Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year


I had to add this today as I thought this was a funny photo from an old calander and I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

I am sorry

I must say I am sorry to all music fans who read this site. Earlier I stated that on December 29 1983 the #1 song on the Billboard charts was Islands In the Stream by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. I have had to remove that from the site for now as I was wrong. It was #1 on October 29,1983. The #1 song on December 29,1983 Say, Say, Say but Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson. Their first day at that point was on December 10,1983 and they were there for 6 weeks. Perhaps I will write more about that on December 10, 2007 if I remember. Till then you can scroll down or click here to see what song was #1 on the Billboard chats on December 29, 1973.

Melanie Safka is Still Making Music


A reader wrote in to tell me that Melanie Safka, who had hits with Brand New Key and Lay Down (Candles in the Rain), is still recording and touring. She has her own website. You can go there if you click here or click on the title above. According to the site she has just completed a tour of Korea. You can also buy her new CD's like the one above which is her Christmas CD. The Christmas CD is out of stock right now but it is still available for download.

This Day in Music History: The Monkees and I'm a Believer

On this day in music history, December 31 1966, two worldwide recording stars were made when I’m a Believer by the Monkees went #1 not only on the Billboard charts in America but also was #1 in many countries overseas. The previous song, Last Train to Clarksville, only went to the top of the charts in the USA a few weeks earlier. With the help of their TV show being shown overseas, as it had not shown in other countries yet when Last Train to Clarksville was released, the Monkees became worldwide rock and roll stars. I’m a Believer was #1 in the USA for 7 weeks.
Who was the other star that got a boost from this song? It was of course the writer Neil Diamond.
Their first single and album sold well but their musical supervisor, Don Kirshner, didn’t think they had reached their full potential. He asked his friend and producer Jeff Berry to find a song that would sell millions. Mr. Berry had recently discovered Mr. Diamond when he saw him singing in a Greenwich Village coffee house. He was working with Neil at that time and he thought I’m a Believer would be the song that Kirshner was looking for to have the Monkees record. Of course he was right. While the label the Monkees recorded for was Colgems they were distributed by RCA. I’m a Believer had the largest advance order of any RCA record since Elvis. While headlines overseas may have made many of their albums and TV show producers happy when they said “Europe’s Gripped by Monkeesteria”, the Monkees themselves were not. Especially...Mike Nesmith. The second album was released without any advance notice given to Mike, Micky, David or Peter. They found out while on tour and had to go buy a copy and listen to it in their hotel room to hear what it sounded like. The covers of the albums upset Nesmith also. He knew they were not a real rock and roll group and the albums were only soundtracks to the TV series. While TV audiences know they were only the cast of a sit-com, radio listeners who had not seen the show yet would think they were a band who happened to be cast in a sit-com based on the photos on the albums. He said that he thought they had crossed a line here and were conning the public. Therefore, if they were going to make them look like a real band then they should allow the four guys to play their own music on the albums. Nesmith continued to rally in this direction. While he eventually won the battle there were some casualties in this war. The press was starting to be denied access to the Monkees and to strike back at them they made a big deal that they didn’t play their instruments on the records. Never mind that the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, etc. were not playing all the instruments on their records. No one seemed to care about that but the world was going to come to an end because the Monkees didn’t play theirs. The press kept that up even after the Monkees started playing and producing their own music. It still comes up today.
Another causality to the Monkees was that Kirshner was going to have Mike Nesmith sing lead on I’m a Believer. There were recording sessions with him singing the song but the war between Nez and Kirshner became so heated that they abandoned those sessions. Rhino may have those recordings locked away for future release or perhaps they are lost. Either way it is a shame we have not heard any of those recordings. The song was given to Micky Dolenz. Micky was the best singer in the group and it became his signature song.
When it became a huge hit it made Neil Diamond an in demand songwriter. As we all know he started to record his own material and became a bigger star then the Monkees. But it all started with I’m a Believer. When Mr. Diamond was in concert here a local paper reported that his contract stated that he had to have a satellite dish so he could watch reruns of The Monkees. What better way to pay tribute to the men who helped jump start your career?

I'm A Believer

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy Birthday to Mike and Davy


I can't believe I almost forgot this but I just wanted to wish Mike Nesmith and Davy Jones of the Monkees a happy birthday. I hope you both had a happy day and will have a happy new year.
Mike today is 64 and Davy is 61.

The Legend The Illustrated Story of The Bee Gees


I was looking at some of my old albums this week. In the double album Bee Gees Greatest that came out around 1979 or 1980 I came across this advertisment that I had forgotten about. On the other side is the typical ad for posters, tour books, T-shirts etc. On this side was an ad for the story of the Bee Gees called The Legend. It is written by David English and Illustrated by Alex Brychta in the form of a children's story. This was the first and so far only time I have seen a pop band's story told in this form. I think it is rather inventive of them to tell their story with funny animal characters who look like them. I would imagine the one behind the drums is their Father since he was a big band musician. No I have never read it and I don't have the book. I was a huge Bee Gee fan back then and am surprised that I didn't order it. If any readers to this site would like a copy you can click here to purchase the book.

This Day in Music History: The Beatles and Hello Goodbye


On this day in music history Hello Goodbye by the Beatles was the #1 song on the charts and would stay there for 3 weeks in the USA. In England it was #1 for 7 weeks and tied From Me to You as their longest chart-topping record.
Paul wrote the song while they were producing their TV movie and soundtrack Magical Mystery Tour. It was not suppose to be part of the soundtrack but part of it is heard at the end.
While some have just seen this as an up-tempo pop record, others have read into it a little bit more. This came about during the time that people were starting to say that Paul is really dead and was replaced by a double named Billy Shears. They said that Paul is the main character in the song and he doesn’t know that he is dead. Paul is saying hello to his three friends and they are saying goodbye. Thus come the lines in the song “You say goodbye but I say hello…I don’t know why you say goodbye. I say hello.”
While many TV shows and movies can help make a hit record Hello Goodbye apparently didn’t need any help. Magical Mystery Tour was shown on December 26 1967 in England and critics hated it. It was so bad that it was not shown in the USA for years. When it was it only showed up in art theaters. To the best of my knowledge it is the only Beatles movie that has never been shown on American television. With no help from the film the song became the 15th #1 song on the Billboard charts in the USA for the Beatles.

Friday, December 29, 2006

This Day in Music History: Jim Croce and Time in a Bottle


On this day in music history, December 29, 1973, Jim Croce had a number one hit with Time in a Bottle. Time in a Bottle was a track on his first album called You Don’t Mess Around With Jim. From the first album Mr. Croce had hits with the title track and Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels). Operator was a hit at #17. You Don’t Mess Around With Jim was a hit at #8. Time in a Bottle was not considered for release as a single.
Croce released his second album Life and Times. The hit from that was Bad, Bad Leroy Brown when it was Jim Croce’s first #1 hit in July of 1973. With the second album doing so well there were no plans to go back to the first album to release more singles. That is until the producer of an ABC television movie called She Lives asked to use Time in a Bottle in his movie. It was about a woman dying of cancer and it starred Dezi Arnaz Jr. and Season Hubley. The movie was aired on September 12, 1973 as the Movie of the Week. Calls came into ABC affiliates from all over the country. It was now in demand to be released as a single.
That same night Jim had finished recording his third album I Got a Name. Eight days later he finished a concert at Northwestern Louisiana University. He chartered a flight to take him to his next concert 70 miles away. After aborting take off his plane crashed into a tree. Croce and five others were killed. After his death Time in a Bottle was released and became his second #1 single. It was the third posthumous #1 in the rock and roll era. Later I Got a Name was also released as a single and reached #10 on the Billboard charts.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Happy Birthday Stan "the Man" Lee good ole' Smiley Himself


I have never met Stan Lee. I have never seen him at any conventions or any other personal apperances that he has made. But he is one of the people who opened the eyes to my imagination. His writing and editing of almost every Marvel comic book gave me hours of happiness and showed me as a young child how to read. At that time only a select few (comic book fans) knew who he was. So when I would tell people that Stan Lee was one of my favorite writers I was always asked Stanly who? Back in the 70's I was embarrassed to tell people that I read comic books. I was a teenager and comic books were seen as kiddie liturature. On rare occassions when I worked up the courage to tell someone that I would sometimes find that they still read comic books too. However, they would usually throw the books away once it was read. Not me. I cherished them and kept them in a box in my bedroom.
Now comic books are hot. Millions go see movies based on the comic books at local theaters. People who weren't comic book fans before are slowly becoming fans and more adults are either starting to read them or admiting with pride that they have read them all the time. All this has come about because of Stan Lee and his creative, inventative mind and his talent for promotion. He has even gotten a second career as an actor and MC out of it. Marvel movies almost always seem to have a cameo by Stan. He has sort of become the Hitchcock of the comic book movies. It is always fun looking for Stan in the movies. I nearly missed him in the first X-Men film. He even had speaking roles in Marllrats and Princess Diary 2. Now he has a hit cable reality show with Who Wants to be a Superhero? on the Sci-Fi channel. Now when I say Stan Lee is one of my favorite writers I am not asked Stanly who? Although with his acting career taking off I may one day hear "You mean he can write too!" Anyway, if you are reading this Stan, we may have never met but I wish you a happy birthday and I hope we have many more years of entertainment from you.

Buyer Beware


Perhaps I should have written this before Christmas but it didn’t occur to me till now. This is a warning for anyone out there who likes the extras with the movies that you watch on DVD. I for one love to watch the extras but like many people times are tough for me and I have to watch every dollar I spend. When I got Polar Express I notice that they had two different prices. One said it was a wide screen special edition and cost $19.21. The second said it was full screen and cost $12.49. Thinking the only difference was the wide screen I thought I should buy the $12.49 and save myself $6.72. To my dismay this was not the only difference. The full screen version had virtually no extras. Nothing behind the scenes on how they made the movie and this is one movie that I wanted to see how it was done. Actually I like to see that on nearly all movies that I watch. I later found out that the wide screen edition had all of the extras. I know some of you might be saying that the words “special edition” should have tipped me off. Well I would have thought that too at one time but I have seen special editions that the only thing special about it was that it was wide screen. From the 1980’s to today most movies are filmed to look good on TV. Meaning, that they try to film them like they were made for TV movies. That way they can make more money off the video rights. Shoot them this way made sure that they don’t cut off anything important on the side. So I thought I wasn’t really missing anything. Turns out I was wrong. Here is what was extra on the wide screen special edition:
Region (unknown)
Double Amaray Case
Widescreen 2.40
Audio:Dolby Surround 5.1
EnglishDolby Surround 5.1
FrenchDolby Surround 5.1
SpanishStereo 2S
EnglishAdditional Release Material:
Deleted Scenes
Featurette Interviews
Music Video
Behind-the-Scenes
Interactive Features:
Challenges
Now here is what came extra on the edition that I bought.
Region (unknown)
Keep Case
Full Frame
Audio:Dolby Surround 5.1
EnglishDolby Surround 5.1
FrenchDolby Surround 5.1
Spanish
Last year I waited to buy the Fantastic Four DVD as I heard that they were going to release another edition with more extras like interviews with the creators and people who knew Jack Kirby. So I waited till this Christmas and they did release a second edition. The problem was it had virtually no extras. Yes it was cheaper but I wanted the extras. My Mom asked me for a list of what I wanted for Christmas. I put the FF edition with the extras on the list. That is what she gave me on Christmas Eve.
So if you don’t care for the extras then save some money and buy the cheaper version. If you’re like me you may find that an extra five or six dollars is worth spending to get what you want.

This Day in Music History: Helen Reddy and Angie Baby


On December 28, 1974 Helen Reddy had the #1 song in the country with Angie Baby. The song was written by Alan O’Day. He said the Beatles song Lady Madonna inspired him to write Angie Baby. Mr. O’Day is quoted as saying “The song Lady Madonna by the Beatles just killed me. I thought, well, I’m gonna write a song about somebody who’s growing up with the radio playing in the background of their life, with this rock and roll time we live in…there are songs for all of our emotions, and the radio really speaks for us in a way that nothing else does.”
However, the title character in the song was coming out sort of boring. Alan started making Angie a little bit weird. When he did that, the song started getting interesting. It was while on vacation that he showed the song to the woman who ran the motel he was staying at to get her opinion. He thought an opinion from someone not in the recording industry would count more as that was the audience who would buy the record. He said that she really liked Angie and he told her he was planning on having her pregnant to make things more complicated for her. The woman told him not to do that as Angie had been through enough.
When the song was completed his publisher asked Cher if she would record it. They thought she might as she already did Alan’s song Train of Thought on one of her albums. However, she turned it down. Eventually the song was recorded by Helen Reddy.
One of the things that made the song such a big hit was everyone wanted to know who that man was in Angie’s life and what happened to him. Alan and Helen have never given a definite answer. Some have said that he turned into a sound wave others have said he was really a DJ on her radio. Till Alan or Helen gives a definite answer we will never know.
This was the last #1 hit for Helen Reddy. She did have another top 10 hit with That Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady and was later a host on NBC’s The Midnight Special. Also she has acted in films like Airport ’75, Pete’s Dragon and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. She has plans to write a book and act in musical theater. She started recording again in 1985 but says good material is hard to find.
Alan O’Day would record a #1 hit himself in 1977. It was called Undercover Angel.
If you want the photo above you can click on the title or click here to go to its website.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rest in Peace President Gerald R. Ford


There are times it has been hard for me to keep from giving my political point of view. I have so far been successful. With the death of President Gerald Ford I almost wanted to give it but decided not to. Let’s just say that in hind sight his Presidency was more important then we may ever know. He tried his best to get us past Watergate and WIN the war against inflation. Unfortunately both battles were too big for anyone and in many ways we are still fighting them. Especially, the one on inflation. I doubt any President will ever beat that opponent. Gerald R. Ford passed away today at the age of 93. Our country may be better off then we knew for having him for so long. Rest in peace President Gerald R. Ford.

This Day in Music History: John Lennon and (Just Like) Starting Over


On this date in music history there were two big hits that reached #1 on the charts. First up is John Lennon and (Just Like) Starting Over then you can scroll down to read about the second one. In 1975 John and Yoko Lennon welcomed the birth of their son Sean and that began a major shift in both their lives. Perhaps it was from being on the road so much as a Beatle and not being able to see much of his oldest son Julian growing up but John retired from music and became a househusband. Yoko ran the family business from an office in their Manhattan apartment.
It turned out to be a good decision for John at that point in his life. In an interview with Newsweek John is quoted as saying “What I did was discover that I was John Lennon before the Beatles and would be afterward, and so be it.”
In the summer of 1980 the Lennon family was on vacation in Bermuda. It was there that John started writing music again. In two weeks he and Yoko wrote 20 songs. When they returned on August 4th Lennon booked time in the Hit Factory recording studio and ended his five year retirement. John and Yoko recorded the whole album called Double Fantasy but had not been signed to a label. In the 60’s and 70’s if a record executive had heard John Lennon had recorded an albums worth of material and was looking for a label to sign with they would have signed him without asking to hear the album. However, it was now the 1980’s and the record industry changed during his five year hiatus. That, along with executives wondering if Lennon had lost it during his time off, made every label ask to hear the album first. Every label that is, except Geffen. David Geffen signed John and Yoko to his label without asking to hear a note.
On October 24th (Just Like) Starting Over was released and word spread quickly that Lennon was back. Lennon said about the song that “It was the fifties-ish sound because I had never really written a song that sounded like that period. Although that was my period, the music I identified with.” He continued saying, “In the Beatle days, that would have been taken as a joke. One avoided clichés. But now those clichés are not clichés anymore.” Unfortunately the song reached #1 posthumously. On December 6th 1980 the song had reached the #6 position on the Billboard charts. Two days later John Lennon was murdered just outside his home in Manhattan.
It was on December 27, 1980 that it reached #1 on the Billboard charts. I think John would have reached #1 on the charts with that song no matter what. The song stayed at the top spot in the country for 5 weeks after he bumped Lady by Kenny Rogers from the #1 position that he had occupied for 6 weeks. It seemed a hallow victory at the time. However, (Just Like) Starting Over and other songs from the Double Fantasy album, like Woman, Watching the Wheels and Nobody Told Me, proved that his legacy of music would live on for years to come.

This Day in Music History: Diana Ross and the Supremes and Someday We'll Be Together


On this day in music history, December 27, 1969 Diana Ross and the Supremes had their last #1 hit on the Billboard charts with Someday We’ll Be Together. The song was co-written by Johnny Bristol. He said he and one of the other co-writers, Jackie Beavers, were often on the road as Jackie and Johnny for the Tri-Phi label. They missed their wives and that inspired them to write the song. When Tri-Phi was absorbed by Motown Johnny signed on as a writer and producer. He kept trying to get Barry Gordy to sign up the act of Jackie and Johnny but was always told he was more valuable to Motown behind the scenes. One of those times he took a tape of them singing Someday We’ll Be Together to Mr. Gordy. Gordy said it would be a smash hit for the Supremes. Knowing Gordys instincts were usually right Johnny thought this would at least give Jackie and Johnny a hit song as writers.
The only one of the Supremes on the song is Diana Ross. The others were not asked to go into the studio to record it. So while it is billed on the record as Diana Ross and the Supremes it is really Diana’s first solo effort. A male voice is also heard on the record. That is the voice of Johnny Bristol. Near the end of the recording session Diana was getting tired and not giving as much emotion as she did in the beginning. Johnny went in to sing the rest of the song with her to give her an added spark. He was to be edited out but Barry liked it so much that he kept it on the record. So in the end Johnny Bristol did get to record a version of his song. It helped to make it a #1 hit on this day in music history.
You can get the photo if you click on the title above. It will take you to the site where it can be purchased.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

This Day In Music History: George Harrison and My Sweet Lord/Isn't It A Pity


On December 26 1970 George Harrison was the first Beatle after the group broke up to have a #1 record on the Billboard Charts. He is so far the only Beatle to have a solo double sided hit. The songs were “My Sweet Lord” and “Isn’t It A Pity” and the battle that ensued over “My Sweet Lord” has become a legend. Originally My Sweet Lord was to be recorded by Billy Preston. Billy had his all set for release when suddenly Apple records changed their mind and release Mr. Harrison’s version instead. It preceded the release of his triple record All Things Must Pass album.
George said that his inspiration for the song came from hearing the Edwin Hawkins Singers perform “Oh Happy Day.” While there are similarities between those two songs the publisher of the Chiffons song “He’s So Fine” thought that the similarities with his song were even closer. If you play the songs back to back you would have to admit the tunes sound exactly alike. George Harrison was sued for copyright infringement. Billboard magazine reported at the time that royalties from the song to Mr. Harrison were stopped all over the world till there was a resolution. That didn’t come for five years. The Judge in the case ruled that Mr. Harrison was guilty but that it was not done on purpose. However, it was still a crime even thought it was done subconsciously.
George said when people started talking about how the two songs sounded like each other he thought “Why didn’t I realize?” If he had he could have changed a note here and there to make it a bit different.
Even after the case was settled Allen Klein, the Beatles former manager, bought the rights to “He’s So Fine” and the right to continue to sue for further damages. George said he tried to give the song away to completely settle the whole thing. The song has spent much of it’s time in escrow. Mr. Harrison hardly got any money out of the song. He said that the good that it has done far outweighed any money or the complaining that was going on between the copyright people. It’s just all greed and jealousy.
A few novelty songs were inspired by the legal battle. The Chiffons recorded their version of “My Sweet Lord” and Jonathan King did a version of “He’s So Fine” with the arrangement that George had for “My Sweet Lord.” Harrison himself did a novelty song called “The Pirate Song.” It starts out sounding like it’s “My Sweet Lord” then the tune completely changes and George starts singing about how he would like to be a pirate.
The flip side, “Isn’t It A Pity”, was also a hit under its own strength. George said it was about relationships. He said “It was a chance to realize that if I had felt somebody had let me down, then there’s a good chance I was letting someone else down.”
The lyrics to the song say
“Isn’t it a pity?
Now isn’t it a shame?
How we break each others hearts and cause each other pain.”
Isn’t it ironic that a song with those lyrics would be on the flip side of a song that caused Mr. Harrison so much pain and heartbreak?

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Birth of Christ is the Reason for the Season



Luke 2:1-52 KJV
Chapter 2
1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, Unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife; being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying.
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord.
23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.)
24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
27 And he came by the Spirit to the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the customs of the law.
28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,29 Lord, not lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Isreal.
33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Isreal; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daugther of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried beind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
46 Ans it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, they father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye shought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was sbject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

TV Guide Week of December 23 1961


For fans of the magazine TV Guide here is what the cover of the Christmas edition looked like in 1961

This Day in Music History: Melanie and Brand New Key


Typecasting is a bittersweet thing and it happens in all parts of show business. For Melanie Safka when her song Brand New Key became a source of her greatest pride and her biggest headache when on this date in music history on December 25th 1971 it was the #1 song on the Billboard charts and stayed there for 3 weeks. She began her musical career when she started performing at New Jersey nightclubs and Greenwich Village coffee shops. She also studied acting at the Academy of Fine Arts in New York. Rumor has it that it was while she was trying to find an audition that she was misdirected to the office of Buddah Records. Label President Neil Bogart took one look at the teenager carrying her guitar and decided to introducer her to Peter Schekeryk. He became her producer and later her husband.
Her folk singing career didn’t really take off till she preformed at Woodstock in 1969. One night she saw the crowd light hundreds of candles. As they glowed in the darkness she became inspired and later wrote the song “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).” It became a hit on the Billboard charts in 1970 when she recorded it with the Edwin Hawkins Singers. After two more records for Buddah Melanie and Peter decided to leave Buddah and start their own label. They named it Neighborhood Records.
When Melanie wrote “Brand New Key” it was not meant for release. She only meant it for an up-tempo interlude between her folk songs that told about the troubles in society.
Still she made it the first song she recorded and released for her new label. Most radio stations understood the song was a 30’s-sounding song of nostalgia of a girl with a brand new pair of roller skates. Some read sexual references into it and banned it from their airwaves.
This didn’t stop her image from being seen as a sweet innocent girl who loved her childhood. While that is not a bad image to have it can become a bit tiresome for a serious artist who wants to make mature songs. Because of this “Brand New Key” was her last hit song. She quit performing and decided to raise their children in their Jersey home. Still in 1975 she came out of retirement and recorded her more adult songs for Atlantic Records and later for Midsong International and Tomato Records. During her time off the times had changed and she had trouble getting back her fans who left their innocent age behind them.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

This Day in Music History: the Bee Gees and How Deep is Your Love

Starting today there will be a This Day in Music History each day until January 1st 2007. On December 24th 1977 the Bee Gees had the #1 song on the Billboard charts with How Deep is Your Love. It all started when their manager Robert Stigwood was contacted by writer Nik Cohn. He said he wanted to write a film or a story that could be made into a film and Stigwood could produce it. He told him to come up with an idea and get back in touch with him.
Six months later Stigwood was reading New York magazine. In it was an article called “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night.” It was written by Nik Cohn. Stigwood called him and said, “You’re crazy. You come to me about writing a story for a picture. This is it.” Mr. Stigwood called Mr. Cohn’s agent and bought the rights for a film version. I don’t know if it was an accident or on purpose but Mr. Cohn was not crazy. He just made money twice off of the same story.
During this time the Brothers Gibb were in Paris trying to record a follow up album to their Children of the World LP. Stigwood called up and said to forget a studio album he wanted a live album he also called a second time asking for four new songs for a film he was producing. The first song they wrote for the film was How Deep is Your Love. They had Yvonne Elliman in mind to record it. When Stigwood heard the song he insisted the Bee Gees record it instead. Yvonne Elliman was given another song in the film, If I Can’t Have You.
Stigwood flew to Paris and gave the Bee Gees a rough idea for the film. He said it was about a guy who lives for Saturday night, when he can spend his paycheck and go dancing. He also said they had already hired John Travolta, who was a famous television actor on Welcome Back Kotter, to play the part. Maurice Gibb said they thought “Wow! A disco film. Let’s get into some good disco songs.” Two and a half week later the songs were written and a demo was sent to Robert Stigwood. When he heard them he said they were perfect.
How Deep is Your Love was the first single released from the soundtrack before the film was released. It was in the top ten for 17 weeks. Three of those weeks it was #1. At that time it had the longest run of any song in the top 100 on the Billboard charts. Like some people I had always heard the songs of the Bee Gees like New York Mining Disaster, Words, How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?, but I never paid attention at that time who the group was. When Saturday Night Fever came out I had never heard the name Bee Gees mentioned. I first saw the famous trailer with Travolta walking down the street to the high falsetto singing of Staying Alive when I worked as an usher at the local Showcase Cinema. When I heard the song I thought “Gosh those girls are good singers.” A few weeks later I saw a stand up of three guys and the words Saturday Night Fever. I asked a fellow usher who the three men were. He told me it was the group who was singing the song on the movie trailer. My reaction was “Its guys who are singing that high???!!!” My outlook on music changed a little bit that night.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

My Two Cents: The Nativity Story


Today I saw the movie The Nativity Story. If in this Christmas season you are having any hard times in maintaining your Christian faith then see this movie. If could help bring you closer to our Lord. It nearly brought me to tears. If you have someone in mind you would like to lead to Jesus Christ then take them to this movie. It could help you open a conversation with them. I saw this with my friend Tim and we both enjoyed it. Tim is a Christian and we both agreed that for the most part it closely followed the Bible. One part that was wrong is that both the shepherds and the wise men arrived the same day. The shepherds were nearby and got there first. The wise men had a long journey and arrived months later. Jesus may even have been one year old when they arrived. On the way they saw King Herod who asked that they return and tell him where the child was so that he could worship Jesus too. In the Bible they were warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod as he wished to harm the child. So they returned home another way. In the film they just decided not to go to King Herod and to return a different way. Also, the Bible doesn’t say that there were three wise men as we have all assumed for many years. It only calls them wise men. So we only know that there was more then one. All that aside the film is wonderful. It helped me to know I and many of my friends and family are on the right path and to pray for those who aren’t. The film shows how life for all may have been back then. It showed the tribulation that Mary and Joseph must have gone through as being in an expectant way while their law said she should not conceive during the first year of their relationship. There were many familiar faces but none I could place. At least not until the credits rolled and I saw the name of Alexander Saddig. I believe he played the Angel who told the world that Christ was born. I know for certain he played the Doctor on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. If you have a chance to see this movie today or anytime this holiday season you should do so. It really makes you feel as if you are there.
Click on the title above to go to the official movie site.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Humbug Part 1


This is another version of "A Christmas Carol." It has been around since 1995 but for those of you who have not seen it before you can read it here. Just click on the photo to enlarge it enough to read. Scroll down farther for the rest of this four part posting and do the same to read the story.

Humbug Part 2

Humbug Part 3

Humbug Part 4

Christmas Music


I like alot of music but Christmas music is one of my favorites. I thought almost every musician in the world has released a Christmas CD. I knew it for certain when I saw this CD.

Christmas Comic Book Cover


Paul Henning and Green Acres


With the success of two rural comedies CBS again gave Paul Henning a half an hour on the network with no pilot that had to be submitted for review. Mr. Henning was way too busy to create the show himself so he asked his friend Jay Sommers to do the honors. To me the Beverly Hillbillies always seemed like a TV version of Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town and Green Acres seemed like a TV version of the Egg and I. I can’t say for certain that either of those movies were what they had in mind when they were thought of. However, Mr. Sommers didn’t have to look too far back in his own history for creating the show. He had worked on a CBS radio show that was called Granby’s Green Acres. It was a summer series in 1950 that Mr. Sommers had created and it starred Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet as a city couple who moved to the country. The late Parley Baer who is most famous as the Mayor on the Andy Griffith Show and the voice of Ernie the Keebler Elf on commercials was the hired handy man who they called Eb on both radio and TV.
The TV show ran from September 15, 1965 to September 7, 1971. Out of the three shows that Henning produced this one was sort of the oddball in the group. It was more of a slapstick/absurd comedy. Surreal has been one word that more accurately describes the series. A fine example of this was when it was known that Mr. and Mrs. Ziffel had adopted a pig as their son and named him Arnold. Everyone in town treated Arnold like he was a real boy except Oliver Douglas. A running gag on the show was how the Douglas family couldn’t get a phone inside the house. Their phone line only went up as far as the top of the telephone pole. Whenever they had to answer the phone or make a call they had to climb up the pole to use the phone. The writers must have gotten tired of trying to devise funny ways for them to get up the pole as eventually they got a phone in the kitchen. At times they had fun with the titles on the show. I remember seeing Mrs. Douglas hanging out the wash to dry and on the shirts and towels it would have the names of the crew and cast members. On another episode Mr. Ziffel was standing at the front door. The credits would be rolling up behind him and when he turned around they quickly hid from him.
Oliver Douglas was played by Eddie Albert. According to TV Land the part nearly went to Don Ameche. When the producers met with him over lunch to discuss the series he was so picky about his food that they feared he would be just as difficult to deal with over the scripts. So they gave the part to Eddie Albert.
As fans of the series know Oliver was a rich lawyer who moved to Hooterville with his beautiful Hungarian wife Lisa played by Eva Gabor. Lisa was not happy about the move but had grown to love the town and the people over the years. The Douglas’ young farm hand Eb was played by Tom Lester. They were always helping him and giving him parental advice. While Eb did have parents he took to calling the Douglas’ Mom and Dad. Much to the chagrin of Mr. Douglas.
Just as Petticoat Junction spun off of the Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres was a spin off of Junction. Since both shows took place in Hooterville it was a natural that they would cross over. Even the Clampetts came by to visit on both shows. Frank Caddy who played Sam Drucker on Junction was a frequent guest star on Green Acres and eventually became a cast member on both shows.
Green Acres never hurt for zany characters. There was conning door to door salesman Mr. Haney played by Pat Buttram, the absent minded county agent Hank Kimball played by Alvy Moore and the carpenters that nobody would want…the Monroe Brothers. Actually they were really brother and sister but for some reason their business was called Monroe Brothers. Sid Melton played brother Alf Monroe and Mary Grace Canfield played sister Ralph Monroe.
By 1971 all three of Paul Henning’s hit shows were canceled by CBS. They were all still popular but CBS wanted to use more urban shows that appealed to the more wealthy audience. After his shows were canceled Mr. Henning didn’t do what other producers have done. He didn’t try writing urban comedies or novels. With the exception of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels he didn’t have his name attached to any movie scripts. He pretty much left show business and retired. He passed away in March 2005.
You can click on the title above to go to TV Guide.com.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Paul Henning and Petticoat Junction


With the success of the Beverly Hillbillies Paul Henning created a spin off. On September 24, 1963 CBS aired the first episode of Petticoat Junction. The Hillbillies were so successful that CBS didn’t even require a pilot from Mr. Henning. They trusted his instincts that much.
The show starred Bea Benadaret one of the busiest actresses in radio and television. She had been on radio programs like Ozzie and Harriett, Burns and Allen and My Favorite Husband. On TV she reprised her role on the television version of Burns and Allen. She was offered the part of Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy but was not able to accept as she was under contract for another production. She was also the voice of Betty Rubble on the Flintstones cartoon series. She played Kate Bradley a widow who was raising her three daughters in the hotel she owned. Unfortunately she was not with the series for its entire run. In 1968, just after she started work on the series for that season, she passed away due to lung cancer.
Edgar Buchanan played Uncle Joe Carson on the show. He was an in demand character actor who usually played Judges, Fathers, Grandfathers and of course Uncles. Uncle Joe was lazy. He worked hard at getting out of work and always was looking on a get rich quick plan. Uncle Joe would have loved the internet. Know matter how lazy Uncle Joe was he could be counted on when the chips were down. He was always helping family and friends and when Kate Bradley had to be written out of the show in 1968 he stepped in to run the Shady Rest Hotel. Of course the fact that he now owned the hotel helped.
Frank Cady was a character actor in movies and was cast as Sam Drucker. Sam was the local grocer/post master. The part of Sam got Frank Cady to be on two hit sit-coms as he later would be a frequent guest star on the Petticoat Junction spin off Green Acres.
The rest of the cast was frequently changing. The daughters of Kate Bradley were Billie Jo she was a blonde and the oldest of the girls. She was played by Jeannine Riley from 1963-1965. Later in the 1970’s Miss. Riley would be on TV again for one more season on Dusty’s Trail. Then Gunilla Hutton was cast in the role from 1965-1966. Gunilla was originally from Sweden but her family moved to Texas when she was 7. Rumor has it that she was fired from the show because she was involved in two taboos at the time. She was rumored to be dating Nat King Cole. Back then it was the kiss of death for a white actress to be dating an African-American. While that has changed over time the other taboo thankfully has not. That is that Mr. Cole was a married man making her his mistress. Two big strikes against an up and coming actress on a hit comedy series. So Miss. Hutton was out of the show. A few years later she would be seen as on Hee Haw as Nurse Goodbody. Finally, in 1966 the part went to singer Meredith MacRae who was with the series to the end of its run.
The middle child was a brunette and named Bobbie Jo. She was played by Pat Woodell from 1963-1965. In 1965 they cast Lori Saunders in the role of Bobbie Jo. She immediately won over the hearts of the fans and became the most famous Bobbie Jo Bradley.
The youngest was the redheaded tomboy Betty Jo Bradley. She was played by Linda Kaye Henning. Her part was never recast. Perhaps that was because Paul Henning was her Father.
The Cannonball was the only method of transportation for the people of Hooterville, the town where the show was based. From 1963-1967 the train was run by Charlie and Floyd played but Smiley Burnette and Rufe Davis. In 1968 Smiley left the show and Floyd (Rufe Davis) ran the train himself. A few months later he too left and Wendell Gibbs played by Byron Foulger was brought in to take over the train.
A lot of the comedy on the show came from Uncle Joe schemes, someone trying to get a date with one of the Bradley girls or trying to keep the Cannonball running.
For awhile the show took on a soap opera feel when Mike Minor joined the cast as crop duster Steve Elliott. He was attracted to each of the Bradley girls and the audience was curious who he would end up with. He chose tomboy Betty Jo. You know the one played by the boss’s daughter.
Many people say that Aaron Spelling brought sex to television. While researching this I was reminded of many double-entendres on the show. No I’m not going to point then out but just from what you have read here you can figure some of it out.
A few years after the show was canceled and was being shown on local station WXIX when it entered syndication some of the guys in my school were all caught up in the show. If you look at the picture above you can see three reasons why pre-teen boys liked the show. The thing that amazed me was when they got so caught up in the soap opera on of Betty Jo and Steve. That I couldn’t believe. Guys didn’t talk about soap operas back then and to my knowledge still don’t. I suspect those guys wanted Betty Jo to wait for them to be old enough to marry. Personally I had a crush on Lori “Bobbie Jo” Saunders.
After 7 successful years the show was canceled. The last airing of the show was on September 12, 1970.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Paul Henning and the Beverly Hillbillies.


In 1962 Paul Henning created what would be his most famous TV show. It was the Beverly Hillbillies. It aired on CBS from September 26th 1962 to September 7th 1971. It is said to be the most successful sit-com of the 1960’s. It was at first to be called the Hillbillies of Beverly Hills. It was so popular even its theme song, the Ballad of Jed Clampett, was a huge hit on the country charts by Flatt and Scruggs. It starred Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett who struck oil on his property. He became an instant millionaire and he moved his family to Beverly Hills, Ca. Mr. Drysdale as played by Raymond Bailey was the banker who was always trying to make sure the Clampetts stayed in Beverly Hills and their money stayed in his bank. Mush of the humor came from misunderstandings. For example Jed would say that he was going hunting for crawdads while talking to Mr. Drysdale. Another millionaire would over hear them and think it was a special vehicle for the military that he was investing in. He would start looking into it. The military would actually have a top secret vehicle called crawldads and would send an officer to Beverly Hills to find out how Jed knew about their top secret. Many would be embarrassed when it was found out he only wanted to go hunting.
Buddy Ebsen almost passed on taking the show. He said two things changed his mind. One was that when he read the script he didn’t want to do it because Jed wasn’t funny. His agent pointed out to him that Jed was really the straight man and any good comedy needs at least one straight man. The second is that he asked a friend of his if he thought he should take the part. His friend said he shouldn’t because he thought the show would flop. He said that helped him decide to take the part. You see his friend never knew when something would be a hit. When he didn’t like something it was usually a big hit. His friend didn’t even like Barnaby Jones and told him not to take that role too.
Jed wasn’t the only straight man on the show. Nancy Kulp who played Jane Hathaway was also the straight woman in most scenes she was in. However, that was not always true if Jethro was in the scene. Jethro was played by Max Baer Jr. He was Jed’s nephew and he moved out with them to California. He was a big, strong, handsome man who all the girls wanted to be with and Miss. Hathaway was not always thinking straight when he was around. Jethro had the problem of being a child in a man’s body. He only had a six grade education. Since that was the farthest anyone in the family went in school he was considered the scholar in the family. Jethro was one of the funny ones on the show as he was always trying to be something bigger then he really was. He was usually trying to be a big time movie producer or a secret agent. Or as Jethro would say he wanted to be a “double not-not spy.” Of course this was his way of referring to the double 0 in 007. Jed and Mr. Drysdale were always humoring him by setting him up with jobs where he had the title but not the responsibility of the job. This usually backfired as somehow he would actually wind up producing a movie or taking on a job meant for a real private detective.
Jed’s daughter Ellie May was played by the beautiful Donna Douglas. Donna was previously seen in the Elvis film Frankie and Johnny. Everyone was always trying to find Ellie a husband. She was beautiful, sweet and rich so getting her married off should be easy. However, it was usually complicated because she loved wild animals and had to always have raccoons, snakes, possums etc. around. Also, she was always stronger then the men she dated.
The character who made the show was Granny as played by Irene Ryan. Granny hated moving from the hills to the city. She was always cooking and making people sick with her food. However, this was no problem to her as she was a country Dr. and used her home remedies to heal them. Most of the time the cure was even worse and usually involved her home made moonshine. Granny was the break out character. Irene was the best actor on the show and she won the Emmys to prove it. She passed away before they made the reunion movies based on the series. The first was a hit but the second didn’t come off as well. The problem was that when you see Buddy Ebsen and others as the Clampetts you expect to see Irene Ryan as Granny. When they did a big budget movie her presence was not missed as much since all the roles were recast. It didn’t hurt that they got Cloris Leachman to play Granny. She was probably the only woman in Hollywood who could have played the part at that time.
While all the actors seemed to get along not all was well. Max Baer Jr. and Paul were always at odds. Max thought that after all that time in Beverly Hills the Hillbillies should be getting more use to their surroundings. Stop calling the pool the cement pond and eating dinner on the pool table. They should start acting smarter. Paul refused because he thought the show would not be funny anymore. I know Mr. Baer became a successful movie producer in the 1970’s but Mr. Henning must have known what he was doing. The show was still popular when it was canceled in 1971. It is still popular in reruns today. This past summer my young cousin discovered it and thought Granny was so funny he watched it every day.
The above photo is from TV Guide.com. You can click on the title to go to their site.

Rest in Peace Joe Barbera

I really don't know what to say about Mr. Barbera execpt he left behind an incredible legacy. He gave me and many of us happy hours, usually on Saturday mornings, while watching FRANKENSTEIN JR., THE IMPOSSIBLES, SPACE GHOST, BIRDMAN, SHAZAN, YOGI BEAR, QUICK-DRAW McGRAW, TOP CAT, SCOOBY-DOO, WACKY RACES and others too numberous to mention.
We may never see someone like him or his partner Bill Hanna again.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Time Person of the Year

I know it is probably old news by now but I have been selected as Time Magazine person of the year. You have too if you are reading this posting. You can go here for the full story or click on the title above.

Paul Henning


Not long ago I did a series on TV moguls Aaron Spelling and Quinn Martin. Today I am starting a series on Paul Henning. Mr. Henning was from Independence, Missouri. He once met future President Harry S. Truman who advised him to become a lawyer. He did go to Law School but his real desire was to be a singer. He was a singer on some local radio programs. When one didn’t have the money to hire a writer to for fillers between songs Paul started writing for them. From there his writing career took off. He eventually got jobs writing for network radio programs for Fibber McGee and Molly and the Burns and Allen Show. Eventually he wrote for TV programs like The Real McCoys the Andy Griffith Show and also produced The Bob Cummings Show. On many of those programs he met many actors who would later be on the programs that he created. Many of those relied on his Midwestern humor that he grew up with in Missouri. He also wrote the scripts for the films Lover Come Back, Bedtime Story and co-writer on Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The TV shows he created were The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. They were some of the biggest hit comedies to come out of the 1960’s.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Give your worries to God, for He cares for you

Why worry?
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1 NLT"
The unforgettable responsive reading "It was midnight on Thursday, February 8, A.D. 356, and Athanasius, a leader in the early Christian church and passionate defender of the deity of Jesus Christ, was leading a worship service. Suddenly loud shouts and clashing armor could be heard outside the church. Soldiers had come to arrest him.But Athanasius said, "I didn't think it right, at such a time, to leave my people," so he continued the service. He asked a deacon to read Psalm 136 and then requested the congregation to respond with the refrain, "His faithful love endures forever," which they did twenty-six times over the din of the soldiers outside.Just as the final verse was completed, the soldiers rushed into the church, brandishing their swords and spears and crowding forward up the nave toward Anthanasius. The people yelled for Athanasius to run, but he refused to go until he had given a benediction. Then some of his assistants gathered tightly around him, and, as he recounts it, "I passed through the crowd of people unseen and escaped, giving thanks to God that I had not betrayed my people, but had seen to their safety before I thought of my own."Athanasius was portraying to his people God's love, which endures forever. He was willing to lay down his life for his flock—just as Jesus had laid down his life for his flock a few centuries earlier.Since God's "faithful love endures forever," why is they ever any need to worry?

Another Funny Christmas Picture

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Funny Christmas Picture


A friend e-mailed me this funny photo. I thought I would share it with you here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

This Day In Music History: Marvin Gaye and I Heard It Through the Grapevine


I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye was the #1 song on the Billboard charts on this day in 1968. It is one of the longest runs at #1 that a Motown Record has had. It held down the top spot for 7 weeks. When it reached #1 Motown captured the top 3 spots on the chart. Diana Ross and the Supremes were at #2 with Love Child and Stevie Wonder was at #3 with For Once in My Life.
It was surprising at the time that Motown would release Marvin’s when they did as Gladys Knight and the Pips had a hit with it the year before. However, Marvin recorded his before they did and the arrangement was completely different then the one the Pips used. Other performers recorded the song before Marvin did. Performers like Smokey Robinson and the Miracles who released it on their Special Occasion album and the Isley Brothers whose version has not yet been released.
The song has been recorded by so many artist that the song has made the hit charts at least 5 times. However, it is Marvin Gaye’s that the others are measured against. It was the 18th single of Marvin’s to make the charts and his first #1 hit.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Nice Santa Story


I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike one day to hear my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"
My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true. Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus?"
She snorted...."Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let's go."
"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun.
"Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. "Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car. "Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.
I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, and the people who went to my church. I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's second grade class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he didn't have a good coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat! I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.
"Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. "Yes, ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby."
The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.
That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it(a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible). Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa's helpers. Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."
I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby. Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.
I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.
May you always have LOVE to share. And may you always believe in the magic of the spirit of Santa Claus.

The Three Stooges Christmas Record


For me it isn't Christmas if I don't hear the Three Stooges Wreck the Halls and their version of Jingle Bells. This record is from the 1960's version of the comedy team. Thought you might like to see it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

That Girl On TV Land


Well TV Land has just finished airing 48 hours of That Girl to celebrate that series joining their network lineup. First off from what I saw the series really holds up. Of course the fashions are a bit dated but that is to be expected. It is a sweet romantic comedy about a young woman named Ann Marie trying to make it as an actress in New York while dating her reporter boyfriend Donald Hollinger. The chemistry between Marlo Thomas as Ann and Ted Bessell as Donald was just the right mix. Add in Lew Parker as Ann’s Father Lou Marie who was always being protective of his daughter and this comedy had all it needed to be a hit. The love and respect the characters had for each other came through every week. The casting director must have been the best in the business as many other up and coming actors made appearances during its run. Future and current comedy greats like George Carlin, Dabney Coleman, Bernie Kopell, Ronnie Schell, and Ruth Buzzi were all cast members at one time or another. There were even guest appearances by actors like Bill Bixby, Carroll O’Conner, etc. Maybe they were joining the show to get approval from Marlo’s Daddy. Danny Thomas was a big star and powerful TV producer himself with hits like Make Room for Daddy, The Dick Van Dyke Show and the Andy Griffith Show, just to name a few, behind him. The show was very well produced. I always love the beginning. I couldn’t wait to see how they would work in the title of the show on each episode. For those of you who have not seen That Girl it went something like this.
A TV producer is walking down the street with a director.
TV Producer: We need a new face for the show. A young woman who is pretty and bright with sex appeal.
Director: Don’t forget she has to have that girl next door quality. Where are we going to find someone like that?
Suddenly they see Ann Marie coming down the street.
TV Producer: We need someone like (he points to Ann)…That Girl!
Cue the theme song.
I always loved that. The setting might be different but you always knew they would point to Ann and call her That Girl.
Seasons one and two are now both out on DVD but I don’t plan to rush out and buy either one right now. I love TV and I love that I can now have my favorites on DVD. Perhaps one day people like me can have their own internet TV station. However, some shows are best seen on TV. To know that if you don’t watch it now then it may be months or years before you see it again has something of a thrill about it. I have no doubt I will one day buy That Girl on DVD but for now I will wait.
This marathon showing brought back some happy memories. I did see most of the shows on its first run but one memory of the show is from when it was rerun in my area. Every once in a while my Mom and my Aunt would take me and my cousin Rachel and go visit my twentysomething cousin Toni. She was a young wife and mother. The three of them would usually talk in the other room. Rachel and I would be in the living room. We both liked music but for some reason Toni would not let us play her stereo. She would let us watch TV. Usually it had on Captain Kangaroo or the local children’s show Uncle Al. There were times they were showing reruns of Here’s Lucy and That Girl. Some of my memories of the show come from watching it on Toni’s TV.
You can go here to a posting about the shows 40th anniversary. or click on the title above.

Remembering John Buscema


On December 11, 1927 John Buscema was born. He spent most of his comic book career at Marvel. He was mostly known for his wonderful art on Conan. Mr. Buscema gave a lot back to the art community when he opened his own art school in the 1970’s and later when he wrote with Stan Lee the best selling book How to Draw Comic’s the Marvel Way. In September of 2001 he produced his last comic book. It was for DC comics and called Just Imagine Stan Lee with John Buscema creating Superman. He was staring work on a five issue mini series with Roy Thomas when he passed away from cancer in January of 2002. He may be gone but he will never be forgotten.
You can click here
or on the title above to go to his site that is dedicated to his work and memory.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bob Denver


Lately what I have had on my mind is Bob Denver and Dusty’s Trail. For those of you who have never seen this TV show it was really a western version of Gilligan’s Island. In his autobiography “Gilligan, Maynard & Me”, Mr. Denver admits that it was Gilligan goes west. Mr. Denver played Dusty the guide of a wagon train headed to California. Of course it turned out Dusty was a rotten guide and they were just going around in circles. Forrest Tucker was the Wagon Master. He was like the Skipper on a horse. Ivor Francis and Lynn Wood played Mr. & Mrs. Brookhaven the wealthy Howell types. Jeannine Riley played Lulu the saloon girl. She was something of a less glamorous Ginger. Lori Saunders was the Mary Ann of the show as the school teacher named Betsy and Bill Cort the Professor as the engineer named Andy. Ironically both Jeannine Riley and Lori Saunders had starred in Petticoat Junction in the 1960's. Miss. Riley was on it from 1963-1965 and Miss Saunders was from 1966 till the end of the series run. Dusty's Trail was shot on a syndicated budget since it was not on the network schedule. The humor was the same but the quality, and yes for the 60’s Gilligan’s Island was a very good quality show, was not. The chemistry between the actors is good but at times it seemed forced when compared to GI. Rumor has it that Forrest Tucker was half drunk when they shot the episodes. Only 26 of them aired in 1973 and then the show was seemingly forgotten.
One of Mr. Denver’s best memories from the show was the run bys. It meant that all of them had to run by the cameras in one shot. It was so huge they had to stop traffic on the lot and people came from all over to watch. Forrest Tucker rode out first then Bob. The stagecoach was next and finally the covered wagon. As the wagon came out one side Forrest Tucker has circled around and was re-entering on the other side. When the covered wagon was coming back in Mr. Tucker and Bob were coming out on the other side again.
Bob said the show was canceled as it was seen by few and disappeared. He said he hoped that it would be resurrected one day as some of the episodes were pretty funny. He is right. While it pale when compared to GI there were some funny moments. Unfortunately Mr. Denver is dead but I did find some of the episodes on DVD. You can get them if you click here. Also you can get some of the episodes edited together as a movie called the Wackiest Wagon Train in the West.
Bob Denver’s career in TV started out on a high note when he played Maynard in the Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. He was the break out character as he played Jughead to Dwayne Hickman’s Archie like character of Dobie. His next show was Gilligan’s Island when he was cast after Jerry Van Dyke turned down the part to star in My Mother the Car. GI was a big hit with kids and stayed on for three years but runs forever in syndication. Since then Mr. Denver had a hard time getting cast in anything that didn’t resemble Gilligan’s Island. Even as Maynard he was a little bit like a teenage Gilligan and Dobie like the Skipper. Except Gilligan didn’t mind working but Maynard worked hard to avoid working. Other people who stood next to him in the Skipper type of role were Herb Edelman on the Good Guys, the above mentioned Forrest Tucker, Chuck McCann on the live Saturday Morning show Far Out Space Nuts. That was sort of like Gilligan and the Skipper in space. Alan Hale Jr. played Skipper once more in the TV movies as well as on the two cartoon versions. One was the New Adventures of Gilligan which was a faithful transition of the show for Saturday morning audiences. Later they took them on another cartoon adventure to Gilligan’s Planet.
Mr. Denver was a good actor but never got to do any drama. The closest that he got was when he played himself on the comedy Evening Shade and gave a speech to the high school graduation class. He did make people laugh and was closely associated with two successful characters. That is pretty good for any actor.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Remembering Lennon


On December 8th 1980 John Lennon was leaving that morning to work in the studio. Just outside his front door he met a man who asked Lennon for an autograph. As always Lennon signed the album that he had. He asked the gentleman if that was all. The man said yes and John got in his limo and drove away. The autograph seeker was Mark Chapman and John narrowly escaped death. As we all know Chapman was there to kill John Lennon. That morning he had the gun with him but was having second thoughts. Later that day when Lennon came home Chapman changed his mind again and shot Mr. Lennon to death. A tragic ending to a musical life.
In the sixties Lennon and Paul McCartney were the songwriting talents behind the Beatles. Paul was the pop music showman with business sense. Lennon was the personality with the wit and some would say a brilliant madman. With McCartney’s business sense, Lennon headline grabbing antics on social issues and both of their talents in music the Beatles reigned over the music world for 10 years. They continued that reign as four individuals after the band broke up. While McCartney, Harrison and Starr all seemed to become just three more pop musicians, Lennon continued as the voice of his generation. He was always challenging the government. He did it so well that they tried to kick him out of the country.
Paul McCartney is my favorite of the Beatles. However, John was their leader who brought them all together and spearheaded the changes that came about in the 1960’s. Without realizing it John Lennon became a world leader and found out the hard way that he should weigh his words carefully and that actions really spoke louder then words. While most of the world may not agree with how John did things he did bring to light things that the public would not know about otherwise.
John died while coming out of five years of retirement from the music business. He said he heard some of the music that was being made back then and didn’t like the path pop music was taking. In true Lennon style he took an active part to show the younger generation the path they should be taking. Turn on top 40 radio today and you may think we still need someone like Mr. Lennon to lead us down the correct musical path.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Pledge of Allegiance.


In honor of our troops over seas and in memory of those who were at Pearl Harbor and the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 I am directing you to this site. It is where Red Skelton tells about the pledge of allegiance.

Justice League Spin Off From Smallville?

According to Comics Continuum there may be a Justice League spin-off from the hit show Smallville. My bet is that there will be a Green Arrow series but perhaps it will be the JLA. Click on the name or the title above to read the article.

Happy Anniversary to The Defenders


This month is the 35th anniversary of Marvel Comics super team The Defenders. They were first published in Marvel Feature #1 in December of 1971. They were billed as a non-group. The super team book for people who hate super team books. That last statement never made much sense to me but that is one way they were billed. While my heart for super teams belongs to the JLA and the Avengers I have a feeling if I were a superhero I would be more at home in the Defenders. When I was in high school I never fit in with jocks as I never cared much for sports. I tried out for football and basketball teams only because my friends did and it was something to do. I didn’t have the heart for sports and it showed so I never made the teams. I was asked to be the manager of our freshman basketball team. I guess Coach Davis figured since I was tall I would get better and make the team next year. However, I didn't even try out for the team after my Freshman year. Now in my school the more popular kids were the smart kids. While I was never dumb, it would have been a closer fit to be in this clique. But they were also more into partying then I was and therefore I really didn't fit into that group either. The group I wound up fitting into more was sort of a non-group like the Defenders. The guys and girls I ate lunch with and hung out with after school for a year or two were the ones who didn’t fit into the above mentioned cliques. As a result most of their personalities were close matches to mine at that time in my life. That is why I think I would have fit better into the Defenders. Namor and Hulk proved they would never fit into Fantastic Four or the Avengers. With Dr. Strange and company they were considered welcome additions. Like my group in school they welcomed any new members. Membership was very fluid in the Defenders.
It started with Dr. Strange, Namor and Hulk joining to fight a common evil. They agreed to a loose knit friendship and to join each other when ever called to fight evil. As time went on it seemed like almost every character in the Marvel universe had been a Defender at some point in their careers. When you ask two fans who the line up of the Defenders were you won’t get the same answer between them. They almost will certainly say Dr. Strange, Hulk and Sub-Mariner but the rest of the group is up for grabs. For me the others are Nighthawk and Valkyrie. The rest of the line up over the years was Silver Surfer, Hellcat, Luke Cage, Cela, Moondragon and others. By the time issue 152 came around the ride was over and the book was canceled. When the series ended even the three mainstays were gone. It’s members at the end were Valkyrie, Angel, Beast, Iceman and Gargoyle. The membership now made the book look like it was a spin off of the X-Men.
There seems to be renewed interest in The Defenders. In the past few years there have been new mini-series based on the group. I tried them but the fun was no longer there for me. It is nice to know they are fondly remember by others and I hope for new comic book fans they will be back on a regular basis. Till then you can buy the Essential Defenders and go to this Defenders message board.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Self-portraits


Hey remember seeing these advertised in Marvel Comics. They were self portraits of the artist who worked on the comic books that we all loved so much. I remember seeing this one of John Romita Sr. and couldn’t help but notice he drew himself to look like Peter Parker. Years later I saw a photo of John Romita Jr. and he must look like his Father because he looked like a real life Peter Parker. The first time I remember seeing this one and other of Kirby and Trimpe was when I was part of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. It was in catalogue that they mailed out to the members. I was about 6 or 7 at the time and couldn’t afford to buy anything from the book but I loved getting it. It felt like I was seeing something before the rest of the world got a look at it. To see the creators surrounded by all of the characters they created each month was fascinating. I imagined that was the way it really felt when they were working with well defined characters. This drawing brings fond memories to me and I hope it does to you too.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Batman/Spirit


This book brings the Spirit into modern times as he and Batman meet for the first time. They team up to get their friends Commissioner Gordon and Commissioner Dolan out of trouble. In order to properly view this book I had to try and ignore my memories of the Will Eisner stories. Those stories may have taken place in the 1940’s but they were so well done that they still stand up in todays market. The real star of the book was The Spirit not Batman. You could have teamed him up with Hourman and gotten the same reaction.
With the updating nothing had to change. Ellen still pines away for The Spirit. The Spirit still live underground in the graveyard and Dolan still keeps The Spirit’s secret. I’ve always wondered how much of a secret it could be when he goes out in the daytime. The idea to update The Spirit was given the thumbs up sign by Mr. Eisner before he passed away. So I am sure that he would be happy with the way the art turned out. It is almost as good as Eisner’s but not nearly as close as when Kitchen Sink produced new stories based on The Spirit. One aspect that I am glad to see the artist kept in was the inventive way he used the Spirit’s name on one of the splash pages. That was one of Eisner’s signatures on the series. In this one the Spirit falls from the top of a building and the letter from the sign that fall with him spell out Spirit as they fall to the ground.
As you can see it was impossible for me to ignore memories of Eisner’s version. However, I did enjoy reading this book. It was well written and drawn and I can’t wait for the new series to come out later this month. I just hope they don’t turn Ebony into a computer whiz.
If you want to buy it you can go to it's auction site by clicking on the title above.

Friday, December 01, 2006

My Two Cents: Deck the Halls


Well Christmas is almost here and Hollywood is giving us as many Christmas movies as we can handle. To the best of my memory I only recall one Christmas movie per year in the past. So for this year there seems to be four. This seems to me like a major break through. Those movies are the Santa Clause 3, Deck the Halls, Unaccompanied Minors and The Nativity. Today I am giving my two cents on Deck the Halls. I really liked this film. Now the plot was predictable but its heart was in the right place and it had one of my favorite types of comedy. Slapstick! I may be a bit over protective when it comes to what kids see on the screen but a couple parts of it I would have rated PG-18. For most the PG rating is appropriate. Matthew Broderick is Steve Finch and is the local eye doctor in town. He is so organized about Christmas and is love for the holiday is well known in town. So he is the citizen who always puts together the towns Christmas activities. Buddy Hall is played by Danny DeVito. The Hall family moves to town when they lease the house across the street from the Finch family. While both men share the star roles, it is Mr. DeVito who is the star in the old Hollywood style. That style is if an actor’s character is mentioned in the title then that actor is the star of the film. So Mr. DeVito is the star as Mr. Broderick’s character gets angry at them and wants to Deck the Halls.
Buddy Hall moves to town to take a new job as a car salesman. He is a great salesman but can’t keep a job as he is still searching for something to fulfill his life. He wants recognition that he doesn’t feel he is getting at his job or at home. When his two daughters find a site that shows what everybody’s home looks like from space but they can’t find their own home it adds to his feeling of being invisible. He decides to do something about it. He wants to light his home so it can be seen from space. He does it so well that it makes the news and the town starts thinking of him as Mr. Christmas instead of Steve Finch. Steve Finch’s reaction to this is beautiful and very funny. Buddy gets back at him by having the lights and loud music stay on till 4am. Now Steve can’t get any sleep. He strikes back by buying fireworks and shoots them at Buddy’s home. However, one gets away from Finch and goes down his chimney. He does more damage to his home then to Buddy’s. In the end both men see that their fighting is hurting both families and they try to be friends.
Does Buddy ever get his house seen from space? Buy a ticket and see the movie to find out. You won’t be disappointed. This is one movie that is worth the price of the ticket. You can’t say that about most movies these days.