Richard Speck is Dead! (Burp!)

Here is an excerpt from my memoir “Raised on the Radio” which will be released in the spring of 2019.

This story takes place when I was the Executive Producer for the Murphy in the Morning Show at WKQX FM, Q-101.  Lots of fun things happened with Murf and this is just one example of that.

(Robert Murphy, the host and overseer of on-air boozing)

In early December of 1991, our program director Bill Gamble suggested the Murphy in the Morning Show do a “Drink and Drive” public safety bit on the air.  It’s a standard radio thing where one or two show members drink alcohol all morning live on the air and keep getting measured for their blood alcohol content with a breathalyzer device.  It’s part stunt and part public service.

I called the Illinois State police and arranged for a uniformed trooper to come to the radio station with a breathalyzer machine. Promotions hired a bartender to mix the drinks from a portable bar cart that was set up in the studio.  It was agreed that Danger Dan Walker and newsman Dave Mc Bride would do the boozing, keeping track of how much  alcohol they downed. Murf would stay cocktail free to keep the radio ship from running into the rocks and shallows.  Eleanor Mondale was noncommittal on whether she’d be drinking.

The day before this drinking show, Gamble told Mc Bride and I that if some serious story like a plane crash or a deadly mudslide crossed the newswires, I was to take over the reading of the news.  We didn’t need a normally straight arrow newsman, half in the bag and slurring through information on a fire at a nursery school.  A sober person would need to handle that kind of news.

(Day Drinking commences. L-R Robert Murphy, Eleanor Mondale and Danger Dan Walker)

So on the morning of the cocktail consuming, Dave McBride started with an Old Fashioned, Dan Walker had some Gin or Vodka concoction and Eleanor was drinking lemonade.  As Dave and Dan kept downing drinks, the state trooper measured their blood alcohol levels on the breathalyzer. He also answered Murphy’s questions on the testing procedure.

(Did Q-101 Newsman Dave McBride down too many ‘Old Fashioned’ cocktails?)

About halfway through the show Dave spotted breaking news that famed spree killer Richard Speck just died of a heart attack in Illinois’ Stateville Prison.  Back in 1966, during one horrific night Speck killed eight student nurses in a Chicago apartment. He spared one woman who hid under a bed and it was speculated he lost count of how many people were in the apartment.  Richard Speck was sentenced to death but that eventually got reduced to life in prison.

(Spree killer Richard Speck at the time of his arrest in 1966)

Dave McBride was pretty buzzed and wanted me to handle the news on Speck’s death.  “Why?” I asked.  Dave noted because this is what Bill Gamble said about serious news, that a sober person should read the bulletin.  I laughed and said everyone is going to be thrilled that Speck’s dead!  Outside of mass murderer John Wayne Gacy, he’s the most hated man in Illinois. I told Dave not to worry about it and have fun delivering the news on the dead killer.

So on his next newscast Dave McBride, sounding quite wobbly, reported “Richard Speck is dead.  (Pause) And I’m feeling pretty good about that!”  The whole show busted out laughing. He shared some of the details but we were all lost in the delivery of this story.  The next newscast Dave reported “Richard Speck died today.” Then clinking the ice in his glass by the microphone he said, “That calls for another!” Another round of loud laughs followed.  I think his last comment on the Speck death was, “Anyone feel bad about this? Because I don’t!” More belly laughs were heard.  This was classic Dave McBride.  The booze loosened him up enough to take a heinous dead criminal story and make it something hilarious.

(Even co-host Eleanor Mondale was asked to blow into the breathalyzer)

Near the end of the show after tallying up the cocktails, Mc Bride and Danger Dan Walker were found to be legally drunk. They easily blew past .10 on the breathalyzer which at the time was the legal limit for blood alcohol content while driving.  Also, our bartender covertly slipped vodka in the lemonades Eleanor drank and she crossed the .10 line without realizing it.  Dave and Eleanor both lived in the city so they took cab rides home after that show.  Danger Dan was driven home by engineer Captain Jim but not before throwing up in Jim’s car.

(Still buzzed after the show. L-R Dave Mc Bride, Danger Dan Walker and our friendly Illinois State Trooper who deemed both of these guys to drunk to drive)

Ever since that drunken morning show, anytime I hear news of a famous killer dying in prison, like when Charles Manson took the dirt nap, I think of Dave McBride’s comments on Richard Speck and say, “And I’m feeling pretty good about that!”

 

Coping With The Holidays After A Loved One Passes Away

As my Thanksgiving vacation from school began Friday afternoon 11/16 the first thing I did was go to the wake of a co-worker’s father.  The next afternoon I attended the touching memorial service and reception for the wife of a longtime friend.   Neither passing was unexpected but that doesn’t take away the pain the surviving family members are experiencing.

One thought that ran through my mind was how these losses of life took place right at the start of the holiday season.  I experienced this same sad timing four years ago when my sister Marianne died two weeks before Thanksgiving. Two years before, it was my Aunt Lois who passed and three other people I personally knew also died in mid to late November.

As anyone who’s experienced the deaths of loved ones knows, the first year of every milestone/marker is especially tough to handle.  Be it birthdays, anniversaries and cherished dates of note, there are adjustments and a ‘new normal’ to cope with.

Believe it or not,  25 years ago the movie “Schindler’s List” was part of my coping with the loss of my father.  My dad was diagnosed with terminal metastatic lung cancer in late May of 1993 and he passed away peacefully surrounded by his family three months later.

Two months after that, my sister Marianne, her husband Jack and their two kids moved to Albuquerque New Mexico when Jack accepted a work transfer from the post office.  This meant for the upcoming holidays it was just going to be me and my mother and no other family around.  We had relatives in Arizona and Ohio but here in Illinois, we were on our own.  And we had no desire to travel anywhere.

Thanksgiving for us was low key and we moved on to buy and mail gifts to Marianne’s family in preparation for Christmas.  My mom and I got presents for each other but made no special plans for the Christmas holiday.  We were stuck on what to do.

Finally we came up with the idea to go out on Christmas Eve to the Water Tower Place movie theater to see you guessed it, “Schindler’s List.”  The movie was not playing in the suburbs and I reserved our tickets by phone.  So on the night before the world marked the birth of Jesus, my mom and I sat in a sold-out theater watching the stark and depressing film that depicted Jews in concentration camps trying to survive the holocaust.  Looking back, I bet at this Christmas Eve screening my mom and I were probably the only gentiles in the place.

Not exactly a ‘get in the holiday spirit movie’ we spent Christmas Eve watching “Schindler’s List.”

Next on Christmas morning, my mom and I planned to visit our family’s cemetery plot and decorate the graves of my father and his father.  We drove out early to Mt. Greenwood cemetery.  This would also be the first time we’d see my dad’s tombstone in person as it had been installed just a few weeks before.  A light snow covered all the markers and we brought a broom to locate my dad’s last resting place.  I found his stone marker with the first sweep of the broom and my mom and I burst into tears.  My dad had been gone for four months but seeing his gravestone like that drove home the permanence of his passing that much harder.   It was an awful experience on what is supposed to be a joyous holiday.

After dusting off the snow, we posted up wreaths & trimmings on our family plot.  Some prayers were said then we walked back to my car and made the thirty minute trek home.   Keep in mind my mom and I had yet to open any presents or make any Christmas greeting phone calls to family members.  It was ten o’clock in the morning and both of us were already physically and emotionally drained.  And yet, there was STILL Christmas to celebrate.  Ugh.

Spending Christmas morning at Mt. Greenwood Cemetery wasn’t the brightest idea I ever had.

Somehow my mom and I soldiered on through the rest of the day. We made the phone calls, opened gifts and had a nice meal of chicken and vegetable trimmings.  That year we learned how nobody makes up the rules or guidelines on how to handle those first holidays without loved ones.  You do what you do and learn what works and what doesn’t. That first set of holidays without my dad was gut wrenching but they got better after that.  In fact, the next year my mom and I spent a wonderful Christmas in Ohio visiting her sister, father and my cousin Linda.

My mother passed away very suddenly in October of 2009 but for all our Christmases from 1995 on we always spent part of that day seeing a new movie in a local theater.  I still go out and see a  new film every Christmas day. One year the flick I caught was “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The crazy scenes of drug use and debauchery in it weren’t exactly in the spirit of the holidays.   This year’s Christmas day movie choice will probably be the Dick Cheney biopic ‘Vice.”

Anyway, to show how things can come full circle, I noticed that in early December “Schindler’s List” is coming back to movie theaters to mark the 25th anniversary of its initial release.  It was and always will be director Steven Spielberg’s greatest cinematic achievement and I’m going to watch it. But this time I’ll see it BEFORE Christmas Eve.

This blog is dedicated to all the loved ones who are no longer with us.  We miss them all the time and especially at the holidays. 

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.