Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rant #895: Surprise, Surprise, Surprise (Not Really)


Actor/singer Jim Nabors, of "Gomer Pyle" fame and the guy with that funny look, funny voice, and deep, baritone voice, has come out of the closet.

He married his long-time male companion in Washington State the other day. He is a resident of Hawaii, but since same-sex marriages are legal in Washington, him and his beau decided to tie the knot there.

"When Sgt. Carter finds out, he gonna kill me, he gonna kill me, he gonna kill me dead."

That's the line from one of the most memorable, funny episodes of the "Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C." series, where Gomer is entrusted with Sgt. Carter's car, and it ends up not only getting lost and stolen, but getting smashed to bits, too.

Anyway, was this most recent action by Nabors any "surprise, surprise, surprise" to anyone? Will Sgt. Carter "kill him dead" when he finds out about it?

Probably not.

Nabors has never hid his sexuality, although he never paraded around his sexuality to the public like other stars who feel the need to do so have done in recent times.

He says that his co-workers and closest friends knew he was gay, but he never felt the need to let everybody in on his secret, one which really wasn't secret at all.

Now that Nabors has come out and married, will he change his approach to the whole thing?

No, he won't, which is very, very refreshing.

Unlike some Hollywood personalities who hit you over the head with their sexuality (both ways, I might add), Nabors said he will not change his way of doing things.

He said he will not advise others on how to handle their homosexuality, because he believes that just because he did it his way, it doesn't mean that that is the right way to go about it for everyone.

It worked for him, but he doesn't know if it will work for others.

He was also asked if he would now be an activist for gay marriage and other gay issues, and he said that he would not.

He said that he was generally an apolitical person to begin with, never much into politics, and he wasn't going to change his way of doing things now that he is out of the closet.

I have made my stance on gay marriage known in the past, and I am not going to do it again right now.

But I find Nabors' stance refreshing.

Certain entertainers use their fame to jump on the pulpit and preach. They believe that since they are in the public eye, they have a perfect right to do that.

They preach about a lot of things. They preach about problems in far off countries, they preach about things happening in their own country, and nowadays, they preach about their sexuality.

I am sick and tired about getting hit over the head with this.

You are what you are, and if you are gay, to me, that is a private thing.

Why does everybody have to know everything about everybody?

I have liked Nabors for years, first on "The Andy Griffith Show" and then on the "Gomer Pyle" program.

Does his sexuality have anything to do with that?

No, I could care less.

Heck, it was more of a surprise the first time I heard that baritone voice come out of that country bumpkin body.

My point is this: who cares about a person's sexuality anymore, especially the private lives of Hollywood types who are usually so vapid and self centered that they almost use this as a badge of courage for them, that they feel everyone has to applaud them for?

It's time to get off the stage and move on.

And that's no "surprise, surprise, surprise."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rant #894: Too Hot

Today, in the New York Metropolitan area, it is going to be around 60 degrees.

This is pretty balmy for January 30, wouldn't you say?

And it is especially balmy when you consider that on this past Friday into Saturday, we experienced temperatures that were maybe one-third of today's temperature--

And we had snow to boot!

Yes, it was in the low 20s and we had about an inch and a half of the white stuff.

The weather in this part of the world is changing.

The experts say "global warming," I say everything is kerflooey.

Just a few months ago, we experienced the mother of all hurricanes in the Northeast, Hurricane Sandy, which packed enough destruction for me that I don't ever want to see anything like that happen here, or anywhere else, again.

I think I read that last year was the warmest year on record, so whether it is global warming or things going kerflooey or something else, something is going on with our weather.

And you can't necessarily rely on your local TV weatherman or the Weather Channel, because I don't know if they really know what is going on, either.

I think maybe our standard of living has maybe caught up with our atmosphere, and that is why we are experiencing such crazy weather, especially in the Northeast.

Big cities give off heat, simply because their existence creates heat.

Tall buildings, car traffic, pollution, high concentrations of people and other factors create heat that waffles around the atmosphere and then moves on.

All of this has to impact the temperature, and although I am no meteorologist, I would say that our atmosphere, after taking it for many, many generations since the Industrial Revolution, maybe has reached its saturation point.

Our atmosphere was able to absorb all of this for hundreds of years, but it can't anymore, and that is sending things into the weather Twilight Zone.

Yes, I think that is part of what they call global warming, but again, I am no meteorologist, just a regular guy who thinks that something is awry.

I walked outside today, and the it is not only warm, but there is a thick layer of fog about that is like pea soup. That happens when the cooler land meets the warmer atmosphere (yes, I did take Earth Science in school).

Whatever the case, I guess I will bask in the warmth of the day, even though I will be inside for most of today at work.

But that bask won't last long, as I see that temperatures are going to start to plummet from today on, and get into the 20s and 30s again before we know it.

I tell you, things are kerflooey, they really are.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rant #893: The Real Champion

If you are a regular reader of this column, you know that I often write about professional wrestling.

I have been a fan of this "sport" for the better part of my life, and my son's interest made me get into it all over again.

Anyway, with the WWE's Wrestlemania coming up, there is potentially very, very big news in the world of pro wrestling, news that would even interest people who aren't necessarily fans of the sport.

Reportedly, the WWE is trying to work out an agreement with pro wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino to appear at their Hall of Fame event, which directly precedes Wrestlemania, this year being held at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey.

The Hall of Fame event is being held at Madison Square Garden, the very arena where Sammartino, and the WWE under its various monickers, made a name for itself in the 1950s to the 1980s, Sammartino's heyday.

This is very, very big news. Sammartino and the WWE--and in particular, its chairman, Vince McMahaon--have been on the outs for at least 20 years.

Most people have speculated that it is a money matter, but Sammartino has never liked the phoniness that pretty much governs pro wrestling. He didn't like it when he was wrestling, and he doesn't like where it has gone today.

There is probably something else that went awry between Sammartino and McMahon, and we may never know what happened, but McMahon's son in law, who goes under the name Triple H and is himself a former wrestler and now an executive with the company, is trying to iron out a deal.

This is big news, as Sammartino is really the Babe Ruth of pro wrestling.

Without his popularity, pro wrestling would have never reached the heights that it occupies today.

Sammartino, born in Abruzzo, Italy, but who adopted his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as his own, was the real deal in the 1950s through the 1980s.

He was probably the only pro wrestler that anybody took seriously as a true athlete during that time.

He was the face of the WWWF, as John Cena is the face of today's WWE.

He was the champion many, many times, and he was the guy who pulled pro wrestling out of the Gorgeous George phase into something more athletic.

Sammartino was the one who would appear on the Tonight Show, showing Johnny Carson his wrestling moves.

I mean, would you take, say, an Iron Sheik for his words or Bruno Sammartino?

He single handedly saved pro wrestling from being a total side show, a mockery of the Greco-Roman style.

Sure, Sammartino was probably in a number of questionable matches over the years, but he was really the real deal, way before the Hulk Hogans and the Ric Flairs and those types of wrestlers brought the sport to another level.

Sammartino wrestled in more dumps and dives than there are garbage disposals on the planet. Today, when the WWE fills arenas like they do during Wrestlemania, when 60,000 or more people attend, they all owe it to Sammartino, when he was wrestling in front of maybe a couple hundred people.

This guy is the real deal, and if they can work out their differences, I guarantee you that this even will be covered by mainstream media.

Heck, my mother knows who Bruno Sammartino was, and is.

Sammartino, and for that matter, McMahon, are not getting any younger. One of the stipulations is that McMahon have nothing to do with Sammartino's appearance, and I do mean nothing.

There remains a lot of bad blood there, but maybe a Band-Aid can be put on that, just maybe, for a moment.

Let's hope Sammartino and the WWE can get together on this.

It is something that needs to be done.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Rant #892: Bachelor Father

I always Rant against current television fare.

Today's TV is generally pure trash.

Every once in a while, there is something good on TV, but generally the shows are unoriginal, potty mouthed, and so far below the standard that was once set by the networks.

So I often travel back in time and watch shows that were on that met something of a higher standard.

The show I am going to talk about today, which can currently be seen in reruns on Antenna TV, is not one of those shows. Even for its time, it was probably one of the shows that led to that famous quote, that TV is a "vast wasteland."

But it is a show that I like, watched in reruns as a kid, and I am still amazed how much I still enjoy the show all these years later.

It's "Bachelor Father," a sitcom that ran from 1957 to 1962 that has the distinction as being the only show to run its first-run episodes on all three networks--ABC, NBC and CBS.

The premise of the show is that Bentley Gregg, a high-powered California attorney who has a definite playboy eye for the ladies, has been saddled with the upbringing of his niece, Kelly, when her parents die in an automobile accident. This brings the two together, and the new culture clash--between Gregg's late 1950s-early 1960s man about town desires and his niece's blossoming womanhood--are the basis for the show's humor.

And then there is Peter, the house boy.

Peter is the antagonist, the guy who sets most things in motion on the show. He is not an obedient house boy; he talks back to his employer at all times, but also helps move the plot from one point to the next.

John Forsythe's first big TV role was as Gregg, and he fit the character perfectly.

He always had that suave, sophisticated look, which served him well much later on on "Dynasty." This show, produced by his own Bachelor Productions, shows him vigorously giving 110 percent on what are basically very thin plots, but he handles them with a lot of verve. He really was an excellent actor, one who we lost in 2010.

Noreen Corcoran plays Kelly, and she is the one who the show really revolves around, and the one who probably kept the show on for as long as it ran. The pretty young lady is going through her character's growing pains on the show, and it often meets head on with Greg's desires to be a playboy. Corcoran became quite the teen idol during the run of this show, and the networks certainly saw that, passing the program from one to another during its run based on her popularity with the younger set.

But the true star of the show is Sammee Tong, who plays Peter Tong, the houseboy. He gets under Gregg's skin all the time, and often backs "Niece Kelly's" wishes and desires over his employer's decisions. Tong had a good wit about him, and he is often given the best lines on the show. Sure, the character was as stereotypical as can be--and I bet this has held back its possible popularity in reruns--but Tong is very good in his role.

Another feature of the show is the numerous soon-to-be big stars or very familiar faces who guest starred on the show. Everyone from Ryan O'Neal to Barbara Eden guest starred on the show before making it big, as did established character actors like Jack Albertson and Olan Soule. Every episode seems to have somebody like this on the show.

And, of course, since Gregg is a ladies' man, there are a lot of beautiful women who made appearances on the show. Some are used as simply window dressing, but others later established themselves as excellent actresses, including Sue Ane Langdon, who had appeared in Playboy magazine around the time she was on "Bachelor Father."

Anyway, we all know that Forsythe went on to become one of TV's most popular actors. Corcoran left acting and has taught acting and dance for decades. Tong met a poor fate: a big gambler and drug user, he later committed suicide.

But the show--a sitcom that the networks simply didn't know what to do with during its five-year run--has lasted all these years in occasional reruns, and now you can watch it if you have Antenna TV.

It certainly set the tone for shows like "Family Affair" and the Benson character on "Soap" would have never existed without Tong's Peter the house boy.

And, in fact, "Family Affair" recognized its roots, and do you remember Forsythe's show before "Dynasty?" It was "From Rome, With Love," and it premiered as an episode of "Family Affair," as it was done by the same production team. It was very similar to "Family Affair," and although it only ran for two seasons, the "Bachelor Father/"Family Affair" connection came full circle with Forsythe's late 1960s show.

Today, as an adult, I watch "Bachelor Father," and I laugh and laugh, just as I did as a kid, and I feel good after each and every episode.

Isn't that what TV--and in particular, the sitcom arm of television--be all about?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Rant #891: Blind Love

In the probably end to one of the strangest love stories of all time, Linda Pugach has passed away.

She and her husband, Burt, were together for decades.

That in itself is not that unusual, but the circumstances leading up to their marriage certainly were.

It was one of the biggest stories in the late 1950s in New York City, and the story stretched into the 1970s and beyond, really becoming the longest running tabloid story in the history of the city.

Linda was a gorgeous young lady in 1959, and she had many suitors.

One was Burt Pugach, a lawyer.

He wined her and dined her, but she spurned his advances.

Burt was married, but that didn't stop him at all. But Linda didn't like it, either.

Burt evidently didn't like that, and he hired thugs to throw lye at her, hitting her in the face, and blinding her for life.

Pugach was disbarred, convicted sent to jail, and that could have very well been the end of the story.

Only, it was really the beginning of the story.

Linda was blind, but evidently, love is not blind.

Pugach served his time, and divorced his first wife.

He then went after Linda again, but this time, the quest worked out much better for him.

The two actually married--he proposed on a TV show--but there was controversy in that union.

Friends of Linda said that Pugach convinced her to marry him because he said that with her condition, nobody else would have her.

Further, Pugach continued to be a media darling himself, keeping his and Linda's names in the news.

In a case eeringly similar to the previous case, Pugach had an affair with a woman while married to Linda.

When the woman wanted to break it off, he reportedly told her, "It can be 1959 all over again," and he supposedly threatened the woman with a similar bodily harm as he had inflicted on his wife.

There was a trial for this episode, too, and Linda testified on behalf of her husband. She said something to the effect that her husband was an adulterer, but he could not have made such menacing threats to the woman.

Pugach was acquitted of any crime in that case, and for that matter, has to this day said he had nothing to do with blinding Linda, even though he went to jail for it.

Since that time, the twosome has pretty much laid low.

They came back into the public eye when a documentary about their relationship, "Crazy Love," came out in the 1990s, but otherwise, this long-standing New York City tabloid story was nearly forgotten.

But Linda has passed away, and once again, this 50-year saga has come to the newspapers again.

It's such a bizarre story that it makes anything Lindsay Lohan does look like nothing.

This story was the real deal in New York City, opening the door for other true tabloid fodder that New York newspapers became famous for, such as a case a few years later involving Alice Crimmins.

Crimmins was a beautiful woman who was supposedly in a bad relationship, and because of this, she killed her kids, or so that is what she was put on trial for, and convicted on.

Cameras focused on her beauty while the trial went on, much like they did in the Pugach case with Linda.

I was more familiar, personally, with the Crimmins case, because believe it or not, it happened in the community I had lived in--Kew Gardens Hills, Queens--when I was a very young child, and it supposedly happened about a block away from where I lived.

We had moved by then, but even as a young child, I knew the area and knew the story.

Anyway, the Pugach case opened the door for these kind of sordid stories, and New York newspapers have given them extensive coverage ever since.

So rest in peace, Linda. I doubt anybody really understood your story, but your tale opened the door for so many, many others just like it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rant #890: "Peanuts" Nut

What is world really coming to, I ask you?

First, we have Beyonce supposedly not being really "live" at the Presidential inauguration, and now we have this.

Charlie Brown is in jail!

Well, sort of.

The former child actor who was the voice of Charlie Brown in several "Peanuts" cartoons has been picked up on a criminal warrant accusing him of making criminal threats and stalking.

Peter Robbins, 56, who was taken into custody at a border crossing near San Diego, was jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail, was the voice of the beloved "Peanuts" character in the first of the many animated specials featuring Charles Schulz's characters, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" way back in 1965.

Who was he stalking and threatening? The authorities aren't saying, but there are so many jokes being made about this--

"It must be Lucy."

"Well, he can't afford bail, but can he afford a 5 cent evaluation, like in the comics."

"Snoopy must have had something to do with it."

"Curse that Red Baron."

"Who is he going to be in jail with, Pigpen?"

"Will he be on the prison baseball team?"

"If he is convicted, where will he be incarcerated, in Woodstock?"

Of course, this is making light of a very serious matter, but Robbins' close association with the character is undeniable.

I watched those specials as a kid, and I absolutely loved the "Peanuts" books, although to this day, I have never been much of a fan of the comic strip, if you can believe that.

Anyway, I remember when my sister and I were really young, we were fighting over a "Peanuts" book.

My mother got so incensed, that she actually lit the book up with a match. As the flame started to eat away at the book, my sister and I came to our senses.

I don't remember what we were fighting about, or who was right in the argument, but we had that partially burned book in the house for years afterward.

Back to Robbins. He has had a successful career as a voice-over actor, with Charlie Brown probably his most famous voice.

What is going to happen to him is anyone's guess, but I guess it proves once and for all that the real world is not a "Peanuts" cartoon or comic strip.

Things happen, beyond dropping the ball, as Charlie Brown so often did.

Hopefully, this will all be resolved, but it will take more than a few panels to figure out why Robbins went into such a rage that he had to be arrested.

I guess to Robbins, happiness hasn't been a warm puppy after all.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rant #889: Scandal At the Inauguration

On Monday, right on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, our President was inaugurated for his second term.

There was the usual pomp and circumstance, and lots of people--including lots of celebrities--attended the festivities.

And singer Beyonce Knowles Carter, once of Destiny's Child and better known today as simply Beyonce (the first person I have ever known with that name, but with her success, you know there will be many others) was there too, and she was warbling one of our most precious songs, the National Anthem.

Or was she warbling the Anthem?

Speculation rose as early as Monday that she wasn't actually singing live, that she was lip syncing to a prerecorded track.

In fact, was her backing band for the event, the U.S. Marine Corps Band, also there but not playing live?

Lip syncing has become prevalent in pop music. Everyone from Madonna to Cher to Britney Spears has been accused of not singing live, or at least not singing live on all their songs, while in concert.

This has become such a controversial practice that I remember a few years back, Ronnie James Dio actually was one of the first pop stars to actually have printed on tickets to his concerts something to the effect that all the music and vocals at his concerts were done live.

Anyway, back to Beyonce.

Different stories have come out about this, so which one do you believe?

Some say that she did sing to a recorded track, simply because the weather conditions to sing outside, and sing perfectly, did not match. It was a cold day, and everything had to go perfectly, so she prerecorded her vocal track.

Others say she did sing live, but a vocal track was used over her own live vocals.

Some say that the instrumental track by the USMC band was also prerecorded.

Others say the whole thing, 100 percent, was done live.

Heck, we seem to have a Milli Vanilli situation here, maybe even a Monkees situation.

There is something going on.

Beyonce would have had little or no time to rehearse with the USMC band, and for such a high profile event, why would they have taken a chance with singing the song, and playing the song, live?

However, other songs were performed live at the ceremony, including songs by James Taylor and Kelly Clarkson.

Very, very strange, wouldn't you say?

It appears that yes, some technical tomfoolery was used.

I guess you can't trust the weather, and you can't trust what the weather can do to someone's vocal chords and someone's fingers playing instruments.

But why pull the wool over the public's eyes?

This is supposed to be about our President moving onto his next term in office, not about a ubiquitous pop star who didn't do what she was advertised to be doing.

I've read more about Beyonce in the past couple of days than I have about our President, and that is really, really sad.

And yes, this column of mine has added to that mess, and I apologize.

But heck, at least you know that I am actually writing this column.

No ghostwriters here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rant #888: 57 and Counting

Today is my parents' anniversary. They married on this day in 1956, roughly 15 months before I was born.

I am not going into how they met and other particulars. I think I did that here before, so if you are interested, you can look it up.

Just let me tell you that I think these two were made for each other, but they are pretty much polar opposites.

Maybe that is what attracted them to each other.

My mother, who turns 82 in March, is as feisty as ever. She can seemingly never stand still, is in rapid motion just about all the time, and has more get up and go than people one-third her age.

My father, although a very hard worker, likes to take things slow. This 81 year old can just as easily drive his cab all day as he can stay in the bed all day and watch TV. 

So what you have with my parents is perpetual motion mixed with relaxation, and I really believe that is what has kept their marriage so strong for the past 57 years.

There are times they don't see eye to eye, times they are angry with each other.

But more so than not, those times are very short lived.

They not only love each other, I truly believe that they like each other too, and that has been another reason why their marriage is so strong.

They are both in their 80s, but they have remained very active over the years, and that is another secret to the success together.

They always seem to be busy, always have something to do. No time to think about negative stuff, only positives.

They are the parents of myself and my sister, and they have five grandchildren, two on my side and three on my sister's side--four boys and one girl. 

They also have my wife and my sister's husband, who they treat as their children, too.

They have seen it all in their 57 years together, but they have come a long way from their early time together, when all they had was a piece of furniture--a Dumont TV--and that was about it.

So happy anniversary to my parents. They are seemingly among the last of their kind, people who enjoy life so much that they still have much, much more to do before they leave it.

And they have so much still to do that they aren't going anywhere for a long, long, long time.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Rant #887: King For a Day

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in most of the United States.

It is a day off for most people, but not me. 

I have never had the day off from work, and I mean never. 

It is a regular day of work for me, so if you have off, count your blessings that you do.

The day honors the Civil Rights leader, who was gunned down in 1968.

The day became a national holiday just a few years ago, and before that, it was celebrated individually by the states as they saw fit.

It is also supposed to be "A Day of Service," where if you aren't working, you are supposed to devote your time to a worthy cause.

Unfortunately, I have to work, so I am devoting my service time to my job so that I can put food on my family's table.

My wife is also working, so neither of us have the day off.

If I did, I am sorry, but it would be a day of rest for me. 

The Knicks annually play the "Martin Luther King Day" game at the Garden, and sorry, that is what I would be watching as I relaxed the day away.

I remember one of the greatest Knicks' MLK Day games, when Trent Tucker hit a shot with one-tenth of a second left to give the Knicks the win. That play sparked a change in how time is handled in the NBA, and with today's rules, there would have been no way he could have hit that shot in the current game.

As it is, I guess I will have to keep tabs on the game while I am at work.

Other people will be spending the day devoting their time to service, and I know that plenty of people will be shopping today.

Sales, you know.

I believe Dr. King was scheduled to visit my old neighborhood, Rochdale Village, way back when, but he never made it to us.

His assassination took the heart and soul out of my old neighborhood, and it really was never the same place again.

Some say that the world hasn't been the same since his death, and I would probably agree with that.

Bu his life, and his work, were certainly a stepping stone for this country having a black President. MLK's life didn't necessarily directly lead to this, but it certainly was one step in the process leading up to Barack Obama not only having the chance, but actually being our President.

And, not just because I have to work, but I think Dr. King would prefer that we worked today, rather than having the day off. 

That may just be me talking, but I think he frowned upon people not working hard to reach their goals.

Whatever the case, and whatever you are doing, have a great MLK day. 

If you need me, you know where to find me.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Rant #886: Size Matters

Sure, there are plenty of things to get upset about today.

Our paychecks are smaller, but our costs are going up.

We have a gun crisis, and people are still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

But now we have something else to contend with.

Subway sandwich shops may be short-changing us on their foot-longs.

That's right, those 12-inch sandwiches might only be 11 inches!

It seems someone started to measure the sandwiches, and found that they were coming up an inch short.

They put their photos up on the Internet, they went viral, and then others started doing the same thing--and finding the same thing.

More importantly to me, at least, is that they were also finding out that Subway has lessened the meat that they are putting on the sandwich, too.

The few times I have gone to Subway during the past several months, I have noticed that.

It seems to be that we are eating more of a bread sandwich rather than, let's say, a roast beef sandwich.

And I have long noticed that he sandwiches that they show in the commercials don't even nearly resemble the ones that they make in the shops.

Subway says that yes, they have lessened the meat on their sandwiches, but that is not the reason that some of the foot-longs are coming up short.

It's because there are variances in size when the bread is baked fresh in the local stores daily.

Evidently, there is some shrinkage involved when you take a prepared product and cook it.

OK, I can buy that, and I guess many people have.

It's like when you buy the bag of chips, and it says right on the bag that the bag may not appear full, but it was until everything in it settled.

OK ...

Buy the premise, buy the flick, as they say.

But then again, your dollar's worth is shrinking again if you aren't getting the advertised foot-longs on top of the fact that you now also aren't getting the same amount of meat that you had gotten previously.

Somebody is double-talking here, and it isn't the consumer.

Subway had better do something about this mess, or people will start to not only bring their wallets into their shops, they will also start to bring tape measures.

Now, competing shops can claim that their sub sandwiches are actually 12 inches.

This could create a sandwich war, second only maybe to the War of 1812, but held strictly in shops like this.

Call it the Sandwich War of 2013.

Maybe the Sandwich Islands can get involved in this battle too.

Oy vey! What a predicament!

I guess size does count--in particular when you are talking about a sandwich.

Speak to you again on Monday.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rant #885: Hot At 91

Actress Betty White turns 91 today.

There are plenty of 90 year old and over people around today. We have extended our lifestyles, and some people also have good genes.

I think Betty White has good genes, looks good in jeans, and heck, she has carved a niche for herself as the "grand dame" of TV actresses around today.

Her career pretty much started off modestly.

Early on, I guess she had to eat, and she posed for a game card, yes, topless. Just about everybody knows that.

But she persevered, and was one of TV's first stars, starring on some early TV sitcoms in the late 1940s and early 1950s, including "Life With Elizabeth."

But for a good portion of her life, she was in the shadow of her more famous husband, another big TV star.

Alan Ludden hosted one of the best game shows on TV, "Password," for years.

He was as much associated with that show as Dick Clark was for "American Bandstand."

This means he did other things, but you really couldn't separate Ludden from "Password," not even with a crowbar.

White was the actor in the family, and she had many roles while he did his thing, but the two were definitely inseparable, and she appeared on "Password" dozens and dozens of times, in all of its incarnations.

And she was an excellent player, too.

As an actress, she made a tremendous name for herself as the Sue Ann Nivens character on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," but the character was almost one to pity, so self absorbed in her own endeavors that she could never see the forest for the trees, so to speak.

Later, she was a semi-regular on other game shows, such as "Match Game."

She seemed to excel on game shows, and at one point, I will bet that she was better known as a game show celebrity than she was as an actress.

Ludden passed on, and her career seemed to be at a crossroads. White continued to do game shows, but that genre was fizzling out. She continued to act, but in mainly nondescript parts.

She was an older actress, really with no place to go.

But then she was one of the stars of "The Golden Girls," a show that was about older ladies and their comings and goings. I have to say that personally, I never got into this show, but I know for others, this was a very popular sitcom, one of the last great sitcoms in some people's minds.

America rediscovered this priceless treasure a few years back, when she was the star of a commercial that ran during the Super Bowl.

From that point on, she has been magic to the networks and even off network as one of the most popular actresses today.

Yes, with all the fake breasts, phony egos, and inflated personalities, 91-year-old Betty White has risen to the top of her profession, at least on TV.

She is one of the stars of one of TV's funniest shows, "Hot in Cleveland," which runs on TV Land. The show is raunchy fun, so well written that you almost forget that most of the show revolves around sex.

And yes, that includes White's character too, amidst the other 40-, 50-, and 60-something actresses who co-star with her on the show.

She wasn't even supposed to be a regular on that show. She was originally a guest star, but she took to the role like butter takes to bread, and she was made a regular.

And she makes the show funny.

She also has an irregular TV game show, which the less said about the better, but heck, this lady is HOT! right now.

Finally, after decades in the business, she can basically write her own ticket.

Once best known as Ludden's wife, and then for her crusade for animals, she is now TV's top actress, if not TV's top actor, period.

Here's to Betty White, who is actually older than Popeye, who also celebrates a birthday today.

Heck, I would take White in a minute over Popeye, I really would.

But they share one thing:

The are both "strong to the finish," but White doesn't appear to even see the finish line yet.

Good for her.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rant #884: This Is Funny?

This Rant is a virtual rerun of another Rant I did some time back, but I want to do it again because it is worth repeating.

Comedy today is horrible, it isn't funny, and well, it completely turns me off.

I would rather see somebody slip on a banana peel--now, that's funny--then the utter garbage that I hear and watch today.

Case in point: yes, CBS's "Mike and Molly," but I am going to add another sitcom into the mix, one that I finally watched, "2 Broke Girls."

Yes, William Paley is turning in his grave at these two shows. What happened to the so-called "Tiffany Network?" They stoop to this trash?

"Mike and Molly" I have watched off and on for the three years it has been on. It is about two very obese people, how they met, how they fell in love, and the dysfunctional family that they live with.

That would be fine and good, but in every episode, they go over the line in taste and decency, exploiting every stereotype, literally sucking the life out of every one of the show's characters.

And the jokes are so wretched, and so predictable.

They fall into just a few categories: fat, sex, drugs, a little more fat, a little more sex, and a little more drugs.

This past episode I watched had two, count 'em, two plots.

First, the two heavyset people--one a Chicago cop, the other a school teacher--decide they want to have children, so they start to change their eating habits.

Isn't that just hilarious?

All fine and good, but honestly, their lifestyle would have to change dramatically for this to work. Each needs to lose a lot of weight--the woman at least 50 pounds, the guy maybe 100--before this could even make a dent.

The other theme of the show is that the heavyset cop's sidekick--a skinny, weasley guy who lives with his grandmother--is being kicked out of his house because he has started to bring a succession of prostitutes into the house at night for to satisfy his own sexual pursuits.

Yes, this is supposed to be hilarious, too. Remember, this is a police officer we are talking about.

And they surround these two themes with constant references to drugs, this time both pot and mescaline.

Again, two of the main characters are police officers.

Sorry, to me, this scuzziness is not funny, not funny at all.

The other show is almost as bad. "2 Broke Girls" profiles two young girls--one sassy, one less so--that are pursuing their pursuits, if you will, whether it be business wise or in the sack.

This time, they win a prize to go to a pricey lodge for a weekend, and one of the girls talks herself into bringing her boyfriend, so one is going to be a third wheel one way or the other.

It ends up that each one of the trio somehow becomes the third wheel, and that is the end of the story.

However, the sexual joke quotient of this show is about 95 percent. Nothing else is talked about but sex, whether it is regular heterosexual sex or gay sex. It really doesn't matter with this show.

Heck, one girl is top heavy, the other skinny as a rail, and they go that joke route, too.

Again, this is what goes for funny today?

Look, I am definitely not a prude. I can go for lowbrow jokes as much as anyone.

But getting pounded on the head with this type of stuff is excessive, and it certainly isn't funny.

I like shows such as TV Land's "Hot in Cleveland," which have attractive, veteran casts that know how to pull this type of thing off. The writing is crisp, the stories are generally warm, the characters are well defined, and you can laugh with the characters, not at them.

These other shows are horrid, and I simply don't find them funny--not funny at all.

People rave about these shows. Please.

If this is what passes for funny nowadays, thank God I have stations like Antenna TV and Me TV.

Those shows are funny.

Sorry, but "2 Broke Girls" and "Mike and Molly," are not.

They are trash. Pure trash.

And their popularity clearly demonstrates that I don't think too many people know what "funny" is today.

We have all gone into the toilet, we really have.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rant #883: Bubble Up

So I see that Coca-Cola is the first major soft drink brand to produce a TV ad laying out its plan to offer lower-calorie soft drinks.

The ad, which aired on various cable news outlets like CNN, puts forth the company's record to offering drinks with fewer calories. It also notes that weight gain and obesity are not just the result of drinking too much soda, but of intaking too many calories all around via what we consume.

I don't have a problem with the ads. Plenty of major corporations put out ads that don't necessarily urge you to buy their product, but bring up a certain issue or point that they want to get across.

But let's be honest about it. Coca-Cola is not going away. It has always linked its sodas and other drinks to happiness, good times, and fun. It has been doing that for more than a century, and it will continue to do that for the foreseeable future.

To put out an ad like that is almost like answering people who are saying that we are too fat, too large, and that we eat and drink too much, and trying to save face while doing it.

Coca-Cola is saying that weight gain can be linked to an overuse of its products, but it doesn't necessarily have to do with their company's products alone.

Yes, it is kind of like putting a Band-Aid on a bigger problem.

Look, if you want to lose weight, the onus is on you to lose that weight. You can't blame Coca-Cola or any other company for your weight problems.

We have been through that phase already. Remember all the lawsuits that were lodged against McDonald's and other fast food places by people who claimed that they ate their food and it made them fat? I think just about every one of those suits was thrown out of court, and for good reasons.

You want to lose weight, then lose weight. Don't blame Coca-Cola or any other company for offering products that won't help you to lose the pounds.

People like these products, and people will buy these products. You can't expect manufacturers to stop making sugary and full-of-fat items.

So, the onus is on you. If you want to lose weight, fine.

But personally, I am sick and tired of people blaming these companies for pushing their products, leading to weight gain.

Do it yourself, I say, and stop holding others to account for your own eating problems. There are plenty of products on the market to help you lose the weight you want to lose.

Not everybody wants to lose weight, and we, as a society, should stop forcing people to subscribe to this.

If you want to lose weight, fine, but stop putting it on everybody else's head.

That's a weight that everybody really shouldn't have to bear.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Rant #882: Yesterday and Today

I was seven years old, a little kid with my eyes full of wonder and excitement.

We had just moved into a new housing development in Queens, brand spanking new Rochdale Village, named after the first cooperative project in England.

I didn't know anything about that at the time, all I knew is that we had moved into a place that seemed larger than anything I had ever known.

We lived in Building 9 of the project, and the other buildings were going up before my eyes. I remember building 12 being built just across from me, and eight more buildings would follow ...

As would parks, schools, shopping areas, and everything anyone would seemingly need to live a nice, almost suburban life right smack dab in the middle of one of New York City's five boroughs.

And thousands of families, like mine, moved into the development.

By 1965, all the buildings were built, all the other facilities I talked about were either built or getting there, and my family and I felt comfortable in our new neighborhood.

There were seemingly a million kids my age there, although really, there were "only" hundreds in my general age group. Most of our parents were blue collar union workers, although for many, that wasn't the case. There were plenty of school teachers, office workers and the like who lived in this development, too.

And it was racially mixed. If you know anything about the site in which the project was built, you know that Jamaica, Queens, is one of the largest ethnic neighborhoods in the U.S. It was at one time called the black Greenwich Village, and it earned that name by being the home of many artists, such as James Brown.

The development was racially mixed, too, but there was about a three to one ratio of whites to blacks during the early years of the development.

But what did I care? We just needed as many kids as we could to make up two complete teams when we played punchball.

But this was the mid to late 1960s, and the world was changing, and so was our development. There were rumblings from the beginning from people who didn't want to see the place built and with the racial makeup it was going to have. This was exacerbated when black construction workers were prohibited from working on the project.

There were many other things going on, both internally and externally, which hit at the very foundation of the project, and by 1968 or so, things went from OK to bad via the actions of one man.

When James Earl Ray murdered civil rights activist Rev. Martin Luther King, it is my opinion that the heart and soul of the development vanished, and the place was never the same.

Due to the lack of safety, the schools falling apart before our eyes, and other factors, many of the original tenants moved away between 1968 and 1976. My family moved in 1971, and the last time I was in the development was in 1976.

However, years after the downfall of the place, it continues to hold strong, pretty much blending into the surrounding area as one of the largest minority housing developments in New York City, if not the country.

And its original cooperators, both the parents and their kids, many of whom are now likely grandparents and parents of their own children, continue to stay strong, and communicate with each other via Facebook and face to face. Many of the friendships started nearly 50 years ago have endured to this day.

We all have incredible memories of the place--both positive and yes, some negative--and it has drawn us together, even when we argue like cats and dogs.

That is where I get to the point of this Rant.

Since the old neighborhood will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in December 2013--its first cooperators moved in just scant days after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated--a group of us felt that it was time to look back at the old development as we look ahead at our own lives.

I am on the committee to try to put together a reunion of all the old Rochdale Village people. I am one of five people on the committee, and we have worked out a Reunion that should be "the mother of all reunions" of Rochdale folk.

There have been other reunions--I have talked about two that I have had at my house in the past, and there have been both large and small reunions literally since the late 1970s--but the committee wants to make this one the best one possible.

Like any reunion, some people definitely want to be there, others hesitate, and others really don't want or need to see people they haven't thought about for 40 years. Some people have other things to say about the Reunion, both positive and negative, but the feedback thus far has been greatly positive.

We have a venue, a time, and a caterer. Other things will fall into place shortly.

I am really excited about this, and that is why I volunteered for this endeavor.

For me, it really is something I have wanted to do for a long time. My years spent there, between the ages of seven to 14, saw me go from a mere babe to a young teenager. I learned a lot of things while living there, saw a lot of things, and the place really has helped to shape me, to a certain degree, during my life.

I have wonderful stories of the place, some bad stories, and I am active on the several Facebook groups (and previous Delphi group) that have been created to celebrate our old neighborhood.

We are a very feisty bunch, don't often see eye to eye, but we share one thing: we grew up in Rochdale, had many of the same experiences in Rochdale, and Rochdale is part of our soul.

So it looks good for a great reunion later this year.

And I am really, really looking forward to it. It should be fun, allowing us to look back as we look ahead.

Being able to do that is the magical thing about the old neighborhood, and the reunion will give us a chance to speak with people that we haven't had a chance to speak with for decades. It will give us all a time to catch up, to compare notes and to see where we've been and where we're headed.

I guess the theme of the reunion, the unofficial theme of course, is "Yesterday and Today," and that should be enough to satisfy anybody who attends.

I personally can't wait.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Rant #881: Shedding Bras and Panties

No, this post has nothing to do with strippers, but some might think it does.

The Lingerie Football League is no more.

Well, not entirely no more, but the league is shedding its image.

I will bet many of you didn't even know that such a league existed, but it has been around for the past few years.

It featured scantily clad girls playing football, and was supposed to titillate the masses, or at least masses of men who had nothing better to do than to watch this type of thing.

The league didn't really prosper, but it did survive, somehow. I think it had some off and on pay per view events which maybe made them some money. I know there was a team that played at the Nassau Coliseum for a brief time, but I couldn't tell you much else.

Anyway, the specially designed bras and panties are done with.

The league announced that it was rebranding itself as the Legends Football League, or something like that.

It was going to drop the titillation for something it feels is more valid: girls playing football.

Really playing football.

Yes, you won't see those bras and panties anymore if you watch this stuff.

Participants will be wearing real equipment, and will be playing for real. Logos will be changed to reflect the new direction.

It's the next step in the globalization of football, according to the league.

Yup. I will bet it is.

Women's football has been around for ages, but what the original Lingerie Football League did was mush this concept together with professional wrestling, where divas prance around in specially made, but very revealing, costumes as they pummel each other in the ring.

Here, the same thing happened, but on the gridiron.

And, of course, the payback to the males who watched this stuff was that you got to see a lot of the participants, if you know what I mean.

Personally, I don't think people will buy this. Without the bras and panties, this is just another women's football league, and probably another failure.

The bras and panties set this league apart, but honestly, does anybody really watch this stuff, anyway? The league claims to have played to sellout crowds, but heck, they themselves are something of a sellout, so what do they exactly mean?

Maybe if you are a die-hard football fan who is participating in a bachelor party or a frat party, but did anyone else try to buy into what the league was doing?

And why would anybody buy into it now?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Rant #880: A Little Bit Now

Baseball's Hall of Fame voters signified with their non-vote yesterday that they at least need more time to examine those who flourished in the steroid era.

They didn't vote in anybody, steroid-tarnished or not, so they have made their priorities very clear indeed, doing "a little bit now" to show that those circumstances might not be tolerated by the voters, at least at the present time.

The perfect segueway ...

"A Little Bit Now" was one of the last U.S. charted singles by one of my favorite rock and roll groups of the 1960s, the Dave Clark Five.

It only reached No. 67 on the U.S. charts, but it always resonated with me.

I guess I like big, loud, fun music, and that is what this song is.

The Dave Clark Five (or DC5 for those who like shortened names) created the Tottenham Sound--a rocking, stomping sound--and they followed the Beatles to America.

The Beatles and the DC5 were the two top bands in the then-emerging "British Invasion" of music on our shores, where everything British was considered to be in and "mod."

Not only the Beatles and the DC5, but also Herman's Hermits, Petula Clark, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddy and the Dreamers, and later the Rolling Stones and the Who became popular over here, topping the charts with their music, seemingly out of nowhere.

The DC5's sound was almost like the music equivalent of the sound a DC5 jet makes when it takes off. With much of their music propelled by a saxophone, of all instruments, Dave Clark, Dennis Payton, Rick Huxley, Lenny Davidson and Mike Smith had the sound, the look, and the talent to win over our ears.

Of course, Smith's lead vocals were always a standout, too, and he is one of rock's most underrated vocalists for sure.

They had many, many hits in a short period of time: "Glad All Over," "Over and Over," "Bits and Pieces," "Catch Us If You Can," "Everybody Knows (I Still Love You)" ... the list goes on and on.

"A Little Bit Now" was really not one of them, making the lower reaches of the chart.

1967 was a great year for music. The Monkees were probably the world's top rock act, but the Beatles were not going quietly, releasing their "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" masterpiece that year.

Rumblings of new music were coming out of America's West Coast, and the music scene was changing.

The DC5 were pretty much past their prime in America, although earlier in the year, they did have their one last, great hit, "You Got What It Takes."

However, with the release of "Sgt. Pepper" in late June, popular music was about ready to change, and the DC5 were starting to be considered old hat.

"A Little Bit Now" came out in August of that year, and by that point, with "Sgt. Pepper" residing at the No. 1 spot in the album charts for two months at this time, well, the DC5 weren't going very far on the American charts.

But I loved the record, loved the picture sleeve, and really, I was a huge DC5 fan, so the record resonated with me.

It's one of those forgotten songs that no oldies station would ever play, because it didn't connect with enough people to move up the chart like their previous hits did.

The DC5 had a couple more chart hits in the U.S., but their popularity as a high-charting act was basically done here.

In England, however, for whatever reason, they picked up in popularity, and had numerous big hits there through 1970.

The DC5's good-timey, pounding music was finally recognized a few years back when they went into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame under a black cloud, but that is another story for another time.

I really liked the Dave Clark Five, and give a listen to the tune--if you haven't heard it, this song might just make you a fan, too.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Rant #879: Ban Rolls On

In 1991, 22 years ago today, Pete Rose was officially banned from Major League Baseball due to his gambling activities.

Baseball's all-time hits leader was banned from the game he excelled in because he bet on the game he loved, put wagers on games even while he was a manager.

Rose may not be the nicest person ever to play the game, but he certainly wasn't the worst. But betting on baseball--while in a position to affect outcomes of games--made him a pariah.

He claimed he never bet on games involving his own team, the Cincinnati Reds. But what difference did it make? He bet on baseball games as an active manager of a team.

The ban was a good one, one that has withstood more than two decades' time.

And since he was effectively banned from baseball, he was also banned from ever being voted into the Hall of Fame.

Today, baseball's erstwhile Hall of Fame will have to deal with another matter.

Steroids seeped into baseball in the 1990s, and for all intents and purposes, still ravages the game, even though MLB has a substance abuse policy in place.

Whether it is "the cream," andro, or some other foreign agent, baseball was infected with this virus starting about 20 years ago, and it affected everything having to do with the game, including personal performance.

Today, the Hall of Fame will vote on who should get into its hallowed halls, and for the first time, many prominent players from that era will be on the voters' ballot, many players who defined the era--even though they weren't convicted of doing anything illegal.

Names like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Mark McGwire are all on the ballot this year.

They either took performance enhancing drugs (PED) openly or were heavily suspected of taking them during at least part of their careers, leading to heroics related to offensive statistics, and in Clemens' case pitching statistics.

Bonds is the all-time home run leader, the others put up gargantuan numbers.

If you are a Hall of Fame voter, what do you do?

Do you take into account that these players may have taken steroids, may have been so ahead of the curve that they did it when it wasn't illegal to do so, or do you simply judge these players by the edge that they gained by taking these substances, and discount them totally?

Today we are a bit more enlightened about the use of steroids than we were way back when.

We know that the use of steroids for performance enhancement can damage parts of your body, make your mood swing abruptly, turn you into a walking/talking pharmaceutical chest, and ultimately, their use can kill you.

So what do you do with these players?

Not all ballplayers who took steroids excelled. For every Bonds, there were probably hundreds of players who really didn't benefit from their use.

But these guys did.

As a baseball fan since a very young age, I hate the fact that steroids tarnished the game. I hate the fact that steroids might have boosted certain players' statistics through the roof.

But they are a fact. And they are part of an era that we can't ever take back.

Certain players deserve to be in the Hall of Fame because of the cumulative wallop they made during their careers. They may have used steroids, but even prior to using them, they were absolutely gifted players who performed at a level that was almost beyond comprehension.

And that is why if I were voting for entrance into the Hall of Fame this year, I would put Bonds and Clemens on my ballot. Maybe not at No.1 and No. 2 on my ballot, but they would be on there.

They have never been convicted of anything, if they did use steroids--which is open to guess, but by all accounts they used something to boost their performance--they excelled while using them. They had long careers and very productive careers.

I won't lean to including McGwire or Sosa, because I don't think they had careers like Clemens and Bonds did. They were terrific players, but not Hall of Fame material.

Look, you can't take back that era. Every player who played during that era is, unfortunately, suspect.

But players have been using "substances" for decades to get them "up" for games. Read Jim Bouton's classic "Ball Four" and you will find that players had been using uppers and downers in the 1960s and early 1970s to get themselves ready for games, later drowning everything out with drink.

Not all players, mind you, but many players.

Again, uppers and downers are not steroids. They don't push performance. But many players, for decades, have been using things that the average weekend athlete would never think of to get read for games.

I would put Bonds and Clemens in.

And decades after Rose was banned, I might look at his story again too.

I think he has paid the ultimate price for what he did. Maybe it is time to re-examine him, or maybe the time hasn't come yet.

Whatever the case, I think baseball, and the other professional sports, must continue to attack this steroids plague, which still goes on today. New and better--and less detectable--substances are being created every year, and players are still being found out through drug tests.

I don't think this is going away anytime soon, and no, I don't think that either Clemens or Bonds will be getting in anytime soon, and the same goes for Rose.

It's just my opinion that it is time to not forgive and forget, but to take the whole ball of wax into account when judging players from that era.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rant #878: The Weight of the World

I am overweight.

I weigh more than I should for my frame and body.

I am 5 feet, 9 inches, and I weigh over 200 pounds.

I wasn't always like this, but as I've gotten older, I have put on the weight.

Do I exercise? Yes, I do. I have been exercising since I was hit with that nasty pinched nerve in my neck that I have told you about in previous Rants. It's still there, not going away anytime soon, and I have to exercise to make it at the very least tolerable, which I have done.

I exercise about 10-12 minutes a day because of this. No, that's not much, but that was what was prescribed by my doctor, a low-impact regimen, which I do after lunch and after dinner.

Do I eat well? Yes, I do. My wife makes sure of that. We don't eat that much meat, and we have lots of pasta and fish.

Do I also eat things I shouldn't eat? You bet I do. I eat cake, and I just love cookies. I have never been a candy eater, even as a child, so I rarely have a piece of candy, but I just love cookies. And I love snacks like chips, too.

Does my job add to my weight? Yes it does. As a writer, I am sitting by my computer more than 10 hours a day, so although I try to move around, yes, my job contributes to my weight.

I am sure you heard recently that there is a study out where researchers claim that having a little extra fat is actually OK for you, and prolongs your life. That extra layer acts as something of a padding, and helps you get through times that those without such extra weight have trouble managing.

It's early in the year, and I could say that one of my New Year's resolutions is to lose weight.

I could say that, couldn't I?

But I won't. New Year's resolutions are made to be broken, designed to be sabotaged somewhere down the line.

Let's just say that although I am quite content at my current situation, and my health is very good, according to my last physical just a few weeks ago, I could stand to lose a couple of pounds.

I am not going to get crazy about it, but if I could lose just a little weight, I think that would be good.

The first thing I have to do is not eat so many cookies. I just love cookies, and what is better than cookies with a glass of milk?

I have to stop that, or at least lessen it.

Let's see where this journey takes me ... maybe nowhere, but at least I am cognizant of it.

Let's weight ... err ... wait and see what happens.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Rant #877: Saturday Night Is Not All Right

I read on Friday that Mark Simone, the host of WABC Radio's "Saturday Night" show, was moving over to radio rival WOR and that this eight-year-old show would be no more.

This was the last gasp of radio for me, the last show I really listened to on radio, and now, it's gone.

If you don't know anything about the show, let me fill you in.

About nine years ago, WCBS-FM, the No. 1 oldies station in the country, suddenly dropped that programming for something called "Jack," which was basically nameless, faceless, personality-less rock/pop radio that had worked quite well in other markets.

People who had listened to WCBS-FM were aghast at the change, and WABC saw a niche that needed to be filled.

WABC-AM was the top Top 40 radio station in the country in the 1960s through much of the 1970s, drawing in rating numbers that are hard to believe today. Millions of people in the New York area listened to the station, as well as millions of others who were able to get the station's strong signal for thousands of miles during the evening, both south and west.

The station had legendary disk jockeys like Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy and Bruce Morrow, and WABC was really the station that most others aspired to be, but never could be.

But tastes changed, and in the early 1980s, the station turned to all talk, and once again, it rose to the top of the ratings, standing today as the top talk radio station in the country.

Anyway, with a void to be filled without WCBS-FM doing oldies, they premiered a show originally called "Saturday Night Oldies," to run on Saturday nights, naturally. It was supposed to be a one-off mix of oldies music and reminiscences of the old WABC format, hosted by Mark Simone.

The one-off became so popular that it became a staple of New York radio, even when WCBS-FM finally came to its senses and returned to the oldies format just a few years after abandoning it.

Simone's show featured artists that you wouldn't hear anywhere else, people who had had their time, but people who hadn't crawled into a hole and faded away, either. Such artists as Jay Black, Gary Puckett, Micky Dolenz and the like were right at home on the show.
The show took on a life of its own, and listeners even had their own gatherings to salute the program, and to salute Simone.
Later in its existence, the show's name was changed to simply "Saturday Night," so it wouldn't be pigeon-holed into simply an oldies show.
The premise was basically the same, but the show expanded its guest list by doing this.
Heck, it even had newer performers, like Clay Aiken, as guests with this slightly changed focus.
Personally, I would record the show off the Internet, and listen to it later, so I was never caught up with the current program.
But wasn't it fun to listen to Todd Rundgren speak, or to hear what Pat Cooper had to say?
Well, it is no more.

On the show, especially for the past two years or so, you could hear in Simone's voice that he was tiring of the grind of doing a live, Saturday night show. He had other duties at the station--he certainly was WABC's top fill-in host, often subbing for Don Imus--and working six or seven days a week was not to his liking.

And then, he just picked up and left.

All good things must come to an end, and I guess that the "Saturday Night" show just ran its course.

But to many listeners like myself, we have just lost a good friend, our Saturday night companion, so to speak.

It's a sad time, because no one had a chance to say goodbye to the show. 

Simone's WABC exit seemed to be abrupt, but I had a feeling something was going on, because his podcasts weren't on the WABC website any more.

The whole thing is too bad, so this is my personal goodbye to the show and Simone.

Thank goodness I have a storehouse of these shows recorded, and can refer back to them if I wanted.

It really was radio at its best.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Rant #876: WWE ... EEEEE!

A week ago, last Friday, my son and I went to another professional wrestling show at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.

We attended the WWE Raw Holiday Show, and once again, we were quite entertained.

Right before the dawn of the New Year, the WWE put on a nice show at the old arena.

The place was only about two-thirds sold out, but since the event wasn't televised--and was going smack dab against the televised WWE Smackdown program on television--you have to respect the amount of people who actually bought tickets for this thing.

Of the maybe 8,000-9,000 people were there, a huge percentage were kids, and I mean kids from about three up to pre-teens.

Thus, to me, the WWE show is more like a 21st century circus, but all the action takes place inside of one, single ring.

Many of the big names were there, including John Cena, the Derek Jeter of professional wrestling, who fought in a cage match against the guy who has emerged as the No. 1 villain in the WWE, Dolph Ziggler.

The match was as staged as all heck--and with so many kids in the audience, you weren't going to see anything but a staged match--but it was fun nonetheless.

There were several other bouts on the card, starring the likes of 21st century wrestling "superstars" Santino Marella, Zack Ryder, Jack Swagger and many, many others. In the WWE, every wrestler is considered a "superstar," so you have some superstars who are actually pretty good, and some who are pretty bad, pretty much depending on the character that they are playing.

Yes, professional wrestling is often not only a circus, but it is a live cartoon.

Wrestlers often seemingly get pummeled, then somehow get back on their feet and gain a victory.

Yes, wrestlers do get hurt, they do get injured. I have seen it first hand in many of the matches my son and I have seen.

But the injury often happens when a wrestler misses his cue, isn't at the right place at the right time.

Sometimes the injury just happens because of the way a wrestler falls, or jumps, or lands.

But at this show, right before the New Year and with so many kids in attendance, this wasn't going to happen, or at least they were going to do everything to prevent it from happening.

That being said, a fun night was had by all, including my son and I.

My son loves wrestling, it is his passion, and I go along for the ride each time.

I was once like him when I was a kid, and I understand it. It is almost a right of passage.

So when the WWE comes around again, we will probably be there.

It's fun, not expensive compared to other professional sports, and it is entertaining.

What more can you ask for?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Rant #875: World Wide Webb

Sixty-one years ago today, in 1951, the TV show "Dragnet" made its television debut, and the world of TV police drama has never been the same since.

Starring Jack Webb, its creator, as no-nonsense cop Sgt. Joe Friday, the NBC-TV show not only made Webb a star, but it changed the face of that genre forever.

Beginning its long run on radio, Webb had definite messages he wanted to bestow on the public, and he used "Dragnet" as a springboard for his anti-crime crusade, with Los Angeles as his landscape.

In black and white, of course.

Unlike Rod Serling, who used the sci-fi angle of "Twilight Zone" to push his own agenda, Webb couldn't hide behind space aliens to show you what he believed in.

He was forced to do it in an "in your face" manner, and he did it really well.

He strived for realism, and he showed that "cops and robbers" isn't all excitement.

There is lots of boredom, lots of behind the scenes work leading up to catching a criminal.

It wasn't all guns and bullets flying. Paperwork had to be done, leads had to be sorted out, every page had to be turned to weed out criminals, and you saw it all on "Dragnet."

As for Webb as Joe Friday, he had that "no-nonsense" look, and his delivery was non-stop, like a machine gun with words. Lots of close-ups were used during the show, which accentuated that in-your-face manner.

And lots of cigarette puffs too.

The actual grit of downtown Los Angeles was also shown, which made the show very realistic.

And who can forget that theme song, or at least the beginning of it?

It stays in your mind forever.

The success of the original "Dragnet" lasted through the late 1950s, and allowed Webb to do many other things, including make movies and music.

He was also married for a time to sultry singer Julie London.

Anyway, when NBC wanted a gritty police drama in the late 1960s, they once again turned to Webb, and "Dragnet" was resurrected.

In color, of course.

The crimes were different in the second show--a lot about drugs, of course--but Webb was back as Sgt. Joe Friday. He added Harry Morgan as his sidekick, Bill Gannon, and off they went throughout Los Angeles, smelling out every drug dealer and nefarious crook imaginable.

That is my touch point for the show. I watched it as a kid, and I loved it.

Once again, that no-nonsense approach to crime, and the way Webb dealt with it within the confines of a TV show, was the drawing card.

And again, that theme just drew you in.

The show was successful, ran a few seasons, and once again allowed Webb to venture into other areas.

He was also involved with other shows, such as "Adam-12," another favorite of mine, and "Emergency," a show which I really didn't care for, but among its stars was Julie London, his former wife.

Webb passed on, but efforts to resurrect "Dragnet" and "Adam-12" continued without him in the 1990s, as two short-lived revivals appeared in syndication.

Each one was worse than the other, and without Webb's guidance, they died quick deaths.

You can still find the second "Dragnet" series on TV. I know Antenna TV runs it daily.

The original series is also available, but you will have to look a bit harder for it. It has been put out on DVD, so go to for a search.

Sure, "Dragnet" is very dated when you watch it today, almost funny, almost camp.

But it still reverberates with me.

I watch the show, and I am brought back to another time and place, but the themes hold up even today.

Obey the law, and you will benefit from that law.

But break the law, and Sgt. Joe Friday--and his real life counterparts--will be after you.

And you will be caught and prosecuted in a court of law.

And if found guilty, you will serve time.

Simple as that.

And Webb got that point across each and every episode.

"The story you are about to see is true. The names were changed to protect the innocent ... ."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Rant #874: Back To Basics

OK, how was your New Year?

Mine was OK.

For the first time in ages, we actually went out, went to my brother in law's house for the celebration.

My wife and I were tired as heck, it is a total 80-plus mile drive back and forth, and by the time the ball dropped, I was pooped, but it went OK.

I didn't eat too much or drink too much--and I don't mean liquor, which I don't drink, I mean soft drinks--and that was the way to keep awake.

Being out, I broke my long-standing tradition of watching the ball drop and then turning right to "The Honeymooners" marathon locally on Channel 11, but when we got home, I did watch an episode and then went to sleep.

On January 1, I decided since I was off, that would be a good day to get my computer in the running order and look that I was used to.

I set about doing that, but little did I know that it would take a whole day and then some--and I am still not done.

Many, if not all, of my files were backed up onto an exterior hard drive, and transferring them over to my desktop became an almost Herculean job.

I started doing this at about 11 a.m., and I was not done with it until the wee hours of this morning.

Exactly when, I don't know, because I let the thing go while I was asleep.

So I have all my files like I had them before, but there are a lot of other things I still have to do--and figure out.

And today is back to school and back to work day, so we all have to deal with that.

Me, I am going to be late for work today, because I have a doctor's appointment.

At least it isn't like last year, when I had an appointment with jury duty in Brooklyn, and which started my year off just dandy, if you know what I mean.

As we all get back to basics, I don't look back on the past year fondly, and as I said in my previous Rant, I am so glad to be rid of 2012.

It was a horrible year, to say the least, and honestly, I don't know if 2013 will be any better ...

But I am sure hoping it will be. I can't take another year like last, and I don't know if our country can take another year like 2012.

But as we do with any new year, we go in with our eyes wide open.

Every year starts off with promise, and then we face the realities of what we are dealing with.

This year it is higher taxes, less extra money to spend, maybe even a recession.

At least we won't be paying $6 for a gallon of milk.

But again, I hope this year is better than last.

It almost has to be better, because looking back, it can't be any worse.

Can it?

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