“It’s a Cop!”

Today’s writing prompt actually made me laugh: “Have you ever had an encounter with the police?” Yes. Yes, I have. I have had a few …. as a matter of fact …..

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My First Ticket

It was probably my junior or senior year and there was a very cool record store in Ferndale called “Sam’s Jams.” They had everything, including some very hard to find vinyl albums. I remember finding old Soupy Sales albums, rare Tom Lerer albums, and stuff I didn’t even know existed on vinyl there. I spent many hours there before they closed their doors.

I was driving in my dad’s 1979 Caprice Classic (I loved that car!) through Royal Oak and Steve was with me. It was in November, so it was already dark out. The speed limit was like 30 and I was going a little faster than that. I remember when the flashers went on behind me – I was terrified! I had never been pulled over before. There were butterflies in my stomach and I was sweating as the policeman approached the car.

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He asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance. He asked if I knew how fast I was going and if I knew what the speed limit was. I didn’t know either. He said he’d be back. I became more and more nervous the longer he was in his car. When he returned, he asked, “Do you know you are driving on expired plates?” My dad’s birthday is the first of November, and my dad insisted that he had until the end of the month to renew. I told the cop this and he said very sternly, “You’re dad is wrong. Are you aware that I can impound this vehicle? Where are you heading?” I told him we were going to Sam’s Jams. He told me, “No you are not. You are going home. I would recommend that you not do any driving until your dad gets these plates renewed.” He then handed me my ticket, and told me I was lucky he wasn’t impounding the vehicle. I turned around and drove home (where my dad insisted that he had until the end of the month to renew those tags!).

No stranger to tickets

Don’t take that heading the wrong way, I just have had a few tickets here and there in my 30+ years of driving. One of them came on Thanksgiving.

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We were leaving my dad’s house and heading to my ex’s family’s house for dinner. We hadn’t been driving very long, because we were technically still in my dad’s neighborhood when I got pulled over. If my memory serves me correctly, we had stayed a bit longer than my ex wanted to at my folks house. When we left, she was angry and we were arguing in the car. I was driving in a 25 and probably doing 40-45. She was telling me that we were going to be “so late” and the more she yelled, the angrier I got.

The cop was going the other way and he swung around quick and turned on the flashers. This, of course, led to more of an argument. The cop walked up and asked for my information and I believe my ex said, “I knew he was going too fast, sir.” My son asked the cop if I was going to jail – LOL. I got a ticket and an earful that continued all the way to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

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One ticket I got was while driving to work one night. There was an accident at the intersection of 12 and Woodward. I took Woodward to work every night and had to turn right onto 12 Mile. Driving toward 12 Mile, there was a wrecker with a vehicle already on it just before you reached 12 mile. The cop was on the other side of 12 mile and his flashers were on. There were cars going the opposite way on 12 mile, so when I got to 12 mile, I turned right. (So the cop is on my left on one side of 12 on Woodward, and the wrecker is on the right side of 12 mile on Woodward). As I pull into our parking lot at work, he zips in behind me and turns on the lights.

Keep in mind, there are no flares or cones or anything on the street AND there was nothing blocking me from making the turn, so I figured I was ok to do so. Nope. I was informed by the officer that I had drove through “an accident scene” which I guess is a TON of points. He wrote me up instead for “impeding traffic”, which was a little less points, but still a few more than I ever wanted on my record.

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I am a creature of habit. I take the same way to work every day. I like to travel familiar roads. When the GPS has me take another way, or I am in unfamiliar surroundings, I start to get nervous. Especially when the roads are back roads that twist, turn and wind all over the place.

Friday, I was driving to an appointment and the GPS tells me that the road ahead is closed and has me get off and take another route. The roads are twisting and turning all over the place and before I know it, I am in a construction zone. The GPS is yelling at me to turn in like .2 miles and because I am not paying attention to my speed, you guessed it – here comes the Oakland County Sheriff.

He had every right to cop the attitude that he did. “Do you realize you are in a construction zone?” “You do see that there are workers present and that there is no concrete barrier, right?” My heart was pounding. I am always careful – especially in construction zones. My wife can tell you, I usually have the cruise control on. She even jokes about how slow I drive. I was given a break (thankfully) because I had no points on my record. I was told to slow down and he wrote me up for 5 over. I am one lucky guy!

My favorite encounter with the police – October 1987

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I have probably blogged about this before, but when I was a senior in high school the big thing to do was toilet paper houses. There were many groups that went out together – the cheerleaders, the football players, the choir members, and of course, us band people. The band was large and there were three or four groups that went out and TP’d. My group was the TP Bandits.

One of my best friends, Steve (the same Steve who was with me when I got my first ticket) had a birthday in October. He was dating a gal at the time and for his birthday, we decided that we were going to TP his house. When did our “drive by,” we could see him upstairs in his room watching TV with the gal. We parked the car just a bit down from his driveway and Margaret, Ronnie, and I went to work. The three of us used a ton of TP on this huge tree in front of his house, wrapped bushes, the mailbox, etc…. it was a beautiful job!

Once everything was finished, we stood in the middle of his lawn and sang “Happy Birthday” at the top of our lungs. He came to his bedroom window and laughed. After the last note was sung, we turned and ran to our car … but we didn’t get far. As we sung Happy Birthday, a cop car had pulled up in front of the house. Ronnie and Margaret ran away first and I was probably making faces at Steve or giving him the finger or something. All I remember hearing is Ronnie yelling, “It’s a cop!” I then felt a very firm grip on my shoulder and was told to get in the back of the Warren Police Cruiser.

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As the officer closed the door of the cruiser, I could see Steve’s mom running outside yelling, “It’s a prank! It’s ok! They’re ok! It’s just a prank!” Margaret, Ronnie and I sat in the back of this cop car and I kept thinking, “We’re never going to get to go to graduation!” “We’re being arrested for TPing!” “What the hell am I gonna tell my folks?!”

The cop in the car went one by one and asked us our names, our addresses, our phone numbers, and probably a bunch of other things. I don’t remember much of it, but I know I laughed when he got to Ronnie, because he totally started rattling off all his info as fast as I have ever heard him talk! The cop told us that we could go to jail because of vandalism or something and I thought, “It’s TP! Are you serious!?” When the other cop returned the vehicle, he played “good cop.” He told us that he had all our information. He wanted us to go out and clean up as much as we possible could. They were going to drive back by the house later and if it wasn’t cleaned up “we know where to find you!”

Steve got quite a laugh out of the whole thing. I think the cops asked if they wanted us to clean it up and he probably told them yes. It was a huge birthday backfire. I also remember coming to school the next day and waiting for people to razz us. A few people had heard what happened, but surprisingly, no one really said anything. I thought we were totally in the clear. During band class, we were in the middle of a song and all of a sudden, our band director, Mr. Shaner, cut us all off and proudly yelled, “Hey! Did everyone hear what happened to our TP Bandits last night?!” The band erupted with laughter and Margaret, Ronnie and I were red with embarrassment!

Yeah … I’ve had a few encounters with the police …. some were more fun than others!

Monday Memory – The Great Joke Off

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It’s a dirty job …. but somebody’s gotta do it!

I don’t remember if it was something I was picked to do, or if it was something I volunteered to do, but in elementary school I worked as a lunch helper. After lunch, we washed the plastic trays with one of those heavy duty water sprayers and run them through this huge dishwasher.

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I remember the over powering smell of bleach in the kitchen, and I remember working hard. I remember Ed and I worked together back there, and I am sure there were others too. I remember we got to split up the left overs and take them home if we wanted to, (They used to make these Mexican pizzas called Fiestadas that I used to love!) which was kind of a bonus!

I don’t recall if we were in the kitchen first, or if we cleaned the lunch room first (maybe Ed can remember), but we also got to help in the lunch room. Now, back in the day, the lunch room was the gym. There were tables and benches that folded up into the wall. They would be pulled out and that’s where we sat with our classes. When lunch was over, we would wipe the tables, help put them back in the wall and sweep the floor with the big dust mop.

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Mr. Steve was the head custodian at the time. He was ancient, but he was a fun guy. He was always singing and told jokes that had terrible punch lines. I really don’t know how long he worked there, but it was LONG after I left elementary school. I know that because after I graduated years later, and in between radio jobs, I worked for the school district as a custodian part time. Mr. Steve (or Mr. Friendly, as he sometimes called himself) was STILL there when I worked there!

I enjoyed working as a custodian. You had a section of rooms that you were responsible for and stuff that had to be done nightly. In the middle school and high school, there were many more after school activities to clean up after. There were also more things that had to be set up. Before basketball games, the bleachers had to be pulled out, etc… At the elementary schools, you had some after school stuff, but it was never as often as the middle or high schools. As a part timer, when they needed me, I went wherever they needed me. Sometimes I worked during the day, and sometime I worked at night. Mostly I worked at night. You went in at 2 or 3 after school let out and you went to work cleaning your section. You always brought along your cart from room to room.

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One vivid memory I have of working as a custodian was whenever you worked days, there was always the possibility of a student throwing up. If that happened, you got called to go clean it up. Not sure how they do it now, but back in the day, they had this sort of minty smelling sawdust that they sprinkled on the floor to soak it up. After it soaked it up, you swept it up and were done. I will never forget the smell of that sawdust!!

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Best Custodial Memory

Nancy was my bus driver all through middle school and high school. She was awesome. I probably drove her crazy. I sat up front because I wanted to be the first off the bus. She had my sense of humor. She laughed at my dumb jokes and often shared some of her own. She was the best!

The bus drivers, the cooks, and the custodians were all in the same union at our district. It was not odd to have a bus driver bid on a custodial or kitchen job and get it. Nancy ended up working at one of the elementary schools in the head custodian position. I would get to see her occasionally when I was sent to work at her school. If I knew I was going to be there, I’d always make sure I had a bad joke to tell her.

Summer Cleaning

I don’t remember who it was, but one of the custodians was off on medical leave one summer and they asked me to work for her all summer. It was at Nancy’s school. The first few weeks of the summer, I stayed on night hours, and then eventually, worked days.

Most custodians hated summer cleaning. It meant taking every thing out of the rooms and deep cleaning. It meant stripping the floors and waxing them. It was a lot of hard work. Some of those file cabinets and other things that were in teachers rooms were heavy!! In some cases, the painters needed to paint, the electricians needed to re-wire something, or the carpenters were in to do something.

I remember the first time I had to strip the wax off a floor. You had to use this huge floor machine. You spread the stripper on the floor and then used this machine to strip the wax off. I remember Nancy showing me how the machine worked. She turned it on and started moving it back and forth with no effort at all. She then told me to try. That machine almost threw me across the room!! It took me almost 2 hours to get the feel of that thing, and the minute I let my guard down, I might get tossed across the room again! It was crazy!!

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It was also embarrassing! That machine whipped me around like a two year old!!

The Great Joke Off

That summer was one I will never forget because of the “Great Joke Off” as we now refer to it. There was a room that had one of those blackboards on wheels. When that room was cleaned, they moved it into the hallway. The room was pretty close to the custodial room. When Nancy and I were on the opposite schedules (she on days and I was on nights) it was often the place where Nancy left me my “Things to Do” list for that day.

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I don’t recall who started it. It was probably me, at least that’s how I remember it. Before I left one night, I wrote a joke on the chalkboard, knowing it would be the first thing she saw when she walked in the next day. She would then return the favor and leave one for me, when I walked in. If memory serves me correctly, despite the fact that we both enjoy a good dirty joke, the jokes posted on the chalkboard were always clean. After all, teachers, the principal (who I now know, has the same sense of humor as both Nancy and I), or our boss could walk in at any time!

Many of the jokes I put up on the board were jokes (“stories”) told by my Life in America Teacher, Manny Balos. Other jokes were ones I had heard Soupy Sales tell on his radio show. The rest I used were ones that my dad or uncle told me, or that I found in old Larry Wilde Joke Books (Remember those?!).

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Here are a couple jokes from that summer that come to mind immediately:

A young husband just married a couple of weeks comes home from a really hard day at the office. As soon as he walks in, he collapses on the couch. He is just worn out.

His bride comes in and looks at him sympathetically and says, “Darling, you look so tired and hungry. How would you like a nice steak smothered in onions, with vegetables, mashed potatoes, and some delicious pie a la mode for dessert?”

The new husband looks up at his bride and says, “Not tonight, Honey, I’m too tired to go out!”

This is one of my favorite Soupy jokes –

A guy is at a bar after office hours and he is drinking with his friend. He sighs, and says to his friend, “Boy, I just have to have another drink before I go home. My wife is always on me from the moment I get home till I leave the next day about money. She is always nagging me and asking me about money. Last week she wanted two hundred dollars. The day before yesterday, it was one hundred dollars. This morning she asked me for another one hundred and fifty dollars!”

His friend says, “Wow! That’s awful. I’m sorry, pal! What could she possibly do with all that money?”

And the guy says, “I don’t know I never give her any!”

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Imagine an entire summer filled with bad puns, stupid punch lines, and laughter to start the day! I worked my tail off that summer, and that joke at the start of each day made it worth coming to work! It was a summer I won’t forget.

Thanks to Facebook, Nancy and I have remained friends. Depending on her mood, or my topic, she even reads my blog every now and then. She continues to post silly puns on my Facebook page and I return the favor. In a way, the Great Joke Off continues, only it is not daily. Thanks Nancy, for your friendship and the many laughs!

So this dog walks into a bar ….

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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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January 8th…

Today’s blog is a salute to some people who have made an impact on me.  I guess I should start with the obvious one – Elvis Presley.

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The “King of Rock and Roll” was born today in 1935.  His music was influential in so many ways.  I grew up listening to his music because my dad was a big fan.  I still remember the blue vinyl album for Moody Blue that dad had in his record collection.  Perhaps, I should do a follow up to this blog of my favorite Elvis songs?

Next – Larry Storch

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Larry is 96 today!!! I remember watching F-Troop and always laughing.  Larry was quite the funny guy who appeared in everything!  He was on Gilligan’s Island, Love Boat, Get Smart, and so many other shows.  As a kid, I remember watching him and Forrest Tucker chase ghosts with a gorilla in The Ghost Busters.  He was also known for some time for voicing the Joker in the Batman cartoons.

Next – Graham Chapman.

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Graham Chapman was born today in 1941.  He is best known for his work with the Monty Python comedy team.  I first came to know their stuff through the Dr. Demento show on the radio.  Their comedy records were very funny.  I then caught some of the Monty Python’s Flying Circus on TV.  Wow – it was hilarious!  All the Pythons were funny and their ability to play multiple roles and many characters was always amazing to me.  I especially liked Graham as King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Next – one of my all time favorites – Soupy Sales.

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Soupy Sales was born today in 1926.  I remember watching Soupy on Channel 20 as a kid.  All of his crew was on the show – White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie, Hippy, and a slew of guests that even included Alice Cooper.  He’d read the paper and funny horoscopes, give us the Words of Wisdom, and there were plenty of pies in the face.

In the 80’s, Soupy hosted a radio show called the Moldie Oldies Show.  There were new characters and bits like “Believe It Or Don’t”.  I listened faithfully and taped every show I could.  Some of the jokes were older than dirt, but they still made me laugh out loud.

I was lucky enough to meet Soupy at Pine Knob before a show.  He was just hilarious.  I remember leaving with my sides aching from laughter!  I still have a couple of his joke books, and his autobiography in my book collection.  I also still enjoy listening to his album from the 60’s The Soupy Sales Show and one from the 80’s called Still Soupy After All These Years.

He was one of the funniest guys – ever!

Finally, January 8th is special because it was the day my grandparents were married!  Let’s face it, without them, I wouldn’t be here!

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Today would have been their 75th wedding anniversary!  They were two very special people.  I miss them every day.

 

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”

 

 

 

 

Music and my Grandparents

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As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I can take almost any song and connect it to a person in my life, a life event, or a time period in my life. Today, my iPod shuffle focuses on four very special people – my grandparents. What is interesting as I looked at the music, was that the list of songs for Grandpa D is the longest. Why is that interesting? As I stated in a blog entirely about him, he is the grandparent who was in my life for the shortest amount of time.

Grandpa D’s list consists of big band and country music. As stated in the previous blog, Willie Nelson’s Stardust album will forever be connected with him. September Song, Moonlight in Vermont, Stardust, All of Me, and Georgia on My Mind from that album bring back vivid memories of him. Willie Nelson, in general makes me think of him though. Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain, while I don’t think I ever heard him play it, makes me think of him. So does Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground or the amazing duet with Ray Charles, Seven Spanish Angels.

Grandpa died in 1981. In 1982, Willie Nelson released on of his biggest hits – Always On My Mind. I can recall the first time we heard it on the radio. We were driving in the car, the entire family, and it played. My mom started crying immediately. “Maybe I didn’t love you quite as often as I could have. Maybe I didn’t treat you quite as good as I should have. But you were always on my mind.” I remember mom saying that it was like grandpa sending a little message to us. I’ll always remember that.

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Grandpa liked classic country, too. So songs like Behind Closed Doors by Charlie Rich, Amanda by Waylon Jennings, I Believe In You by Don Williams, You Needed Me by Anne Murray, Colorado Cool-Aid by Johnny Paycheck, and Kiss an Angel Good Morning by Charlie Pride make me think of him too.

Grandma D’s list is shortest. I’m not sure why, but I don’t remember much of the stuff she listened to. I remember her clock radio at her house and it always seemed to be on a talk radio station or a news station. I do recall her listening to a few songs, though. Sentimental Journey is a Big Band Classic. I don’t recall if it was in a commercial or on a TV show, but I remember saying that she liked it.

Because we spent a lot of time in Caseville with Grandma, she listened to the same cassettes as everyone else. Johnny Paycheck’s Greatest Hits Volume II included the song Loving You Beats All I’ve Ever Seen, a wonderful ballad about a guy who has seen some of the most beautiful things in the world – but loving his woman beats it all hands down. I recall her liking that song.

The one she loved the most on that album, though, was Rhythm Guitar. As old as the song is, it still paints a picture of people today. “Nobody wants to play Rhythm Guitar behind Jesus. Everybody wants to be the lead singer in the band.” The rhythm guitar player in the group is there to hit the chords and keep the tempo. He is in the background while the lead guitar player has all the solos and such. Nobody wants to be in the background today. In a spiritual sense, Jesus is an example of how we should live our lives. Throughout the Bible, He gives instructions on what to do and not do. However, we as people, often disregard those rules and instructions because we’d rather be the lead singer and live by our rules. I remember that was in a nutshell how grandma explained that song’s meaning to me.

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Here, I would like to include my Aunt Jodi. She is only 4 years older than me. When I think of Grandma and Grandpa D, I think of her. There are songs that make me think of her and some of those great times in Caseville as well. The one that comes to mind immediately is Music Box Dance by Frank Mills. It was one of those instrumentals that you would hear on the radio all the time up there. It was a “current” (as we call it in radio) and it played like every three to four hours. She loved that song and we did too.

Another instrumental that makes me think of her is from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (who will be mentioned again in a second). We had their Greatest Hits album and they did a song called Zorba the Greek. It was a fun song that started out fast … then the song slowed WAY down……and gradually sped up to the original speed and finished. It was a fun song and I can remember dancing around the living room to it. When it was fast – we were crazy kids running and laughing. When it was slow – we were glad, because we caught our breath from running around at the beginning of the song.

Other songs that remind me of Jodi are Urgent by Foreigner and Ebony and Ivory by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. Those songs were on vinyl albums that she had. My grandpa had this big console record player. It was the one that had the lid that flipped up and the turntable was inside. I recall her listening to those as well as David or Shaun Cassidy on there. I am sure she had some other albums, but there is one more I recall….

The last song that makes me think of her is called “Soupy Wails”. Another instrumental from an album called “The Soupy Sales Show”. It’s basically the Soupy Sales TV show on record. All the characters are there with songs they wrote – White Fang, Black Tooth, Hippy, and Pookie. This song is played because the neighbor tells Soupy to cut out the singing so they play an instrumental. Great stuff!

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Grandma P’s list is a short one, but the songs on it generate powerful memories. A Taste of Honey was a song that was popular and recorded by a few artists. The version I am talking about was done by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Why does this make me think of her? Because Grandma loved the Detroit Tigers. I remember many Sundays going over and watching the game on TV after eating dinner. Most of the time, she had it on the radio. The voices of the great Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey called the games while we sat in the sun porch or outside. One of the sponsors of the game was the Honey Baked Ham Company. They always used that song in their commercials. Yeah, a long stretch….but it always reminds me of those ball games and Grandma.

Grandma loved Dean Martin. He was her favorite singer. One day we got into a discussion about other Italian singers and she mentions that she she never liked Tony Bennett. Can you imagine?! Here is a guy who is STILL making music today! He’s 90 and a musical ICON. His style was very different from Dean or Sinatra. She said once that she couldn’t stand “that pimple faced, no talent, wanna be”! It still makes me laugh to think about it. One day I went to a record store and bought a few Tony albums. The funnest part of our visits became hiding them in places where she might find them (on her pillow, in the fridge, on the kitchen lighting, in the bread box….). Sometimes we were there to catch her reaction, and sometimes it was a phone call saying she found it. Fun times.

The last song that reminds me of her is Lazy Mary by Lou Monte. Lou was an Italian singer and it is a tarantella type song that has some “risque” lyrics. It is a song that many singers have sung, but Lou had a hit with it. When I got married, I wanted a dance with my grandma. I chose Lazy Mary. I am sure that I wore her out dancing to such a fast song, but I can still remember the smile on her face during it. Priceless memory.

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Grandpa P’s list is mostly big band music. I remember him telling me that his favorite song was String of Pearls by Glenn Miller. While many people remember Glenn for In The Mood, I feel String of Pearls is one of his best. A couple other Glenn Miller songs that remind me of him are the classics Sunrise Serenade and the counterpart, Moonlight Serenade. Begin the Beguine by Artie Shaw, Ciribiribin by Harry James, and many other big band songs remind me of him, too.

The odd song on this list is one he never heard. It makes me think of him because a friend of mine, Allyson, bought me a CD for Christmas the year my grandpa died. She knew that I was close to him and said there was a song on there that I had to hear. She said to listen to the lyrics and think about him while listening. That song was If I Had Only Known by Reba McEntire.

If I had only known
It was the last walk in the rain
I’d keep you out for hours in the storm
I would hold your hand
Like a life line to my heart
Underneath the thunder we’d be warm
If I had only known
It was our last walk in the rain

If I had only known
I’d never hear your voice again
I’d memorize each thing you ever said
And on those lonely nights
I could think of them once more
Keep your words alive inside my head
If I had only known
I’d never hear your voice again

You were the treasure in my hand
You were the one who always stood beside me
So unaware I foolishly believed
That you would always be there
But then there came a day
And I turned my head and you slipped away

If I had only known
It was my last night by your side
I’d pray a miracle would stop the dawn
And when you’d smile at me
I would look into your eyes
And make sure you know my love
For you goes on and on
If I had only known
If I had only known
The love I would’ve shown
If I had only known

POWERFUL! Typing those lyrics bring tears to my eyes instantly! In truth, you could think about any loved one who has passed away when you hear this song. I do. The message is clear – treat every encounter with your loved ones as if it might be your last because you never know.

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Our band director, Mr. Shaner, used to write announcements on a grease board every day. At the end of them, he’d always have some quote to think about. One of them, in particular, I have NEVER forgotten. It plays in to what I just said:

“Live every day as if it were your last – someday, you’ll be right”.

Make every day count. Always tell someone you love them. Treasure ever moment you have with family. Life is too short. Make memories that will last long after those special people in your life are gone!

More Musical Memories …

The more I thought about my last two blogs, the more I realized how many memories I have that are tied to certain songs and the people in my life. My family members alone, and the music that I connect them with is an entirely separate blog! For this one, I jotted down a few songs and the friends (and memories) I connect with them.

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My first program director, Paul Christy, was such a great guy to work with. I remember that when we didn’t have a song, he’d contact a couple local guys (Tom or Tom) and get it. Those songs would come to us on a reel to reel tape. He used to talk about the song Gee by The Crows on the air and he finally played it off of one of those tapes. He raved about how much he loved it. It was one of the first Doo-Wop songs. Now there were plenty of other songs that came to him on tape, but the other one that sticks out was a song that a listener always asked him for – Blame It On The Bossa Nova by Eydie Gorme. Not that I hear it often, but every once in a while on Sirius XM it plays and I think of Paul.

One of the morning show guys was Vince. Vince and I share a love for The Blues Brothers movie (because it is a masterpiece). Vince and I often cracked up behind the scenes while Paul was on the air. Besides The Blues Brothers Soundtrack, two songs make me think of him. Fats Domino’s My Blue Heaven is the first. I’m not even sure how it came about, but we both talked about how it sounded like Fats mumbled almost the entire first line of the song and then you finally could make out “My … Blue …. Heaven”. We’d often pass each other in the hall mumbling that first line.

The other song is Leap Frog by Les Brown. It was Les’s Theme song, and was used in the prom scene in the Jerry Lewis film, The Nutty Professor. In the scene, Jerry’s character is standing and listening to the music, which slowly he gets more and more into. Jerry ends up doing this ridiculous dance to the song. Vince could do that dance move for move. Damn, just the thought of it makes me laugh!

I was lucky enough to follow Johnny Molson each night after his show. Many of the songs that remind me of him are related directly to stuff that happened off air or with his listeners. Examples of this would be Miracles by Jefferson Starship and Rocket Man by Elton John. I think of Johnny, because of two listeners in particular who had … unique … ways of requesting them.

Wind Parade by Donald Byrd wasn’t even a song we played on our station, but I had to find it to hear what it sounded like. It is on my iPod today and when it comes up, I think of Johnny and our mutual friend Joe Crawley, who requested this often (no matter what the station format was). This was one of Joe’s favorite requests, but he had more: Do You See My Love by Jr. Walker and the All Stars, Julie Do You Love Me by Bobby Sherman, Got To Be There by Michael Jackson and Home Cookin’ also by Jr. Walker. All remind me of Molson. Finally a song that reminds me of classic Johnny moment is Walk Away Renee by the Left Banke (because of an on air blooper).

My friend Victor Hughes just so happens to be the guy who was the lead singer for the group The Tymes on their hit single So Much In Love. Vic s responsible for me getting to finally shake hands and meet one of my idols – Soupy Sales. Vic used to work in law enforcement in New York and often saw Soupy there. He sent his business card back stage and next think I know, I’m shaking hands with him. It was pretty cool! I still remember Vic showing me his gold record for this song.

They started as listeners, but remain life long friends today. Roxanne, Gary, and Lee all used to call and BS through the night on the request lines. Roxanne would laugh about Elvis’s Wear My Ring Around Your Neck, Gary would always ask for some surfing instrumental called Penetration by the Pyramids, and Lee would ask for Grady Martin and the Slew Foot Five!

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Richard D. used to have a feature called The Off-the-Wall Record. He’d say, “To my right is a wall. On the wall is a peg. On the peg – records. When I take one of the records of the peg on the wall and play it on the air, it becomes a Tricky Dickie Off-The Wall Record”. When he did this feature it usually consisted of rare or obscure tunes. One day I gave him Stormy Weather by the Spaniels to play. He LOVED it. He told me that was one of his favorites.

He often spoke of the group the Hi-Los and told me about the “tight” harmonies that they had. He was right. Good stuff! As a fan of the big bands, I let him listen to The Spitfire Band’s version of Cherokee, which featured an AMAZING trombone part. Again, he loved it and I think of him when it plays on the iPod.

Long story short – I gave him hell one day because he played a Dean Martin song and made some comment about him. I told him that we were both Italian and I could make some calls if he bad mouths our heritage again or something stupid like that. He laughed and then went on the air and said that I had come in and thrown him around the room and trashed the studio because of what he said about Dean. He said “I had no idea Keith Allen was the President of the Dean Martin Fan Club”! After his last show on Honey Radio, a listener suggested I play a Dean Song in Richard’s honor….I chose “I Will”. The first line of the song is “I don’t wanna be the one to say I’m gonna miss you, but I will…” it fit the somber occasion.

Then there was Rob, my morning show partner in crime. The list of songs that remind me of him are plenty. Most because he sang them at Karaoke (And I Love You So – Perry Como, Delilah – Tom Jones, There Goes My Everything – Englebert Humperdinck, and My Cup Runneth Over -Ed Ames). Three stick out for other reasons. The first two stand out because of a hillbilly character he did named Red Neckman! He’s always get “giddy” when we played Ringo by Lorne Greene and Waterloo by Stonewall Jackson. The one that I can’t believe we played on the air was by actor Robert Mitchum. Rob had this song called My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms from an album that Mitchum did. It was catchy and Bob actually sounds ok singing it…..unlike some of his other songs.

Lesley Ronson and I have “hated” each other since high school. She used to call me all the time when I was at Honey and ask me to play her a song or something. Personally, I think she just liked hearing her name on the radio. One day, I hit the wrong button and played a sound effect of the Frankenstein monster moaning and screaming (which we said was Richard warming up for his show) and said it was for Lesley…..The song I wanted to play – and eventually did – was Mean Woman Blues by Roy Orbison.

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I was in a meeting with my program director Brian Cleary when the first plane hit the World Trade Center on 9/11. We were called out of the office by the morning show gal and we watched in horror as the second plane hit. To this day, when I hear Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning by Alan Jackson, I think of that morning.

On the less serious side, Brian was/is a big Simpsons fan. I have on the iPod the 45 second classic song from the Stonecutters episode “We Do”. It still is my ringtone for him on my phone.

My morning show partner from my second go around at B95 was Stephanie Carroll. Three songs stand out immediately that make me think of her. She has a very unusual infatuation with George Strait. I’m sure he has some sort of restraining order on her. Give It Away reminds me of her. One of the coolest stars we had in studio was Jeff Bates. He was a blast. Funny. Talented. Boy, he could sing! Rub It In always makes me think of Steph.

Our newsman, Hal, was doing some story about a guy who was truck by lightnight more than once and Steph responded by saying, “Lightning always strikes three times”. Hal said, “No, its Knock Three Times on the ceiling if you want me”….which led to this crazy Tony Orlando and Dawn rant. I quickly found the hook of the song and without telling her, I waited till she started to read the traffic sponsor and just started playing it…she lost it. I did this a couple more times until I finally just jumped in and finished while she laughed. One of my favorite bits and the song will forever be connected with Steph (and Hal)!