Rest In Peace, James Lipton

I was saddened to read of the passing of James Lipton this week at age 93.  Many know him from Inside the Actor’s Studio, but he did so much more.  He was a writer and producer (working with greats like Bob Hope, and writing for many soap operas).  He was also an actor (on Guiding Light, Arrested Development) and voice actor (often playing himself on shows like the Simpsons and Family Guy).  He was also an author (he wrote the novel Mirrors, which was made into a TV movie in 1983).

He was born in Detroit and worked as a copy boy for the Detroit Times.  He actually starred on radio’s The Lone Ranger (which was broadcast out of WXYZ in Detroit) as Dan Reid, the Lone Ranger’s nephew.  He wanted to be a lawyer, but went into acting to earn money to pay for his education.

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It was with Inside the Actor’s Studio that made him a household name.  The show was a non-credit class at the Actor’s Studio Drama School where successful writers, directors, and actors were interviewed by him about their craft.  The acting students could also ask questions of the guests.  The sessions were recorded, edited, and broadcast on television for audiences to enjoy.  The show began in 1994 and continued with him as host until 2018, when he stepped down.

He was parodied by many, including Will Sasso on MadTV and David Cross on Mr. Show.  But the most memorable parody was done by Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live.  Ferrell’s portrayal was over the top and hilarious.  When asked how he liked it, Lipton said, “I love it!  I love it!  It’s flattering.”  The thing I always remember about it was the HUGE stack of blue question cards Ferrell had on the table for his guest.

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I know many people found him to be a bit creepy, but I found him fascinating.  I was always amazed at how he was able to get his guests to open up and share stuff.  He was very good at that.

Whenever we interviewed someone on the radio, we had a jar with questions.  The questions were written by staff members, listeners, and some were just made up.  We’d have them dig into the jar and answer five of them  We called it the “Final Five”.  It was far from an original idea, as James Lipton always wrapped up his interviews with a series of questions inspired by French interviewer Bernard Pivot.

In honor of his passing, here are those 10 questions.

  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What turns you on?
  4. What turns you off?
  5. What sound or noise do you love?
  6. What sound or noise do you hate?
  7. What is your favorite curse word?
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

Here are my answers:

  1. Ridiculous.  I am not sure that I’d call it my favorite, but I use it a lot!  I am guessing it changes from day to day.
  2. Moist.  That’s the first word that pops into my head, and I hate it!
  3. My wife. Constantly!  She is beautiful.
  4. Smoking. I was exposed to it as a kid and I find it disgusting.
  5. Birds singing on a spring or summer morning.  Love it even more when I hear it on the golf course.
  6. Children crying – it always breaks my heart.
  7. Fuck.  Not proud of this, and believe me, I am trying really hard to stop using it so much!  There are just some things that force me to say it – like my co-workers – they’ve come to expect it from me.  LOL
  8. I would love to teach.  Today’s atmosphere is a lot different from when I was in school.  I would love to teach some sort of fun subject – music or entertainment oriented.  Wishful thinking, I know.
  9. Any political job.  No matter what you do, someone disagrees with you. I’m not sure I could handle that kind of criticism or pressure.
  10. I believe heaven does exist, and I would love for God to say, “Welcome, Keith.  You’ve done well.  You were a good father, a good husband, and a good friend.  You’re mom and grandparents have been waiting for you.  They need a fourth for pinochle.”

What are YOUR answers?

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Tunes from Toons

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I spent a lot of time in the car with my sons this past weekend.  My oldest son asked me if I remembered some of the shows he used to watch as a kid.  We began listing the shows he and his brother watched and had many laughs as we remembered specific episodes.  This led to us talking about songs from shows. With every song we recalled, the more I thought about the possibility of it being a topic for a blog.

The picture above may be a little misleading.  The Beatles cartoons all featured a Beatles song.  There were cartoons that were about bands like Josie and the Pussycats, Jabberjaw, Butch Cassidy, The Banana Splits, The Archies, and The Chipmunks.  I am not talking about these cartoons.  This blog is about songs that were featured in cartoons NOT about bands.

The songs I wrote down are all songs that I remember instantly when I think about these cartoons.  They are NOT the theme songs to the cartoons themselves, although many of those theme songs are just awesome.  Some of these songs will stem from cartoons my kids watched, while many will be from toons I watched growing up.

I also want to point out that these songs are NOT from movies.  Almost every Disney film has 2-5 songs that come from them.  Yes, they are animated cartoons, but I am specifically talking about non-movie songs.

Let me start with a classic.  In the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Hillbilly Hare”, an innocent square dance becomes a physical brawl between two brothers (thanks to Bugs).  This scene and song was something my morning show partner and I talked about on the air one day!

My brother grew up watching Animaniacs.  We always laughed that they had a character based on Perry Como, who they called Perry Coma. Anyway, they have a few songs that stand out – one naming all the countries in the world, another naming all the presidents (up to Clinton, if I remember right), and one naming the all the states and their capitals.  I wish I had this song to memorize when I was growing up.

There was a season of Scooby Doo where they would play songs during the “chase scenes”.  There was always one song that stood out for me.  I never knew the name of it until I found it on an album of Scooby Doo songs.  It was called “Tell Me, Tell Me”.  Remember this one?

My boys watched a lot of SpongeBob Squarepants.  There were some episodes that were very funny, and others I found extra annoying.  One song from this show that my boys just loved was “Sweet Victory”, which they performed at the “Bubble Bowl”

They weren’t all “Rock” songs, but the Flintstones certainly had a few that stick out to me.  Hoagy Carmichael (one of the great songwriters of all time) appeared as himself on the show and sang “Yabba Dabba Doo”, there was the Soft Soap jingle, “Listen to the Rockin’ Bird”, and my favorite – The Bedrock Twitch, sung by Rock Roll (or in this clip, Fred).

There are some who would argue that the best song from the Flintstones came from Pebbles and Bamm Bamm, so here is that one.

There was one song from the Jetsons that I always remember.  Judy loves singer Jet Screamer (played by Howie Morris).  Elroy’s secret code gets sent into a song writing contest and becomes his next hit record.  Remember Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah?

An earworm that drove parents everywhere crazy came from the Ren & Stimpy Show.  Time to get Happy Happy with Stinky Wizzleteats…

The Simpson’s has had their share of amazing music in their over 30 years on the air.  There have even been albums of just music from the show.  There is one little gem that I can’t get enough of – and it is only about 45 seconds long.  Homer becomes a Stonecutter and they have their own song!  Yes, I often hit repeat when this comes on the iPod.

Ok, technically, this entire cartoon is a song.  I have to include it on my list, because, well, it’s my list and I love this!  Stan Freberg tells the story of the Three Little Bops with music by Shorty Rogers!

If I had to pick one cartoon that I LOVED watching with my kids, it would be Phineas and Ferb.  If you have never seen the show, its just plain fun with a new song in almost every episode.  Candace is always trying to bust her brothers (Phineas and Ferb – who make the most out of every single day of summer) while Perry (their pet platypus – who is also a secret agent) tries to save the Tri-State area from the evil scientist Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

There are many songs I could pick from (My Undead Mummy and Me, My Nemesis, My Goody Two Shoes Brother, Busted, S.I.M.P – Squirrels In My Pants, and Perry’s Theme), but I will turn to one of their early episodes for my favorite.

In one episode, Flop Starz, they decide to write a hit song.  Their mom explains what a “one hit wonder” is and they are off to write it!  The result – Gitchee Gitchee Goo.  The song itself has been reviewed by critics who have said that the song could have easily been a hit song!

Your turn.  What songs do YOU remember from your favorite cartoon shows?

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What’s Up, Doc?

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This week I found out that the doctor’s office where my primary care doctor practices is going private. To be honest, this is the first time I have ever had this happen. They offered all of the current patient’s the option to stay with the practice – at a cost. So for $90 a month, I can stay with my doc, get his cell phone number for after hours questions, unlimited visits with no co-pays or deductibles, “unhurried appointments that start on time”, and a bunch of other “perks”. While this sounds great, I still have to pay my monthly insurance in case I need to go to ER or have a hospital stay. Bottom line: it’s gonna cost me more money.

I think the hardest part about this is the fact that I finally found a doctor I like. He’s Italian (we’ve talked about Italy and Sicily often). He listens to me. He doesn’t rush me. He is honest. I trust him. I’ve really only had a few doctors where I felt like this. Now, because the entire practice is going private, I have to begin a new search for a doctor!

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Finding the right “doc” should be an easy task, right? Well, it really isn’t for me. Because I work an hour and 15 minutes from home, AND work for a health system, I have to take the insurance provided by them. I have to use doctors that are affiliated with the health system. This is not really a big deal. What makes it difficult is that the closest practices are about 30-50 minutes south of where I live.

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Not only do I have to find a new doctor for me, but the new doctor has to be one that I can take the boys to as well. The options keep getting fewer and fewer, especially since there are only a few practices in that area.

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The old doctor will see me through the end of December. So I have about 2 months to research, visit, and make a choice. Oh, and amidst all of that, it is time for open enrollment and there are all kinds of changes in that too that I need to look at and consider.

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Why must health care and insurance be such a major pain in the ass?! Urgh! I am really hating that my doctor’s office is doing this!! I understand why, though. I mean, really, if I were a doctor and could avoid all the insurance company bullshit, I’d do it too! It’s just very frustrating and unfair to the patients who are established. To assume that a patient can afford an extra $1100 a year on top of what they already pay for insurance really sucks!

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It is no secret that in many cases all it would take is one major medical emergency to put a family into financial distress! Hell, one ER visit with my son, at the health system I work for cost me over $800! He wasn’t even admitted! Health care costs are astronomical (not to mention pharmaceutical costs)!

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So the search is on … I have a short time to interview, research and make the decision on my new doc. I am loathing ever damn second of it. Who is the right Doc??

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Doc Bricker?

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Doc Brown?

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Doc Severinsen?!?!

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Doctor Howard? Doctor Fine? Doctor Howard?

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Dr. Van Helsing??

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Dr. Nick?!?

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Gratuitous Grey’s Anatomy photo (cause my wife loves that show)

Doctor McSteamer? McSteaming? Or McDreamy? Whatever the hell they call him?!?!

Wish me luck … I am NOT looking forward to this at all ….

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BLOG ADDITION!!!

My brother read this blog and reminded me that there are many other doctor options that I forgot.  So, here are a few more I will look into:

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Dr. David Banner – although his temper may be an issue.

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Dr. Samuel Beckett – though he is often in and out

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Dr. Bombay – he’s magical!

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Dr. Frasier Crane and Dr. Niles Crane – they are crazy fun!

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Dr. John Watson – The game is afoot!

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Dr. Rumack – I am serious!

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Dr. Honeydew  and his faithful companion, Beaker.

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Dr. Richard Kimble – although he’s on the lamb

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Dr. Bob Hartley

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Another Dr. Bob …

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Dr. Zhivago

Dr Zaius

Dr. Zaius

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Dr. Strangelove

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Dr. Fu Manchu

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The Family Practice of Dr. Jones and Dr. Jones

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Dr. Frankenstein – it’s not pronounced how it looks.

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Dr. Cockroach – he creeps me out a bit

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These doctors!

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Dr. Spaceman – not pronounced how it looks either!

Dr. teeth

Dr. Teeth – I have all his albums!

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Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz – He has his own jingle and nemesis.

With all of those wonderful choices …. I may just go with the Dr. I can relate to the most … perhaps you have heard of him….

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Dr. Johnny Fever!

Thanks to my brother for reminding me that I have many more options … LOL!

 

Random Thursday Thoughts

There is no real theme to today’s blog.  Over the past 24 hours, I have jotted down a few thoughts in my notebook and I decided to put them all in one place.

Happy 17th Birthday, Dante’!

Last year, I wrote a blog for my son’s 16th birthday.  You can read it here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2018/04/11/sweet-16-already/

I have no comprehension of just where the time goes!  I mean, he just turned 16!  Has it really been 365 days already?!  Just yesterday, we were talking about how we’re going to need to rent a pavilion for his graduation party, ordering senior pictures, whether or not he’s going to want a class ring, and things like that.  It seems like yesterday that I was holding his hand as I walked him into his kindergarten class, and yet here he is about to be a senior!

He texted me at work yesterday and asked if he could call me.  I called him and he told me that he was watching the Simpsons and the episode made him think of me.  It’s the Stonecutter’s Episode.  In the episode, they are all seated around a table and they sing a song called “The Stonecutter’s Song (We Do).”  I have it on my iPod, and it is also the ringtone for my old radio boss, Brian, who is a big Simpsons fan.  Dante’ called me to sing the song to me on the phone and we had a very nice talk.  He had me smiling for the rest of the night.  I love that kid!  Happy Birthday, Dante’!  Can’t wait to celebrate with you this weekend!

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National Pet Day

I read that today is National Pet Day.  Growing up we always had dogs.  When I moved away for a radio job, I was given a cat to keep me company.  I think I’ve had a cat ever since.  I love dogs, don’t get me wrong, but with a cat, you can go away for a day or two and as long as they have food and water, they’re good.  We still talk about getting a dog in the future, but with us working long days, a dog would spend a lot of time cooped up in the house.

At any rate – in honor of National Pet Day, here are Maizey and Moe.

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Mortgage Company Followers?

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This bit is for my Word Press followers.  I seem to have a variety of mortgage companies or mortgage lenders who have begun to follow my blog.  Let me say this – I’m probably not going to post anything about real estate or mortgages on this blog, so you may as well unfollow me.  We are currently NOT looking for a new home, and I am wondering why my blog is so interesting to them.  I wonder if these accounts are fake.  I will get random notifications from Word Press saying that one of the said followers have “liked” one of my blog posts, usually one that was posted a while ago.  Anyone have any thoughts on this?

Conference Talk

Coming up in June, I am going to be a speaker at a Sleep Conference.  I am very excited about it, and had a nice discussion with my boss about it today.  We were tossing ideas back and forth and swapping ideas, which was extremely helpful.  It helped to be able to talk to someone who has already presented at a past conference.

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As a former radio guy, speaking in front of people has never been an issue.  For whatever reason, I had one of those “What the hell am I doing?” moments this week.  Usually, I am talking to a group of people who don’t know much about my topic.  At this conference, however, I am speaking to my peers.  I will be talking  to fellow technologists (many of who have been doing this longer than me), physicians (who know WAY more than I can even imagine), my coworkers, lab managers and DME company reps.  I’m not going to lie, I am intimidated.  I can only hope that I can present this in a way that excites my audience and informs them.  Oh, and I hope I don’t look like an idiot!

A Special Hello

I always share a link to new blogs on my Facebook page.  However, because I have friends who are still friends with people from my past, those posts were not made public to them.  A friend who was mentioned in a recent blog enjoyed it so much, he chose to share it on his Facebook page.  Because he and I went to the same school, and share many of the same friends, folks who I had intended not to see this page now can.

It’s really no big deal, if they get anything out of it, I hope they now see how very much my life has changed for the better and how happy I am.  I hope they read it and examine themselves and see just how judgmental they are.  I hope that realize the negative vibes that they bring about by their unhappiness.  If they want to surround themselves with hate, gossip, judgment, and find happiness in making others unhappy – so be it.  I’m glad that my life still interests you and will give you much to talk about.  Troll away – I am sorry for you sad existence.

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Have a great Thursday!

 

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)!