Friday, September 30, 2011

Rant #591: So Long, For Now

For the first time in my life, I am going to be taking a fall vacation with my family.

It just worked out this year that we could take two vacations a few weeks apart from each other.

And this one is going to be a cruise, the first for my family and I.

There have been a couple of problems with this.

First, making sure that my wife and I could get off from our respective works to take this cruise at this time.

That went OK. Actually, I was surprised that my work agreed to this, being that I already took over in July and early August.

Second, the last full day of the cruise comes on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, when Jews are supposed to fast for a 24-hour period.

I have fasted on this day since I was 12 years old, and even did it for shorter stretches before that.

Call me a heathen, but I won't be fasting this year, or at least I won't be fasting on Yom Kippur. I just can't do that when we are on a cruise. I personally don't think God will excommunicate me from the religion if I don't fast on that day. I will do it on another day.

Third, and even more important, we are taking my son out of school for a week.

This was the big consternation with this whole thing. We didn't want to take our son out of school, but honestly, the we could not leave him home for this trip. He is a teenager, but a very young teenager. We don't need a "Home Alone" situation when we are away.

He has plenty of schoolwork to do--his teachers were notified about his impending absence--but the school does not take kindly to such a situation.

I received an email yesterday telling me that these absences will be un-excused, because they do not fit the criteria they use to define an excused absence. And the email came from the school's principal.

This put the whole trip on a bit of shaky ground. We are still going, but what exactly does an "unexcused absence" mean to the student? Again, he has plenty of work to bring along with him so he won't fall far behind the other kids. In fact, one teacher gave him work related to the trip and our time on the ship.

I will call the school a little later to find out, but there might not be anyone there, as our school district is still off for Rosh Hashanah.

Otherwise, what can I say? My wife and I are pretty upset, but what can we do? We can't cancel the trip or our son's ticket at this late date, but we have vowed never to take another vacation with him during the fall.

So on we go, to Florida, Jamaica and other points.

Please wish us well.

Right now, my wife and I have agita. We really do.

(Also, I will be back at this blog during the week of Oct. 10. See you then, and until then, feast your eyes on Annette and her friend. They look great even in black and white.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rant #590: Rock and Roll Hall of Shame

Let's get one thing out of the way right away: Michael Jackson's bizarre behavior killed him, and although Dr. Conrad Murray certainly fed into this behavior by giving the pop star certain drugs to help him sleep, he simply did what he was told to do and was paid to do.

Jackson is guilty of his own death because he insisted on being sedated beyond normal precautions. Trying to pin this all on Murray is like saying former President Bill Clinton didn't have a sexual relationship with an intern while in office because he didn't consider what he did sexual.


Now that that is out of the way, let's look at this year's nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Well, maybe let's not.

Oh, what the heck, let's give it a go: Guns N' Roses; the Beastie Boys; the Red Hot Chili Peppers; Joan Jett and the Blackhearts; Eric B. and Rakim; the Cure; Donovan; Heart; Freddie King; Laura Nyro; Rufus with Chaka Khan; the Small Faces/Faces; the Spinners; Donna Summer; and War.


This has to be the worst slate of nominees ever in the history of the supposedly hallowed HoF, which is constantly soiled by Jann Wenner's penchant for picking those he likes rather than those who deserve to get in.

Certainly, some of these acts have merit for inclusion in the HoF. I would say that the Red Hot Chili Peppers should go in because they fused funk with rock and roll in a way that even the now homeless Sly Stone couldn't even have imagined when he laid the groundwork for this to happen 20 years earlier. Donovan should go in, because his body of work shows that he was far beyond "the British Dylan," mixing folk and psychedelia better than anyone. Heart should certainly go in, as they paved the way for female rockers from the 1970s on.

Laura Nyro's fusing of rock, pop, soul and Broadway has certainly never been even approached. And yes, the Spinners were the last of the line of top-flight Motown-style acts like the Temptations and the Four Tops, even though they had their biggest hits on the Atlantic label (they did start out at Motown though, and their earliest hits were there).

But Eric B. and Rakim? Joan Jett and the Blackhearts? Guns N' Roses?

C'mon, the HoF should be able to do better than that.

Not that I, personally, thought they would gain a nomination, but the Monkees--and at least Michael Nesmith, if not the whole group--should get in. They fit the criteria of being influential. Musicians like Tom Petty and David Byrne have cited them as influences, and no less than Brian Wilson has said they belong in the HoF.

And their high profile reunion tour--well, three of them--this year certainly put them back on the map.

But nothing.

Another act that should have at least been nominated is Paul Revere and the Raiders. They are the "missing" link from late 1950s rock and roll to early 1970s rock, and they were highly influential. You just know that Van Halen was watching these guys on TV when they were growing up.

There are others who deserve nomination, but the current slate simply misses the point entirely.

Eric B. and Rakim?

What is that all about?

We go through this every year. The polls say who should be nominated--this year, Goldmine magazine listed the Monkees as the people's top choice--and then we get dreck like this.

To knowing rock and roll fans, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is little more than a joke.

However, the joke isn't funny anymore, and hasn't really been funny since the Dave Clark Five fiasco of a few years back.

I would tell Wenner to lighten up, and listen to the people, because rock and roll is the people's music, not just his.

Would he listen?

Probably not.

But once again I will say this ...

Eric B. and Rakim.

Case closed.

By the way, I am taking tomorrow off for the beginning of the Jewish High Holy days. This commences with Rosh Hashanah, which comes tonight at sundown. The holiday lasts two full days, and leads up to Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, which comes next weekend.

So there will be no talk of Michael Jackson and no talk of rock and roll tonight at my dinner table, just a look back at the past year, and whether we have lived up to God's belief in us.

I hope my family and I have done so.

I really do.

Speak to you on Friday.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rant #589: The (Tortilla) Chips Are Down, But Will Never Be Out

As the Red Sox sink to further depths in the East, let us take some time out of our busy day to reflect on someone who changed many of our lives ... but we wouldn't know who this person was if we walked right into him in the middle of the street.

Arch West was a snack food executive who pretty much stumbled upon an idea that changed history, and it all happened when he was on a family vacation in California.

He ate out at a Mexican restaurant, and was intrigued by fried tortilla chips that were served with a meal.

With his businessman's sense, he thought that these could go over big with his employer and with snack food fans everywhere.

And he was right on both counts.

His employer happened to be Frito-Lay, the major snack food manufacturer, and the product that he thought up was Doritos, the first nationally sold tortilla chip.

There have been many copy-cat and similar items since its debut in the mid-1960s, but Doritos is the real thing, and it has become one of Frito-Lay's top-selling snacks over the years.

And it pre-dated the Mexican food phenomenon that is seen in just about everything we consume, and the idea for a nationally distributed tortilla chip even pre-dates the overriding success of the Taco Bell chain and probably every other Mexican food chain that have become as American as apple pie over the last two or three decades.

There really isn't much more to the story.

West lived to the ripe old age of 97, and he passed away a few days ago.

But his creation will live on well past his life, and probably the lives of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

On my end, Doritos are addicting. Like they used to say about Lay's Potato Chips, you can't eat just one.

There are many variations of the original now, but I like the original. It is the best of the entire line, although its other line mates are intriguing.

So there you have it. Here's another unknown name, but a guy who had a bit of ingenuity, and one whose legacy will be everlasting ...

All because of a tortilla chip.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rant #588: "Lion" Continues to Roar

This is a kind of dead season for movies.

We are in the middle of all of the summer blockbusters and the holiday super movies, so the fall is like a dumping ground for a lot of trash that couldn't compete at the box office at any other time.

That's one reason you see movies like "Killer Elite" and "Contagion" in movie theaters now. Do you really think that if there was anything good out there that people would even consider seeing this type of trash?

That is also the reason why "The Lion King" is doing so well right now.

This 1994 movie was a box-office blockbuster when it was originally released in 1994. Hand-drawn, it is the largest grossing film of its kind in history, and came out just before computer animation virtually wiped the old fashioned cartoon movies off the map.

It is lush, it is beautiful to look at, and it is a classic in film making of any kind.

Using bits of the Bible and Hamlet as its influences, the film shows the conflict between Simba and Scar as to who will be the eventual leader of the lions. It is a great film for all ages, features nice music, and the vocal talents of a great assemblage of Hollywood and Broadway types, including Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane and Whoopi Goldberg.

Of course, the film wasn't re-released without a catch. It is now being shown in 3D, the bane of my movie-going existence.

Why? Well, you have to pay more to see 3D films--you pay for a ticket and the glasses--so the box office returns are truly not related to ticket sales, and are pretty artificial.

For instance, this past weekend, "The Lion King" reigned supreme at the box office, taking in $22.1 million, nudging the Brad Pitt baseball movie, "Moneyball," out of the top spot by about $1.5 million.

But it is safe to say that "Moneyball" sold more tickets, because it is not a 3D movie, and, thus, is about $5 cheaper to see per ticket than "The Lion King."

Hollywood gets my goat. Not only do they charge you extra for the 3D glasses, but we have all seen that tub that asks you to return the glasses after seeing the movie. So all you are paying for is a rental of the glasses.

Sorry, I take mine home, even if I never use them again.

I will bet lots of parents took their young children to see this movie. I mean, what else is there for them to see?

"Dolphin Tale," the story of a sick dolphin who gets a fake tale fin, was the No. 3 film in the country, but it got horrid reviews. I guess lots of parents took their kids to see this movie after seeing "The Lion King" the week before.

And yes, it is also in 3D, inflating its sales figure of $20.3 million.

Other than that, there isn't anything out there for families to see, lots of trash before the big movies for the holidays hit the screen.

Me, I stayed home and watched the Yankees this weekend. There's nothing better than staying home and watching baseball than wasting money to see garbage.

And it's not in 3D.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rant #587: Happy Birthday To You All

On some days, the people who are celebrating birthdays is kind of staggering, on other days, kind of interesting.

Today, the list of people celebrating birthdays is kind of interesting.

At the top of the list is Mickey Rooney. Rooney is certainly the last of his kind. He could act, sing, act, dance and do just about anything he wanted to do.

He was perhaps the biggest star Hollywood had in the mid to late 1930s. He made a number of "for the time"-type movies and while his stardom faded over time, he can be called a survivor.

In fact, my favorite movie of his came in the early 1960s: "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," one of the funniest movies ever made.

Amidst all the cameos featured in the movie, Rooney was one of the film's true stars. He played Dingy Bell, who along with Benjy Benjamin (Buddy Hackett), are two friends on their way to Las Vegas. Of course, their course gets interrupted by pure greed, and the rest is film history.

Rooney has been ill in recent years, but I wouldn't count this now 91-year-old out just yet.

Paul Petersen was one of the first teenybopper stars generated by television. His turn on "The Donna Reed Show" as Jeff Stone made him into both a TV and recording star, and he teamed with Shelley Fabares as really the archetype for all the teen idols that followed them.

After the run of the show, Petersen, by his own admittance, fell on some hard times, but he has bounced back, representing other former child stars who haven't been able to come to grips with adulthood.

He has far outlasted the teen idol monicker, and has done so with a lot of grace and dignity as he turns 66 today.

Next we have Bruce Springsteen.

No, I have never been a fan of his, have never jumped on his rock 'n roll bandwagon, but I understand his importance in the history of that musical genre.

This Jersey boy, who turns 62 today, stands as the beacon of light for a dying music. He puts out an album every year or so, tours endlessly, and people absolutely swear by him.

He apparently doesn't have a phony bone in his body. What you see is what you get, which is rare among pop entertainers today.

Another singer I have never gotten into is Julio Iglesias, who turns 68 today.

Some people believe that he is one of the sexiest men alive. I don't know about that, but his love songs--in English, Spanish and other languages--have captivated many from around the world.

Finally, we have Mary Kay Place, a performer whose popularity came in the 1970s.

Turning 64 today, Place was on "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," one of the revelations of the mid 1970s. This send up of soap operas hit a chord with the public, and while she has been busy since, this actress' career has been defined by her participation in that venture.

Sure, there are others who celebrate their birthday today, but this group stands out by itself as an eclectic group of people who made it during their lives.

Love 'em or hate 'em, when you hear their names, they do conjure up clear images in your mind.

And isn't that their true legacy?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rant #586: Fiddler on the Roof/Fool on the Hill

It is funny how things that oftentimes run parallel to each other can occasionally run right into each other, and one of these odd occurrences happens this week.

Today is the 47th anniversary of the debut of the classic musical "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway. This show, based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem, was the first Broadway show to pass 3,000 performances in its original run with Zero Mostel as Tevye. It has delighted audiences of all races, religions and creeds during its many incarnations, and it spawned a successful movie, soundtrack and other adaptations and revivals.

Broadway is in New York, of course, and so is the United Nations. This week, tomorrow, the Palestinians will formally ask the U.N. to grant it statehood. The U.S. has vowed that it will veto any move in this direction, and President Obama has said that the road to statehood for the Palestinians is through negotiation with their neighbor, Israel. Israel agrees to negotiate for peace, but the Palestinians want statehood now without any participation in the peace process with its neighbor.

How odd that these two events should run head on!

Fiddler on the Roof--a musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein-- is set in Tsarist Russia in 1905. The story centers on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his family and Jewish religious traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives. His three older daughters are perhaps the earliest incarnations of the modern woman, as each is strong willed and hell bent on making their own decisions in life. Each one's choice of husband moves further away from the customs of his faith. All the while, Jews are not thought of as full citizens in Russia, and the Tsar serves to kick them out of their village.

Israel and its neighbors have been in conflict since the formation of the Jewish state in 1948, and have actually been in conflict for centuries. Through various wars and other conflicts both big and small, Israel has not only fought off its attackers, but solidified itself as one of the strongest countries in the world, with armed forces that are the envy of many countries. Built on pretty much barren land, the Israelis used their knowledge to make this land truly one of plenty, even as they have been at odds with their neighbors, who have tried to annihilate them. The Palestinians are a people that no country in the Middle East have wanted to call their own, and they live in constant turmoil with the Israelis.

So we have both an old view of the Jews, years before Israel was formed, running into the current situation, where Israel has yet another Arab enemy to contend with.

Many believe the Palestinians are an oppressed people; others look at them as terrorists. They want statehood, but have never formally recognized the state of Israel.

The Jews know about oppression, the Palestinians proclaim that they are oppressed. Israel allows Palestinians to work and live in its environs and counts them as among its citizens; the Palestinians rue the day that Israel was created.

What do you do?

Look to Tevye for guidance, that's what you do.

The Palestinians should look to this fictional character for guidance. I know it's simplistic, but it is what it is.

Tevye constantly asks God for guidance, whether it is for killing a goat or related to the whims of his daughters.

And God seems to always have an answer for Tevye, which he voices through song: "If I Were a Rich Man," "To Life," etc.

Tevye believes that God has asked him for patience, to understand each situation as it comes to him, and to look at both sides of the equation.

And when his daughters want to get married to men who he believes are not right for his daughters, God asks Tevye, again, for patience, for understanding both sides of the situation, and for his eventual blessing.

So should the Palestinians. If they want statehood, then they must sit down at the negotiating table. They must recognize Israel, basically giving the Jewish state their blessing.

Like Tevye, they don't have to like it, but for the good of his family--and in the Palestinian's neck of the woods, for the good of the Middle East--they should just accept it.

Again, I know that is simplistic, but perhaps simplicity is needed to solve this age-old conflict.

Because without some type of compromise, Israel has no reason to negotiate with the Palestinians. What are they to gain from this?

Everyone wants peace in the Middle East, but the Palestinians must learn that peace is not obtained through terrorist activities like car bombs, suicide bombs, using women and children as decoys, etc.

Those are terroristic acts of violence, and have nothing to do with peace.

And until they understand that--and vow to clean up their act, recognize Israel as the nation that it is, and live as neighbors with the Israelis--peace will never happen, and statehood will be nothing more than a pipe dream.

As Tevye says, "God be with you."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rant #585: I Left My Heart ... Somewhere ... ?

In the latest chapter of "Shut Up, Don't Leave Your Day Job," crooner Tony Bennett decided to become a diplomat yesterday, and in the process, caused an uproar that could be heard from New York to, err, San Francisco.

In a bizarre interview with shock jock Howard Stern on satellite radio, Bennett proclaimed "we caused" the 9/11 attacks and said former President George W. Bush admitted to him the Iraq war was a mistake.

"They flew the plane in, but we caused it," the 85-year-old singer told Stern on his Sirius Radio show Monday night. "We were bombing them, and they told us to stop."

Bennett's controversial answer came after Stern asked Bennett, a World War II veteran, how the U.S. should deal with the terrorists responsible for toppling the World Trade Center. "Who are the terrorists?" Bennett said. "Are we the terrorists, or are they the terrorists? Two wrongs don't make a right."

Bennett went on to describe a night in 2005 when he claims then-President Bush made an admission to him about the Iraq war. The two were at an event at the Kennedy Center honoring Bennett. "He told me personally that night that, he said, 'I think I made a mistake,' " said Bennett, who was appearing on the Stern show to promote his new album, "Duets II," and whose granddaughter concurrently has an art exhibit opening in Manhattan.

The singer said he believed that the President made this revelation because "he had a special liking to me," said he agreed with that assessment. "To start a war in Iraq was a tremendous, tremendous mistake internationally."

We know that Stern often gets people to say things that they would never say out loud, only think about.

And he certainly did that to Bennett, who spent a good part of yesterday denying that he said anything wrong.

Of course, people who were directly impacted by the terrorist attacks have been taken aback by the crooner's comments.

Bennett is not a diplomat, he is a singer ... a singer who was born in Astoria, Queens, and has basically made his nickel on one single song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." He is not a politician, not a legislator.

If he really believes what he said--and I have my doubts the octogenarian performer even realized the gravity of what he was saying--then he should just shut up.

The 10th anniversary of these attacks was just a few days ago. To voice such tripe right now, even if that is what you really believe, is pretty stupid, don't you think?

His granddaughter, who is worried that her grandpa's big mouth will ruin her exhibition, said that her grandfather was a lifelong Pacificist, and is against any type of war or retaliation for such an act. And she left it at that.

Well, maybe she left it at that, but you just know that people won't forget this slip of the tongue by a guy who should be singing, not mud slinging.

Shut up and sing. That is what I would tell Bennett to do the next time he feels the need to have diarrhea of the mouth on the national airwaves about something he knows absolutely nothing about.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rant #584: Mo, Mo, Mo

Mariano Rivera.

The name trickles off the tongue like a good pasta sauce.

Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer the game of baseball has ever seen. He solidified his place in sports history yesterday by recording his 602nd save as the Yankees downed the Twins, 6-4 in a makeup game played at Yankee Stadium.

Rivera has had a truly remarkable career. Coming up through the Yankees minor league system during the dark days of the franchise--the early 1990s were not kind to the team from the Bronx--this scrawny kid with a blazing fastball came up to the Yankees in 1994 as, believe it or not, a starting pitcher.

He was not tall and was lean, but had that mean fastball. Some likened him to Ron Guidry, the Yankees' great starting pitcher who had the same build and temperament.

Rivera was up and down as a starter, but then the Yankees braintrust had a great idea--why not make this kid into a relief pitcher, not for save opportunities, but to set up their closer?

This decision redefined baseball bullpens. Now the setup man was just as important as the guy who closed out the games, and it has been a model used by every major league franchise since then.

The plan worked. Rivera initially set up John Wetteland, and the Yankees went on to win the World Series in 1996. Beginning in 1997, Rivera became the closer, and he hasn't looked back since.

His 602 saves broke the record of another top-flight reliever, Trevor Hoffman, who played mainly for the Padres in the National League--so Hoffman continues to hold the National League record.

What differentiates Rivera and Hoffman are the number of big games that Rivera played in versus Hoffman. Hoffman's teams were only occasionally in big games, playoff games, and World Series. Rivera, playing for a team in New York, is always in the spotlight, anyway, but incredibly, the Yankees are in the postseason just about every year. His exploits on the national stage have made him one of the most dependable--and popular--baseball players ever.

He has more than 40 saves in the postseason, which includes the playoffs and World Series. No one is even close to him on this biggest of stages.

And his regular season percentage of saves made versus opportunities--really the most important statistic--is also No. 1. Anything over 85 percent is phenomenal, and for his career, Rivera--who has at least one save against every team in baseball--is over 89 percent.

That means that 11 times out of 100, he fails to do the job he is on the mound for. Heck, I guess you can say that he is really human.

And he is in incredible shape. He has had some minor arm woes throughout his career, but overall, Rivera has never had a major arm injury as a major leaguer. Having pitched so many years, it is incredible that he has has been so durable.

Rivera was often called the greatest relief pitcher of all time well before he reached save number 602. But now he has the statistics to prove it.

His save record will go down as one of the unreachable baseball records, right up there with Cy Young's 511 wins. In today's world of baseball, it is a record that might be approached, but not topped, at least not in my lifetime.

There are some great relievers out there, but to record 600 saves, you have to save at least 30 games a year for 20 years, or 40 games a year for 15 years. Relievers generally have a short shelf life, and really, anything over 300 saves for a career is incredible. To have more than twice that many, as Rivera and Hoffman have, is just simply unbelievable.

Saves have only been an official statistic since 1969, and some relievers have just now gotten their due as Hall of Famers. Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter were two of the dominant relievers of their time. In those days, relievers pitched two or three innings at a time, not the one that current closers pitch today.

And Gossage and Sutter are, deservedly, in the Hall of Fame for their accomplishments.

Sure, some old-timers still don't get what closers do and what saves really mean, just like the unofficial "hold" category that will probably one day become an official statistic.

But Rivera, and for that matter, Hoffman, have done something that is so unapproachable, so out of this world, that both should also find their way into Cooperstown down the road.

Hoffman is already retired, so his 601 saves are his career total.

Rivera is still pitching, although he is hinting that when his contract runs out next year, he might close it down.

So we just don't know how many saves this 41 year old will finish with.

And that's the fun part about it.

Many of us were not around to see Babe Ruth's exploits, nor Cy Young's. But at least for my generation, I can say that I saw the greatest relief pitcher, bar none, to ever play the game of baseball.

Congratulations to Mariano Rivera. He is the greatest at what he does.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rant #583: Child Abuse Up in Recession?

As if my recent posts about abusive parents weren't enough, now there is a study that may back my personal contention that we are hearing more and more stories about child abuse lately.

According to the study, an increase in such incidents, especially against infants, is being linked to the country's current recession.

The results came from a small study conducted by the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of 422 abused kids spread over four states. The children were from mostly lower income families, where I would assume that the risk is higher for such abuse, in both good economic times and bad ones.

Based on the findings, there have been more cases of shaken babies being reported, as well as other brain-injuring abuse.

Evidently, the hospital decided to do this study when it discovered that there was a rise in abusive head trauma cases in its own environs during recession years--in this case late 2007 to June 2009--as opposed to times when the economy is in better shape.

During the recession years, such cases rose 76.5 percent, from 17 annually before 2007 to 30 cases a year during the recession years.

Overall, the rise in the number of such cases in the counties that were part of the study jibed with the percentage rise of the cases at the hospital. In those counties, there were nine cases per 100,000 children in the pre-recession years, to about 15 per 100,000 kids during the recession years--a rise of 65 percent.

Although this is a small study, this is an incredible statistic. You can point to a lot of things that caused the rise--including more teenagers and younger people who are not married and having kids, and people unemployed having children--and you can say that immaturity of the parents caused the numbers to rise.

But can you actually link the recession to the rise? Does a parent shake an infant because he or she can't afford to have an extra mouth to feed?

You really have to wonder. If our economy was better, if more people were working, if people weren't worried about their finances, would the increase be at such a high rate?

I don't know the answer to that. People are going to have children whether we are in good financial health or bad financial health, and that goes for individuals' personal finances, too.

So to sum it up, I don't know if the information in this study is valid or not. Just because someone is on the lower rung of the economic ladder doesn't mean that they will abuse their kids. And can you tie the abuse directly to the financial woes of our country?

But it is interesting that at least the news media is picking up on these abuses. Maybe the abuses were more of a behind-closed-doors type of thing in the past.

Lately, everything has been out in the open. And maybe that's a good thing.

But if the findings of the study are correct, then parents should use a punching bag to get out their feelings of inadequacy, and not babies.

What is this world coming to when infants are being used like lifeless rag dolls?

Again, I just don't know what's going on in this world, I really don't.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rant #582: Darn Right It's Butch

Tommy Bond would have been 85 years old today.

Who is Tommy Bond, you ask.

Tommy Bond was the kid actor who played the meanie Butch in all those old Our Gang/Little Rascals short features.

Although Spanky, Alfalfa and Darla got most of the applause, Tommy Bond was probably the best pure actor of the bunch. He started off with the Gang as merely an ancillary player--most notably warbling the adult tearjerker "Just Friends" in one episode--but as the series grew and a protagonist was needed, Bond kind of morphed into Butch, the bully who really wasn't all that bad.

From about 1936 to 1940, Butch regularly competed with Alfalfa for the attention of comely Darla. Although he only periodically won the favor of the Gang's lovely lass, he became the comic foil for the good guys of the Gang, including Buckwheat and Porky, two of the little kids that he regularly threatened, often sending his henchman, Woim, to do the dirty work.

In 1937, still as a kid actor, he was one of the first members of the Screen Actors Guild.

When Bond finally left the series in 1940, he continued to do films. and he served in the Navy during World War II.

After the war, he was the first movie Jimmy Olsen in the Superman serials alongside Kirk Allyn and Noelle Neil.

Bond later turned his attention to television, and worked on many productions behind the scenes. In fact, if you remember Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, and all the crazy props they used, you can thank Bond, because he was the prop master of that show.

As one of the last surviving major members of the Our Gang/Little Rascals cast, in his later life he represented the Gang in a number of productions, and he eventually wrote his own autobiography.

Bond died Sept. 24, 2005.

His legacy are those Our Gang/Little Rascals films. Today, where bullies are looked down upon, Bond's characterization seems completely out of touch with today's reality.

But way back when, the character of Butch was a bully, but he kind of had a heart of gold. Although he won many victories over the more popular characters, he never won the war, so to speak.

And he took it, and we laughed at him, with him and against him.

Tommy Bond was a one of a kind actor in a series that has also been proven to be one of a kind, and I salute him on what would have been his birthday.

"Darn Right It's Butch"--and we're all better for it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rant #581: Daddy Demented

In part two of our unofficial look at the worst parents on the planet, here is another episode of "Parents Gone Mad."

A father was charged with child abuse after prosecutors said he slapped his seven-year-old son until he cried, and then, for good measure, threw the boy overboard during a recent pleasure cruise in California.

Sloan Briles, 35, of Irvine, Calif., had been drinking before the boy was tossed 10 feet over the side of the Queen in Newport Harbor during a cruise on Aug. 28, authorities said. When other passengers became angry, Briles jumped into the water before someone on a nearby boat retrieved the boy, prosecutors said.

Several days later, Briles told the syndicated show "Inside Edition" that the episode amounted to "roughhousing."

"We were just screwing around, just showing off, just being guys," he told the show. "It's not like I threw him off. We went together. It was just like a hand-in-hand thing."

Briles, who has had several run-ins with the police in the past, is scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 26 in Newport Beach on one felony count of child abuse and endangerment and one misdemeanor count of resisting an officer. If convicted, he could face up to six years in prison.

Well, doesn't he make our previous day's "Mom of the Year" look just stunning?

This guy obviously lost it. Under the influence of alcohol, anything is possible, and I guess that pretty much sums up what this father did to his son.

And his claims that what they were doing was "roughhousing"? I don't know about that. Sure, I have roughhoused with my own son. It's part of being a dad. Nobody gets hurt. It's fun.

But when you endanger your son's life ... no, I would not call that roughhousing. I would call it plain stupid.

And like yesterday's perfect parent, this guy should get the book thrown at him. He is a jerk.

And he should not be able to see this kid again--and, for that matter, his other kids from his previous marriage again--unless the visits are supervised.

So there you have it--one "perfect" parent on the East Coast, the other on the West Coast.

This doesn't absolve the middle of the country, nor does it absolve any other part of the country (you might remember that in Rant #565, I talked about a mother in Alaska who forced her child to take hot sauce for being a naughty kid).

What is going on in this world today? Have some parents completely lost their minds?

I know this is harsh, but some people shouldn't be parents. Just because they can sire kids or have kids doesn't mean that they should.

Maybe a good doll would do. Or maybe a good doctor's procedure.

I just don't know ...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rant #580: Mommy Meanest

Some people kind of lose their heads about their kids.

In the old days, like when I was growing up, you had parents who talked incessantly about their children to the point that the listener wanted to throw up.

Nowadays, you have parents standing up for their kids, but standing up in such a way that I wish that they would just sit down ... probably because they would be sitting on their brains.

Such is the case with comely Daphne Melin, the mother of a 12 year old child who evidently was cyber-bullied on Facebook.

According to the news story, a planned altercation was arranged between Melin's daughter and another child at William Floyd Elementary School on Long Island. Melin allegedly drove her daughter to the confrontation. The other girl did not show up and sent a friend in her place.

A brawl erupted, and another girl who begged Melin to stop the fight was instead attacked herself by the mom, who used her best WWE moves on the spectator. The fight was taped on a cell phone and posted on Facebook and YouTube.

By the way, Melin is 32. The girl who she had the physical altercation with is 12.

The mother turned herself in, although she is continuing to plead her innocence. She was charged with three counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one count of third-degree attempted assault.

Evidently, the original dispute was over a boy that Melin's daughter was fond of. The fight over the boy escalated to taunts from another girl to Melin's daughter.

Melin says she previously went to the school district with her concerns, but the district turned a deaf ear to her pleas to stop the harassment.

There you have it. A mother defending her child is one thing, but a mother defending her child with brute force is another.

Melin was on the early news this morning, and she continues to claim that the whole incident was a misunderstanding--even though the video clearly shows her attacking another child.

I have to think that this woman is not of her right mind. She is nothing but a child herself, and she probably put herself in her daughter's position, and completely lost it.

And she still defends herself.

Girls have been arguing over boys for centuries, and vice versa. But now, with the Internet, the arguments can be elevated so that just about anyone can get involved and anyone can see what is unfolding.

This, in itself, is a product of modern technology, one that is not policed at all by Facebook and similar sites.

But for Melin to get involved to this extent in this fracas makes you wonder about the sanity of this person.

She is 20 years older than the girl she is said to have assaulted.

Sure, over my years as a parent myself, there have been parents and kids I would have loved to slap across the head, but I kept those thoughts in my mind. I never acted them out.

Melin, on the other hand, did.

It is hard to feel any pity for her, and quite frankly, when she goes back to court, the judge should throw the book at her, give her the stiffest sentence possible, and use her as an example of parenting gone berserk.

There is one thing to defending your child against cyber bullying; however, there is another thing to defending your child by attacking another kid.

Who is the real bully here?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rant #579: Jackie Oh!

I am sure that you heard that several revelations have come out of the 1963 tapes made of an interview with Jackie Kennedy.

Her husband's death was still fresh when these tapes were recorded, and the former First Lady said some things that nearly 48 years later are stirring up a hornet's nest of trouble--and explanations by the only surviving member of her immediate family, her daughter Caroline.

One of the most glaring quotes was about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Jackie said she couldn’t look at a picture of him “without thinking … that man’s terrible," but later came to admire the civil rights leader.

According to news reports on the soon to be released tapes, Kennedy called King a “phony” and “tricky” during the taped interview with the historian Arthur Schlesinger. She said on the tapes that King had made derogatory remarks about her husband’s funeral and about Cardinal Cushing, who celebrated Mass at the event.

“He made fun of Cardinal Cushing and said that he was drunk at it [the funeral],” Kennedy said. “And things about they almost dropped the coffin. I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible."

In addition, the tapes reportedly have Kennedy saying that King had arranged for an “orgy in the hotel” while in town for the March on Washington in August 1963.

Kennedy said that her husband, President John F. Kennedy, had urged her not to be judgmental about it.

Doing damage control, daughter Caroline has said that her mother "admired King tremendously."

Caroline Kennedy said that FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover--who, in another revelation on the tapes, was held in great disdain by Jackie--"had passed on something that Martin Luther King said about my father’s funeral, to Uncle Bobby and to Mommy. And obviously, she was upset about that. ...It shows you the poisonous … activities of J. Edgar Hoover.”

Jackie Kennedy later became friendly with King and his family and attended the civil rights leader’s funeral in 1968.

But what can you make of her comments, all these years later?

The interview took place just a few weeks after her husband was assassinated. The hurt and pain were still fresh in her mind. Remember, we lost a President, but she lost a husband.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a human being. He had his faults. Not everyone liked him.

To this day, you will find some people who believe all the hubbub about him and his life is nothing but hooey.

Maybe because it was about rumors that were passed to her, but at this moment in her life, Jackie didn't think much of King.

But time heals all wounds, to a certain degree.

I think as Kennedy distanced herself from the horrible episode of November 1963 and looked ahead at her life and the world she was living in, she grew to admire King.

So all the nonsense about her words that were recorded right after her husband died must be put into the proper perspective. She was told some information that may or may not have been true, and since the hurt was fresh, she did what most of us would do, look at the negative.

That's all there is to say about it.

And all of those people who are now scratching their heads and wondering where she was coming from with her remarks should pipe down a bit.

Remember, this is America. You can supposedly say what you want without getting raked over the coals.

Give both her, and King, the proper respect they are due, and stop making her remarks sound like her own personal Waterloo.

Let them both rest in peace.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rant #578: Life Goes On

Yesterday, September 11, 2011, was the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our nation.

There were numerous anniversary events held across the country and around the world yesterday, including ceremonies at the epicenters of the attacks, at the Pentagon, the field in Pennsylvania, and in New York City at Ground Zero.

Thousands participated in these ceremonies.

Others took in the day for what it was, one of the last Sundays in the summer.

Some people went to baseball and football games, others shopped the day away.

My computer broke down, so I had to bring it in for repair (I am using another computer in the meantime).

A lot of people went to the movies. "Contagion" is the No. 1 movie right now.

Others went online, to their favorite sites, posting and chatting up a storm.

Lots of people watched TV and listened to radio. Many channels and stations carried live coverage of the day's events, others stayed with their standard programming.

Of course, some people had to work yesterday. I had off, making it the first full weekend I have had off in over a month (we have been putting in six days of work at my job lately).

I had pancakes for breakfast, nachos for lunch, and fish for dinner.

Later, my wife gave both my son and myself some ice cream.

My wife and I watched a movie last night. I can't even tell you what the DVD's name was, but it was a British crime film and for the first time, we had to use subtitles because the British accents were so thick. It was OK.

No matter what anyone did yesterday, the world mourned on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy of people hurting other people.

Some people mourn in different ways. Some people have to be right there where it all happened. Others need to spend money.

And neither way of handling the day is wrong.

There is no wrong and no right in this matter.

By being at a memorial, people showed solidarity with the event, and mourned their tragic losses of friends, family members and colleagues.

By shopping, people showed that the American way of life was simply dented, and not obliterated, by these horrendous, cowardly attacks.

As I said in the title of this Rant, "Life Goes On." And it does for us all, perhaps in different ways.

Nobody will ever forget that tragic day, and they won't forget it whether they were at a memorial or at Wal-Mart.

And that is the American way, and that American way continues to be the norm.

Hopefully, one day, those that hate us will see that, will see how strong we are as a country, and will stop trying to destroy us.

Because their efforts--as shown by the resilience we have shown since that fateful day--will ultimately be in vain.

My son, who was six years old when this tragedy happened, asked my wife and I about it yesterday. We explained everything to him the best way we knew how.

If there will be any burden of this day, it will fall on the shoulders of the kids who were either too young to realize what was happening on that day or on those who were born right after the tragedies happened.

But the day will live on in our lives. It won't be forgotten, but like Pearl Harbor day, V-E Day and the like, it won't burn this brilliantly in the succeeding decades.

Things have a way of evening themselves out. Those other days are days to remember, too, and they have never been forgotten.

But most of us don't shape our days around these events anymore.

The same will happen with 9/11.

Other generations will look upon the day as my generation did with those previously named special days.

They are parts of our country's history.

You can't expect succeeding generations to absorb everything that happened on September 11, 2001 like we are doing right now.

Unfortunately, I am sure they will have their days to do their own reflections.

That is how life works, and that is how life will continue to play itself out in the years to come.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rant #577: 10 Years

Since this is my last Rant of the week--I have to take my son to the doctor tomorrow, so I won't have time to write anything--I thought I would reflect on September 11, 2001, the fateful day we now refer to as 9/11.

The United States had heard of terrorist attacks abroad, but we were fully confident that the systems in place would never allow such an attack on our own soil.

This perception changed that fateful day.

There were attacks on the Pentagon, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, and attacks that might have led to the White House being hit but ended on a field in Pennsylvania.

I remember the day very well.

As usual, I got into work early. I was doing some work--what exactly I can't remember--and a co-worker came in and said, "Did you hear, the World Trade Center was hit by an airplane?"

I put on the closest radio I could find, and the rest, as they say, is history.

My fellow employees streamed into work that day, many sobbing, many not knowing where their loved ones were.

Our place of business is about 20 miles outside of New York City, so many of us had direct fears about the attacks.

I know that I wondered about my father, who drives a yellow cab in New York City. I didn't know where he was for most of that day.

And since my place of business is also attached to the federal government via our coverage of military stores, we were greatly impacted by the terrorist attacks.

Very little work got done that day. All of us had our ears pressed to radios.

The news was going all over the place that day. Although much of what we heard was accurate, one station in New York erroneously reported that the White House had been hit.

I won't name the station, because I almost have to give them a pass for that day. Things were so crazy, that information was swirling around at a rapid pace, and who had a chance to double-check the information?

Anyway, we were let out early that day, but not before we heard and saw some military planes circling our area.

We also smelled something that was foreign to us. Yes, the stench of the burned and bludgeoned World Trade Center buildings had wafted over to us, too.

When I got home, I tried to find out information about my father, to no avail.

I turned on the TV, and the coverage was off and on. Some stations literally could not transmit because their antennas were atop the one building or the other of the fallen World Trade Center complex, and others were working on minimal power, and things were going in and out the entire day.

I did record what I could for posterity. I have a few videotapes of what was going on.

No, I haven't watched them since, but yes, I am glad I recorded them ... for posterity.

I really think it would be difficult to watch them today.

It was late afternoon, and my father was still not heard from.

I remember going outside of the house with my wife, who had also been let off early that day from her job.

My son was just six years old, and my daughter was just 13. I remember talking to my wife about the future, how uncertain it was now that this had happened.

What did it mean for the future of the kids?

At about 7:30 p.m., my father arrived home. It had taken him hours to get out of Manhattan and back to Long Island. He actually had to go into New Jersey to do this.

He told us his story.

He had just dropped off a passenger at the World Trade Center, when another person hailed him down.

The person wanted to go to Harlem, way uptown from the World Trade Center.

He ended up being my father's guardian angel. My father was moving uptown when the planes hit, so he saw and heard everything from a distance.

Thank God for that man, whoever he is. He probably saved my father's life, or at least took him away from the scene of the attack.

Anyway, that is how I look back at 9/11 on its approaching 10th anniversary.

It was a horrible day, but remember, it was a day on the calendar.

People went to work, people were born on that day, people died on that day, with their deaths having nothing to do with the attacks.

People went shopping on that day. People ate breakfast that day.

People bought the newspaper that day. People talked sports that day.

And people experienced our greatest national tragedy to date on the day.

Hopefully, we will never see anything like it again.

It made September 11, 2001, which started off as a day like any other day, into a day that no one will ever, ever forget.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rant #576: Wet, Wet, Wet

After a number of days of pretty decent weather since the coming of Hurricane Irene, yesterday brought us a ton of rain.

I feel sorry for the people who are already in the swamps due to Irene and now, after they have pretty much dried off what they could, and now they have to put up with more of the wet stuff.

Last night, the Yankees were scheduled to play the Orioles in a night game at Yankee Stadium. Like in the rest of New York, the Bronx was wet, wet, wet yesterday, and the rain, which was pretty intense at times, wasn't going away by game time at 7:10 p.m.

Although the rain was coming down the entire day, the game was not called. In fact, the game began at about 11 p.m., or just about four hours after it was supposed to start.

Even though rain continued to fall, and continued to fall heavily at times, the game was played for the full nine innings, and the Yankees won 5-3.

The game ended at 2:15 a.m.

Why wasn't the game called?

There are a variety of reasons, but if I was a fan who had a ticket to that game, I would be steaming right now.

It was the Orioles' last trip to the Stadium this season. Rain is in the forecast for today, when the Yankees and Orioles are slated to play a day game, and it is also in the forecast for Thursday, when the same two teams shift to Baltimore to play a makeup game for a previously scheduled game that was wiped out by--you guessed it--rain.

Furthermore, it's not the Yankees' call to play the game. When it is the final visit of the season for a team, it's in the umpires' hands, and last night, they determined that it was OK to play ball, even in a torrential downpour.

The new Yankee Stadium seats about 48,000 for baseball, and the Yankees have been getting nearly that the entire season. So last night was probably no exception. They probably sold just about every ticket in the Stadium, and you can bet that just about everyone who had a ticket was there.

And I am sure they were checking the Internet and with the Yankees to determine whether the game would be played or called off.

And once at the Stadium, they were treated to a four-hour rain delay.

Sure, there's plenty to do at the Stadium when baseball isn't being played. There are a couple of restaurants, there is the Yankees Museum, and there are some other things to bide your time.

But don't you think that asking fans to brave a four hour rain delay, and then play in pouring rain anyway, is a bit much?

If you watch the replays of the highlights of the game, you will see that there were probably 1,000 fans or so in the stands as the night wore on into the early morning.

If there were any kids there--who have school the next day--I hope they can get up today. And that goes for the other fans, who I assume also have to get up and go to work.

I think Major League Baseball is going to have to enact some type of rule saying that games, and night games in particular, can't be delayed more than a specific amount of time before they must be called off.

I know the Yankees allowed fans in attendance to exchange their ticket stubs for another game on them, but don't you think this is ludicrous? Either you play the game by a certain hour or you call it quits.

The Yankees, like most baseball teams, are really a regional team. Yes, they are based in New York City, but they draw fans from Long Island, Westchester, Upstate New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

How you can ask any fan, and in particular, fans traveling from great distances, to wait out such a game? It is really quite unfair.

And then to play it in abominable conditions ... if you don't care about the fans, how about the players? It was pretty slick out there, and there could have been injuries. Happily, there weren't any.

Let's see what happens today. It's raining now, and it is expected to continue to rain at game time, 1:10 p.m. What will happen?

At least it's a day game today. With the umpires' thinking of last night, they could wait well into the evening to play this game.

How about the game starting at 7:10 p.m., or 8:10 p.m., or maybe even 11 p.m. again?

Do they care about the fans at all?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rant #575: School's In

Today is the first day of school for lots of kids across the country.

In my neck of the woods, my son starts high school today, or more to the point, the main high school.

In our school district, there are two high schools. One is for ninth grade only. The school people here believe that it is not good to mix ninth graders with the older kids. Then you have the main high school, which is for 10th grade, 11th grade and 12th grade.

It's almost akin to a ballplayer being in the minors, and now he is in the major leagues.

I remember when my daughter first went to high school. The school was huge, much larger than her middle school, and I almost thought she would get lost in its immense size.

She didn't, but I did, every time I went to parent-teacher conferences and other events at the school.

My daughter lived in another district (her mom and I are divorced), so my son is going to a different high school ... the school that I went to when I was in high school, so he is the second generation of my family to go to this school (my sister went there too).

I remember my first day of high school. We had only moved into the neighborhood a few weeks before from a seven-year hitch in the neighborhood of my youth, Rochdale Village, Jamaica, Queens. I was supposed to go to the since-closed Springfield Gardens High School, where all my friends were going, but we moved, so here I was, stuck in a neighborhood I didn't know in a school I wasn't the least bit familiar with.

I didn't know a soul, and the first few days were hard getting acclimated to the school and the people around me. Heck, looking back, I never got acclimated, not in the four years I was there. I was like a man without a country, and I never, ever, felt comfortable in that school.

I remember telling my mother that I didn't have to dress that great when I went to school on Long Island. Not that I dressed to the nines when I was in school in Queens, but there was a casualness in the Long Island school that I never saw in my old school in Queens. I remember seeing girls come to school in bikini tops and guys coming to school in shorts, and I knew that my nice shirt and pants made me stand out even more.

I absolutely hated high school. I was different from the rest of the kids due to my upbringing, and I think they knew it, and I certainly knew it.

I never got treated as a peer of these kids I went to high school with. I was made fun of, harassed, and in today's world, yes, I was bullied.

I was an SP student in the New York City schools, but in high school, my grades dropped off to the point that I had to struggle to get a B average for my entire four years there. I don't remember if I got it or not, but I know I struggled, and picked up on my grades in 11th and 12th grades.

It really didn't work out for me in high school, not at all.

Now my son enters this same school.

Yes, I have my reservations and my doubts. I hope he fits in much better than I did. He will be with kids he has grown up with and has gone to school with since kindergarten, which is a plus on his side.

He is extremely shy and is a special ed kid, which is a minus.

But I think he will acclimate himself better than I did. I stood out, but I don't think that he does. He should be able to blend into the high school population much better than I ever did.

I think he will do fine. At least I hope so.

In this case, he should not follow his father's footsteps.

He should create his own.

And I think he can do it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rant #574: Holiday, What Holiday?

Today, September 5, is Labor Day.

Most people have today off.

They have barbecues, go to the beach for the last time during the summer, have cookouts, watch ballgames, and generally have fun.

Not me.

I have to work today.

That's right, I labor on Labor Day.

I guess it's not fair, but my place of business is open today. Not many of us will be at work today, but I will be there.

I can't think of a perfectly valid reason for us to have to go to work today, but we have been told to do so, so we will.

And one of the higher ups at work already told me that we will be working on Labor Day next year, too.

I have been employed by this place of business for nearly 15 1/2 years, and I have worked every Labor Day with the exception of maybe two or three in that time span.

So I should be used to working on Labor Day, but I'm not.

Beyond its true meaning, Labor Day is the unofficial last day of summer.

School starts tomorrow in many places, families are home from the rigors of their vacations, and now it's time to look ahead to Thanksgiving and Christmas (and if you are Jewish like me, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah).

It's not a day to work.

But work I must.

And my wife is working too, as is my dad, so it's not like everyone has off today.

I don't know if the girl in the picture is working today, but she seems pretty relaxed as she celebrates the holiday.

So while you are reading this, sitting at home and relaxing today, think of people like me, who have to work today.

You don't envy me, so I guess I don't envy you.

I guess.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Rant #573: Panties All Tied In a Knot

Happy birthday to Salma Hayek today. She turns 45.

Now that I got that out of the way, here's a real story to talk about.

Riddle me this: why were hundreds of pairs of mostly women's underwear dumped along the side of a road in a town in Central Ohio?

The undergarments were found in trees and on hillsides in several spots in Fairfield County this week on a road in Berne Township, about 30 miles southeast of Columbus.

Some of the panties reportedly were still folded the way they'd come in packaging, while others appeared to have been worn.

There were nearly 1,700 pairs in all, in a mix of colors and patterns.

When collected, they filled 10 large trash bags.

But authorities have no idea where the panties came from.

Sounds like a college prank to me. Are there any schools of higher education in this area?

I hope that the police give these undergarments to some deserving cause, like a homeless shelter or something like that. Heaven knows that those people could use some nice new underwear.

And wash the used underwear. They will be like new for these people.

But where did the undergarments come from?

They just don't drop from the sky, like the manna from heaven story in the Bible.

It doesn't rain underwear, either.

I still stick with my belief that some college fraternity and/or sorority probably had a part in this.

The police should canvas some local department stores to see if large quantities of undergarments were purchased recently.

I am sure that with good detective work, they will solve this case.

This isn't a panty raid, it's almost just the opposite.

And again, happy birthday to Salma Hayek, who, I am sure, wouldn't be able to help the police out on this one.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rant #572: Fresh As a Lily

We are getting closer to the end of the summer. What a summer it has been! We've had earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes ... you name it, we've had it.

I've had my own crazy summer. I've been back and forth to Florida, been in the hospital, and my son turned Sweet 16.

Oh, what a summer!

And today is the beginning of the final month of summer, and it is time to look at a famous person who was born today, who, even though she is no longer with us, was an icon for the baby boomer generation ...

... and because of TV reruns, she has never lost that iconic status.

Yvonne DeCarlo would have turned 89 today if she were still alive. She passed away in 2007, and due to her role as Lily Munster on "The Munsters," she made an indelible impression on kids of the 1960s, and I think kids in the succeeding generations, too.

The Canadian-born DeCarlo--who was half-Jewish on her mother's side--was a beauty with an hourglass figure who made her mark on the silver screen way before the Lily role came about. Howard Hughes even had his eye on her obvious assets. She starred in several B movies and several top-flight productions, including "The Ten Commandments." She had that exotic look that you don't often forget.

But like many actresses, once they reach a certain age, roles can be few and far between.

By the mid-1960s, DeCarlo was pretty much forgotten. She continued to appear in films and TV, but was something of an afterthought as a film star.

"The Munsters," created by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, was a counterpoint to their previous "Leave It To Beaver" sitcom. On Beaver, everything was in place, was pretty much perfect, and the Cleavers have continued on as our favorite TV All-American Family.

Fred and Lily Munster, as well as Grandpa, Eddie and, to a certain degree, Marilyn, were an All-American family too. But they certainly didn't look the part. Their ghoulish manner-sans Marilyn, the "ugly duckling" of the bunch--belied the fact that they wanted the same things that we all want in life, no matter how they looked.

Connelly and Mosher scored a coup when they got DeCarlo for the role of Lily. Although not their original choice, she was a former movie star who need steady employment by this point in her career. She later said in an interview, "It meant security. It gave me a new, young audience I wouldn't have had otherwise. It made me 'hot' again, which I wasn't for a while."

Fred Gwynne, who played Herman, and Al Lewis, who played Grandpa, were originally a little uneasy with DeCarlo. The two veteran TV actors--who appeared together just before "The Munsters" on another classic TV sitcom, "Car 54, Where Are You?", were uneasy because DeCarlo had been such a movie star at one time. They reportedly thought she would look down on the rest of the cast.

They found out quickly that nothing could be further from the truth.

Although "The Munsters" ran just two seasons, it has been one of the all-time retro hits, being almost constantly shown in reruns since it went off the air. There have been several TV and big screen films--some starring much of the original cast--and constant talk of revivals.

The show solidified DeCarlo as a baby boomer icon. She was so good as Lily Munster that you really believed that she actually was who you thought she was on the show.

After the show went off the air, DeCarlo continued to act in movies and on TV. She was one of the few redeeming factors in one of Russ Meyer's Hollywood studio-driven films, "The Seven Minutes," a movie which rarely ever gets shown anywhere. She appeared in several other films, and died on January 8, 2007.

Although she had a long and storied career as a film star, DeCarlo will always be remembered as Lily Munster by kids who today are in their 50s and 60s. Even in her garish costume, her beauty was in evidence.

She was the real deal.

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