s

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I guess I saw this on Facebook some time ago.   Somebody had the idea to post a list of your favorite films.  The list was to consist of your favorites from each year of your life.  So, you start with your birth year and move ahead year by year and list all the films from each year.  I am SURE I have this idea written down in my notebook of “blog ideas”.  A post from the Avocado site came up in my “Reader” list of blogs that had the same principle, but with one exception – you can only pick one movie from each year. You can read that blog here:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/73828787/posts/2442817483

I am going to say that narrowing down just one film from each year will be next to impossible for me.  I am going to attempt to do it.  I have a feeling that I will go back in a day, a month, or year from now and think, “No, I should have picked _____ instead!”  At any rate, some of these will be easy to pick, and some I will have to “eenie meanie miney moe” to pick just one.  Maybe this is a topic I revisit each year?  I don’t know.

I am going to break it down by “decade”, so each post will include 10 films.  Deep breath.  Here we go – back to the year I was born:

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Of the 1970 films that made my personal favorite list, many have “war” themes:  M*A*S*H, Kelly’s Heroes, and Tora! Tora! Tora!  Other films include Dean Martin in Airport! and the Mel Brooks comedy The 12 Chairs.  Of all of the films from the year of my birth, if I had to pick my absolute favorite, it would be the classic biopic, Patton.

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George C. Scott is brilliant as Patton!  He won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role.  The film won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.  It’s an amazing film.

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1971 was the year that George Lucas would release his film THX 1138, Gene Wilder starred in the classic Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Clint Eastwood starred in the film that scares all radio DJs – Play Misty for Me.  But it is another Clint Eastwood film that gets my vote for my favorite film of 1971, Dirty Harry.

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There are so many good Clint Eastwood films!  It doesn’t take long for Eastwood to establish what kind of character Dirty Harry is! Come on, you know the quote:

“I know what you’re thinking: “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?”

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1972 was the year we saw Burt Reynolds in Deliverance, Charles Bronson in The Mechanic, and the all star cast of the Poseiden Adventure that included Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons and others!  It was also the year that introduced many to two of the best known adult films, Behind the Green Door and Deep Throat.  1972 is probably the easiest year to pick a hands down favorite for me – no doubt about it – Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.

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The novel is amazing.  The movie is just as powerful!  The cast (many unknown at the time) is just perfect!  It is hard to imagine anyone else as these characters.  Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Abe Vigoda, Richard Conte, Alex Rocco, and so many others star in this superb film about family and power.  I don’t think a week goes by without me quoting this film!  The film won the Best Picture Oscar and Brando won (and refused) the Oscar for Best Actor.

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While 1973 had some good films, in going through my list, they all are just “ok” to me.  In other words, there is no real “WOW” movie for me.  Charlton Heston is good in Soylent Green, Al Pacino is good in Serpico, The Sting had Paul Newman and Robert Redford (and the tune The Entertainer), Clint Eastwood is back for a Dirty Harry sequel called Magnum Force, and then there was the Exorcist.  I guess if I HAD to pick a favorite, it would be American Graffiti – because of two things (1) the music and (2) Wolfman Jack!

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1974 was a bit more difficult to narrow down to just one film.  The reason for this is that I have some classic favorites that were released in ’74 and “how do I just pick one?”  Two of my favorite Charles Bronson films, Mr. Majestyk and Death Wish, came out this year.  Also, two of my favorite Mel Brooks films were also released – Young Frankenstein (“That’s Frahn-kun-steen”) and Blazing Saddles!  It did, however, become clear that the one film that had to be at the top for 1974 was The Godfather Part II.

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The first time I saw it, I hated it!  I can’t lie about that.  I was confused by the shifts from past to present.  However, it became very clear with a second and third watch that the shifting from past to present is what makes this movie SO amazing.  If you really must see it all in order, you can rent the Godfather DVD and watch it chronologically.  This movie is where you really see the genius of Francis Ford Coppola.  Robert Deniro is just amazing as Vito and Al Pacino’s portrayal of Michael is about as perfect as it can get.

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1975 was the year that had us doing the Time Warp, thanks to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The Sunshine Boys was supposed to star Walter Matthau and Jack Benny (there are clips of screen test shots on YouTube somewhere), but when Benny died, George Burns stepped in.  Jack Nicholson is “crazy” good in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Dean Martin starred in a forgotten favorite, Mr. Ricco.  The one movie that really stands out for me from 1975 is based on the Peter Benchley novel – Jaws!

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Like many, I couldn’t swim at the beach for some time after seeing it!  Now, they actually show it on a screen while people float in rafts and tubes on a lake in the summer time!  And who can forget the Jaws theme?

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In 1976, America celebrated it’s bicentennial year.  It was a very patriotic year and there were some good films in theaters.  The Watergate Scandal was the focus of All The President’s Men.  Clint Eastwood returned in another Dirty Harry sequel, The Enforcer and the western The Outlaw Josey Wales.  The wonderful Barbara Harris was featured in both Freaky Friday and Hitchcock’s Family Plot (two very opposite roles!).  Mel Brooks offered up Silent Movie, while an all-star cast (Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchum, Glenn Ford, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, and Cliff Robertson) appeared in the war film, Midway. We were first introduced to Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa in Rocky and Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor were first teamed together in Silver Streak.  There are many reasons I could pick any one of these as a favorite, but I am going to go with one I already featured as my favorite – Murder By Death.  You can read that blog here:

https://wordpress.com/post/nostalgicitalian.com/856

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It’s such a fun film and I revisit it often.

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1977 was a year of great films!  There was Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.  Then George Burns first took on the role of God in Oh, God. John Travolta danced to the Bee Gees in Saturday Night Fever. We were introduced to the comedy of the Zucker brothers with Kentucky Fried Movie. Mel Brooks saluted Alfred Hitchcock in High Anxiety.  The “other” space movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, hit theaters, too.  From here, I was able to narrow things down to two faves, but as I said, I can only pick one for the year. While Star Wars could easily be the top pick for 1977, I am going with Smokey and the Bandit.

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Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed, Sally Field, and Jackie Gleason took us on a wild ride and this remains my favorite for a number of reasons.  First, it’s just funny.  Second, there are some very cool stunts.  Third, “East Bound and Down”.  Last, there are so many great quotes!

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Smokey JUST beats out Star Wars, probably because it’s a comedy.  Don’t get me wrong, Star Wars is a CLASSIC, and at some point I really need to blog about the influence of that film on me as a 7 year old kid!

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In 1978, we first meet Michael Myers in John Carpenter’s Halloween.  Peter Falk appears in the “sorta” sequel to Murder By Death in The Cheap Detective.  Robert Deniro and Christopher Walken star in The Deer Hunter.  Cheech and Chong go Up in Smoke.  Christopher Reeve first donned the cape in Superman.  Burt Reynolds starred as a stuntman in Hooper and tried to kill himself in The End.  We got chills that multiplied as we sang along with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease.  I’m honored to have Eddie Deezen (who plays Eugene in the film) as a friend on Facebook and he often shares cool stories about the film.  Time to pick my favorite from 1978.  It is yet another very quotable movie – a comedy – National Lampoon’s Animal House.

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Kent Dorfman.  Flounder.  Pinto.  Bluto.  D-Day.  Otter.  Animal House remains as funny to me today, as the first time I saw it.  John Belushi is just awesome in this film.  I have said before that Belushi can emote more with just his eyebrows than any other actor.  I also love John Vernon as Dean Wormer – he is such a great actor!  It’s amazing that “Shout” from Otis Day and the Knights is still requested at weddings 40+ years later.  One of my most quoted movies!

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“Zero.  Point.  Zero.”

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Closing out the decade, I see my list of favorites for each year growing more and more.  In 1979, Sigourney Weaver appeared in the first (of many) Alien films.  George Hamilton’s comedic take on Dracula was in Love at First Bite.  Sylvester Stallone appeared for his second “round” as Rocky in Rocky II.  Star Trek became relevant again, as it appeared on the big screen for the first time (with the original cast members) with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Steve Martin brought The Jerk to life.  Alan Arkin and Peter Falk are great together in The In-Laws.  Robert Stack, Eddie Deezen, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and so many others appeared in 1941 (It didn’t do all that well at the box office, but I still love this silly film). To me, my favorite of 1979 goes to the genius of Jim Henson – The Muppet Movie.  I STILL marvel at this one!

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This was such a breakthrough film.  For the first time we saw Muppets walking!  We saw them riding bikes!  The technological stuff that was achieved in this movie is still awesome to me.  This movie had tons of big cameos (including Edgar Bergan’s last film role) and just wonderful music.  I blogged about the music previously and you can read that here:

https://wordpress.com/post/nostalgicitalian.com/1218

What a “groovy” and “far out” list, huh?  I will have to move on into the 80’s next time.  I can tell you, it will be much more difficult to pick just one for every year in THAT decade!

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The King is Gone

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May 1977.  The month I turned 7 years old, two movies were released that would have major influences over my childhood, and adulthood.  The movies were Star Wars and Smokey and the Bandit.  I can recall exactly where I saw each movie, too.

I saw Star Wars at Hoover 11 when the movie theater was still in the complex.  I don’t recall the exact date I saw it, but it was within a month of it’s release.  Eventually, the theater closed and became a TJ Maxx.  It was a one screen theater, and I remember the line was long.  I remember waiting in line for what seemed like forever and it being a full house!  I also remember not being able to sleep for a week, because Darth Vader scared the hell out of me.

I do remember the exact date I saw Smokey and the Bandit. August 16, 1977 – 42 years ago today.  I believe my folks had a station wagon at the time, and we drove to the Gratiot Drive-In in Roseville.

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When you saw a movie at the Drive-In, you always got their early.  You found a good spot where you could see the screen without obstruction.  The spot also was ideally close to the bathrooms and concession stands.  You had to pull up to the pole that held the speaker that you would hang from your window, so you could hear the audio of the movie.

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The movie never started until it got dark, so I remember bringing a baseball and mitt to play catch, or we’d go to an old playground that was up near the screen.

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As the sun began to go down, we’d go back to the car and dad would usually turn on the radio.  We had an AM radio in the car, and Dad turned on Honey Radio (where I would years later have the honor of working).  I remember the DJ (I don’t recall who it was) coming on and saying that Elvis had died in Memphis.  He was only 42.  They played Elvis music for the remainder of the time we listened.

I remember the news sort of putting a damper on the night.  My dad was a big Elvis fan.  I remember him watching the Aloha From Hawaii concert in the living room. I remember the many albums he had (including the Moody Blue album on blue vinyl). And I remember how he recorded the song Way Down on 8 tracks that we listened to on the drive to Caseville.  Dad would often put Elvis songs on the stereo and play his guitar along with them.

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I’m glad that we were at the movies to see a comedy.  I recall my dad being visibly upset by the news.  I don’t know that I had ever seen him that way before.  Once the movie started, I knew he was ok.  I recall the hearty laughter from him as Jackie Gleason shouted out profanity into the CB microphone.  Those scenes continue to make dad and me laugh out loud today – no matter how many times we’ve seen them!

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I remember in the days before VCR’s.  I used to record movies on cassettes so I could hear my favorite scenes.  I had no idea that in the future you’d be able to go out and buy your favorite movies on DVD and Blu-Ray.  Smokey and the Bandit was on cable one night at like 12:30am.  It was the last time that month that it was airing.  To me, it could have been the last time it ever aired!  I asked my dad to record it for me on cassette.  When I listened back to it, I could hear dad laughing at all of the Jackie Gleason scenes.  I was probably mad about it at the time, but looking back, I know I’d have done the same thing!

In everyone’s life, there are events that become etched forever in your mind.  For some, it was when they heard Buddy Holly died.  For others, it was when JFK or Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. Those become memories that when you look back on them, you remember exactly where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing.  I have a few of those memories – President Reagan being shot, the Challenger explosion, and, of course, 9/11. The first one that is forever etched in my mind, though, happened 42 years ago today.

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Birthday Tribute to “Fred”

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

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

Movies

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

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

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

TV

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

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

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

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

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

Traits of a Good Dad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lamont”

 

 

 

 

Questions and Answers #2

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In my current full-time job, sometimes you get called off because patients cancel their appointments.  This can really suck, especially when you’ve slept all day in preparation to work all night long.  At any rate, on nights off, I usually read or write.  I had a bout of writer’s block and so I went to my Facebook friends and asked for questions they’d like answered.  They never fail to ask questions that force me to think, dig deep in my memory, or get creative.

Question #1 – Denise

Denise’s question is radio related.  “On average, how many of the songs you spin (love that she is speaking DJ here!) take you back to an exact moment in your memories and is there one particular song you avoid playing for that exact reason?”

ANSWER:  One of the things I love about music is that there are many songs that so exactly what you state in your question – “take you back to an exact moment”.  With the station I work on today, I would guess that 2-4 songs a show can do that.  If I were at a different format (like classic rock, country, or oldies) it would be more.  We play a lot of current songs where I am now, with a sprinkling of 80’s and 90’s.  The older songs can certainly do that, for example, a song from 1999 or Little Red Corvette by Prince can take me back to a high school dance.

I did country radio for almost half of my radio career, so there are plenty of songs that I can remember hearing for the first time.  I was the music director and had a hand in helping the program director pick the songs to play on the air.  My job was to listen to every new song that an artist put out.  It was exciting to hear a song and get a gut feeling about whether it would be a hit or not.  Sometimes I was right, sometimes I was wrong.  I would think many of those songs I can remember hearing them for the first time while sitting in my office.

Now regarding the second half of your question, all stations have a play list.  Sometimes, you have the freedom to play requests, but usually, you are playing from the list of songs that was scheduled for you on your shift.  That being said, there is one song that I have to turn down the volume when it plays – Daniel Powter’s Bad Day.

That was the song that was the ring tone on my mom’s cell phone in the last few month’s of her life.  I guess she used it as an anthem.  She battled breast cancer for 10 years.  She’d been through it all – chemotherapy, radiation, and countless painful procedures and tests.  She had good days and bad days – more bad than good.  She would still keep that positive attitude and often say “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, but cancer isn’t small stuff.  She related to that song.  “You had a bad day”… but she kept fighting.  She was one of the bravest and strongest women I have ever known.  I have to turn down the speakers, because when I hear it – I hear mom’s phone…

Question #2 – Marcia

Marcia and I have known each other since elementary school.  Our mom’s knew each other and it is no surprise that her question is about my mom.  “What’s your favorite memory of your mom?”

This is really a difficult question.  Maybe for some people they could pick just one, but for me, there are so many special moments.  I could mention the many nights that she stayed up with what my dad called “The Warren Boys Club” and played pinochle until all hours of the night or how she used to stay up late on Saturday nights watching terrible Kung Fu movies on Channel 20.  I could also mention her falling asleep in the waiting room at the hospital as she waited for Dante’ to be born, a moment that is caught forever on film.  Instead, I have narrowed it down to three.

These three memories, in no particular order, are definitely in the top ten memories of mom.  To answer your question, I allowed myself to jot down three memories and stopped there.  Perhaps there are others that just weren’t lucky enough to pop into my head on command, but these three did immediately, so they appear as the answer to your question.

Mom memory #1 – I was 20, soon to be 21, when I moved to Ludington for a radio job.  I had ever been away from home before.  It was scary and yet my folks were supportive of the move.  Mom was pretty strong, even though I think it bugged her more than she let on.  After the first week, I think she missed me more than she wanted to tell me.  She used to send me a letter or a card a week.  It was usually something silly just to say she was thinking about me and that she loved me.

I remember the first night I was there.  I had a small apartment and every single noise kept me awake.  I remember the second day I was there, she called to ask how I was.  As much as I tried to keep it together, I couldn’t.  She listened to my cry and told me she was proud of me and that everything was going to be ok.  I remember coming home from the radio station at night and having messages on the answering machine from her.  What I wouldn’t give to have those letters and cards (ruined in a flooded basement) or the answering machine tape!

Mom memory #2 – Dante’ was 4 and loved trains.  He watched Thomas the Train all the time.  When mom found out that Thomas was coming near my house, she bought tickets for all of us.  This was probably in August, so it was two months before she passed away.  She was sometimes using a walker or a wheel chair to get around, but she was not going to let anything stop her from going for a ride with Thomas and Dante’!  As tired as she was, she sat next to him and sang the Thomas theme with him.  The day was captured in some of my favorite pictures, and even though the day is foggy for Dante’ today, he still looks at those pictures and remembers grandma.

Mom memory #3 – One year after mom passed away, my brother came home.  We were all going to go to the cemetery on the anniversary.  While at my dad’s house, I believe it was Chris who found a stack of envelopes.  Each envelope was addressed to members of the family.  They were letters that mom had wrote to each of us.  The letter to written long before Dante’ was born, so he wasn’t mentioned in it.  There was, however, a wonderful message from mom to me.  “Know that I love you” was the first line written to me.  It was a wonderful message from beyond the grave, that I still have locked away, so that I can read it whenever I need to.

Question #3 (in two parts) – Stephanie

Leave it to my friend Stephanie to give me a serious and silly question.  (1) “What comedy or drama movie would you make into a musical and what would be the name?” and (2) “What is something you recently realized that you can’t believe you didn’t realize earlier?”

Part 1 – As I thought about some of my favorite movies, I laughed at the possibility of them being made into a musical.  As you know Young Frankenstein was made into a musical, and so was Monty Python and the Holy Grail.    The Blues Brothers already is considered a musical, so I started to look at a few others.

Smokey and the Bandit would be hard to make into a musical. However, I think it would be fun to have Buford T Justice sing “Sum Bitch” in a song!  Airplane! is a comedy classic, but how do you make this into a musical.  Animal House might be one you could do as a musical – I could see Flounder singing about Bluto giving him that name or Dean Wormer singing a rant about Double Secret Probation.  I guess if I had to pick one, it would be Johnny Dangerously…because the name of the show would be easy:  Johnny Dangerously: The Fargin’ Musical!

Part 2 – I have an answer to this question that is kind of obvious, but because I am a bigger person, I will not use that answer.  What I will answer is this:  I realize now, just how fake some people can be.  It is sad to see how people are quick to judge you on the thoughts or stories of others.  They make their judgments based on those things without ever coming to you to see if they are true or hear your side of the story.  It is sad that so many people will pretend to be your friend and then as soon as you leave the room, begin to talk about you, label you and judge you.

I realize now that there are some people who are not happy unless they are making others unhappy.  I realize now that there are people who feel the need to be in control of every situation, no matter what, and have to get their way.  They will say things to make you believe things that will work in their favor, even if it means alienating you from friends and family.

The biggest realization I have had recently is that before you can make others happy – YOU have to be happy.  It is not worth living a life to make others happy while you, yourself, continue a downward spiral into sadness, unhappiness, and depression.  You must weed out negative people in your life and live happily and positively!  You should be happy in your job, happy in your relationships, and happy with yourself.  The hardest, and best, decision I ever made was to find happiness and surround myself with it.

Question #4 – Connie

Connie asks another question that is difficult to answer.  Connie and I often spoke of Stanley nickels and Schrute Bucks in the office, and now she asks “What is your favorite episode of The Office?”

While there are MANY episodes that continue to make me laugh out loud, it is hard to pick just one.  At the same time, some episodes consist of brief moments that make me laugh like hell, but the rest of the episode isn’t as strong.

If I had to name a few episodes off the top of my head, I would start with Diversity Day.  We truly get a sense of Michael Scott and just how awkward he is in this episode.  The uncomfortable situations that he often creates really start to show with this episode.  Next I would say The Deposition.  Classic Michael/Jan tension.  The Dinner Party is also a great episode – the awkward relationship that Michael and Jan have is showcased here (snip snap snip snap!).

The Dundies is just a great episode!  The thought of an office party – well, an awards show – and Chili’s while real customers are trying to eat is hilarious.  So many great things about this episode.  Threat Level Midnight is another one I liked because it showcased some cast members who hadn’t been on the show for a while, and it shows you the incredibly bad movie Michael wrote.

Scenes I could watch over and over and over:

  • Michael screaming “No” over and over when Toby returns
  • Jim’s spot on impression of Dwight – Bears, Beats, Battlestar Galactica
  • Kevin’s famous chili
  • The Fire Drill scene (“save Bandit!”)

Question #5 – Hope

Hope and I talk music a lot.  She’s a Beatle fan and played trumpet in band.  It is no surprise that her question is musical. “Are there specific songs that remind you of your childhood?  If so, which ones and why?”

Absolutely!  Growing up, my dad played in a wedding band, so I heard him play a lot of songs and was exposed to a lot of genres of music.  One of the first songs I remember was “Dream Baby” by Roy Orbison.  My dad had it on a vinyl LP and I asked him to play it all the time.

My friend, Jeff, had this album of novelty songs called “Dumb Ditties”.  Every one of those songs cracks makes me think of when we were kids listening to it.  Dumb songs like “I’m a Nut”, “Gimme Dat Ding”, “Ahab The Arab”, “Purple People Eater” and “Charlie Brown” were on it as I remember.

Anything of Willie Nelson’s Stardust album and  Johnny Paycheck’s Greatest Hits (Volume 2) makes me think of summers at my grandparent’s trailer up in Caseville.  There is a blog I wrote about an old 8 track that is full of songs that remind me of road trips to Caseville, too.

I remember many songs from 1988 and my senior year of high school – Wild Wild West by Escape Club, Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin, and Bad Medicine by Bon Jovi Come to mind.  I remember buying Huey Lewis and the News Sports album for I Wanna New Drug.  Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley, Need You Tonight by INXS, Rock Steady by the Whispers, and The Final Countdown by Europe were all songs I remember from high school dances.

I remember the first slow dance I ever danced to was Crazy for You by Madonna.  I remember wondering if I was doing it right.  I mean, I was literally swaying back and forth.  “Is this right?!”  We used to go to dances and just stand around and BS.  When I was asked to dance, I really had NO idea what I was doing!

Question #6 – Joe

Joe and I have been friends since Jr. High.  We met in first hour band class.  His question is “How well do you remember that day we all met in junior high in the band room?”

I don’t recall much.  It was the first day of junior high and I remember being scared to death.  I remember Steve, Kevin, John, and Joe.  Yes, there were others, but those are the ones I remember from the beginning.  As far as the first day, I don’t recall much.  I remember getting chair assignments and lockers, but that’s about it.  The first day wasn’t the “…wanna be friends?” day, was it?  Your memory may be better than mine, so please feel free to fill in the gaps.

Conclusion

This is the second blog that I have written based on the questions that friends have asked me.  It’s actually something I really enjoy.  Thanks to those friends who served as the “thought starters” for this blog.  I hope I answered your questions and you enjoyed reading this as much as I did thinking about the answers and writing them.

 

 

My Biggest Musical Influence – Dad

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Over the years I have been influenced musically by many people, but I would have to say that it is my father who has had the biggest influence. This blog is sort of a continuation of the “series” I have been doing based on “songs from my iPod”.

My dad introduced me to almost every genre of music. My love for oldies music comes from some of my earliest memories of songs he played. I was also introduced to classic country and country music in general by him. He played in a wedding band for years – the first being Now & Then, and the second was Foxfire. I recall him sitting in front of the stereo playing along with 45 records of songs that they were learning for gigs. I remember long nights when my brother and I had to go to “band practice” as well.

Rock and Roll music was a staple in our house, probably because it was the stuff he grew up listening to. The first song that comes to mind is Dream Baby by Roy Orbison. As a kid, I would ask, “Daddy please play ‘boom boom boom….bum bum boom'”. This was a reference to the bass notes that open the song. I loved that song. While so many other folks always connect Roy to Pretty Woman (a classic, no doubt), I remember Candy Man, In Dreams, and Crying. Roy was awesome – and dad introduced me to him.

He also introduced me to Elvis. Man, Elvis was cool! Sure, every one knows Hound Dog, All Shook Up, and the biggies….but dad played me songs like Steamroller Blues, Moody Blue, and Way Down! He had the Moody Blue album (which was on Blue Vinyl) and Elvis In Concert and I remember playing them on the stereo many times. I remember the look on my dad’s face when the news came on the radio that Elvis had died. We were at the drive in movie getting ready to watch Smokey and the Bandit, when Honey Radio announced it. Dad was shocked. We listened to Elvis music until dark and the movie started.

I have to include another person in this section about music – my Godfather, my Uncle Tom. He and my dad grew up together and their exploits can be an entirely separate blog. For now, let me talk about R&B and “local” music. When I first started working at WKSG (Kiss-FM) in Detroit, my dad asked if I could find him some songs. I told him I would look and if they were at the station, I’d throw them on tape for him. These were songs that he and my Uncle Tom grew up listening to.

As I looked over the list, I remember thinking, “What the hell are these songs? Were these even hits? Who are these people?’ The result was me getting a taste of some really amazing music. I cannot listen to any of these songs without thinking of them. This is music that was stripped down, funky, and amazing.

Mind Over Matter by Nolan Strong jumps out at first. This song is classic! Backing Nolan on this is the group the Diablos. Simple instrumentation and a powerful vocal makes this one of my favorites. This was not a song that would play on the radio much in the late 80’s, and I recall watching my uncle and my dad listening to the tape I made and loving every damn second of it. I watched them become transported back to when they were teens and jamming to these songs for the first time – it was magical!

Village of Love by Nathaniel Mayer is another one that is worth a listen just for the bass singer – it is R&B gold!. Two songs that were on his list (and now on my iPod) that were local hits that I absolutely love were by the band The Dynamics. I’m The Man and Misery are two very different songs, but they capture the sound of Motown prior to the Motown sound emerging.

A couple oldies that were on the list which we actually played in a regular rotation at WHND Honey Radio were Don’t Let Go by Roy Hamilton, You Can Have Her by Roy Hamiliton, So Fine by the Fiestas, Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, What In the World’s Come Over You by Jack Scott, and Agent Double O Soul by Edwin Star. I loved when these songs would come up on the play list.

Another one that would come up was the song You’re So Fine by the Falcons. Wanna talk about stripped down? This one was as simple as they come. It was recorded in a garage with probably one or two microphones. You can totally tell that they it recorded all at once on one track and it was one take. You can even hear a little guitar feedback at the end. GREAT song! I love it!

My dad was instrumental in introducing me to blues music too. One of those songs that he and my uncle asked for was Baby, What You Want Me To Do by Jimmy Reed. Wow. It is one of those songs that DEFINES the blues in my opinion. Other songs he had me listen to were Fannie Mae by Buster Brown, which we played at WHND, Baby, Scratch My Back by Slim Harpo, Shake Your Money Maker by Elmore James, and The Thrill is Gone by BB King. The blues and R&B music helped shape Rock and Roll and these songs are a must for my iPod.

I grew up in the Urban Cowboy era when country music got a lot of attention and a lot of radio airplay. I don’t know that I would say country music is my dad’s favorite genre, but he sure introduced me to some great artists and songs. He, of course was responsible for me hearing Willie Nelson & Johnny Paycheck (who are mentioned in other blogs), but he also introduced me to Hank Williams Sr. and Jr. I recall him playing the two of them singing a duet on Tear in My Beer. This was high tech at the time, they took Hank Sr’s vocal and isolated it and then Hank Jr. sang with him, It was a great song with just Hank Sr., but adding Hank Jr. was excellent.

Another song he played for me was Okie from Muskogee. The opening line is “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee”…not exactly the best song for a 10 year old to hear, but I had no idea what it meant and I liked Merle Haggard’s voice. I also recall him playing Amanda by Waylon Jennings. It is probably one of my favorite Waylon songs. Such a simple ballad, but I could listen to it over and over. I also loved when he bought the soundtrack to Smokey and the Bandit II because it was the only place you could find a great song by Don Williams called To Be Your Man. Among other acts he played were the great Ronnie Milsap, George Jones, Juice Newton, and Charlie Pride.

Two country albums I remember him calling me in to hear were from Dwight Yoakam and The Kentucky Headhunters. The Headhunters album had a great cover of Oh Lonesome Me on there, but the song he played for me was Dumas Walker. It sounded fresh and almost a little rockish. I remember immediately getting this on cassette for the car. The other album was If There Was a Way from Dwight. In my opinion, this is one of his best. My favorite cut from the album was never released as a single – The Distance Between You and Me. The instrumentation is perfect and the lyric is classic – almost Brad Paisley-ish. I crank it up ALWAYS.

On the “pop” side of things, a few songs stand out, most of which because they were songs he learned and played for his wedding band gigs. The first one I think of is the Breakup Song by Greg Kihn. I remember him putting the 45 on the stereo, and playing that intro over and over. The first time I heard him play it note for note, I was blown away! I loved watching him work out licks and chords and stuff by simply listening to it on the stereo! America by Neil Diamond was another. By the time this one came out, he was in Foxfire and playing bass guitar, not lead guitar. These guys were good. Not that the other band wasn’t, I just know that they sounded amazing. Dennis, the lead singer, (and at one time my boss at my first job) NAILED his vocals. I could swear he was Neil Diamond! Every song he sang was dead on. Man, I miss that group of guys!

Probably the craziest musical incident involving my dad was when he introduced me to the music of Red Prysock. My grandmother always wanted to go to garage sales. I think my dad hated it. There was a familiar look of disgust on his face one day when she asked to go. While at one garage sale, he was going through old 45’s. His face lit up with boyish excitement as he stopped at one 45 with a black label on it. I heard him so, “I can’t believe it…” He bought the 45 and couldn’t wait to play it for me … and to be able to hear it for the first time in years. Hand Clappin’ was the song. It was a jazzy sax number that caused to you tap your toes. It was GREAT. It was like nothing I had ever heard. My dad said that DJ’s used to use it for their “theme song” back in the day. Still remains a favorite for me. Who says garage sales are bad?!

Over the years, my dad has called me over to the turntable, the cassette deck, the CD player, the mini-disc player, and his computer with the words, “Hey son, listen to this …” Very rarely was I ever disappointed. Today, I listen to almost every type of music and have always kept an open mind to genres because of dad. I am so lucky that he was such an instrumental (pun intended) part of my musical influence. Thanks, Pop!

The Great One

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Jackie Gleason was born today in 1916.  He was one of TV’s Pioneers.  When television first came into being and there was only three channels to choose from, guys like Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, and Jackie Gleason provided comedy entertainment.

The Life of Riley was a big radio comedy hit which starred William Bendix as Chester Riley.  When it made the transition to television (like many radio shows), Jackie Gleason took on the role because Bendix was under contract at RKO Radio pictures.  Gleason appeared in 26 episodes from 1949-1950.  In the following seasons, Bendix returned to play the character, whether or not Jackie was pushed out, or just had no desire to play the character is unclear.

In 1950, Jackie was given the role of host on Cavalcade of Stars, a variety show that began airing in 1949.  In 1952, the program was renamed The Jackie Gleason Show and continued to be a hit.  It featured a monologue by Jackie, singing, dancing, sketch comedy and a variety of his characters (Joe the Bartender, Reginald Van Gleason III, Charlie Bratten, Rudy the Repairman and the Poor Soul).

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During the run of the show, one sketch seemed to really stand out – The Honeymooners.  It featured Ralph Kramden, a New York bus driver and his wife Alice, as well as his upstairs neighbor Ed Norton.  The sketch was so popular, that Jackie put the variety show format on hold and in 1955 shot 39 half hour episodes of The Honeymooners, making it TV’s first official “spin off”.  Those episodes, often referred to as “the Classic 39” remain in reruns today.  In 1956, The variety format returned and continued until 1957.

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In 1961, Jackie co-starred with Paul Newman in The Hustler.  He played famous pool player Minnesota Fats, a role which earned him an Oscar Nomination.  Jackie grew up playing pool as a young man and was very good at it.  He told Johnny Carson in a Tonight Show interview that a lot of his personal experiences were drawn upon to play the role in The Hustler.  Cool side note, Jackie makes all his own trick shots in the film.

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In 1962, he wrote, produced and starred in Gigot.  It is a film in which he plays a mute janitor who becomes friends with a prostitute and saves her and her daughter.  The movie did not do well, but it was remade in 1984 as The Wool Cap, a TV movie, starring William H. Macy as the janitor, and it received good reviews.

In 1977, Jackie returned to the big screen in one of his most memorable roles – a foul mouthed Sheriff from Texas in Smokey and the Bandit.  His performance as Sheriff Buford T. Justice made the film a hit at the box office.  In an interview with Larry King, Burt Reynolds said that the only way he’d do Smokey and the Bandit, was if they brought Jackie in to play Buford.  (Buford T. Justice, by the way is the name of a real highway patrolman that knew Burt’s dad).  Gleason was given a lot of freedom to ad-lib his lines during the film.  He contributed a key scene to the film as well.  He suggested to director that he and the Bandit should have a scene together, but he doesn’t realize he is talking with the Bandit.  It remains one of the great scenes in the film.  There were two sequels, which were box office bombs, and the last one helped coax Jackie out of retirement for one last film.

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In 1986, Jackie had his last big screen role co-starring with Tom Hanks as Max Basner in Nothing in Common.  He was in failing health, but kept his health issues private.  He found out that he had terminal colon cancer.  He did not want to take the role, but director Garry Marshall coerced him into taking it by reminding him that if he did not appear in this movie, the final item on his filmography would have been Smokey and the Bandit III. That was enough to get Gleason back in action one last time. “You can’t go out on Smokey and the Bandit III.”

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Gleason died in June of 1987 at age 71.  Thanks for the laughter, Jackie!

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Pork and beans and a Diablo Sandwich

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Recently, a few of my Facebook friends began posting their top 10 funniest movies. One of those friends, actor Eddie Deezen (yes, THE Eddie Deezen from Grease, 1941, and other films), posted an article that he wrote about the classic film Airplane! which has led me to write this blog entry.

To have to pick out just 10 favorites would be next to impossible for me, I have to admit. Maybe if we broke the list up into subcategories like Slapstick Comedy, Screwball Comedy, Romantic Comedy, Vulgar Comedy, etc… I might be able to narrow it down to 10 in each of them, but probably I don’t necessarily want to do that.

A radio program director once told me to be careful with comedy. He said, “Comedy is subjective. What you find funny may not be funny to me and vice versa”. Perhaps this is why some comedies do better at the box office than others. Think about it, how many times has someone come up to you and said, “Oh man! You have got to see (insert movie here)! It was the funniest thing I have ever seen!” ? So you take their advice and about 30 minutes in you are ready to walk out or turn it off. Comedy is subjective.

I am sure there will be more blogs about this topic, but for today, here is a look at two of my favorite ’70’s comedies….

Blazing Saddles

I was 4 years old when Blazing Saddles came out. It was 1974. Times were MUCH different that today. There were things in this movie that you simply could not do today! However, at the time, they were accepted. I don’t know how old I was when I first watched it. I do know that it had a great cast: Harvey Korman, Gene Wilder, Cleavon Little, Madeline Khan, David Huddleston, Slim Pickens, and director Mel Brooks, just to name a few.

One of the reasons this movie is funny to be is the absurdity of so many of the situations. The black sheriff who takes himself hostage, the townspeople who believe it, the grown adult who bathes with his squeaky toy frog, a phony toll booth in the middle of the desert, and of course, the characters crossing the bridge from movie to movie set, and eventually watching their own movie. “Extremes are funny” claimed, Manny Balos, one of my high school teachers. That is exemplified in this movie. How does a pie fight break out in a Western? Are Raisinets really the candy of choice for bad guys?

The one scene that is often talked about most when this film comes is is the campfire scene. Here, a bunch of cowboys are sitting around the fire, eating pork and beans. What follows is a bunch of them breaking wind in a symphony of flatulence. While this is not the first fart joke in a movie, it was certainly the first instance of audible flatulence to hit theaters. The conclusion of this scene contains one of my favorite lines in the film. Upon exiting his tent, Slim Pickens’ character begins to smell the results of the beans and starts waving his hat around to fan the odor away. He is asked if he wants some more beans, and he simply replies “I’d say you had enough!”

Smokey and the Bandit

I will always remember when I saw Smokey and the Bandit. August 16, 1977 – the day Elvis died. I saw it at the drive in and while we waiting for it to get dark enough for the movie to start, we were listening to AM 560 Honey Radio (where I would eventually work) and they broke the news and began playing all Elvis songs.

The Bandit (Burt Reynolds) and Snowman (Jerry Reed) are hired by Big and Little Enos to get 400 cases of Coors beer from Texas and bring it back to Atlanta in 28 hours for some big money. In the 1970s, Coors used to be unavailable east of the Mississippi (something to do with the fact that it wasn’t pasteurized and thus needed constant refrigeration).

Smokey is funnier to me now, than when I was 7. As a kid watching this movie, it was about fast cars, a hero trying to get away from the law, and numerous car crashes. Why is it funny to me now? Two words: Jackie Gleason. He plays Sheriff Buford T. Justice of Texas.

I had the chance to interview Jerry Reed shortly before he passed away and I asked him about this film. He said that without Jackie, there probably would not have been a Smokey and the Bandit. He told me how he was given free reign to stray from the “script” and ad-libbed almost everything. As a matter of fact, the word is that there really wasn’t much of a script anyway. Hal Needham showed Burt Reynolds the script on legal pads and most of the cast’s lines were ad-libs.

With mixing ad-libs with profanity, Jackie Gleason spouts off many of the films funniest lines. One such line that is often quoted by fans is when he is talking to his adult son, Junior (played by Mike Henry) – “There’s no way, no way, that you came from my loins. Soon as I get home, first thing I’m gonna do is punch yo mamma in da mouth!” Another line is when (after the roof of their patrol car is ripped off by driving under a truck) Junior is asked to hold Buford’s hat on his head. By removing his hand from his hat to hold Buford’s, his is blown away. “My hat blew off Daddy” to which Buford replies, “I hope your &^% #$% head was in it!”

What also makes this movie memorable is the soundtrack from Jerry Reed. Who doesn’t know “East Bound and Down”?! The song went to #2 on the charts and has been covered by many bands over the years. Many of today’s country singers will do it in their live sets today. The Legend, which is the song that opens the movie, gives you the back story on the Bandit and just how he became the legend he is today. “How would you like to be the dude who handcuffs a legend?” Snowman asks Bandit when he tells him he is unsure why Buford is chasing him. The Legend is one of those songs that is overlooked in my opinion.

There is one scene in particular that is my favorite, and that is the scene where Buford and Bandit meet face to face. What makes it great is that Buford has no idea that he is talking to the Bandit. Buford quickly walks in and says, “Lemme have a Diablo sandwich and a Dr. Pepper and make it fast, I’m in a %$# #$%^ hurry!” The exchange between the two characters is hilarious. How Burt Reynolds is able to keep a straight face while Jackie Gleason rants with food in his mouth is beyond me!

What is a Diablo Sandwich? Well it depends. Some say is a a pulled pork sandwich while others say it is ground beef. Personally, I have never had the pulled pork version of the sandwich, and have yet to find a recipe for that. I have however had it with beef. To wrap up the blog today – here is the recipe I found online for the Diablo Sandwich. It’s great to eat whether you’re in a hurry or not …

Diablo Sandwich Recipe Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 3/4 cup of diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup of canned corn
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • taco seasoning to taste
  • lettuce
  • sour cream
  • hamburger buns

Diablo Sandwich Recipe Directions:
Brown the ground beef. Add remaining ingredients except for lettuce, sour cream and hamburger buns. Let the mixture stew anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour. The longer the better. I cooked it for 40 minutes covered, and then uncovered for the remaining 20 minutes to thicken it up a bit as the liquid burns off. Place the lettuce on a bun, top with the El Diablo beef mixture, and then add a dollop of sour cream.

sherriff kicking butt