Monday, April 30, 2012

Rant #727: Why Don't We Do It In the Road?

Well, we haven't had a real dumb story in quite a while, but after a relaxing birthday weekend--where I did next to nothing, which was fine with me--here is a good one to start the week.

Two teenage girls who fell asleep on a rural Pennsylvania road while sunbathing, and were struck by a car, were reported to be in fair condition.

The two 13 year olds decided to take in the sun on Sunday afternoon (natch), and they were hit by, believe it or not, a 19-year-old relative, who had stopped at a nearby stop sign and made a turn before striking the girls with his car.

The man was questioned by police about the incident, but evidently, no wrongdoing was found.

The girls were airlifted to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, and they were doing as well as they could be doing after such an incident.

Well, we all remember the Beatles' tune "Why Don't We Do It In the Road," but I think that even John, Paul, George and Ringo didn't mean this literally.

What could these girls have been thinking?

And why were these girls so tired that they actually fell asleep in the middle of the road?

And, wouldn't you call being hit by a relative something of a strange coincidence?

Very strange, very strange.

Hey, I could have talked at length about this being the 223rd anniversary of George Washington taking office in New York as the first president of the United States, or this being the 112th anniversary of the fabled Casey Jones saving train passengers as he stayed at the controls of a runaway locomotive.

I could have spoken about all of those, but two girls being hit while sunbathing in the middle of the road intrigued me more than those stories.

I must be a sucker for stories that show complete human stupidity, but there you have it.

Heck, if they decided to sunbathe on the side of the road, there would be no story, and I would have to pontificate on Washington and Jones.

Maybe that would have been a blessing, maybe not.

Maybe I am going senile at age 55.

Whatever the case, I just wanted to bring the girls' plight to your attention.

I guess you should just look at it as something light for a springtime Monday morning, something to go along with your breakfast that won't back you up too much.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rant #726: 55

Yes, "55" is my simple title for today's Rant.

Why, you may ask?

Sure, 55 mph is the legal speed limit to drive in many states, and it was an integral part of Sammy Hagar's past hit, "I Can't Drive 55."

But to me, it is a bit more important.

Tomorrow, I turn 55 years of age.

I can't believe where all the time has gone. It seems like just yesterday, I was playing in the dirt and mud with my friends.

Today, I am playing in the electronic dirt and mud with my friends, so I guess things haven't changed that much.

In 1957, the Chevy was a very popular car, Elvis was still the top singing star, and "I Love Lucy" was just about off the air.

The Yankees and Braves were in the World Series, and the Braves beat the Bronx Bombers. The Dodgers and Giants played their last home games in New York.

The word "files" related to things stored away in cabinets, and computers were humongous machines that only were available for businesses that could afford them.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, and Barack Obama wasn't even born yet.

I  can't believe where all the time has gone.

I was born in Brooklyn, moved to Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, very early on in my life, moved to Rochdale Village, South Jamaica, Queens, when I was seven, and moved to Long Island when I was 14.

I have been married twice, the second time far and away the best time, and I have two kids, 16 and 23. My wife (a fellow former Queens-ite) and I will be married 19 years in June.

It has been an amazing ride. I have seen everything from those horrible assassinations in the 1960s to moon flight. I have grown up in the best time to grow up, when we moved ahead so much in our everyday lives to the point we are at now.

It isn't all fun. The world continues to be a very unsettled place, and yes, you do have to look over your shoulder time and time again.

But all in all, it's been a very fun ride.

I wish I still had my hair, my belly is a little too round, but even though I'm just about 55, I haven't changed much.

Not only do people say that I look relatively the same as I did way back when (less the hair), but I don't think my mindset has changed at all in my 55 years.

I still believe family is our No. 1 priority, and nothing, and I mean nothing, stands in the way of family, I don't care what it is.

Health is also important, and the same thing I said for family goes for health too. I have had a few episodes during the past few years to know that health, and family, really are the most important things in life. It seems without one, you can't do the other.

So, tomorrow, on April 28, I will celebrate my birthday in relatively good health and with my family. I will probably watch the Knicks in the NBA playoffs against the Heat in the afternoon, go out to dinner in the evening, and relax for just about the entire day.

The best present? That tomorrow is a Saturday--no work, just fun.

So happy birthday to me, and everyone else born on April 28 (Ann-Margret, are you there?), and, I hope there are many more birthdays to come.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rant #725: 1960s Kitsch

Yesterday, I spoke about the 1960s continuing to be hot in the 2000s, related to the Beatles' concert film opening next month.

Well, not everything was good in the 1960s.

Let's be honest about it. For every good thing, like the Beatles, there were bad things, like the assassinations I touched on yesterday, the Vietnam War and ...

The Doodletown Pipers.

With all of its creativity, the 1960s also was a time of sameness. Sure, you had the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and all the long-haired groups dominating the airwaves and the charts, but you also had plenty of acts that your mom and dad--and your grandparents--could love too, like Petula Clark and Tom Jones ...

And Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Al Martino, Ed Ames and others seemingly from a different time were having hit records.

Vocal groups were still popular,and larger consortiums coming out of the folk movement, such as the New Christy Minstrels, were selling tons of records.

Muzak was still popular, and sure, your grandma might not listen to the latest hits on WABC, but she might listen to a muzak version on her easy listening station.

And that's where the Doodletown Pipers come in. Covering the most popular easy listening songs of the day in their muzak style, the Pipers--with more than a dozen members--became a way for the oldsters to know the songs without being completely hip.

With the presentation that didn't veer too far away from the Lawrence Welk/Mitch Miller school, the Pipers featured fresh-faced kids, both black and white, wearing basically the same outfits and singing pop tunes nicely.

And they all had nice teeth.

The Pipers were extremely popular in the late 1960s, with their own summer replacement show--did CBS really thing kids would watch this?--and constant appearances on shows like The Dean Martin Show and other variety shows.

They also played Las Vegas, and actually stayed together for about five or six years into the early 1970s. Their popularity never transferred over to records, and, thus, their LPs and singles aren't easily found.

On my Yahoo Group site Albumania! (, I have put up the first five songs from the only LP that I have from them, the absolutely unlistenable "Sing-Along '67, and next week, I will put up the rest.

The first five songs off this LP--I believe that this was the second of their three albums--pretty much tell you right there, what this group was all about. As lively as lint, they turn easy listening tunes like "Music to Watch Girls By" and "Born Free" into some of the most "muzakian" tunes that could be imagined. Whatever oomph they have pretty much falls flat, as do the arrangements.

Certainly, music to put you to sleep ... with a thud.

When the Pipers went their separate ways, several of them went into various areas of show business, as background singers, producers and the like.

But such as what happened with the New Christy Minstrels--with Barry McGuire being among the standouts--there was one member of the Pipers that clearly stood out from the rest, and while her fame was short-lived, she certainly made a name for herself in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Teresa Graves, pictured near the center in the group photo on the cover of the LP, moved on to "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In," where she displyed her comedic, singin and "other" talents on TV's No. 1 show. She became so popular that she starred in the short-lived "Get Christy Love," then became a Jehovah's Witness and pretty much dropped out of show business. She died in a house fire some
years ago.

But for that brief moment, she--and the other Doodletown Pipers--was one of the hotter, and safer acts around.

Why do I have this LP in my collection?

The kitsch factor is certainly there--could you imagine rap hits done in this style today?--and I do have that love for anything from my youth.

And yes, I was a big fan of Teresa Graves.

So take a listen, come back next week for the second side of this atrocity, and let me know what you think.

And as a bonus, I have given you one of their later singles. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rant #724: The 1960s Forever

The world seemingly can't get enough of the Beatles.

Word is that a lost Beatles concert film from 1964 will be released to theaters nationwide on May 17 and May 22.

"The Beatles: The Lost Concert" was recorded at the Washington State Coliseum on Feb. 11, 1964, or just two days after they appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

The concert was their first full-length concert in the United States, and they were top billed among several other pop stars of the time, including Tommy Roe and the Chiffons.

The footage will be augmented with new interviews featuring, among others, Chuck Berry, one of the Fab Four's major influences.

Interest in the 1960s has never wained, it seems. The Beach Boys have just released their first new single in 20 years with an album to come, and Brian Wilson is once again the driving force behind the group.

The world mourns the passing of Dick Clark, who brought rock and roll into our living rooms with shows like "American Bandstand" and "Where the Action Is."

When Davy Jones died, it seemed that the world also mourned, and interest in the Monkees picked up once again.

A mere footnote from the era, Jonathan Frid of "Dark Shadows" fame, passes away just before a new film based on the series is ready to be released.

It goes on and on and on and on.

The fascination with this decade is incredible.

There were so many milestones during this decade that set the tone for our lives 50 years after the fact that it is truly the most incredible decade at least of the 20th century, if not of all modern times.

Having been a Baby Boomer during that decade, I can tell you that so many things were jam packed into that 10-year period--from the lows of the JFK, RFK and MLK assassinations to the highs of the Apollo space program landing on the moon--that it is simply incredible that the decade only "lasted" 10 years.

So much happened in just that span that you would have sworn that it was more than 10 years.

All I have to say about the continued fascination with the 1960s is "Groovy."

That was a decade that had to be lived in to be understood, and even though I was there, I don't know if  I fully get it yet.

I went from a toddler to a teenager during that span, and it truly was an incredible ride.

And the Beatles helped us along, coming on our scene right after the JFK assassination.

So again, this fascination is right on--what other decade could spur such continued study as the 1960s have produced?

It's never ending, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rant #723: Then Came ... Michael Parks

As my own birthday nears, I pay homage to a person who just happens to have a birthday today. The guy is something of a mere footnote on the 1960s, but he is a survivor, still active, and although in his 70s, he is still a name that you probably remember if you grew up during that time.

Michael Parks, from the TV show "Then Came Bronson," is 72 today.

Parks had the look and the feel to make it big in the late 1960s. He had that bad-boy look that made him appear as if he were the small-screen equivalent of Steve McQueen. Riding on a motorcycle each week to take on new challenges, Parks became something of a teen idol during the "Then Came Bronson" run from 1969-1970.

His characterization of Jim Bronson was that of a loner, but one who got involved. He was part of the youth culture of the time, but seemingly had one hand in it and one hand in the old street cred that if you get in my way, I will take care of you.

Not very peace and love, but it did make the series a cult classic.

He also recorded a few albums during that time, and actually had a top 20 hit with the show's theme, "Long Lonesome Highway," which barely scraped into the Top 20 in 1969.

The show was never a huge hit, but it had its core following, and was released in Europe as a theatrical theme, with more adult content added in. After the show ended, he appeared in numerous movies and TV shows, including "The Colbys" TV show, and "Kill Bill" Parts 1 and 2.

No, he never became a huge star, but he's another one of these actors who guarantees a good performance no matter what he does. And even into his 70s, he continues to have that scruffy look, perfect for character actor roles.

But no matter what role he plays, fans will always remember him as the title character in "Then Came Bronson," which by the way, was in production well before the biker flick to end all biker flicks, "Easy Rider" germinated into a film.

But the two are somewhat linked because of their content, and "Then Came Bronson" pretty much always gets short shrift as a TV ripoff of the theatrical film.

I don't think that's true, and certainly, as a kid watching this show, I didn't even link the two.

But anyway, happy birthday to Michael Parks. He should ride that motorcycle for the next 72 years.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Rant #722: Liza's Back ... and Blue

On Saturday night, my wife and I went to see the legendary Liza Minnelli at NYCB Bank Theater in Westbury, Long Island, or whatever they call the Westbury Music Fair now. It has had so many name changes in recent years that heaven knows what its real name is now. In these parts, all you have to say is that you saw a performer at Westbury, and everyone knows exactly the place that you are talking about. Anyway, back to the show ... After a brief opening act, Liza came out, and the crowd went wild. Having been doing this for about 50 years, the crowd pretty much knows what to expect from her during a concert, but there were a couple of surprises during this show ... and they weren't good surprises. First of all, the show had been postponed twice since December because of various ailments that Minnelli has gone through. The main one was that she fell over her dog, and broke her ankle. At 66, she hasn't been in the best of health recently to begin with, but she was hobbling through this show. It looked like she had a lot of trouble walking and moving around, was completely winded after--and in the middle--of every song, and needed a chair to sit in during most of the performance. She was also having a wardrobe malfunction of another kind--her pants kept falling, and she had to constantly pull them up. But the crowd was appreciative throughout the show--they are as devoted an audience as any I've seen at any concert. She sang just about all her big songs--"Liza with a Z," "Cabaret," and "New York, New York" (still the best version of this song, sorry Frank S.), but she was really, really laboring through the 90-minute show. At one point, I think it was on the song "This Time," as she was building to the crescendo, she actually stopped herself, the orchestra (led by long-time collaborator Billy Stritch) and the crowd mid-stream as she caught her breath, and took a long chug of water. She then returned to the actual point that she stopped the song, picked it right up, and finished it. I have never seen that happen at any Liza concert--and any concert in general--that I have ever been in attendance at. Never. But she did it flawlessly, and the crowd rode it as if it were a brand new Cadillac. The crowd loved it all. She learned from her mom, Judy Garland, how to milk an audience for everything it's worth, and whether feigned or the real thing, she did it here too. But the crowd--lots of older, 65 and up people, mixed in with some young 'uns (like myself and my wife) and several gay men, more than I could every remember at a Liza concert on Long Island--ate it up like it was a five-course dinner. They loved every pant, every swig, every misstep that Minnelli took. Look, she is a real trouper. I can't figure out why she continues to do this, other than it probably pays her quite well. But she is past the time when she could do this well. Due to her various ailments, she can't dance, much less walk, and she is constantly out of breath. I go for the spectacle, and there is plenty of it when she is on stage. My wife, and the thousands of others at this show and others she performs, go because they really do love the lady and her talent and her career--and the many, many ups and downs she has had. She remains a credible actress, and when she can get her pipes to work, she can still sing like nobody's business. Maybe those areas are directions for her to pursue in the future, not as a live performer, though. Good for her for everything she has done and everything she will do in the future, but Liza, "Maybe This Time" the time may be right. Bow out on stage before you conk out.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rant #721: Dark Shadows Indeed

Yesterday, I gave my take on the life of Dick Clark, an icon in the entertainment industry. Today, I report on another passing, a person who made his most momentous mark during a roughly five-year period, only to pretty much drift away from our consciousness. Jonathan Frid, the Shakespearean actor who was best known for his role of the vampire, Barnabas Collins, on the afternoon soap opera "Dark Shadows," died last week, on Friday the 13th of all days. He was in his late 80s. Frid was not in the original cast of the ABC soap opera. The gothic show debuted several months before his debut, but was not doing well in the ratings. ABC was ready to cancel this Dan Curtis production, but then the writers had an idea. Why not go for broke and cast a vampire? Barnabas Collins was not just a vampire. He was a tortured soul, a man tormented by his past. He was a man who had eternal life, but really, no life at all. The ploy worked, and worked beyond the dreams of probably anybody who was associated with the program. Frid, who was only supposed to be on the show for a few weeks in this story arc, ended up staying for the remainder of the series' run. "Dark Shadows" became one of the hottest shows on the schedule, and the five-day-a-week program became the first soap opera to have a substantial audience of kids. Playing upon the success of the Barnabas Collins character, the show subsequently featured werewolves, time travel, witches ... you name it, and the show had it. Frid was so hot that he was featured in the same magazines as teen stars half his age, like Davy Jones and Mark Lindsay, in the pages of Tiger Beat and magazines of that ilk. He became a cultural phenomenon, and the show seemed to have endless potential. But Frid was kind of tortured himself. He looked upon himself as a Shakespearean actor, not a pop culture soap opera star, and he tired of the Barnabas role. Some alterations were made in his schedule--you can see David Selby's Quentin Collins becoming the star of the show in its later years--but Frid nonetheless wanted to move on. In 1971, Frid turned down a five-year contract to continue the role, and without Barnabas, ABC cancelled the once-hot show. But it has lived on as a cult item for the past 40 years, being one of the few soap operas to have every one of its shows (less one) completely intact. The show has turned up on VHS, and later, DVD. A boxed set of the entire 2,500-plus shows is soon to be released, and a new movie, with Johnny Depp, comes out in a few weeks. Frid pretty much did what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, doing Shakespearean roles, and it is only in the last few years that he came to terms with the Barnabas character. He appeared at a couple of "Dark Shadows" conventions, and was to appear at the latest one in July. It is ironic that he died just when his star might have been rising again. Johnny Depp plays Barnabas in the new movie, and had a reverence for both the character and Frid that culminates in the movie role. Too bad Frid couldn't bask in the glory one more time. He is in the film in a cameo role with three of his former co-stars, so his legacy is pretty much cemented with the film. But looking back 40 years, "Dark Shadows" was really the gas, it really was. And Barnabas was its engine. R.I.P. Jonathan Frid. The vampire is dead, but will never be forgotten. (And no, I don't like this new layout Google has given us, with no separation of paragraphs. I don't know how to fix it, but I am working on it.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rant #720: An Icon Passes

As I am sure you already know, Dick Clark, the host of "American Bandstand" and host, creator and producer of dozens of other shows during a more than 50-year career, died at age 82 yesterday.

You can read elsewhere about his many exploits, how American Bandstand helped the civil rights movement, how his shows helped to make our lives better.

Heck, my mother had told me numerous times that when I was a very little kid, every time "American Bandstand" came on the air when it was a weekly show out of Philadelphia, I would jump up and down in my crib.

But here, I am going to talk about topics related to him that few of the obituaries will even give a slight mention to.

Two of the shows that he produced clearly stand out in my memory, and gave me some of my most vivid recollections from my childhood.

"Where the Action Is" was his spinoff from "American Bandstand." Although it lasted about two seasons as a daytime, Monday-Friday show, it was really the first music "video" show, setting the groundwork for "The Monkees" TV show and even, down the line, MTV.

This black and white show showcased the hottest recording acts of the day, usually lip-syncing to their hits at beaches, pools, or resorts of one kind or another.

Originally hosted by singer Steve Alaimo, the show kind of morphed from a showcase for many acts into a showcase for one act.

Signed as the house band of the show based on their incredible success in the Pacific Northwest, Paul Revere and the Raiders were made for television. They had a very visual act, were very performance oriented, wore Revolutionary War costumes, and had sort of a hard-edged garage/bubblegum pop sound that owed as much to the Beatles as it did to the Kinks.

Led by bandleader Paul Revere and lead singer Mark Lindsay, the band virtually took over the show, and became its centerpiece, along with all the other rock, pop and rhythm and blues acts that appeared on the program. In addition to Revere and Lindsay, the names of Smitty and Fang also entered the lexicon, and the Raiders became among the top teen idols in the nation through this show, certainly setting the environment for the creation of the Monkees.

Clark did many of the voiceovers for the program and I watched it almost religiously.

After that show went off the air, Clark held onto the popularity of the Raiders with his Saturday afternoon "Happening" shows. Following "American Bandstand" on the schedule, these half hour shows starred the Raiders, playing their latest hits and hobnobbing with other popular acts.

There was also a "Battle of the Bands" on every show, and teen idol celebrities like Merilee Rush and Peter Tork were often the judges.

Clark also did voiceovers for this show, which lasted two seasons, and like "Where the Action Is," he was also the producer.

Sure, these two shows are mere footnotes on a resume that included so many other, perhaps more memorable programs.

But to me, the two shows were the essence of Clark: a modern huckster to the youth of America, but in the very best sense of the word.

He was a businessman first, and always, and he had his hand on the pulse of the youth of America.

And parents trusted him with their kids.

So, in parting adieu to Clark, I have to say that he was a truly one of a kind person, a guy that had his fingers on everything, but always knew where he was going next.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rant #719: A Barrel Full of Monkees

Last night, after a long, hard day of work, my family and I did something a little bit different with our evening.

The fabled Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, Long Island--usually the bastion of art house films, and more snooty looks at entertainment and media--itself did something completely different last night.

They presented a rock legends tribute to Davy, Micky, Mike and Peter, better known collectively as The Monkees.

Bill Shelley of Shelley Archives has been collecting rock and roll video for years, and he has an extensive collection of everyone from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones to the Allman Brothers to Steely Dan, just to name a few.

But last night, he presented a more than two-hour program/tribute to the Monkees, a natural for this sort of thing because of their very video nature.

Taking musical segments from their show, mixed in with the numerous TV commercials and guest appearances on other shows as well as segments from their film "Head" and their TV special "33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee," Shelley proved once and for all, and without a doubt, that the Monkees were a vital piece of the 1960s, and that their music--and to a certain degree, their hijinks while performing these songs--continue to be vital, and if nothing else, quite interesting.

Whether performing the seminal "I'm a Believer" or playing with Nerf Balls (they introduced this line of toys in 1969), the foursome had their hands on the pulse of what was hot in young America from the mid 1960s through the latter stages of the decade.

Some said they were born as a band with silver spoons in their mouths, but the fact of the matter is that given this task, they handled it not only admirably, but probably more successfully than could ever have been imagined.

With numerous hits and hit albums, and with a successful TV show to boot, their legacy lives on, in everything from current teen idols to music videos to the big, full-fledged tours that are the staple of the world of music today.

And they have never lost their popularity, only gained on it, and the recent death of Davy Jones has truly brought fans out of the woodwork. Their future as true pop stars has been solidified for another generation and probably for generations into the future.

The video tribute was pretty well done, and the packed audience clapped along after every segment was shown. Some of the video was not rare--how many times can you see their classic "Daydream Believer" segment (with Davy's introduction intact)? Some of what was shown was quite rare, such as the aforementioned Nerf toy commercial.

Most, if not all of the segments can be found on YouTube, but to see them on the big screen was a plus.

But whatever was being shown, the audience--a mix of baby boomers, older fans, and even some younger fans like my son--was into it from the get go, and never stopped.

There was a brief question and answer session afterward, and the whole evening went pretty quickly.

I wish Jann Wenner was there. As the unenlightened despot of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he has never had a fondness for the group, certainly one of the most beloved acts of 1960s rock and roll.

With Davy Jones' untimely passing, even his Rolling Stone mag opened its pages to the Monkees, giving a surprisingly large amount of coverage to his death and the overall Monkees phenomenon.

Perhaps time heals all wounds, whether real or imagined, and perhaps Wenner will allow the so-called Pre-Fab Four into the hallowed halls of the Hall of Fame next time nominations come around.

If he would have seen this video tribute, he would truly understand why, for years, fans have called for the HoF to include these four extremely talented performers into the HoF.

Forget about the silver spoon; these guys had talent, and the talent to carry the whole thing off.

Now, nearly 50 years after the fact, is the time for them to be welcomed in.

Sure, the Monkees aped the Beatles, but the video tribute demonstrated without a shadow of a doubt that they belong in there, the sooner the better.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rant #718: Comedy Redux

Yesterday, I pontificated about the new Three Stooges movie, which I--and the world--could have lived without.

But I got to thinking, that this wasn't the first time that our beloved comedy teams have been portrayed by others, mainly on television.

Some of the portrayals are pretty good, some are pretty awful, but comedy teams seem to be ripe for this sort of thing.

"Bud and Lou" was a 1978 TV movie purportedly showing the real relationship between Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Lou, played by Buddy Hackett, came off as an overbearing, career-directed mole in this film, while Bud, played by Harvey Korman, came off as something of a drunken wimp.

I remember that Korman and Hackett appeared on "The Tonight Show" to push the film, and actually performed the classic "Who's on First" routine pretty flawlessly.

But the film fell flat, because it was a drama about a beloved comedy team, and basically showed how wretched they supposedly were.

Where's "Susquehanna Hat Company" when you need it?

Another portrayal of a comedy team was that of Laurel and Hardy on a number of TV shows and TV commercials by comic actors Dick Van Dyke and Chuck McCann.

This was a more reverential portrayal of the comedy team than was the portrayal of Abbott and Costello by Korman and Hackett. When you would see Van Dyke and McCann do their takes on Ollie and Stan, you got the sense that they really loved the comedy team, and their portrayal was pretty much picture perfect.

McCann--a little more robust than he is today--had Hardy's slow burns down to perfection, while Van Dyke's Laurel hit the mark by mixing the innocent with the comic, which is really what made Stan and Ollie the benchmark for all comedy teams.

I have included a clip of the two from "The Gary Moore Show," and you can see for yourself how two comic geniuses portrayed two other comic geniuses without missing a step.

Van Dyke and McCann put on their Laurel and Hardy guise with other sidekicks, but I would say the two of them together were absolutely incredible. Their portrayal of Stan and Ollie was spot on.

There have been others who have portrayed comedy teams on TV. One that I could think of was a portrayal of the Marx Brothers by none other than the Sweathogs of "Welcome Back Kotter" fame.

Gabe Kaplan almost made a career out of this, playing Groucho on the small screen and on the stage.

But looking at all of these, from the depths of the Korman/Hackett impersonation to the heights of the Van Dyke/McCann portrayals--and with everything in between--there is just nothing like the originals.

Why watch copies when the originals can be viewed so easily?

I guess that can be said for the Three Stooges film.

Why watch a copy when all you have to do is put in a DVD and watch the masters at work?

And no, I don't look forward to any Cheech and Chong reduxes in the near or distant future.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Rant #717: Three Stooges ... Hey, Take It From a "Real" Larry (nyuck, nyuck)

My family and I saw the new Three Stooges movie this weekend.

Let me tell you about the plot first before I tell you whether I liked it or not.

Moe, Larry and Curly are dropped off--more like thrown to--a Catholic orphanage, and they grow up as being the most un-adoptable of the children at the orphanage.

Moe comes the closest to getting adopted, but because he wants his friends with him, he gets brought back to the orphanage. Another boy is adopted in his place.

Through the years, the boys grow up at the orphanage, and they cause nothing but havoc no matter what they do.

Then the orphanage cannot pay its mortgage, and the boys set out to try to find a way to pay what the orphanage owes.

In the middle of this, they get embroiled in a murder plot involving the buxom wife of the kid who was adopted in the place of Moe so many years earlier. The wife wants to get rid of her husband so she can get together with someone else, which ends up being not him, but someone else she wants to get together with.

The Three Stooges end up triumphing over evil, but while they don't save the orphanage, the place survives in another guise.

That's it, in a nutshell.

No, this picture won't drain your brain at all, and the movie makers really try hard to make the "new" Three Stooges as believable as possible, but ultimately, these "new" Three Stooges have even less credibility than the Joe Besser Three Stooges years did, or even less than the cartoon Stooges did.

They really do try. The three actors portraying the Stooges look, act, talk and poke, hit and punch just like the original Three Stooges did, but they just aren't Moe, Larry and Curly, they are actors portraying Moe, Larry and Curly, and there is a difference.

Sure, there were some funny and somewhat clever sight gags, and the filmmakers--Peter and Bobby Farrelly--are obviously big Three Stooges fans, because there are some nuances in the film that make that pretty clear.

So I give them kudos for that. That is much different than what I have seen with other reboots, where they take a title, let's say, "Get Smart," and have no clue about what made the original so terrific. The reboot is a botch job, and falls by the wayside.

But even though this film tries, there is something missing from it that is an integral part of the Three Stooges experience, whether you realized it or not.

I think one reason that the new film kind of falls flat is that it is missing that "Yiddishkeit" that the original shorts had.

What I mean by that is that the Three Stooges were Jews, and much of their humor was derived from that experience. There are many in-jokes in those original shorts, and as a Jew, I can see them loud and clear, whether it is the use of certain names, places, or other sight gags and jokes.

In this film, everything is homogenized, made vanilla, and you simply don't get that.

But I guess that if you are below the age of, let's say, 25, you might like this picture.

It wasn't quite the worst movie I have ever seen, but I have seen better.

Think of it this way: The Three Stooges movie is to the original Three Stooges as the new Yankee Stadium is to the original Yankee Stadium.

It's a good facsimile, but it isn't the real thing.

But if you are a young kid, and you don't know what the real thing is, this film will do.

And the laughs I heard from the kids in the theater tells me that a lot of people, younger people, really liked this film.

I think the moviemakers knew this, and catered to that audience.

There were some very mild sexually oriented jokes, but a lot of that stuff--which was included in the original trailer--was edited out of the final cut, so what you get is generally a safe film for kids, made more so by the disclaimer at the end, where the moviemakers tell the kids that the hammers, knives and other things that were used in the movie were rubber and fake.

Why they felt the need to do this is beyond me. I guess they wanted to protect themselves just in case any kid started to hit his brother's head with a hammer, but previous generations never had this problem, so why would the current one have such a problem?

I don't get it, and I really don't get making movies, or reboots, like this one.

It reminded me years ago of The Little Rascals movie. I took my then very young daughter to see this, and it was even more implausible than the Stooges film. You had the characters of Farina and Buckwheat together in the same movie at basically the same age, which was an impossibility, but I guess the moviemakers took certain liberties, just like they did with the Stooges movie.

Oh well, to sum it up, not the worst movie out there, but far from the best, the Three Stooges movie should appeal to younger kids who don't know any better.

Now, after seeing this film, what their parents should do is to buy, rent or find the original Three Stooges shorts, and let the kids watch them--then the kids will see the real, honest to goodness Stooges, not copies.

And I guarantee that they will love the originals.

How can you make a real copy of a concept that lasted generations?

Here's to Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Shemp Howard, and even to Joe Besser and Curly Joe DeRita.

They were the real thing, and the real thing is just that.

And take it from a real Larry, this copy is just a copy, and little more.

(P.S.: Seeing this film marked the 50th anniversary of seeing my first Stooges movie in the movie theater--"The Three Stooges in Orbit" (1962). My father swore that he would never take me to see any film ever again after sitting through this movie, where the mainly kids audience was throwing things, talking and yelling and screaming and making a mess of themselves. He didn't keep his promise, but I did see my second Stooges film with my friends: "The Outlaws Is Coming" (1965).)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Rant #716: Guilty of What?

I have held my tongue (or my typing fingers) long enough on this one, and although I have written extensively on this on Facebook, I haven't done it here yet.

Until now.

Just exactly what is George Zimmerman guilty of?

Yesterday, Zimmerman was in the courtroom for his shooting of Trayvon Martin, the teenager who Zimmerman followed and killed several weeks ago.

After much debate, the state of Florida filed second-degree murder charges against him.

Zimmerman has claimed from the outset that Martin attacked him as he turned away and was headed back to his vehicle. He claims he acted in self defense.

Zimmerman sits in jail now, awaiting future trial. His lawyer has not asked for bail, probably because at this point in time, the safest place for his client is in jail, away from the public as well as being secluded away from other prisoners.

The brouhaha that this incident has caused has been something incredible, fanned by the media's desires to propel this story to front pages around the country, as well as other opportunity seekers' needs to see their names featured prominently in those stories.

Zimmerman is public enemy No. 1 to some people, but quite frankly, I want to know exactly what he is guilty of--and we will find that out when his trial takes place, a few months down the line.

I believe he was at least guilty of one thing: as part of the neighborhood watch of his community, he saw Martin in a gated community, and didn't believe he belonged there. He called the police, as is procedure, and the police told him not to pursue the teenager, that they would take care of it.

He did so anyway, and that he is guilty of, that is obvious.

Beyond that, everything is pretty fuzzy, even though to some people, it is pretty clear.

What happened between Zimmerman and Martin is where the crux of this case stands, and Zimmerman will have his day in court to explain everything that happened, at least from his standpoint.

Did Martin attack Zimmerman? Did Zimmerman feel threatened? Did Zimmerman attack Martin? Was this all a dreadful accident?

That is what we will all find out somewhere down the line.

However, there is a lot of racism in this country, and I am not just talk about the "traditional" type.

I am talking about behavior that is anti-social, anti-human, and really anti-everything this country stands for.

Race mongers--yes, people profiting off of such a virulent act as this one--have already convicted Zimmerman of this crime. They would even lynch him if they could, and they have basically done that with their words over the past few weeks.

People like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson (yes, I have removed the Reverend from their names, because they are more "men of the sloth" then men of the cloth) and Spike Lee have become their own judge and jury in this case, and the scary thing is that so many people have backed these fools in their quests for attention.

Sharpton and Jackson are long-time rabble rousers who know an opportunity when they see one, and they have clearly seen one here.

They point fingers without knowing any facts, and their rants and raves (yes, in lower case) are racism and bigotry at their worst.

Where were they when a mob murdered Yankel Rosenbaum in Crown Heights some years ago? I guess Rosenbaum wasn't the proper "persuasion" for Sharpton and Jackson to get involved.

And let's not forget Sharpton's Tawana Brawley fabrication and Jackson's "Hymietown" comment.

These guys are out for themselves, and let's not forget that.

And Lee is the worst of the bunch. He actually had the gall to be giving out Zimmerman's supposed home address on Twitter so that people could visit Zimmerman, and he didn't give it out so visitors could have tea with the man and his family.

The problem is that it wasn't Zimmerman's address; it was the address of an elderly couple who had nothing to do with this incident.

Lee should have been jailed for his actions, but a lot of hush money kept the elderly couple away from the courts.

I want to hear what Zimmerman has to say. Sure, it will be his story, and not Martin's story, and not Sharpton's or Jackson's or Lee's story.

But let's hear what he has to say before we rush to judgment.

I thought that in this country, you were innocent until proven guilty.

Yes, personally, I think that Zimmerman will get the book thrown at him for some guilt in this incident. He went against what the police told him to do, so to a certain extent, he created the situation that ensued.

But what happened after Zimmerman decided to pursue the teenager is extremely important, and there is no way anyone can convict this man to the fullest extent of the charges until what happened comes out at the trial.

And those looking to lynch Zimmerman prior to hearing his side of the story are no better than those who lynched others, simply because of the color of their skin, throughout our country's history.

Hate is hate, no matter what hue it takes on.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rant #715: A 62-Year-Old Partridge in a Pear Tree?

If you need a reality check on how much older we have all gotten, let me give it to you right now.

David Cassidy is 62 years old today.

That's right, the lead Partridge Family member, or at least the one of two (along with stepmom Shirley Jones) who sang on the Partridge Family records, turns a year older today.

The early 1970s were prime time for Cassidy. The son of actor Jack Cassidy was primed and ready for stardom in the late 1960s, but show business didn't know what to do with him.

He appeared in a couple of smaller roles in TV shows, but once the concept for "The Partridge Family" TV show came about--supposedly based on the real-life Cowsills, who had a number of hits but weren't thought to be photogenic enough--Cassidy was a lock for the lead role.

And he handled it pretty well.

"I Think I Love You," "I Woke Up in Love This Morning," and several other hits followed during the run of the show, but Cassidy actually became much bigger than the show, basically picking up the mantle from Davy Jones as the No. 1 teen idol in the land, besting Bobby Sherman by inches.

Wherever he went, there was mass hysteria.

Regrettably, during one concert, a fan died, and Cassidy had to take a long, hard look at his career from that point on.

His dual careers--actually three careers, as an actor, singer of Partridge Family records, and singer on his own, solo records--began to peter out by the mid 1970s. He still recorded and acted--and acted very successfully in a couple of stage productions--but his teenybopper fame really only lasted a few years.

He has been in and out of the spotlight since that time, recording and acting sporadically.

He was supposed to go on tour with Davy Jones this summer, but Jones' death put the kibosh on that.

Whether Cassidy is 62, 72, or 102, he will always be remembered by his fans as that fresh-faced kid with that beautiful long hair on The Partridge Family.

Along with Jones and Sherman, he must be looked upon as one of the all-time teen idols, loved by million of pre-pubescent girls, many of whom are now mothers and even grandmothers.

My sister absolutely adored him. She posted his pictures from Tiger Beat all over her room, she listened to his records, and she watched his show. And yes, she is the mother of three now, so she fits the profile perfectly.

Good luck to Cassidy.

A 62-year-old Partridge?

You bet!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rant #714: New York Baseball History

Today, April 11, is a prominent day in New York baseball history.

Both the Mets and Yankees share in this historical day, although the days were actually separated by decades.

In 1962, the Mets made their debut on this day, playing a road game in St. Louis and losing to the host St. Louis Cardinals 11-4.

The Mets would go on to lose 120 games that year, and their 40-120 record has stood for 50 years as the worst record in major league baseball history.

But for an area that was without National League baseball for the previous four seasons, the Mets were a revelation.

After the Dodgers and Giants left for California in 1958, the only team in town was the Yankees. National League fans had to wait for another team to come along, and not only was another team coming along, but it was going to be the centerpiece of a brand new league.

Branch Rickey, long gone from the Dodgers, dreamed up the new Continental Baseball League as an entity that would try to garner loyalty for a set of teams, including a New York team.

The Continental Baseball League looked like a lock, but then the National League thwarted their opportunity by launching the New York Metropolitans as an expansion franchise, the successor to the Giants and Dodgers. With that launch, the Continental Baseball League died a quick death.

And although the team was inept at the start, and continued to be inept until 1969, New York fans loved the "Amazin' Mets," especially when they moved from the Polo Grounds to their own digs in Queens at Shea Stadium.

And when they improbably won the World Series in 1969, the hysteria was incredible. As a Yankees fan I remember it well. Everyone seemed to love the Mets at that time. Even Ed Sullivan's Topo Gigio wore a Mets uniform.

Now turning 50, the Mets franchise has been more inept than solid through the years, and they really have never risen in popularity above the Yankees, but as the second team in New York, they remain one of the most popular teams in professional sports.

Now looking back even further to the most popular and successful team in professional sports, the Yankees also celebrate an anniversary today, albeit a less auspicious one than the one celebrated by their crosstown rivals.

Facing the Boston Red Sox as the Highlanders in 1912, the soon-to-be-named Yankees lost to the Boston Red Sox, the team the would be their main rival through the decades.

The Highlanders would go on to lose more than 100 games that season, the last time the Highlanders/Yankees would lose that many games in a season.

More importantly, today is the 100th anniversary of the Yankees sporting pinstripes on their uniforms.

They weren't the first to do so--the Cubs did it a few seasons earlier--but the Yankee pinstripes stand as the most iconic fashion statement in professional sports.

It is what makes their uniform so special.

Those pinstripes were black, but they eventually morphed into blue pinstripes, and the uniform is prized by many with such a fashion statement.

And although there was a brief hiatus with the pinstripes a few years later, they eventually came back strong, and have never left, and the pinstripes have been with the team for every pennant and World Series since the late teens and early 1920s.

Congratulations on these anniversaries for the two New York baseball teams. Each team has a rich history, and who knows what lurks for these teams over the next 50 and 100 years.

Play ball!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Rant #713: Two Anniversaries

Today, April 10, marks the date of two famous anniversaries in 20th century history.

Each has left an indelible mark on our civilization, but in very different ways.

On this date in 1912, the soon-to-be-ill-fated RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton, England, on its maiden voyage.

It stopped first at Cherbourg, France, and then at Queenstown, Ireland, to pick up passengers before heading out on its voyage on the open sea.

Of course, you know what happened after that.

Filled to the gills with very wealthy passengers, like John Jacob Astor, but mainly with poor people seeking safe passage, the ship hit an iceberg, thousands died, and it was the first modern cruise ship disaster.

Heck, we can even see it play out in 3D in the "Titanic" film in our local theater.

Also on this date, in 1947, the Brooklyn Dodgers purchased the contract of Jackie Robinson from its minor league affiliate, the Montreal Royals.

When Robinson played his first game, he broke the color barrier in baseball.

Now, all players, regardless of color, could play major league baseball. And Robinson showed just how talented he was, helping to change the game forever.

Two incredible instances happening on the very same day, 35 years removed from one another.

To this day, I think the Titanic disaster has been somewhat overplayed by the media.

Yes, it truly was a horrible thing to have happened.

It just proved that no matter how rich you are, your money isn't good when such a disaster strikes.

Everyone is, literally, in the same boat when this happens, no matter if you are a millionaire, billionaire, or just normal folk.

And James Cameron's "Titanic" movie, no matter how good it was, kind of amplified the fact that we have had a fascination with this disaster for years, now reaching 100 years. And we just can't let go.

Heck, there is an even a cruise ship which headed out to sea the other day, which will be following the same exact route the Titanic took when disaster struck.

How morbid!

The Jackie Robinson story hasn't been overplayed at all. I don't think anyone from the succeeding generations, mine included, can realize the power of this move that the Dodgers made, and its reverberations throughout so many facets of our lives, way beyond just sports.

Sports is the field where two sets of teams or players meet, and major league baseball supposedly showcases the best baseball players in the world.

But without black players, baseball only showcased the best white players, so you weren't getting the best of the best, until Jackie Robinson came into the game.

Much more importantly, this move was really the first step toward acceptance of blacks as equals in our country. I really believe that Jackie Robinson had as much to do with the civil rights movement as Martin Luther King did, but Robinson did it on the baseball diamond.

So, two interesting anniversaries on the same day ... one having a far-reaching impact on our lives, the other one, merely a point of fascination that will never go away.

April 10 is a very interesting date in history, isn't it?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Rant #712: Bunny Hops to 86

Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner is 86 today.

He looks kind of silly today, having phony relationships with girls that can be his great granddaughters and wearing his sailor hat, but during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, this guy was a trailblazer.

There had been "girly" mags before Playboy, but when he started up that magazine, he added a touch of class to the big breasts that were featured in the magazine.

He took a real journalistic approach to the whole thing, figuring that since most men would buy the magazine for the pictorials, why not put something a little "heady" into the magazine for men to read before they got to the treasure trove of skin.

And he was right on the money.

Playboy's legacy is not only the beautiful women who have adorned its pages, but the interviews, stories, words and other material that has been featured in the magazine during the last 50-plus years.

Everyone from Martin Luther King to George Clooney has had his words and thoughts published, and you had to read those before you got to the good stuff, so to speak.

And he was smart. He used the magazine as his personal platform for everything from human rights to sexual rights to his own rights as a publisher of what some simply referred to as a skin mag.

And he allowed others to voice their opinions too.

He was a trailblazer.

And today, in this Internet-driven world where magazines are almost something of a relic of a prehistoric age, he continues to oversee the entity that his empire started from.

Playboy has branched out, first into men's clubs and records and now into subscription television, but it all comes down to the magazine.

And yes, Hefner does look like a dirty old man now, and yes, his phony behavior with young girls is pretty much appalling.

But he is still around, still kicking, still trying to keep viable as he comes closer to his ninth decade.

I still remember the first Playboy magazine I ever saw.

I must have been eight years old, and I had a friend who was one of about six kids, with him being the only boy.

We were in his room, and he asked me if I wanted to see something. He reached under his bed, and took out a Playboy.

He opened up the magazine, and actress Kim Novak was posing provocatively on the page he opened to.

She wasn't nude, but it was enough for these two eight year olds to snicker like any eight year olds would at the sight of a nearly naked lady who was old enough to have been our own mother.

We had our laugh, he shoved the magazine back under his bed, and that was that.

It's funny how vividly I remember that incident, but probably every male in America can recall his own story of the first time he saw Playboy magazine.

That's how vivid the magazine stands out in our culture, even to this day.

And for that, I salute you, Hugh Hefner, on your birthday.

Happy Number 86, and have many, many more birthdays.

But take off the sailor hat, please. We can all live without that.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Rant #711: Happy Easter, Happy Passover

With a full moon out brightly this morning, I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter and a Happy Passover.

It's kind of weird that Good Friday and the first night of Passover are on the same date, but that is how it is this year.

I don't remember the last time this happened, but it makes it kind of nice.

Now many of us have holidays to celebrate and those holidays begin on the same day.

I guess there is some type of benefit to being in a leap year, with the one extra day positioning the two holidays together.

And these are nice holidays, minus the crazed gift giving that highlights those other holidays at the end of the year.

The significance of these holidays stand out, as family oriented events.

And I like that.

Sure, Easter has been commercialized to a certain extent, and Passover is getting there, but right now, the two holidays are kind of unique and unto themselves as far as crass commercialization is concerned.

Easter has to do with the resurrection of Jesus, and Passover has to do with the flight of Jews out of Egypt.

Those are the basics, there's much more to the holidays than that, of course.

But they are holidays where families get together, actually sit at the table together and eat and talk and go over the various rituals each holiday literally brings to the table.

In our world, it is so rare for families to sit down and eat meals together, so these holidays are a brief respite from the everyday run-and-gun eating that we normally do.

And when you don't eat meals together, you don't talk with each other, so these holidays give us occasion to do that.

My family only eats together on the weekend. During the week, I eat at one time, my wife another, and my son another.

We haven't eaten with my daughter in months.

But finally, on this first and the second night of Passover, we will all eat together, and celebrate the holiday together.

I am sure it is a similar situation for other Jews, and for others who celebrate Easter.

So when we celebrate these holidays, take it all in and enjoy yourself, because these occasions don't come around very often during the year.

Have a great holiday, and I will speak to you again on Monday.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rant #710: Play Ball!

Ah, with the scent of tree pollen and allergens throughout the air, and with a winter that never was behind us, we know that the warm weather is coming because the Major League Baseball season, for all intents and purposes, starts today.

Yes, the Mariners and the A's actually opened the season last week in Japan, but how many of us really paid any attention to that?

And yes, the Marlins officially opened their new stadium yesterday with a game against the World Champion Cardinals, but although their 500 real fans paid attention to that, most of us didn't.

Today is the day, and I can't wait.

You just know that summer is around the corner when baseball begins.

Sure, there is a little nip in the air this morning in my neck of the woods, but baseball almost brings out the warmth.

It's like the two go hand in hand.

Baseball is the game that brings me back to my childhood (see photo). I can be a kid again when I watch a major league game, not the 55-year old that I nearly am right now (we'll have to wait 23 more days for that occasion to happen).

It's just such a fun game, with nuances that only fans can truly understand.

The Cardinals will be looking to defend their title without Albert Pujols, who went for the money to the greener pastures of California with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or whatever they call themselves now.

The Texas Rangers have won the American League pennant two years running after never having won anything under that name. Remember, they are the descendants of the old Washington Senators, so losing is almost their middle name ... but not for the past two seasons.

The New York Yankees, my team, won't begin their season until tomorrow, when they play the Tampa Bay Rays. That is a good way to begin the season: two of the best teams in baseball facing off against one another.

I just hope that they get some fannies in the Tropicana Field seats for these games, and that the Yankees come out on top, of course. When you go to a Yankees-Rays game in Tampa, you swear you are in Yankee Stadium South, with so many Yankee fans at the game. I've done it, and it really is amazing.

Right now, the only game I know I am going to is at the Trop. When my family goes on vacation, we will be seeing the Rays and the Mariners. Not the best matchup, but I hope to fulfill my quest to get a foul ball this year, a quest that began in 1965 at my first game.

We have seats right behind the Mariners' dugout, so maybe our wish will come true this year. I will have to wait until July to find out.

We will go to a Yankees game, but that won't be for a while. I will get tickets later in the season, probably through a secondary source. The Yankees basically sell out every home game, or at least sell out in the seating areas that are barely affordable for people like me, so I have to go through a broker to get a seat.

My predictions: I think the Yankees and the Cardinals will face each other in the World Series, and the Yankees will bring home another World Series championship to the Bronx.

We'll know if I'm right in about six months.

Anyway, let's not jump ahead of ourselves: the 2012 season is about to begin, and I can't wait.

Play Ball!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rant #709: The Day That Still Haunts Me

In 1968, 44 years ago today, civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

I remember that day, and its aftermath, as clearly as one can remember an event that happened at least a generation ago.

My family and I lived in that unique community I have talked about so often here, Rochdale Village, in South Jamaica, Queens, New York. It was a mixed community surrounded by one of the longest standing black communities in the United States.

I was 10 years old, just a few days away from my 11th birthday. I don't remember what we were watching on TV, but my parents, myself and my sister were in our living room all watching the same program. We had a black and white Dumont TV, and although it was a pretty old TV even by the standards of 1968, it still played pretty well.

Whatever we were watching was on Channel 2, the local CBS outlet and the flagship station of the entire network.

Anyway, an announcer broke into the program we were watching, and said something like the following:

"Reports are that civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been fatally shot in Memphis, Tennessee."

I honestly don't remember if the word "fatally" was used, because I don't remember whether at that time whether it was announced if he was dead yet.

But it was at least announced that he was shot.

(The video that accompanies this Rant was not what I just described, but it is the best I can do to bring this all into perspective. I remember that whatever we were watching was broken into as a "Special Report," so I don't think this was it, but I use it to illustrate my point.)

"Oh my God, oh my God," said my mother over and over and over again.

You have to understand the delicate balance that my family and I, and hundreds of other families both black and white, lived in within this community.

Rochdale Village was an experimental community. Very basically, it was created to see if white middle class families could live, and prosper, within a predominantly black community.

Yes, there were many blacks who lived in Rochdale Village, but the majority of people living in this community were white, and a majority of the whites were Jews, so it was something of a novel community.

We did not live in a gated community, welcomed those living on the outskirts of the community into our schools, our retail establishments, and into our community as a whole.

Many on the outside welcomed us, but probably many more hated us for infiltrating their community.

So any incident, however large or small, that would tip this delicate balance was sure to be something to pay close attention to.

So when it was made public that Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, my mother pretty much knew that it was the beginning of the end of our time in this community.

And oh how right she was.

I was a kid, and maybe I didn't fully get it. I had white friends and black friends there, Jewish friends and non-Jewish friends, and really, all that I cared about at the time was whether we had enough kids for two full teams in stickball, or punchball, or what team we were playing against in Little League.

Sure, I guess I did see some interesting things beyond that, but heck, I was 10 years old, so my world was a pretty small one.

But my world changed the very next day at school.

What I remember from that day was that the Black Panthers demanded that the name of our school be changed to the Martin Luther King Jr. School, and it that request wasn't complied with, then they were going to blow up the school. (No, it wasn't complied with and no, the school was never bombed.)

I remember being addressed in school that day about the incident that had happened, and we all seemed to take it in for what it was, a horrible event that impacted us all.

Leaving school that day, I remember someone I knew being chased by another person with a long knife or machete, with the weapon holder yelling, "You killed my father."

I remember most of us, myself included, running home after school that day.

I also remember the sorrow I felt about the whole thing. Maybe that was the time where I changed from a little kid to a much more mature human being, but the aftermath kind of made one grow up quickly.

It was as if the heart and soul of the development died with King, a man who would have applauded this development I lived in as a step in the right direction.

(I also seem to remember that King was scheduled to visit our community later in the year, recognizing that this was a place that he wanted to know more about, and on our side, elevating our community, showing the world a community that could work if given the chance.)

Living there was never the same.

Those who hated us from the outset continued to hate us, but they had something to point to for their festering hate.

They felt that all whites were to blame for his murder, and don't tell me about profiling; many of us became targets because we were white and Jewish.

And I have found out in recent years that the antagonism towards blacks who lived in the development also ramped up; many who hated us hated them too, characterizing them as "Uncle Toms" and probably much worse.

Crime ran rampant in our community, mainly smaller crimes like being hit up for money and having things stolen from us. A lot of this crime, due to its petty nature, never got reported, but it existed. I was a victim any number of times.

Anarchy ran rampant in the schools. I can't tell you how many times we were mugged, assaulted and pointed out for being white within the walls of the public school and junior high school.

Look, times were changing to begin with, but the day Martin Luther King died was the beginning of the end for this community. It was our "American Pie" in a way; not to lessen the day's importance, but for comparison's sake, it was our "Day the Community Died."

After a number of incidents involving every member of my family, we had had enough, and by July 1971, we moved to Long Island, where initially, we found that things weren't that much better than they were in Queens. We were the first Jewish family on our block, and yes, the prejudicial treatment continued for several years afterward.

Many of my friends moved out of the old neighborhood by the mid 1970s, and quite frankly, I haven't been back there in about 36 years or so. I am still friendly with many people from that development, but we have all scattered, throughout New York or in Florida or other parts of the country and overseas.

It was a wonderful place to grow up in, but you grew up fast there ... very fast.

So I remember Martin Luther King's death with sadness on several levels. First, a man who had something positive to say was vanquished by a madman's bullet, and secondly (and honestly, almost more important to me), because it signaled the end of my neighborhood, or at least the neighborhood as I knew it.

Rochdale Village still stands today, but as a nearly all-black neighborhood. It is strong in that regard, but the experiment in black and white was over years ago. Whether it passed or failed is up to further examination, and I still don't have a clear answer myself.

But I can tell you that Martin Luther King's death was both my coming of age and also the breaking point for the community that I lived in, and even these 40-plus years later, it still reverberates with me, and for many others who lived there, both blacks and whites.

It was a day and time period that I will never forget.

And I do mean never.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Rant #708: Much Ado About Something

My allergies continue to greatly affect me.

My right eye is in bad shape today. I guess it is its turn, as yesterday, my left eye was bothering me.

I shaved with basically one eye open today, and did a lousy job as a result.

My allergies are at it again, and I guess I can blame the excessive tree pollen for that.

I actually saw it on the ground today near my car.

Oh woe is me!

As I was suffering, I watched last night's broadcast of the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

It is always a fun show to watch, because you never know what the inductees will say, and it's also the only WWE show that is broadcast during the year where the wrestlers can be themselves, not their characters.

Mike Tyson went into the "Celebrity Wing" of the HoF, which is funny, because there is no actual building for the WWE Hall of Fame, so there is no wing.

Tyson's comments appeared to be heavily edited, but he did bring up one point.

He noted that if he didn't appear in one of the Wrestlemanias, he would have lost his house.

Obviously, that payday made the mortgage payment a bit easier.

I would love to have heard Tyson's entire speech, because he was truly "Ranting and Raving" about everything, and then some. I guess I will have to wait for the full induction ceremony until it is released on DVD, probably on the Wrestlemania DVD which should be out by June.

While I ponder what Tyson might have said on the show, I must congratulate Alec Baldwin and Bruce Willis, two emerging altacockas who are acting like guys 30 years younger than they are.

Alec Baldwin is getting married again, this time to his yoga instructor, who at 28, is slightly more than half of the actor's age of 54.

And Bruce Willis, 57, just became a dad again, with his 33-year old wife. They had a baby girl, and named her Mabel.

God, when are these celebrities going to learn that naming kids isn't like naming your dog or cat?

Anyway, that's it for me today. Hopefully, my eyes will be better tomorrow, and I can stop blinking and trying to focus like I am now.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Rant #707: Wrath of the Allergies

Pardon me for this short Rant today, because my eyes are killing me, due to the winter that almost wasn't.

We are now in April, and the summer months, and warmer weather, are just around the corner.

Now that we are in spring, everything from the non-winter winter season carried over to the spring.

I guess the tree pollen is killing me today, because I am having trouble seeing clearly out of my left eye.

It feels as if someone punched me in the eye, but without the pain.

It is tearing, not heaving, and it is better than when I woke up, but it is still bothering me.

And it effects my entire body. My left side feels in disarray, out of place, and not functioning correctly due to the way I feel today.

I am sure this all has to do with allergies--and I just got my shots last week. They don't appear to be helping me any today.

I hope I can get through the day.

If I have to have this type of malady, I wish I could have had it yesterday, as my family and I saw another piece of trash that Hollywood is pushing as entertainment.

"Wrath of the Titans" is a sequel to "Clash of the Titans," which itself was a remake/reboot from the 1980s movie of the same name.

It is about mythological figures, and whatever the name of the film, it is bad, really bad, as bad as "John Carter" was and not worth the money, whether you see it in 3D--like we did--or not.

I should have known something was coming, because when we saw the film yesterday, I couldn't really see the 3D clearly. Some scenes I saw it, some scenes not.

Now, I can barely see 2D via my left eye.

I will be OK. It will probably do as it normally does, get better throughout the day.

It is annoying, but at least I didn't have to shave today.

Ever shave with just one eye open? Try it the next time you shave, you will see how uncomfortable that can be.

And I'm talking to the guys here. Heaven knows what ladies do when they have this same eye-sore and they have to get themselves ready for the day.

I am suffering today, but I will be OK tomorrow.

Speak to you then.

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