Friday, July 30, 2010

The Apple Goes Slo Mo

We first started coming to New York a couple of times a year back in 94' when our daughter and her husband decided to call it home.  As typical laid back Californians, my wife and I were amazed at the energy and excitement of "the city so big they had to name it twice".  The place was like a cage full of Guinna pigs on crack and it was unbelievably LOUD!  (That loud part comes in handy for covering up embarrassing old guy noises that my body increasingly makes.)
Everybody in New York was in a hurry.  It made other cities seem like they were on Ritalin or something.
As I sit with my feet up in California, resting up  from  days spent impersonating the "careful quick and kind" man from Bekins' Moving as Linda and I attempted to help "the kids" move from a fifth floor walk-up on the Lower East Side to a nice new condo in Long Island City, I have concluded that the Apple has slowed down.  No, really,  it has been a gradual slowing, but a slowing that is palpable and pervasive.
Cell phones.  People are on cell phones; all the time.  New Yorkers are so damn busy yakking that they have slowed their pace to a point where the whole place resembles a mental institution featuring millions of rambling nitwits gesticulating wildly as they carry on disjointed, though still loudly modulated, conversations at all hours of the day.  It is a marked change in behavior that now has me passing the natives on sidewalks, escalators, and subway platforms where I was once Manhattan roadkill.  It's a distinct advantage.  Yay me!
I gladly warn those of you who may be planning a trip to New York sometime soon.  Be careful, as you now have a very good chance of running over the locals as you check out the sites of this fabulous metropolis.  (If you're from Iowa disregard this advice and pick up your pace.)  It is in your best interest to simply leap over or step around the natives and be on your way, otherwise you'll be yelled at.  New Yorkers may be slower these days but the place is louder than ever.  All those phone conversations, you know.
By the way...How do you like the picture of the Manhattan skyline I snapped from the kids' new balcony in L.I.C.?  It's beautiful in daylight and spectacular at night and there is even room for our pup tent.
Yep, that's the Chrysler Building on the left: not a cell tower.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Just A Minute, It'll Come To Me...

The kid came out of nowhere.
My pal, Terry, and I were riding our bikes early in the afternoon of a hot Michigan August.  We had to have been around ten or eleven and the bikes were fairly new, probably from the previous Christmas.  I remember priding myself in "knowing this town like the back of my hand".  Only an eleven year-old would take pride in the kind of knowledge it took to master a village of approximately eighteen-hundred people.
We were riding near the old pickle factory, a less than splendid old building on the "wrong side" of the railroad tracks.  The boy rode up behind us on a feeble looking girls' bike which had been given a less than adequate recent paint job.  House paint would be my guess.
He looked to be about fifteen or sixteen; practically a grown up in our purview.  He overtook us like a cop pulling over a traffic miscreant and flashed some kind of badge he had encased in an old wallet.  The young guy claimed to be some sort of secret police officer and wanted to know what we were doing riding our bicycles in a restricted area of the town of Leslie.  As I recall, both of us were scarred but suspicious of this self important bigger kid, but what did we know?  He was older and, like a teenage baby-sitter, someone who should be treated like an adult.
Why am I reflecting on this as I wake up this morning?  Good question!
As I slowly come out of the ether, I recall that the kid had white adhesive tape wrapped around one of his beat up black oxford shoes.  At the time he pointed to the tape and informed us that this was indicative of his rank in the secret law enforcement organization that employed him.  We bought the  whole story and vamoosed back to our own neighborhood only later beginning to question the authenticity of the, (we later realized), self appointed lawman.  This morning, more than fifty years later, it came to me that the boy had white tape around his shoe simply to hold it together.  He was poor and probably jealous of the relatively new bikes ridden by Terry and me.

Memory...what an amazing and deceptive maze.
I remember the kid, his bike and shoes; even his face.
Now.....the name of that actress I've seen a couple of hundred times on that favorite TV show of mine...
By the way, what the hell is the name of that show??
You know the one.
Don't you?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Eddie Was Right...Mrs. Cleaver IS Lovely

Wearing her ever-present pearl necklace, June, Ward, Wally and Beaver Cleaver are all back.  The entire 234 episode, 37-disk set of the iconic television series "Leave It to Beaver" is now available for you to own.  I've seen the package offered on a few websites for a price somewhere north of a hundred bucks.  That's not bad when you think about it.  After all, this was a series that featured kids who actually talked and acted like kids.  There was never a doubt in your mind that the Beav and his pals weren't just like the rest of us boomers.  You know, worried about looking stupid, messing up around grown-ups, and not getting your share of cookies.  The writers, Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher had eight kids between them and I think that had a lot to do with there never being a false note in the dialog.
 In my radio days I was lucky enough to have interviewed three of the Beaver cast:  Jerry Mathers, Tony Dow and Barbara Billingsley and they all gave lots of credit for the show's success to Connelly and Mosher.  Of the three, hands down the most charming and entertaining was Billingsley.  She kept my old radio partner, Cynthia Heath Kerrigan, and me laughing for over an hour with her tales of life on and off the set of the show.  We learned that Hugh Beaumont who played Ward was known to enjoy an occasional adult beverage and would sometimes wind up spending the night sleeping in the backroom of Billingsley's family restaurant which was run by her son.  She also filled us in on the little known fact that Perer Billingsley, Ralphie in the movie "Christmas Story", is her grandson and that Frank Bank (aka Lumpy Rutherford) is her present day stock broker.  When asked who among the old Beaver cast was the best actor she didn't hesitate to name Ken Osmond.  "Ken was nothing like Eddie, he is a very very nice fellow," she professed.  Osmond, by the way, became a cop and was wounded in the line of duty.  He retired from the L.A. PD several years ago.
The most memorable funny story the former Mrs. Cleaver remembered from the days the series was in production, (1957-63), was the one about "the falling down horse".  That's what she called it.  It seems that there was an episode, maybe you remember it, where Beaver brings home a pony and ties the animal  to a stake in the Cleaver backyard.  Well, there was a scene where the family is having dinner, June in her pearls and Ward still wearing a coat and tie, and they are discussing what Beaver is going to have to do about the pony.  During the filming the director kept having to stop the action because the real live pony was making too much noise outside the dining room window.  As the shoot dragged on it was decided by the producer that a tranquilizer should be administered to the pony to calm the critter down.  All was well until sometime well into the umpteenth take the pony crashed very loudly into the scenery as he tipped over "out cold"and began to snore very loudly.  The pony was fine, but that ended the day's shoot when the cast and crew couldn't stop laughing.
Barbara Billingsley was, and I'm sure still is, delightful and the show is one of the true touchstones of American television history. 

As I reach for my credit card and head for Amazon to order my complete set of "Leave It to Beaver" I can only wonder...WHY aren't they making shows like that anymore?

Friday, July 9, 2010

I Still "Q" In My Mind

You know you're getting old when historic markers start popping up at places where you used to work.  San Diego's KCBQ is one of the myriad of radio stations where I got my ticket punched.  It was a truly legendary blow torch that belongs in the pantheon of American radio stations like:WABC, WLS, KHJ, KFRC, WBZ and a few others.  Anybody who cracked a mic on 1170 AM (and later also 105.3 FM)) knows the thrill of having your voice blasted all over Southern California and damn near all the way to Hawaii.  It was fifty-thousand watts of shear ego driven energy.  (By the way, KCBQ delivered killer ratings in the much sought after 18-34 year-old bottlenose dolphin demographic.)
Over the decades KCBQ's studios were located at different places around San Diego, but  wound up spending the most time at what was once considered "way out on Mission Gorge road" in the suburb of Santee.  "The Santee Ranch" was what it was often called by the guys, (and some gals), who practiced the bump and grind of commercial radio on "the Q".  They called it that too. 
In fact, at one time there was an entire ad campaign built around "Where do you Q?"  "I Q in my car"was on some billboards while "I Q in my bedroom" invited lots of pruient speculation.  The station was a vital part of life in San Diego for several generations.  Competitors were always around but the "Q" endured.
It's still around--sort of. Like much of radio, these days it is pretty much a conduit for syndicated talk shows and bartered infomercials for colon cleansers and Last Supper steak knives.  You know...crap 24/7.
Things change.
So now, where those of us once toiled on the air perched one floor above "Q's" fifty-thousand watt transmitter, there is a Lowe's.  The radio towers, all six of them, are gone and the building is just a memory.
We used to joke about what the close proximity of all that transmitter juice was doing to our bodies.  Looking at the number of radio names on this new monument who are no longer around to swap stories, I question what six years exposure did to me.....Okay, I'm still here,but was I  crazy before working at KCBQ?

Don't answer!

Shotgun Tom Kelly, just about the only one of us left who still has a radio job, and his wife, Linda, got the ball rolling on this KCBQ monument.  Tom works at KRTH in Los Angeles these days but still calls San Diego home.  He had at least two tours at the "Q" and put up with MORE than a few idiot general managers and program directors.  I did my own tally and realized that KCBQ had no less than five G.M.s and four program directors in my six years.  A "meat grinder'?  You make the call.
Soon this monument will reside front and center on Mission Gorge road in Santee to remind one and all that once on this spot some fun was had. You see, when radio was fun...IT WAS GREAT.

And, KCBQ was a GREAT radio station!!   

Friday, July 2, 2010

It's A Kick In The Grass???

Is this thing over yet?
World Cup soccer action resumes today after two blissful days without my local sports page informing me of the latest snooze fest from Cape Town.

Okay...I'm old, but dammit soccer is one boring game.  If it weren't for the hysterically bad acting that the slightest  injury inspires, this game would boast all the excitement of a day at the DMV.
I've tried, well not that hard, to get into it this year since the U.S. seemed to have a chance.  We all know how that worked out.  So, who do I root for now?  Paraguay?   One of my sons-in-law is from Slovakia and is a soccer fanatic but that team pulled up lame a couple of rounds back; so nothing there.  What is an aging American boomer to do?

I know that I reside in the U.S.A.'s most soccer friendly major metropolitan market.  San Diego has delivered the best domestic TV ratings for the World Cup throughout this year's competition.  Whether the good numbers are a result of our proximity to Mexico and a population that is thirty percent Hispanic, I don't know.  Maybe it's Southern California's strong youth soccer program that delivers the ratings punch.  I'll just add this one to the ever increasing list of contemporary phenomena that completely elude me.  It's a fact that I am outnumbered and embittered by it all.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be checking the TV listings for re-runs of those fabulous Olympic women's beach volleyball tilts.  Scantily clad babes bouncing on the sand...A GAME ALL REAL AMERICANS CAN GET BEHIND.
Pass me the remote.