Happy Birthday Jerry!

Jerry Seinfeld doing his stand-up comedy on the Tonight Show. circa 1987

Jerry Seinfeld turns 65 this week and I thought it a good time to share some of my personal experiences with the famed comedian. This excerpt is from my coming media memoir “Raised on the Radio”.  The time was 1987 and I was producing the Larry Lujack afternoon show at AM 890 WLS.  Larry liked comics who were clever and insightful and was happy to welcome Seinfeld to his show.    

Book Excerpt-

Jerry Seinfeld was and still is one of my very favorite comedians. We had him in the studio and while at the time being known for his successful stand-up visits to “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night with David Letterman”, this was before his sitcom happened and became one of the most successful shows in network TV history. For the record, I was an early fan of “The Seinfeld Chronicles” which debuted in 1989 then became “Seinfeld.”

Here’s an understatement: Comedians are a quirky bunch. Insecure, sometimes extra loud then quiet, often guarded, you name it.  Many are messed up head cases that blow out their angst on the comedy stage. In all my years in radio the two most normal acting comics I met were Jerry Seinfeld and Jeff Foxworthy. Nobody else even came close.

 While some jokesters hold back, trying to save funny material for their concerts, Seinfeld was all up for sharing his wit freely on the air. He wondered why there were referees in pro wrestling when these brutes can hit each other with chairs and such.  “O.K., says the ref, you can bring that tank in the ring but watch it.”  Seinfeld also yakked about going scuba diving where your only goal is to not die.  For some reason Jerry was equipped with an underwater wallet “In case you run into a sea turtle that can break a fifty dollar bill.”  When I recorded Seinfeld’s post-show promo, he accidentally-on purpose referred to Larry Lujack as “Larry Lube Job” then corrected himself saying Larry was the “afternoon grease” on WLS.     

What impressed me about Jerry Seinfeld was his self awareness. This guy was so locked in on what he was doing.  He has often been called a sharply tuned wordsmith and it’s true. Everything in his stand-up act is precise, no mistakes.  I always pegged the guy for large scale greatness and Seinfeld’s long career proved my initial assessment correct.

After moving on from WLS, I also booked Seinfeld on other radio shows I produced and he was always a money-in-the-bank guest.  For each guest shot Jerry did, he’d have fresh new observations and comments, all of them comedy gold works. I also saw him perform his full stand-up comedy concert act several times and again each show was a great night of laughs.

The ‘Seinfeld’ sitcom was one of the most popular in television history. Jerry’s success on that show was never a surprise to me.

Getting back to the “Seinfeld” sitcom, some of you may have heard about earlier this year when millennials were whining about how wrong on un-PC some of that show’s plots were.  They cited things like the mocking of a pig nosed mental patient or when George Costanza was busted for staring at the cleavage of a network TV executive’s teenage daughter.  There was even fretting about calling the snippy soup chef ‘The Soup Nazi.’  Really? Are we that fragile now?

I have two answers for the overly sensitive young-ins.

Answer number 1. On almost every Seinfeld episode, when Jerry or any of his pals committed a touchy misdeed, they almost always suffered a consequence.  When George Costanza parked his dad’s car in a handicapped parking space, an angry mob trashed the car to bits. When George got busted for boob peeping he and Jerry lost their sitcom bid with NBC. Even on the series ending episode when the Seinfeld crew laughed at a fat man being mugged, they ended up getting jailed for not helping the guy out. So for every un-PC action the show’s characters did, there was an equal and justified reaction.

Answer number 2 to these delicate wispy millennials can be summed up in three words: GROW A PAIR!

The Seinfeld gang ended up their run on TV doing time in prison thanks to their own social misdeeds.

These days Seinfeld still does the stand-up comedy concerts (I don’t ever see him retiring from that) and his “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” continues to be an entertaining and insightful ride with fellow comics.  I really enjoy seeing when a fellow jokester makes Jerry laugh heartily, just to see what kind of lines get him rolling. 

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is Seinfeld’s current cruise through funny TV.

So happy birthday to the ultimate wordsmith Jerry Seinfeld and here’s to more years of quirky yet on target observations from you and laughs for us.

These days Jerry has less hair but his wit and clever observations remain as strong and sharp as ever.

NEXT WEEK- You Might Be A Lousy Mother If:____________.

Taking a Swim in the Secretarial Pool

Type, type, zing, zing, secretaries hard at work.

It’s Secretary’s Week or as it is now called “Administrative Professional’s Day.”  Are we really that much in need of the new moniker?  For 20 years I worked in radio and now in education. In both careers I witnessed firsthand the multi-faceted load secretaries carry to keep an office operation humming along at peak efficiency.    It’s a tough job that is too often overlooked and under-appreciated.  So in tribute to all the women and men who answer phones, take messages, sign for deliveries, order supplies and keep businesses afloat by covering all the details and issues nobody else seems to be able to, I offer a rundown of my favorite actresses and actors playing fictional secretaries from the movies and television.

Dolly Parton as Doralee Rhodes fended off an inappropriate Dabney Coleman in “9 to 5.”

“9 to 5” is the iconic office movie and Dolly Parton’s role was both funny and poignant in her handling the creepy advances of her boss played by Dabney Coleman.  I especially liked how she threatened to use her gun and turn him from a rooster to a hen with one shot.

Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny flirts with 007.

Smarts, tolerance and smoldering sexuality were part and parcel with the late Lois Maxwell as she portrayed M’s secretary Miss Moneypenny in numerous James Bond movies.  While Moneypenny and 007 were never seen doing the hibbity dibbity, their flirtatious relationship was a fun one to witness.  

Edie McClurg was the school secretary who served Principal Ed Rooney played by Jeffrey Jones.

In real life I’ve seen how many different tasks school secretaries have to handle every weekday. However in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Edie Mc Clurg’s semi-ditzy character of Grace was singularly focused on keeping Principal Ed Rooney on track. And she had a smart place to stash her extra pencils.

The late great Marcia Wallace as medical floor secretary Carol Kessler.

One of the more endearing secretaries from 70’s TV was Carol Kessler on The Bob Newhart Show.  Marcia Wallace played the role with wit, friendly sass and a show of real life honesty that everyday women could identify with. Carol Kessler wasn’t a ball buster but still took no guff from Bob or the other doctors on the floor of their medical building.  When secretary Kessler got married I thought it was sweet how her adoring husband called her “Big Red.”

Loni Anderson sure wasn’t the ‘dumb blonde’ secretary in WKRP in Cincinnati.

Here’s one for the Female Empowerment, on WKRP in Cincinnati the highest paid employee was not any of the disc-jockeys, sales executives or even station owner Arthur ‘Big Guy’ Carlson.  No, it was station secretary, Jennifer Marlowe played by blonde bombshell Loni Anderson.  Like most good secretaries Jennifer had all the answers before there were any questions and deftly warded off any untoward advances with timely humor and smarts.

Nancy Kulp as Jane Hathaway in The Beverly Hillbillies.

The late Nancy Culp played Jane Hathaway who endured the misery of having Milburn Drysdale as her boss on The Beverly Hillbillies.  Her unusual voice and common sense approach to the job made Miss Hathaway a rarity on a show with happily clueless characters.  It often appeared she wanted to jump Jethro Bodine’s bones but that love connection never happened.

Carol Burnett playing the offbeat Mrs. Wiggins to Tim Conway’s Mr. Tudball.

Carol Burnett’s role as Mrs. Wiggins on her variety show may have been a one dimensional dimwit in a tight pencil skirt but she and Mr. Tudball played by Tim Conway cracked me up every time they did a sketch.

Waylon Smithers faithfully serving his boss, Montgomery Burns.

Secretaries don’t have to be women. The Simpsons show us this as loyal Waylon Smithers continues to serve the every whim and wish of Springfield Nuclear plant owner Montgomery Burns.  The gay Smithers voiced by Harry Shearer, would like nothing more than to be Mr. Burns’ lover but I don’t think Burns feels the same way.

Scott Thompson was ‘Brian’ who unluckily worked as Hank Kingsley’s personal assistant.

In the mid 90’s The Larry Sanders Show brought us gay Brian (played by Scott Thompson). Brian served as secretary and personal assistant to Hank Kingsley and proved to be an able replacement for Hank’s previous admin helper, the sexy dimwit Darlene, played by Linda Doucett.

Mad Men’s Secretarial Pool.

Elizabeth Moss as Peggy Olsen on “Mad Men” showed what a struggle it was for a woman to advance in a man’s world, circa early 1960’s.

I saved my favorite secretaries for last.  “Mad Men” brought us Peggy Olsen (played by Elizabeth Moss) who worked her way from mousy secretary to copy writer to major power playing account executive.  Peggy was a glass ceiling buster of the best kind showing loyalty to the company without losing focus on her own career.

Randee Heller played the veteran fill in secretary Ida Blankenship.

There was also elderly Miss Blankenship (played by Randee Heller) who was brought out of retirement’s mothballs to be Don Draper’s temporary secretary.  Years before, Miss Blankenship was boss Bert Cooper’s paramour and in the end she gave her life for the Sterling, Cooper, Draper Pryce Ad Agency.

Saving the best secretary for last, Christina Hendricks played the quietly complex Joan Holloway.

And we wrap things up with my very favorite secretary,  the lovely Joan Holloway played by buxom redhead Christina Hendricks.  Joan was the queen bee secretary and office manager at Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce. She used smarts and sexuality to gradually advance her career. From an on and off again romance with Roger Sterling to sleeping with a Jaguar dealership executive to earn part ownership of the ad agency, Joan knew the balance between giving in to lusting men’s whims and helping herself to what she could get. She was always more in tune with what was happening than anyone else in the room and knew just when and where to use that knowledge.  The show’s leading lothario Don Draper never danced the dirty hula with Joan but had they done so, it would have merited a week’s worth of gossip around the water cooler.

Don Draper and Joan Holloway flirted but never did the deed together.

So to all the secretaries, administrative assistants/professionals out there, thank you for all the hard work you put in and have a great week! 

NEXT WEEK- Honoring the birthday of an American wordsmith.

My World, My Rules…

Putting aside last weekend’s weird snowstorm, the warmer weather is coming to our part of the country.  So with the higher temperatures and longer sunny days come changes in how we dress.  However, there are issues I have regarding the way men and women change their apparel come the spring and summer.  To put it bluntly, I have my own set rules. Without rules there is chaos so here are my directives for the warm months ahead.

As Barney Fife wisely said, “Rule number 1, obey all rules!”

Don’t Paint It Black-

My first rule is actually a year round guideline for women.  Ladies, it is time to ditch the black polish for your fingernail and toenails for good. That color used to be a thing exclusively for those into the Goth look. However now everywhere I go and even on TV I see the fairer sex proudly sporting the black colored nails.  In my world the only people allowed to sport black nail polish are Lily Munster, Morticia Addams, Elvira Mistress of the Dark, Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson. For everyone else I can accept any other color on the palette spectrum, just not black.  Those black nails have a lazy and dirty look to them.  It’s just not right.   And if anyone woman needs more convincing to lose the black paint, do you know who else has black nails?  Dogs, bears and squirrels.  Nuff said.

Ladies, lose the black nail polish for good. It’s unbecoming.

Put some socks on it-

Here’s a warm weather rule for the men.  Wearing loafers or dress shoes without socks is the absolute height of douche-baggery! (Save for so called ‘Man-buns)  All you’re doing is telling the world, “I have 160 dollars to blow on shoes that I can mess up with my hot smelly bare feet.”  Keep in mind women are exempt from this directive because they always walk around sockless in their many pairs of shoes; so they’re grandfathered or grandmothered in.

Men in dress shoes with no socks, the height of douche baggery.

Put a Cap on it

Another message for my fellow men; The day you turn 25 is also the day you have to stop wearing your baseball cap backwards.  You’re no longer some teen little leaguer, paperboy or college fraternity brother. You’re a real adult so keep your baseball cap perched on your coconut the proper way, with the bill of the cap in the front.  Sometimes I see guys with the backward caps and their sunglasses perched on top of their head as they squint into the sun!  Wake up men and wear your cap the correct way. Women are exempt from this cap rule because they look cute no matter how they wear their hats.

Over the age of 25? Then wear your baseball cap with the bill in the front!

Stylish but Clueless Wannabes– 

Often online or in magazines I see photos of famous men and women wearing vintage rock T-shirts of bands and singers who were at their peak of popularity years before these stars were born. Even locally I’ll see some twenty something man or woman walking around in a 1970’s era Aerosmith or Eagles T-shirt. It makes me wonder, what the hell do they know about bands who were happening decades before they were born?  I’m betting they’re wearing that Doors or Led Zeppelin T-shirt because they know it’s the hip and trendy thing to so.  My rule is if you want to buy a vintage rock t-shirt, you must first be able to name at least 5 songs from that group or artist’s music catalog.  And if someone on the street asks you to name those songs and you can’t? Then that shirt gets pulled from your torso and is given to someone more deserving of such vintage wear.

Wanna wear vintage rock T-shirts? You better know your music!

In the news-

With the warmer weather here I’m seeing female TV news anchors (local and national) breaking out their sleeveless tops and dresses. Call me an ‘Old School’ fool but the summery tops these news readers wear just don’t look professional.  The men on camera are always wearing suits and ties or at least shirts and ties.  However, the ladies are allowed to deliver the latest headlines dressed like they’re at the beach or sipping cocktails at a trendy rooftop bar in Manhattan. To be clear, I’m not saying these women should be covered up in ugly polyester blazers with a network logo patch sewn on it. Still if I were a TV news boss I would ban the spaghetti strap and sleeveless tops and dresses for on camera news delivery. We get it girls, you’ve been toning up your guns and shoulders with Sven, your personal trainer at L.A. fitness. Nevertheless, save showing off those toned limbs for your weekend pool parties and summer barbecues.  And as much as I enjoy her work on CNN, Brooke Baldwin, this means you too!

Brooke Baldwin, you’re delivering the day’s headlines, not sunning yourself at the beach. Dress accordingly please.

Cover Up Your Buttercup-

Because they dress appropriately this final rule doesn’t apply to the fine women who frequent my local pool (East End) in Elmhurst. However it does apply to ladies at city beaches and ESPECIALLY celebrities.  Please lose the barely there butt floss bikini bottoms. I’m no prude yet it’s still more enticing to conceal than reveal.  Ninety-nine percent of the world does not want to see ninety-nine percent of your ass.  First off, the ‘Sun’s out buns out’ thongs look super uncomfortable. Second, once you’ve seen one set of cheeks you’re pretty much seen em all.  And third, sporting those thongs is a sign of desperation.  You’re trying too hard, so for the love of my rules, please do a better job of covering up the fleshy guard rails to your turd cutters.    

Here’s actor Cuba Gooding Jr. hanging with a butt-floss bearing woman.

If everyone understood and followed these simple rules, we could all enjoy the warm weather months without me gritting my teeth, shaking my head and mumbling complaints under my breath.  Ithankyouforyourtime.


Making a Scene at the Movies…

Anyone who knows me knows that one of my passions has always been movies. Old ones, new ones, anything on a screen I’m up for checking out.  Growing up, my family instilled this love into me and going to the cinema to see first runs of everything from James Bond flicks to “The Godfather”, “Deliverance” and “The Exorcist” is a memory I’ll always hold dear.  I still love going to the movies and that will never change. So let’s get the cameras rolling along with my current thoughts on the world of film.

Seeing movies is still one of my favorite things to do in my spare time.

SPOILER ALERTS– Plain and simple, movie previews or trailers as they’re now called show too much of a yet to be released feature.  Too often the bulk of the best jokes, sight gags and plot twists of a coming movie are shown in the preview.  Then when we go see the film in its entirety there’s little new or special to see and enjoy. Movies are literally being spoiled with key parts being over exposed. It wasn’t always done this way. The ruining of movies by showing too much in a trailer has been growing over the years.  I was once quoted in Entertainment Weekly’s letters to the editor stating if “The Empire Strikes Back” came out today the preview would spoil the fact that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father.  I know movie companies have to put asses in the theater seats but they’re dumbing down the film experience by spilling out too much of a new flick before we ever see it.  It’s like being shown most of the presents you’ll be getting for Christmas BEFORE Christmas day.  I do like seeing movie previews to get a grasp of things I may want to eventually check out but we’re all being shown too much.    

Too many new movies are being spoiled by over-exposing gags, jokes and plot twists. Movie companies are taking all the fun out of seeing their products.

ANOTHER VOYAGE IS NEEDED– Many old or not even that old of movies get re-made for a new generation who never experienced the original. Off the top of my head “Robocop”, “Flatliners” and “Total Recall” were recently re-done for people who were not alive in the early 90’s.  More often than not the newer versions pale in comparison to their starter counterparts and don’t do well at the box office.

However my longtime friend Jim Turano came up with a movie from way, way back that SHOULD be re-done.  Jim said he’d like to see a new production of 1966’s sci-fi adventure “Fantastic Voyage.”  Remember that movie? A submarine crew is shrunk to microscopic size to travel in a vessel through the body of a scientist to repair brain damage he suffered in an assassination attempt.  “Fantastic Voyage” has not aged well but today’s CGI effects could make that same trip through the human body a really cool experience.  We’ve seen numerous incarnations of King Kong, Godzilla and Spiderman, so why not a journey to the center of the mind with a shrunk down crew of people?

The 60’s Sci-Fi movie “Fantastic Voyage” should be re-made. With all the CGI special effects this could be a Fantastic Visual.

MOVIES & MUSIC – For those who never saw her in “American Horror Story,” last year’s remake of “A Star is Born” proved  Lady Gaga can act. She delivered the goods as newly minted singing star Ally but I have another casting idea for her. I’d like to see Lady Gaga star in a biopic of Wendy O. Williams, the former lead singer of the Plasmatics, a 1980’s punk rock band.  Like Gaga herself, Wendy Williams was an outrageous visual and musical presence. Williams used to appear onstage with just electrical tape covering her nipples and was a wild yet tragic character both on and off the stage.  Lady Gaga as Wendy O. Williams could be a major home run at the movies.    

I could see Lady Gaga paying the lead in a movie about Plasmatics lead singer Wendy O. Williams. Gaga has worn outfits at least this crazy.

Fans like me who love The Who keep wondering when the long talked about story of drummer Keith Moon will make it to the big screen.  Lead singer Roger Daltrey is trying to make it happen and late last year he was still working on finding the right actor to portray his late band mate.  With the success of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Elton John’s story in “Rocket Man’ coming out this May, there’s plenty of market for stories about iconic musicians.

On the country music scene there’s often been talk of a biopic covering the short but vital life of Keith Whitley who died in 1989.  I’d like to see the story made and in turn a whole new generation would be exposed to Whitley’s great voice and music.

What about a film on the life of 1960’s singer Bobby Fuller?  Most of us know Fuller’s hit “I Fought the Law” but his death remains shrouded in the the kind of mystery that could rival that of the fictional Eddie Wilson from the movie “Eddie and the Cruisers.”

Rocker Bobby Fuller had a short life and a weird death befitting a Hollywood movie.

 MUSICAL THEATER-In recent times Broadway has seen massive hits covering the times of famed singers and groups.  From “Dreamgirls” to “Jersey Boys” to the production of Carole King’s career in “Beautiful” these shows are big money makers. Now there’s a production on The Temptations called “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” 

These theater successes makes me think there should be a Broadway tilt done covering the long life and work of Neil Diamond. The so called ‘Jewish Elvis’ has a great story to tell from his songwriting days in Tin Pan Alley to his decades long hit making and worldwide concert performing career.  You could name Neil’s show after one of his albums and songs “Beautiful Noise” or even after his biographical song “Brooklyn Roads.”

Why not a Broadway production featuring the life story and music of Neil Diamond?

I recently caught up to the Spike Lee movie “BlacKkKlansman” which was very well done.  The true story of a black cop going undercover in the early 1970’s to expose the unlawful actions of the KKK is a wild tale.   Away from the core story, one of my favorite scenes was this one which really captured the look, sound and vibe of that time in American culture.

This dance scene from “Blackklansman” really captured the look and feel of the early 70’s.

CLOSING SCENE- Film-goers are still buzzing about “Us”, the latest creepy movie from Jordan Peele. He’s the guy who brought us “Get Out” two years ago and also now has a new incarnation of “The Twilight Zone” on TV.  I liked “Get Out” a little more than this new offering but the young masked boy in “Us” did make my skin crawl anytime he scampered around. If you ever want to see another youngster creep you out on the screen, check out the underrated 2013 film “Stoker.”  Nicole Kidman plays a rueful mother in this tense tale but it is her daughter India played by Mia Wasikowska who will blow your mind and give you the creeps.  

The little boy in “Us” is creepy but another scary youngster was Mia Wasikowski in 2013’s “Stoker.”


How I Spent My ‘Spring Break’…

Being too young for a senior citizen boat cruise and too old for Cabo or South Padre Island, I spent my Spring Break in south central Elmhurst. Refusing to let the results of the Mueller report on Trump or the insanity of the Jussie Smollett story distract me, I occupied the time off doing the following:

Spent one day working on lessons and quizzes for the next two books my reading class will be covering. The kids will be reading Steven King’s novella “The Body” then Lois Lowery’s classic “The Giver.”  When possible, I try to have them read books that were made into movies that I can show them afterwards.

I hung out with lifelong pals to watch NCAA basketball games at Downers Grove’s “Brick House.”  (For sports watching, good beer selections and decent food, this is the place to be)

Watched Cubs and Sox regular season baseball games. (I’m a Sox fan but just want to see good baseball played)

For the first time in over a month I enjoyed a great take-out omelet, pancakes and bacon breakfast from Mr. G’s.

You know the spring is here and summer’s coming when Elmhurst’s Hamburger Heaven opens for business. I got in a lunch there.

The eats at Hamburger Heaven were as good as ever!

TYou Tube is where I usually discover songs I never heard before and during my break I picked up on Matchbox 20’s “She’s So Mean”. (I’m only 7 years late on that one)

Click on here to check out Matchbox 20’s “She’s So Mean.”

Speaking of Matchbox 20, lead singer Rob Thomas’ latest single “One Less Day” (Dying Young) is a damn good one too.

After seeing a CBS Sunday Morning feature on Brandi Carlile I got into more of her music than I knew before. By now many folks know “The Joke” but Brandi has lots of other good music.

I rehearsed my part for this month’s talent show at our school. SPOILER ALERT: My plan is to sing the first verse of “Seven Bridges Road” then roll into the Monkees’ “I’m A Believer.”

I made sure to drop by the Elmhurst Park district to buy my swim pass for the 2019 summer season.  (I’ve retired the banana hammocks but still need to get into better swimsuit shape)

Looking forward to the 2019 swim season at East End Pool. It won’t be long before I’m this tan again.

(While off, I saw two movies- Jordan Peele’s new creepy offering “Us” which I graded out as a ‘B’. Peele’s “Get Out” was a bit better.  Next I saw the chick flick “Gloria Bell” starring Julianne Moore which I felt only deserved a “C.”  The script and characters were weak.

I booked a landscaper at a good price to do some much needed spring cleaning of my yard and trimming the front bushes.

The Powerball lottery lightened my wallet 20 bucks and the fact that I’m back at work tells you I did not win. 

Lastly, I started organizing miscellaneous comments, observations and jokes I’ve written over the past year.  Once tightened up, I’d like to try them out at some comedy club open mike night.  However, to do that I’m going need to grow some nerves of steel.  Good luck on that one, right?

So I kept busy and it was a good break because like anyone else who is on a vacation knows, there was no clock to answer to.  No schedule to be tied to and that in and of itself was the best part of the 9 days. 

I’m back in the classroom, counting the days before s our summer break.

NEXT WEEK’S BLOG– “Making a scene at the movies…”