Friday, October 29, 2010

Rant #364: Boo To You Too

Halloween is coming up this Sunday.

Boy, do I remember the Halloweens of my youth.

Living in a place known as Rochdale Village--with 20 buildings and thousands of apartments--Halloween was more treat than trick for us. We would start at our building, go from floor to floor, apartment to apartment, and have full bags, and then we would move over to the next building, go from apartment to apartment, get full bags ...

Heck, I didn't even eat the candy--I gave it to my sister. It was the fun and thrill of getting candy, mixed with a few pennies thrown in for good measure.

And boy, was it fun.

In those days, you would have the occasional creep who would give you something that could hurt you. I remember my sister got an apple with pins in it. We knew exactly who gave it to her--an old lady--but in those days, you didn't do anything about it. You just threw it out and moved on to the next thing.

It was so much fun.

Until some other types of creeps would mug you in the hallway for your candy.

Yes, this did happen. It took the fun out of Halloween for me, and by the age of 13, I was done trick or treating.

I remember the last year we lived in the development, some girls, after receiving candy from us, threw an apple at our door.

And a very nice splatter it made.

Today, Halloween is much more controlled. Parents walk with their kids, and by and large, only go to houses where they know the family. Thus, we only get a couple of trick or treaters, even though we have lots of candy.

Their loss, I guess.

But also, the holiday has become such a corporate one. Millions of dollars each year are spent on costumes, candy and decorations.

It's just not the same holiday that we had when we were kids. Sure, there were costumes, but we basically winged it, and it was so much more fun.

And I just don't think it is as good a holiday today as we it was when we were kids.

Like I said, we would get the occasional rotten treat, but generally, people were very nice. It was a real kids' holiday, which it isn't anymore.

And that really is a shame, isn't it?

Boo to that!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rant #363: Baseball Card Helps Nuns Fortify Their Habit

It's World Series time. Last night, the Giants trounced the Rangers, and Game 2 goes on as scheduled tonight, unless the weather screws things up.

But today's baseball story is a little bit different. It involves the good fortune of the Baltimore, Md.-based School Sisters of Notre Dame.

Evidently, a nun who passed away in 1999 had a brother who died earlier this year. He left all his possessions to the order, and left a safe deposit box for the nuns to open. When they opened the box, they found a rare T206 Honus Wagner card, one of the rarest baseball cards in existence. Only several are known to exists, and a card in good condition is worth several million dollars.

Although the cards the nuns had is not in as good condition as it could be--it is bent and the borders are cut off--the nuns have put it up for auction, hoping to get between $150,000 and $200,000, which they will use for their ministries around the world.

Thus far, the highest bid is $60,000.

Why is the card so rare? The story goes that Wagner, who played most of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was one of the first entrants to baseball's Hall of Fame, did not smoke, and when he found out that his likeness was put out on a 1 1/4 inch by 2 1/2 inch piece of cardboard as part of a series of cards put out by a cigarette manufacturer, he hit the roof. He ordered the production of the card to stop, and the manufacturer heeded to his wishes.

Thus, only maybe a few hundred of these cards ever hit the market, and about 60 are known to exist today.

The card is nearly 100 years old, and when collectors hear that another one of these cards has been found, they consider it a revelation second only, perhaps, to the coming of the messiah.

This particular card was in possession of the man who died since the 1930s.

So there is your feel-good baseball story of the day, once again solidifying the fact that baseball is our national pastime and nothing even comes close to its popularity.

Have you ever heard of such a brouhaha revolving around a football card?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rant #362: You Bet Your Life

Today is the anniversary of the debut of one of the most beloved game shows of all time.

On October 27, 1947, "You Bet Your Life" debuted on radio. It later moved over to TV, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Hosted--if that's what you want to call what he did--by Groucho Marx, the show brought the wit and wisdom of Groucho to a whole new audience.

The format was pretty simple. Groucho would ask a question about a wide variety of topics, and the two contestants had to answer. Each time they answered, they moved up a notch in the money area. During the run of the series, the value of the questions ranged from $10 to $100. I think it even got higher than that, but I am not sure.

Anyway, contestants could also get the "Secret Word," which was a pre-picked word that, if said, would net them extra money. A duck came down with a crisp $100 bill. One time, Harpo Marx actually came down with the loot.

But all of this was secondary to the quips Groucho made to the contestants and to the audience. George Fenneman, the announcer on the show who became forever linked with the comedian, would come out and say, "Here he is, the one and only ... GROUCHO!", the audience would clap, and Groucho was on from there.

The comedian would ad lib from there, and much of what he said never made the air. Thus, I believe the show was the first game show to go through an editing process, as what the audience saw was much longer than the half hour show that was aired. Groucho would get into amusing banter with pretty contestants, and heavy editing had to be done on these sequences.

But Groucho was the show, and eventually, that was acknowledged, and during the last year or so of its run, it became known as "The Groucho Show."

One story, which has been taken to task by experts and cannot be proven because not all the shows are intact, had Groucho speaking with a contestant who had 11 children. He said to her, "Why do you have 11 children?" and she responded, "Because I love my husband."

Groucho supposedly responded, "Well, I love my cigar, but I take it out of my mouth every once in a while."

The audience supposedly roared, but that repartee was removed from the broadcast and it can't be proven whether it actually happened or not.

The program ran until 1960, but was heavily rerun in the 1970s, and that is when I picked up on it. It was supposedly the first game show ever to be revived in syndication reruns.

Although I always preferred Abbott and Costello and the Three Stooges as far as movie comedy groups, this show cemented Groucho, at least with me, as one of the great comedians. I really was never much of a Marx Brothers fan, but the reruns of this show were the backbone of the Marx Brothers revival in the early to mid 1970s, and since Groucho was still alive then, he became a fixture on talk shows, including "The Tonight Show."

And he was witty, and had a keen eye for the ladies, even then.

There have been a few revivals of the show since Groucho's death, one with Buddy Hackett and the other with Bill Cosby, but they both failed dismally. There was also a pilot with Richard Dawson which I don't believe ever aired.

The show was Groucho, and that is why these efforts failed, even though the talent involved was of a very high level.

There will only be one Groucho, and that's what made "You Bet Your Life" one of the most successful TV game shows in history. It's available on DVD and is well worth a look.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rant #361: Hiccup, Hiccup

I haven't had a bizarre story to report on in a while, which makes this story all the more inviting for its gruesomeness, and also due to who it involved.

About three years ago, Jennifer Mee, then a 16 year old girl, made national headlines when she could not stop hiccuping. Mee's hiccups, at about 50 a minute, could not be stopped by any remedy. She appeared on the "Today" show and met some famous people who learned of her plight and wanted to know that they supported her.

After several weeks of hiccuping, they stopped, all by themselves.

But Mee's life spiral evidently started. She ran away from home twice, and the teenager's mom said the girl had not lived with her in over a year.

In the meantime, Mee has become a felon. She, and two others, have just been charged with first degree murder in the death of Shannon Griffin, a man she met online. Allegedly, she and her accomplices lured the man to a house, robbed him, and then fatally shot him.

Concurrently, her family has sued a hiccup cure company for allegedly using Mee's image for profit without permission.

What a story! I can see a TV movie coming out of this, can't you?

Did the hiccups make her crazy, or did the lack of hiccups drive her insane?

Maybe the hiccups--or lack thereof--had nothing to do with Mee's behavior since she stopped having them, but somehow, this girl moved into a downward spiral that might had led to murder.

Evidently, although she lived with her mother in Florida, she pined to move to Vermont, where her estranged father lives.

We have all had hiccups, and depending on the length of the episode, they can drive you crazy.

But for most of us, the episode lasts a few minutes, and then it is gone.

But for Mee, the episode lasted several weeks. I have heard of others who have had hiccups for months at a time. It does happen.

But what drove the teenager to allegedly commit this heinous act?

Who knows, but she probably won't be able to hiccup this one away as quickly as she got rid of her hiccups, that's for sure.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rant #360: In Mourning

My beloved Yankees' season is over. They lost to the Texas Rangers on Friday in the League Championship Series, and the Rangers will be going to the World Series for the first time and play the San Francisco Giants, a team that hasn't been World Champions since 1954 when they were based in New York.

Although I am not really rooting for them, I would like the Rangers to win. They beat the Yankees, so they get my vote to win the World Series.

Some say that this might be the lowest-rated World Series in history for a variety of factors. First, Texas and San Francisco aren't necessarily huge draws. They really aren't well known to people outside of real baseball fans. They don't have the marquee value that the Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies--the team that the Giants beat--have, and that doesn't bring in the non-baseball fan or casual baseball fan to watch the games.

In addition, there is an infernal standoff between Cablevision and Fox in this part of the country that is preventing many New York metropolitan area people from getting Channel 5, the Fox affiliate, and Channel 9, its sister station. Nobody watches Channel 9 anyway, except for its Yankees games, which won't be on until April, so few miss that channel. But Fox is broadcasting the World Series, and if you knock out the baseball-mad New York market, your ratings will be awful.

But as far as the game itself, it should be an excellent series. Both teams have terrific pitching, so the games should be low-scoring affairs. This might put the casual fan to sleep, but for real baseball fans, this is what it is all about: great pitching and defense, timely hitting, and unlikely heroes.

I pick the Rangers to win in seven games. It should be an exciting seven games, but, like the rest of the Yankees Universe, I won't have the rabid interest in this series as I would if the Yankees made it.

But the Rangers are the better team, just like the Giants are a better team than the Philllies, and both teams deserve to be where they are.

It should be fun.

(As for me, I move on to the NBA season. My son and I are going to three games this season, the first being the Knicks' home opener vs. the Portland Trailblazers on Saturday.

There isn't as much pressure on the Knicks as there was on the Yankees, because the Yankees are expected to win, the Knicks rarely do, or at least rarely do lately. They should improve on their 29-53 record of last year, but maybe by about six games or so.

Maybe I am wrong. I truly hope I am. Let's see what happens.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rant #359: Not Much To Say

In this blog, I have rarely been lost for words.

I am normally a pretty quiet guy, but when it comes to this blog--or the printed page, or anything I have to write out--I go whole hog, letting it all hang out.

But today is one of the few days that I really don't have much to talk about.

I hear that Lindsay Lohan is out of rehab (when will she return? give it a few weeks), singer Katy Perry is getting married (there's that breast obsession again), and today's the 31st anniversary of the U.S. allowing the deposed Shah of Iran to travel to New York for medical treatment, which some say precipitated the Iran hostage crisis.

Ho hum, nothing much to talk about with these items.

In today's birthdays, Jeff Goldblum turned 58, Annette Funicello (who I have absolutely adored since I was a small child) is 68.

Well, except for Annette, there's nothing to write home about on these birthdays. I guess I could have done a rant about Annette, but I guess that due to her illness, I have decided to hold off on that, out of respect.

So what else can I talk about here?

Well, I do have some other blogs that are worth mentioning. If you haven't checked them out, please do.

I have my Colgems blog at I cover the wide range of releases from the old Colgems label, best known as the Monkees' record label during their heyday. I have just one more album to put up and then, I will have posted every Colgems release from 1966-1971, or the years the label was active.

I also have my Picture Sleeves A Go Go! site, at I am trying to post photos of all of my 45 rpm picture sleeves, but I haven't had the time lately to put up anything substantial. But don't give up hope, I certainly haven't.

My allergies have been killing me for about two weeks, my wife has a cold, my son and daughter appear to be fine, and our dog peed on the rug last night.

We had a power failure, and it shorted out my video recorder. Happily, we had an old one, and have hooked this one up.

The other day, in the morning, our kitchen phone appeared to be off the hook. I picked up the receiver, it somehow snapped the cord, and the receiver is cracked and the cord can't be put back in the phone. I need a new phone.

The same day, I was driving to work, and my dummy light for tires came on. I thought that perhaps I went over a nail, so I immediately took it into a local service station, where they told me I needed three tires! $300 down the drain!

The Yankees need to win two more games, in Texas, to get to the World Series. I know they can do it!

Well, that's all I have to talk about. Visit again on Monday and I am sure there will be plenty to talk about!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rant #358: Bob's Gone To the Penthouse

I heard that Bob Guccione, best known as publisher of Penthouse magazine but also of more mainstream fare, has passed away. He was 79.

Penthouse magazine was in its glory days in the 1970s. Like Playboy, it featured nude models, but he showed a bit more skin than Hugh Hefner's magazine dared to show. Later the magazine showed what Hefner's magazine would never show.

Penthouse was started in Europe by Guccione to supplement his art career. He was the magazine's first photographer, and when the magazine finally came to U.S. shores in the late 1960s, it made a bit of a sensation, paving the way for other such more explicit magazines like Hustler.

But the flamboyant Guccione, like Hefner, saw that such a magazine could also have a social tone to it too. It carried plenty to read in between its pictures of naked women, and its "Letters to Penthouse" became a popular feature, which was eventually spun off into its own magazine.

Guccione expanded his empire in the 1970s and 1980s, putting out Omni, a science magazine, and Viva, a sex magazine for women. He also produced films, including one of the all-time porn/art flops, Calligula.

He suffered numerous financial setbacks in the late 1980s and 1990s, and eventually sold off his interest in Penthouse, which is published today by another entity.

One thing that Guccione did was stand up for military servicemembers and their rights. Penthouse had a monthly column devoted to servicemen and women, and when Penthouse was banned from being sold in military stores, Guccione went on the attack.

I interviewed him in the late 1990s, when Penthouse was banned from these stores, and he was pretty forthright in the interview, basically telling me that it was the servicemember's individual right to purchase these magazines at on-base stores if he or she so wanted them.

In fact, Penthouse was huge on military installations, selling upwards of 19 million issues each month. But something called the Military Honor and Decency Act served to ban magazines, videos and anything else deemed inappropriate to sell on military installations.

Guccione lost the battle, but his magazine long outlived this controversy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rant #357: "I Love Boobies" But Some School Districts Bust It Up

Boobs. Knockers. Rack. Bumpers ...

These are just some of the fun words we use to describe a woman's chest.

Mix this type of fun with breast cancer awareness, and what do you get?


Evidently, bracelets produced by, which were designed to boost awareness of this deadly disease among younger children, have run afoul of a few school systems on Long Island, which have banned them due to their wording.

The bracelets evidently were designed for younger people, but the word "boobies" has put some school districts on edge.

There are worse words to use for that part of the female anatomy, and I don't have to go into them here.

As I have discussed before, we are a society that is obsessed with this part of the body, and that includes females as well as males. "Boobs" is sort of a pet name for this part of the body, and it has been part of the language for as long as I can remember.

Heck, how many times was "boobs" used on TV's "The Match Game" in the 1970s? It just wouldn't have been as fun for Charles Nelson Riley to answer a question with the word "breast" or the term "mammary gland."

But some people simply don't want their 10 year olds using that word.

There are other companies and organizations which use a lighter approach to dealing with a sensitive topic. I know that there is one company that designs women's clothing that uses the phrase "Ta Tas" in their name and on their clothing. And yes, they donate part of their proceeds to breast cancer research.

There is no male counterpart to this. No, "little willy" has really not made it into the language, although The Sweet rock band tried to do this in the 1970s with their hit record.

I guess I can understand, to a point, the horror of parents who don't want their little girls referring to this part of their anatomy in such a way.

But I think if you poke fun at something, you might raise the awareness levels of whoever wears these bracelets.

And don't we have worse things to worry about than the use of the word "boobies"?

I breast, err, bet we do.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rant #356: America's Mom Says Goodbye

Barbara Billingsley died over the weekend. She was in her 90s.

To the baby boomer generation, Billingsley was certainly America's mom. Her role of June Cleaver on "Leave It To Beaver" defined what the ideal mother was in the late 1950s: quiet, demure, understanding ... and doing it all wearing pearls.

She was the quintessential mom. Sure it was nothing more than a fantasy, but that role really defined 1950s motherhood, or perhaps defined how it should be in our fantasies.

Everyone who is a mother, or, for that matter, is a father, knows that the June Cleaver character was just that, a character.

No mother, and for that matter, no father, could be as perfect as June and Ward Cleaver.

It's funny, but what made that show as great as it was were the imperfections of its title character, Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver. Next to brother Wally (Tony Dow), Beaver (Jerry Mathers) was imperfect. Wally was the good-looking football hero type, Beaver was the wannabe.

In fact, the reason little Teddy was called Beaver was because Wally, as the story goes, couldn't pronounce Theodore as a young child, and it came out Beaver.

Only on TV, huh?

While Ward was the stern, but understanding, leader of the Cleaver clan, June was its rock-solid foundation. Sure, she rarely became that angry where she would yell, but even without yelling, when Wally and the Beav did things wrong, her glance was enough to make the boys reconsider what they did.

And she did it all wearing pearls.

Ward, played by Hugh Beaumont, was a minister in real life, a religious man who insisted that religious values be the focus of the show, but smartly, he didn't want these values to be smacked on the head of the viewer. He wanted those values to come out in the storylines, and even though they were subtle, the values of brotherhood, understanding, and forgiveness all were discussed in the show's episodes.

These aren't necessarily religious values, per se, but they are values that we all can live by. And the show dealt with those themes and many others during its run.

Looking back, June Cleaver was something of a minor, but highly necessary, character in the show. The kids needed a mom, Ward needed a wife (this was before "My Three Sons" changed the whole sitcom landscape), and the kids needed both of them to present a strong nuclear family.

But Billingsley made her June Cleaver character unforgettable. When people praise the 1950s--or deride it--the June Cleaver character invariably comes up, both positively and negatively.

And that was the strength of the character. Sure, everyone knew she wasn't real, but everyone saw their own mother in her portrayal, or at least what they perhaps wanted their mother to be.

And you can credit Billingsley with that. She knew what she wanted to do with the character, and did it.

R.I.P., Barbara, you enriched our lives forever.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rant #355: Ginger or Mary Ann?

This debate continues to rage on nearly 50 years after it began.

Who do you prefer? The Hollywood glamor of Ginger (Tina Louise) or the down home, girl next door looks of Mary Ann (Dawn Wells)?

Heck, wouldn't you have loved to have been the Professor on "Gilligan's Island" and had this choice to make (of course, he was so preoccupied with getting the castaways off the island, he never had time to notice).

Anyway, Dawn Wells is 72 today. That's right 72 years old.

To put it in perspective, at least for me, she is just seven years younger than my mother.

But back in 1966, as a nine year old, I really pined for her.

She was pretty, had a nice figure, and she was the girl that everyone wanted to bring home to mom.

Of course, I didn't realize these things, being just nine years old, but me and millions of other adolescent boys felt something about her which we really didn't understand. Or really didn't care about at this period in our lives.

But there she was, on one of our favorite shows, parading around in a nice, conservative pair of cut-offs and a shirt tied at the waist.

I mean, remember, this was 1966. Excess skin and cleavage did not exist back then, at least on network TV.

Ginger was pretty, but Mary Ann was the real thing.

So on this day, I salute Mary Ann. She was probably one of my first crushes, and for that, she deserves a lot of credit.

And yes, I salute Dawn Wells too. She was able to pull off her role with perfection, and as Mary Ann, she will live on in reruns and DVDs until the end of time.

Her real life has been filled with some controversy, including cops finding pot in her car. She later proved that the pot wasn't hers, but she does have a mug shot.

But I guess nobody is perfect. Except for Mary Ann, that is.

Happy birthday, Dawn!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rant #354: More Random Thoughts

Again, there is nothing here that deserves a full rant, but still, it's all pretty interesting, isn't it?

Lindsay Lohan Gets Caught On Coke Run: At the Betty Ford Rehab Center, patients are not allowed any caffeinated beverages.

Well, you didn't think that this rule would stop Ms. Lohan, who wouldn't know what a rule was if it stared her in the face. News reports say that she and at least one other patient tried to scale a wall at the clinic so they could get to a nearby vending machine to buy Coca-Cola. Evidently, the clothes of the other person got snagged on the wall, and the duo were caught in their tracks. Her "people" deny this event happened.

Well, at least she wasn't going out to buy cocaine.

34th Anniversary of Yankees' Pennant Winning Home Run: I was at this game on October 14, 1976. It was freezing all the way in the upper deck, but when Chris Chambliss clubbed his ninth inning homer versus the Kansas City Royals, it was one of the greatest moments in Yankees history, and one that I will cherish my entire life.

The place was going so crazy that I actually felt Yankee Stadium shake. My friends and I didn't get home until the early hours of October 15, but it didn't matter, the Yankees won the pennant ...

Only to eventually lose to the "Big Red Machine" Reds in a four game World Series sweep.

I guess you can't have everything go right for you after all.

No More Phone Books?: The Public Service Commission approved a request from Verizon to discontinue automatic delivery of its residential white pages in book form. For now on, if you want the book, you are going to have to ask for it.

This decision won praise from environmentalists, who cited the number of trees it takes to make these huge books and the amount of dollars it costs to discard them.

Well, I hope that when they can't find a phone number by any other means than looking it up that they remember all the trees they've saved.

(By the way, I have had an unlisted phone number for years, so I don't contribute to these problems.)

Yankees Crush Puppy Love Letters: The Yankees have crushed efforts to publish 60-year-old "puppy love" letters between a pretty 16-year-old Ohio girl and a smitten college-age George Steinbrenner, the elderly woman's family said yesterday.

Mary Jane Schriner, 78, had hoped to finally write about her long-ago relationship with Steinbrenner after his death last July, stunning even her own family when she produced 19 letters the future Boss wrote her between 1949 and 1952.

The Yankees refused to give their permission to the publishing of these letters, and copyright law prevents Schriner from publishing them on her own.

My question to Schriner: Would the public even care about this anyway? Steinbrenner was not known as one of the world's great lovers, just the greatest baseball owner of all time. I mean, we're not talking about Warren Beatty here.

Why would anybody care about this, and why wasn't there a thought about publishing them while Steinbrenner was alive?

Mexican TV Reporter to Do Work On Sidelines: A Mexican television reporter who said she felt uncomfortable in the New York Jets locker room last month is returning to work and plans to conduct her interviews anywhere but there.

Ines Sainz of TV Azteca will be back on the job next week and said she suggested to the NFL that, from now on, she talk to players on the field or on the sideline.

Sorry, honey, I don't buy anything having to do with this episode except that players should have treated you like any other reporter when you were speaking with them. I admit that their behavior was pretty childish.

That aside, you have done nothing to make me buy into your story, and you have no credibility. You wear rather skimpy, unprofessional clothing while doing the interviews, you talk about this episode endlessly rather than handle this with dignity, and yes, we know, you have been in Maxim and showed plenty more than you do at football games.

Perhaps if you would have shut up after filing the first complaint, people would side with you. Instead, you never shut up about it. Enough already. Act professionally and you will be treated the same way. You are not the only female reporter in the locker room, and you won't be the last, but your grandstanding is real stale now.

Shut up!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rant #353: Random Thoughts

I have a bunch of random thoughts today, nothing really that could fill up an entire entry, but noteworthy nonetheless.

Chilean Coal Miners Rescued: This is a great story, but let's see what happens now that the miners are out and about. You can bet that lots of offers will come their way, like movie deals, TV appearances, books, etc. And you just know that there will be squabbling between the principles.

This reminds me of what happened to the survivors of a plane wreck in the Andes ... remember, they had to resort to cannibalism to survive. There was that famous book, "Alive," that purported to show their story, and there were at least two movies, but there were murmurs that a lot of what was featured in the book and movie was actually fictional.

Let's hope that these miners don't lost their heads over their new-found fame.

Cliff Richard Turns 70: This is a big thing in most parts of the world, but not in the U.S. Over here, he had a couple of hit records in the 1970s and that was pretty much it.

However, worldwide, and especially in England, Sir Cliff is to the Brits what Elvis is to us. He is their all-time hitmaker, and nobody is even close. His musical resume spans the last 50-plus years, from rock to pop to standards to religious music.

He is one of the few celebrities who have pretty much kept themselves off the gossip pages for years, because he got on them years ago when he said he was celibate. And the rags just left him alone, as opposed to ...

Gavin Rossdale Admits to Gay Fling: Rossdale admits he had a sexual encounter with gender-bender Marilyn years ago, but he is now married to Gwen Stefani. Why anyone cares about this at this juncture is beyond me, but yesterday, the media was ablaze with headlines about this.

Don't you think it's now between him and his wife, and nobody else?

Paladino Loses Rabbi's Support: This was splashed all over the New York papers yesterday. Carl Paladino, who is running for governor of the Empire State, said the other day that kids were being brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality was a good thing, and then he recanted.

Well, one of the Hasidic rabbis who participated in this news conference, and supposedly wrote part of Paladino's speech, is incensed over Paladino's recanting, and has stopped supported the Republican candidate.

Paladino sticks his foot in his mouth every time he opens it. Even some Republicans are distancing themselves from this guy. Personally, I don't know what to think of him, but governing with foot-in-mouth disease leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Yankees to Face Rangers in ALCS: Now we're talking. This should be a great series, and it might even go seven games. I think the Yankees will win out, but the Rangers have a terrific team and I wouldn't overlook them at all.

My prediction: Yankees in seven, and they will go to the World Series against ...

The San Francisco Giants. This will be a matchup of the teams that played in the 1962 World Series, and it will be a good one.

Let's see what happens.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rant #352: So Long

Yesterday, my wife and I attended a funeral.

My wife's longest lasting friend was laid to rest. She had battled cancer for several years, and after a brave struggle, she succumbed over the weekend.

The funeral was held at a cemetery in New Jersey. It was actually a very pretty location, with rolling hills amidst all the headstones and plots.

The service was held at graveside, and the official leading the service was very eloquent in his presentation to those assembled.

He basically said that her death should not be held in vain, that it simply ended a life of resillency that carried over to her son, her daughter, and the love of her life, her granddaughter.

My wife grew up with her friend, and they remained life-long companions, through thick and thin. There were good times and bad times between them, but they remained friends to the end.

My wife said that the last time she spoke with her friend, just a few weeks ago, it was very difficult to talk with her. Due to her treatment, she was going in and out of coherency during the conversation.

I know my wife told her to keep a positive attitude, but there is only so much that a positive attitude can do.

During the graveside service, there were tears, and some laughter. This person, who I honestly barely knew, left a lot of memories for the assembled, and they let it out, as they should.

The woman's legacy is her family, and they are good people. I know they will make their mother, and grandmother, proud of them as they live their own lives.

And for the others, including my wife, there are lots of memories to behold. And I am sure that those memories will last a lifetime.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rant #351: Hope Knicks Eternal

I am a big Yankees fan, which means I pretty much always root for a winner, or at least a team that will compete (for the past 15 years or so, but not during my childhood, when they were terrible).

I am a big Knicks fan, which means I pretty much always root for a loser, or at least a team that will not compete (for the past 10 years or so, but not during my childhood, when they were great).

I took my son and his friend to a preseason open practice at Madison Square Garden yesterday. What it amounted to was a pep rally for a team that nobody really knows.

I believe there are 11 new faces on this team this year, led by All-Star Amare Stoudemire. The rest of the team--16 players currently, which will have to be pared down by four before the season begins--are a mixed bag of draft choices, holdovers, a few players obtained in trades, and players looking to hang on.

This practice, which was open to the public, was a decent effort to bring the Knicks directly to their fans. Tickets were free, but you had to have tickets to get in. About 6,500 tickets were given out, and most of those having tickets actually attended.

We saw various drills, a couple of back and forth scrimmages, and we witnessed pretty much what the team does in a controlled environment without fans in attendance.

It was interesting and boring at the same time. How many times can you see players doing the same drills over and over?

What's more, the low moment of this two-and-a-half-hour showcase was when one of the hosts, former Knick Allan Houston, who is now a team executive, said that fans don't realize how hard it is to be a player, to paraphrase him. No, but do players know how hard it is to be a fan of this moribund franchise? Or better yet, do players know what it is to work a 9-to-5 job? I mean, c'mon, no matter how hard it is to be a player, they can take consolation in the paychecks they get.

My bit of advice: Allan, please don't talk down to the crowd.

Anyway, since I am a hopeless fan of this team, my son and I will be going to three games this season--including opening night on October 30--so you will read more about this team in future rants.

Thank goodness I have the Yankees to root for.

But hope springs eternal, so maybe the Knicks have something to bring to fans this season. Maybe they can endear themselves to these frustrated fans by actually bringing a winning, competing team to New York.

We have suffered long enough. Let the season begin!

(Note: I will not be adding a new rant to this site tomorrow, as I have a funeral to attend. Check back on Wednesday, when a new rant will be in place.)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Rant #350: They Got Their Man

Many months ago I told you about the saga of my doctor, who was picked up for selling drugs to cops working undercover as teenagers to buy prescription drugs from him.

His medical practice was right across the street from the local high school, and he had been pegged by authorities as the distributor of oxycodone, a powerful, addictive drug, to teenagers without prescriptions.

Well, yesterday, the authorities got their man.

My former doctor, Dr. Saji Francis, was sentenced to six months in jail for his indiscretions.

The sorry thing is that he could have gotten two years, which is what prosectors were going for. What's more, under state law, he could have received a maximum five-year sentence.

And as I surmised, he basically plea bargained his deal down to the bare minimum. He supposedly gave up his medical license--which, according to someone I spoke to in Albany, where the state government does business, is not true, since he keeps the "Dr." before his name--the building that he practiced in--which has a "For Sale" shingle in front of it again after months of inactivity--and some other things.

What's more, since he is not a naturalized citizen, he may also be deported back to his native India when his sentence is over.

In a statement the prosecutors read yesterday, one mother described the pain at seeing her son, who she claims rarely took aspirin before visiting with Dr. Francis, become addicted to oxycodone and die of a heart attack at a young age.

Francis was reported to have said to the judge while being sentenced, "I do not make any excuses for my conduct. I apologize to anyone I hurt. I lost everything."

Yes, he did, but this monster could conceivably get out of jail and practice again ... as long as he has that "Dr." in front of his name.

I just don't get it. Maybe I am not understanding what happened, but he supposedly gave up his medical license, which I was told is simply not true.

And yes, I still can't get my medical records from him, and I was told that since he is still a doctor, even if I could get them, he would be able to charge me per page for them--since he is a doctor. And since my medical records go back nearly 40 years ... well, a week's salary probably wouldn't be enough to get them all back.

Now, if this makes sense to you, you are better than me. Heck, even the attorney generals of the state and Nassau County, where I live and where Francis practiced, told me they couldn't help me.

I can't make sense of it; maybe you can.

But at least this guy is off the streets, unable to sell any more of this crap to kids or anyone else.

I am going to be honest with you. I liked Dr. Francis. He had a great personality, and seemed to be a fine doctor.

I personally never had any trouble with him, although myself and my wife did notice some odd tendencies with him from time to time.

There was one point where he basically gave up his practice and went into holistic medicine. When you went there for an appointment, he talked to you more than he did anything else for you.

This went on for a few months, but then I thought he saw the light, and his practice steered away from holistics and got back to the everyday medicine people counted on him to practice.

He was very flighty, talking about golf as much as what ailed you.

But he seemed to have a booming practice. He also had a high rate of elderly patients.

Why he did what he did is beyond me. I guess he became greedy, totally enamored of his own success, and wanted more.

I feel for his family. He has a few young kids. I think of what they will go through for the next six months and probably for the rest of their lives, especially if their father is deported.

We were all let down by this doctor. It took my wife and I several months to find another one.

We are confident that this doctor is A-OK, but I have to tell you, after the experience with Dr. Francis, there will always be some doubt in my mind that about whether my doctor is doing the right thing.

And that really hurts.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rant #349: My Time of Year

This is my time of year.

As the leaves are starting to fall, the baseball season is in full tilt with the annual run to the World Series.

There is no sport more exciting than baseball, especially in the games leading up to the Fall Classic.

The eight best teams in baseball are all vying for the ultimate prize, the World Series Championship, and this year, I think that any one of the eight teams could win it all; there isn't a bad one in the bunch, and they all deserve to be where they are.

The playoffs started yesterday with a bang, as Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay pitched the first post-season no-hitter since Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, leading the Phils over the Reds 4-0.

This was preceded by the Texas Rangers and Cliff Lee topping the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1, and was followed by the New York Yankees defeating the Minnesota Twins 6-4.

Today has a slate of three games: Texas at Tampa Bay, New York at Minnesota, and in the first game of their series, Atlanta at San Francisco.

Anybody who says that baseball is too slow, too boring, and too old fashioned, should watch these games. Every pitch, every play, and every at-bat is important, and with the crowds as loud as ever, you just know that even as we approach the middle of October, this is still baseball season.

Sorry, football lovers and ESPN, in spite of what you think--and in spite of what your brackets tell you--this is baseball season, and will be until the final pitch is thrown in the final World Series game, which might be in early November.

Halladay's triumph yesterday was clearly incredible. He joined the Yankees' Larsen, who defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers with his perfecto, as the only pitchers in baseball history to throw a no-hit, no-run game in the postseason. Again, this feat was not done against some also ran, although that would have been impressive too--this was done against the Reds, one of the top teams--and top hitting teams--in the sport.

Texas has proven that they are a team to be dealt with. They haven't been this far in a season in years, and they are a legitimate contender, as are the Rays, who faltered yesterday but won't do that too consistently.

The Yankees always seem to be one of the teams that could be in the World Series, and they always seem to dominate the Twins, but one game does not make this series a done deal. As a die-hard Yankees fan, I know the Twins are to be reckoned with.

And the Giants and Braves are two very good teams that will duke it out starting today.

What more can I say? The National Pastime is as strong as ever, and even though it doesn't generate as much betting interest as football does, it is our national sport because it is pure sport--no betting, no phony fans just in it to win their brackets, no hangers-on.

Baseball is for real sports fans, and with that being the case, real sports fans really enjoyed the regular season and can now sit back and watch eight finalists vie for the World Series trophy, which the Yankees are defending.

It doesn't get better than this, does it?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rant #348: (I'm Not An) Office Politician

I really hate it when people are thrown into a turmoil that is not their own making while at work. It just makes the workplace stink even more than it normally does.

I have been thrust into a situation which is beyond my repair, because other people put it into such a poor state that there is nothing at all that I can do about it ...

Except be used as a scapegoat.

About two weeks ago, I was told to write a story involving a major company and an organization that helps out soldiers in need.

The problem was that it was tied into an ad in the publication I write for, and had been sitting on someone's desk for six weeks before any action was taken on it.

I contacted several parties having related this story, and initially, I received no response.

The salesperson attached to this story called me to give me what amounted to a pep talk about getting the story into a particular issue, our biggest issue of the year. Having been a professional writer for decades, I didn't need the pep talk, but I let him give it his best shot.

I mean, this is my job, and this is what I do ... do I really need a pep talk?

Finally, I was able to contact one of the parties I was trying to speak with.

This party was as nasty as any I have ever dealt with in my career. Talk about ranting and raving; this party was bordering on being a lunatic, because he felt that this story should have been covered when it was sent out weeks before, not in a time frame--a few days left before our deadline--that he felt was unacceptable.

I contacted the people he wanted me to, got some information from them and him, and wrote the story. It went back and forth to him for his OK, which we eventually received.

In the interim, the salesperson I was dealing with bad-mouthed me to my managing editor, stating that one of my emails to this person I was dealing with--which we are required to send out to all the parties within the company who are involved with the story--was actually condescending, because the salesperson objected to my use of "Dear Sir" instead of "Dear (the person's name). My managing editor stuck up for me, saying this was ridiculous, but I never received an apology from the salesperson.

It gets better. The last time that I spoke to the person I was dealing with, he was as nasty as anybody could be on the phone, blaming everybody involved, from some higher ups here to the salesman, and eventually to me. When he moved on down the blame ladder to me, I tried to get him back on track by saying something to the tune of, "Listen to me. Let's get back to the task at hand," or something akin to that.

And it worked. It got him back on track--I really believe he was going to pull his advertising because of his anger--and I was able to complete my "mission," for lack of a better word.

Well, little did I know that my request would be handled in such an unprofessional manner by my own company. The big boss was in the room when I made this request. He didn't like it, didn't like it at all.

After the issue was done and over with, evidently he called my managing editor into his office, and let him have it! Without speaking to me at all, he took out whatever agita he had about this story--it is widely acknowledged throughout my company that the person I dealt with is "difficult"--and now I am not allowed to do certain stories for our publication.

In the interim, not only did we get praise for the story, but the salesperson who gave me that idiotic "pep talk" congratulated my managing editor for doing such a fine job with the story. Even my managing editor was perplexed by this.

I have been with this publication for nearly 15 years. I don't think I did anything wrong, especially since this guy was getting so off track, blaming everybody here for everything short of the 9/11 terrorist attack.

But I am being used as a scapegoat, which, of course, masks what the real problem with this article was: why did it sit on someone's desk for six weeks without any movement done on it?

And, of course, that question will never be answered, because the higher ups at my place would rather cast blame than get to some real answers about a real problem with this article. It is just so much easier to point a finger at somebody who did what he was told and had nothing to do with the question that needs to be answered.

I am not the first person to have this happen to him here, and I certainly won't be the last. It is their "Modus Operandi" here, and they live and die with it.

Look, I have to take it because this is my job, and I don't want to lose it. There aren't many jobs out there for 53 year old males right now.

But to be belittled ... well, if there was somewhere else that I could go, I would in a hurry.

Going back to my childhood in Queens, I had a teacher in sixth or seventh grade (I don't remember which) whose name, I believe was Mrs. Brandon. She was a proud black woman who had a mix of a southern and New York accent. I remember her as being an excellent teacher.

We were a smart class, and teaching social studies to us must have been a nightmare. We talked, didn't listen, and were pretty unruly at times.

I remember that on more than one occasion, when we were acting up, she would say to us, "You know, I don't need this job, this job needs me."

We kept on acting up, and I never realized what Mrs. Brandon meant until I got older.

As an adult, I know now exactly what she means, and yes, it applies to my job now.

And again, if there was another place to go, I would leave without hesitation.

But, like many of us, I am stuck. Stuck so tight that if I move, I might severely injure myself.

And in this economy, where some are saying the recession is over, I certainly don't want to do that.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rant #347: Jose Jimenez Lives!

Comic Bill Dana turns 86 today.

Dana's career just about spans the history of television. He was a star on the small screen beginning in the 1950s on the Steve Allen Show, and on record, and later, his writing talents came to the fore--he wrote the famous episode of "All in the Family" where Sammy Davis Jr. visits the Bunker household--and that is basically what he is known for today.

However, in a different place and a different time, he was Jose Jimenez.

My name ... Jose Jimenez!

For those of you who have no idea who Jose Jimenez was, or is, since Dana brings still brings him out on occasion, Jimenez was Dana's most famous creation, a Mexican who was enamored with the American way of life, but who was often overwhelmed with what he saw around him. This character had a heart of gold, but often didn't fully get what was happening around him ...

Or did he? And that was the charm of the character, who was often more worldly than you thought he was.

Dana's character was all over TV in the early 1960s, and he scored on a number of records. His most famous was "The Astronaut," which is pretty self explanatory.

However, there was a problem, which forced Dana to put Jose Jimenez in mothballs, only to come out occasionally for the past 45 years or so.

Dana was Jewish, and his character was full of Mexican stereotypes, including his accent, his supposed dimwittedness, and even his look.

Way back in the early 1960s, stereotypes were basically laughed at, except when they turned cruel. Although the Jose Jimenez character was not a cruel caricature--in fact, the character showed a lot of reverence for those immigrating to this country--Dana received lots of barbs from people taking offense to his character.

So, by the late 1960s and early 1970s--when laughing about ethnic stereotypes were perceived as becoming less and less funny by many people--Dana mothballed the character.

But he didn't mothball the idea of laughing at ethnic stereotypes, as the aforementioned "All in the Family" episode demonstrated.

Dana continues to write and to perform today, and while the Jose Jimenez character is pretty much a creation of the 1950s and 1960s, in this politically correct world we live in today, I think that we have much to learn from this supposedly slow-witted character.

We can learn to laugh at ourselves for both our faults as well as our triumphs. And I think that was Dana's point when he created the character.

And what's wrong with that?

I mean, if we can't laugh at ourselves, who can we laugh at?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rant #346: My Little Town

I received a terrific surprise over the weekend. Getting my mail on Saturday, I found a cardboard envelope in my mass of bills and garbage. I opened it up, and lo and behold, the book about my old neighborhood had come to me, about a month and a half early.

"Rochdale Village: Robert Moses, 6,000 Families, and New York City's Great Experiment in Integrated Housing" (Cornell University Press) is the 323-page hardcover book that I, and many of my fellow former Rochdale Village residents, have been waiting to be written for decades. The story of Rochdale really is the story of New York City in the 1960s and early 1970s, and using a broader stroke, it is a microcosm of the history of urban America during that period.

Written by Peter Eisenstadt, who, among other things, is the editor of the Encyclopedia of New York State--and whose brother, Eric, I used to play ball with--this tome takes the reader from the earliest proposals for such a massive development--20 buildings of 13 floors each, at the time, the largest cooperative housing development in the world--to all the trials and tribulations of its construction, its population, and how it changed the urban landscape.

My family was one of the 6,000 families that lived there, and in our seven years there, we personally went from thinking that this place was something of a Garden of Eden to our belief that we were in a living hell there, and everything in between.

Rochdale Village--named after the first cooperative development in England--was an experiment in urban living that might never be duplicated ever again. It was designed to provide affordable housing to middle income families, and it was the largest experiment in integrated housing in New York City--and maybe even the entire country--in the 1960s.

Built on the site of the old Jamaica Racetrack, it was a development that was plunked right in the middle of one of the most famous minority areas in the United States, with the idea that blacks--as well as whites--would live together in such a development, with whites having the largest portion of the population. Add to that test tube that a majority of the whites were from an oppressed minority themselves--a high proportion of the population was Jewish--and you get a mix that was both energetic and volatile.

The site was a virtual city within a city. Not only were the streets interconnected so that you never had to cross a street to get to any one of the sites in the development, but it had its own shopping areas--two malls--and its own power plant. During the 1965 Blackout, it was one of the few areas with even a scant amount of electrical power.

The experiment worked beyond the creators' wildest dreams in the mid-1960s. Blacks and whites did live together in harmony within the development. However, those living outside the development were never comfortable with such a massive project in their neighborhood, and due to a number of factors, there were problems between the insiders and the outsiders from about Day One of the project.

Not getting the project off on the right foot was that early on, minority laborers and construction people were not allowed to work on the project, which got the goat of the surrounding community. There were many other confrontations, but what some--including myself--thought was the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back" happened in 1968.

With the schools starting to move in a downward spiral due to a number of factors, including an extremely bitter school strike, another major blow to the experiment was the assassination of Martin Luther King. This unfortunate incident led to much malice between those inside the community and those on the outside, and the "white flight" of the late 1960s and early 1970s was a result, at least in part, of this and many other incidents that galvanized around the death of the civil rights leader and how that impacted the Rochdale Village envionment.

Today, Rochdale Village continues to stand, with an almost entirely black population.

I am simplifying the whys and wherefores of this community, but I can tell you that for the Baby Boomer kids like myself who grew up there, we truly lived in a Nirvana. As a little kids, there seemed to be a million of us who lived in the development (really thousands), and you didn't have one friend, you had many, many friends--black, white, Jew, non-Jew.

I lived there from the age of seven to 14, and I can tell you that the racial aspect only reared its head during our last years there, and certainly after King died.

Nobody cared about race--we just wanted enough kids to play punchball or touch football.

But when King died, everything changed. It just wasn't the same place anymore. It was if the heart and soul of the community died with King.

The amazing thing is that 40 years after I left there--and most of my fellow baby boomers left there too--there is an extremely active social community revolving around our old neighborhood, and I am proud to count myself as part of this.

It started out on something called Delphi Forums and moved over to Facebook, but lots of former kids that I grew up with--we're all in our fifties, many of us have our own kids, and some of us are grandparents--regularly speak to each other about the old neighborhood as well as a variety of other subjects.

It is truly amazing, and one of my personal most amazing events revolving around this social networking was held this summer, when I had a whole bunch of people I hadn't seen in decades over to my house for a barbecue, one of the numerous events this group has had over the past 15 years or so. It was so much fun seeing my old friends and acquaintances--it's as if we never left the old neighborhood.

Was Rochdale Village a success or failure? The jury is still out on this, but Eistenstadt's book crystallizes the events and circumstances that will allow the reader to reach a conclusion himself.

The book is fully footnoted, and I am proud to say that I am quoted several times in the book and my name is in the book's extensive index.

It is a wonderful, insightful read, and anyone interested in urban culture will be interested in this book.

And I am proud to have been a part of both Rochdale--the greatest place for a kid to have grown up in--and this book.

It is a legacy that I--and countless other fellow Rochdale Village baby boomers--don't take lightly.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rant #345: Rest In Peace, Bernie

Now, back to Tony Curtis ...

Tony Curtis was an icon in the 1950s. For me, a kid born in 1957, when I look back at the decade where I made my debut, there are some iconic figures from that era that literally are the 1950s. Like other decades, they could not have existed in any other 10-year period.

The list includes Marlon Brando, James Dean, Victor Mature, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Rock Hudson ...

And one Bernard Schwartz, from the Bronx.

Young Bernie was taunted about being Jewish, and the legend has it that one of the only places that he could find refuge from these attacks was the local movie theater. Continuing the legend, when he saw screen icons like Cary Grant doing their thing, he decided that he wanted to do it too, and become a movie star himself.

And by the 1950s, this well-chiseled, incredibly good-looking hunk had made the big time.

He starred in a number of high-profile, often controversial films during the 1950s, including "The Defiant Ones," where he earned his only Oscar nomination, "Operation Petticoat," and in his most famous role, as the guy who had to cross-dress to become a member of the band to get close to Monroe in "Some Like It Hot."

He was married to one of the screen's great beauties (and great bodies) at the time, Janet Leigh, and he became a dad during this period, fathering Kelly Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis, the latter kid later becoming quite a big movie star herself.

In the early 1960s, he starred in a number of standouts, especially "Spartacus," but to me, his greatest starring role was as Stony Curtis on "The Flintstones," where he did a parody of himself. This performance still stands up all these years later.

As he got older, good roles came few and far between, although he did star in "The Boston Strangler" and gave maybe his best performance in that film.

But the 1950s icon fell to 1960s vices--wine, women, song, drinking, drugs--and he never returned to prominence on the big screen.

But he was a holdover from another time period, the last surviving member of that group I mentioned earlier.

R.I.P., Bernie, you've earned it.

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