Previews of Movies Due in Theaters

In the last 2 months of each calendar year a slew of interesting movies get released to theaters.  Not all are Academy Award contenders but since the nominations for Oscars are announced in January, it is from mid-October through December when most of the best films debut at your local big screens.  I took the time to load up the trailers for some of the notable offerings.  For a look at the release dates of these movies, click to this calendar link. Pick what you want to check out and we’ll see you at the movies.  https://www.imdb.com/calendar/

Here are the links to the previews-

CREED 2   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u22BXhMu4tI

GREEN BOOK  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkZxoko_HC0

THE FRONT RUNNER  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDQd_gaMGoI

VICE     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jO3GsRQO0dM

ON THE BASIS OF SEX   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28dHbIR_NB4

THE FAVOURITE  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYb-wkehT1g

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5l8cvuo7IA

MARY POPPINS RETURNShttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3jsfXDZLIY

THE MULE     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rINpjy808o

WELCOME TO MARWEN 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6dy7xQ8NeE

AQUAMAN   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDkg3h8PCVU

For me personally I’m most looking forward to seeing: “Green Book”, “Vice”, “The Frontrunner”  “The Mule”, “The Favourite” and “Mary, Queen of Scots.”   So sit back, enjoy and please silence your phones before the movie starts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Rebuttal to Rhapsody’s Bad Rap

Full disclosure– I have always been a fan of the rock group Queen.  I collected their records and saw them in concert twice.  Some may say this means I could not be objective in reviewing the new movie “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  I see it the other way.  If anyone is going to be critical or carefully speculative and discriminating of the movie it would be a longtime fan like me who wants to see their story portrayed in an accurate and appropriate way.

Actors playing the band Queen sing together on the classic mini opera “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

It’s hard for me to follow or agree with the barbs and sharp detractions some critics gave “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  However I will say, as a band, Queen was often given short shrift by the music critics.  It appears some movie critics are following suit with their film reviews.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is more the story of lead singer Freddie Mercury which makes sense.  He was the consummate showman and the most visible guy in the band.  However, all four members are well represented and the actors are dead ringers for the real life stars. Watching Gwilym Lee play guitarist Brian May, was almost spooky because of their resemblance and his stage mannerisms were spot on.

Still, it’s Rami Malek playing Freddie Mercury who IS the movie.  Equipped with prosthetic teeth to mirror Mercury’s choppers, Malek has the look, the speaking voice and mannerisms.  Much is made of Freddie’s extra incisors during the film but that’s just a small bite of the story. (Pun intended)

Rami Malek IS Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury in a well played role that is sure to get him an Oscar nomination.

From a disapproving father, skeptical record company executives to loving his girl Mary but having sex with men, Freddie Mercury was a complex person in private and a bold and bright star onstage.  Some of my favorite parts of this movie are when he talks about how natural and true he feels while performing in concert and the recording studio.  When you see Mercury writing songs and how a sense of satisfaction rolls over him when in the right groove, it’s a great insight to special artistry.

Queen’s music is a joy to re-live in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  The inside stories about how those songs came to be are more than just a “Behind the Music” anecdote or two.  For those who followed the band’s discography fairly closely, you will see some date and chronology inaccuracies in the script.  This may have been done for dramatic purposes and we need to remember this is not a documentary. It is an interpretation of a constantly evolving group of musicians who dared to blow off formulated artistic patterns to forge their own visions.

I liked the new version of “A Star Is Born” but gave higher marks (a solid ‘A’ grade) to “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  The plot of “A Star is Born” has been oft told and despite great work by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, it’s still a bit of a worn tale.  Freddie Mercury and Queen’s history is as unusual as a band’s story can be and this movie serves it up in a truly entertaining way.

FOOTNOTE-Before seeing “Bohemian Rhapsody” one of the trailers shown to us was for next summer’s Elton John biopic “Rocketman.”  It’s directed by Dexter Fletcher who was brought in to replace Bryan Singer for the last two weeks of filming the Queen movie.   Here is a quick look at the trailer for “Rocketman.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpOGT3GTO84

 

 

The School of Rock is in Session!

I teach Special Education to 6th, 7th and 8th graders at a therapeutic school.  My students have a mix of behavioral and learning issues and they always keep me on my toes.  Twice a week I teach these kids a course called “The Arts.”  Since music is part of this, I’m educating them on songs that tell little stories. Together they orally read lyrics to a couple of tunes from the past.  Next, I play them the songs and issue a short quiz.    These songs came out decades before these students were born so it’s a course on music history too.  I’d be more than happy to play songs from their era but let’s be honest, today’s music is beyond awful!

Anyway, here are a few of the song quizzes.

BRANDY, YOU’RE A FINE GIRL (Looking Glass)

Where does this song take place?

In Chicago                 On a western bay               On the east coast

What job does Brandy have?

Teacher                    Nurse               Waitress at a bar

What does Brandy wear that reminds her of a past boyfriend?

A golden ring          Diamond ear rings            A braided chain

Where did this piece of jewelry come from?

Italy                       Spain                         France

Why couldn’t Brandy’s boyfriend stay to be with her?

He was married to someone else

As a sailor, no harbor was his home

Brandy was married to someone else

What stories did Brandy’s man tell her?

How he used to be a baseball star

The guy shared about his life as a bank robber

He told sailing stories, talked about the oceans and more

 

SECRET AGENT MAN  (Johnny Rivers)

The man who lives a life of danger, what happened to his name?

He changed it for security reasons

They took it away from him

Nothing,.he’s still known as Patrick Berg.

Why should the secret agent man beware of pretty faces?

It could be a man in disguise

A pretty face can hide an evil mind

All that make-up means she might be ugly as a bag of worms

Where do we find the secret agent man in the song?

Swinging on the Riviera

Laying in a Bombay Alley

Both of these

What got the secret agent man in trouble?

He ended up spying on the Russians

He let the wrong words slip by kissing persuasive lips

Isis terrorists blew up his car

The odds said the secret agent man:

Would live a long and happy life

Might marry a princess and live in a castle

Won’t live to see tomorrow

 

LAST KISS (Wayne Cochran, also J. Frank Wilson, Wednesday, and Pearl Jam)

Who took the singer’s baby away from him?

Another guy

Her parents

The lord

Who was driving during their date?

The singer             The girl            They took an Uber

What happened on their car ride?

They hit a deer

They swerved into a stalled out car

Nothing

What were the last words the girl said to the singer?

You’re a lousy driver

Are you O.K. honey?

Hold me darling for a little while

What was the last thing the singer and his girl did?

Share an ambulance to the ER

Hugged

Kissed

What does the singer have to do to see his baby when he leaves this world?

Never date another girl

Be good so he can go to heaven

Learn how to drive better

 

SUNDOWN (Gordon Lightfoot)

The song starts out with the woman wearing:

Pajamas

Shorts and a T-shirt

A satin gown

Where is Sundown told not to be?

Any bar in town

The singer’s back stairs

A local school

Why is the Sundown a queen in sailor’s dream?

Because she loves to sail boats

She don’t always say what she really means

Nobody knows

What is such a shame in the song?

Losing ‘Sundown’ to another man

Not ever having met the woman

When the singer gets feeling better when I’m feeling no paid

What’s your first mistake with Sundown?

Getting lost in her lovin’

Breaking up with her

Letting her steal your car

What is Sundown wearing at the end of the song?

Her satin dress

Faded jeans

A new swimsuit

CLASS DISMISSED!

 

Elton John- A Concert Memory From 1976

July 29,  1976 @ The Chicago Stadium

You never forget your first ever concert and that is certainly true for me.  I was a fan of Elton John’s music since 1973.  Hit songs like “Daniel”, “Crocodile Rock”, “Bennie and the Jets”, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and the title track of the magnificent double album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” were all over the radio and I loved them all.

I really got hooked into Elton in Junior High when I saw a TV special called “Elton John and Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye to Norma Jean and Other Things.”  It was a documentary or “rockumentary” if you will, that told  much of the story of Elton the singer and his lyricist Bernie Taupin up to that point.  I learned lots from this show and bought Elton’s earlier albums to catch myself up on all of his music.

In 1976 nobody was bigger in pop/rock music than Elton John

Anything and everything I could read or know about Elton John was my away from school focus.  I was in the eighth grade school chorus and convinced our music teacher to let me sing “Pinball Wizard” during the spring concert.  She did and it went over pretty well.  Elton covered that Who classic for the movie “Tommy” in which he played the Pinball Wizard character.  Even Time Magazine did a cover story on the piano pounding rocker titled “Rock’s Captain Fantastic” which helped promote his semi-autobiographical album “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.”

Fast forward to the spring of my freshman year in high school when a series of Elton John concerts at the Chicago Stadium was announced for late July of 1976.  My sister Marianne, also an Elton fan, took me and friends to stand on line at Ticketron to gets tickets for what was to be his final Chicago show set for July 29th.  We ended up with good seats and to show you how long ago this was, our tickets were around ten dollars, service charge included!

The night of the concert, I was out of my head with anticipation. While we all counted down to the day of the show to see our favorite rocker, the balding guy with the wacky specs was also on the minds of millions of fans.  In the summer of ’76, Elton John was at the peak of his popularity and THE live act to see.  He sold out all four of his Chicago Stadium shows and was even offered the chance to play more but he had other towns and dates to do.  This tour was called “Louder Than Concorde, But Not Quite As Pretty” and before the show I dutifully bought a couple of Elton T-shirts and a tour program.  Our seats were in the 2nd row of the mezzanine directly across the short side of the stadium to Elton as he faced us.

After a forgettable opening act of some long haired guy with an acoustic guitar and songs nobody ever heard before, it was time for E.J.  The Chicago Stadium lights went out all at once and the 20,000 fans started screaming with excitement.  The band played “Grow Some Funk of Your Own”, a cut from the “Rock of the Westies” album and Elton came out to bigger roars sporting large plastic white framed glasses like the kind you’d wear to watch a 3D movie.  He had red high top gym shoes, navy blue track pants and an emerald green glittery jacket over a striped polo shirt and a giant silver banana dangling from a necklace.  Fill in your own Freudian interpretation on Elton’s banana.

Shiny jackets and dangling phallic symbols were part of Elton’s wardrobe during that 1976 tour.

I had never been in the same building as such a big star in my life. Here was my favorite rocker singing to us!  It was a little unnerving and I didn’t really grasp everything until song two of the show which was “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” He sang popular hit singles and delved into cuts from “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” which we fanatics knew backwards and forwards.

The summer song of 1976, in fact the biggest radio song of the whole year, was “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart”, a duet between Elton John and Kiki Dee.  Kiki was on this tour with Elton and came out midway through the show to sing that current single and “I Got The Music in Me” which was her hit a couple years earlier.  At the time I remember thinking Elton and Kiki looked and sounded so good together that maybe they’d end up marrying.  (I had plenty to learn about lots of things at the time)

So the night played on, hits like “Island Girl”, his cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Philadelphia Freedom” rang out and then it was time for Elton’s encores.  In the darkness of the cavernous Chicago Stadium thousands of fans lit matches and lighters which illuminated the whole place.  Remember, this was decades before cell-phones with lit screens.  Elton came out with a change in his jacket, now sporting an Uncle Sam styled red white and blue glitter get up and he and the band rocked out “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.”  The best part of the night for me was when he howled “Saturday night’s alright, alright, allll-right.” The next part of the song is singing the “Woo ooh oohs” and the stadium crowd covered that part.  This chorus singing by over 20,000 fans gave me a shockwave of chills that I still remember to this day!

Elton rocking his fans in a spirit of ’76 sport coat. 

After blowing the roof off the place with that rocker, Elton came back for his next encore, this time in a bright pink glittery jacket as he quieted the crowd with the classic “Your Song” which then was followed by the night’s last song, “Pinball Wizard”.  Elton and his band turned that hit into an even more frantic and wild rave-up than their recorded version.  We were all screaming the words and going nuts and as the band wrapped up the instrumental close of it, Elton John waved goodbye to the crowd, walked off the stage and was gone.  About a minute later, while still screaming and cheering in the dark, the house lights went up and the show was over.

I count myself lucky to have seen so many incredible concerts in my life and for Elton John’s 1976 hits filled marathon blow-out to be my first, was even better.  In the following years I couldn’t help but hold that first show as the gold standard for other concerts I saw.  That might not be fair but when you have such a memorable event to recall as your virgin concert happening, it seems natural.  Over time I’ve seen Elton John live many times but my fondest and most dear memory was from that mid-summer night in Chicago.  Thanks Elton, you’re a once in a lifetime star and you brought me a once in a lifetime experience.

What a first ever concert experience for me to have!

POST-SCRIPT– I originally wrote this rock n roll memory back in 2013.  In November of 2014 my sister Marianne who took me and my friends to our first ever rock concert, passed away after a long battle with an auto-immune disease.  When delivering her eulogy I recalled all the fun we had together in our lives with a special accent to the Elton John concerts we two shared.  I closed off Marianne’s memorial service by playing Elton John’s “Your Song.”  My dear Marianne is missed to this day but whenever I hear an Elton song or hear talk about him, I smile and remember those wonderful times with my sister.

 

 

The Eagles- A Concert Memory from 1995

February 18th, 1995 United Center Chicago, Illinois

I grew up an Eagles fan.  My sister Marianne, who was four years older than me, listened to their music on her stereo and with her bedroom next to mine, I did too. When their debut album came out I was eleven and songs like “Take It Easy” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” had that country sound I leaned toward.  My favorite singers as a kid were Hank Williams, Roger Miller and Charley Pride so I appreciated the country tinged flavor of the Eagles.  The Eagles’ so called ‘California sound’ was an early soundtrack of my life. Marianne had a cassette of the “On the Border” album and she played it often on her 1973 Plymouth Duster tape player that was under the dash to compliment her factory installed AM radio. “James Dean”, “Best of My Love” and “Already Gone” were big with me. I started buying my own Eagles records with “Hotel California” and “The Long Run.”

The Eagles line-up before they took a 14 year beak.

In 1980 when the Eagles broke up or as they would put it years later, ‘just stopped working together’, I felt that pang of regret for never having seen them in concert.  Not that they were known for wild flamboyant live performances, just the opposite in fact.  But I wanted to hear them in person.  It also was vexing because the group’s members worked on solo projects that distanced themselves from their days as Eagles. Working in radio, I got to meet Glenn Frey twice and saw him play solo and also caught several of Don Henley’s solo shows in1985 and 1990.   Both Frey and Henley would perform a few old Eagles songs in their sets which just made me want to see the whole band together that much more.  Then Hell Froze Over.

Don Henley often said the band would play together again when “Hell freezes over.” Their first reuniting took place in 1993 on a video for Travis Tritt’s version of “Take It Easy” for the “Common Thread” Eagles tribute album done by country artists.  After that video shoot, the late 1970’s incarnation of the Eagles, Henley, Frey, Don Felder, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmidt realized maybe they didn’t hate each other so much anymore. Eagles manager and music mogul Irving Azoff had large dollar signs in his eyes as he was waiting for this day to happen and the Travis Tritt video was the start of a second act for the band.

Travis Tritt’s “Take It Easy” video was the catalyst for the Eagles to get back together as a band.

A live recording and a TV special with past hits along with some new tunes happened in the spring of 1994; that release and the tour to follow was appropriately titled “Hell Freezes Over.”  This tour ran for the next two years and when a co-worker of mine had extra seats to sell for the Eagles’ show in Chicago, I was all in.

My date that night was my good friend and frequent concert cohort Dana who was as much a fan of the Eagles as I was. It was a Saturday night and I was up for a long show of well played songs.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Our mezzanine or one hundred level seats were about twenty rows from the stage but we had a clear view of all that was to happen.  The set looked like a post apocalyptic mess with metal props, pipes, wreckage and structures that made it seem as if the band was playing in front of the ruins of a factory.

The house lights go out, the five Eagles take the stage and opened the first set with their signature song, “Hotel California.”  I mean who kicks off a concert with THE song that totally defines the band?  Henley, Frey, Felder, Walsh and Schmidt do, that’s who! To me it was like if Springsteen opened his show with “Born to Run”, which maybe he has done but probably not often. Being this bold the Eagles were telling us, ‘Yeah, here’s your big hit but we’ve got plenty more to bring you.’ Don Henley was perched at his drum kit for this show opener but for most of the night he would be at the front of the stage with the rest of the group playing rhythm guitar. Speaking of guitars, Don Felder’s 12 string and Joe Walsh’s six string guitar tandem/duel on “Hotel California” was one of those jangling assaults that was best to see and hear in person.

The Hell Freezes Over TV special and album came first, then the major band tour.

The five Eagles were backed up by additional players including an extra drummer, keyboardist and a small horn section.  That first set brought out faithful versions of songs like “Victim of Love”, “New Kid in Town”, “Wasted Time” and “Lyin’ Eyes.”  Timothy B. Schmidt did his falsetto tinge to “I Can’t Tell You Why.”

As much as the whole group was well received, the show stealing crowd pleaser was the now clean and sober and always affable Joe Walsh. He sang “Pretty Maids in a Row” from “Hotel California” and later donned a huge hat made up of folded balloons when he performed “Ordinary Average Guy.”  Walsh was a re-born person and onstage player but still the joker and a great visual and audio treat. I maintain since getting clean Joe has played and keeps playing the best guitar of his life, and for one as gifted as he, that’s saying something. The first set closed with one of my very favorites, “One of These Nights” which was followed by a twenty minute break.

The second set opened with Frey crooning “Tequila Sunrise” and there was room and time for solo hits from him, Walsh and Henley.  Glenn would use the backing horn players for an elongated version of “You Belong to the City”, Walsh rocked out “Funk 49” and Henley led them through “The Heart of the Matter” (another personal favorite of mine) and “The Boys of Summer.”

The Eagles weren’t much for onstage banter but the low key Don Henley got one of the biggest crowd reactions of the night when they launched into “Dirty Laundry.”  You see the O.J. Simpson trial had been running five days a week for the last six weeks on CNN and it’s all that you saw or heard anyone talk about seven days a week.  So as the lurching tribal drum beat and ominous organ notes of “Dirty Laundry” kicked up, Henley approached his microphone and asked the crowd, “Are you sick of this trial yet?”  All twenty thousand plus in the house screamed their approval with a resounding “Yeahhhh!”  Here’s the best part of that quick exchange.  This was February 18th, 1995, the O.J. Simpson trial would go on for almost eight more months.

The horn section earned more of their pay as the Eagles rounded out set number two with “Heartache Tonight” and a rowdy “Life in the Fast Lane.”  Encore songs included the newly written “Get Over It”, Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way”, Don Felder’s country rocking guitar busted hard on “Already Gone” and Henley did a spot on read of “Desperado.”

The Eagles in action playing their long list of hits.

For the last song of the night, they played “Take It Easy”, the song as Frey would often say, ‘Started it all.’  With the last “Ooh woos” wrapping up that familiar hit, the band took their final bows and were done.  I finally saw the Eagles play live together as a group and it was a fantastic show.

As I noted earlier, these guys didn’t go for gimmicky laser lights, stage effects or flamboyant anything. This show was about something Frey and Henley said the band aimed for; “Song power.”  Song power is what it was that night, simply full of music from my youth and twenty thousand other fans.  These songs were played like we remembered them, the singer’s voices still sounding strong and resolute.  Glenn Frey was once quoted as saying “Perfection is not an accident.”  Looking back all these years later on that night, I get what he was saying.

-Glenn Frey Postscript-

Glenn Lewis Frey died on January 18th, 2016 at the way too young age of 67.  He succumbed to a long history of intestinal issues compounded by rheumatoid arthritis and pneumonia.  During my years in radio I met many famous people who have since died but Glenn’s passing was a rough one to take.  We met twice and he was more than kind to me and others with me.   He was just as normal as you or I.  The only difference being Glenn Frey and the music of the Eagles was a big fabric of my growing up years and beyond.  Thanks again for all of that and more to Glenn and the rest of the band.

He Said, She Said…Now I Said…

The Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court crap-storm is over; for now, at least. For the record I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. But I digress.

 

(The Judge Kavanaugh/Dr. Ford story made me do a self-examination)

Between the he said/she said hubbub of the Kavanaugh/Ford story and last year’s birth of the #Me Too movement, a guy can’t help but reflect on his own history of actions around women.  That’s what I’ve been doing lately and here’s what I have to share.

Thinking about my personal and professional relationships with women I can safely say I’ve been a pretty good egg.  I KNOW I’ve never grabbed, groped or otherwise physically encroached inappropriately on any girl or woman.  Being heterosexual, I can say the same for the male species.  (Save for maybe a towel snap or two in the high school showers or a snuggie/wedgie/creeper on some unsuspecting guy back in the day)

I know this because over the years I have had enough self-doubt and reticence about asking ladies out (and fearing rejection) that the idea of forcing an uncomfortable physical interaction is, was and always will be completely off the table for me.  It’s been a bad enough blow to my ego when on occasion I got turned down for a date, so to catch a face slap or other negative reaction from an untoward move would probably kill me of embarrassment and shame.  Besides, my parents didn’t raise me to be a Neanderthal asshole.

As far as unwelcome come-ons or crude comments towards women, I’m sure my record is equally clean.  Now, does that mean I’ve NEVER told an off color joke or said a potentially racy comment in mixed company? No.  Yet I don’t recall catching any sideways looks or received admonishments from anyone regarding my verbal offerings.  Part of my fairly clean slate is due to knowing my audience and being aware of who can appreciate and not be offended by an occasional “That’s what she said” joke.

PERSONAL DISCLAIMER-If I’m forgetting any bad incidents or situations that others may recall, I would like to hear what I did or said that was offensive and then apologize for those actions.  As my friends know, I have a very accurate and detailed personal memory but there could have been a wrong thing done that shouldn’t have happened.

NO ‘RALPH’ ZONE – Many inappropriate actions by men can be born out of being high, piss drunk or even slightly buzzed, which is still no excuse for that idiocy. I actually get a bit more quiet and calm when I’ve had a few drinks, like I’ve been sedated.  And for the last twenty years or so me having more than three beers at one sitting has been as rare as a Kardashian without plastic surgery.

I haven’t gotten sick from drinking since I was twenty two and can vividly remember the bar and who I was with when that happened.  The regurgitated whiskey and fried mushrooms were pretty gross.  Add to that, I haven’t vomited for any reason since February of 1991, and that was due to the stomach flu.

MAYBE I WAS MORE ‘MONEY’ THAN I THOUGHT I sometimes joke I’ve had my share of dates and relationships with women.  It’s just that my share is so little. (Install polite laugh here)  Actually, I’ve done fine.  As written in my radio memoir “Raised on the Radio” there have been enough times when I found myself with a lady who was to quote the Eagles, “Someone to be kind to, in between the dark and the light.”   

Sadly, as I look back on my younger days there were a fair share of missed opportunities and situations for romance that I let slide by.  Why?  Sometimes it was me being too picky; other times I thought there was the slightest chance of getting shot down. I aimed for surefire can’t miss situations. To put matters in a hockey sense, I preferred shooting at a wide open net. A few times it’s been the woman who made the first move on me, which has to be the best feeling in the world.  It’s like the ‘all clear’ sign is given, no mix-ups, misreads or snafus.

I often compare real life scenarios to things seen in movies.  So if I had to match my ways with the opposite sex to a movie character it would definitely be Jon Favreau’s role in 1996’s “Swingers.”   In “Swingers” Favreau’s ‘Mike’ was recovering from a broken relationship and was hesitant to put the boozing & cruising moves on just any woman.  I got the impression that character would’ve acted the same way even if he wasn’t healing from a break-up.   (Spoiler alert: Favreau’s honest approach to the fairer sex did land him a phone number from the lovely Heather Graham)

(Jon Favreau dances it up with Heather Graham in “Swingers”)

As for me and the women I know and future ones I’ll meet, my plan is to stay true to the course of being a straight up, engaging and decent guy.  It’s kept me out of uncomfortable situations and trouble so far and again it was the way I was raised. I’ll never be asked to join the Supreme Court but my conscience is clear.

And who knows?  Maybe next time I’m in a bar, I could find myself chatting up Heather Graham.  Hey, never say never, right?

 

 

Goodbye Joe, Me Gotta Go, Me Oh My Oh!

No mo Morning Joe Show for Me

For many years I had the early morning habit of watching MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” news show with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.  They come on the air at 5 and I’d have the program on for about an hour before switching over to the WGN Morning News on Channel 9.  (Full disclosure: Me and my parody song pal Al Flash have become sort of Dutch uncles to Channel 9’s show, contributing many music videos on sports, pop culture and the a.m. hosts themselves.)

Well I’ve had enough of the Joe show. I’ve grown more than tired of Scarborough, Mika, Willie Geist, Mike Barnicle, John Heileman and the other usual suspects they have on as guests.  The program leans as far to the left as the Fox and Friends Show leans right.  However, I’m not turned off so much by the politics of the show, I’m just tired of the same old same old from the show.

I’m weary of the fact that no matter how much these talking heads yak their heads off about the state of Washington politics and nothing, and I mean NOTHING ever gets solved or reflected upon with any wisdom or even novelty.  Often times their conversations of angst against the Trump administration would get me so amped up I’d start my day in an agitated mood before I even left the house!  More disclosure: I am by means no fan of Trump and his minions but don’t need to hear any more about what a lousy POTUS he is.

This is no way to live.  I can be informed on what’s going on in the world with a quick scan of the internet or a half hour’s worth of network news.  There’s no need to get charged up by the armchair quarterbacking and opining of these goofs.  It’s wasted time and wasted energy on my part.

For those who don’t know, hosts Joe and Mika are engaged to be married and their blooming romance was obvious to even the most casual viewer years before they owned up to being a couple.  This will be Joe’s third marriage, maybe this one will stick, and on a personal note I wish them the best as man and wife when they get hitched.

So now I get to say farewell to former Congressman Joe Scarborough’s sanctimonious ideals and his bizarre accent. The guy hails from the Florida pan handle yet he sounds like some faking piker from an Ivy League school.  For Joe, ‘go’ sounds like ‘geauu’ and ‘start’ sounds like ‘stort.’  What the hell kind of affectation is that?

And let’s not leave Mika out of the guilty dull party hosts.  I’ve had enough of Mika; from her thinly veiled disgust at the shape of D.C. politics to every eye roll and flustered sigh she offers when Joe talks about the Red Sox, college football or music.  We get it Miss Prissy Snooty Uptight Schoolmarm, the only thing worth talking about is politics. Everything else is junk food waste.  Ugh.  I once read a comment that Mika Brzezinski’s job is to rope Joe in when he gets off track and spend the rest of the program counting all the calories she’ll never eat; cruel but accurate.

It’s enough and I’ve had enough.  So after Friday September 28th I will close out tuning in to MSNBC channel 59 at 5 a.m.  Come Monday October 1st, I’ll just click into the WGN Morning News an hour early.  I know I’ll be much happier for that.

 

A Song That Burned In My Brain And My Pocket

“When I listen to my records they take me back to certain points in my life!”  (Daniel Stern as Shrevie in “Diner.”)

There are songs that time travel us to specific events in our past.  Some music recall I have can even  be traced to a specific date and that’s where the Pointer Sisters’ top 40 hit “Fire” ends up.  I first heard that song on January 1st, 1979.  This memory is vivid because it happened to be the first time I ever had naked women dancing in front of me in person.

Four buddies and I were on vacation together in Ft. Lauderdale Florida for Christmas break during our senior year in high school.  All of us were seventeen and spent a beer soaked New Year’s Eve in the Ocean Mist Lounge making out with countless women. Things got crazier once we went on the main street of Ft. Lauderdale and had encounters with countless party girls in an all night parade of passing cars.

The next evening was New Year’s night and we decided to move our carnal quests a step further by scanning the yellow pages for some live nude women action.  Around eight that night all five of us piled into a cab and were off to nearby Pompano Beach to visit the Monk Lounge strip club.  I don’t know about the other guys but this was my first time in a nudie bar.

My first visit to a strip club was to the now defunct Monk Lounge in Pompano Beach Florida.

The Monk Lounge was a fairly rundown joint with bullet holes in the front door that according to the doorman, were put there the night before by some unknown assailant.  The strippers inside appeared to be in their mid-thirties. On a 1 to 10 scale with 10 being the hottest, these ladies averaged to about a 6. The place was filled with young horn-dog idiots like us and some older gentlemen as well.  We took a couple of tables near the front of the stage, ordered beers and watched a slew of women strip down to their birthday suits and shake their money makers looking for dollar bills to be slid into their leg garters.

When offstage, the strippers would make stops at customers’ tables for more personal visits. They didn’t do lap dances but we were within inches of naked breasts, butts and bajingos.  This kind of up close dancing would garner a tip of a dollar or two and for guys like us with limited sexual experience, the money was well spent.  Some of the friendlier girls would give you a kiss to boot.  Each of us probably dropped forty or fifty dollars in tips that night.

Tipping the naked ladies was encouraged and appreciated.

So here’s where we get to the song “Fire.” As I noted, this was not the classiest of strip clubs. There was no live band or professional D.J. with a state of the art sound system to provide music for the women to strip to.  Instead, at the side of the stage there was a jukebox rigged to play songs without putting coins in it.  Each dancer would scan the selections and punch up a few buttons to play the three tunes they needed for their set.  The one song that every dancer favored was, you guessed it, “Fire” by the Pointer Sisters. I never heard the song before that night and the lyric I specifically remembered is when in the middle of it they sing “Romeo and Juliet, Samson and Delilah…”

My four pals and I stayed at the Monk Lounge for a couple of hours that night and we heard “Fire” played at least a dozen times.  There were other tunes the girls danced to but this song was the mainstay.  It’s easy to see why I have such an ingrained brain burn for “Fire”, it was played so often that it registered in my ears as I saw long legged nude women bumping and grinding to the melody.

Songs from the past can inspire varying memories and anytime I hear the Pointer Sisters’ version of “Fire”, it only takes me back to the very first time I saw live nude women dancing for me.  It was a rite of passage. And to this day, as the opening chords of that song are played anywhere or anytime, a sly smile comes to my face, and I can feel my wallet getting a few dollar bills lighter.

Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?

This is an excerpt from my memoir “Raised on the Radio.” While the book’s completion is on hiatus, this story will definitely be in it.  At the time of 9/11 I was working at WUSN FM as morning show producer.  When the attacks happened I’d been at US*99 for over 8 years.

September 11th 2001 added to what was already a strange year for me. In January of that year, Ramblin’ Ray Stevens got fired from the morning show in a surprisingly stupid  move by management. Big John Howell joined us on mornings and then a few months later Ramblin’ Ray rose from the ashes to be rehired do afternoons at US*99. We had crazy times at the radio ranch but things were about to get insane for the whole world.

I attended a family wedding on Sunday September 9th and had Monday September 10th off from work. The fall radio ratings period would start in a few days and we were discouraged from taking time off the show once the fall listener numbers started getting measured.  It was later learned those hijacking terrorists chose a Tuesday and not a Monday for their attack because they were aware of how many Americans took three day weekends during the summer months. These killers knew most people would be back to work and in their offices by Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, 9/11 we were having a regular show when Trish Biondo came into my studio about ten minutes before eight a.m. to tell me to tune my TV to the Today Show. I switched channels to see that first plane stuck in the side of the north tower of the World Trade Center.  I wasn’t even sure if it was an airliner or a private plane.  There’d been times when private planes crashed into office buildings or outdoor sports stadiums. Heck, the previous year WGN radio legend Bob Collins died when the plane he piloted had a mid-air collision with another small plane and crashed into the roof of a local hospital. Big John Howell told listeners about what was on TV but nobody knew what was happening. I stayed in my studio to screen phone calls and monitor my TV.

Less than twenty minutes later, while on the phone with a listener, I kept one eye on my TV screen and saw another plane hitting the World Trade Center’s south tower. I was frozen with shock! John Howell went on to announce what just happened and that we were under attack.  I wondered to myself if there was some computer hacking that took over the airliners’ controls and steered them into the towers.  Our phones were lit up, pulsing fast like my heart rate as I answered every call.  So many questions and updates from listeners kept coming in. The best words to describe those desperate minutes would be frantic, bizarre, terrifying and off the charts.

To the left you can see a hijacked airliner about to hit the south tower of the World Trade Center.  The world had gone nuts.

About half an hour after the south tower was hit came word that a jet crashed into the Pentagon building in D.C.  A caller told me this and I switched TV channels to get confirmation.  With the Pentagon attacked the first words that came to my mind were what Governor Connelly’s wife said when JFK’s motorcade was being fired upon in Dallas in 1963, “My God they’re going to kill us all!” I truly remember thinking this!

My rationale was if the Pentagon is our country’s base for military operations/defense and it’s under siege, who the hell makes calls on how our country defends us?  We were in a world of shit. I was never ever more scared in my life than when the Pentagon got crashed into.  Was this the end?  Was this OUR end?

Once the Pentagon had been hit by a hijacked plane, I was truly never more scared in my life.  Was this the end?  Was this our end?

Next, was a local news report that a threat had been phoned into Chicago’s Sears Tower and they were evacuating the entire building.  I picked up a hotline call from our GM Steve Ennen.  Steve, who heard about the Sears Tower evacuation, said if the Hancock received the same ‘get out’ order we were to switch our transmission to simulcast sister station WBBM AM, Newsradio 78, then get out of the building ASAP.  I relayed this information to Big John on the air and noted that since the Hancock was considered to be the most recognized building in the world, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got a similar threat.

After giving this update to John I walked out of the studio and stopped in my tracks as an announcement blared out of a hall speaker from the Hancock Security people. They were ordering everyone out of the building immediately.  I told Big John this news and quick as a flash Trish left the room, grabbed her purse and was out the door.  John and I were talking on the air about the Hancock evacuation and he wanted to stay. I said, “John, we HAVE to go!”  He grudgingly agreed, signed off then switched our broadcast transmission to Newsradio 780.

Hustling into the morning show office I scooped up my briefcase and called my mother. I told her I was O.K. and was on my way out of here. And I loved her.  Mom was puzzled. “What are you talking about?”  Turns out she was in her garden tending to flowers and tomatoes and just got back in the house when I called.   She knew nothing about the planes and the unfolding chaos.  My mom told me to be careful getting out of the city and said she loved me too. In just about an hour’s time we went from a plane has struck one of the World Trade Center buildings to evacuating our building because the world went nuts.

Before leaving our 13th floor offices, I needed a quick bathroom break.  When I got to the men’s room, the paralyzing fear I had over the Pentagon getting hit suddenly lifted.  I thought, “If this is my last day on earth, I’m O.K. with it. I had a good life and if the worst happened, I’m ready for what’s next.”  Washing my hands I smiled thinking if the Hancock got slammed by a jet right at this very minute, I could die like Elvis did, in the bathroom.

John and I met up at the elevators and headed down to the Hancock lobby.  The doors opened and I pivoted toward the parking garage elevators so I could get my car.  John walked toward the street exit and saw I wasn’t with him.  He turned around to me, called out and asked if I was going to stay downtown and wait out the building’s evacuation.  I told John this might be the end of everything and I was going to be with those I love.  With that, my elevator door opened and I was on my way to fetch my car to get the hell out of Dodge.  It was damn spooky to see a practically abandoned parking garage and my car was one of the last around.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks resulted in some problems in Chicago including bomb threats.  One such threat was to the John Hancock Building and we were kicked off the air as the entire place was evacuated. 

Minutes later while driving across Michigan Avenue en route to the hopefully safe suburbs, I saw hundreds of people on the sidewalks on their cell-phones.  Nobody knew what to say or what to make of anything.  A couple months later Alan Jackson would come up with the best words to describe 9/11 with the song “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” Alan nailed the tone and mood all of us had that day. That song covered it all.

Once the Hancock evacuation was lifted, John Howell did make it back on the US*99 airwaves and did a stellar job updating listeners on the insanity of the terrorist attacks.  He took calls and provided a smart, calm and measured voice of sanity during an insane day.  I admired what John did but at the same time was fine with getting the hell out of the city and taking everything in from the TV reports at home.

The day after the planes hit, concrete barricades surrounded the Hancock and every car coming into the parking garage needed to be searched at street level. I had to pop my trunk for inspection and there were long poles with mirrors on them for security to check for bombs under every vehicle about to drive up the ramps. This went on for a couple of weeks.  Within a month, all Hancock workers had picture ID badges that were to be worn at all times and everyone was on high alert. “Vigilant” was the new watchword.

Programming wise, matters turned to the fall-out of 9/11, the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and all things military.  Over the next three months, I did some of my best producing around this tragedy arranging interviews with politicians like then Congressman Mark Kirk, who was still in the Naval Reserve and tracking down journalist and terrorism expert Judith Miller. She gave us insight to Osama Bin Laden and much more. In recent times Ms. Miller had to come clean about being a White House shill who made a case for going to war in Iraq in 2003.  She wrote a book detailing how she got things all wrong and fell for George W Bush’s bullshit reasons for that war.  I was all for the U.S. military invading Afghanistan to chase down Bin Laden but was one of those few voices against the Iraq war. I supported Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks in 2003 when she said she backed our soldiers but not President Bush’s war in Iraq.  The Chicks caught unholy hell for Natalie telling a concert crowd they were embarrassed to be from the same state as George W. Bush.  In the end, the Dixie Chicks, I and some others with common sense were proven right.

Another ‘get’ was us interviewing longtime Chicago news anchor turned “60 minutes 2” reporter Carol Marin.  Carol shared a harrowing tale of chasing down the World Trade Center attack story on 9/11 and nearly being engulfed by a giant fireball as one of the towers collapsed.  Ms. Marin’s life was saved by a responding fire fighter who rushed her to take cover in a nearby store entrance.  With the country in shock and despair over 9/11, fun and wacky radio bits took a long break until well into the New Year.

We all knew 9/11 would change hundreds of millions of lives forever.  However the depth and scope of those changes was way beyond what anyone could have anticipated at the time.  To this day, it’s pretty scary to think nineteen hi-jacking assholes could have such an effect on the world.  Alan Jackson’s song was a profound moment to come out of 9/11 and while the world turns in a different way these days, I’m just relieved and happy we’re still here to live in it.

 

R.I.P. Burt Reynolds

“…Even Burt Reynolds in his black Trans Am, all gonna meet down at the Cadillac Ranch.”  (Bruce Springsteen)

I was sorry to hear about the passing of Burt Reynolds at age 82 after suffering a heart attack. The guy was a major movie star for many years and to those of us who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s,  Mr. Reynolds represented what a real man was all about.  Burt was athletic but not roided up, tough, smart, cocky and of course he usually got the girl.

I was eleven years old when my father took me to see “Deliverance” which was a pretty heady film for a young kid to see. My folks always helped me keep what I saw in those movies in the proper perspective.

Back then “Deliverance” was an edge of the seat film and it still holds up today as a timeless thriller. Watching it to this day I still feel the same rush of those runs through the river rapids and the battle against those sadistic mountain men.  My dad used to say that movie was one of the best and worst he ever saw; Best for its intensity and worst because of the “Squeal like a pig” sodomy scene with Ned Beatty.

Even a more subtle scene like when Burt’s character Lewis is negotiating a price for locals to transport cars to their landing spot resonates. The local guy says he wants fifty bucks and Burt says “Fifty my ass”, then repeats it when the local dares him to say those words again.

Burt Reynolds in his most iconic role in ‘Deliverance.’ “Fifty my ass…I said fifty my ass!”

Reynolds got to relive his real life college football glory days with his portrayal of disgraced NFL Quarterback turned prison gridiron star Paul Crewe in “The Longest Yard.” I remember being stunned at how mean Eddie Albert (Oliver Douglas from “Green Acres” for God’s sake!) could be as the warden and how a movie could have such great action plus be very comical.

From “The Longest Yard”, Burt as disgraced NFL QB turned prison yard star Paul Crewe.

Yes, the action adventure actor Burt Reynolds was damn funny. From the nude centerfold he posed for in Cosmopolitan magazine to his many appearances as a guest and guest host on the Tonight Show, Reynolds was always willing to laugh at himself. Not taking his own persona seriously made him even more endearing to his male and female fans.

Reynolds blasting whipped cream down Johnny Carson’s pants.

A couple years ago I enjoyed his autobiography “But Enough About Me.” I mean just that title alone shows a world famous icon looking back at his life with bemusement and humor. Reynolds told some interesting stories in that book and owned up to his failings as much as his successes.

The Golden Globe won and the Oscar nomination Burt Reynolds got for “Boogie Nights” was well deserved. His showdown with porn making rival Floyd Gondolli who tries to convince Burt’s Jack Horner character to move from film to video is a classic. I wish we had seen Reynolds in more features during his latter years.

Playing 70’s porn movie director Jack Horner in “Boogie Nights” earned Reynolds a Golden Globe trophy and a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. 

A few years back Burt Reynolds did some meet and greet appearances at a local theater that was screening “Deliverance.” I went for the film but spent a few minutes watching Burt sign autographs and do photos with fans for a fee.  Standing maybe twenty feet from the star I saw what a physical toll a life of doing one’s own stunts and hard and fast living did on a body.  Burt Reynolds was now frail and barely there.

Burt Reynolds, just a couple years ago.  Sadly, a fading star.

So now Burt Reynolds goes the way of other macho movie icons like Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, James Coburn and Robert Mitchum.  Clint Eastwood doesn’t act anymore. Harrison Ford is a gray lion who we worry will crash his self-piloted plane while leaving the left blinker blinking. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone are way past their prime. It seems today’s action actors are nothing more than flexed up goons with ten hour a day work-out infused muscles, oiled abs and tattoos. (Yeah, Dwayne the Rock Johnson and John Cena, I’m talking about you.)  The era of the “real man” actor with true character and charisma is over.

Thanks Burt Reynolds for all the entertaining you did for us in film, TV and real life. You were one of the last of the ‘real man’ movie star breed. And on your trip to the great beyond, may your drive in that Black Trans Am or the canoe ride on the river be a smooth one.  Just beware of Smokey the Trooper. And also scary toothless mountain men.