Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year: We're Knockin' on a New Decade's Door!

As the Jib Jab geniuses and a few cool cats help us usher in the New Year, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who helped me launch me into cyberspace in 2009. Gratitude goes to Ren and Susie, Betty, Sandy & Mike D--hardcore radio fans all, for nudging me to "Blog, baby, blog." My sister Shana mentioned it once or two hundred times, too. So she deserves a hearty salutation, as well. It has been a true pleasure to re-connect with fans and connect with new friends through Radio Graffiti and its oft-neglected sister site, Scribbler's Folly (that's okay; SF is more evolved and doesn't crave as much attention. But, since clients and students from my other life as a creativity coach have clamored for my wisdom--lol--SF will get some more in 2010).

And thanks to Dolores and Gilbert at News Junkie Post for taking me into their progressive and very cool fold. You can "Digg" my stories at as well as myriad other sites around the web. And "follow" my Tweets. Stay tuned, too, for new adventures in Marconi's box.

And I wish you health and hope, wealth and joy in 2010. Oh, yeah, and no-cal chocolate that tastes like the real deal! And makes you wise and funny, kind and cute the more you eat.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.

See ya next year!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Vic Chesnutt’s Last Song: Folk-Rocker Dead at 45 | NEWS JUNKIE POST

Such sad news about Vic Chsenutt. The singer-songwriter struggled for so long and yet produced so much raw, honset work. Read my New Junkie Post tribute. R.I.P. Vic.
Vic Chesnutt’s Last Song: Folk-Rocker Dead at 45 | NEWS JUNKIE POST

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ella Fitzgerald's Swingin' Christmas Caper

YouTube - Ella Fitzgerald - Sleigh Ride

It's a cold case already. Going on three, make it four years since someone swiped my CD copy of the classic Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas. I've got my list of suspects. And you better believe I'm checking it twice. The ex-radio colleague with sticky fingers who was caught "inadvertently borrowing" another Christmas collection a few years back. A boyfriend with a penchant for pawing through my CD collection. A friend with an Ella Fitzgerald fetish. They top the list. But it could be almost anyone.

Here's the deal: I'm usually careful with my collection, but after segueing from music radio, where your show pretty much comes out of a computer nowadays to talk radio, I became accustomed to schlepping a portable library of CDS featuring everything from an array of rock tunes to novelty songs, comedy bits, and seasonal faves to use as bumpers, fills and for special features. So after a while, the contents of the tote, however shielded can be subject to the wrong hands.

And that's what I fear happened to Ella's genius 1960 Verve recording,a tour de force that swings through the great American songbook of holiday hits ( you won't find any traditional hymns here). The collection is one of two seminal contemporary Christmas albums; the other, of course, is Phil Spector's Christmas Album.

From "Sleigh Ride" to "Frosty the Snowman," from " Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" to "Let it Snow, Let it Snow," Ella infuses the season with her signature jazzy vibe. Quite simply, the First Lady of Jazz is the the epitome of cool yule. And no one can sing the heartbreakingly lonely, "What are You Doing New Year's Eve, " with Ella's rich, nuanced spirit.

Thanks to You Tube and, I got a quick Ella fix. Next year, I'll have to break down and buy a new copy of the classic. I mean, if the culprit doesn't come forward. Or isn't outed by Nancy Grace.

Drive safe. Make merry. Think peace.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Wonderful" Tribute

YouTube - George Bailey by Carolyn Sills Thanks to fellow blogger, Carolyn Sills for this original ditty. This one is so sweet and catchy, it should be an instant classic. Really, it's that good. And the animation is a whimsical tribute to the old Fleischer cartoons of the Capra era. Give it a listen. And no matter your woes or last minute shopping pressures, you'll think, yeah, It's a Wonderful Life.

Just amazing what one little song can do to alter your outlook.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


"It's Christmas, Shut up!"

YouTube - "A Merry American Christmas" by Roy Zimmerman

Merry news for all soldiers in the "War on Christmas" brigade. Santa has been released from Gitmo. Just in time to lead his communist collective of elves and reindeer, distributing free gifts to kids across the land.
Okay, so Bill O has eased up a bit on the so-called anti-Christmas paranoia. The War on Christmas may seem oh so 2005, but that hasn't stopped South Carolina Congressman Henry Brown from introducing a resolution to "protect the sanctity of Christmas." Like Congress isn't a little busy these days. Brown got all hot and bothered when he discovered the Obamas' holiday card only offered "Seasons Greetings." Sorry, Congressman, but Pres. Bush's 2008 greeting omitted "Christmas" too. So much for the liberal crusade against Christmas. With Joe Wilson, Mark Sanford and Brown, the parties (not to mention the IQs) in South Carolina must be rockin'

Then there's the American Family Association, which has been making their list. And no doubt, checking it twice. CVS and Victoria Secret are naughty. Costco and Wal-Mart are nice. The biggest target this year: The Gap. Something about turtlenecks in an array of bright colors, I guess. Actually the group-- which called for a two month boycott of all Gap stores back in November--is miffed because the company's official policy is to say, "Happy Holidays." And the Gap also gets low ho ho hos for that annoying all inclusive ad that maniacally commands: 'Go Christmas, Go Chanukah, Go Kwanza..."

Just go. And don't forget to say, "Merry Christmas," as you trample over your fellow last-minute shoppers on your quest to snag that last, coveted Zhu Zhu Pet.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Media Matters: Misinformer of the Year 2009: Glenn Beck

YouTube - Misinformer of the Year 2009: Glenn Beck Media Matters for America called it right. This montage captures some of Beck's biggest bloviations and critical assessments from the left and right. Congrats, Beck. You earned the dubious distinction. Here's to the extinction of his hate-mongering show in 2010!

Beyond Capra

I know I risk having gingerbread, or worse, vats of eggnog, hurled at me. But I have a love-hate thing going with It's a Wonderful Life.After over-exposure to the Frank Capra Christmas movie classic as a child, I ditched it and all its warm and fuzzy sentimentality. I had fleece socks and an MFA fellowship, after all. So what did I need with all that simple love and kindness?

After watching George Bailey realize how important his life was, I don't know, something like fifty times before puberty even set in, a girl gets jaded. Remember, this was back in the days of before cable TV offered hundreds of stations with nothing on, and no one owned the film, so it was played on almost every channel umpteen times throughout the season.

For quite a few years I avoided the movie completely. But I recently saw it again. And it looks like love again. The sweet, heart-warming tale of a small town bank owner who takes on the greedy, heartless tycoon, Mr. Madoff... uh, Potter, and is loved by all he's ever met, feels oh, so comfy again. Just like getting together with a long-lost friend.

But you know what? It's still not my favorite seasonal offering.

That honor has always gone to Christmas in Connecticut, Peter Godfrey's 1945 holiday trifle. Barbara Stanwyck stars as an early faux Martha Stewart who finds her true love on her phony honeymoon with her fake hubby. She's a popular magazine columnist who's supposed to write about hearth and home... only thing is she doesn't have either. And when her publisher--the funny and formidable Sydney Greenstreet--demands she host a navy hero for Christmas, her scam risks reveal. Until her insufferable beau offers his convenient farm and a makeshift marriage. It's corny--even for that era--but a delightful, kitsch confection that is a perfect complement to a late night peppermint schnapps infused hot cocoa. Great co-stars include Reginald Gardner, Dennis Morgan and the ever adorable, S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall.

Other faves:

Comfort and Joy: Bill Forsyth's rarely shown 1984 holiday treat starring Bill Patterson as a Scottish disc jockey who finds his world unravelling after his girlfriend leaves him and he unwittingly gets embroiled in a war in the ice cream truck underworld. This is a quirky confection from the director of Gregory's Girl. Dire Straits master Mark Knopfler provides the score.

Scrooge:I'm talking about the 1970 musical starring Albert Finney in a broad and beautiful--okay hammy--performance. In a crowded field of many fine Christmas Carols, this one stands out for me because I remember seeing it at Radio City with my grandfather when I was a little girl. And the whole day with Pop--from getting to circumvent the line because he knew the management--to watching a movie and a live show with the world-famous Rockettes ( yes, Trudi) in that majestic theatre, is indelibly etched in my memory as one of the sweetest days of my life. But even without that experience, the film, directed by Ronald Neame,boasts much. There are stellar performances by Alec Guinness as Marley's Ghost and Kenneth More as Ghost of Christmas Present. The sets courtesy of Terry Marsh are luscious. And Leslie Bricusse's score, though a tad uneven, offers bright spots including: "Father Christmas," "I Hate People" and the effervescent show-stopper, "Thank You, Very Much."

The Man who Came to Dinner: This 1941 comic classic stars Monty Wooley as an acerbic radio commentator who slips in front of an unsuspecting mid-western family's house, and stays for the holiday season, threatening litigation while he turns the household upside down. Bette Davis in a rare genial part, co-stars as the insufferable brute's love-struck assistant. She falls for the local newspaper editor; he plots to foil the affair. Other wacky characters parade through the busy house. Small star turns by Reginald Gardiner,Jimmy Durante, and the great Mary Wickes. Based on the Kauffman-Hart Broadway hit (which was based on their friend radio commentator/columnist Alexander Woollcott). Directed by William Keighley. An ironic footnote: many years later, during a NYC hotel strike, Bette Davis insinuated herself into a Connecticut family's home for months. That real-life episode is chronicled in Elizabeth Fuller's funny and charming memoir, Me and Jezebel.

Miracle on 34th Street: The Original! And only the 1947 original. It's been remade twice--in 1973 and 1994-- and neither holds a Christams candle to the classic which earned Edmond Gewnn an Oscar as Kris Kringle playing himself in Macy's and going on trial to prove his Santa suit is the real thing. This delightful holiday romp opens on the famed Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade ( and is usually shown on TV on Turkey Day, though it was missed this year) and captures the growing ( in the '40's) materialism of Christmas, faith, love, and child-like wonder. Maureen O'Hara, John Payne and a young Natalie Wood all offer terrific performances in George Seaton's movie the studio thought so little of, it released it during the summer! But, unlike It's A Wonderful Life,which was an initial box office flop--this one scored a miracle--and was re-released for the Holiday season.

There are others, to be sure, including: The Bells of St. Mary, Holiday Inn and recent hits Home Alone and Love Actually. But I'd rather start watching than rattle off more. Bet you didn't know: every time a bag of pop corn is popped, a movie critic earns her wings... or at least a box of Raisinets.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sock it to "Say No" Joe Lieberman!

Humor is a great weapon. Here the maestros at Move On take aim at Joe Lieberman.
YouTube - Joe Lieberman as a sock puppet! -
But let's remember he can only continue to hold health REFORM hostage if the Senate and Pres. Obama allow it. I'm starting to think Obama ran for President because he was intimidated by ( or lacked the patience for) the legislative "sausage making." He's stayed so far away from the process... and now what's left is a watered down mess that both the left and right can agree to despise. As for Lieberman: think you better see a doctor about your out-sized ego. Good thing you've got health coverage, Senator.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dean’s Rx for Senate Health Bill: “VOTE NO” | NEWS JUNKIE POST

Feeling frustrated by the so-called Health care "Reform" bill? Read my latest News Junkie Post piece. And maybe, call your Congressional reps. Go Howard, Go! There are lots of other cool & informative articles to check out on the site, too!

Dean’s Rx for Senate Health Bill: “VOTE NO” | NEWS JUNKIE POST

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ebeneezer Stooge

Call this character Ebeneezer STOOGE. Greg Wiseman, the mayor of Arlington, TN, outside of Memphis, must have hit the party egg nog a little early this year. Last week the small town pol found himself in the national spotlight for some nonsense he printed on his Facebook page. Apparently miffed that ABC preempted the "Charlie Brown Christmas" special two weeks ago so it could air Pres. Obama's Afghanistan speech, Mr. Mayor claimed Obama timed the speech with the intent to bump the beloved classic. And, oh, yeah, Wiseman also called Obama a Muslim ( which would be fine if he were, but he's not, so get over it already). At least he didn't bring up that silly birth certificate biz again.

And, for the record, ABC aired the Charlie Brown special last week and another showing airs tonight at 8 PM. Set those DVRS.

For its part, the town of Arlington threw its mayor under the bus and proclaimed on the town's official website that it doesn't agree with his views and ya all come down because Arlington is the friendliest place on earth.

Wiseman offered a lukewarm apology, called it "tongue-and-cheek humor between friends" that went too far. He's sorry, of course, if anyone was offended. But it was just a joke. Not a funny one, but can't hit 'em out of the park every time, I guess, right Mr. Mayor? The comments and the apology earned him two crownings on Keith Olbermann's "Worst Person in the World" list. Must have been a quiet week for Bill O & Beck. Don't bother trolling Facebook, Wiseman quickly deleted his account.

Oh, in case you're wondering, it's pretty clear Mayor Wiseman isn't even remotely related to those famous three Wise Men who factor into the seasonal festivities. Let's face it, this guy's not even smart enough to hang out with Tony Soprano.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Join the “Spectacle:” Elvis Costello’s Show Returns to TV | NEWS JUNKIE POST

"Digg" my latest News Junkie Post piece. It's a shortened season for Declan & co... but sounds like a good one... off to a fab start. Don't forget to check out for my articles and essays on politics and pop culture.
Join the “Spectacle:” Elvis Costello’s Show Returns to TV | NEWS JUNKIE POST

Monday, December 7, 2009

Still Imagining Peace: John Lennon's Legacy

We heard the news twenty nine years ago today. And for those of us too young to remember the assassination of JFK, 12/8/80,the night John Lennon was gunned down and murdered in front of his home at the Dakota in New York City was our collective loss of innocence. For kids born in the '60's and '70's the brutal death of a cultural icon was our jolt into an unforgiving decade. A friend broke the news and we spent the night riveted to both TV and, mostly, the radio. This was in the days before before 24/7 cable TV, so we turned to the DJs to offer comfort and context. Already intrigued by Marconi's Box, this episode lured me closer to what would be a rewarding if somewhat tumultuous career in radio.

Coming of age in the era of Ronald Reagan, AIDS and Gordon Gekko's "Greed is good" rally cry, our generation may have been more cynical than the Boomers before us, but we still had the music to sew generation to generation. And for nearly fifty years the Beatles have been a vibrant common thread in that cultural mosaic. The recent success of both their digitally remastered collections and the Beatles: the Band video game is evidence of the band's remarkable influence and staying power.

Dubbed the "smart Beatle," John Lennon's musical and literary sophistication is apparent in a wide spectrum of the group's tunes including "Norwegian Wood," "Strawberry Fields" and "The Ballad of John & Yoko." His solo career--surprisingly substantial considering his self described "house husband" hiatus in the mid-seventies and his tragic death at forty--shows both poetic flourish(the iconic "Imagine") and homage to his early rock roots ("Whatever Gets you Through the Night").

Lennon's bold public persona and wry humor made him something of an acquired taste at first. His infamous 1965 comment about the Beatles being "bigger than Jesus" was misconstrued and led to a brief U.S. radio ban. Lennon never said the Beatles were greater than Jesus; he was making a sarcastic observation about the outrageous hoopla that fueled Beatlemania.But soundbites aren't kind to wit or nuance. Other artists like Sinead O'Connor, Cat Stevens (Yusef Islam) and the Dixie Chicks would share similar backlashes, each with varying rebounds.

The Beatles' popularity, of course, persisted, despite Lennon's growing outspoken political proclivities. Some were offended, others amused and enlightened by John and Yoko's famous Bed-in for Peace. Part early '70's publicity stunt, part traveling demonstration, the events--staged to end the War in Vietnam-- irritated the so-called establishment and earned Lennon a spot on Richard Nixon's enemies list. Nixon and his FBI henchman J. Edgar Hoover were so threatened by John's charisma and sway with the already divisive youth culture, they actively waged a campaign to oust him from the country, using a minor pot bust years earlier in the U.K. as their ammo. You'll find a compelling account of the case and the era in the documentary The U.S. vs John Lennon ,available now on DVD.

The plot for Lennon's deportation was squashed by public outrage with a little help from John's friends in the arts and politics. And he was allowed to remain in the adopted city with which he shared such mutual love. Given his sense of irony, John would probably shrug and sing a few lines of "Instant Karma" had he been privy to his tragic fate on that peaceful New York City street he called home.

John Lennon was a complicated man: a poet with a showman's touch; an idealist with a pragmatic knack. ( pairing the Lennon/Ono classic " War is over with "Happy Christmas" was a brilliant move. The medley became a multi-generational anthem that is played annually on thousands of radio stations worldwide.) He had suffered early tragedy, losing his mother to a car accident when he was seventeen; and as a father he had a tricky relationship with his oldest son Julian( who has said recently the two were repairing their strains at the time of John's death). He was famous for his devotion to Yoko, but he left her briefly for another woman. He had returned in time to rekindle both their passionate romance and his career. The comeback album, Double Fantasy was released just before his death.

Every year around John's birthday in October and now on the anniversary of his death, people speculate about all the work he could have, would have amassed in the all those stolen years. Yoko has said John would have loved the Internet, and would have certainly found interesting uses of the new medium. Julian--who has just emerged from his own nearly two decade self-exile from music --said his father would most certainly have continued to make music. And Lennon may have also continued his passions for painting and writing. His sketches and paintings have fetched high price tags at auctions. And he displays a raw, literary flare in his book, Skywriting by Word of Mouth.

Lennon's legacy for peace, captured in beautiful and profound simplicity: "War is over. If we want it," is as relevant today as it was all those years ago. It's still hard to believe anyone was ever threatened by such a loving and powerful message. Events from Band Aid to Farm Aid and artists from Bono to Springsteen, R.E.M. to the Indigo Girls, Mellencamp to the Dixie Chicks all owe a debt to Lennon's audacity, conscience and spirit.

From his exquisite discography to his indelible influences in music and society, John Lennon will forever shine on. Like the moon and the stars and the sun.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Rock This Boat!

YouTube - "Pirate Radio" - Official Trailer [HD]

If you like classic '60's rock and dandy British comedies, you'll dig Pirate Radio. This retro ride from director Richard Curtis, who's best known for his sweet and light touch in the classic Brit coms Four Wedding and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love, Actually,spreads happy dust over an interesting footnote in British history.

Back in 1966--at the height of the British rock revolution-- the famously stuffy and staid BBC shockingly restricted its home grown ground-breaking music from pulsating over its own venerable airwaves. But Brits still got their ears rockin' courtesy of pirate radio stations broadcasting rock 'n' roll beyond U.K. territorial waters.Thanks to radio pirates, Brits were singing and dancing along to the likes of the Beatles ( noticeably absent from the soundtrack), The Stones, The Kinks, The Who etc.

Curtis' fictional ship, Radio Rock, is populated with the usual quirky misfits. All risk easy caricature, but the actors add likable dimension. Philip Seymour Hoffman infuses the lone American renegade DJ called The Count with a defiant pathos that only an actor of such range and natural appeal could pull off in such choppy and sentimental waters. The Count's star status is in jeopardy when the more celebrated enigmatic British DJ,Gavin-- played with suave comic appeal by Rhys Ifans-- hits the deck to storm the airwaves.

Bill Nighy is terrific, too as Quentin the station owner and cool captain. And Kenneth Branagh makes a comically menacing star turn as a government meanie hellbent on shutting down the pirate radio stations through a series of loopholes and gotcha maneuvers. Emma Thompson has a brief, but captivating go as an aging floozy whose son was sent aboard to bond with his father. Just who the lucky sperm donor turns out to be a surprise all. January Jones, best known as the oft put-upon Betty Draper on Mad Men gets to push the buttons here as a heartless American tart, playing fast and loose with a couple of DJs' hearts.

You'll likely find yourself as immersed in the characters' personal relationships and longings as the quest to claim the airwaves for the evolution of the pop cultural revolution. This is a Richrad Curtis comedy, after all, and there's never really any danger; there are no real renegades on this ride.

But it is the beat-- that great music--that will keep you bobbing along, through what is a rather long and sometimes wayward journey. If you like this music, you'll be happy to hang on to the sweet end. And if you're a nostalgic radio head like me, you'll groove too, to the old-fashioned broadcasting equipment, cramped studio and vinyl records.

But if you're a casual listener, along say, to appease a date, you might find yourself grabbing for a life boat. But don't go cruising the concession stand. That popcorn will kill you.

Pirate Radio will just make you tap your feet uncontrollably, hum along, sing a long, maybe break out into a giddy sense of joy. Hey, it's only rock 'n' roll but I like it. Yes, I do!

Drive safe. Play nice. Dance fast.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Living in "Unfriending" Times

"Teabagger" came close. "Sexting" was in the running. Even "Birther" got a nomination. But when all the votes were counted, "Unfriend" proved the victor. The New American Oxford Dictionary unveiled its 2009 Word of the Year earlier this week and the newly coined word associated with social networking is the one that has the most"currency and potential longevity," according to Christine Lindberg, Oxford's senior lexicographer.

Listed as a verb, "Unfriend" is described as "To remove someone as a friend on a social networking site like facebook or MySpace. ex: I decided to unfriend my boss right after he fired me.

Other nominees included: "Funemployed": taking time to pursue other interests after losing a job.

"Freemium": Business model in which basic services are free with the aim of luring folks to pay for premium goods and services.

"Zombie Banks": financial institutions with debts outweighing assets, but kept afloat thanks to government bail-outs.

"Paywall": A way of blocking access to part of website, Another way to entice paying subscribers, Funny, I always thought a paywall was where all my virtual payments for my online wit and wisdom was sent. Guess, I don't have access to it. That explains a lot.

A couple of my favs:

"Tramp Stamp": this one's been around a few years. So I guess it's this year's honorary country music nominee ( you know they always seem to nominate someone who's been around for years as the "new voice". Like Darius Ruker... love him and that was a great album, but c'mon, after fronting Hootie for close to two decades, how can he be new?) Sorry for the digression. The tramp stamp, you know, right, is that fetching tattoo, usually on the lower back, and usually sported by women.

"Deleb": Dead celebrity. Think a dead celeb who makes big bucks should be called a "Red Deleb".... as in the red....

Oh, well, it's all word salad anyway. Indulge in the ones you find funny or useful. Toss the rest in the snail mail pail. Wasn't that term for a traditional garbage bin, a nominee in 2000? Maybe I just made it up. Go ahead, look it up.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Holly Jolly Flu Shots?

Move over Wall Street warriors and Gitmo detainees. Someone else is angling to cut in the H1N1 vaccination line. Santa. That's right the Jolly One himself--or rather his emissaries -- want their flu shots before all those cute, germ-infested tykes hit red velvet laps at malls across America. I kid you not. The Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas (yeah, they're for real), says their guys are more susceptible to the dreaded swine flu-- and not only because of their proximity to all those sweet germ carriers. Most Santas tote their own girth and obesity may increase your risk of getting the disease and its severity. The CDC and other health honchos are "looking into the request." In the meantime, Santas are advised to use massive amounts of hand sanitizer and take extra vitamins.

So forget the milk and cookies. This year, put out orange juice and a plate of assorted vitamins. And just to be on the safe side, you might want to leave out a box of Kleenex, too. Wouldn't want to find any unexpected "goodies" under the tree.

Drive safe. Play nice. Sneeze into your sleeve.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Viva Live TV:"Chicken Hawk" Storms off Set

Chickenhawk Tancredo storms off set after Markos confronts him on veterans health care - Daily Kos TV (beta)

Meet me at the corner of Hypocrisy and Cowardice. First former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo spewed the tired GOP party line deriding so-called "socialized government-run health care." Then when pressed to reveal the names of veterans who were unhappy with their single-payer government run care, he dodged and weaved. Dodged being the operative word. When Daily Kos founder Marcos --a military veteran--outed Tancredo's avoidance of Vietnam service due to "depression," the irate former draft dodger stormed off the set.

Ah, you can't beat live TV!

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Fright Wing Jumps the Shark

YouTube - Don't Kill Grandma - Obamacare Video

Can you believe Dick Armey and his fear mongers at Freedom Works have reached yet another low? These crazy makers just keep digging deeper into the abyss of misinformation. This time they've created an obnoxiously named website--Don't Kill Grandma-kill the bill.

Stop scaring seniors and all the people who love them with your irresponsible chatter. If you'e so worried about people not getting the health care they need, how about the 45-50 million uninsured folks under 65? Once again, the fright wing's logic continues to confound me. Time to pull the plug on all these hateful, scare tactics.

You should be ashamed, Dick.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fighting Health Scare Tactics

YouTube - IS THIS THE BEST WE CAN DO! Congressman Dennis Kucinich

Rep. Dennis Kucinich is one of the courageous heroes in the fight for true health reform. He's proposed bill--which fetched a meager 85 votes--all Democrats--proposed a simple Medicare for all health reform option.

"Is that the best we can do?" the Ohio firebrand admoished his colleagues, labeling the proposed House reform bill little more than mandates that basically benefit the insurance companies. Despite his best efforts, it looks like Speaker Nancy Pelosi's 1900 page watered down,tree killer of a bill may be as good as it gets. For now. To be fair, while it does require mandates, it also features a limited public option and puts the kibosh on pre-existing conditions.

And it sure beats House minority Grinch John Beohner's non-reform reform bill which--in case your keeping score--maintains pre-existing conditions as barriers to insurance, but limits malpractice claims. Yeah, that's going in the right direction. Out the door, Mr.Scrooge. Time to go home and hit the pavement. Go look for another gig. And your own health insurance on the open market. If a lack of compassion is a pre-existing condition a whole lotta soon to be ex-pols are in big trouble. Oh, but, wait, don't they get Cadillac coverage for life? Think they do.

Something's wrong, America. Very wrong.

Drive safe. Play nice. think peace.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Monster Mash!

YouTube - bobby 'boris' pickett & the cryptkickers - monster mash

This clip scares up the true spirit of Halloween.Thanks to Bobby "Boris" Pickett, a true "crypt kicker" and gentleman. R.I.P.

Just found out my nephew Josh has been serenading his family and friends for days with his own version of the classic tune, often waking up mommy at 6 a.m. Hey, Auntie A. used to play it on the radio early in the morning. Somehow I appreciate the crooked karma.

Now go scare up some gooey treats and spooky tricks of your own. And don't worry about all that nonsense the folks at CBN are cooking up. The demons--or maybe it was just a bunch of overzealous dentists--posted a warning that all Halloween candy is cursed by witches out to snatch "new souls."

Really... who's zoomin' who? They're out there alright.... they just don't know who they are.

Happy Halloween....

Drive safe. Play nice,. Think Reeses' Pieces.



Thursday, October 29, 2009

Screen Screams

Getting ready to hunker down with all that leftover Halloween candy and crawl into your cave for a long weekend of home movies? I've scared up a small sampling of seasonal favorites.

I should say, I'm more partial to psychological thrills than bloody chills, so you won't find too many slasher flicks on my list.

When it comes to the cleverly crafted psychologically twisted tales of the macabre you simply can't beat Hitchcock. Some days I say Shadow of a Doubt (which was, btw, Hitch's personal fav), is my favorite. But I love Notorious, too. And Suspicion, Spellbound and Frenzy ( so much for avoiding gore). But if I'm truly honest, I'd have to concede that Psycho(1960) is my ultimate favorite of the master's masterpieces. And certainly the best for Halloween. Anthony Perkins' innocent-creepy performance is so spot-on it hampered the odd, talented actor's career, kept him virtually tied to the role of Norman Bates for the rest of his life. The cinematography, the setting, Hitchcock's choice of black and white film, the music, all the supporting players, everything down to the wry dialogue places Psycho in the annals of classic thrillers.

If I was pressed into picking a flick based on horror novel king Stephen King, I'd probably choose Stanley Kubrick's The Shining ( 1980). Though King reportedly hated it,and it does seem to go on forver, the film really does wear well. Jack Nicholson delivers an intense and scary performance as the unhinged caretaker of a sprawling and spooky off-season resort. And Kubrick's artistry creates a truly eerie setting. Shelly Duvall is at her best as the put-upon wife. Danny Lloyd is great as Nicholson's psychic son. Beware of all the redrum!

But I also love Dolores Claiborne, Taylor Hackford's 1995 adaptation of King's novel about a Maine woman, played with powerful pathos by Kathy Bates(though she won her Oscar for her role in the screen version of King's Misery, she outshines herself here) who is accused of killing her long-time employer. The charge brings back her estranged daughter ( Jennifer Jason Leigh in another captivating, nuanced performance). With deft flashbacks, the conflicts between the women--and murder of Dolores' lout of a husband years earlier-- emerge in intriguing and cryptic fashion. This is more of a psychological thriller, but very affecting.

Other favs:The Exorcist(1973) William Friedkin's intense take of William Peter Blatty's controversial best-seller. Creepy, gory, utterly captivating. I saw it for the first time at the local itch... sticky floors, stale popcorn... perfect. Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair and Jason Miller deliver pitch-perfect performances.

Village of the Damned( 1960); George Sanders copes with a crop of blue eyed zombies that could give The Children of the Corn a run for their money. Adapted from John Wyndham's novel, The Midwich Cuckoos.

The Haunting
(1963) Robert Wise's adaptation of Shirley Jackson's story "The Haunting of Hill House," is an old-fashioned haunted house chiller. Julie Harris, Claire Bloom , Richard Johnson & Russ Tamblyn all do their bit as members of a select group couped up in old New England mansion. This one could curl the stray hairs on a bald man's neck.

Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964) Bette Davis stars in this Gothic tale of skeletons rattling in a Southern family's closet. Campy, sometimes convoluted, but truly a pleasure to watch Davis as a an aging belle gone mad by lies and trickery cooked up by cousin Olivia de havilland (in a role Joan Crawford literally "backed out of" with a fake back ache). Joseph Cotton and Agnes Moorehead co-star.Directed by Robert Aldrich.

Harold and Maude(1972) Hal Asby's quirky black comedy isn't a typical Halloween pick, but it's a delightful, and surprisingly life-affirming movie. Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort star as the geriatric lover of life who helps the death obsessed 20 year old learn to live. Great soundtrack by Cat Stevens, too.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think Reese's Pieces.


Bad Parent Trappings

Kate Gosselin wants to be a movie star. And her stunted soon-to-be-ex Jon yearns to return to the womb.The phony uber mom rattled off her aspirations on a special edition of the newly configured Kate Plus Eight last week. Sounding like she can't wait t ditch the kids, Kate said--despite frequent whining about the paparazzi--she's been on "TV so long, being in front of the camera is natural." So yeah, in case there was any doubt, she wants a solo gig. Oh, and while she's making a wish list, the former nurse with nary an acting credit would love a big screen career. Or at least she'd like to be a cartoon character. Done, my dear. Kate's probably blue with envy over the Playboy cover animated matriarch Marge Simpson recently scored. And you know the follicly odd Kate must be coveting Mrs. Simpson's high blue do, too.

Kate still says she's only doing it "for the kids," but if there's anyone still doing time on the planet who buys that, I haven't run into them. Like I said, she's not a very skilled actress. She can't conceal her craving for the spotlight and all the cash that comes with it. Jon, on the other hand, is a bit of an enigma. He seems to love the limelight, but has an approach-avoidance thing going on, as he also seeks to retreat from it. Usually with young women. Frequently at nightclubs, the favored playgrounds of the dreaded paparazzi who snap those pesky(and often unflattering) tabloid photos.

In a recent tabloid story, Jon's "soul mate" du jour, Haley Glassman complains about his "mantrums," a cutesy term she coined top describe his "Jekyll and Hyde" snits. Looks like after years of abuse from the control-freak shrew, the thirty-something slob needs re-parenting himself. "He's so mean sometimes," Haley told People. "But I still love him." Maybe Haley--whose dad is the plastic surgeon who crafted Kate's post-pregnancy tummy tuck--needs a little counseling herself. Or maybe she likes the media attention and perks that come with hanging onto the discarded reality show star.

Jon who inexplicably divides his time between the big house in Pennsylvania(on weeks where he's got custody) and a swanky bachelor pad in Trump Tower in NYC, had an epiphany. He just woke up one morning--right after TLC axed him from the show--and realized "growing up in front of the cameras can't be good for the kids." So he slapped a cease and desist order on the network. Meanwhile, he's shopping himself around for all sorts of high-brow projects including something called Divorced Dads Club, a reality show with luminaries like Mike Lohan and Kevin Federline attached to it.

And now the Octomom wants in. The media hog nut job--who has had a well-televised "war of words" with Kate--says she's got a crush on Jon. Hmmm... can the new show Octo-Jon be far behind? If there are cameras and cash, these desperadoes will be there.

In fact,forget TLC; they should launch a new network, BPN--Bad Parents Network-- which would feature a roster of favs and newcomers. Look for shows like Kate Nixes the Eight & Starts to Date and Balloon Behind Bars, the infamous Henee family's long-awaited show. And there's room for shows featuring that crazy Craigslist mom who posted a sexy little ad to taunt her daughter's nine year old "rival". And a late night sleaze fest featuring the sicko dad who seduced his own teen daughter on facebook.

With so many parents behaving badly there's no end to BPN's future. With room to grow.

Drive safe. Play nice. think peace.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Classic TV Sign-Offs

"They're creepy & they're kooky... mysterious and spooky. they're altogether ooky... the Addams family..." R.I.P. Vic Mizzy. The genius behind classic catchy TV themes including those for The Addams Family; Green Acres, Petticoat Junction and F Troop passed away last Saturday at 93.

Besides adding an indelible reel to the boomer and post boomer soundtracks, the prolific Mizzy also composed movie soundtracks for the Addams Family Values movies, Spider Man and others; wrote a slew of songs for groups like the Andrews Sisters back in the thirties and forties, and even did an anti-jaywalking song as a public service announcement back in the '60's, "In the middle, in the middle, in the middle." features a font of info and some links to buy cool retro stuff. Alas, I didn't see a "Thing" music box to replace the one I had as a kid. Darn! Bet that little souvenir could fetch a bundle on e-bay. Or at least amuse the folks at Antiques Roadshow.

Just heard the news: Soupy Sales, the slapstick kiddie comic and game show staple died last night at 83. Soupy--who was born Mort Supman--became a household name on sixties TV with his pie-in-the-face and other silly, physical antics.He also landed in himself in a boiling hot pot of water when he asked kids to clean out their parents wallets and send him the cash. The stunt garnered a one week suspension and a brief FBI investigation. In later years, Soupy would be a regular on a slew of game shows including To Tell the Truth and What's my Line? as well as a frequent guest on variety and late night chat shows.

Some years ago I interviewed Soupy on WXPS radio in NY. To be honest the interview itself--part of a '60's retro week-- wasn't all that memorable. But the pre and post interview drama remains indelibly etched in my memory. It is my custom to "warm-up" guests--whether in the studio or on the phone-- before the actual interview. Just basic pleasantries; there's rarely time for much more, but it just seems nice. Soupy--who was coming in via phone--didn't want any of it. "Oh, we're not on yet? I'll wait." After the interview, which I thought was fine, I mentioned --off-air--to my co-host that I thought it had ran long, an allusion to my own inability to end the segment on time( I was hosting a rock morning show and had just received a lecture from the manager on keeping interviews short). Soupy's phone line was still open and he heard me and took offense saying, "I'm probably the best interview you'll have all week, all year, maybe of all time." Good thing he was on the phone; if he had been in the studio, I'm sure I'd have faced the pie!

I felt horrible, tried to apologize; he wouldn't accept, eventually yelling at the producer and refusing to take my call later. I still feel bad about hurting his feelings. And though I can't say his was the best interview I ever did (my skills have improved), the dramatics surrounding it will always stick with me. And it wasn't long after that I started hosting talk shows, where I could have more sprawling conversations with all sorts of people.

CBS had a memorial earlier in the week for Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes who passed away over the summer. Hewitt is the granddaddy of the TV news magazine. The biggest tribute--while so many copycats have come and gone--the original is still on. Forty plus years later. Not bad for a guy who summed up his life's work with four words: "Tell me a story."

This one's for Mom: yes, Joan Fontaine is very much alive. She just celebrated her 92birthday yesterday. The Oscar-winning Actress is still feuding with her Oscar-winning older sister, Olivia de Havilland. They never got along too well. Joan winning her Oscar first in 1942 for Suspicion (Olivia was up that year too for Hold Back the Dawn; and won later for The Heiress)surely added to the strain. They finally stopped talking altogether in 1975 after an argument over their mother's memorial. So while they've both long since retired from the movies, the off-screen drama lives on. And on.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Late Night Shakedown

So why is everyone talking about the sex-ploits of late night Lothario David Letterman and not his sleazy would-be extortionist Joe Halderman, who to borrow a word from Dave's lexicon bears a "creepy" resemblance to the infamous BTK killer? I'm guessing it's about celebrity and the fact that a lot of folks have--or wish they could--engage in an office romance. On the other hand, very few of us are in the lofty position to fend off potential blackmailers.

As a note of disclosure: I count myself among the the women that comprise 58% of Letterman's audience. Recently, I've been more of a casual than avid viewer (though my viewership, along with everyone else's, has gone up since last Thursday.) I've been a fan since I was a kid and my sister and I would send in letters replete with shocking Polaroids of a Paul Schaeffer look-alike teddy bear we were sure would garner us a spot on the old "Viewer Mail" segment. Never happened. But Ive long since transferred all that bitterness and resentment to a succession of disappointing old boyfriends and bosses.

Ah, the "B" word. It's Dave's status as a boss that has him in hot water with the women who are mad at him(my unscientific survey of radio callers and e-mailers finds about a 50-50 split between Dave dumpers and supporters)and media scolds. A snarky New York Post columnist has demanded CBS immediately axe him. And Facebook friends of Sarah Palin are chirping similar sentiments.

Of course, the cable TV pundits are weighing in nightly on his motivations and fate. National scold Jane Velez Mitchell offered her arm chair diagnosis:"I see a pattern here," the inexplicably loud(hey, don't need to shout,Jane, they've got this nifty invention called the microphone)self-promoter said on her HLN show."Here's a man who has the most glamorous and beautiful women in the world come on his show, and still he goes after young women on his staff... I have a theory... he has low self esteem." Maybe. Or maybe he just connected with these women, many of whom are average-looking plain Janes. Makes sense, as I've always found Dave's sex appeal to fall somewhere between that of Pee Wee Herman's and Michael Moore's (just which side of that spectrum is sexier is in the eye of the beholder).

His old girlfriend Merrill Markoe--the former head writer of his old NBC show--said on her blog:"I'm mad because Dave always promised I'd be the only woman he'd cheat on." A funny quip from a funny woman. Say what you will about Letterman and this whole sordid mess, but there are far more female producers and writers on his show than on most other late night and comedy shows. And many of them stay on for years. Insiders have said Letterman actually fosters a positive working environment for women.

Be that as it may, the National Organization of Women has chimed in. While NOW falls short of calling for Dave's dismissal, it does want CBS to take "some immediate action." Don't hold your breath. For one thing, Letterman isn't a CBS employee. He works for his own company--the aptly named Worldwide Pants--and according to a statement he hasn't violated any of their policies. And CBS President Les Moonves had a very public affair with Julie Chen while he was married, eventually divorcing his wife and marrying the much younger anchor. So unless some truly creepy developments emerge, don't expect any action from the Tiffany network.

Here's the thing to keep in mind: Letterman admitted to engaging in multiple relationships with employees. Okay, but they were all consensual and all between consenting adults. No need to compare Dave to Roman Polanksi or Woody Allen. That the women were all subordinates and many twenty plus years younger(his wife Regina Lasko--a former Late Show assistant--is twelve years younger)may offend some sensibilities, but there's nothing illegal about such hanky-panky.

But Joe Halderman--the desperado 48 Hours producer--did allegedly commit a crime. For its part, CBS has suspended him. Without(so far) making any comment or announcing any internal investigation. His high-profile attorney Gerald Shargel has already made the rounds of the morning shows, hurling veiled threats towards Letterman. We don't have the whole truth, he contends. He can't wait to cross-examine Letterman. More to come.

I wonder if Dave's sorry he didn't pay the thug off. TV legal eagles have offered a melange of advice. Some say Dave was right to nab the guy in the Manhattan D.A.'s sting operation( I agree; no one should give in to intimidation and thuggery). Others like celeb attorney Mark Geragos thinks it would have been wiser to "make the thing go away." Not pay the slime off, but "educate him," he offered on Larry King Live. "I've handled over a dozen such cases. And you make it clear to these people and their lawyers that they don't want to commit a crime. You don't pay them a cent and they do go away."

Too late for that now. Still, every scandal has an upside. For Dave it's ratings gold. His ratings--already higher than they've been in years thanks to that Palin joke and NBC's misguided late night switcharoo that left Conan O'Brien at the helm of The Tonight Show--have continued to spike. In fact, Letterman's ratings over the last week are higher than NBC's prime time lineup! So keep apologizing, Dave. Don't know if it's working at home, but it's certainly working with the home audience.

Drive safe. play nice. Think peace.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Sorry Truth

The Democrats--who've been wishing and hoping for their own hero in the health scare debate--may have finally found their guy. Not that he's perfect, But hey, who is? Freshman Florida Congressman Alan Grayson laid out the Republican health reform plan with succinct sarcasm late Tuesday night. It's his Wednesday follow-up that has folks on both sides of the aisle raising eyebrows.

On Tuesday, the brash reformer--who ran on an anti-corruption platform and is apparently making good on his campaign promises( so much so his seat is said to be among the most vulnerable for the Dems in 2010), stated the Republican plan: "Don't get sick! And if you do get sick, die quickly." The grade school visual aids: marker on poster board underscored the Republican effort.

This scathing, sound-bitable description threw House repubs into a a fast frenzy.These characters--who've spent months stonewalling and spewing fear with the regularity of Old Faithful--demanded an immediate apology for the "breach of decorum." It was, after all, the most " mean-spirited statement" Rep. Duncan from Tennessee ever heard on the House floor.

Really? The worst, Congressman? What about your Republican colleagues cutting and capricious comments? Rep. Ginny Brown-Wade's characterization of the Democratic plan as " essentially saying to America's seniors: 'Drop Dead," doesn't seem particularly generous. How about Rep. Virginia Fox calling for a Republican plan that will be pro-life because it won't kill seniors?" Or Rep. Paul Braun: "I'm tellin' you, their plan's gonna kill people?" And on an on for months from the stop and set the reset button repubs. Would you call those genteel? Are they brimming with decorum? Or facts?

I know liberals and conservatives hear things differently; I'm pretty sure they've done a study at Harvard or somewhere( if not, a scholar's got a grant application in the mail). But I don't think Congressman Grayson's terse comments violated the rules of decorum of that esteemed ( and conveniently dainty) body. But GOP ears were bleeding red, white and blue indignation. So on Wednesday morning, Rep. Tom Price of Georgia took to the House floor and demanded an apology from Grayson. Or else. The or else, of course, was a rebuke similar to the one received by Rep. Joe Wilson following his infamous "You lie" outburst at Obama.

Again, anyone can see the substantial differences between Wilson's rude blurt hurled at a President during a speech to a joint session of Congress and the daily rhetoric reps toss at each other during the course of political gamesmanship. But like I said, liberals and conservatives hear things differently.

So on Wednesday Grayson apologized. Sort of. "I apologize to the 45,000 people who die each year because they don't have health insurance. I apologize to the dead and their families." So far, so good. The guy's getting fitted for his cape, right? Well, not exactly. I guess Grayson couldn't resist going for the hyperbolic flourish. He ended with, "I apologize that we didn't vote to end this Holocaust in America sooner."

Uh oh. As the word left his lips, it started to run in cinematic slo-mo. I just knew he regretted it as it slipped out wrapped tightly in righteous indignation. He must have started sweating as visions of himself being lambasted on the Fox News spit ran through his mind.

Maybe not. Wednesday night, Grayson appeared on The Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC and barely bristled at his faux pas. To her credit Maddow--indisputably the most even-tempered of all cable TV hosts--gave him three chances to rescind the Holocaust reference. Grayson bobbed and weaved like a polished pol, until the third time when Maddow cornered him, practically spoon-feeding him the right answer. "Do you regret using the word 'Holocaust?'" she asked. Grayson finally conceded, "It probably wasn't the best choice of words."

And it wasn't for obvious reasons. The Holocaust is such a loaded term for so many people. Using it in this context offends many and only serves as a distraction from Grayson's solid facts, his stats, his sentiment. It allows the Republicans to dodge culpability by making Grayson and his perceived insensitivity the new non-issue.

But Grayson seems undaunted. After his meek concession to Maddow, he launched into a diatribe about the kind of politicians Americans want and need. "People want Democrats with guts. they want Congress to solve their problems. Or at least work on them," he said. And somewhere along the line he managed to call Republicans " foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals." Okay, so we're back to fitting Grayson for his cape.

The thing is: as one who has called for folks on both sides to ratchet down the rancor, I can't pull a double standard ( I don't, after all, work for Fox News). So if it's not helpful for the Republicans to use rabid rhetoric, the same must apply to Democrats. Still, I can't help but root for Grayson. He's like a chunkier, brazen 21st Century Mr. Smith taking on Washington. And I wish there were more like him.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Forever Blowin' in the Wind

I remember having a conversation with Mary Travers on the radio some years back. She was delightful, full of spunk, humor and a truly generous spirit. And she was unpretentious, still slightly awestruck by her own life, I think. She lost her valiant fight against leukemia last Wednesday at 72. And the world is already a lesser place.

Without spouting from a shrill soap box, Mary talked about the importance of speaking out and speaking up, especially for those whose voices could not, would not be heard in a society that still harbored many obstacles for a lot of people.

Mary Travers was born in Kentucky, but she grew up in Greenwich Village. Always a progressive enclave, a haven for bohemians and artists, Mary's backyard would become the Mecca for beatniks and folkies in the late '50's and early '60's. Her family lived in the same building as Pete Seeger; she even sang back-up for the legend for a bit, and did a stint in an off-Broadway show featuring comedian Mort Sahl. But the daughter of journalists, Mary never thought she'd make a career out of singing. It was just a hobby, Some hobby. After Al Grossman ( who also managed Bob Dylan) picked her as "the girl",-- for her sex appeal as much as her voice-- to round out a trio that would also feature Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey, a star career path was blazed faster than anyone could have predicted. She became the tall, sultry blonde flanked by two goateed guitar playing beatniks.

"It's funny," she said, "one minute were rehearsing 'Mary had a Little Lamb' in Noel's apartment and the next minute we have a hit record."

Peter, Paul & Mary's debut album, If I Had a Hammer, released in 1962, spawned two hits: the iconic title track, penned by Seeger, which quickly became an anti-war anthem and "Lemon Tree." It also garnered the trio the first two of their five Grammy Awards. Their popularity, which peaked in 1963 when they had three albums in Billboard's top 10 at the same time, would be unmatched by any folk group in history.

Singing Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" at the famed 1963 March on Washington remained a highlight. "It was so thrilling. It's hard to explain the feeling, but we knew we were in the middle of something important," she said. Peter, Paul & Mary's recording of the song which sold over 300,000 copies in under two weeks also gave Dylan his first mainstream national attention.

Their '65 hit "Puff the Magic Dragon" sparked controversy when some critics suggested the song was really about the magical allure of marijuana and not about little Jackie Paper outgrowing his childhood figments. People said similar things about the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," claiming it was about a vivid LSD trip, even though John Lennon insisted it had been inspired by his son Julian's drawing.

It was "Puff" and other family friendly tunes like "The Marvelous Toy" that would launch the group into the children's arena. Their album Peter, Paul & Mommy won a best children's album Grammy in 1969.

In 1971, the trio disbanded for the first time, with each member pursuing solo projects,. Mary Travers went on to release five solo albums, and she became a popular speaker and often wrote op-ed articles for newspapers and magazines.

In the '80's and '90's the trio would reunite several times, recording and performing with a renewed sense of social activism. The trio that had become strong voices for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam, took up anti-Apartheid, anti-nukes, gay rights, hunger etc.

I remember slipping in " Weave me the Sunshine" and even the politically charged "El Salvador" when I was music director at a pretty conservative little station in Connecticut. Somehow people didn't mind. Even those who didn't agree with their politics liked Peter, Paul & Mary. They may have been (aging) beatniks, but their authenticity, their endurance,the sheer joy that emanated from their performances, transcended politics and generations.

"Our creativity, our ability to emerge over the years was completely because of the music itself," Yarrow wrote in a tribute letter on the group's website. "There will always be a place in my heart where Mary Travers will always exist."

Paul Stookey, who wrote he was heartsick at her passing, recalled Mary as generous, witty and politically savvy. "She was the master/mistress of the cutting exit line. Once I was attempting to defend Ronald Reagan's educational policy and she interrupted me with 'Oh, for heaven's sake, do your homework.' Need I say, she was right?"

Tireless to the end, Mary Travers cared about so many causes, so many people. It may sound corny, I guess, but the world was her community. "If people recognize me, how can I not recognize them and their needs?" she said. That's why those family concerts the group had become famous for in their later years were so important to her. She was entertaining generations of fans, that's true. But beyond that,I think, she was enlisting them for a higher calling.

If I've learned anything, " she told me, "it's that it will take more than one generation to bring about change."

Mary Travers' voice, now forever blowin' in the wind, leaves behind so many songs and so much humanity,

R.I.P. Mary, you're already missed. You're still here.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fright Wing Comic King

Watch out Stephen Colbert; Glenn Beck is gunning for your gig. I know a lot of people take the crazy-like-a-toxic Fox News firebrand seriously. And I'm not suggesting he's not a force to be reckoned with; I'm just saying the guy's a comic genius.

Exuding a passion that lies somewhere between a latter day Jimmy Swaggert and Lonesome Rhodes, the proselytizing media star immortalized by Andy Griffith in Elia Kazan's 1957 classic film, A Face in the Crowd , Beck is one of the most compelling characters to ever captivate a television audience. Of course, he started on radio, first as a DJ in Connecticut and later as a syndicated talk host, one of Rush's brand of fright wing rabblerousers that have seized a wide swath of radio real estate in recent years. But television is the medium that truly captures Beck's unique talents: his tears, sobs, mock classroom struts, the kitsch visual aids including tote boards and an old fashioned blackboard at the ready for conspiracy theories and misspellings. And there are those facial contortions that can take his doughy puss from sincere to crazed in seconds flat.

So what if he shed sponsors like a house filled with Persian cats after his misconstrued comment, " I think President Obama is a racist. He has a deep hatred of white people?" People who fear him, people who worship him were either enraged or emboldened by that statement. But I know better. Beck is a gifted satirist. His comedy is so sophisticated, even a savvy media maven may be fooled at first. But watch him for several consecutive nights, and you'll become hooked on his nuanced comedy, too.

I'm sure Beck was filled with shock and awe to discover his frantic faux ravings helped oust former Green Jobs Czar Van Jones and demote NEA Communications Director Yoshi Sargeant to a back room giglet. He must have been flabbergasted to find thousands storm the Capitol for his parody 9/12 Project protest rally last Saturday. The fact that he didn't show himself is proof of his comic intentions. I'm sure he was amused to see such a diverse crowd( the thousands he'd later comically count as millions) actually comply with his secret double probation instructions to show up with misspelled jibes and threats splattered across placards.

Not since Soupy Sales told kids to swipe money out of their parents' wallets and send it to him back in the '60's has a media personality so affected his audience. Okay, Jerry Falwell outed, then nearly blacklisted Tinky Winky, the purple, purse-toting teletubbie back in the '90's, but the less said about that ugly incident, the better.

I have friends who flat out refuse to watch Beck, insisting their heads would spin uncontrollably, and wherever she is, poor Linda Blair would start spewing nostalgic pea soup. And I must admit--especially since I tend to watch the late night re-broadcast--as I drift into slumber my dreams have become very strange. In one I'm dining on a lunch of Chicken Kiev and Smirnoff vodka shots with Michelle Obama in the middle of Rockefeller Center while Karl Marx and Keith Olbermann wander about affixing hammers and sickles to all the paintings, statues and tourists.

If you're not careful Beck's deadpan paranoia can creep into your waking life, too.I found myself roaming the aisles of Stop & Shop the other day finding symbols of propaganda everywhere I looked. I could have sworn the Trix cereal rabbit was luring kids into a life of prostitution(with kickbacks going to embattled organizers at Acorn); everyone would know Froot Loops was pushing a gay agenda; and who couldn't see Count Chocula was indoctrinating kids into the New Black Panther Party while promoting necrophilia as a legitimate alternative lifestyle?

I became slightly hysterical(a condition very similar to a little bit pregnant) when I discovered Russian dressing was on sale, a clear sign of a communist plot to clog American arteries as it was brimming with more fat, cholesterol and calories than the healthier, higher priced low-fat Ranch, which symbolizes the freedom of the American west.

Flushed with fever, I fell to my knees before a display of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. The logo on every box surely signifies a socialist stampede against every kitchen and laundry room in America. Then I broke out into a rash-- a very RED rash--when it dawned on me: these people also make toothpaste. That's right, there is a socialist, communist, fascist conspiracy to capture very American mouth! And all I could do was wait until five o'clock to turn on the TV and hear that great American communicator, that national treasure make sense of It all.

Okay, so maybe I overindulged a bit. Like with most things in life, a little Glenn Beck goes a long way. Moderation, my friend, moderation. But miss the Beck spectacle at your own peril, America. As the maestro of mind control would say, we have to grab the wheel of liberty before the paradigm shifts. And there's nothing left to watch but Rachel Ray and that ShamWow guy.

Insomniacs will long for the good old days when infomercial diet Guru Susan Powter's shrill plea to " stop the insanity!" pulsated throughout the land.

Drive safe. Play, nice. Think peace.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Liar, Liar, Mouth on Fire

Bad behavior pays off. Just ask Joe Wilson, whose rude outburst during Obama's Health Care Reform Speech before a joint session of Congress catapulted the South Carolina Republican from back bencher to star buffoon.

Shouting, "You lie!" as the President noted that illegal aliens would not be given insurance under the proposed plan, gave Wilson headlines in papers across the country and sound bites on radio, while making him topic A on cable TV round tables and late night comedy's favorite punchline. He also scored spots on national cable shows and right wing webcasts. Not bad for a guy who before the blurt was so below the media radar, I doubt he was frequently featured on the local news in South Carolina.

Wilson's rash rudeness was so stunning, even GOP leaders called for an immediate apology. And later Wednesday evening he did so, calling the President. On camera, he publicly called his action regrettable and conceded, "emotions got the better of me."

For some, the tepid telephone apology is not enough. House Majority Whip James Clyburn ( also from South Carolina) has demanded an official apology on the floor of the House. Otherwise, Democrats are set to vote on a resolution of disapproval later this week. On Fox News Sunday Wilson categorically stated no such apology is forthcoming. " I have apologized to the President, " he said. " I believe that is sufficient." Obama, on 60 Minutes said he didn't want the Wilson issue to become " a big circus" and detract from the real work of reform.

The jury is still out on the political fallout. Some analysts say his seat is now "in play." But they said that about Michelle Bachmann's seat, too, after the wackadoodle Minnesota rep called for an investigation into the patriotism of all members of Congress. Her opponent did get an influx of cash, and probably more votes than he could have hoped for, but Bachmann's still in office and still spewing nonsense.

In the days since the incident, Wilson's Democratic opponent, Rob Miller has received $875,000. But Wilson's coffers, too, have been bloated to the tune of $700,000. A small poll found that 66 people are more likely to vote for Wilson since the outburtsm 59 less likely, while 20 remain indifferent. At Saturday's 9/12 protest rally in D.C., some folks were spotted waving signs and wearing t-shirts proclaiming, "Joe Wilson is my Hero."

Many liberal commentators and columnists can't circumvent the racist elephant in the middle of the room. On Fridays' Real Time, Bill Maher said, "I don't think he would have done that if a white man were president." He added that while it drives Repubs nuts, "I see subliminal signs of racism."

Former Bush advisor, Richard Clarke, concurred. "There are a lot of people and they're not just the 'Birthers,' there are people who used to be 'Birchers' and members of the KKK who want to delegitimize this president."

New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd and others have pointed out that Wilson, who once belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, led a 2000 campaign to keep the controversial Confederate flag flying atop South Carolina's statehouse, and he shot down as a " smear" a black woman's true claim that she was the daughter of Strom Thurmond, stating the woman should have kept her identify secret(even after Thurmond's family publicly acknowledged her).

No one knows what's in Joe Wilson's heart. And to suggest everyone who disagrees with Obama's ideology and policies is racist is flat-out wrong and insulting. But the "Birthers" are riddled with racists; the "Deathers," too ( though some of these folks may just be ill-informed and/or unhinged). And the longer the GOP allows the shrill fringe to do their bidding, the less sincere their vows to seek tricky compromise and do the People's business seem.

Lost in all the talk about decorum, racism and political divide are the facts. Wilson was lying about Obama lying. Either that or he was misinformed. In the proposed plan it clearly states: " No one in the United States illegally will be eligible for insurance coverage." What part of that statement is so hard to decipher, Mr. Wilson? I'm not sure what's more egregious, a congressman who deliberately misuses the facts or one who is ignorant of them.

For now, the biggest loser in this latest cultural commotion might be that other guy whose name really isn't Joe. Move over Joe the Plumber. Meet the Fright Wing's new hero: the "gentleman" from South Carolina. Joe the Liar.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Celebrity Gadfly Justice

"He may come off as gruff or abrupt, but he's got a big heart. And he's really glad to do this." That's what Dominick Dunne's assistant told me as we finalized details for the author's radio interview with me in 2002. I was hosting the afternoon drive talk show on WGCH in Greenwich, CT and he was covering the Skakel murder trial in Stamford for Vanity Fair and Court TV.

The Dunne interview was a big "get" as Skakel was on trial for murdering his Greenwich neighbor Martha Moxley over twenty-five years earlier in 1975 when they were both fifteen.It was big news in town and-- thanks to Dunne and disgraced O.J.Simpson cop, Mark Furhman whose bestseller,Murder in Greenwich helped re-open the case-- big news across the country, too. The fact that Skakel--already in his forties and bloated beyond his years--was a Kennedy cousin(RFK's widow, Ethel is his father's sister)only added celebrity cache to the case.

Dunne, who died at eighty-three, ironically on the same day as Sen. Ted Kennedy, has long been a Kennedy family nemesis. He had covered the William Kennedy Smith rape trial in the early '90's ( Smith was acquitted) and loosely based his novel, A Season in Purgatory on the Moxley murder. I don't know if Ted Kennedy harbored any animosity towards the scribe, but Bobby Kennedy Jr. has had a well-televised feud with Dunne in the years following his cousin's murder conviction.

When we did our interview(he was, btw, nothing but kind and charming), Dunne had a queasy feeling that Mickey Sherman, Skakel's charismatic attorney, might get his guy a walk. "I hate to say it, but he might be creating reasonable doubt," he said, sounding crest-fallen. Dunne needn't have worried. By the time prosecutor Jonathan Benedict finished his closing argument the Guilty verdict was all but assured.

Dunne was a true believer who took all his celebrated cases to heart. He wasn't an impartial journalist, a charge--much to his critics' chagrin--he would cheerfully cop to. After his daughter Dominique, a promising twenty-two year old actress was strangled by her ex-boyfriend John Sweeney in 1982, Dunne became a sort of celebrity avenging angel, fearlessly taking the victims' part, and often bonding with their families.

Tina Brown, then the new editor of Vanity Fair was sitting next to Dunne at a dinner party the night before he was to fly out to Los Angeles for the murder trial of his daughter's killer. She implored him to take notes. And when he returned she found the magazine's first voice. "Dominick had a voice that was so powerful, that spoke to you right off the page," she says in Dominick Dunne: After the Party a documentary observing the famed observer and just out on DVD.

That first and toughest assignment launched Dunne's new career. He had already had a flamboyant first act as a successful, then failed TV and movie producer with credits including Al Pacino's breakthrough Panic in Needle Park and Mort Crowley's groundbreaking Boys in the Band . And he had already penned the bestselling novel, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, based on the infamous Woodward case in which showgirl turned socialite Ann Woodward killed her estranged husband and got off claiming she mistook him for a burglar.

He went on to cover a slew of trials for VF including: O.J, Simpson,the Menendez brothers(Leslie Abramson, Erik's high profile lawyer, isn't a Dunne fan, accusing him in After the Party of making up "convenient facts."); Robert Blake and Phil Spector. He did live to see Spector's second trial--his swan song--end in a conviction for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson.

After the Party, directed by Kirsty de Garis and Timothy Jolley offers a fascinating glimpse into Dunne's extraordinary life. Through grainy black and white home movies and interviews with Dunne, friends and a few foes we get to be that proverbial fly on a famous wall. He doesn't need his son actor Griffin Dunne to remind him,"Dad wasn't easy to live with. He was always a work-in-progress." He readily admits his reckless social climbing cost him his marriage to the one woman he loved long after they had divorced and she passed away. He doesn't need his pal producer Robert Evans to tell him of his final faux pas that ran him out of Hollywood.

Dunne tells, with some relish, the tale of Ash Wednesday. Listed in many movie review guides as a "Bomb," the last film he produced boasted a star cast with Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Fonda; the script, written by the husband of a powerful Hollywood publicist, however, was a mess. Dunne made an infamous comment, " They should have called it 'When a Fat Girl Ealls in Love,'" which appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.Evans, according to Dunne, told him he'd never work " in this town again." In Party, Evans laughs, claiming he might have said it, but he can't remember.

With both his marriage and career in the dumpster, Dunne took what little money he had left and took off into the Oregon woods where he holed up for six months, and at age fifty tried his first hand at fiction, living off canned pork and beans and communing with nature. He moved to New York vowing to become a bestselling author.

And he did it. Along with his Vanity Fair columns and popular Court TV (now TRU TV) show, Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege & Justice, he wrote eight bestsellers. His ninth book, a novel, Too Much Money--which he had just put the finishing touches on--is set for a December release. His funeral service was held Thursday, September 10, in New York City. His family, fittingly, requested in lieu of flowers donations be made to the National Center for Victims of Crime.

In After the Party, which I believe was filmed a year before he fell ill to the cancer that claimed his life, he is robust and full of the energy of a man half his age. If you check his website,, you'll see he was blogging well into August, tackling everything from news of his new book to musings on Phil Spector's prison gripes and somber reflections on his own illness. His fans, including this one,are grateful to have tagged along for such a remarkable ride.

Rest in peace, Dominick. You earned it.

Drive safe. Play nice. think peace.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

School Daze

Barack Obama's up to his audaciously hopeful tricks again. First he has the unmitigated gaul to seek affordable health care for all Americans. And now--get this--the guy wants to give America's schoolkids a televised pep talk. His plan to urge kids to stay in school, study hard and do their homework has right wing politicians and commentators crying foul, while some parents vow to keep their children home on Tuesday to avoid being subjected to the speech.

Sanctioning hooky playing, obviously, undermines the heart of such a speech. And the hysteria surrounding it is just that--hysterical. A Republican friend(admittedly a moderate)reminded me that the first Pres. Bush gave a similar speech in 1991 encouraging science education. At the time some Democrats decried it as political maneuvering, too, but there wasn't a real brouhaha from parents and the speech went off without much fanfare.

President Obama is under greater scrutiny, it seems, and greater suspicion. Fright wing commentators like Glenn Beck have been warning people for days, " He's out to grab your children." This whole notion that Obama, the Cult Leader-in-Chief, is trying to indoctrinate America's youth, claiming them for his socialist agenda, is outrageous. One of my favorite explanations for the widespread panic came from former Gingrich staffer turned commentator/PR maven Tony Blankley, who said on CNN last Friday night, "Obama has to fight his image as 'The One,' 'The Chosen.'"

This stuff would be laughable if a lot of ignorant, scared people didn't believe it. What are they afraid of exactly? Maybe Obama will use that old movie theater technique of running subliminal messages. Instead of prompting people to buy popcorn and candy, perhaps messages urging kids to " support health care," "cash your social security checks," and "send letters through the U.S. Postal Service." can run while he talks of the practical and intrinsic values of academic rigor.

I have no problem, by the way, with educators and parents reading a transcript or even screening the actual speech before airing it to kids. Much of the controversy stemmed from the teaching materials that were to coincide with the speech. The original curricular aides included an activity in which students would write down ways they could help the President reach his goals for the nation. This is the part that got those looking trough socialist-tinted glasses all clammy and bombastic and had them turning to Fox News for comfort. The modified activity asks kids to write about their academic and personal goals. This does seem safer and more politically correct. However, there is nothing wrong, nothing socialistic about the President asking students to become civic-minded; there is nothing sinister about our top elected official nurturing national pride. Remember President Kennedy's famous quote: " Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country?"

The thing people have to realize is whether you voted for him or not, President Obama is our President.(And--not to rub salt in the right wing's wound--he did get more votes than any other president in history). And as President he has certain ceremonial privileges that transcend party lines and politics. As President he is afforded the opportunity to host foreign dignitaries, throw out the first pitch at the All Star Game, pardon Thanksgiving turkeys and speak to America's schoolchildren on the value of education. Given the ignorant reaction, more presidents should have availed themselves of this opportunity in past years.

I read another blogger's take on the subject. "It's probably okay if he speaks to kids about education. It's probably not dangerous," he wrote. " But I'm still keeping my kids home that day because it smells a little fishy."

If something smells fishy, you might want to check your kid's lunchbox. You'll probably find a soggy half-eaten old tuna sandwich.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Feast & Famine

Nora Ephron missed the gravy boat. Had she chopped off the Julie half of her new film Julie and Julia, she could have cooked up a truly delicious bio-pic of celebrated chef Julia Child. And probably handed Meryl Streep her third long overdo Oscar. Meryl may still get the nod as she magically transforms into the awkwardly lovable Child, embodying her every mannerism, her voice, her height.

Sharing a place at Julia's table in Paris in the early 1950's is so inviting; watching her eat up the food, the people, the very romantic city itself is simply delectable. Unfortunately, our five star tour takes jarring 2002 detours to Julie Powell's drab little apartment above a pizzeria in Queens. Julie( another journeyman performance by Amy Adams) is a frustrated writer who escapes her dreary and draining bureaucratic job by preparing Julia's classic recipes. Egged on by her adorable and saintly husband she vows to complete 500 plus recipes in a year's time and blog about it. She dives into the project with zeal and a grating ( and not in the yummy Pecorino Romano way) spoonful of kvetching, She complains to her husband, her mother, her far more successful friends. The trouble is: we've seen this sort of thing before. Hey, some of us have even lived it ( well, maybe not the part about the 500 recipes). The book upon which this half of the movie is based--which is supposedly based on a true story--may well be funny and heartfelt. But on the screen it just doesn't make for a very satisfying meal.

Every time Julie drops a duck breast or laments lassoing a live lobster, I yearn to be back in Paris where Julia is dazzling her classmates at the Cordon Bleu,while circumventing the snarky woman who runs the school; making demo dinners for a her sweet hubby( the always winning Stanley Tucci) or meeting the quirky characters who will become her cookbook collaborators.

There are so many exotic flavors, so many juicy details in the Julia Child story. Yet Ephron--hellbent on making a movie about the power of happy matrimony(she does dole out a smattering of sweet and savory love scenes)-- offers only a morsel here, a nibble there. We know Julia's husband, Paul is a diplomat, but his exact position remains elusive. At one point he is summoned to Washington where he's subjected to a grilling from Sen. McCarthy's henchmen and in short order is assigned to one less glamorous outpost after another. There is Julia's contentious relationship with her staunchly Republican father and an amusing visit with her equally off-beat and enthusiastic sister(a nice turn by Jane Lynch). All these intriguing ingredients add up to little more than an amuse bouche. After all, there's simply no time, when we've got to get back to Queens to watch Julie angsting over aspics and blubbering over burnt beuf Borgenion.

I'm sure another filmmaker will be tempted to dish out a five course, five star banquet--one that captures the richly textured layers of Julia Child's fascinating life. And the service might be faster than you think. Remember those two brilliant Truman Capote movies a few years back? Capote--which came out first--garnered most of the attention and accolades including an Oscar for Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Toby Jones' Infamous--lighter and more spot-on was quickly relegated to DVD and is certainly worth adding to your NetFlix list. Sad to say, but Meryl Streep's not likely to clanking around Julia's kitchen again. Maybe Emma Thompson could sink her teeth into the role. Or Joan Cusak.(Don't bother auditioning, Dan Aykroyd; you had your shot on SNL).

In the meantime, if you want to indulge in a foodie movie that will make your mouth water at both the menu and the characters, check out Big Night, the 1996 nugget about two Italian immigrant brothers trying to make a go of the restaurant biz while preparing for a visit from crooner Louis Prima in the 1950's. Come to think of it, this one was co-written and directed (along with Campbell Scott)by Stanley Tucci, who also starred as one of the brothers. I sense a party game: 360 degrees ( for 2 hours and 14 minutes) of Stanley Tucci.

A wafer thin confection, Julie and Julia is still worth the price of admission thanks to Meryl Streep's scrumptious performance. Just don't expect a cinematic feast. What you'll enjoy instead is a tasty snack. One that leaves you hungry for more. And less.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Random Notes from the Summer Sideshow

I should have known it was gonna be a contentious summer when that big silver SUV with the NOBAMA bumper sticker nearly rolled over my toes which-- as they usually are-- were attached to my feet, in the Stop & Shop parking lot. Don't tell me my toes exude a liberal vibe. Just to be on the safe side, think I'll get a red, white & blue pedicure for insurance.

While we're talking crazy political nimrods: a friend posed a question on Facebook: who's worse: the "Birthers," "Deathers" or "911 Truthers?" Think they're all wacko.... and I doubt we're done with 'em yet!

Sarah Palin traded the Northern Lights of Alaska to launch a career as a star... on Facebook.... Was it a good career move? You betcha!

It's Hammer Time: Tom "the Hammer" Delay signed on as a contestant on the new season of Dancing with the Stars. Thought the disgraced ex-Congressman should have been waltzing off to the Big House by now. Guess he's living up to his last name.... Delay.

Speaking of Dancing, now that she turned down 10 million bucks to slurp coke and act all loopy on American Idol, Paula Abdul may segue into a judging gig on the ABC "celeb" fest. I wish Bravo would tape and air more episodes of Hey Paula, that short-lived reality show was must-see train wreck TV. Since Idol doesn't appreciate Paula for the "gift that she is," the show may have truly jumped the shark. Let's face it, Kara is just too insipid and full of herself w/o any of Paula's unpredictable hi jinx to make the overrated judge's banter worth the watch.

While we're in shark infested waters: have you seen Shark Tank? It's my fav summer show featuring "shark investors" fielding pitches from actual wannabe entrepreneurs. These guys ( and one gal) out trump Trump. The ideas range from the sublime to the ridiculous, and often so do the "sharks" offers. Still can't believe they let the lady with the Post-It Note holder slip through their fingers. It airs Sundays at 9 PM. catch it before it swims away.

The Mets spared their fans yet another September of shame. They had their meltdown in July. With a record number of A players on the DL, not even an uber pep session from Tony Robbins could have salvaged the season. As my dad always said, " wait 'til next year!"

NY Post sports columnist Larry Brooks should be benched for suggesting the Mets shouldn't have sidelined David Wright after he got hit in the head with a 96 mile fast ball... why? According to Brooks' crooked logic, because the team bungled Ryan Church's concussion last season. Huh? Ever hear of learning from your mistakes, Larry?

Still, the new stadium rocked as Paul McCartney returned to Queens for Citifield's inaugural rock concert.... fitting as his old group christened the Mets former home Shea into the rock 'n' roll era. And at 67, Sir. Paul still knows his way around all those silly love songs. And what's wrong with that, I'd like to know?

News Flash: Phil Spector hates prison! The wacko genius record producer, whose notorious gun fetish finally landed behind bars for a lifetime stretch in CA for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, finds the accomodations, cuisine and company all unsavory. Uh, sorry, Phil, that's kinda the point behind this silly punishment business. At least he can't flip his lid.... they don't allow wigs. One consolation: his 29 year old wife brings catered goodies so he can dine in the privacy of his cell. Gives new meaning to "killer cuisine."

Lady Gaga got Miss Piggy all green with envy as she sported a frog decorated coat. No word from PETA....the crazy like a fox activist group known for its outlandish publicity stunts sent the Prez. a special fly capturing machine after Obama swatted a fly during an interview. Then they got fat people, meat eaters, feminists, and fat feminist vegetarians all worked up over a Florida billboard that read SAVE THE WHALES: LOSE THE BLUBBER. Become a Vegetarian. The controversial sign also featured a cartoon silhouette of an obese woman in a bikini. As a fat female friend, who's also a vegan said, "Couldn't they at least have drawn a fat guy?"

The long summer of goodbyes ( I'll have more on this in another column) seemed to have started in June with the untimely death of Michael Jackson. When all is said and done, his death--and all the drama surrounding it--will make the Anna Nicole Smith saga seem like nothing more than a tabloid footnote. At least the self-anointed King of Pop has been spared one posthumous indignity. Thanks to an online poll, the folks at the Iowa State Fair won't immortalize MJ in butter.

Oh, and Michelle Bachman, the nut job Minnesota Congresswoman who-- with all her crazy comments-- may just out Palin Palin, may have some pretty lofty aspirations of her own. Bachman says she's waiting to hear voices before making a Presidential bid. "If the Lord calls me to it, then I'll run," she says. Excuse me, Michelle, the next voice you hear may be Chris Matnhews. I think you left the ear piece in after your ill-fated appearance on Hardball.

I don't know about you, but with all these characters, something tells me the sideshow will continue to play on and on. For my own sanity and yours, may I suggest we heed the advice of that great philosopher, Elvis Costello: "I used to be disgusted. Now I try to be amused."

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Imagining Woodstock

I got to Yasgur's Farm via the Record Department at the old Korvettes in Port Chester, New York. Three or four years late. We were already in the '70's, Watergate was looming and at seven or eight I was hardly feeling any hippy dippy hangover. I was only a kid, but thanks to TV, a cool pair of bright red bell bottoms splattered with white stars and my transistor radio always tuned to AM Top 40 on WABC with Cousin Brucie as my head teacher, I had a groovy vibe.

I loved roaming around the Korvettes' Record Department, pawing albums under the crackly fluorescent lights, inhaling the plastic, vaguely sticky, candy smell. Back then I picked albums based on the singles I had heard on WABC or purely out of youthful whimsy and cover art. Sometimes I'd just grab the nearest album when my mother announced, "Now or never," as she hustled my sister and me to the register. Don't knock random acts of record buying. I was introduced to Sly & the Family Stone, Billy Joel and America thanks to the grab-and-go method ( I'll lament the decline of record shops another time).

I got Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water because "Cecilia" was playing in my head about as many times as it had been spinning on WABC. I also loved the cover photo; thought the tall guy was cuter than the short one, but pretty sure they both had a lot to teach me. That same day my older sister got the Woodstock soundtrack.

Back at home we shared our finds. I was totally absorbed by Simon & Garfunkel's dramatic title track; learned about NYC and loneliness in " The Only Living Boy in New York" and discovered libel and slander in the catchy, "Keep the Customer Satisfied," concepts that would come in handy later. But my sister made the big grab, scoring a double album set replete with mysterious songs and beautiful, weird photographs. We were totally mesmerized by what we heard, saw, imagined. All these long-haired hippy grown-ups singing, dancing in peace and love in the mud. So many of the artists--then unknown to me--would become pivotal in my creative life. Arlo. Janis. Hendrix. CSN&Y. My sister and I danced around for hours transfixed in a pre-pubescent fugue state, a sort of gauzy musical reverie that can only be colored by a precocious child's view of the adult world.

And--as kids do--we played it over and over. And louder and louder, It was one loud-playing of the famous " Fish Cheer" that landed us in trouble. Our mom heard the counter-culture rally cry and quickly confiscated the album. And our passport to Woodstock Nation. The album was jailed in the dark recesses of Mom's back back closet where old clothes were stashed along with items deemed dangerous like Seduction a steamy parlor game Dad had bought Mom as a gag gift one anniversary; Mom didn't appreciate the gag and the game disappeared without ever being opened ( I know; I used to sneak in to check).

I was never privy to the negotiations, but months--maybe weeks later--my sister did wrangle Woodstock's return.But we never listened to the album together again. It would be another four or five years before I ever saw the film-- on Channel 13-- one New Year's Eve.By then--already immersed in adolescence--I had transitioned from AM Top 40 to FM AOR--primarily on WNEW. I was heavily exploring all sorts of grown-up artists from Dylan to Talking Heads. And thanks to a cadre of long-haired hippy high school teachers I had developed a keen interest in politics and the arts, and already started flirting with the idea of a career in radio or writing.

As fate would have it, I've had the chance to bump up against a few Woodstock legends, interviewing them on the radio or for magazine pieces. Richie Havens. Joan Baez. And Country Joe McDonald the man who so inspired and inadvertently shortened my first Woodstock experience. Woodstock even pops up in my fiction, usually in a passing way, with a secondary character recounting his/her memory. Frequently a romanticized, dreamy image of an era I never really lived through.

You know, Joni Mitchell, who penned the famed Festival's anthem never made it to Woodstock either. But It seems she was there. In a way, I guess I was, too.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.