Turntable Talk – “Shock Rock”

Welcome to another edition of Turntable Talk hosted by Dave over at A Sound Day. Check out his site here: https://soundday.wordpress.com/

His topics have ranged from very easy to thought provoking. This time around, I find it truly thought provoking.

Here are the instructions that Dave sent to each of the participants describing what this edition was to be about:

This time around I’m calling it ‘Shock rock’… but wait, it’s not about Marilyn Manson and Megadeath…unless you want it to be.  The subject basically will be pick a record that you love that would surprise people… something that runs afar from your regular favorite listening.  Maybe you like hard rock but love something by the Carpenters. Or are a huge ’60s fan who can’t get enough Bruno Mars. Or maybe it’s a little Tchaikovsky to wind down after a night full of Stones or Springsteen.  Let us know what it is that makes that ‘oddball’ selection so appealing to you.

What Could Possibly “Surprise” You?

I have almost 5000 songs on my iPod. I have a CD collection that fills at least three storage totes, and 4 carrying cases. My external hard drive is loaded up with almost half a terabyte of songs. What ONE song would surprise you? This was my dilemma.

I had three songs immediately jump out at me when I first read Dave’s e-mail. The more I thought on them, I just wasn’t sure which one to pick. As I am writing this, I still question the one that I chose. I will stick with it because it isn’t something I would normally post, and it is more of a personal song. So how in the world did I narrow it down?

Grab my iPod and there is just about every genre of music on there. There is pop music from every decade from the 1930’s to the 2010’s. There is country music – classic and modern. There is a fair amount of R&B, Soul and Motown. I’m not ashamed to admit there are some disco favorites, too. You will also find Big Band and Swing music, Jazz, standards, and plenty of Classical music. There is Christian music and plenty of oldies. There are some favorite Christmas songs on the play list and songs that I played when I was in high school band that I downloaded from YouTube and other sources.

Going through the iPod, there were songs that I thought were “oddball” that I could write about. For example, I have almost every Weird Al Polka Medley on there. I also have music from the Shrek soundtrack, music from The Muppets, and music from the cartoon Phineas and Ferb. There are also plenty of songs that are on there that my kids used to listen to when we would be in the car from some of their favorite kid shows. Oddball, indeed.

All that being said, anyone who knows me or has read my blog before knows that I have a wide range of musical tastes. It would be easy to feature any one of the “oddball” songs mentioned in the above paragraph. Instead, there was one song that stood out for me. It is a song that I never skip when it comes on the iPod (there are only a few of those). It is also a song that I have debated posting on my blog as part of a “music Monday” or some music feature. I kept holding back, probably because it is such a personal song for me. Will you find it “shocking?” I doubt it.

Untitled Hymn – Chris Rice

Readers of my blog know that I am a Christian. While I don’t care for much of the “modern” Christian music, I do like many songs. I cannot recall when I first heard Chris Rice’s “Untitled Hymn,” but it hit me immediately. It was a song that I shared with one of the guys at church, who worked it up and sang it on more than one occasion.

To those who are not of the Christian faith, there will be no connection whatsoever to the song. To me, however, it hits me deep every time I hear it. I am reminded of who I was before and who I am now. It also reminds me that when my life is over – it isn’t over. I am aware that not everyone believes what I do, and that is ok. I’m ok if you just scroll on by this blog.

The song begins with a lone piano and then the vocal. The lyrics of this song speak of the journey of a Christian. From sinner to saved. Singing praise. New life in Christ and life’s struggles and looking to Him in those struggles. Feeling the love and joy that comes in this new life. Finally, the “end” of life on earth for the Christian and the beginning of the afterlife.

The vocal and the piano blend so perfectly. The inflection of the vocal through the dynamics of the song conveys the lyrics exactly how they need to be conveyed. Rice rerecorded the song for “A Collection of Hymns” with a more up-tempo piano and more instrumentation (strings, guitar, etc…) and vocal harmony. Personally, I prefer the original recording over the newer version. I feel it is more powerful.

Here is the original and the lyrics:

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
Oh, raise your head for Love is passing by

Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live

Now your burden’s lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain

So, sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live

And like a newborn baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk sometimes we fall

So, fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain

Then cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live

Oh and when the love splills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside

Then dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live

With your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side

And fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live

Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live

In Closing

Does it shock you that I picked this song? I guess it is a bit different than the songs I have posted in the past. Isn’t that what I was supposed to do? At any rate, Dave asked us to explain what makes this song so “appealing.” All I can say is that it appeals to me because I relate to it. Outside of the last verse, I have lived it. It is a song that strikes a chord (pun intended) every time I hear it. Depending on what is going on in my life, I either smile and sing along or cry and sing along. To me, that makes it one powerful song.

Thanks for allowing me to participate, Dave. I look forward to the next edition.

Turntable Talk – Did Video Kill The Radio Star?

This blog is my entry for Dave over at A Sound Day’s “Turntable Talk.” Kudo’s to Dave for picking some fantastic topics, and at the same time letting us participants “run” with it. The following are the instructions we were given:

We were told we ” …don’t have to write literally about the question, but we’re looking for your thoughts on all things music video – how much did MTV change the music of the ’80s? Since there were already British acts making videos regularly in the 70s, do you think it would have taken off in a big way even without the American MTV influence?  Did it kill careers… or make careers that shouldn’t have happened? Do you have favorite ones you still like to watch?  Do you miss the days when MTV (or Much Music in Canada, or European equivalents) ran music videos instead of reality TV and old reruns?   Really, approach it how you like, but I’m curious to get thoughts on the Video Revolution.

My Conundrum

There have been many people who truly believe that video killed the radio star. As a child of the 70’s and 80’s, I lived through the beginnings of MTV. When I think about music videos, there are so many that I will forever associate with the songs. For example:

  • Take On Me – a-ha
  • Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel
  • Rhythm Nation – Janet Jackson
  • Bad, Billie Jean, Beat It, Black or White, and of course, Thriller – Michael Jackson
  • Vogue – Madonna
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
  • Buddy Holly – Weezer
  • Weapon of Choice – Fatboy Slim
  • Dire Straits – Money For Nothing
  • Legs – ZZ Top
  • Land of Confusion – Genesis
  • Hot For Teacher – Van Halen
  • Simply Irresistible – Robert Palmer
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
  • Run DMC and Aerosmith – Walk This Way
  • California Girls – David Lee Roth
  • Got My Mind Set on You – George Harrison
  • Stuck With You – Huey Lewis and the News
  • Faith – George Michael
  • White Wedding – Billy Idol
  • Opposites Attract – Paula Abdul

The list could go on and on! Those are just the ones that I pulled off the top of my head (and I am probably forgetting some big ones)!

The more I thought about it, I kept coming back to “Video killed the radio star.” Perhaps that is the case (as some proclaim), but I can think of one artist who made videos and it got him mainstream attention.

MTV Welcomes Weird Al Yankovic

According to Wikipedia, the discography of Mr. Yankovic consists of fourteen studio albums, nine compilation albums, eleven videos albums, two extended plays, two box sets, forty-six singles and fifty-four music videos. 

Those fifty-four music videos helped to take Weird Al Yankovic to the mainstream world. Let’s face it, the only place you could hear him on the radio was on the Dr. Demento Show, which was often aired in the worst possible time slot because of the crazy content. When Al ventured into the video realm, more and more viewers wanted to see – and hear – more of him!

Parody songs have been around forever, and very rarely ever got radio play. Novelty records were big in the 50’s and 60’s, and there were a few here and there in the 70’s. When Al comes on the scene in 1983, he took it to a whole new level, using videos.

1983’s “Ricky” is credited as being his first video. It was a parody of Toni Basil’s “Micky.” It was a parody base on the TV show I Love Lucy. The video was shot in black and white and still looks great today.

From there, Al continued to use video to gain exposure on MTV. His next single was “I Love Rocky Road” which parodies Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll.” Instead of a greaser bar, it is set in … an ice cream parlor.

Al’s next video is really the one that really stands out as the one that moved him to a whole new level. Yes, he is a parody singer, but with the video for “Eat It” (a parody of Michael Jackson’s Beat It), not only is the song parodied, but so is the video. Al’s video is literally a shot for shot remake of Jackson’s. Throughout the video, instead of switchblades there are rubber chickens and kitchen utensils, and gags for almost everything in the Beat It video.

I can’t say whether or not the video is responsible for this, but the song won Al a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording in 1984. The video won for Best Male Performance at the 1984 American Video Awards!

From that point on, Al continued to make music videos for his singles. Art Fleming appeared in the “I Lost on Jeopardy” video, non-stop visual gags were plentiful in the “Like a Surgeon” video, and the James Brown “screams and shrieks” in “Living With a Hernia” were all more painful than soulful.

In 1988, Al once again parodied Michael Jackson. If I had to pick a “perfect” Weird Al parody video, it this would be one of two. Al won another Grammy Award for Best Concept Music Video for “Fat.” He even got permission from MJ to use the same set as the original video. Al’s makeup took three hours to apply every day and his fat suit weighed 40 pounds. Every time I hear the line, “Ding Dong, Yo!” I still crack up.

I mentioned that “Fat” is one of two “perfect” videos. The other would have to be the fantastic video for “Smells Like Nirvana” (a parody of Smells Like Teen Spirit). Al famously got permission for this parody from Kurt Cobain himself when he was performing on Saturday Night Live. In this Grammy-nominated video, Al satirizes Nirvana and the grunge movement, shooting on the same set as the original video and using the same actor who played the janitor (Rudy Larosa). Dick Van Patten has a cameo, which for whatever reason is extremely funny to me. Why Dick Van Patten??!! Someone said that Tony Hawk makes an appearance in the video, too. I’m not sure I know where.

Weird Al has certainly used music videos to his advantage. It takes a lot of creativity to write a good parody (I mean, come on, there are a lot of crap ones out there – just look on YouTube), but to take an already funny song and create a video that brings about even more humor, just enhances the song. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, Weird Al is a musical genius.

There have been many other great videos that have followed. To name a few: Amish Paradise (featuring Florence Henderson), Headline News (featuring The People’s Court’s Doug Llewelyn), Gump (featuring Ruth Buzzi and Pat Boone), The Saga Begins (the fantastic Star Wars tribute), White and Nerdy (featuring Donny Osmond and Seth Green), and so many more.

Yes, video may have killed the radio star, but it certainly helped boost the career of Weird Al Yankovic.

“Mama’s Got a Squeezebox…”

It wasn’t until I was working at B-95 that I discovered National Accordion Awareness Month. My buddy Tim and I would get together quite often and think of bits we could write and produce to play during our radio shows. We came up with some really funny stuff.

It was mid-May and we were writing stuff for June. I am pretty sure that it was Tim who told me about it. I don’t recall who came up with the idea, but we produced this little sweeper to play in between songs. It was the silliest thing, but it always made me laugh. It basically went like this:

The song playing on the air ends. Then the announcer says, “B-95 reminds you that June is National Accordion Awareness Month! Here’s an Accordion Awareness Month Update!” Then we’d insert 10-15 seconds of some ridiculous accordion clip which was followed again by the announcer. “Keep it here all month long for more Accordion Awareness Month Updates – on B-95!” Then the next song would play. It was so out of place and so funny to me. I used this bit for years even taking it to other stations.

According to the National Day Calendar Website:

Through a complex construction of bellows and reeds, the accordion (also known as a concertina) produces its mournful timbre when air is forced over the reeds. While the accordion accompanies traditional polka music, the instrument has found its way into many classical and modern works of music.

For generations the accordion complimented many genres in American music. From jazz and zydeco to folk and Gospel and Blues, musicians found the accordion a fit a variety of musical styles.

The instrument changed, too. Manufactured in several different sizes, the smaller squeeze boxes became popular. The accordion fit well into country music, and when Rock and Roll made the scene, the accordion followed. Today, the instrument is no stranger to the recording studio.

Musicians such as Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, and Mumford and Sons all have recorded hit songs with the accordion playing a supporting role.

In honor of the occasion, here are some of my favorite accordion players:

Weird Al Yankovic
The other accordion playing Yankovic – Frankie
Lawrence Welk – orchestra leader and accordion player
The fantastic Linda Lee, who can be seen at the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth, MI!

Happy National Accordion Awareness Month! Squeeze This!!

It’s National Kazoo Day!!

Every year on January 28th, the country celebrates National Kazoo Day! What kid didn’t have a kazoo growing up? I know I had quite a few.

Why are kazoos so fun? It’s the musical instrument for those who can’t “play” a musical instrument! All you need to be able to do is hum, and you are playing the kazoo. According to Wikipedia: Players can produce different sounds by singing specific syllables such as doo, ‘’too’’, whorrrrr or brrr into the kazoo.

This made me think about hit songs that featured a kazoo. I came up with a few:

  • Joanie Sommers’ 1962 hit “Johnny Get Angry” features an instrumental break with an ensemble of kazoos.
  • Also in 1962, Jessie Fuller’s “San Francisco Bay Blues” has a kazoo solo. Eric Clapton’s version of the song for his 1992 “Unplugged” special also featured a kazoo.
  • In 1968, Pink Floyd featured a kazoo on “Jugband Blues.”

I also discovered that in 1978, a group calling themselves “The Temple City Kazoo Orchestra” put out an album entitled, “Some Kazoos,” which featured versions of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” The Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive,” and The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You.”

What #1 song featured a kazoo (or at least something that sounds like a kazoo)? Ringo Starr’s 1973 cover of the Johnny Burnette song, “You’re Sixteen.”

According to songfacts.com: Ringo got a lot of help on his solo efforts, and on this track, Harry Nilsson sang backup and Paul McCartney made the noise that sounds like a kazoo (producer Richard Perry said he was singing; the album credits him for “vocal sax solo”).

Wikipedia also questions the “kazoo”: Although McCartney is credited on the liner notes of the album Ringo as having played the solo on a kazoo, reviewer Michael Verity has quoted the song’s producer Richard Perry as revealing that it wasn’t actually a kazoo: “In fact, the solo on ‘You’re Sixteen,’ which sounds like a kazoo or something, was Paul singing very spontaneously as we played that track back, so he’s singing the solo on that.” Starr’s version remains one of the few No. 1 singles to feature a ‘kazoo-sound’ solo.

Here it is. You decide if it is a kazoo….

The 1973 music video for the song featured Carrie Fisher!! Here’s it is:

The other song that stands out with a kazoo solo belongs to Weird Al Yankovic in his amazing parody of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The video is yet another example of Al’s ability to not only parody the song, but the video for the song. Listen for the kazoo in “Smells Like Nirvana”…

What other songs can you think of that feature the kazoo?

Happy National Kazoo Day!

A Holiday Dozen

I mentioned to my friend Max that I had hoped to post a Christmas song every day from December 1st through Christmas Day. When it comes to holiday tunes, I could probably post a favorite Christmas song for every day of the year …

At any rate, rather than spend the time to do that, I was asked by a friend to pick my Top 10 favorite Christmas Albums. How can I do that? I have so many! I could easily pick my Top 10 Christmas albums for each genre – pop, country, classical, jazz, etc… So here is what I decided to do. I took a piece of paper and jotted down the 10 albums I felt were “must have” albums for me every year. I couldn’t narrow it down to just 10, so I made it 12.

In no particular order, here is the Holiday Dozen I came up with:

Ok, you gotta have Bing! He was often referred to as “The Voice of Christmas,” and for good reason! It was an album that often accompanied us while we opened gifts.

A great album of great songs – Brenda Lee, Bobby Helms, Stevie Wonder, Roy Orbison, The Drifters, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin are all represented in this amazing collection!

When Charles Schulz was asked to write a Christmas Special, he said he would on one condition – it had to include the story of Christ’s birth. When he chose the soundtrack for the special, he wanted something that he felt could relate to everyone – so he picked Jazz. Vince Guaraldi’s songs are synonymous with Christmas for me.

Growing up, I always disliked The Christmas Song. I guess I couldn’t relate to it as a kid. As I grew up, it became more and more meaningful to me. This album is full of many other fantastic cuts that never get played on the radio.

This one represents the “novelty” side of Christmas! Yes, it includes the Chipmunks, but it also includes some classic novelty songs from Allan Sherman, Bob & Doug McKenzie, Cheech & Chong, and Weird Al Yankovic. It is also one of the few places you can find Stan Freberg’s Christmas Dragnet. Oh, yeah, and that dumb Hippopotamus song is on here, too (but I skip that one).

This is one that a friend told me about. The story goes that a couple of members of the Glenn Miller Orchestra were sitting around talking one day. They asked each other what they thought Glenn would be doing if he were still around. One of them said “Probably working on a Christmas album.” The idea was born. They contacted former members of the Glenn Miller Orchestra and they recorded this one. It is truly a great album and tribute to Miller.

Bing Crosby may have been called the “Voice of Christmas,” but Frank Sinatra was THE VOICE. This collection includes one of my favorites: Whatever Happened to Christmas. You also get his amazing version of Have Yourself a Marry Little Christmas and other classics.

Some great songs from Al Martino, Jo Stafford, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, and other pop singers of the 40’s and 50’s.

I have talked about this one before. It is just an amazing album with something for everyone. I love listening to Doc and the Tonight Show Band jamming on songs like Winter Wonderland, Let It Snow, and my favorite version of Jingle Bells! You’ll also love the Children’s Choir and Bell Choir on other numbers.

Mel, of course, wrote The Christmas Song, and I just love to hear his version of it. Nat King Cole’s version doesn’t include Mel’s extra lyric: “Love and joy come to you, and a Merry Christmas, too. And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year.” Known as “The Velvet Fog,” Mel’s voice is perfect on Christmas Time Is Here, The Christmas Medley, Sleigh Ride, and a Christmas version of The Glow Worm.

I have so many favorite Elvis Christmas songs that aren’t on this album, but I love how they have added the orchestra to his classics on this album. Santa Claus is Back in Town sounds so much fuller with them. I only wish that they had done If Every Day Was Like Christmas for this album.

Before both of his Christmas albums were made available, they took tracks from both his “Winter Romance” album and “The Dean Martin Christmas Album” and combined them for this collection. I have both of those albums now, but for one collection – I pick this one. Marshmallow World is one of my favorite cuts!

How about you? What’s your Holiday Dozen??

Tune Tuesday: That’s a Rap … A Funny Rap

I hadn’t planned on a Tune Tuesday Blog, however, I stumbled on an article online that was about Comedy Rap songs. Back in March of this year, I did a quick blurb about white rappers before Eminem. Some of these will be repeats, as they would fall into the “comedy” rap category.

Here are some forgotten “comedy” rap songs – some good … some bad:

Rappin’ Duke

Shawn Brown is one who was mentioned in the March Blog. “So you think you’re bad, with your rap? Well, I’ll tell ya, Pilgrim, I started the crap…” I had the 12 inch single of this one. It got Top 40 airplay (which was uncommon for rap songs) when it came out. Still a favorite for me. Duh- Haw, Duh – Haw…..

Wipe Out

The Safari’s had a big hit with the instrumental, Wipe Out. The Fat Boys came along and rapped along with the Beach Boys on this one. Believe it or not – it worked. I remember hearing this song first as a video on MTV. Eventually, it got airplay on the radio, too. I’m sure it was meant to be more of a serious song, but it really falls into the novelty category for me.

Rappin’ Rodney

Rodney Dangerfield got a lot of respect with this top 40 hit. Basically the song is bits from his stand up act with a musical chorus. What helped it get airplay is probably the video for it which featured 80’s singer Pat Benatar and comedian Father Guido Sarducci!

Wet Dream

Comedian Kip Addotta knocks it out of the park with his underwater Pun-fest! This was a song I used to hear often on the Dr. Demento Show. To call this a rap song is pushing it a bit, but the article I saw mentioned it, and I laughed as I recalled the puns throughout it, so I include it here.

Honeymooner’s Rap

Here is one I totally forgot about! Back in the day, Joe Piscopo would do spot on impressions of David Letterman, David Hartman, Frank Sinatra and so many more! He recruited his fellow cast member Eddie Murphy and together they relived some of the great moments from the Honeymooners TV show. Joe is Ralph and Ed is Norton in this comedy rap. I remember running out and buying the 45 of this one.

Do The Bartman

The Simpsons TV show has produced loads of musical gems! Many of those have made their way onto collections like Songs In the Key of Springfield. A song that was a radio hit (and I got requests for it at weddings and parties, too) was Do the Bartman. The song featured Nancy Cartwright as Bart, and also features the King of Pop, Michael Jackson!

White and Nerdy

The list HAD to have Weird Al Yankovic on it! The Weird Al song that made the article I read was Amish Paradise, which is indeed a great parody. However, I think White and Nerdy tops that one. Al’s Parody of Chamillionaire’s Ridin’ (and the hilarious video) was all over radio and TV, not to mention social media and the internet.

Addams Groove

Lord help us! MC Hammer offered up this stinker as a movie tie in to one of the Addams Family movies. It was one of those songs that I hated hearing on the radio. The only thing it is really good for now, is Halloween parties!

City of Crime

In 1987, Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks appeared in a movie based on Jack Webb’s TV show, Dragnet. As yet another movie tie in, Dan and Tom (as their characters from the film) rap together in this one. Yes, there was a video for it and it included choreography by none other than Paula Abdul! It’s something you need to see … even if it leaves you wondering “What the hell was that?!”

The Contra Rap

Here is another I had forgotten about that got lots of airplay on the Dr. Demento show. The Iran-Contra Affair was all over the news from 1985-1987. Impressionist Rich Little had an album out entitled Ronald Reagan Slept Here. It includes some very funny bits with him as Ronald Reagan. One of the cuts on the album was The Contra Rap. It features Rich Little as Oliver North, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter. The Capitol Steps also recorded this, but Rich’s is the best.

Feel free to let me know if I missed any. In the meantime, I am sure you can find all of these on Youtube!

Me: From A to Z

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By far not the most original blog idea, but this stems from a daily writing prompt.  What is cool about something like this, is that I can probably return to this idea a few times and come up with some different answers.  The idea is to take all 26 letters of the alphabet and describe yourself with each one.  It shouldn’t take too long.  Why not do your own in the comments?  Here is Me … from A to Z:

A     Always early (“If you’re on time, you’re late!”

B     Blessed (with friends, family, and so many things)

C     Coffee drinker.  (Not sure how I’d make it through the day without it)

D     Daddy to Dante’, Dimitri, and Ella (I love them all so much!)

E     Emotional.  (I am probably too emotional.  I cry at sappy TV commercials!)

F     Friend.  (I have some of the greatest friends.  I treasure those friendships.)

G     Gaining weight. (About 25 pounds over the course of my wife’s pregnancy)

H     Happy. (I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.)

I     Italian.  (Proud of my Italian heritage.)

J     Jokes.  (I love hearing them.  I love telling them.)

K     Kind. (One of the greatest things we can be is kind to one another.)

L     Laughs a lot. (Laughter is important.  Life is better with laughter.)

M     Music lover. (“Where words fail, music speaks.” Music is SO important to me.)

N     Night Owl. (Yeah, I work midnights, but I have always been a night owl.)

O     Old Stuff. (Love old TV shows, old radio shows, old movies, etc…)

P     Procrastinator.  (One of my bad habits.  I tend to wait till the last minute to do things)

Q     Quotes.  (Might be a line from a TV show or movie, or a famous quote to apply to life)

R     Radio Personality. (The thing I wish I was still doing full time.)

S     Sam’s husband. (She has made me the happiest man alive.  She is my one true love)

T     Trumpet. (Wish I was still playing it in a band.)

U     Unique. (The easy answer, but it’s true.  We are ALL unique!)

V     Vague (Like this answer, for example)

W     Weird Al Yankovic.  (We’re both weird and I have all his albums.)

X     XOXO (I always kiss and hug those I love!)

Y     Young (Something I wish I was again!)

Z     Zoo (I love the Zoo.  Love going with my kids.  Favorite animal:  The Otter)

Three Birthday Tributes

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Today I would like to salute three of my closest friends.  I guess, in a way, I am taking the easy way out by including all three of them in one blog.  I am doing it this way because they all celebrate birthdays this month.  So here are some thoughts on three great guys.

Joe – October 15

Joe is my Polish brother.  He says that I am his Italian brother.  The great Red Buttons used to joke that “there is only one difference between the Polish and the Italians – One year of high school!”  We truly are like brothers.  Joe and I met in junior high school.  We had band 1st hour.  It was in this class that I also met Steve K, who you will hear about shortly.  We all hit it off immediately, and have been friends ever since.

In high school, I used to pick Joe up and drive him to school.  He used to run out of the house with a bowl of cereal in his hand.  I remember that cereal was Fruit Islands.  They don’t make it anymore, but the commercials had some guy saying “Ayumma yumma”.  Not sure why, but I will always remember that.

All of the guys I am talking about were in band.  Steve K, Joe, and I all graduated the same year.  Steve M, graduated before us.  Joe and I were band officers.  We were both librarians.  That meant we were responsible for all the music.  We copied it and made sure the parts were placed in the right folders for band members.  Our senior year, Joe was head librarian and I was band president.  We spent many hours after school working on music and hanging with the band director and custodian.  We were probably more of an annoyance than anything!

Bill, the custodian, was such a cool guy!  He invited us to his wedding!  We used to pick a day and he would make sure not to bring lunch that day.  We’d order a pizza from Sorrento’s and eat it in the band room.  We’d sit around telling stories and laughing.  Such fun times!

There was a brief period where I switched from trumpet to tuba.  Joe was the lone tuba player.  I played tuba at the commencement ceremonies for the class of 87, and then played it briefly for marching band.  I was asked by the band director to switch back to trumpet.  He said we needed more trumpets – but now that I think about it, maybe I was just a real crappy tuba player!

It seems like Joe and I have been golfing and bowling together for as long as I can remember.  I remember bowling at this little hole in the wall dump in St. Clair Shores with Joe.  It was always such fun there, and we are still friends with many of the folks we met there.  Eventually we joined a league at Pastime Lanes.  It was there we made more friendships, and I watched him bowl a 300 game.  Pastime is long gone, but we still have many memories there.

Steve K, Joe and I all golfed for Senior Skip Day.  Steve borrowed our buddy Wayne’s golf clubs.  On the first tee, he hit the ball, but the club head broke off the driver.  The club head went farther than the damn golf ball!  Joe and I laughed like hell!  One time Joe and I were golfing in Lapeer and there was an electrical wire that went across the fairway.  What are the odds that one of us would hit that?  Joe did.  He teed off – it hit the wire and dropped like a stone in the fairway.

We used to play pinochle over at Joe’s parents house till all hours of the night.  Their house was just one of many houses that hosted pinochle nights.  Eventually, he and his sister moved into their own place and the card games moved there.  We’d sit around drinking Bud Light listening to 580 CKWW or WCXI and play cards all night.  So many nights of crazy conversations about music, movies, and TV.

Steve M – October 19

Steve and I had probably met before, but we really got to know each other because of Alumni Band.  I remembered that alumni had played once or twice at homecoming while I was still in school.  When I graduated, I wanted to make sure that the tradition continued.  So I bugged the band director and we threw it together.  The first year was a small group.  The second year it was a little bigger. It was a way for us to get together and play and have fun.

Steve and I hit it off immediately.  We both were trumpet players.  I knew his younger brother, Jeff, because he was my brother’s age.  He was also a DJ and did weddings and we loved to talk music.  He hosted some alumni band BBQ’s and was a key part in the success of the group.

I am not sure exactly how we ended up DJing together.  I think it was because he had a light show and I didn’t.  I brought him along and we ended up having so much fun, we kept doing it.  Little by little we added things to the gigs we did.  We both did this stupid Blues Brothers intro to kick off dancing.  I had this bad Elvis wig and would go out and sing to a female wedding guest (story about the wig in a sec).  We had blow up instruments and silly cardboard things we’d hold up while we danced.  We had a friggin blast!!

One time, Steve had his truck backed into the garage.  He had the tailgate glass up and I went inside to comb the Elvis wig down.  I used to put it on my head and comb it down before I put it on this stupid Styrofoam head I had.  I was in his bathroom combing and I heard the truck start and all of a sudden a huge crash.  I walked to the door of the garage and saw that the tailgate glass had caught the garage door and shattered all over the place.  I stood there, wearing that dumb wig, and asked what happened.  At the time, it wasn’t funny (It was raining, we were running late, when we got the gig, Steve had forgotten his shoes, so I went to Kmart to buy him a pair, it was a mess!).  We look back now and Steve will still laugh, “You were standing there wearing the King’s hair!”  After weddings, it was tradition to grab White Castle hamburgers!  Some of my favorite gigs were DJing for cancer benefits or VFW steak outs. When Steve M was living in his apartment, his crazy neighbor (who we called Fruit Loops) used to always come out when we were loading or unloading for DJ gigs.  I wonder what happened to her….LOL

Steve M, Steve K, Joe, and I spent many nights singing karaoke.  We used to have so much fun.  We’d go to these two dive bars – McGee’s and Grady’s.  We’d drink, sing songs and laugh like hell.  We all had specific songs we used to do.  We used to have these guys who’d get up and sing that we’d make fun of.  There was a guy who looked and sounded like Bela Lugosi!  He’d sing Let Me Call You Sweetheart with that accent!  Then there was “Opera Man”.  We called him that because every song he sang, he’d sing it like he was one of the Three Tenors! I would sing harmony for Steve M on Losing My Religion a lot.  We’d have such a fun time!  Now, he is actually hosting karaoke every week at a few places.  I’m over due to get out and sing!

Steve K – October 28

Steve and I became friends in junior high, in the same class as Joe.  Here’s the thing – we almost didn’t stay friends.  Admittedly, we all kind of picked on Steve.  We razzed him – a lot.  Steve and I both played trumpet.  Now I am not sure why he found my trumpet to be better than his.  I do know that he would often switch his with mine.  Well, one day he was walking in the band room and he dropped “his” horn and bent the bell.  I laughed.  We all did.  I probably said something like “You idiot!  Nice job!” or something like that.  He looked at me sheepishly while I laughed and said, “Uh, Keith….this is YOUR trumpet.”  My laughter stopped and I grabbed him by the throat!  Our band director, Mr. Mest, came running over and pulled us both into the office.

Steve and I were in 2nd hour with each other.  After the “incident” we went to the next class.  I was still upset about the whole thing and kept egging him on throughout the class.  I was calling him names, and just being an ass.  He finally got up and walked over to me as I was talking to our buddy Warren.  He grabbed the desk I was sitting in and literally flipped it over – with me still in it!  It totally took me by surprise! Needless to say, we both were sent to the office.  I don’t know if detention was given or not, but I know we both got “yellow slips”.  This was bad, I just don’t know or remember how bad.

I think our dad’s ended up having to talk to each other about the incident and arrangements were made to take care of the horn. I think we both got a “talking to” by our dads and we stayed friends.  We always seemed to be together.  We sat next to each other in band for as long as I can remember.  I often call Steve “Norton” because he reminded me so much to Ed Norton on the Honeymooners.  He’d say some of the silliest things.  We’d laugh all the time.  That Senior Skip Day, he even golfed like Norton did in that episode of the Honeymooners!

The only real time I got in trouble in band class was with Steve.  The other trumpets always waited for us to bring up our horns.  They never seemed to count the rests.  So Steve and I were talking and saying “Let’s bring up our horns early and fool those guys.”  Well, we were rehearsing for band festival and the band director was in no mood for jokes.  He stopped the music and asked what we were talking about.  When I told him he simply pointed to the door and said “Bye.”  We were told to wait until after rehearsal and then talk to him afterward.  We both felt like crap.  You just didn’t tick off the band director – not when festival was the next day!  We were allowed back to rehearsal shortly afterward, but we both still felt stupid!

We’d spend hours in the car driving around.  I would make “driving tapes” and we’d pile in and spend the night driving around the neighborhood.  We’d cruise Gratiot and look at girls.  We’d drive with the windows down, jamming to our favorite songs and singing at the top of our lungs.  We’d harmonize to Huey Lewis & the News, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Ford, and so many other artists.  It was what we did!

He was with me when I got my first speeding ticket (on my way to Sam’s Jams) and he was with me when I had my first car accident.  I was driving in my ’79 Caprice Classic (ok, my dad’s ’79 Caprice Classic) and it had rained.  I was going to his house to drop him off.  I made the left turn and the roads were wet.  I began to go into a skid (rear wheel drive).  I remembered Driver’s Ed class “turn into the skid”, and I did.  Too bad I was literally in front of a parked car when I turned into the skid.  I slammed into the front of this car!  Steve’s mom called my dad.  I was in shock.  I knew I was a dead man.  My dad drove over and walked right past me and looked at the car.  I heard him mumble under his breath “There’s about $1500 worth of damage here.”  I later said, “You didn’t ask about me at all!” to which my dad replied, “I saw you standing there – I knew you were ok!”

I don’t recall if it was our senior year or not, but we had a band trip to Cedar Point.  I am not a ride person.  Steve, me and Chris walked around most of the day probably looking at girls.  We stumbled on this “You Be the Star” booth.  This was LONG before karaoke was a thing.  You went into a sound booth, put headphones on and sang to an instrumental track of a song.  Then, you got a cassette tape of your recording.  I think we did Twist and Shout, Steve did Mack the Knife (which would become his karaoke theme song), and we all did Hip to Be Square by Huey Lewis.  The song had just come out and he said he knew it, so he sang lead on it.  Chris and I sang the “Hip.  Hip.  So Hip to be Square” lines in the background.  I think I may still have that tape!

At my graduation party, my dad and some of his band buddies set up and played music at the party.  My dad had typed up the lyrics to Weird Al’s parody of La Bamba (Lasagna) and his band played it while me, Joe and Steve all sang it.  Steve was leaving to go to basic training soon after we graduated.  It was sad to know my buddy was going to be leaving.  I’m not sure what happened, but he never ended up staying in the navy.  He did, however, move to one of the Carolinas for awhile.  I’d get in trouble for long distance calls to him talking about stupidity…LOL.  He would tell me all about these silly sweepers he’d hear on a station called The Frog out there!

When he moved back to Michigan, Steve also used to DJ with me.  He would bring these crazy songs I had never heard before and want me to play them.  Sometimes they’d work, sometimes they didn’t.  One day, Steve M and I were DJing at the VFW right by Steve K’s house.  He came to the event.  He was dancing like crazy on the dance floor.  I think his wife wanted to go home and he wanted to stay.  She left and went home.  He had to call her later to come pick him back up because while he was out on the floor dancing he split his pants!  Typical Steve.  Stuff like that happened to him all the time!  That is one of my favorite Steve stories.

He was always my pinochle partner when we played with my grandparents (and when we played with Tonya, Michelle and the gang).  You could always count on him having the Ace of Clubs!  A trickless is when you and your partner take every possible trick in the hand.  Steve and I pulled one against my grandparents once.  It pissed my grandpa (who was very competitive) off!  The next hand, we pulled another one!  That was the end of the card playing that night!  Grandpa was done!  Somewhere, I still have the yellow legal pad with those back to back trickless hands written on it!

One day, we were all playing cards at Tonya’s house and the “F You’s” were flying around the table.  Steve meant to say, “F You and the horse you rode in on”, but instead said “the horse you rode on in.”  I am not sure why that made us all laugh so hard, but it did.  To this day, I say it wrong – because of Steve!  I am sure I could devote an entire blog to some of the silly things Steve has said.

He recently had a stroke.  That being said, he is recovering well.  I have to tell you though, when I heard the news I was scared!  This is my buddy and I can’t imagine not having him around.  When I went to the hospital to see him, I was like all emotional.  I hid it very well, but here is a guy, one of my closest friends,  who was my age (not even 50!) and this happened to him.  I was happy that he was ok, and that the prognosis was good, but just knowing that it could have been a very different outcome freaked me out.  It was an eye opening experience.  I guess that’s why I am writing this blog.

I want these three guys to know how glad I am to have their friendship.  We all share a love of music.  We all have the same taste in movies.  We all love a funny joke or pun. We have all shared silly conversations, as well as deep serious conversations.  I have one blood brother, but I am blessed to have these guys as brothers and friends.  In 30+ years, I have been lucky enough to share laughter and tears with these guys.  All of them stood up in my first wedding and I stood up in Joe’s and Steve K’s weddings.  We can go months without chatting and then pick right up where we left off.  Conversations always include laughter, movie quotes, and a whole lot of love.

Even though two of them have already celebrated theirs, and one is a few days away – Happy Birthday, Boys.  I love you guys!  Thank you for being such amazing friends for so many years!

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Joe, my brother Chris, Me, Steve M. Jeff, and Steve K at my first wedding.

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Beers are overdue!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Films – The 80’s

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This blog is a continuation of a series I started earlier this week. Somebody had the idea to post a list was to consist of your favorite films 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.  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. My last blog focused on my favorites from the 1970’s and this one will feature the 1980’s.

I have a feeling that there will be more movies per year for me to pick from in this decade.

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1980 was a year for sequels.  Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason returned for another adventure in Smokey and the Bandit II, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker faced off in The Empire Strikes Back, and Christopher Reeve was back as Superman in Superman II. We were first introduced to Jason in the first of many installments of the Friday the 13th franchise.  Queen provided the theme song for the film Flash Gordon.  A few years before he was dealing with a Delorean, Robert Zemeckis directed Kurt Russell and Jack Warden in Used Cars. Jack Nicholson yelled “Here’s Johnny!” in the Shining and Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin dreamed of knocking off their boss in Nine to Five.

I mentioned in the last blog that I had a feeling it would be more difficult to pick just one movie per year as I headed into the 80’s.  That was proven to be true as I looked over the movies for 1980 and saw three of my all-time favorites were released.  ANY three of these could easily be my one pick for the year for the following reasons (1) all three of them have an amazing cast (2) all three of them are funny (3) all three of them are all full of great movie lines!  I want to break the rules and make this a three way tie!  Alas, I have to pick just one.

The first runner up – Caddyshack. Such a funny movie that is quoted every day on golf courses all across the country!  Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase all combine their talents to make this such a funny movie!  Second runner up – The Blues Brothers. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd are Jake and Elwood Blues.  It is a comedy of epic proportions and has one of the best soundtracks ever.  Also, very quotable.

The pick for my favorite, though, has to be THE most quoted movie of the ’80s – Airplane!  “I am serious.  And don’t call me Shirley!”

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Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Hayes and SO many more!  The Zucker Brothers brought us this comedy, a direct rip-off of a film called Zero Hour (look for the comparison on YouTube), and it is a joke after joke laugh riot.  Having serious actor say these comedy lines straight makes the line even more funny!  The scenes with “Johnny” are worth the price of admission!

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1981 brought us some great films.  Some of my favorite action movies from ’81 include Burt Reynolds in Sharky’s Machine, and Sylvester Stalone and Billy Dee Williams in Nighthawks. Adventure films included stop-action creatures from Ray Harryhausen in Clash of the Titans and our introduction to Indiana Jones with Harrison Ford starring in Raiders of the Lost Ark (the face melting scene still creeps me out!).

1981 was full of comedies, some better than others (Remember Ringo Starr’s Caveman?!).  Dudley Moore was brilliantly funny in Arthur.  The Muppets return for fun in The Great Muppet Caper.  Chevy Chase, Dabney Coleman, and Nell Carter appear in the underappreciated Modern Problems.  George Hamilton plays dual roles in a film I recently blogged about, Zorro The Gay Blade.  Not his best, but I still laugh at Jerry Lewis’ Hardly Working.  And Mel Brooks offered up History of the World Part I (and left many of us longing for Part II).

Stripes starring Bill Murray, John Candy, and Harold Ramis comes in as a close second here.  It could easily be THE favorite for this year.  It is still funny today, and I find myself quoting it often.  Just edging it out as my favorite is The Cannonball Run.

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Burt Reynolds leads an all star cast in the race across the country!  Silly fun and many funny lines.  Dom Deluise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. Farrah Fawcett, Bert Convy, Jamie Farr, Roger Moore, Jack Elam, Adrienne Barbeau, Peter Fonda, Terry Bradshaw, Mel Tillis, and so many more star in this comedy, which will always remain one of my favorites!

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In 1982, Sylvester Stallone introduced us to Rambo in First Blood while Harrison Ford starred in Blade Runner (which finally just recently got a sequel).  ET phoned home, Sean Penn was stoned out of his mind in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Scott Baio had super powers in Zapped!  Airplane II: The Sequel recycled some old jokes and was not as good as the original.  Michael Keaton drove Henry Winkler crazy in Night Shift.  Creepshow was creepy (and had a cool cameo from Stephen King).  A favorite from this year is Steve Martin’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, which is shot in black and white and Steve interacts with old movie stars.

My top pick for 1982 has got to be Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

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I didn’t care for the first Star Trek film, but this one was excellent.  Again, we have the original cast back on the Enterprise.  This film goes back to the original series for a tie in.  Ricardo Montalban played the character on the series and now, years later, he finds Kirk and plans to get his revenge.  It is a great story, and the film has a powerful ending.  The best of the entire series in my opinion.  Montalban is just amazing in this movie!

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The scene with William Shatner screaming “Khan!” – how can you not love it?

1983

I can already sense the backlash I am going to get for my pick from this year, please remember this is MY list and not yours!

In the comedy category, 1983 had Michael Keaton stepping in for Teri Garr in Mr. Mom. Gary Busey, Marsha Warfield, and Mr. T are a riot in DC Cab while Bob and Doug McKenzie (Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis) get their first feature film in Strange Brew. Dan Aykroyd takes on “mom” in Doctor Detroit while Rodney Dangerfield takes on his mother-in-law in Easy Money.  1983 also introduced us to the Griswold family as they make their trip to Walley World in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

The Skywalker’s were back for the third part of the original trilogy in Return of the Jedi, while Christopher Walken woke from a coma with psychic powers in The Dead Zone.  And who can forget Al Pacino’s thrilling performance in Scarface?  My pick for favorite of this year is a holiday classic – A Christmas Story.

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So why this film?  Because it remains one that I faithfully watch every Christmas.  Who can’t relate to the way the Parker boys feel as Christmas approaches?  While it is set in the 1940’s, their excitement mirrors what every child feels during the holidays.  It’s a classic!  I had the chance to see the Christmas Story house this year (and blogged about it) and it was fun to walk through.

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As I looked over my list from ’84, I once again see more comedies than other genres.  Eddie Murphy went to Detroit to film Beverly Hills Cop, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis took on the spiritual realm in Ghostbusters. Michal Keaton and Joe Piscopo are mobsters is Johnny Dangerously.  We meet the first batch of recruits in the first Police Academy movie, while Cannonball Run II fell flat, despite a great cast. Sight gags and puns galore were seen with Val Kilmer in Top Secret, and we first met Sarah Connor in the first Terminator movie.

1984 was the year the Detroit Tigers last won a World Series.  I will never forget the excitement of that series or the season that led up to it. Perhaps that is why my favorite flick from 1984 is The Natural.

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Robert Redford is Roy Hobbs and he is an amazing ball player.  The film is based on a 1952 book by Bernard Malamud.  (Spoiler, in case you haven’t seen it) In the book, Hobbs strikes out at the end.  However, in the movie, there is an amazing homerun that knocks out the lights and sparks fly all over the place – one of my favorite endings!

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“Knock the cover off the ball ….”

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My list of favorites from this year is not too long.  Not that there weren’t some great films released, because there were, but many of them didn’t make an impact on me.  I enjoyed the James Bond film A View to a Kill (Roger Moore as Bond), Harrison Ford in Witness, and Chevy Chase as Fletch.  The “Brat Pack” film The Breakfast Club was released with your “stereotypical high school teens”. The Goonies was one I watched once. It was ok, but I didn’t see the hype that everyone else did.  As stupid as it was, Transylvania 6-5000 always made me laugh.  Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr., John Byner, Geena Davis, and Michael Richards are all part of the cast, and there are some funny (and some very dumb) scenes.

Who would have thought that a board game could inspire a very funny film?  Clue came out in 1985 and had three different endings (it varied on wherever you saw it).  Christopher Lloyd, Tim Curry, Martin Mull, Madeline Khan, Michael McKean, Eileen Brennan, and Lesley Ann Warren play the various people from the game and it is just a blast to watch.  This easily could be my pick, but there is one film that stands out far above the rest.

As someone who always loved stories about time travel, I was hooked immediately by the trailer for Back to the Future. It remains one that I can watch over and over today.

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There is just SO much to love about this film!!!  Great story.  Great characters (and a great cast).  Comedy.  Suspense.  Good music and a cool car that when it hit 88 miles per hour, you saw some “pretty serious sh*t!”

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1986 really doesn’t have a stand out film for me.  I enjoyed Top Gun with Tom Cruise (it also has a sequel coming out).  Little Shop of Horrors was an ok movie (Steve Martin as the dentist is a high light).  Tough Guys had some good scenes, but with big stars like Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, I expected more. One Crazy Summer had some funny scenes, but wasn’t a laugh out loud riot.  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was good.  I loved the premise of this kid skipping school and doing all that he did … and still making it home before his folks found out (what kid didn’t want to do what Ferris did?!).

The only film that stands out to me from 1986 is one that you may question.  It gets the my pick as favorite for sentimental reasons.  The Three Amigos starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short.  I don’t care how many times El Guapo yells “It’s a sweater!”, I laugh!  But that is not why I picked this one.  Back when my oldest son was just diagnosed with autism, we were watching this movie.  There is a scene where the Amigos are sitting around a campfire and they begin to sing the song “Blue Shadows”.  My son walked to the TV and just stared.  He loved that song.  At that time, we had no idea if he would ever really speak more than a few words.  He would watch this scene over and over! I even have it on my iPod because it makes me think of him.

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After the song, we used to have to wait for the turtle to say “Goodnight, Ned” before we had to rewind that scene.

1987

1987 offered up some classics.  Who wasn’t freaked out by the rabbit scene in Fatal Attraction? Even though you saw it coming, you cried when Richie Valens died in La Bamba. Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World was given new life on the radio thanks to Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam. “Nobody gets outta here without singing the blues” is one of my favorite lines from Adventures in Babysitting.  Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks team up for a Dragnet movie that misses the mark.  Danny Glover and Mel Gibson first teamed up for Lethal Weapon and Kevin Costner played Elliot Ness in The Untouchables.  We also enjoyed the fairy tale The Princess Bride and Mel Brooks parodied Star Wars and space movies with Spaceballs (“We Break for Nobody!”

If you loved Airplane, but have never seen Amazon Women on the Moon, you need to.  It’s as silly as Airplane and has some very funny scenes.  For years, I’ve joked that I’d like my funeral to be like a roast.  I said I would want people to share funny stories about times we shared together.  In this film, there is actually a funeral that is a roast – with a dias that includes Steve Allen, Slappy White, and other comedy greats!

My 1987 favorite goes to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

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This is just one of the best John Hughes films.  You get every emotion watching this film.  There are times that are laugh out loud funny and there are times where you are wiping tears from your eyes.  Steve Martin and John Candy are just great together.  This film makes me miss John Candy.  He was such a great actor.

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In 1988 Dirty Harry returned in The Dead Pool, Tom Hanks wished he was Big, and Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall were Coming to America.  Bruce Willis starred in the first Die Hard and Michael Keaton was Beetlejuice.  I was impressed by the interaction between humans and cartoons in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and (as a Monty Python fan) loved John Cleese and Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda.

With my favorite movie that kicked off this decade (Airplane), it should come as no surprise that my pick from 1988 is The Naked Gun starring Leslie Nielsen.

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Shortly after Airplane, the Zucker brothers created Police Squad.  It was a short lived TV show starring Leslie Nielsen as Lt. Frank Drebin.  It aired just 6 episodes.  The show is the premise for the movie.  George Kennedy replaced Alan North and OJ Simpson (pre-murder trial) also starred.  Ricardo Montalban plays the villain in this and is just great.  Not as many lines as Airplane, but just as funny!!

“It’s Enrico Palazzo!!”

1989

As I come to the last year of this decade, I am faced with the same issue I had with the first year.  I have many favorites from this year and wonder just how I can pick only one movie as a favorite!

Comedies included Eddie Murphy in Harlem Nights, Weird Al Yankovic starred in his first film UHF, John Candy was Uncle Buck in another John Hughes film, and Charlie Sheen was Wild Thing in Major League (“Just a bit outside!”).  Bernie is dead, but he still has quite an adventure in Weekend at Bernie’s. Jack Palance plays a wonderful bad guy in Tango and Cash and the Griswold’s host Christmas in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. And I can’t forget to mention that Doc Brown and Marty McFly return in Back to the Future II (which some people hate because it goes back and forth from time to time – but that’s what I love about it! That, and the fact that they reshot original scenes from Part I and then had the characters interact within that scene.)

Two films that really stand out from 89 are not comedies, but adventure movies.  The runner up for my favorite is Tim Burton’s Batman.  As a fan of the 1966 Batman, I was excited to see how this film would be portrayed.  Michael Keaton played Batman and I thought he did ok.  Jack Nicholson as the Joker was amazing!  I loved his interpretation of the character (though I still believe Cesar Romero is the best).  It was really well done.  This brings me to my favorite film of 1989 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

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In the Indiana Jones series, I always felt this was the strongest of them all.  Harrison Ford is again great as Indy, but his father, played by Sean Connery, steals the scenes.  I can easily see my dad and I fighting with each other like these two do if we ever were off on an adventure like this.  I just love their interactions with each other.  They are both just perfect in this film.  The final scene is also just a picture perfect ending!

So with that, let’s ride into the sunset.  When we return, let’s dive into the 90’s, ok?

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Thanks for reading!

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Mad About Mad!

I had a paper route as a kid.  It was nice because I had an income (not much, but a lot for a kid).  With the money I earned, I would run up to the record store and buy records or tapes or maybe I’d go to Circus World and buy some new toy I wanted.  If I wasn’t buying toys or music, I was in the book store buying my favorite magazine – Mad.

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This week it was announced that Mad would be coming off the newsstands after an amazing 67 year run!  What a shame this is!  I remember picking it up and laughing out loud at so many things!  As a kid, I always laughed at the humor and satirical content and often brought it to school and laughed with friends during lunch.

I will admit that it has been some time since I bought a copy of Mad, but I can recall some of the things I looked forward to each month:

Movie and TV Parodies

M*A*S*H became M*U*S*H, Different Strokes was Different Jokes, The Sound of Music was The Sound of Money, and the Godfather was The OddFather.

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So many great satires and parodies were presented in Mad.  I always loved reading them and found the comedic spins on character names creative and funny.

Spy Vs Spy

As silly as these comics were, I always wondered which Spy would wind up beating the other one! I don’t recall rooting for one Spy in particular.

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Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions

Al Jaffee, was responsible for two of my favorite Mad Magazine features.  The first was Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.  Who doesn’t respond with a sarcastic answer when someone asks you a ridiculous question!!??  I always loved this feature, and Al wrote many books based on this feature.

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The Mad Fold-In

Al Jaffee also was responsible for this feature.  There was usually some crazy drawing on the back cover.  There was some scenario or question posed and you folded the back cover in and the answer and another drawing appeared from the original.  It’s hard to explain, but this picture may help…

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Incidentally, as of this writing, Al Jaffee is still alive and celebrated his 98th birthday in March!

Don Martin

Another great contributor to Mad Magazine was artist Don Martin.  He was with the magazine from 1956-1988 and had some very funny characters.  At one point in his career, he was promoted as “Mad’s Maddest Artist!” His stuff always had really generic titles like “One Fine Day at the Bank” or “One Tuesday Afternoon After School.”  What I loved about him was that his cartoons always had some of the weirdest sound effects!  What I mean by that is he’d spell out the sound effects that were going on and those always cracked me up!!! Here are a couple of his onomatopoeias:

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SHTOINK (seen above) was actually his vanity license plate on his car.  When I think of Don, I always think of my best friend, Jeff.  I’m not sure why, but we still make silly noises and make up words when we chat on the phone and when we’re together.  I am sure we spent many hours laughing at the “sounds” created by Don Martin for Mad Magazine! Sadly, he died of cancer in 2000.

Alfred E. Neuman

He was the iconic face of Mad Magazine who signature phrase was “What, me worry?”

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Alfred’s face could be found on the cover of Mad, and when I’d walked over the rack, I’d look for his face to find the magazine!

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The character itself has interesting origins and you can read about them on wiki here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_E._Neuman

Alfred also made a record!  Depending on the source, it’s either from 1963 or 1966 (some sources say it could be as early as 1959), and it was called “It’s a Gas!”  With a name like that, you are correct if you thought it included “sounds a body with gas makes”.  Drew and Mike played this often when they were doing mornings on WRIF.  Enjoy it at the link below:

Farewell, Mad

Mad is really one of the last satirical magazines around.  Crazy Magazine stopped publishing in 1983 after a brief decade of issues.

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Cracked magazine (which I often bought with Mad) ceased publication in 2007.

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In a few weeks, the bimonthly publication will only feature vintage MAD content and be sold at comic book stores. The magazines will still be mailed to subscribers, and DC will continue to publish MAD books and special collections. Starting with issue 11 (Mad reset its numbering in 2018 after moving offices) in October, “new” issues of Mad will only feature new cover art, while the rest of the magazine will comprise articles pulled from previous issues. I am sad to see it go, and based on the things I am seeing on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and other social media sites, I am not alone.

In 2015, “Weird Al” Yankovic served as Mad Magazine’s first “Guest Editor.”  Naturally, I bought that issue.  Upon hearing the news of the magazine’s demise, Al tweeted: “I am profoundly sad to hear that after 67 years, MAD Magazine is ceasing publication. I can’t begin to describe the impact it had on me as a young kid — it’s pretty much the reason I turned out weird. Goodbye to one of the all-time greatest American institutions.”

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67 years in publication!  67 years of satire.  67 years of laughs!  Thanks, Mad!

In honor of Mad, I plan on using Sploydoing, Floourtz, Gluwwtch, Flaark and other onomatopoeias in my daily vocabulary for years to come!

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