Tuesday, October 31, 2006
In French, the romantic words "le pays des contes" means once upon a time. So "Once Upon a Time" there was a lonely guy named Michael. Although he had found love before, it had been many years since that day when his first love passed from this planet blue. And then one day in March of 1999, Michael went on line on AOL and found a great guy named John Calvin Long-- living in Phoenix, Arizona, no less. Now since Michael had just lost a six month boyfriend who also lived in Phoenix-- and had even contemplated moving to this Sun City with him, you might have thought that the mere mention of the word "Phoenix"-- city or otherwise would have been the biggest turn off of them all. But no, because you see, Michael was an absolute, one hundred percent romantic and maybe the best optimist on the planet! And so, he wrote John a letter telling him all about himself and John wrote promptly back. That was the morning of March 7th, 1999. On that evening, he wrote back and gave his phone number. Michael called him and guess what? I called him on March 8th and that wonderful lyric in that wonderful song "You Had Me At Hello" proved absolutely true. Okay, so this Michael is ME. And I knew in my heart at the moment we said hello that here was somebody very special. He came out to Los Angeles for his birthday and I threw hima celebration like none other. We went to the LA Zoo together. We had a great dinner at Tam O' Shanter in Glendale (which was Walt Disney's favorite restaurant too) and long before that weekend ended, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this wonderfully unique, sweet and caring young man. John was twenty-five at the time and I was 52. I was twice his age-- but we didn't care. We went shopping at the mall in Burbank at Nordtrom's and picked out all the wedding presents, we wanted to receive. I committed to him right there and then and he moved to California on July 1st, 1999. Our commitment ceremony was held seven years ago, today with our friends, Rick, Jimmy and Mara Chapel, Tony Westbrook and Tim Doran in attendance plus our neighbor and friend Sylvia from upstairs. It was great! We had a huge bbq and a wonderful Halloween "Trick or Treat" celebration. I had written the words of our comittment and we each pledged our devotion and promise of fidelity. We've had some anxious moments along the way, but I want to say here and now on this our anniversary, that I love my John even more today than I did then. John is an incredible balance for me I find. I am very impulsive and he is more "feet on the ground" We root for each other. We are there for each other. We give to each other. We live very modestly for now, but who cares? He gives great wisdom that simply amazes me at times. His love of animals is amazing and we share "our baby"--- a big Maine Coon cat named "Simon Peter" His knowledge of plants and flowers is amazing as well. He can identify just about any plant, shrub or tree by name! The secret? Simple. We accept one another as we find them. We don't try to change their dreams, their passions, their habits (good, bad or inbetween) and we are not afraid of saying "I'm sorry, I was wrong!" We simply don't allow a past hurt to bring us down. You can't change the past. You can't cry about it. You can't be angry about it. You can't wish it away or mope about it! We learn from it and move on! As Neil Simon once said "If your still on crutches from something that happened long ago, that long ago might as well be a body bag!-- you're dead and don't know it!" And even if you make it to paradise, you won't have sense enough to crawl out of the damn thing ." That came from Simon's only semi-serious play called "The Gingerbread Lady" about a reforming alcoholic played on stage by Marsha Mason. And so we go on, loving each other. Like any couple, we'll have a disagreement or two-- maybe even a fight-- but so what? My angel mother and father used to argue over the damnedest things you could ever imagine. So I take my John, forever more, warts and all and make the best of these years! And I now tell the whole world-- "I love you, baby, with all my heart and soul--forever more!
Monday, October 30, 2006
People can be sheep-- big time-- or lemmings as the case may be. For on this day in 1938-- not Halloween as many have always thought came the Orson Wells Mercury Players presentation of H.G. Wells "The War Of The Worlds" in which Martians supposedly were attacking New Jersey. Now that all by itself seems hysterical. What self-respecting Martian would pick on New Jersey to attack first. Now Mr. Wells announced that it was simply a presentation of the Mercury Theatre group- but evidently nobody heard that part of the broadcast. All people knew was that a dance music program had been interrupted by a "news bulletin" about explosions on Mars --which actually was the launching of space ships that would be gassing New Jersey. People were driven from their homes, absolute panic was very real and even an entire Baptist church congregation turned a regular service into a mass prayer for mercy of God to stop the dreaded Martians. Too funny! We all have heard that the pen is mightier than the sword but when a television broadcast causes widespread panic from California to New Jersey it just goes to show just how sheepish people are. There were even suicides! The broadcast was NEVER repeated and Orson Wells always said it was the one deep regret of his life! I read also that Coca Cola has developed a new soft drink that actually helps you to lose weight (after eating a Big Mac or similar product) It actually works by counteracting with the fat that you consume while eating things like high calorie hamburgers, pizza, sirloin steaks or a Starbucks Frappuccino that you consume.Sixty to one-hundred calories in one swoop! Crazy? Who knows? And the French have announced the first car to be run on air! Well, wouldn't that be incredible? Gas prices are coming down dramatically but for how long? Still it is a pleasure to fill up at $2.33 a gallon instead of $3.49 just a month ago. Halloween is tomorrow and it is also the 7th anniversary of John and mine's commitment ceremony. Well we are still together and still love each other very much. He is my strength in difficult times and these past couple of weeks have been a challenge. I'm losing more weight and I'm very happy about that. My friend Tony Westbrook is doing the same and he looks just fabulous by the pictures on his blog page! Congratulations, Tony. You look thirty-nine again! Well another day of work and the Christmas retail season will be soon upon us. My Studio City Ritz store can get so damn busy at times. Thursday of last week, out of the blue we did $7300.00! Poor old Hooper Camera never achieved that feat! And speraking of poor old Hooper Camera-- the building yesterday was demolished. The very store that I worked at for over two years fgound the way of the wrecking ball! There will be huge new condos and retail area in this psace within two years! This is just part of a huge redevelopment going on in North Hollywood and this area of Lankershim Blvd is the latest! So Hooper is gone and so is the Chinese restaraunt that I used to eat like a king in for lunch for $5.00 or less. Oh well, more memories! North Hollywood is changing forever! Well that's it for today!
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Today in history was "Black Friday" October 29th, 1929 --the day the Stock Market crashed in NYC and the start of "The Great Depression" -- perhaps no single event in American History provided a more disastrous course of events. Lives were ruined. People jumped out of buildings and the country was set back for basically ten years. We had a close call for the same scenario back in 1987, but now it appears that we are basically protected from automatic "sell orders" by computer safeguards. On the same day that the stock market was crashing, Fanny Brice, the amazing and legendary stage and screen performer was born. Although the classic Broadway musical "Funny Girl" depicted much of her life, there are glaring differences between the reality and the stage show. Most of it is simply delicious fiction. The producer of both the film and the musical was Ray Stark who was married to Fanny's daughter, Francis. First Fanny's real family name was Borach. After her career took off in burlesque, she changed it to Brice, much to her mother's costernation. Fanny's mother, Rosie spent years managing the bars while her husband played cards and drank his days away. When that got to to be more than Rosie could bear, Rosie finally got a legal separation and took her kids to Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, Rosie made a great living buying and selling real estate! While Fanny struggled towards fame, her family lived in a series of handsome apartments and townhouses including one on Manhattan's swankly "Beekman Place" (Yes, the same street immortalized in "Mame") Another thing: Fanny made her debut as a solo singer at Frank Keeney's popular vaudeville theatre. She was not part of the chorus-- on roller skates or otherwise! Fanny was eventually fired from a chorus by Broadway legend George M. Cohan. Cohan dropped Fanny from the Broadway cast of "Talk of The Town" because she couldn't dance! To cover her disappointmentFanny had claimed she was fired for having "sinny legs". The film makes no mention of her firtst marriage to Frank White, a small time barber. The marriage didn't last long, but it was consummated, so Fanny Brice lost her sexual innocence years before meeting Nicky Arnstein-- who, by the way was far from being gorgeous. Gorgeous? Not unless you might consider a guy who looked like William Howard Taft gorgeous! "Funny Girl" also makes no mention of Fanny's long time friendship with Irving Berlin, the world famous songwriter. Berlin had written several numbers for her (including the classic "Sadie Salome") which really helped her break into the big time. Why is it that performers seldom acknowlegde a great songwriter once they get famous. Don Ho did that and angered me greatly one night in Hawaii when he came out on stage and said "Ok, let's get this thing over with" At that point he sang out "Tiny Bubbles" like he was forced to! I doubt sincerely you would have ever heard of Don Ho without that great song! Back to Fanny. The real Nicky Arnstein was six foot six-- sophisticated and tall and imposing yes-- gorgeous-- no! Fanny Brice performed material her own way, but the pregnant bride number depicted in "Funny Girl" never happened. If it had Ziegfield would have fired her on the spot-- no matter how much the audience laughed! Fanny really debuted in the 1910 Follies singing the now defunct song "Lovey Joe"-- another great debut song forgotten! Another picture and Broadway fiction was that Fanny Brice did not debut at the New Amsterdam Theatre (where Mary poppins now reigns) Fanny actually made her debut at at the Jardin de Paris an open air summer theatre atop the now gone New York Theatre. The Follies did not move to the New Amsterdam until 1913. Fanny Brice actually had Nicky arnsteinm investigated and learned he was still married to his first wife. Hopelessly in love, Fanny pretended that it didn't matter. She had to wait seven years for his divorce to come through and married him in 1919-- just two months before the birth of their daughter, Frances. "Funny Girl" also depicts Nicky as a classy gambler who turned to crime because he didn't want to live on Fanny's money. Ha! Nicky Arnstein was nothing more than a common criminal and he had no qualms about sponging off of Fanny for thier entire marriage. In fact, before they were married Nicky Arnstein had been arrested for swindling in three different European countries! He was even convicted while he was married of wiretapping and Fanny would visit him every week in Sing Sing! Much later, after a federal court threw Arnstein into Leavenworth for fourteen months, Fanny used her influence to arrange for special treatment for him including meals cooked for him by the warden's wife. There are so many more. But it just goes to show you, the libretiers we take to make great fiction in movies and on the Broadway stage happen! But we still love both works! Well, that's all for today!
Saturday, October 28, 2006
The absolute classic quiz show "You Bet Your Life" premiered on NBC television fifty years ago this day. It starred the one and only Groucho Marx. I have always loved Groucho and I watched that show every single week. Groucho Marx was without doubt one of the funniest men on the planet. Together with announcer George Fennerman (who was the greatest straight man of all times) the show lasted on television for eleven years for 429 episodes. It was filmed before a studio audience long before Desi Arnaz applied this idea to "I Love Lucy" Groucho would be introduced with the music to "Hooray For Captain Spaulding" his signature song first introduced in the 1930 classic film "Animal Crackers". The show would revolve around the conversations that Groucho would have with the various contestants --they hoping of course that they would be able to say "the secret word" (pronounced "woid" on the show) for a $50 prize. If a contrestant uttered the word, a mustachioed toy duck wearing eye glasses and holding a cigar in his bill resembling Groucho, himself would come down with great musical fanfare! In one special episode, Harpo Marx, himself came down-- it was a classic moment in television! Contestants were paired individuals of the opposite sex who were not married to one another or related in any other way. Sometimes celebrities were paired with other "ordinary" people." In the contest itself, contestants would choose from several categories. Oner popular category was to name a state after Groucho would read a number of the names of cities to be found there. Each couple started with $20 (cheap, huh?) They were asked four questions in their chosen category. For each question they "bet" up to all of the money they had accumulated up to this point. If a couple had bet and lost all of their money, they were asked a dummy question like "Who's burried in Grant's Tomb?" or "What color is the White House"-- so that at least they'd get cab fare out of the evening! One classic evening a woman who had nineteen children (19!) came on. Groucho asked her incredulously "Why so many children?" To which the woman answered with the plaintive response "Because I love my husband" And Groucho replied (as only the Great Groucho Marx could) "And I like a good cigar, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while!" Oh the laughter-- it went on for two minutes straight! The show was sponsored by Plymouth automobile and their famous "DeSotto" line. Jack Benny once did a spoof of the program on his own television show and the two great comedians shared some comic barbs that have not been equalled to this day! Jack pretends to be someone else on this "game" and loses the competition based on the last question to be asked --and all because that question was "How old is Jack Benny?' Everybody in the world knows that Jack Benny never revealed his true age in his lifetime-- and so Benny who flubs the answer because he won't give the true answer loses the cash! Jack Benny losing cash? OMG! Another classic moment. This episode was so funny that it actually outshined the great Groucho. Jack's timning was absolutely impeccable. Groucho bought the Benny episode from the network and while he lived that episode could only be watched at Groucho's home in his projection room-- and then ONLY if you were invited to watch it! It has since shown up on DVD. It's classic! Before she was famous, Phylis Diller once appeared on the program and traded barbs with the great Groucho one on one! Head to head! Daws Butler appaered on the program and no one recognized him until he slipped into his famous Huckelberry Hound voice while answering a question about --you guessed it hound dogs. God love you, Groucho, you certainly made me laugh over the years!
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Today would have been my dear mother's 93rd birthday. She was my very best friend in all of the world. No one rooted for me, supported me or loved me the way she did. I lost her on December 1st, 1974 when she was killed in an automobile accident. It doesn't seem possible that it has been thirty-three years. I was living in the Santa Barbara area at the time with a store I was running in Goleta. The news came early the morning of December 2nd. Boy, was that tough. My mother was only 62 years old, and now I am fast approaching that age myself at 59. She had been pushed off a slide when she was in the first grade by a bully and landed on her hip. They thought she had injured her head-- but oh no-- what was damaged was her spine and she spent eighteen months in Children's Hospital in Los Angeles with countless surgeries and procedures. She did recover, but oh the price she paid. The endless pain, the backaches, the high blood pressure and a spine that became cheapened like a question mark. She was my angel from heaven. And I think about her constantly-- even to this day! She loved my dear father so much and us kids. The personal sacrifices she made was simply incredible. She raised us four kids with a kind but kind of strict upbringing. Her amazing good heart was legendary. Like my dad, my mother would have given you her last dime. If she was your friend, you had the best friend in the whole world. She loved to play the piano (sometimes for hours) especially after my dad passed away in 1966. One of things songwriter me wants to do is to finish the song that she composed for my father called "If I Loved You" It's a wonderful song! Every time she played that tune, she cried. My three sisters (yes, I was the only son) all had piano lessons-- not me-- I was the boy! How surprised (no, make that shocked) she might be to know of all the songs I've written. If she were here, she'd play them all, over and over-- because her love knew no bounds. She never judged you or tried to make you into something you were not or didn't want to be! She worried constantly-- always faithful! On Wednesdays in my childhood, my Uncle Mario would come over and sing these wonderful songs like "Granada" "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" and "I Believe"-- how happy my mother was on those magical Wednesdays! I remember how wonderfully she cooked: her amazing pizza, Spanish rice, pot roast, meat loaf-- all the rest. We were very poor. My father was a house painter-- and out of work a lot. Back then, oil base paint was all that was used by house painters in their industry! So whenever it rained, my dad was out of work and we were "robbing Peter to pay Paul" again. The old adage that the wolf was at the front door, the back door and working on the chimney certainly applied to us. But I will tell you this: not one birthday was slighted, not one Christmas was made or seemed poor, and every Fourth of July was celebrated like a coronation! My mother could balance the books in the most amazing ways. I don't know how she did it! And she never bounced a check-- not once! Her gentle laughter and her kind demeanor was simply amazing. And I will thank God every day that remains in my life for the gift of my mother, Virginia. I had to face several years back (Through Allenon) that she drank when things went really badly-- but nothing compared to what some do today! But bar none, no one could match my mother's love. And even now that I am proudly gay, I know she would have accepted it all-- because that's the way she was. There wasn't a judgmental or prejudice bone in her body. She was devoted to God and her church. And oh, how she loved Bingo! Give my mother $20.00 and a day a bingo and she was as happy as a clam. Believe it or not, even with her bad spine, she loved to bowl-- and won several trophies for the effort! She loved to play badminton too. My sweet dear mother was simply amazing. I can only assume that she is in heaven watching over me every single day and night. I will love you forever, mom-- you were the best!
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
On this date in 1939 in an issue of Detectives Comics #37, the legendary superhero of Batman was born created by Mr. Bob Kane with an able assist from an uncredited source: Bob Finger. The character of Bruce Wayne is embellished in my memory as a child, especially once the 1960's television series made his premiere. I learned a couple of amazing things that happened in the comic strips that I was totally unaware of. One that the character of Dick Grayson (who becomes Robin) was an orphaned circus acrobat. The second thing I learned was that way down the road in the comic book pages, Bruce Wayne (amazingly enough) marries a reformed Cat Woman and that eventually he becomes Police Commissioner while Robin takes over patrolling Gotham City. Fun things to know. I understand one can now buy all of the classic campy "Batman" TV series episodes on DVD. Who could forget the late Frank Gorswin as "The Riddler", the amazing Burgess Merrideth as "The Penguin" and the super Caesar Romero as "The Joker". I remember Victor Buono as "King Tut", Eartha Kitt and Julie Newmar as "Catwoman, Vincent Price as "Egg Head" and even the great Liberace starred as "Candelabra" Boom! Kapoo! Wham! --funny captions on screen! I also remember hearing about celerbrities who worked for absolute minimum for doing those campy little guest shots in which they poked their heads out of windows as Batman and Robin scaled a high rise in persuit of a bad guy! Those episodes were so funny and so entertaining. Today also in 1940, the forty hour week came into law (thank goodness for that all you Nine to Fivers) The United Nations Charter came into effect in 1945 as well. Work continues well and I am selling more now-- which pleases me a great deal. I am sure my Ritz store in Studio City will be busier than ever very soon! Yesterday I saw an old friend. Dear Marsha (Marsha) Sill came in looking absolutely radiant. I had not seen her in several months-- and then only in passing! I swear this woman gets more beautiful as time passes) I took the opportunity of giving her the "Traveling Companion" CD and other demos including "Dream Little Dreamer" that Tim and I recorded last June with the children's choir "The Soundsations". Boy these kids are talented! And they are headed for Carniege Hall this fall. Halloween will soon be here and of course this is my John's favorite holiday of all time. I look forward to seeing the 3D version of "Nightmare Before Christmas" very soon. This film is simply magical! We had a wonderful visit with John's mother last weekl at Disneyland! What a very special lady she is! A devoted and loving mother-- just like mine was. Isn't it wonderful when you can say that your mother was your very best friend in the world? It would have been my Mother's 93rd birthday tomorrow-- but more on that tomorrow! It's a beautiful suny day today and I have the day off! Hurray! Well, that's about it for today.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Today is the birthday of a great comedian. The name is Jerome Lester Horwitz! And I can hear all of you saying "Who?" Well of course, he was better known as Curly Howard of the Three Stooges. Along with his brother Harry Moses Horwitz (better known as Moe Howard) and Larry Fine, they made the classically funny trio "The Three Stooges" Curly lived a relativerly short life (1903-1952) besieged by hypertension and other maladies and was brilliantly portrayed by Michael Chicklas ("The Shield") in the 2000 ABC TV movie "The Three Stooges" The group came about because of a child hood friendship that Moe had with a guy called Ted Healy. In 1922, Ted formed the group "Ted Healy and the Southern Gentlemen which was changed to "Ted Healy and the Racketeers "and finally (thank goodness) "Ted Healy and the Three Stooges" Their first short as simply "The Three Stooges came in 1930 for MGM called "Soup To Nuts". The Stooges themselves made 190 short films until they were unceremoniously fired from Columbia Pictures in 1957. Curly was always my favorite of the Stooges and he helped me laugh a lot in my childhood. Shemp replaced him after a stroke felled him in 1948, and Curly never recovered. Moe was very protective of his "baby brother" and called him "Babe". Funny, that was Oliver Hardy's nickname as well! The Stooges became popular again in 1959 when Columbia Pictures sold all of the Stooges shorts to television. But a wise Moe Howard bought all the trademarks and copyrights shortly thereafter in the mid 60's. Now the families of these great comedians own everything-- just as it should be! Another day at work and more marketing ahead this week-- I am going to submit like crazy. I have this wonderful book that cost me $70 and I'm going to use it well! I have new letterhead, an amazing new business card and I'm really got a heads up on a great packaging format. So with God's help-- maybe it will work big time! Anticipation of course on my part because in the coming weeks my niece is expecting a baby boy and my nephew and his wife are expecting another baby girl-- my family is growing yet once again! My sister Rosemary will be a grandmother at last!
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Edison invented the lightbulb on this day in 1879. A pure genius if there ever was one. He was active into his eighties and held more US patents than any other individual. Here's something I never knew-- Edison was mostly deaf from his teenage years. Another deaf genius! Like Walt Disney he sold candy and newspapers on a train and saved a friend from a runaway locomotive when he was seventeen years of age. The young boys father was so grateful to young Edison that he set him up with a job and a small laboratory. Amazing reading. A life unequaled I suppose! Well, I spent a few days at Disneyland and really enjoyed myself catching "Fantasmic" once again and finally seeing "Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams" -- that has to be the very best spectacle the Disney folks have ever created. Narrated by Julie Andrews, the firework show is a journey through Disneyland history giving a spectacle in fireworks for every major attraction including "The Haunted Mansion", "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "It's A Small World" Even past attractions like "Country Bear Jamboree" and "Journey Through Inner Space" got a small tribute. Walt Disney's voice could be heard dedicating the park as he had done in July 1955. It was a crowded day on Friday-- almost capacity-- very unusual on a late October day. John's mother came to visit and stay at the hotel with us and it was a wonderful way to forget one's troubles. We managed to get John to go on attractions, he normally would not-- like "The Tower of Terror" and "Splash Mountain". Bill Lewis and my nephew got us in and it was really some beautiful days. As I exited the park, last night, I looked up at the lamp lit in Walt Disney's old private apartment above the firehouse on Main Street. I saluted his memory and said aloud "Good night, Walt!" It was a magic moment! I was told the day before by a guide at City Hall that when Lillian, Walt's late wife would come to the park, she would only stay in that apartment because that's where Walt's spirit could always be found-- and it was here that she felt the most comfortable-- the only place where she could sleep peacefully! We ate at Carnation Cafe again just like I had in my youth and I had a wonderful time! Well, back to work, I guess.
Monday, October 16, 2006
If this ginky guy at your left is not the face of a true character-- I give up. You won't find another like it! Honest! My all time favorite comedy play (other than Neil Simon's genius) is "The Man Who Came to Dinner" written by two of the funniest guys in the business: George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The character in that show was named Sheridan Whiteside. The real life guy for whom that character was created in tribute was a New York Theatre Critic named Alexander Woolcott. If there ever in this life was an honest-to-goodness, one hundred percent pure crumegeon --this is he! He was very famous-- and he was very honest! He was the Walter Kerr of the 1940's. You could count on one his reviews as being dead on correct! He once reviewed a Broadway show with ONE WORD-- yep-- and that play was SO BAD that one word review was "OUCH" --in capital letters! I worked the light board at the San Gabriel Little Theatre in 1966. It was here that I learned to love theatre and this was one of the plays that I grew to adore because it's so damn funny and it's so damn universal-- even today! I saw it many times as our group performed it on weekends for about six weeks! I can still see it in my head. You laugh and laugh! Why? Because it's as honest as hell. And honesty (just act ask Neil Simon) is funny! The plot of the play is simple-- a great critic comes to visit a New York City family who has won a contest to receive his visit to that family. Newspapers and the media cover the wonderful event! But he slips and falls on the icy walk as he is leaving and breaks his leg-- forcing said family to nurse him back to health (by threat of a big lawsuit) and waiting on this crudge hand and foot! I real life, Alexander Woolcott was so crusty and grouchy and mean that he was thrown out of two apartments and moved to the most desolate part of New York City so that he never had to deal with people that were in any way related to show business and theatre. The great syndicated columnist, Dorothy Parker called this awful place "Wits End". The funny thing is that Woolcott was the very best friend of Harpo Marx whom Wolcott had given a smash review to the Marx Brothers first show on Broadway! Harpo named one of his adopted kids after him. Some of the things that he said in his columns and reviews are still be used today. Such as:" All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal, or fattening." Or
"I'm tired of hearing it said that democracy doesn't work. Of course it doesn't work. We are supposed to work it."
"Many of us spend half of our time wishing for things we could have if we didn't spend half our time wishing."
There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day.
"A hick town is one where there is no place to go where you shouldn't go."
"The English have an extraordinary ability for flying into a great calm."
And the best one: . "In Life, you gotta take what you can get! Grab the chances as they come along! But for God's sake, don't mourn the chances or the lifestyle that you lost! They're lost, brother-- forever and ever! And you're grieving for them to come back makes you look like an idiot in scak cloth! So be smart! Live your life! Laugh! Be happy! Be impulsive! Act in hallways! Sing in doorways! Dance in cellars! Shout to the moon! Celebrate the sun of every new day! Because if you don't one day the moon and sun are gonna get mad and they just won't shine for you at all-- and that's because you've chased them away once too often by closing the door on their greeting and hiding yourself under the bed!" Wow-- not bad for an old fart! In truth, he simply was this dead honest guy who hated the arrogant, the selfish, the vain, the pessimist and the bad actor! Hey-- I'm not to fond of those types, myself! Today is also the birthday of Oscar Wilde. Born in 1854 and the first to be bold enough to declare himself bi-sexual. You remember the famous quote "He had the love that dared not speak it's name! Ah yes! The picture on the right of the blog page is his college age picture. Boy, this guy was a hottie! Happy birthday also to Angela Lansbury who turns 81 this day! Today was also opening night for Judy Garland at the Palace Theatre in 1951. She was a smash! Hit that is! On a personal note John's mother is coming to town on the 19th and John and I are taking her for her first visit to Disneyland-- well that should be fun! That's it for now!
Sunday, October 15, 2006
On this day in 1964 we lost Cole Porter. If ever there was an amazing songwriter it was this incredibly talented man. His grandfather (not his father) dictated the entire family. You just didn't cross grandfather in some families back then! Whatever this man said-- you did. And although his saintly mother gave him piano lessons early and he learned the violin by age six, young Cole Porter went to Yale to become a lawyer. He soon got involved in the theatrics division here. Fortunatly for the world, a wise teacher advised him to get out of the classes he was doing poorly in and re-major in music. Believe or not in these four short college years, Cole Porter had written three hundred songs -- many of which are still used today, especially in sports and school spirit categories. After his first musical was a spectacular failure, and after two more bad turns, he went to live in Paris living off of grandfather's trust-- strict grandfather had no idea he had quit the law program--thank goodness. He was here he met Linda Bennett, eight years his senior and a woman who was already tired of sex after being very abused by her first mother. IF Cole Porter was bi-sexual, it cetainly didn't matter to her-- she was delighted to the wife of a prolific songwriter. Of course, dear Cole slept with many men one of whom he wrote the classic song "So Easy To Love" for. His polo accident was the one injury that almost felled this great man. He was in constant pain. He was portrayed so brilliantly by Kevin Kline in the motion picture "De Lovely" Who can forget "Blow Gabriel Blow" "Can Can" "Lets Fall In Love" "Begin the Beguine" (which Irving Berlin labeled "The long long song") The 30's were his greatest period before a long dry spell that ended with the classic Broadway musical "Kiss Me Kate" Tonight, Mary Poppins opens in previews on Broadway. This is certainly a drastic change from the classic Walt Disney motion picture of 1964. But change is good and this is 2006--not 1964 and thirty-eight years does call for a new angle on this classic old story. Thank goodness the Sherman Brothers tunes are still in this ptoduction. I would wonder what kind of songs they might have contributed to this had they been so allowed. Well thats about it for today. Tonight also marks the anniversary of the first broadcast of "I Love Lucy"-- in 1955. I remember that night from my childhood-- I was eight years old. My entire family was gathered around the television set! Grand memories from long, long ago!
Saturday, October 14, 2006
On this day in 1977, we lost a singing legend: the one and only Bing Crosby. Crosby possessed the most recorded human voice in history: a record that is still held to this very day! In 1992, the great Artie Shaw kind of summed it all up: The thing that you have to understand about Bing Crosby is that he was the first hip white person born in the United States". Bing died of a sudden massive heart attack in Madrid, Spain in 1977 doing what he loved best: playing golf. He had just scored an eighty-five-- which ain't bad for a guy seventy four years old. His last words were "That was a great game of golf, fellas" His son from his second marriage (Nathaniel) was a high level golfer who won the US Amateur at age nineteen in 1981, becoming the youngerst ever of that event ( a record later broken by Tiger Woods) Bing was born in Tacoma, Washington on May 3, 1903. His ancestors came over on the Mayflower. He has stated that singer Al Jolson really fascinated him and influenced him a lot. His career began eighty years ago in 1926 when he and his vocal duo partner, Al Rinkler caught the eye of Paul Whiteman, undeniably the most famous band leader of that time. He was hired for $150 a week-- big money then! In motion picture ticket sales Bing Crosby is still the third most popular actor trailing only Clark Gable and John Wayne-- not bad for a crooner! Before Crosby art was art and pop was pop, Legit singers worried constantly about staying in tune and reaching the upper balconies. Vaudvillians concerned themselves with their costumes and facial expressions. Most vocalists of that day displayed one dimensional vocal styles. Crosby perfected the fully rounded vocal expression: trying songs others wouldn't and putting a warmth to every song. He literally performed the lyric. Not simply sang the things that rhymed. Big difference! Before Crosby, the lyric was treated as words. After Crosby, the lyrics were treated as the reason you wanted to sing the song in the first place! Crosby could melt a tone away, scoop it flat and slide it up to the eventual pitch as a glissando, sometimes singing a note right on the button and take dipthongs for long musical rides. Vocal critics claimed that the octave B flat to B flat in Bing's voice in the 1930's was one of the loveliest sounds ever made by a barritone: both classical and popular. Mel Torme once said that "Bing Crosby's low notes could make your bass woofers beg for mercy". He introduced White Christmas in 1941 and so the grand old Christmas song this year turns 65: an elegant senior citizen if there ever was one! In all, he made 1700 recordings: forty one of these hit #1. He collected 23 gold and plantinum records in his lifetime. He' s the one artist to have three solid platinum Christmas hits: "White Christmas", "Silent Night" and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" He was also the first artist to use magnetic tape to record his radio shows. His wise, multiple and generous investments in the infant Ampex Recording company in 1940 made reel to reel tape, reel to reel tape recorders and multi-tracking possible. Before this time, motion picture film was used as the recording aperatus of the era. This led to the 1952 invention of video tape. Without Bing's wisdom, technology would be ten years behind what it is today! Mindblowing! Here's a real surprise. Bing Crosby was offered the role of Columbo (the television detective made famous by Peter Falk) but turned it down because he wanted nothing to interfere with his golf schedule! From 1946 to 1966 he was co-owner of the Pittsburg Pirates. At his death, the wise and fruitful investor Crosby was worth $150 million dollars. Adjusted for inflation in 2006 that's over 500 million dollars today! This was one amazing guy, despite the horrible lies that his eldest son Gary told about him in a memoir called "Going My Own Way" The ungrateful child strikes again. Bing Crosby is interred in Holy Cross Cemetary in Culver City, California. I will always love a Bing Crosby tune! God keep you, Bing! The angels must love it every time you sing for them!
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Today is yet another historic day. On this day in 1997 we lost the great singer-songwriter, John Denver in a plane crash off the California coast. John, unfortunately ran out of fuel and simply did not have sufficient experience or air time. But he died doing what he loved and he lived a full and fruitful life writing and performing more than three hundred songs including "Annie's Song", "Thank God, I'm A Country Boy", "Leaving on a Jet Plane and "Sweet Surrender" which he wrote and sang for a Disney film called "The Bears and I". Evidently John had a condition in his blood stream that gave artificial indicators that he had been drinking--when he had not! He was a great humanitarian and was a very hard worker for ecology and the environment. Yesterday, the chorus of "Oh, Not again" was somewhat relieved but still spelled a tragedy for Cory Liddle. My personal thoughts go to his twin brother, his mother, his wife and six year old son, Christopher. It just goes to prove that we don't ever know the hour or the day when God will call us home.So let us all be prepared in heart, mind and soul! Also on this day was the great nightclub explosion in Bali in 2002 and the attack on USS Cole in 2003 when seventeen US sailors lost their lives. And of course this is the day that dear Matthew Shepard passed to his reward after his merciless attack just five days before. It was an incredibly busy day at the camera store yesterday. We had so many customers out of the blue, you'd think we had a put a "Free Beer" sign outside! Go figure! Everybody says 35mm film is going fast-- well not in this neck of the photographic woods. Studio City is a real eye-opening place. Lots of rich people! Lots of impatient people. People always in a big rush! And of course-- Lots of celebrities. I've met and sold cameras to Alex Trubeck, Artie Johnson, Kate Jackson and Gary Marshal's son Scott in the last three weeks. Scott says says that dad is trying to get financing for a Broadway musical production of "Happy Days"--(based on the hit TV show of the same name) but finding that financing is tough. Gee, Gary, how about going to the original cast-- I'll bet they'd love to invest in it! Or pre-release a soundtrack like "Evita" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" did-- that's how they found their financing. Oh yes, tonight is the 35th anniversary of the opening of "Jesus Christ, Superstar"-- mixed reviews but got its financing and longevity from the pre-sale of the songs on RCA records. Oh yes, it's also Hugh Jackman's 34th birthday too! Well, that's it for today!
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Elleanor Roosevelt was born this day in 1884 and perhaps no other First Lady in the history of our country was as well respected and as well loved as she. She was the niece of the 25th president, Theodore Roosevelt and she and her later husband, Franklin D. were distant cousins. Theodore Roosevelt traveled from the White House as president and "gave her away" at her marriage to FDR. Teddy was the first sitting president to perform that function! She had humble beginnings: Her mother died when she was eight years old and her paternal father died a year and a half after that. She was then raised by her maternal grandmother. She went to Europe to attend school and became fluent in four languages. She was also the first First Lady to travel to Europe alone while a First Lady and the First of these to cross the Atlantic Ocean. She cared for her ailing husband, Franklin with his onslaught of polio and did as much for the White House in the 1930's as Jacqueline Kennedy did in the early 1960's. She was a part of of the United Nations for years and she authored several children's books. In a trip to to the tiny Luxembourg in the 1940s', the people stood in a driving rain to catch a glimpse of her, and greet with loud chantings of "Missus Roosevelt, Missus Roosevelt". She was a champion of freedom and equal rights and once resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution when they denied the use of Constitution Hall ( a concert venue they controlled) in Washington DC to a black opera singer. She became even more famous after FDR's death and became an international ambassador of freedom and the American spirit. President Kennedy appointed her back to the United Nations in 1962 after a ten year absence from the same hallowed halls. I have often toyed with writing a musical or an an operetta about this dear lady and the notion of one was seriously considered at one time by Harold Prince. She wrote a newspaper column for years and it was indeed a very respected journalistic effort! She was never an attractive woman even at eighteen years of age, but the heart and spirit of this dear and brave lady made up for any of that. She was simply amazing! We should all hold her in deep gratitude for all of her amazing contributions that she has made to democracy and the American spirit that we hold on to so dearly!
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
October 10th is a real red letter and even a sad letter day for American Theatre. On this day in 1947, Rodgers & Hammerstein's fourth musical together "Allegro" opened to very mixed reviews. It had a grand advance box office of two hundred and fifty thousand tickets pre-sold at the value of 3/4 of a million dollars-- a lot of money back then! It ran only three hundred and fifty-five performances (just shy of a year and a half. On this show, Hammerstein's go-fer was none other than sixteen year old Stephen Sondhiem. He met that very special opening night a begining stage hand who had just turned eighteen-- his name? Harold Prince! They became fast friends that night. The show had an horrible opening night with a wall falling on stage, a dancer getting his dance shoe stuck in a track (damaging every tendant in his leg) and with he having to be carried off stage screaming in pain. Another actress fell off stage and right into the orchestra pit.(She recovered and went back on stage)--thank God! ) This musical was a story of an everyman named Joseph Taylor, Jr and was based in many ways on Hammerstein's own life story. It flopped with only one of its many songs "So Far" (recorded by Perry Como in 1948) finding its way to the Hit Parade. Hammerstein is said to have always wanted to fix the second act! Don't we all? Today is also the birthday of Helen Hayes (1900) first lady of the theatre, Harold Pinter, playwright of note, and Jodi Benson ("The Little Mermaid") It's Ben Vereen's 60th birthday today also. Ben made his debut in Stephen Schwartz's first Broadway show "Pippin" in 1976 and played the Wizard of Oz in Steve's latest phenominum, "The Wicked." But it goes on. For on this day in 1985 two giants of theatre both passed away at the very same age of seventy: (within two hours of one another) one was Orson Welles who made MacBeth and many other stage characters come alive as wonderfully as he did "Citizen Kane" in the movies and the other was Yul Brynner who played the King of Siam in Rodger and Hammerstein's "King and I" for four thousand, six hundred and twenty-six performances: the last of which only two months before his death. He was also acclaimed playing Pharoh in "The Ten Commandments" and in "Anastasia" both in 1956. One of the actors that played in my production of "Skylark" (David Wagner) went on from that show to portray young Lewis in the last production of King and I at the Pantages Theatre in 1985. I also learn that Yul was an avid photographer and that two books on his photos have now been put together and published by his children. On top of all of these events on this very same day, one can add the premiere of Jerry Herman's very first musical on Broadway called "Milk and Honey" and the gala premiere in 1935 of the classic Broadway musical "Porgy & Bess" An amazing day. I heard from my good friend Jimmy Chapel today back from performances in Florida and New York. What a great quote he gave me: "Life keeps me so busy that when I do die, I'm gonna roll over one more time" Amen brother-- is that the way with so many of us or what?
Monday, October 09, 2006
Today would have been the 66th birthday of a true music legend. Of course the name is John Lennon. He was born on this date, October 9th in 1940 in Liverpool, England. John's writing was full of both pain and hope. His melodies were at times beautiful and sometimes very dark. In 2002, the BBC conducted a poll asking Britons for a list of the 100 greatest Britons of all times: this included kings and queens and prime ministers named Churchill. Guess what? John Lennon came in 8th place. His father abandoned young young John when he was five years old and he was raised by a maternal aunt by the name of Mimi. Aunt Mimi and Uncle George became for all intents and purposes his parents. His natural mother simply did not have the financial means to raise him. He was born during an air-raid of World War II-- kind of appropriate for a man who make such an indentation on the world! Aunty Mimi was strict with John while Uncle George was softer teaching him to paint and buying John his first mouth organ. Uncle George died suddenly in 1955 and his natural mother, Julia was killed by a drunken driver, off-duty police officer in July of 1958. Lennon wrote the songs "Julia", "Mother" and "My Mummy's Dead" in honor of her and named his first born "Julian". It was Aunt Mimi we who bought him his first guitar. She was very skeptical of his dreams sometimes. one time saying "The guitar's all very well, John, but you'll never make a living out of it" Years later when the Beetles were the amazing success destiny dictated they be, John presented her with a silver platter that bore these very words as it's subscription. His mother's death was the factor that cemented his relationship with Paul Mccartney whose own mother had succumbed to breast cancer in 1954. John was usually considered the leader of The Beatles as he founded the original group inviting Mccartney who in turn invited George Harrison. The one event that stopped the beatles cold was the "more popular than Jesus" controversy in March of 1966. "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I don't know what will go first, however, rock'n roll or Christianity. We're more popular than Jesus now. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me" Nothing happened for five months-- until an American teen magazine called Datebook reprinted the quote on its front cover! The Beatles were banned, concert venues were cancelled and conservative groups called for all of their records to be burned. The Beatles made another great mistake by replying as a group "They've got to buy them before they can burn them! "= that was the beginning of the end. John was murdered on December 8th, 1980. In cold blood. But his influence on music will be forever. Long after this century the world will continue to sing his songs-- which is something every song writer dreams of.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Life is an "E" ticket-- believe it or not! It's the great adventure. it's the great journey and sometimes we are reminded of the start of that journey as I was last evening. I attended the 40th reunion anniversary of my high school graduation. I saw people I had not seen for years-- people who I not only went to high school with, but attended school with from the first or second grade on. I was one of those kids who always succumbed to his great imagination and and many told me that I had kind of inspired them to follow their own dreams-- one to be a pilot, one to sing, one to teach etc. It blew me away as to just how nice all of these dear people were. Even those who taunted me for my imagination then were very respectful last night because they finally realized how important the imagination is. I was shocked to discover just how many of my classmates had already died in their mid-50's. Some from sudden heart attacks! Tim Taylor for one at 55 and Dave Zimmerman and so many others. Now here I am at age fifty-nine, relatively healthy and still filled with imagination. I have reached the age my father never did and I fast approaching the age my mother never attained. Pretty scary sometimes. But we all need to trust God and let him take charge. One guy who had been a total goof-off in high school was now the Deputy Labor Commissioner for the state of California. I will post some pics later, but I really had a wonderful time. The high school where I went to school is now an all girls school. There is only one Dominican nun left and no Claretian priests. I am told that only one teacher from my days there is still alive. Life is so temporary. We really need to appreciate it more! It's also funny that the newest principal of this now all girls school is a young man of thirty-two. Wouldn't the Dominican nuns that I knew from way back when have a field day with that bit of news? Well must be off to work. I passed out some albums and CDs and all were glad to receive them. Maybe I'll hear some feedback later on!
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Matthew Shepard is an eternal candle that the hope in our lives can still light each and every day and with the lighting of that candle we should pray and pray very hard that the spirit of his life will remain in our hearts like an enternal flame forever. On this day, in 1998 Matthew Shepard was beaten, robbed snd tied like a scarecrow to a farmer's fence with his own shoe laces and left for dead. He died five days later. This December the 1st would have marked his 30th birthday. His murderers had even intended to rob his home. The farmer who owned the fence on which he was tied has taken it down. His parents are now strong advocates of the Gay movement. Thea Hopkins sang about him in "Jesus Is On The Wire" Elton John sang about him in "American Triangle" and Melissa Ethridge chronicled his tragic tale in a song called "Scarecrow". Peter, Paul and Mary have rerecorded the song and sing it tenderly in their current concerts. The devil wins with hate more than any other emotion. Its what he does best! It's how he attempts to get even with God. We must learn to love one another no matter what our differences are. God made each and every one of us unique and special and only the hasty heart attempts to destroy this. So I think on this day we should all forgive someone that has wronged us. One person will do. One person at a time. And let us beseech Almighty God that no difference in any man, woman or child will ever again trigger such a deplorable act again. Let us resolve to love one another in every way that we can. Maybe we should pray "Lord, creator of us all, may there never be a difference in a living soul or a human life that will darken our hearts enough to dilibertly wrong a human life in thought or deed in action or in non-reaction to any real or potential crisis in their lives" God loves us all, no matter what our faults may be, no matter what we think, or how we act, or what we believe. And we who have all been made in HIs image need to reflect upon this every hour and every day. Light a candle this day that tolerance defeats anger and that prejudice will die. Let us never forget this young man's sacrifice. Let us pary that there will never again exist a martyr of this dimension. Being different is what makes the world a fantastic place. If we fight for the right to be free, let us also fight for the right to be us-- just as God created us-- warts and all. We are gifts to each other in different wrapping and different bows-- let us never refuse to open the package because the wrapping is different than we see and accept as something usual. Today is also the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was the most misunderstood genius of his age. In a brief forty years, he wrote more than Shakespeare and was more prolific than Longfellow. But he was a strange man and wrapped very differently that to what we are accustomed. He even died wearing another man's clothing and whose genius was only discovered long after his demise. Let us pray that difference can be delight. Opposites of us can teach us more than any lesson in school. And loving those who are so different makes each and every one of us a unique book on the shelf of life!
Friday, October 06, 2006
I went to Disneyland yesterday to celebrate a bit belatedly my 59th birthday. My nephew, Kevin works there and he passed John and I and we had a wonderful day. The new Pirates ride is great. There's a great new sound system throughout the ride and of course the character of Jack Sparrow (who was played in the movie by Johnny Depp is all over. Everything looks repainted and refurbished and is really quite amazing. I'm sure Walt Disney would be amazed that a sequel had finally been amazingly successful at the Disney studios. Walt used to say "You can't top pigs with pigs!" and the sequels that he made were very limited. The Haunted Mansion was so much fun-- the imagineers added the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay very well this year and it really brings the old attraction alive! Even the Jungle Cruise had a new surprise! And speaking of this classic attraction, it looks like there will be be a movie made based on it! I'm not so sure about this one. I saw my old friend Bill Lewis in a new pirate themed show that he sings and plays the penny whistle in. It turns out that the songs in the act were written by an old co-writer of mine! Small World! But for Bill, it means employment through January of 2008 and if the park goes ahead with the transformation of Tom Sawyer's Island into a pirate lair-- it may be longer! All those years of Bill maintaining his talent in flute playing have paid off. It was great that Bill found another job at the park after being a part of the Dapper Dans on Main Street for eleven years. John's mother is coming to town in two weeks, so we'll be there again-- but I never tire of this wonderful place. I was reading this morning all about the last days of Walt. And of course, I had a good cry. I think I've shared in this space that when Walt Died in 1966, I was nineteen years old. I cried louder and longer for this passing of this great and good man at that time than for any other person before. Can you imagine what might have happened if Walt had lived just ten more years? Rotten cigarettes! They did my mother in and they did Walt Disney in! By the way, in this reading I discovered a lot of interesting facts! It was amazing just how much he loved his family and his many grandchildren. More amazingly was the fact that he kept in his office at the Burbank studio every drawing, every letter, every memento he had received from his daughters, his many grand children and his sister, Ruth. Well work beckons and I have many things to do.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Buster Keaton was born today in 1895. What an amazing comedian. "The "Great Stone Face" was of course the star of countless silent film classics like "Steamboat Bill" , "The General" and many others. I was surprised to learn just how he got his name. He was born while his vaudeville parents were doing a Kansas vaudeville tent show along with Harry Houdini one of the most famous magicians of all times. When Keaton was six months,old, he fell down some stars in Harry's presence . Even before Harry knew that Baby Keaton was okay he shouted out "What a Buster!"-- and the name stuck. We lost Buster Keaton in February of 1966. Another famous celebrity that year plus my own father in January and Walt Disney in December of that year Add Ed Wynn in June and Verna Felton in late November. Today also is the 82nd birthday of Charlton Heston and from what I understand this year may be his last. The culprit of course is Alzheimer's disease, that dreaded disease that made a great president a nondeplus. How sad that a very plus active l;ife must come to this. We simply must defeat this dreadful disease! Of course, Heston's most famous role is that of Moses and Cecil B. Demile is said to have chosen him because he resembled statues of Moses. Something else I did not know: Heston was the voice of God as the "Burning Bush" No one yet knows who did God's voice in the giving of the TEN COMMANDMENTS themselves. Another surprise: the role of Ben Hur was originally slated to go to Burt Lancaster. But Lancaster who was an atheist refused to play that "goody-two shoe Christian" and the role went to Heston who of course won the Academy Award. Happy birthday to both! The recording session went well. The Christmas song "If Christmas Took A Holiday" is delightful and the narration for "The Ghost Who Saved Broadway' narration is just perfect. Bill Lewis has literally become Parker O' Day. Bill is such a great friend of all these almost seventeen years. Well need to fly as I must open the store this morning! Happy Birthday Buster- wherever you are. "make God laugh-- Lord knows He needs it" And to Charleton! Live as much as you can in the time you have left!
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Today back in 1990 the two Germanys both East and West were officially re-united after forty-five plus years of being a divided nation. One can only hope of true peace on Earth. We make great strides like this and then we have a modern day Korea banting threats and baseless accusations and ultimately deciding that because she feels she will be attacked this combative little nation will now conduct nucleur tests. But big strides like Germany's unification are always good. Today is studio day. I am going into the Smooth Sounds studio today to record three new songs. One is a patriotic piece ( I haven't written one of those since 2001 with the tributes to 9/11.) It's called "Some Gave All". The second song is a new upbeat Christmas tune called "If Christmas Took A Holiday". I always try to write at lerast one new Christmas song a year. This one is simply fun: what would happen if Christmas decided to take a vaction and not show up this December. The third is a song adapted from a poem that I wrote way back in 1977 for my sister Annette's birthday. It's called "On Tuesday, I Saw Snowflakes" -- its very lyrical and Tim Doran has once again done some magnificent arrangements-- on all three songs-- so I am very excited. Bill Lewis, my dear old friend is coming to record these along with some narration for the upcoming storyteller CD I am producing for "The Ghost Who Saved Broadway" --this should be a lot of fun! Well lots of work to do0 before the recording session. One more thing today is the anniversary of Captain Kngaroo's premiere on television on CBS and the debut of the Mickey Mouse Club on ABC-- imagine that! How time flies! Yom Kippur was yesterday and surprisingly the store was quite busy-- I really did not expect that in this very Jewish community in which I work! Well later!
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Today is the 35th anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida in 1971. Walt Disney knew as early as 1959 just how hemmed in his original park Disneyland was. It was of course his brother Roy who took on the great task of finishing Walt's dream after Walt died on December 15th, 1966. I remember (at the tender age of eighteen) just how much I cried at Walt's passing. I thought it was the end of imagination in the world. But although Walt's original concept for EPCOT never really ever materialized , the complex of Walt Disney World ityself is a fine tribute to this most incredible man. There are five thousand cast members, seven hundred and fifty horticulturists and six hundred painters employed full time. There are cast members whose only job is to upkeep the paint on the antique carousel horses on Fantasyland's King Steffan Carousel. They use only genuine gold leaf. There is a tree farm on the property so that when a mature tree needs to be replaced there is a thirty year old tree available to replace it. Here's a fact I did not know. Walt first flew over the property on November 22, 1963 two hours before John Kennedy was shot in Dallas on that same day! Walt Disney used a entire series of elaborate dummy corporations to buy up the land in five acre increments because that is how the land was sold to investors originally in 1912 by the Munger Land Company. Most owners were very happy to get rid of the land which was mostly swamp land. A big problem emerged as it was discovered that the mineral rights to all of the parcels were owned by Tuft University. A quick transfer from the college was sought and obtained for without this transfer the good college could have at any time demanded the removal of buildings to obtain minerals. The leak of the news that it was Walt's project was made to the Orlando Sentinel on October 20th, 1965. Well thank goodness most of the land had been bought because the prices went through the roof after that little discovery! Roy Disney made his first press conference about the project on February 7, 1967. Two cities were formed: The City of Bay Lake and the City of Reedy Creek. In 1971, The magic kingdom, The Contemporary Resort, The Polynesian Resort and Fort Wilderness and Camp Grounds was completed in time for opening day! Epcot opened in 1982. Walt , in my opinion would certainly have been more elaborate and EPCOT would have been built the way it was intended. But a form of that dream was manifested in the city of Celebration-- which is a ghood thing! Thirty-five years since that first opening day! I am told that there are only two thousand acres left that can really be developed-- let us hope that the Walt Disney company uses these acres wisely. Walt's watching, boys-- don't you forget about that!