Monday, June 08, 2009

RIP Kenny Rankin...

One of the all time best jazz/folk singers...

Sunday, May 03, 2009

On Rainy Afternoons

This performance was from 2002 when I hosted a night of video clips of Barbra Streisand.   It was good evening.  Dan Wingate put together a fantastic collection of rare clips, I had a few people get up and do some Barbra songs; However, in the back of my mind I thought that it might be a good place to meet someone. but to my surprise there were very few gay guys there, mostly uber fan women.  Some of whom drive in from the suburbs. 

This song is a little clunky but I like it... Larry Blustain is on the Hideout upright piano which always sounds like it belongs in a 3rd grade classroom and Seamus Harmey is playing the violin.   We had only gone over these songs once the night before and poor Seamus didn't really have anyplace to noodle over in this turgid tune.    So, for most of the song it looks like he is frozen in space and time.  

(Note:  I'm almost done with this walk down my musical memory lane...  Soon back to regular programing.)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Viva Las Vegas

From Milly's Orchid Show 1990. The Elvis Show. I'm playing with Peter Allen who at the time was going by the name Peter Mitchell because he didn't want to be confused with the flamboyantly gay singer/songwriter of the same name. During my tenure with the Orchid Show we must have played this song dozens of times. I always thought Peter's arrangement of it was really fun and inventive.

Peter was my next door neighbor at this time. He and his twin brother Paul were two strikingly handsome guys.   Peter was a fantastic musician and I should credit him with teaching me to sing on the beat. Before him I just sort of wandered around the notes (and issue I guess I still deal with.) 

 These clips make me cringe a little; doing this fake nightclub act, acting like I'm some smooth son-of-a-bitch, when I couldn't have been more naive and un-smooth.   However, it was a fun time back then; if only because we didn't know what we were doing and all that counted was we were getting reactions from the audience.  

This was soon after I was in Interview Magazine.  Cartoonist Linda Barry was a fan of mine from seeing me at these shows and talked about me when she was being interviewed. Before I knew it I was in a national magazine when I had maybe sung before people a half a dozen times. I thought I was pretty hot shit because everyone was asking Peter and I to play at parties, and opening for bands.   At the height of this whirlwind I was asked to open for Dread Zeppelin, a Led Zeppelin cover band where the lead singer was an Elvis Impersonator sang songs with a  reggie beat.  So, who better to open for them but me and faux lounge Sinatra singer.   Opening up for them was a pretty big deal at the time (Robert Plant was touting them as his favorite cover band);  it was going to be the place to be on St. Patrick's Day.  

So Peter and I were all set to do the show and then Peter called me up because he wanted billing in the advertisements. He wanted it to say John Sinatra Connors & Peter Mitchell. I had no idea how I was going to do that considering it wasn't my show and I wasn't in charge of the advertising. But Peter said either I did something about it or he wasn't going to play.  I remember telling him that in future shows we could do it, but not this one.    It was a strange power play and I was stuck.  

Blurb in the Suntimes about the show

I paniked because I thought I was going to have cancel this gig and asked another guitar player I was working with at the time if he wanted to do the show.  Peter was hurt and that was the end of our musical relationship together.  In retrospect I should have more sensitive to Peter and tried to make him change his mind,  but I was being pigheaded too thinking the act was really about me.  Me. Me. Me...  I was 24 you know... As it turned out my performance was a complete failure. The show was sold out. Alice Cooper was even there.  I was completely out of my element trying to do these rock songs like slow ballads and I was booed off the stage while people threw beer bottles at me.   I think I lasted ten minutes.      

I wish Peter and I could worked longer... we were starting to come up with our own style just as it fell apart.    We made up later on and played some shows together again.   The last being about four years ago doing this song.  But you can't go home again.   

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Theme to the Patty Duke Show
Two Weeks in Heaven

I can't believe this was 20 years ago! Going through these tapes has been a very emotionally trying experience for me. I've been revisiting moments that I think would have been better left to a fuzzy memory. I really didn't have any business performing in these shows; This was the third time I ever got up in front of an audience and sang.    Granted it's a pretty amusing bit, but it almost hurts to watch me look so awkward; and it stings even more to see myself at 25 looking all cute and remembering how things were then. 

This clip brings back a very clear memory for me... I had only sung once before at the Orchid Show.  I was asked to come back for the next show however I didn't think I could make it because I had a date with Gamal.  Gamal was this six foot four, out of work Venezuelan runway model and kick boxer.  I adored him and we had this two week affair that I think I'll remember until I die. 

We met at Club Berlin one night when I was standing around with friends. From behind me I heard some one say, "I dare you, do it, do it..." Suddenly, this strikingly handsome, tall man with a shock of black hair said to me in this deep Fabio-ish voice, "I'm going to take you in my arms and kiss you now..." And he swooped me in his arms, leaned me back and kissed me... All of his friends applauded. I think I almost fainted...

After that we started to date. Going out with him was like being with a movie star... heads turned wherever we went. He called me his "Little Crystal" and told me how wonderful I was every other minute.  Sigh... Of course, it couldn't last. The night of the show, which I really wanted to do, he wanted to go to see "A Handmaid's Tale" which was playing across the street at the Biograph Theater.  However,  I won battle and we went to the Orchid Show and I sang this silly song.

Things then were never the same again between us;  Afterwards we went to Berlin  and he got drunk and cried and said he wanted to go back home to South America, thinking he was having a psychic vision that his grandmother was dying.  Then he would go off and dance like a whirling top on the dance floor.   He wore a black turtle neck sweater whose every pill and speck of dust glowed bright in the black lights that lit the club, "Look John, look at my chest, I have the whole universe on my chest..."

He stopped answering my calls, I think I even wrote a sensitive poem and mailed it to him... he called me and said, "I can not see you anymore, you are too wonderful, and we should always remember these last two weeks as something special.  I will treasure the time we had together forever..." He even made breaking up seem like a Charles Boyer movie.  In the following months I'd see him sometimes waking down the street with some new guy; Gamel in his short toreador coat his arms up like a Tyrannosaurus. 

I know now why actors don't like to watch their old movies, it's always about something else... not the performance... 

During this time, I was doing the Sinatra-thing. It was the only way I could think of to get on stage and sing. I would never have thought just to sing as myself. I think in my head I was going for a type of Gordon Jenkins lush arrangement. I can't believe I was bold enough to get up and do this stuff then... and oh, I purposely mixed up the lyrics at the end. Sinatra at the time was always getting his lines turned around.

There's a lot more where this came from... for better or for worse...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

RIP Bea Arthur.

A lovely tribute to a one of a kind performer from my pal Dan.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Tax Day...

Still really busy... be back in May... but in the meantime...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lick a Lolly

This song makes me very happy. The Electric Company was sort of like grad school for Sesame Street watchers. I was a really early reader, by the third grade I was reading at an 8th grade level and probably this show was one of the reasons.

When I first watched this number I thought it was cute and a little naughty, but after the 2nd time I marveled at the wonder of the songwriter Joe Raposo. He wrote a number of songs for Sesame Street and The Electric Company. Probably his best known song is "Sing" (Sing a Song). Raposo knew how to make ear bugs, songs that were just stuck in your head, that tickled that part of your brain that makes you happy. This song is drowning all other thoughts out of my mind.  La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la! 

Friday, March 27, 2009

LUKA - 1993
Hair Have You Gone

Sorry for the lack of posts, but I'm working on some other projects this month. Mainly transferring some old videos and family photos. Among these were some old performance videos of mine that I thought I'd share.

This is from 1993. It was for a benefit called Operation Pride and was held at the Improv Comedy club. The benefit was for a local theater company and to support the cause to give gays the right to serve in the military. (From the time I was four I was terrified of being drafted, so it's a right I have reservations about. Did no one remember the Vietnam War?)

The show featured all gay performers. The host the late Ted Bales really liked me and had me do four pieces in the show. My lounge meets performance art style at the time really didn't fit in with the drag acts, monologists and comedy troop.  Except for this song all the other pieces I did completely flopped.  Probably rightly so, looking at the tape now I was pretty awful and unsure of myself. I can't even bare to look them today.

However, I have always liked this performance. At the time I was working with Peter and Paul Allen, they were my neighbors and good friends. Peter was a great rock guitarist and he would come up with these very simple arrangements of popular songs that I would sing. This performance is pretty typical of my style at the time. Over the top Patti LaPone dramatics meets Andy Williams lounge. My perm and ability to show some chest really dates this clip.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Summer Beach in Wisconsin

The morning after the Polka dance party my family hit the beach. This clip is a little fuzzy, but it's great if only for the Greco-Roman wrestling of my uncles, complete with a cigarette hanging out of my Uncle Bruno's mouth.   

Music: Ferrante & Teicher from the album Pianos in Paradise, African Echoes. 

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Once in Love With Amy

Joe.My.God recently linked to another post about the 100 things everyone should see on the Internet. This video was one of them. Anyone whose been to a wedding or had to get up and speak knows the horror of having to go from your regular life to being Milton Berle, but with more pathos. I've only had to do it once, and luckily I got to sing a song.

This video is amazing just for the guests ability to pull it all together. It's sweet and touching. I love the look on the bride's face. And girls, this is why you got to get some gays in your life. They'll make your wedding video a youtube hit.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers
We Are Loving Those Crazy Ads...

The great thing about doing this blog for almost three years is that I've met so many fun cyber friends. It's been a great place to chat with like minded people who I can help such as a guy in South American whose for last father's day was looking for Ruth Welcome zither albums and I was able to send him my whole collection. His father's collection was stolen or was somehow destroyed.

Or the ever kind Vassilis who sends me beautiful music from the other side of the world. Last month Jana at AnyPlaceFarm wrote me and said that she had some magazines that she was trying to sell on ebay and that they didn't sell and did I want them. The next thing I knew a big package with some classic women's magazines showed up in my mailbox... My favorite is Modern Screen that is so chocked full of fantastic articles; I don't know what one to post first... Troy Donahue's haunted house or Tab Hunter's fate worse than death; or the intimate details of Debbie Reynolds Honeymoon!

Of course, the first thing I go to in those old magazines are the ads. These did not disappoint.

Women's Personal Health issues. "It's What Women Want to Know" are always good fodder for lots of laughs... especially when you can incorporate the word "Gay" in big type in the ad. I swear I've seen so many variations of this ad with Sally being gay, Jane being gay... I wonder if the ad man who worked this ad up ever had a sinking feeling during the Gay Rights Marches of the 60's. "Damn... that word had to catch on... didn't it..." I reminds me of that All in the Family where Archie complains that the queers took away a perfectly good word away from us...

I'm also surprised that I've never seen this ad printed on the front and back of tee-shirts for sale at any gay pride parade... perhaps I've just seen how I can get that down payment on that new home...

Torture becomes this woman in a horrifying ad that really brings home the fact that she has a really, really bad sore throat. Not that I'm a doctor but if she came into my office I would either diagnosis this as strep and no amount of Neo-Aqua-Drin is going to help it. This woman needs some antibiotics and a wire cutter!

And lord... this ad for Solarcaine!!! Remember that product, I thought it was for mild sunburns, not for 2nd degree burns. These ads shouldn't be in women's magazines but in an Italian Gallo movie.
If those two ads haven't scared and depressed you enough. How about suicidal mice who eat themselves to death? I'm assuming a pamphlet comes with this where you have to yell at the mice and tell them that no one will ever love them. Ingmar Bergman films not included.

But ladies don't you fall into that eating yourself to death trap... try Diet Delight. With the wonderful new plan that tells you how many carbs and calories are in each can of corn... and no sugar! I just love this illustration!
My mother was an expert ironer. I swear I've taken my shirts to the best of dry cleaners and they can't touch mother Pearl's perfect creases. It was an art I guess passed down for generations. I don't remember her putting starch in a pot; the canned versions were popular already.

I think in the church of ironing this must be one of there stain glass windows. And Lo the winged iron came down and dispelled Iron Drag, Stick and Scorch and there was much rejoicing.
I think that this final panel is just as frightening as the burning woman or the barb-wired torture. Her the winner of the title of Speed Ironer is given the award of "Speed-Ironing" for Life! Perhaps she'll get free of her fate if she eats herself to death with the mice.

And this next ad, doesn't have anything to do with the themes of the other ads... but I put it in just for the sake of it... $5.95 for a glamour wig. I think I'd get at least three... Ice Blue for shopping days, Grey Streak for bridge Wednesdays. And Pink for those special nights with the husband.
Now I have to finish another box of this D-Con; I swear you can't stop eating it once you start. Yum...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Naked Boys Swimming
I was recently talking with my friend Lyle about the subject of locker room gym behaviors. We discussed the comfort levels of men who are comfortable being naked in front of each other. Some are quick strippers, down to the buff and on comes the towel (I fall into that category) but for the most part, I've gotten over my fear of being naked in the gym.
Some “if you got it flaunt it” guys. Mostly Koreans. Nudity means nothing and culturally is just natural. Some are prudish with putting a towel around themselves and slipping out of their clothes like they are doing a magic act.

I confessed that it took me a long time to get over my fears of the locker room; years of gym classes where even the slightest deviation from the status quo, from underwear to penis size, was cruelly mocked by the alpha males. When joining a gym in my 20's I remember the irrational fear of going in there and changing my clothes. As if some businessman was going to start to pick a fight with me or steal my underwear and throw it out of the room.

Lyle asked me if in High School I had to swim naked. "No one ever believes me when I say that all the boys swam naked in high school…" Talking about this brought back a flood of memories. I'm not sure if this is uniquely Chicago or if this happened in other parts of the country, but as a teenager, I was forced to undress in front of all my other male classmates and swim naked for an hour a day. It was as strange and humiliating as it sounds.

I believe the rationale behind this comes from a bygone era. The era that taught that it was good for boys to bond together naked; I remember my gym teacher telling us it was healthier for us to swim naked. The other rationale was that the school didn't have to pay for swim trunks for boys. Could it also have been that it was expected that after high school the boys would naturally be going into the armed forces and this would be a way to toughen us up. Whatever it was until I was 17 I skinny dipped at the public school pool.

I went to Kennedy High School which was a fairly new school relative to the other ancient structures in the city. It was built around 1962. Connected at one end of the high school, attached by a bridge, was Kinzie Elementary.  From age 4 until I was 18, those two buildings were where I grew up. Rumors about naked swim began to surface when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade. And we knew it was true… because we could see them; The swimming pool's slightly frosted windows looked out on our playground. Year after year during recess and lunches we would watch the parade of naked boys walking past the window, occasionally they would lean back against the glass and we could see their squished buttocks. It terrified me. Someday I would be on the other side of that glass.

The legends spread through the grade school playground about naked swim. “They just make you stand there naked in front of everyone and then they push you in the pool. If you try to get out they poke you with a stick. If you start to drown they have a big metal hook that sticks through you to pull you out.” And we all believed them… how could we not? These stories were passed down from older siblings who were there in the high school and reported back to us. We were doomed!

I graduated to Kennedy High School in 1977. That summer was a nervous one as I fretted over the future of naked swim and showering in front of people in general. I would practice taking a quick shower and drying myself off with one towel and getting dressed as quickly as I can. Filled with as much fear as a teenager can hold, I started as a freshman.

High School Gym class seems to be the turning point for everyone's personal development. Stephen King depicted it well in “Carrie”; all of us who were shy or outsiders could feel her rage and would have easily used our psychic powers to destroy the gym and everyone in it. Janis Ian wrote in her song “At Seventeen” ' To those of us who knew the pain Of valentines that never came And those whose names were never called When choosing sides for basketball'. I look back on those gym classes with no nostalgia, but still a relief that they are over.

My gym teacher's name was Mr. Gaylord (no kidding). He was a tight, muscled, short man with thinning hair. Thinking back, he was probably pretty sexy, but then he couldn't have been more horrifying with his just out of the army, drill sergeant style of yelling, butt smacking, and name calling. We were being trained to go into the service you know, we needed to be made strong, and they only way you can make a boy strong is to break him first and build him up. And the way to break a pack of young boys is to strip them and make them all fall in line.

(the pool today)

The pool at Kennedy was huge. Olympic size, built in the early prosperous Kennedy years when physical fitness was one of the president's high priorities. We were all lead into the locker room and told to strip down and put our clothes in the locker; I was terrified to forget my locker combination and repeated it over and over for a week before school started. Trying it again and again like the shower tests so I could open the locker as quickly as possible. We all stripped and stood in a line. The showers were going full blast and Mr. Gaylord stood at the front of the shower with a squeeze bottle of some pink slippery goo that he was shooting out over each boy as he went into the shower. Sometimes he would rub the soap down the back of the boys. We had to shower before getting into the pool; it was the rule. The soap or whatever it was had a chemical smell; did it have some sort of insecticide to kill lice?

Then from there into the large room where the pool was, again in lines of four or five. Some of the guys were really natural with their nakedness. Wrestling with each other, shoving and pushing. I don't know when I first knew that something was different about me sexually, but I'm sure it when I was seeing guys that I had just sat next to in history and now we were front to butt with each other going to jump in the pool. Dare I say at age 14 I had definite stirrings, although I didn't know what they were? I don't think at that time I could have given it a name.  But we were all comparing ourselves to each other.  Big dicks, small dicks.  There were two obese twins whose genitals were completely covered by rolls of fat.  I can't imagine what this experience did to them.   Other boys with big members proudly knew that they had something special and would strut around with semi-boners telling of how they screwed their girl friends last night.

One good thing was I did learn to swim and I loved to swim. There is a freedom to swimming naked; years later I did it in Lake Michigan and it really does feel wonderful. If anything was making it strange it was Mr. Gaylord and his army-like tactics for the boys that couldn't swim. One of these kids was Nemick. Looking back now I think he had some mental issues. There were rumors that he had killed his neighbor's dog. Nemick was terrified of the water. We would have to line up and jump off of the diving board into the deep end and do laps as part of our test to pass the quarter. Nemick had never gone into the deep end and he would just stay in the shallow end slowly walking from one end to the other. Mr. Gaylord would yell at him “Look out Nemick, there's a shark coming…” Nemick's eyes would fill with panic and he would try as quickly as he could to get out of the pool. And the kids would laugh. Once he got an erection and he stood in the pool beating and beating his penis. Gaylord laughed with another gym teacher, “He's trying to beat it down…” Writing this now, I wonder does this shit still go on?

Being one of the weaker guys I was not exempt from bullying. Once my locker was completely kicked in and I stood naked freezing in the locker room unable to get my clothes until the janitor came with tools to take the door off. Another time my locker was pulled open (so much for the locks) and my glasses were stolen. I am practically blind without them. I had to wear my mother's old glasses for a month until my glasses were found at the bottom of the pool. I counted the days until swim was over.

OK. On top of everything else, there was this weird thing about naked swim: The ROTC room was in the basement of the high school. A dank, spooky room where guys who were planning in advance to make a career of the military would go to do gun twirling or play RISK or whatever they did down there. In that room was a huge Weeki Watchee picture window that looked into the swimming pool. Are there 8mm films of years of naked teenage boys swimming somewhere? The other thing was there was stadium seating that looked over the swimming pool. This was never locked and years later we learned that it was common for the girls to sneak up there and watch the naked boys.

This went on until 1979 when in my Junior year the gym classes were made Coed. No more naked swim. My prayers were answered. However, in my senior year, they had decided that they would do separate swim classes again, returning to the tradition. A couple friends of mine decided to take matters into their own hands and snuck in late at night, broke some glass bottles, and tossed them into the pool. The pool had to be shut down while they cleaned it. Once it was cleaned and ready for swim classes, they did this again! Hence avoiding having to swim naked.

We are all shaped by these experiences; and although I don't dwell on high school and how horrible it was… but I feel I did learn the truth at seventeen. And I never forgot it.

It also makes me wonder... for the last few years there hasn't been a gay film that hasn't had some swimming pool scene in it.

A note about Mr. Gaylord:  That summer, after my first freshman year, Mr. Gaylord was found dead in the pool. He was swimming and had hit his head on the side of the pool and drowned. I'm just saying…

A couple links to other experiences and views:

Swimming nude in Houston:  HERE
Male coach swimming nude with girls:  HERE 

Sunday, February 15, 2009


This is my favorite video of my family and especially my crazy dancing Aunt Celia. She was always my favorite aunt; always so kind and funny. She is doing the dance on the floor starting at 2:59.

My family every year would rent a cabin in Wisconsin. It's what you did when you were middle class in Chicago. You couldn't afford to go anywhere too fancy on vacation; so Wisconsin fishing trips were the thing. Each year my mother's brothers and sisters would rent several cabins and spend four days fishing. As I mentioned in my 25 Things About Me list... it would have been these trips that I as a small child had to be subjected to hours in the fish cleaning house.

All day fishing; Drinking and dancing all night at the local tavern. My mother can be seen coming in the door with a record in her hand following the portable phonograph. My mother still has a world class polka music collection. When I transferred these films years ago I scored them with music from my record collection. This clip I put a vocal by my mother. Pre-Karaoke, my mother and (very off-key) father sing the song in the first part of the video.

I love this because everyone looks like they are having a blast... Glad I can share this with everyone...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

25 Things About Me...

or the List that Changed the World
It's been about a month since I joined Facebook and have been captured by that "Time Vampire". Besides feeling now that I have to do a few blog posts a week, I feel like a have to think of witty "What Am I Doing Now?... Status updates twice a day. Really though, it is fun in a "Don't you want to know all about me..." sort of way.

One of the biggest things on there right now is the 25 Things About Me... I spent about an hour trying to come up with 25 interesting things about me that people actually might not know... I thought hmm... let's do some double blogging and double post this on here... So for your consideration... Here is my list.

1. I didn’t eat Peanut Butter until about two years ago. I used to lie to people and tell them I had a peanut allergy so they would stop asking me to “just try it”. Now I eat it all the time.

2. I once ran across Midway Airport. Completely across. No kidding. The runways are huge; It felt like I was an ant crossing a sidewalk.

3. When I was a child I would compulsively pull my hair out of the back of my head. It’s called trichotillomania. My parents never seemed to notice or care. My hair is still thin back there.

4. When I was a teenager my father once caught me lip synching to a Barbra Streisand song into a broom handle. I can still see the shocked look on his face.

5. When I was a child I was obsessed by the Flying Nun. I made a coronet out of a card board box and would run around the yard convinced I would be taking off any moment.

6. My first kiss by a girl was on the same day that Bobby Brady got his first kiss on the Brady Bunch. Even then I thought it was a strange coincidence.

7. Religion-wise I’ve been a Born Again Christian, an NSA Buddhist and I studied witchcraft. I just consider myself a spiritual mess.

8. I believe in angels, but I’m not sure about God.

9. I haven’t had cable or regular television in four years. I’m completely clueless about new shows until they come on DVD.

10. I obsessively watched every Dark Shadows over a period of two and a half years with my friends Erica and Thax Douglas. All 1100+ episodes. After we finished the last one This American Life sent me to the convention to do a piece about it.

11. If I start watching something like a TV series I have to watch every episode, even if I don’t like it. I mean I watched all of the Children of the Corn movies, because I had to.

12. My mother was so upset that I was going to prom that she ran out of the house before I went to pick up my date; she didn’t talk to me for a week afterwards.

13. I hate fish, and get sick even from the smell. But strangely I love tuna. My only explanation is that I used to go on fishing trips with my parents when I was small; I’d watch them gut the fish. But Tuna isn’t really fish… because it comes in cans.

14. After the stem-cel transplant my brother has my exact DNA in his bone marrow. If he were to commit a murder I could be convicted on the DNA evidence. I heard CSI did a show about this.

15. I moved away from home when I was 23. Since then I’ve always lived alone except for one year when I moved in with a friend. It was a terrible mistake.

16. I have vivid dreams, and often they include celebrities. For a while I had reoccurring dreams with Peggy Lee.

17. I love to sing, but I can’t stand the sound of my regular speaking voice or my laugh.

18. I would rather watch a bad old movie, than a good new movie.

19. I’ve been a Netflix subscriber since 2000. Patrick Hughes introduced it to me at a party.

20. I’ve have an allergy to cats, but I’ve had two cats over the last 14 years. Both with bad additudes.

21. I was beaten up (bashed) on my 21st birthday by a gang of neighborhood thugs. I remember as I was being kicked in the stomach thinking that it was a crappy way to spend my birthday.

22. The first song I ever sang in front of an audience was “You Needed Me” the Anne Murphy 80’s hit. It was at a community college as part of a music class.

23. The ending of “It’s a Wonderful Life” always makes me cry. Even thinking about it now I’m tearing up.

24. I’ve a black spot on my ankle from when in the 2nd grade I put a pencil in my shoe and the tip of it broke off in side of my left foot. I never told anyone about it because I knew I would get in trouble. The mark from the pencil is still there.

25. I’m proud of myself for finishing this list and not putting one filthy, sexual fact about myself in it. Hurray. I’m all grown-up.

Monday, February 09, 2009

RIP Blossom Dearie
I was so sad to hear that one of my favorite singers died a couple days ago, the great Blossom Dearie. Known to baby boomers as the singer of the haunting School House Rock song "Number Eight", she was one of the premier jazz vocalist of our time.

I really never listened to her until a few years ago. But once I started I was hooked. Such a sweet and simple voice that she could use be funny or heartbreaking. It was always a dream of mine to take a whirlwind weekend tour of New York and see Blossom play at the small jazz club she sang at until just a couple years ago. Sadly I never made that trip.

Here are some examples of Blossom's best... Someones' Been Sending Me Flowers is one of my favorite songs she recorded, The Surrey With the Fringe on Top (posted by Dan the Video Man), The video to Number Eight and a nice tribute and "I Like London in the Rain"

Passing it On...

It's no wonder that network TV is nervous about its survival.  With the number of fantastic youtube videos, who needs to watch Grey's Anatomy.    I wonder if in 40 years they will call this the Golden Age of YouTube...

This first video was forwarded to me this week by my pal Gary... Thanks Gary...  5 million views already... how did I miss this...  It's great that it manages to be cute and disturbing at the same time...  

Of course, a video that gets five million plus views is bound to have some tributes...  

The best is this one by Chad Vader... 

Chad Vader is a character from the on-line video comedy Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager.  A very clever web-com (Is that what the kids are calling these?) about what if Darth Vader were manager of a supermarket called Empire Foods.  Hilarity ensues.

After you watch that... Check out Chad's his take on David After the Dentist. 

Sunday, February 08, 2009

RIP Chicago Eddie Schwartz

In the 1970’s I used to be a big AM radio listener. With my little black transistor with the white earplug I would for hours scan the AM dial seeing how far of a signal I could get. Chicago AM radio consisted of news on WBBM, and rock music on WLS and WCFL, or country on WMAQ. On WIND was what we would today call Talk Radio. This was before talk radio became synonymous with right wing political talk. Talk Radio then had a quieter, less confrontational demeanor. (No matter what your politics, I don’t know how anyone listens to Limbaugh or Hannity or even some of the Air America hosts. Everyone is so constantly angry.) Radio was much more intimate, and the listeners relationships with the hosts much more personal.

The biggest name in Chicago in the 70’s was Eddie Schwartz. An unlikely radio show host who was an obese man with a wheezy, high reedy voice. Chicago Eddie Schwartz, as he was known, did overnights on WIND. His show was a combination of light conversations about the goings on in the city, show business interviews and hours of him playing tracks from his comedy album collection. It was great at that hour of the morning when there was ‘nothing’ else on. This was also at a time when television stations would go off at 2 AM, so when I say ‘nothing’, I mean nothing! If you had insomnia, it was Schwartz or a hot water bottle and a good book.

Growing up I must have logged hours and hours of time listening to Eddie as I would sneak my transistor radio under my pillow and lay with my plug in my ear. My biggest memories of listening to him were his comedy albums; it was the first time I heard Stan Freberg or Allen Sherman. It was exciting listening to Eddie during big snow storms as he would take calls from reporters treating our Chicago winters like they were the crash of the Hindenburg. Big stars like Bill Cosby and Phyllis Diller would routinely call if they were in town to promote their local shows. Believe me in 1974, this was a huge deal at 2 in the morning.

I have such crystal clear memories of Eddie’s frequent guest Richard Crowe, a local ghost hunter. This was a good 15 years before the advent of Art Bell or Coast to Coast radio. Eddie would dedicate usually a full six hours of talk about ghosts and local hauntings. I would sit and listen completely utterly petrified, unable to move as I listened to the callers tell of how their brother’s wife’s cousin actually saw Resurrection Mary. I recall that I was in my room listening on my transistor, while in the basement I had a reel-to-reel going at the slowest possible speed. However, even at the slowest speed the tape would run out around 3:15 in the morning. I had to gather all my 14 year old courage and go downstairs and turn the tape over. Even now I don’t know how I did that… (See download below)

As the years progressed Eddie became more popular and he moved to the bigger and more prestigious station WGN. During the 80’s he was a Chicago legend and easy fodder for the new shock jocks who were taking over the FM dial. Steve Dahl and Gary Meyer were merciless in their taunting of Eddie and his weight, high pitched voice, and old fashioned style. The odd thing was that Eddie made a decision to leave his cozy AM radio WGN and move to FM and the WLUP where all the young shock jocks were on during the day. It didn’t work for him; Eddie’s audience was older and conservative and I’m sure would never even think of tuning into an FM station.

It was around this time that my friend Randy, whom I’ve mentioned before, got a job as Eddie’s producer. Randy and I had spent many a summer night listening to Eddie. I couldn’t believe I was one degree of separation from this local icon. Randy found the experience less than glamorous. Eddie was bitter and extremely obese. During the day the shock jocks would mock him, including Danny Bonaduce. One jock Kevin Mathews even did a daily character based on Eddie and called him Ed Zeppelin; He continued doing the character for years after Schwartz had left the airwaves. At night Eddie would come on and continue to do his regular AM show with interviews with aldermen or has-been celebrities. Randy’s job consisted of pulling together the guests and making sure that Eddie had his cart with various stomach acid aides. “Go down to the Walgreen’s and get me more TUMS and some Diet Coke.” I would hear his daily horror stories about working the overnight show; how creepy Bobby Vinton was in his crushed velvet jumper hitting on the female interns; or once when I got a phone call in the middle of the night, “I’m putting you on-air in 30 seconds. Ken Barry is on the show and we are dying. No one is calling… Ask him a question about Mayberry R.F.D.”

I would listen in my roach infested studio to Eddie berating Randy for not having the cart to a commercial ready or some other on-air mistake. It was surreal. My favorite Randy/Eddie story was when Bob Hope was in town for some benefit. Eddie wanted Bob on the show. Randy worked for weeks to get Bob’s manager to give him ten minutes on the air over the phone. Randy personally delivered flowers to Bob the day of the broadcast as a thank you. That night I made sure I was listening. Eddie’s voice at this point I would describe as wheezy, slurred and a little unintelligible. Bob was probably in his early 90s and I think more than a little hard of hearing. The interchange went something like this:

Eddie: Mr. Hope I’m so happy you could join us... (garble, garble, wheeze)

Bob: Wonderful…love Chicago

Eddie: You are in town for the Heart Association Benefit. Have you been involved (garble, wheeze, wheeze, cough) with them for a long time.

Bob: Wonderful…

Eddie: Will you be doing anything else while you are in Chicago?

Bob: I’m at the Heart Association Benefit… Wonderful organization…”

Eddie: (cough, wheeze) Is that in the suburbs?

Bob: Wonderful love Chicago.

I got a call from Randy… “Are you listening to this…? Are you listening…? Bob can’t understand Eddie at all…”

Randy ended up leaving the show and going back to his airline job after not getting a raise. I think he was only making $17K a year as his producer. So much for show business.

The last few years of Eddie’s life were sad. He left WLUP with low ratings and broken spirits soon after Randy left the show. I don’t know if Randy leaving the show had anything to do with the end of his radio show; Randy was trying to produce the show like the ones we used to listen to in the 70’s with lots of celebrities and lighter topics. After he left the shows were mainly Eddie complaining about local politicians. And he never did regain his initial loyal listeners who were probably still listening to whomever was on WGN overnights on their transistors to AM radio.

Eddie wrote for a while on a local paper but his health and weight finally caught up to him. He spent the last few years of his life in a nursing home virtually penniless and recluse. As an ironic twist all the shock jocks who mocked him for years threw a big fundraiser for him when they learned that he needed money to pay for his medical bills.

I was truly sad when I heard he was gone. Another piece of the city I knew growing up was gone forever.

The links below is the full Eddie Schwartz show from some hot summer night in the mid-70s. It runs about 3 ½ hours.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The 2008 Collection

I've been paying $5 a month to keep my Podcast page up and running... one of my resolutions was to use it; if only to do some long music podcasts... 

Every year I put together a mix-CD of some of my favorite songs I found in my record collection while collecting or songs I found somewhere on the net.    I give them to friends.  For the first time I offer them to the cyber world.    I hope you enjoy it... 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

End of the World

Joe.My.God posted this.  I don't know anything about this performer, except he's gay, and sounds a little like Rufus Wainwright, except not as annoyingly nasal-ey.   

It's a lovely video and song.   And it's been a while that I've heard a song and it made me want to buy the whole album.  

Monday, January 26, 2009

Winter Vacation

I've been on vacation.   I've not had any extended time off from work for about four months, so it was badly needed if only to catch up on stuff around the house.   Of course, what I ended up doing was taking lots of afternoon naps.  The sort of sleeps where when I would wake up at 5:30 to a early dark winter afternoon I wouldn't know what day it was.  

I did create a to-do list and I'm happy I got to 75% of my tasks.  The one about writing a store of blog posts got pushed to the back of the list.  Right above laundry; This is still waiting for me.

So what I did on my Winter vacation.  

1)  FACEBOOK.   For the last six months various friends would send me an invite to join Facebook.  I'm on Myspace and Friendster, but I rarely, if ever, check my messages.   If I get a new friend request it's some cam-bot girl wanting me to look at her cam show.    I don't know what happened this last month, but everyone, and every conversation came back to the question, “Have you joined Facebook yet?”  I put it off, because I couldn't bare to fill out another profile questionnaire.  But from meeting Gwen in the parking lot of the gym saying: "How come you are not on Facebook", to Graeme guaranteeing that I would get a date within a month; I finally sat down and joined.   

And now I have to add my voice to the chorus.  If you are not on it,  you must.   The only way I can describe it is that it's like a map of everyone I've ever had any social contact with, from current friends to ones that I haven't talked with for years, old lovers, school friends from high school, people I met in passing performing in shows, suddenly they are all gathered in one spot; and suddenly I know what they are doing, thinking about almost to the minute.   In a way it's exciting and a little frightening.   There is a function called “Status”… this is where people put what they are doing now… I put that I was doing Pub Trivia at a local bar and a friend popped in to say “Hi... I knew you'd be here because of your status…”   Forget about worrying about Big Brother.  We are our own Big Brother. 

I've put a link on the Left to my Facebook account.  If you want to be my Facebook friend, just send me a request and mention that you are a reader… Love to have you jump into the pool… Come Join Us… 

Here I am having lunch with Mark (left) and Randy (right).  Mark I haven't seen in 7 years. 
2) Election.  I spent the inaugural ceremony at Sidetracks a local gay video bar.  They advertised they would be open at ten in the morning and most importantly they would have brunch snacks. I thought for sure that there would be at most fifty people there.  So, I was shocked when we walked and saw hundreds of people.  So much for the snacks, but I did nab the last piece of carrot cake.  It was an amazing place to be.   Of course, as per my usual, while Obama was being sworn in I was at the bar getting drinks.   

Oh, and I had a social faux pas.   I was in such a hurry to get out of the house that I just grabbed some newly bought clothes that I'd gotten on sale at Sears that weekend.   After the swearing in ceremony some guy came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Um… you have tags on your pants…”  I had left on not only the “70% off tag, but the long sticker down my leg that proudly showed how big my ass is…”   Once a nerd always a nerd. 

But what a feeling of celebration.  I can't remember being so excited about a politican and seeing so many other people excited.  His speech was inspiring.  I can only wish this country luck to get back on track.  I compare the Bush administration to as if we had a slumlord running our apartment building for the last eight years.   Everything needs to be fixed.  This country needs new tile on the kitchen floor, but that toilet also needs to be replaced.   I'm not expecting miracles, but boy do we need one… 

3) Because I was off I decided since I wasn't going to travel, I had license to spend money will a little touch of the devil-may-care about it.   I went to see a local production of Xanadu, which was fun, if a little over priced; bought myself a new scent Cordovan; and went out on Saturday and drank a little too much wine and beer.  (I forgot the golden rule of “never mix, never worry”) Oy…  Thankfully, nights like this are becoming few and far between. Here I am at Daniel's Birthday party.  I also, went to my friendly local tarot card reader to see what the next few months will bring.  A sweet faced, white haired middle aged woman named April M greeted me at the Chakra Shoppe and for $30 dollars told me that I need to do more meditation.  That I will have a love affair in February that will quickly turn sour, but that June and July are better months for romance.  I'll have good months with money in April and May, but look out in June and July.  Lucky in love, but not in money in the summer.  And May will be bring major adjustments in my life when it comes to my job and my family; She shook her head and said it will be very stressful.  You've heard it here first… check back for the results… 

4) And generally I napped a lot.  Dinah, my cat, has gotten high points for getting cozy this last week.   She can be a mess of trouble and is still attacking and biting, but she knows how to create a little nest among my legs on these cold chilly nights.  

Anyway… that's all the news… that's fit to print… J  


Monday, January 19, 2009

Hello Mr. President.

I've never felt such excitement in the air as for the election of our new President Obama. Tomorrow I'm going to a local video bar at 10 in the morning to watch the ceremonies. However, my Polish pessimistic side of me is just waiting for everything to fall apart. But for now I'm wishing everyone a happy President inauguration day.

In honor of the occasion I present this oddity of albums. A musical album with Perry Como and Kaye Ballard as the President and First Lady. This was one of Irving Berlin's last musicals. And it's not his best. But even bad Berlin is better than anyone's worst.

So enjoy our historic tomorrow.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's Minus 8 degrees this morning!

This winter reminds me of being a teenager in the 70's. Winters then always seemed to be this long and cold. I found this January 1977 Post in my diary to prove it, here.

I woke up this morning and for some reason I was worrying about all the birds and squirrels that usually run outside my bedroom window... Stay warm little creatures.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Very Odd(s) and Ends Ads
Circa February 1929 Photoplay Magazine
I Thought I Had Bad Self-Esteem Until...

It's just common sense that in collecting these women's magazines from a bygone age that most of the ads will be about women's special issues.  But to see the number of ads you'd think menstruation was all women ever thought or talked about.   

This ad is particularly disturbing.   Can you imagine working in a office and having the Personnel Manager start talking about your period.   The look on the employee's face says it all, "First I'll kill her by smashing this typewriter over her head and then I'll jump out the window..."

Actually this ad needs Aaron's razor sharp tongue to tell this woman where to go...

But not to leave out the men... I give you The Man I Pity Most

Here Earle Liederman "A Muscle Builder", takes pity on the modern man with his weak muscles and organs.    I found this odd that there was an ad aimed at building up men's muscles in a woman's magazine.  The other ads are almost exclusively about women's health and beauty needs.  Then I read the last sentence...  It contains 48 full page photographs of myself and some of my prize winning pupils I have trained. Look them over now and you will marvel at their present physiques.  

Muscle magazines are well known as coded as 'pink' in the day.   I'm assuming they were trying to appeal to the Joan Crawford fan base.

Because the text of this ad is in .5 type... I'll recreate this homoerotic tone poem below:

POOR OLD JONES.  NO one had any use for him.  No one respected him.  Across his face I read one harsh word - FAILURE.   He just lived on.  A poor worn out imitation of a man doing his sorry best to get on in the world.  If he had realised one one thing, he could have made good.  He might have been a brilliant success.  

There are thousands of men like Jones.  They, too, could be happy, successful, respected and loved.  But they can't seem to realize the one big fact that practically everything worth while living for depends upon STRENGTH, upon live red-blooded, he-man muscle.

Every you do depends on strength.  No matter what your occupation, you need the health, vitality and clear thing your big strong virile muscles can give you.  When you are ill, the strength in those big muscles pull you through.  At the office, in the farm fields, or on the tennis courts, you find your success generally depends upon your muscular development.

Here's a short cut to Strength and Success

"But" you say, "It takes years to build my body up to the point where it will equal those of athletic champions" It does if you got about it without any system, but there is a scientific short cut.  And that's where I come in.

In just 30 days I can do things with your body you never thought possible.  With just a few minutes work every morning I will add one full inch of real live muscle to each of your arms and two full inches across your chest.  Many of my pupils have gained more than that but I GUARANTEE to do at least that much for you in one short month.  Your neck will grow shapely, your shoulders begin to broaden. Before you know it, you'll find people turning around when you pass.  Women will want to know you.  Your boss will treat you with new respect.  Your friends will wonder what has come over you.  You'll look ten years younger, and you'll feel it, too. 

But I'm not through with you.  I want ninety days in all to the job right and then all I ask is that you look yourself over.  What a marvelous change! Those great squared shoulders! That pair of huge lithe arms! Those firm shapely legs!  You'll be just as fit inside as you are out too, because I work on your heart and your liver, all of your inner organs, strengthening and exercising them.  Yes indeed, life can give you a greater thrill than you ever dreamed...


But don't worry ladies... weight loss is so much easier for you.  Just ten minutes will roll the fat way and absorb it into your body.  Keep the fat in the places you want it and roll it to where it will do the most good.  

Then send away to the Psychology Press in St. Louis (a hotbed of psychology in the late 20's) and find out just what you should avoid to get your man.  You'll learn the secrets to a man's mind with the booklet "Fascinating Womanhood".

Just remember not to have exposed or irritated skin.   "They just don't belong.  They express bad form more clearly than an ill-fitting frock..." 

And finally A New Skin.   Never again "suffer humiliation nor take a 'back seat' in society, business, or love affairs."    All around an amazing ad worthy of any art museum or tee-shirt.  

Peace... stay warm...