Random Thoughts and Stories I’ve Seen

In the Creative Writing class I had in college, one of the exercises they had us do was to grab a piece of paper and just write whatever pops into your head.  That’s kind of where this blog is coming from.  What will it contain?  Read on and see …

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The above quote is from Sidney Poitier.  Randomness will follow:

A forgotten favorite

I forgot how much I love French Toast.  We bought frozen French Toast sticks for the boys at the store recently and Sam asked me to make some for her.  I asked if she would rather have regular French Toast.  She did, so I made her some.  I made some for me too.  It’s been forever since I have had some.  It was awesome.

Back when I worked at Kiss-FM (WKSG) in Detroit, I would work on Saturday nights and on Sunday Mornings, we’d go to the Big Boy right down Gratiot and get the breakfast bar.  We’d grab French Toast and bacon.  It was a weekly tradition, the waitresses knew us, and always had crispy bacon for us.  Good times!

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A Cheesy Story

I saw a story this week about a woman who has been washing her hands regularly because of the coronavirus, only what she thought was a bar of soap … was a block of cheese!  I don’t get it.   You would think the absence of bubbles or lather would have been a clue, much earlier than it was!  Of course, she said she probably left out the cheese when she was drunk … thank you, alcohol, for another funny tale.  Here is the story:

https://www.irishpost.com/news/woman-discovers-bar-soap-shes-washing-hands-days-block-cheese-181710

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The Perfect Quarantine Selfie

If you have been on social media at all, there are people who are in quarantine due to the corona virus.  Many pictures are of whatever they are watching on TV, whatever they are eating, or their feet up on the ottoman.  The rest are selfies.  Those selfies take time to get “just right.”  According to a new survey, the perfect selfie takes about 20 minutes to get!  Who the hell studies this?  I have taken selfies in the past, and I may take one or two, but it takes me far less than 20 minutes …. of course, I have no hair, so I don’t have to be sure it is perfect.

The survey says that the subject of the selfie will mess with lighting, angles, and edit with various apps to make sure the picture is “post worthy.” One final fact – only 8% of people will post a candid picture on social media.  Many opt for staged photos.  Now you know.

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Long Before Eminem …

No cheating.  What was the first song to feature a white rapper on MTV?  It happened in 1981.  It was a female singer.  Got it?  Sure you do!  Remember Blondie’s song “Rapture?” It features the first rap verse on the channel and it was a #1 song.  Here are some other white rappers and their songs you may have forgotten about:

  • It’s Good To Be The King – Mel Brooks. (It was a tie in with the movie “History of the World Part 1”  Mel was first white artist with a rap song on the Billboard R&B chart in 1982.
  • Rappin’ Rodney – Rodney Dangerfield.  In 1983, I had this on a 45.  He was holding a boom box on the cover.
  • The Rappin’ Duke – Shawn Brown.  Duh Haw Duh Haw!  Ok, I know, Shawn Brown is black, but the actor he is imitating – John Wayne – is white.  This got a lot of radio play in 1983.
  • The Beastie Boys.  They hit the scene in 1986 and were HUGE! Their album License to Ill sold over 100,000 copies the first week! (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) still is requested at weddings and parties!
  • Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice.  This one hit wonder dropped in 1990 and sampled Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure. This was the first hip hop single to reach #1 on Billboard’s charts. Eminem once said that Ice Ice Baby actually made him want to STOP rapping!
  • Good Vibrations – Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.  Another #1 song that came a year after the Ice Man in 1991.
  • Jump Around – House of Pain.  From 1992, I’m not going to lie – I love this song!  I still get requests for this at high school dances!

Eminem shows up on the scene in 1999 with “My Name Is”.

I wonder if I still have that 12 inch single of Rappin’ Duke….

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2020 Seniors

My son Dante’ is a senior this year.  This coronavirus has basically robbed him (and every other high school senior across the country) of the best year of their lives!  It saddens me.  Over the weekend, he was so happy to tell me that the girl he asked out to prom said yes.  Now, the prom has been cancelled.  Kansas has basically called school “over and done” for the year.  Just like that – it’s over.

He posted a picture of a headstone that read “My Senior Year” on his Facebook page this week.  It hurts me to see how sad this makes him.  Oh, I am sure that some students are glad, but my son was looking forward to so much more before the school year was over.  I still don’t know how they are handling commencement ceremonies.  U of M and MSU have cancelled theirs.

A Louisiana teacher posted a letter to the 2020 Senior Class that is worth sharing here.  If you have a high school senior and haven’t seen it – share it!

https://www.wwltv.com/article/news/local/st-bernard/louisiana-teacher-of-the-year-has-a-message-for-all-high-school-seniors/289-ba3040d2-85fa-46de-bdc5-2605fcbc5bf3

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Class of 2020 – I am proud of you!

Rest in Peace, Steve Trevor

Growing up in the 70’s, there were plenty of Super Hero shows on TV.  Wonder Woman was one of them.  Lynda Carter was – and still is – beautiful.  Even as a 5-7 year old boy, there was something about seeing her in that outfit!  Lyle Waggoner, who passed away this week at age 84, played Steve Trevor on the show.  I don’t remember much about his character, but I do remember that whenever they showed him in the opening credits, there was this “sparkle” that flashed off his teeth!  HA!  I tried very hard to find a picture of just that, but couldn’t.  I am sure if you YouTube the opening credits, you will see what I mean.

Lyle also had a role on The Carol Burnett Show.  He was actually on more shows than I remember.  He played comedy well.  He was a great strait man and could deliver comedic lines as strait and as good as Leslie Nielsen!  Did you know he was almost Batman on the 1966 TV show?  He actually did a screen test, but lost the role to Adam West.

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December 2020

It’s funny to me what people think about.  I have seen all kinds of memes and posts on social media joking around about the quarantine for the coronavirus.  There are lots of jokes about how there will be a boom of babies born in December of 2020 because so many people are stuck at home.  Dr. Oz even came out and said that couples should have sex to break up the boredom!  If you are stuck home alone, there was another article about how masturbation can actually boost the immune system!

It will be interesting to see just how big the Baby Boom of 2020 is!

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Work

The situation is changing every minute.  For now, my lab is open.  We had only a couple patients last night, but I was able to work.  It looks like if we have low census or the lab closes, they will find work for us within the hospital system screening people, answering phone, or stuff like that.  That freaks me out a bit, but at least I can work and get some or my hours.

It’s a time like I have never seen before.  I am guessing its the same for you.  Traffic is light.  Everything seems to be closed.  Meetings and gatherings are taking place via video chats.  Life events like weddings are being cancelled (or postponed).  People are fighting over toilet paper.  Visitors are being limited or prohibited in medical facilities and nursing homes.  It is crazy!

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I wanted to share a few things friends posted on social media – feel free to share.

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You can probably add to the above list.  There are many things we take for granted.  When this is all over, perhaps we will be a bit more grateful for them.

The following is a prayer read by our classic rock morning man, Carl Coffey just before St. Patrick’s Day.  It was pretty powerful, too.

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Another friend posted this:

“And the people stayed home.  And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.  And listened more deeply.  Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.  Some met their shadows.  And people began to think differently.  And the people healed.  And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.  And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.” – Kitty O’Meara

Be safe, dear reader.

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Halloween Dress Up

Tonight on ABC, one of the greatest Halloween specials of all time aired again – It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  It is in this special that poor Charlie Brown utters those sad words, “I got a rock.”

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In that scene, Lucy is wearing a witch mask.  It got me to thinking about Halloweens of my past.  I remember the streets would be packed with kids when I went out trick or treating!  I remember standing in lines at the doors of my neighbors, waiting for my turn to yell “trick or treat!”  By the time I took my boys out on Halloween, I was sad to see that the streets were not very busy at all.  I remember being out late and rushing from house to house – hoping to get them all before they turned the porch light out (telling you that “we’re out of candy”)!

As I sat here pondering this blog, I tired to think of some of my past Halloween costumes.  I can remember some of the ones from when I was older: a vampire, Oliver Hardy, and a Robot.  The robot was a couple cardboard boxes my dad taped together and spray painted silver.  We put cassette tapes, a vacuum hose, and other things on it and it was actually very cool.  My brother used the same costume for a play he did in elementary school.

Other than those mentioned above, I didn’t remember any specific costumes off the top of my head. This is probably because most of the costumes I grew up wearing sucked.  They were so bad, Jerry Seinfeld did a bit about them in his comedy act.  I did a Google search for Halloween Costumes of the 1970’s and it all came back to me!  Halloween costumes back when I was a kid were hardly original.  Today, if you go to an elementary school and watch a Costume Parade, you will see some really good costumes!  Many of them will even be homemade.  This was not the case when I was a kid!

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You usually bought your costumes at K-Mart, or Kresge, or the local drug store.  The costumes of the 70’s consisted of primarily a mask.  The mask had two big eye holes (which you really couldn’t see out of!), two small nose holes (which you couldn’t breathe out of!), and a slit by the mouth.  It was a cheap piece of plastic and it sometimes cracked.  The mask had a cheap rubber string that was stapled to each side.  This rubber string was what kept the mask on your head.  If the string broke, you either re-stapled in, or you took it off and didn’t wear it.

The costume also included a cheap one piece outfit.  They were like “onesie” pajamas.  You first put your feet and legs in it and then your arms.  There was a tie that you tied behind your neck to keep it on.  On the outfit it usually has the character’s name in bold letters on it.  This must have been so if the mask fell off, people knew who you were supposed to be.  97% of all kids wore these dumb costumes when I was a kid!

While I Googled, I came across two of those stupid costumes I sort of remember having.  The first was The Six Million Dollar Man:

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I also remember having C-3PO:

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I think I may have had an Underdog costume, too!

The outfits were so cheap that by the end of trick or treating, there were rips in the crotch or legs.  Sometimes they were ripped up before you even got to go out trick or treating!  We’d wear our costumes to school that day and they would rip in the classroom!  They were paper thin, too, so you either had to buy it three times too big, so you could wear something underneath it, or you covered it with your coat and no one saw what you were anyway!

Here are some of the funnier costumes I found while searching:

From TV – Welcome Back, Kotter:

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Mr, Kotter (above) and Barbarino (below)

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Mork from Mork and Mindy

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The Fonz from Happy Days

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There were plenty of super heroes, including Batman!

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And, despite how sexy she looked on TV, the Wonder Woman costume was actually quite scary …

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I mean – look at Lynda Carter!  She’s beautiful!!  That costume is just freaky!!!!

One of the most ridiculous costumes was this one based on the movie Jaws!

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Finally, for the gals who thought Donny Osmond was cute … this costume should make them think twice.

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Come on!  That looks like a weird Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner!!!

For whatever it is worth, I am going to guess that these costumes are probably worth money today.  I have a lot of friends on Facebook who have extensive toy collectibles, and they probably have some.  Mine are long gone, more than likely because they were ripped up and destroyed the same year we bought it.

It was fun to just spend time searching up the old costumes and looking at them.  Do you remember wearing these?  What were some of your favorite costumes?  What are some of your favorite Halloween memories?

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Tassles in the Air ….

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College is hard.  I know, I’ve done it.  Going to college while working two jobs (full and part time) is unheard of.  Yet, that is exactly what my wife did.  I don’t know how she kept it all straight!  She juggled her full time job, her part time job, planning birthday parties, running family to doctor’s appointments, planned holiday get togethers, kept the budget and made sure that all of our bills were paid on time, AND the rest of the every day things that happened in her life!  She did it.  Tomorrow, she will walk the stage at graduation with her Bachelor’s degree in Medical Case Management.  To say that I am proud is an understatement!

Let me back track and say that when we first met, she was doing much of the stuff I previously mentioned.  We met after I got my Associate’s degree and she was working on hers in the same program.  During that time, she was not only doing almost all of the things I mentioned, but she was also going through some health issues of her own and working in her own doctor’s appointments.  She was traveling to do speaking engagements, running marathons, and more!  I used to ask her how in the hell she did it.  Her reply was simply, “It has to be done.”

Before we started dating, it was clear that she was a very independent woman.  She took care of what needed to be done and was one of the most organized, level-headed, rational, and smartest women I had ever met.  She wasn’t going to let the world tell her what she could and couldn’t do and constantly put it in its place.  She was a self starter who saw deadlines as a challenge and over delivered every time.  I used to call her Wonder Woman.  I still do.  The things she has accomplished and will continue to accomplish leave me standing in awe.

Throughout the schooling that led her to this degree, I only heard her “stress” over one class – Statistics.  I have never taken this particular class, but I have many friends who have.  They told me all I need to know about it – it is one of the most difficult classes a student can take.  Factor in that she was taking this class online with a teacher who was very “hands off”, and you can imagine her stress level.  This was the only class I thought might “break” her.  She plugged away, went to videos online, read more, found tutorials on the web.  Her final grade in that class was still an A!  Wonder Woman once again triumphs over evil!

Through it all, I made sure to do what I could to make it a bit easier for her.  I cooked and cleaned when I could.  I made sure the house was quiet when she was taking exams or recording videos.  I proofread her papers and offered suggestions for conclusions.  I did all I could to support her and give her the time and space she needed to focus on school.

So, tomorrow, she will walk the stage and thousands of people will watch her receive her diploma.  To them, she is a name – another name that proceeds or follows their graduate.  To me, she is a tower of strength.  She is a prime example of determination and will power. She is a woman who accomplished what she set out to do – and no one was going to stand in her way.  She is the product of many hours of anxiety, studying, sweat, frustration, tears, hard work.  She is a picture of success.

Sam, this blog is a poor attempt at me trying to come up with the words to say how proud I am of you.  You continue to leave me watching in awe of all that you do.  As I look back and wonder just how you did it all, I can hear you saying back to me, “It had to be done.”  You will continue to grow and move up into positions of importance and authority.  Your future had always been bright, and this will only add to the possibilities ahead.

I am proud of you.  I am proud to be your husband.  I love you with all that I am.  Congratulations, my love!  You deserve to stand tall and be recognized for this amazing accomplishment!

Oh, and I will probably cry tomorrow.

ADDITION TO ABOVE POST:

She did it!  I held it together and didn’t cry.  Here she is newly graduated!

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“Made in 1938”

 

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Introduction

Since I started blogging about a year ago, I have stumbled on some great blogs that focus on old movies, film noir, music, books, and various other things that I find interesting.  Some of these blog sites have hosted Blogathons, and I have participated in a few of them.  A while back, the “Pop Culture Reverie” and “In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood” sites announced their “Made in 1938 Blogathon”.  The only real rule that was that whatever you wrote about had to be something “made” in 1938.  This blog is my contribution to this blogathon. I am posting a day early, but you can read the other participants blogs by clicking:

https://popculturereverie.wordpress.com/

or

https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/

At first, I began to look at movies from that year, hoping there would be one of my favorites from that year.  Then, because of the celebrity birthday page I had on Facebook, I wondered if there were any famous people born in ’38 that I might find interesting to write about.  In looking over the list of celebrities, three stood out as having a significant part in my life, so I chose to write about them.  I hope you find this blog interesting and entertaining. What follows is a brief salute to a great impressionist/comedian, a great radio personality, and a great actor.

Rich Little (Born November 26, 1938)

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Rich Little shares the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Voices” with the great Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc).  While they both have many voices that they do, Mel’s were more original voices and dialects for cartoons, while Rich did impersonations or imitations of real celebrities.  He claims to be able to do about 200 voices, and he has had quite a career “being” other people!  He even eludes to this in the title of his 2014 book “Little by Little:  People I’ve Known and Been…”

I remember when we first got cable TV.  HBO often featured stand up comedy shows and specials.  One of the first specials I ever saw was Rich Little’s A Christmas Carol. I was mesmerized by this guy!  This special was like an awesome dream come true – all these big celebrities playing the different roles of the Dickens classic – except, they were all done by one man, Rich Little.  Can you imagine WC Fields, Jack Benny, Peter Sellers, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Falk (as Columbo), Jimmy Stewart, Richard Nixon, Johnny Carson, Laurel and Hardy, and Groucho Marx all in the same show?!  He made it happen!

As a kid, not knowing what I really wanted to do with my life, and thinking I was funny, I thought maybe I could do what he did.  After watching him often, and listening to him, I began to try out voices on relatives.  I really thought I did an excellent Richard Nixon, but in reality, I was doing a bad impression of Rich Little doing Richard Nixon.   (Later on in my radio career, while on Honey Radio I did create a few generic voices that I used on our morning show, but never anything close to what Rich has mastered!)

I was always excited when there was some new Rich Little Special on HBO, whether it was his stage act or his take on Robin Hood (which is where I first saw him do his Carol Channing, which blew me away).  Every time he did a new celebrity I hadn’t seen him do, I would watch in awe. There was no shortage of people he could do.

One surprising fact that I was unaware of was one of my favorite singers played a big part in his American TV debut.  He was asked by singer Mel Torme’ to audition for the Judy Garland Show in 1964.  He did, made an impression (pun intended) and made his first appearance on American TV on her show.  He stated in an interview that if you watch this appearance, you should watch Judy.  She had never seen him perform before they taped the show and her reactions are very genuine.  He went on to appear on other TV shows like Love on a Rooftop, That Girl, The Flying Nun, and Petticoat Junction in guest roles.  He is probably best known for his appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Kopycats (a show featuring impressionists), and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.

Rich is often asked which impressions are his favorites.  He says he has many, but the two that stand out are Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Stewart.  His Reagan is just wonderful and President Reagan loved it too!  He did two albums as Reagan – “The First Family Rides Again” and “Ronald Reagan Slept Here”.  I owned them both, and they are very funny (one of them features a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards)! His Reagan is a great example of how Rich can find something unique about someone and use it in his imitation.  I’ll be honest, I never knew how many times Reagan started a sentence with the word “Well…” until I saw/heard Rich doing it in his act!

Jimmy Stewart was the first celebrity impression he worked on (and it is amazing).  Rich was on the dais of The Dean Martin Roasts when Jimmy was the “Man of the Hour”.  He got to the podium and began to school Jimmy Stewart on how to do Jimmy Stewart!  After Jimmy tries to do all the things Rich is telling him, Rich finally tells him that there is no hope for him and that Jimmy was doing “The Worst Jimmy Stewart” he’d ever heard! Rich even went as far as to have the audience stand up and do Jimmy, to which Rich tells Jimmy that everyone does a better Jimmy Stewart than he did!  Word is this was all ad-libbed and Jimmy, being the amazing guy that he was, went along with it all.

It would be hard for me to pick my favorite Rich Little Impressions, because they are all so good.  Among his best, in my opinion, are Reagan and Stewart (just mentioned), Richard Nixon, Jack Benny, Don Rickles, Raymond Burr, Truman Capote, James Mason, John Wayne, Paul Lynde, and Johnny Carson.  His Carson was so good, he was asked to play him in the movie about the David Letterman/Jay Leno feud called “Late Night”. After seeing Rich do an impression of him, Jack Benny sent him an 18 karat gold money clip  that was engraved; “With Bob Hope doing my walk and you doing my voice, I can be a star and do nothing!”

How good are his impressions?  When David Niven was ill, he actually dubbed in lines for Niven in a couple Pink Panther movies.  He did the same for James Cagney in the 1984 film Terrible Joe Moran and for Gene Kelly in a 1991 Christmas special.  I’m not sure how true it is, but some people say that there was some fierce competition between Rich and Frank Gorshin (The Riddler on TV’s Batman), who was also a good impressionist.  Those sources say that this little rivalry only made Rich work even harder to perfect his voices.

In researching for this blog, I came across a quote from Rich that really made me admire him even more.  He said, “I don’t like it when people imitate someone for political reasons or if they hate somebody.  I’ve never imitated anyone that I’ve really hated.  Usually, it’s people I admire.”

Thanks Rich, for the many laughs you provided throughout my childhood. Sorry about my Nixon impression!

Wolfman Jack (Born January 21, 1938)

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Radio Legend!  What more can I say?!  He was one of the best.  He knew what people wanted and gave it to them.  He was a master at talking to his audience.  He could be making you laugh out loud one minute, and crying  the next.  I never had the chance to hear a live show of his, but I was lucky enough to hear some of his syndicated stuff growing up.  I can tell you this, I can only WISH to be as good and as talented as he was! In my 30 year radio career, I have never come close!

With the creation of the Internet and access to YouTube and other radio websites, some of Wolfman’s radio stuff is available to listen to and enjoy.  I’m no dummy, I know that he must have done a lot of prep for his shows, but everything seemed so spontaneous and ad-libbed!  Maybe it was, I don’t know, but I do know that it was good.  His interactions with listeners were always entertaining.  His random thoughts about peace, love, and brotherhood always hit the nail on the head.  In this world where hatred runs amuck, we could use more people like Wolfman spreading the “love” on the air.

I got into radio because of the guys I listened to growing up (Paul Christy, Jim McKenzie, Richard D., Boogie Brian, Dick Purtan, etc…), and so did Wolfman Jack.  To keep him out of trouble, his parents bought him a radio and he fell in love with R&B music.  He listened to Jocko Henderson from Philadelphia, Dr. Jive from New York, the Moon Dog from Cleveland, Alan Freed (who coined the phrase “Rock and Roll”), and his mentor John Richbourg from Nashville.  He spent a year at The National Academy of Broadcasting and landed a radio gig in Virginia where his on air name was “Daddy Jules”.

Three years later, he took his “Wolfman” character to XERF, a Mexican radio station that broadcast at 250,000 watts (5 times the power of any US radio station), and people listened!  The station pretty much covered most of the US.  The music he played (lots of great R&B) and his vocal stylings started to make news. His popularity grew and there were feature stories about him in Time magazine, Newsweek, and Life magazine.  Newspapers from all over the country all wrote about him, too, wondering, “Who is this guy and where did he come from?!”

In 1972, he became the host of an NBC show called “The Midnight Special” where he co-hosted and interviewed musical guests.  Director George Lucas grew up in North Carolina and was a fan of Wolfman’s show growing up.  In 1973, he cast him in the film “American Graffiti” and made sure that he got a small percentage of the profits from the film.  The success of the film brought Wolfman to New York to do a radio show on WNBC, but the commuting back and forth to do TV and radio became a hassle, so he moved back to California.

Wolfman Jack became the first radio DJ to nationally distribute his radio show.  The show was heard on over 2000 stations nationwide and in 53 countries! Along with his radio work. he continued to do movie work  and appeared on TV shows like The Odd Couple, What’s Happening, Vega$, Wonder Woman, Hollywood Squares, and Married…With Children. He also appeared as himself in the 1974 hit single by The Guess Who entitled “Clap for the Wolfman.”

In 1995, he wrote his autobiography (a must read for people in radio) “Have Mercy:  Confessions of the Original Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal,” which received good reviews in The New York Times and LA Times.  On July 1, 1995, after finishing a broadcast from The Hard Rock Café in Washington DC he boarded a plane and flew home.  He had been away from his family for days promoting his book.  He told his limo driver as they pulled in front of his house that he was happy to finally be home.  He walked inside, hugged his wife, and collapsed after having a massive heart attack.  He was 57 years old.

To close this section of my blog – here are some of my favorite Wolfman quotes:

“We are put on this earth to have a good time.  This makes other people feel good.  And the cycle continues.”

“I know it may sound corny, man, but I like to bring folks joy and I like to have a good time.  I know folks like to be with someone who’s having a good time.  You sure as hell don’t want to be with somebody who’s having a bad day.”

“Love is not a matter of counting the years – it’s making the years count.”

“If you do right.  Everything will come out right.”

And my favorite quote, which I often used (giving him credit, of course) to close my own radio show:

“Remember to keep smiling because a smile is like a light in the window letting people know your heart’s at home”.

Thanks, Wolfman, for being an inspiration to young DJ’s like me, and for being a positive in a world full of negativity!

Christopher Lloyd (Born October 22, 1938)

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When I first saw the trailer for Back to the Future, I was filled with anticipation.  It was everything a 15 year old boy could ask for, action, adventure, and time travel! I’ve always been a fan of time travel stories.  I have a collection of old radio shows that all have time travel as a theme.  What kid didn’t wonder, “What would it be like to see my parents as kids?  What would it be like to go back to the past?”  I had to see this movie!

The Back to the Future trilogy remains one of my favorites (second only to the Godfather).  Looking back now, I can’t imagine anyone but Christopher Lloyd playing Doc Brown.  While there are great characters (and actors) in the film, Lloyd makes it all worth watching!  He’s the epitome of a crazy scientist!  He’s everything you expect one to be!  He’s manic!  He’s constantly moving!  He’s always thinking and processing!  In an interview he said that there were times he was so into the role that he didn’t know exactly what he had done until he saw it on screen!  Believe it or not, he almost passed on the role!!

In an interview I found, he said that when he was initially contacted about playing the role, he had some doubts about it and seriously considered passing on it.  He was in Mexico when his agent called to tell him that the producers wanted to meet with him.  “I was anxious to do a play that I had been offered back east, and I wasn’t sure this was something I wanted to get involved in at that point.”  Luckily, his future wife Carol reminded him that “I always told myself never to turn anything down without at least checking it out.” After the meeting he says he was “ready to put on the wig and hop into the Delorean!”

Doc Brown is probably one of two roles that Christopher Lloyd will forever be identified with.  The other is that of “Reverend” Jim Ignatowski on the TV show Taxi.  That character won him two Emmy Awards!  I have always appreciated when a TV show has a great ensemble cast – Taxi was one of them.  Each character stands out in their own way, and Reverend Jim never ceased to make me laugh!  One of the greatest scenes in this show is when Jim has to take his driver’s test.  Almost all of the gang is there while he is taking it and trying to help him.  If you’ve never seen it – it’s comedy gold! Here is the link:

Christopher is one of those actors who is believable in comedy roles as well as dramatic roles.  I have always felt that is what makes a great actor.  He reminds me a lot of Robin Williams, in that he can play comedy for comedy, play straight for comedic effect, and nail a dramatic role perfectly.  In his first movie role, as a psychiatric patient in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, he is brilliant!  It is one amazing performance!

He is one of those actors that has so many memorable roles.  It would be impossible to give space to each one of them.  One movie that sometimes gets over looked is the 1985 comedy Clue.  As Professor Plum, we are treated to Christopher playing straight for comedic effect.  In one of my favorite scenes, the characters are paired off to search areas of the house.  Plum is paired with Mrs. Peacock (played brilliantly by Eileen Brennan) and he looks at her and says, “It’s you and me, honey bunch.”  As strait as he says it, that line cracks me up every time!  What an amazing cast in this film!

As someone who doesn’t care too much for movie remakes, I was pleasantly surprised at the Addams Family films.  I loved Christopher as Uncle Fester.  I always felt like the TV show was more comedy than dark comedy.  The films were closer to the comic strips and I thought Christopher captured that dark comedy and mischievous aspect of the character in his portrayal of Fester. This is probably because he was a fan of the comic strip and claims to have always read the New Yorker Magazine (where the strip was featured in every issue).

Two of Christopher’s roles were so powerful they scared me!  The first being that of Klingon Commander Kluge in the 1984 film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.  He is just so vicious, and over the top in this film.  One of my favorite scenes is where one of his crew destroys a ship and he yells that he wanted prisoners.  The crew member says it was a lucky shot.  At this, his anger boils over and Kluge kills the crewmember.  After this, he simply says “Animal.”  He really does a great job of showing us how crazy the character is.

The other role that scared me was his role as Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?  As much as I hated him throughout the movie, when he snaps and goes nuts at the end, wow!  When he is run over by the steamroller you are almost happy!  When he melts, you are ecstatic! When an actor makes you hate a character he is playing that much – he’s done it right! He says that people come up to him often and mention how much this character scared them, so I am not alone.  He also says that he loves playing villains, because it’s a “license just to be as bad as the script allows you to be”.

There are many other movies that Christopher has played in that you may be familiar with, like The Dream Team, Dennis the Menace (Switchblade Sam is an awesome villain), and My Favorite Martian.  He has done so much more that I wish I had been able to see.  For example, in 2010, he starred as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman in a Weston House Production. I can only imagine how well he played this iconic role.   In 2008, he played Scrooge in a production of A Christmas Carol with John Goodman and Jane Leeves.  WOW – I would LOVE to see him as Scrooge!!!!  Many have played Scrooge, and played him well…but I know that Christopher’s interpretation would have been off the charts!

He continues to do voice work (my kids loved him as the Hacker on Cyberchase), television, and movies and is very active on social media. If you don’t already, follow him.

Thanks, Christopher for entertaining so many over the years!  You are a treasure!

In Closing

I want to thank the hosts of this blogathon, “Pop Culture Reverie” and “In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood”,  for allowing me to participate.  It was a lot of fun for me to think about these three influential men and their work, and ultimately write about them.  I hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

 

 

Tube Tunes….

sanford 1

Today, Quincy Jones turns 85.  He is a legend in the music business.  He is a record producer, actor, conductor, composer, musician, TV & film producer, instrumentalist, magazine founder, entertainment company executive and humanitarian.  He’s worked with some of the best musicians and produced some of the biggest albums in history.  He has worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson.  Call my crazy, but despite all of the things Quincy Jones is known for – I remember him for one thing – he recorded the Sanford and Son Theme song!

There was just something cool about this theme song.  The opening bass line followed by the catchy melody.  To this day, I laugh when I see a beat up truck driving around, I will sing the Sanford theme out loud!  In an episode of Scrubs, JD and Turk are having a serious discussion, that eventually ends up with them singing and dancing to the Sanford theme!  Recently someone did a “mash up” with Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and, you guessed it, the theme to Sanford and Son.

Today, many shows don’t even bother with a theme song.  You see the credits scroll on the screen while the show is in progress.  This is sad.  A TV theme song kind of sets the mood for the show.  It will be a song with catchy lyrics or a melody that you can hum along with.  Today, lets go back and look at some of my favorite theme songs from TV’s past.  When we’re done – tell me your favorites that I may have missed.

The 50’s

Two of the earliest themes on my list come from shows considered classics.  First, The Andy Griffith Show.  This catchy tune is one that you can whistle along with.  Even without looking at a screen, whistling it makes you picture Andy and Opie walking with their fishing poles to the lake.  Second, The Dick Van Dyke Show.  What’s not to like about this one?  You only have to wonder whether or not he’s gonna trip over the ottoman when he walks in the house.

Then there is the Twilight Zone.  The haunting guitar part that plays those same four notes over and over is scary as hell!  As a kid, I remember freaking out when it was on.  Today, as I listen to it, it is perfect for the show.  It was the perfect music to play while Rod Serling explained that we were entering another dimension.  I can’t tell you how many times something obscure happens and I start humming the theme song!

Another one of my favorites was the theme to Perry Mason.  It was written by Fred Steiner who said he wanted to capture Perry’s sophistication and toughness.  The song is actually called Park Avenue Beat and it is a bluesy “piece of symphonic R&B”.  The song was re-recorded for the Perry Mason TV movies and was used by the Blues Brothers band while out touring.

Another theme song that I absolutely love, has a Blues Brothers tie in, too.  Peter Gunn is a private eye.  The initial base line accompanied by low brass instruments screams sleazy private eye.  It’s a great piece.  The song actually plays in the first Blues Brothers movie as the brothers are driving through Illinois.  They do a fine cover of it.

The 60’s

The shows of the 60’s and 70’s had some of the best theme songs!

The theme to Mission: Impossible is instantly recognizable.  It was composed by the great Lalo Schifrin.  What’s neat about the song is that it is in 5/4 time.  From the opening note – you can see the fuse light up and begin to burn.  It’s such a cool piece of music.  I was glad that they used it in the movies with Tom Cruise (even though I disliked them).

Wanna sing along with the theme to Batman?  You only need to sing the word “Batman” and you got it!  Neil Hefti, who was a composer and arranger, composed the theme with it’s simple guitar lick and vocal.  It was a hit for Hefti, The Ventures, and the The Marketts.

William Dozier, creator of Batman, also created the Green Hornet.  Even though the show didn’t last long, the theme song is memorable for a few reasons.  First, it is based on the classical piece, The Flight of the Bumblebee.  Second, playing the trumpet on the song is the great Al Hirt!  Classic!  One that you will hum for days.

Who can forget the theme to the Monkees?  “Here we come, walking down the street.  We get the funniest looks from, everyone we meet….”  Hey!  Hey!  They’re the Monkees!  For this show, they gathered 4 guys with little or no musical experience and made them a band.  The show appealed to kids and adults alike.  It was fast paced with quick jokes and 4 lovable characters who featured many of their hit songs on the show.

In the 60’s the guitar played a big part in theme songs.  Think about this, The Munsters theme had such a catchy lick that was sampled for the song Uma Thurman by Fall Out Boy.  It was cool enough to sample for one of today’s hit songs.

One of those great guitar theme songs was to Get Smart.  The opening sequence changed a little from season to season, but it always included Don Adams walking through a corridor with sets of doors one right after another until he finally makes it to the payphone that gets him into CONTROL headquarters.  Love this song and it never fails, if I am ever walking down a long hallway – I will almost always start to hum this song.

I mentioned the Ventures earlier, and they have one of the coolest theme songs – Hawaii 5-0.  It was a huge instrumental hit for the band.  It’s a great balance of guitar and horns.  The use of the tympani drum and the pyramid effect by the horns in this song is masterful!  It’s one of those theme songs you instantly crank up.

The 70’s

Disco was in and some theme songs were just “funky”.  Two examples of this are Barney Miller and it’s spin-off, Fish.  The funky bass in the two theme songs is prominent and sets the tone for the them.  The guitar melodies blend in and make them two themes that you could listen to over and over.  The horns in Barney Miller continue to crescendo to the end of the song itself.  It started slow and funky and ends in such a way that when it’s over you are disappointed cause you want more.

Norman Lear was a staple of 70’s TV.  He created All In The Family, Maude, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, Good Times, and the list of his credits goes on and on.  The Jeffersons was a spin-off of All In The Family.  George Jefferson is “moving on up” to a bigger and better life and that’s where the theme song sets you up.  It tells you the story.  The theme song was written by Ja’net Dubois (of Good Times) and Jeff Berry and sung by Dubois and a gospel choir.  Her vocal is amazing and so is the song.

How do I describe the theme song from What’s Happening!!?  As the show opens, the main characters are running down a sidewalk bouncing a ball.  The music kinda sounds like a ball is bouncing and then the soprano sax jumps in.  It’s odd, but it’s catchy.  It’s also written and composed by one of the most respected men in music – Henry Mancini!

The 70’s introduced us to the superhero Wonder Woman.  I do not know a boy alive who did not have a crush on Lynda Carter.  Much like the Batman theme, this theme repeats the character’s name a few times, but then expands on how wonderful she is.  There is a funky little bass line that drives the song and I can’t really remember much more because I was watching Lynda Carter run ….

Welcome Back, Kotter was the show that introduced us to John Travolta.  It was a comedy about a guy (Gabe Kaplan) who goes back to his old neighborhood to teach.  The show was originally going to be called Kotter.  The title was changed, however, because of the theme song.  It was written and recorded by former lead singer of the Lovin’ Spoonful, John Sebastian.   The song hit the charts and went all the way up to #1.  This song give you the feel of the “folksy” 70’s.

The 80’s

There are so many great theme songs from the 80’s!  Let’s start with Night Court.  Night Court’s theme song throws me back to the 70’s because of that funky bass open.  You also have that soprano sax melody.  It’s not a long theme, and when it’s done, you wish that you could find somewhere an “extended club mix”.

Police Squad only produced 6 episodes and it was cancelled.  It starred Leslie Nielson as Lt. Frank Drebin.  At the time, the network didn’t think that a show like Police Squad would be something an audience would want to watch (so they could catch all the jokes – remember, this was done by the guys who gave us the movie Airplane!).  The theme song was accompanied by a voice over announcer reading the credits.  He would also announce tonight’s guest star (who would always die during the credits) and give the name of the episode (which never matched with the title read on the screen).  Thankfully, when the Naked Gun movies were made, the kept the theme song.

In 1980, Urban Cowboy hit theaters and country music was all the rage.  It only made sense that we’d have a country comedy show on TV.  That show was the Dukes of Hazzard.  Talk about big name singers – Waylon Jennings sings the theme song, and he was also the show’s narrator.  The song was released as a single in August of 1980, and it went to #1 on the Billboard Country Charts!  Yee-haw!

The 90’s

It is here that we begin to see the decline in the use of the TV theme song.  As a matter of fact, it became a habit to edit them down to 10-30 seconds from the already short 60 seconds.  There are some that stand out for me though from this decade.

Tim Allen’s Home Improvement was a show based on his comedy act.  His grunts and vocalizations intermingle through the theme song, almost as if they are a part of the musical score.  The theme song almost sounds like a “work” song, both in sound and in tempo.

Seinfeld was one of those shows who used a theme song for a while, and used it at the end of the show, but often times especially in the show’s later seasons, it was shortened.  The bubbly, poppy, twangy bass, and silly feel will forever be associated with the show about nothing and it’s silly characters.

From the opening guitar of “I’ll Be There for You” by the Rembrandts, you are in New York with Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe and Monica.  The theme to the show Friends was an international hit.  It was a song that was requested on radio and used at wedding receptions to introduce bridal parties.  The song is heavily influenced by the Beatles (I Feel Fine) and the Monkees (Pleasant Valley Sunday).  It was originally just one minute long, but the band went in an recorded an extended version, which became a radio hit.

Who could forget It’s Garry Shandling’s Show?  The show, in itself, was silly.  Garry interacts with the cast, but often will interact with the studio audience as well.  It was just so weird.  The theme song is just as weird.  It’s a bouncy song that basically references itself (this is the theme to Garry’s show) and tells you how it came to be (Garry called me up and asked if I would write his theme song) and then asks how you like it (we’re almost halfway finished how do you like it so far?).  The melody is so catchy, you can’t help but want to sing (or whistle) along with it.

Wrapping up

With the TV theme song becoming more and more absent from TV…what are your thoughts?  Which ones did you love growing up?  Which ones do you still sing?  Which ones did you hate?

Now it’s your turn – I look forward to seeing your comments.