Tuesday, June 30, 2009

mr. everybody

Shows like "America's Got Talent" and "Last Comic Standing" provide a showcase for two art forms that were more popular when I was a kid than they are today. Ventriloquists and impressionists also each got a tongue-in-cheek tribute week on the "Late Show with David Letterman."

Impressionist Fred Travalena died on Sunday. He appeared on Letterman's show a few years back. While on the surface he appeared to be one of those cheesy "luv ya babe, I mean it" celebrities, his actions proved he was a genuinely good guy. I always enjoyed seeing him when he would stop by WAVA to plug a gig in D.C. He was a gracious guest who managed to not step on the toes of co-host Mike O'Meara, who is a talented impressionist himself. Fred even came by the station when he had a private gig that didn't need any radio promotion.

At some point yesterday, they removed the "upcoming appearances" from Fred's website. It had previously listed gigs on July 31 at the Hoover Auditorium in Ohio, an Alaskan Cruise in September and a concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Florida on December 14.

I got the feeling that Fred would have liked to be in the Rat Pack but he was about 25 years too young. Instead he did impressions of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. among others. A lot of Fred's other impressions were of his elders, like George Burns and Groucho Marx.

The sad news about Fred's passing was announced by his long-time publicist, Roger Neal. Roger is a good guy too. When I was between jobs, he would have me do some odd jobs around Hollywood for him. I will always appreciate his kindness.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

plus eight minus me

The on-screen guide displayed a new reality show that I kind of like. I was about to flip to TLC last Monday night and wait for it to start when I saw that the program was both preceded and followed by Jon & Kate. The last thing I want to see is the Gosselins, even by accident. Fortunately the show I wanted to watch has been available in the On Demand menu that I now get from Comcast. I recently got their cable, phone and Internet services as part of a radio endorsement deal.

"Cake Boss" is far from perfect, however I'm finding that I'm enjoying it more than "Ace of Cakes" on Food Network. Admittedly, I've only recently started watching "Ace of Cakes" but I feel that "Cake Boss" does a better job of explaining how the cakes are actually made. Also, the cakes they show from Carlo's Bakery look more tasty than the sculptures I've seen made by Charm City Cakes. They show Buddy Valastro filling his cakes with delicious chocolate or fresh strawberries. Duff Goldman and his crew of Baltimoreans seem to focus more on researching, designing and building their creations. They also look for inspiration by going on field trips a lot.

The drama on "Cake Boss" appears staged. They recently had a completely implausible episode with a bridezilla who was left alone in the bakery with her lovely cake. She defaced it with various colors of frosting. Despite that, I'm looking forward to getting caught up with last Monday's show because it's about making a zombie cake. Zombies are hot right now. Just ask Jane Austen.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

busy as Bourke Street

With all that happened lately, I didn't have an opportunity to share a photo of my birthday lunch. We'll get to that after a quick update on some of the things from last week. Deacon Patrick-Murphy Racey has posted a slide show of images from the funeral for Nancy and Peter Feist. It's impressive for me to see four bishops at my home parish.

Both Jack Lail and Michael Silence linked to my blog post about Michael Jackson and Elvis. Silence also linked to the picture of my birthday cupcakes. The photo turned out fairly well, if I say so myself.

Now that we're back on the topic, it's a family tradition to have lobster on my birthday. On Monday, I had a "cold water lobster tail" (probably Australian) and some sugar snap peas at Connor's.

While it was still very good, it wasn't from a true Maine lobster. Fortunately, I'll be able to get one of those when I go to Maine.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

man in black

In the afterglow of "Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars," several of us agreed to reprise our routines with our professional partners during the Friday night dance parties at Academy Ballroom. TV columnist Terry Morrow and Rhonda Becker were the first to perform three weeks ago. Lori Tucker and J.W. Becker did the cha cha last week. Last night it was my turn.

Emily Loyless and I did our comedic rumba routine to the "Theme from Mission: Impossible." At the beginning, Emily removed my goofy hat and sunglasses, just like last time. We added a Hawaiian shirt, which came off to reveal an all-black outfit underneath. At the end of the routine, we fall on the floor. This time, we fell near each other instead of at opposite ends of the dance floor.

Like last week, my wife and I took the beginner group class at 7:00 p.m. Richard Bull taught us some of the traveling steps of the foxtrot, which I had trouble grasping. In the second half of the class, we worked on some easy swing dance steps, which I felt comfortable with. March, march, rock step. After my rumba performance, Emily and her professional partner Jeremy Norris offered to teach me to do the hustle. Naturally, my wife thought it was funnier to take pictures of me dancing with Jeremy. I can't say I disagree.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

two kings

Someone should write a book comparing the lives and deaths of Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. The early news reports I heard failed to see the obvious similarities. Both were the absolute biggest things in all of music and all of pop culture during their heyday. Both fell into a weird, isolated decline. Both looked completely different in their later years. Both deaths were originally said to be "cardiac arrest." CNN is reporting that Michael, like Elvis, had problems with prescription medications.

Former Jackson publicist Michael Levine issued the following statement via his LBN E-lert: "As someone who served as Michael Jackson's publicist during the first child molestation incident, I must confess I am not surprised by today's tragic news. Michael has been on an impossibly difficult and often self-destructive journey for years. His talent was unquestionable but so too was his discomfort with the norms of the world. A human simply can not withstand this level of prolonged stress."

Although he had already died, Elvis was technically Michael's father-in-law for a while. I was sitting in the audience at Radio City Music Hall during the MTV Video Music Awards when Michael and Lisa Marie Presley walked on stage and kissed. I got to go to the VMAs each year when I worked at KROQ.

In the late '80s, I had an even closer encounter with Michael Jackson. He came to the D.C. area to accept an award. I don't recall exactly how I got an invitation to cover the event. I was told to rent a tuxedo and bring a tape recorder. I drove to a multi-million dollar home in McLean. I parked off-site and took a shuttle to the party. The members of the press were ushered into a smaller building that was probably a garage or carriage house. A large room had been set up as if for a press conference. I was told to plug my tape recorder into a mult box, which provided an audio feed to the camera crews. While we waited for Michael to arrive, I struck up a fun conversation with Ann L. Trebbe, who was then a reporter for The Washington Post. She later went to work for USA Today. Michael stepped to the podium and made some brief generic remark like "I love you all, thank you very much." Don & Mike would play that audio for years anytime Michael's name came up.

After the worthless press event, the media representatives were allowed to go next door to the party. We were all dressed in formal wear, after all. The room buzzed when Michael made his entrance. He walked through the crowd, saying hello in his shy way to party goers who had paid top dollar to be there. As he got close to me, I reached out my hand and told him that I was with the local top-40 station, WAVA. I saw a change in his demeanor as his gloved hand shook mine very firmly and he said in a normal voice, "Thank you for your support."

I was working the afternoon shift at Star 102.1 on Thursday when TMZ.com reported that Michael had died. When I turned on the microphone, I wasn't totally sure what I was going to say. I said the date a couple of times and then said that the news I was about to deliver was as big as the death of Elvis was to the listeners' parents or perhaps grandparents.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

higher than the sky, deeper than the ocean

The double funeral for Nancy and Peter Feist on Wednesday was one of the most impressive I've ever attended. One archbishop and three bishops were present in addition to dozens of priests and religious. Nancy was the executive assistant to both the current and the previous bishop of Knoxville.

Nancy collapsed on Friday at the Concord Farragut baseball field while her son was at bat. The CPR they performed on her may be what kept her unborn baby alive long enough to be delivered at the hospital. Fr. Augustine Idra gave the child an emergency baptism. Little Peter died shortly thereafter. Fr. Ragan Schriver held Peter's body as the family dealt with the tragedy.

The Rose Mortuary was packed with people on Tuesday night. The line to get into the chapel snaked through every hallway. Inside the chapel, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz led a rosary service from a podium behind the open casket containing mother and son. There were pauses between decades for Archbishop Kurtz and others to offer reflections on Nancy's life. Fr. David Boettner told how Nancy would edit letters and speeches for the priests, always changing the text into the Footlight font. Fr. David said the font, like Nancy's editing, gave the text "a theatrical sparkle." Fr. Peter Iorio said Nancy had named him one of her "apostles of joy." He read some messages she had written on the religious calendar she gave him.

Bishop Richard Stika was the main celebrant of the funeral Mass. Archbishop Kurtz, Bishop James Vann Johnston of Springfield and Bishop David Choby of Nashville concelebrated. The highlight was a poignant, eloquent, articulate reflection by Nancy's daughter. Hope Feist brought almost every mother in the church to tears with her recollections of her Mommy. She spoke directly to her siblings, her father and her grandparents about the boundless love her mother had for all of them. She told each of them that "Mom will never stop loving you." Bishop Stika said it was the best eulogy he had heard in his 24 years of priesthood.

Considering how big a deal this was in the Catholic world, I was surprised that I didn't see any cameras or reporters from the mainstream media at the funeral home or the church. Deacon Patrick Murphy-Racey took pictures, which I hope will be posted online soon.

After Mass, Archbishop Kurtz told me that my blog entry about Nancy had turned up in the Google Alert he has for his own name. I told this to Bishop Stika and suggested that he too sign up for a Google Alert. I think it's a helpful tool for everyone in this day and age, but a necessity for public figures like them.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

if you look up sidekick in the dictionary...

When Johnny Carson retired, Ed McMahon still had to work. Some of that may have been for the money but much of it was for the love of doing it. With Johnny stepping out of the limelight, Ed had a chance to be the center of attention as host of "Star Search," a show he tirelessly promoted.

Ed's financial problems and health problems inspired me to express my best wishes for him in previous blog entries. Now that he has passed away at age 86, I am again filled with thoughts of the good times he brought to us at KROQ in the '90s.

In those days at KROQ, we had the chance to feature a few entertainers who didn't fit the format. Johnny Cash got some attention from the alternative rock audience when he came by to plug "American Recordings." The lineup for the 1993 Acoustic Christmas concert included Tony Bennett. Six months later, we invited Ed McMahon to the 1994 Weenie Roast concert. We asked Ed to dress in the grunge attire of the day and come onstage to introduce Rollins Band.

Ed had been a morning show guest enough times that we could ask him to do almost anything. I could pick up the phone and call him or his wife Pam to see if he was available. I will always remember walking into Ed's house with a digital tape recorder and having him record the intro to Kevin & Bean's Christmas cassette in his memorabilia-filled study. Another time we needed him dressed in a suit on the beach for a video shoot with Jenny McCarthy. She wore a bikini.

After doing all these favors for us, Ed still felt like doing more. He invited Kevin & Bean to appear on "Star Search" as guest announcers. The show was recorded at Walt Disney World. They flew several of us and our wives to Florida to do the morning radio show before the TV taping later that day. After the show, Ed took us all out to dinner with that week's celebrity judges. My wife and I sat at a table with Martha Quinn and "Weird Al" Yankovic.

My wife and I had the chance to sit at the same table with Ed and Pam at another event. We were all guests at Kevin Ryder's wedding. I think that was the same year that Ed invited us to his birthday party. To this day, I still regret being so sick with flu-like symptoms that I had to stay in bed and miss Ed's party. It was a milestone year for him. As I recall, he had reached the age at which his father died and was thankful to still be around. We would have all been thankful to have him around even longer.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

secret family recipe

Back in the 1960s and '70s, my father handled public relations for several big companies including Bacardi Rum. One day he was faced with a PR emergency. For whatever reason, the Bacardi Rum Cake that was supposed to be at a photo shoot was either unacceptable or just plain absent. He needed a new one right away. Dad called home but my mother was at work and couldn't help. Instead my sister Catherine, who was 12 at the time, would have to make the cake. She remembers that our grandfather was there to help measure the rum. Catherine chopped the pecans, mixed the batter and did everything else.

After the cake was baked and glazed, they needed to get it from our house to my father's office in the Chrysler Building. My mother told me that they brought it to the Crestwood train station and entrusted it to a conductor on the Harlem line. My father met the train at Grand Central Terminal and took it to the photo shoot. For years after that, Bacardi used my sister's rum cake on the recipe cards that they distributed to liquor stores. My wife helped me find our copy in her recipe file, which we used to make the cupcakes I showed you yesterday.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

the mixable one

Bacardi Rum Cake has been on my mind for quite some time. I hinted to my wife that I wanted one as Thanksgiving, Christmas and other celebrations approached. We ended up making gooey butter cakes and other treats instead. I finally dropped enough hints that my wife agreed to make one that we could have for both Father's Day and my birthday. The biggest hint was when I brought home some rum on Saturday.

Because I couldn't find my wife's recipe card, I printed a 1978 recipe that I found on the Internet and took it to a nearby package store. I had to ask the clerk what happened to Bacardi Dark Rum. He pointed me toward a shelf with Bacardi Gold, as it is now called. I also had to ask which size bottle had at least a cup of fluid because they were all measured in milliliters. Fortunately he had a book which told us that 200 ml was only 6.8 ounces. Not enough. That's why I ended up with a 375 ml bottle and almost 5 ounces left over. When he asked to see my I.D. to verify that I was the person on my credit card, I asked if I could pretend I was being carded because of my youthful appearance.

The official Bacardi Rum Cake starts with a layer of chopped pecans at the bottom of a tube or Bundt pan. The cake is served upside down with the nuts on top. My son doesn't like nuts, so we talked about leaving them off one area of the cake. I thought about it overnight and decided we should try making cupcakes instead. It would be easier to omit pecans from some cupcakes and not the others.

According to the package of Butter Recipe Golden cake mix, the cooking time for cupcakes is about half that of the full size cake. The tops were perfect but when we flipped them over, some of the bottom nuts looked like they were a little overcooked. I should have looked online for cooking tips and rotated the pan. Most of the rum flavor and the kick comes from the glaze, which is made from butter, sugar, water and rum. Before adding the rum, we used some of the glaze to top the nut-free cakes. The non-alcoholic glaze turned into an opaque paste. It did not soak into the cakes, like the high-octane stuff did.

To dress up the cupcakes, we added a dollop of Betty Crocker buttercream frosting. We experimented with some right side up and some upside down. Tomorrow, I'll tell you about my family's history with Bacardi Rum Cakes. In the meantime, feast your eyes on these.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

home to Your dwelling place

The sad news about Nancy Feist's death hit hard for my wife and many others throughout the Diocese of Knoxville as they helped to plan her funeral Mass. Nancy was Executive Secretary to the Bishop. The 43-year-old collapsed at a ballgame on Friday. Even more heartbreaking was the fact that she was seven months pregnant. Doctors delivered her son Peter but he died shortly after being baptized. Nancy and her husband David have five other children. David teaches at St. Mary's School in Oak Ridge.

I had heard that Nancy moved to Knoxville from Pennsylvania to work for then-Bishop Joseph Kurtz. When he was elevated to Archbishop of Louisville, Nancy and her family stayed in East Tennessee. In 2007, the East Tennessee Catholic published a photo of Nancy with Bishop Kurtz as he prepared for his farewell Mass. During the time we were without a bishop, Nancy worked for Diocesan Administrator Fr. Al Humbrecht. Archbishop Kurtz will lead a recitation of the rosary on Tuesday night at Rose Mortuary on Kingston Pike.

When I interviewed newly ordained Bishop Richard Stika, I made the arrangements with Nancy. She wanted to know what I planned to discuss and asked for some background information about the public affairs show. Bishop Stika will be the main celebrant for Nancy's funeral Mass at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday at All Saints Catholic Church. Archbishop Kurtz and Bishop James Vann Johnston will concelebrate, along with several other priests of the Diocese.

They have set up an online CareCalendar to organize offers of meals and housework for the Feist family. Thoughts and prayers can be expressed online too. Monetary donations for the children can be sent to the "Nancy Feist Fund" at the Diocese.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

a little rock step

Technically, Lori Tucker danced with me twice. She and her husband went to the group dance lesson at Academy Ballroom last night, as did my wife and I. Kim Hansard and her husband were there too. All the women in the class rotated through the line and danced with all the men in the class. As a result, I also danced with Kim and my wife danced with both ladies' husbands. Our son, the good sport, took the class as well. We did the most basic steps of the waltz, rumba, foxtrot, salsa, merengue and swing.

During the open dance party that followed the lesson, Lori and J.W. Becker did an encore of their cha cha from "Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars." Emily Loyless and I will reprise our rumba routine at the next Friday night dance party on June 26. Invite your Facebook friends to come. Or show your support via an online donation to Children's Hospital.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

balancing act

At church parties and other functions, I often find myself trying to hold a cup or bottle of water and a paper plate of food in one hand while using a plastic fork or spoon with the other hand. I saw a clever invention at Kroger yesterday that would theoretically solve the problem. The Go Plate sits on top of your beverage can, bottle or cup. The side of the package warns that the Go Plate should not be microwaved and that "extremely hot food will deform plate." The best part is the reminder to "remove beverage from the Go Plate to drink."

I thought about buying some but resisted when I thought about how weird it might be for me to bring my own plate to somebody's party. Am I wrong?

P.S. Yes, that is Old Yeller dog food in the background.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

if there's a place you got to go

A few bonus destinations presented themselves as my wife and I continue planning our upcoming trip to New England. Janet and Holly, two Drive Vacation Specialists at AAA, helped us choose hotels and routes. While Janet found the least expensive lodging, Holly made computerized TripTiks. In the past, we would get the old school TripTiks, assembled and highlighted by hand. When we got home, my wife broke out the highlighters and marked up the state maps for Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey and a wee bit of Delaware.

Up until yesterday, I had assumed our trip north would not include Pennsylvania. Instead of taking I-95, as I have countless other times, we will take Route 15 from Northern Virginia into Maryland and Pennsylvania. We can visit Gettysburg National Military Park and then stop at Hershey's Chocolate World for lunch.

Following a different path south will allow us to see Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, Massachusetts. If time permits, we can also take the Ten Mile Drive in Newport, Rhode Island.

I like squeezing some sightseeing into our longer travel days. Maybe my wife can be persuaded to make a stop along I-81 in Virginia too. We can always return to Foamhenge or bite the bullet and pay to finally see the Natural Bridge.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

simplified complicated

The power came back on just as Paul Simmons unplugged the last of our three stage lights. It was as if that bulb had somehow caused last night's blackout in the Old City. The electricity went out at Patrick Sullivan's and other nearby businesses at 8:14 p.m., preventing us from starting the weekly Einstein Simplified performance. A full house of people waited patiently as the lack of air conditioning made the third floor room warmer and stuffier. After consulting with the saloon's management, we canceled the show and sent the audience home around 9 o'clock. The electricity came back at 9:04 p.m. D'oh!

When the blackout struck, I was standing by the stage taking a picture of dozens of Einstein bobbleheads from McDonald's. Last week, Brad Bumgardner suggested that we each go to McDonald's and buy as many of the "Night at the Museum" Happy Meal toys as possible. He got $15 worth. My wife and I got $25 worth. They'll be used as audience participation prizes in the weeks to come. Electricity permitting, of course.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

kid in a candy shop

The folks at Earth Fare invited me over for pre-opening tour of their new Bearden store. It's across Kingston Pike from Mayo Garden Center in a building that has been vacant since Bi-Lo moved out several years ago. The "healthy supermarket" opens Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. The first 100 shoppers will get a goodie bag. 5% of store sales and the proceeds from one dollar hot dog and burger sales will go to the Beardsley Community Farm.

A sign in the produce section spells out Earth Fare's food philosophy. Of all the things they prohibit, I'm most pleased by the bans on high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. If they slip up and you catch them, you get a $50 gift card for every banned ingredient you spot. Clerks stocked the shelves and workmen adjusted the fixtures while I was there. Once the store opens, I can picture myself getting lunch at the salad bar or even at the sushi counter.

The bulk foods section offers a variety of trail mixes, snacks and unusual grains. My tour guides, Troy DeGroff and Nicole St. Charles suggested I taste the Carob Peanut Clusters, which were excellent. Later when they left me alone to take pictures and try some other snacks, I was blown away by the Chocolate English Toffee. No wonder it's $20 a pound. Both products come from SunRidge Farms.

Troy offered me samples of some organic foods and the opportunity to compare their labels with popular mainstream brands. Earth Fare's organic peanut butter was good, their organic blueberry conserves were outstanding. I was very pleasantly surprised by an Oreo alternative. The stuff inside Country Choice Organic Sandwich Cremes was soft and delicious. Best of all, there was enough of it. I didn't feel shortchanged.

One of the managers (based on his name tag, it might have even been the CEO) told me that photography is not normally allowed in their stores. Because I was there for a media preview, I was permitted to take pictures. I was reminded of both an upscale grocery store in St. Louis and a downscale store in Knoxville where I was asked me to put my camera away. Fortunately I was able to take a picture of an interesting dispenser for first cold press extra virgin olive oil. I didn't notice until I got home that the "Fresh Grassy Overtones" qualify for ApostropheAbuse.com.

I was thrilled to see my all-time favorite condiment, Original Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce, on the shelf. A brand of spaghetti sauce made me wish my dad was still around. I would have liked to ask him if Rao's Homemade has any connection to the Mr. Rao who lived across the street from us in Crestwood, New York. If there isn't already a band named Hot Pickled Okra & Dilly Beans, there certainly ought to be. I should call WDVX and ask them.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

dance hall days

The Dance Dimensions Summer Invitational reminded me of another type of event that I used to attend on a regular basis. My son swam for his high school in the winter and for a neighborhood pool in the summer. The dance competition was a lot like a swim meet.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like lifeguards had to clean up the dance floor or anything. However both events had multiple heats and heat sheets to keep things organized. The different dances were like the different swim strokes. The announcers use code-like jargon and the participants had their snacks, smoothies and a change of clothes at all the tables. Like swimmers, Emily Loyless and Jeremy Norris were wearing warm-up jackets, except that theirs were from the Hotlanta Dance Challenge.

My wife and I could only stay and watch for an hour or so on Saturday afternoon. Most of the competitors we saw were pro-am couples. The dancers know which style is coming but not which song. They have to quickly find the beat and get started. Several of the professionals had participated in "Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars." In addition to Emily and Jeremy, we saw Charles Gibbs and all three Beckers: Mark, Rhonda and J.W. It seemed to me that most of the instructors were younger than their students. A photographer named Tim McGhee was snapping pictures which are available for sale on his website. He took both candid and posed shots.

Emily and I will soon start practicing for a reprise of our rumba routine. We are scheduled to perform during the Friday night dance party at Academy Ballroom on June 26. I have to figure out what to wear that night. When we danced in April, my tuxedo was provided by a sponsor. Emily would turn some heads if she wears the same thing she wore Saturday.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

hang a name on you

RT Lodge should not be thought of as the world's fanciest Ruby Tuesday, although it is owned by the same company. It is also a hotel, a corporate retreat and an ideal setting for a wedding reception or other gathering. The restaurant at RT Lodge opened to the public in January. My wife and I went there for dinner last night with another couple. The rustic decor made me think the lodge might have more in common with its upscale cousin, Blackberry Farm, than with any Ruby Tuesday restaurant. Someday I'll have to go to Blackberry Farm and see for myself.

As much as I enjoyed our dinner, I could not wait for dessert. Yesterday, I mentioned that I had already looked at their offerings online and decided on the triple chocolate "moon pie." When I got the dessert menu, I saw that it had been renamed "lunar pie," so as to avoid any legal entanglements with MoonPie of Chattanooga. It did not disappoint. Even my wife, who shared the dessert with me, loved it. She is not normally a fan of the chewy texture of marshmallows. The white stuff in the lunar pie was smooth and creamy. The chocolate chocolate chip cookies were just right too.

Generally speaking, I find the cracker inside a MoonPie to be too dry. However, I learned a trick about five years ago at the RC & MoonPie Festival. Cut a MoonPie in half and place the two pieces on opposite sides of a microwave-safe bowl. Zap it for a few seconds until the marshmallow expands. Drop a scoop of ice cream between the halves for MoonPie à la mode. If you're going to be near Bell Buckle, Tennessee next weekend, you might want to swing by the 15th Annual RC & MoonPie Festival in Bell Buckle on Saturday. Or just go to the RT Lodge in Maryville.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

distinguished from gourmet

It doesn't take more than a brief perusal through my blog archives to find indisputable proof that I am a foodie. Just yesterday I wrote about trying to earn airline miles by eating at certain restaurants.

I often plan my travel around places to eat. My upcoming summer vacation is centered on a meal at Red's Eats and a visit to the Ben & Jerry's factory. My next trip to St. Louis will include meeting some Facebook friends at El Pollo Loco and Crown Candy Kitchen.

An article in the Metro Pulse about two weeks ago purported to be about Knoxville staycations. In reality, it was a foodie's tour of East Tennessee. It lists so many places I haven't tried yet, even some that I had never heard of. For example, the Original Freezo sounds like someplace I should have been by now. Whenever the Metro Pulse mentions Magpies, I am reminded of all the times I walked past their former location in the Old City and wished they hadn't already closed for the day. I still need to try one of their cupcakes.

My wife and I have plans to go out to dinner with another couple tonight at RT Lodge. I've already looked at the menu online and am making sure that whatever I eat during the day today will still leave room for a dessert of homemade marshmallow on a chocolate cookie. They call it a triple chocolate "moon pie," with the last two words in quotes to avoid confusion with the real MoonPie. If all goes according to plan, I'll take a picture of it for all the rest of you foodies out there.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

your mileage may vary

One of these days I hope to get back to Seattle to visit my friend Bean. For that reason, I've been trying to hang on to some frequent flyer miles that are in danger of expiring. I'll admit that I could have gone to the Emerald City by now if I hadn't been using all my vacation time for family trips. In 2007, we went on a 3,000 mile college search road trip. Last year's vacation was planned to coincide with freshman move-in. Earlier this year, my son and I went on Spring break together.

To keep from losing my accumulated miles, I need to have some sort of activity on my account every eighteen months. The last time I had this problem, I donated a few of the miles to charity. At that time, the American Airlines representative suggested I sign up for their dining rewards program to earn miles at participating restaurants. You would think that I would have no problem spending $25 at one of the eateries on the list. However, my year-to-date total is still zero.

I specifically looked for a restaurant in Florida where my son and I could eat, I could earn a few miles and more importantly have some activity that would save the 26,000 miles I am on the verge of losing. The decision was easy. We went to Cheeburger Cheeburger.

On Wednesday night I called the number for the rewards program to ask why my Cheeburger purchase hadn't shown up on my statement. In fact, my pork salad at La Costa should have earned me some activity too. The nice lady on the other end of the line explained that the credit card I had used had been taken off my rewards account. As it turns out, my wife had inadvertently assigned our joint credit card to another cause.

When we lived in Burbank, my wife was co-chair of the scrip program at St. Finbar School. She and another mom would sell gift cards from local grocery stores and other retailers. The school made a 3 to 5% profit on card sales. All Saints Church has a similar program with Food City and Kroger.

A few months ago my wife responded to a request from eScrip. She could donate a portion of certain credit card purchases. As a result, St. Finbar got 57¢ from my bill at Cheeburger Cheeburger. eScrip and the dining rewards program are operated by the same company. Any given credit card number can only participate in one program at a time. My wife logged in to her eScrip account and swapped our joint account number for some other cards in her purse. Meanwhile, I logged on to AAdvantage Dining and re-added the joint account number.

I'll start looking for restaurants we can patronize on our summer vacation in New England. Locally, I was glad to see that Pimento's Café has joined the program. I think I can talk our vegetarian friend into meeting us there for salad the next time we get together.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

pity the fils

Sharing a meal with a vegetarian friend of ours usually means we'll be eating at one of three places: Trio Café, Panera Bread or Ruby Tuesday. On Friday night, my wife, our son and I met our friend at Ruby Tuesday in the mall for the salad bar.

During dinner I told him that I had talked about him on the radio recently. He had backstage passes to a Gavin Rossdale performance but didn't know much about him. When he met the singer, all he could think to ask was, "so, you're married to Gloria Estefan?" Brush with greatness fail. (FYI: Rossdale is married to Gwen Stefani.)

We talked about a couple of celebrity encounters from my past including the Donny Osmond "don't you wish you were me" story. My wife remembered the 7-Eleven shopping sprees I used to do at WAVA. After a celebrity was on the air with Don & Mike, I would escort them across Lee Highway to 7-Eleven. I used the phone behind the counter to provide on-air play-by-play as the celebrity grabbed as much stuff as he or she could in 30 seconds. It's hard to remember all the stars who made the walk with me. Mr. T came to mind because I still have a picture of him walking back to the radio station. I spent the better part of an hour looking for it in a stack of photo albums in the basement.

The series of anecdotes prompted my son to point out that I have never told him many of my old tales. They just don't come up in our normal conversations. It's as if I need to be prompted to remember them. I wonder if any of you former WAVA or KROQ or KLOS listeners can suggest some stories my son would enjoy.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

file footage

Lloyd Bentsen will always be remembered for his famous put-down of Dan Quayle: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." See if you can guess why that quote came to mind while I was watching the 11:00 p.m. news on Monday night.

First of all, I was surprised to see a much heavier version of myself on WBIR. The report started with video from six years ago of the last Phil & Murphy Show on 100.3 The River. They were reporting on a radio station licensed to Oliver Springs that has started using the same name. The angle on the story was that The River is back. Not so fast.

The fault lies more with WBIR than with the new radio station. They wrote their news story to make it sound like my old station was back, even though the manager of the new station made it clear that their name is really just a coincidence. To me, their "'80s, '90s and Now" slogan sounds more like another defunct station, The Point, than the "World Class Rock" once offered by The River.

Here is the video of me trying to hide my weight under an untucked shirt. Don't blink, I'm on there a couple of times but only for a second or two each.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

plate off

Paul Oscar Anderson passed away on Friday. Like many, I learned of his death from Knoxville Radio History 101. During his radio career, he was on the air at dozens of stations from Knoxville to Portland to Los Angeles.

When I first moved to Knoxville, Don Barrett of LARadio.com put me in touch with Paul. We exchanged emails and had several phone conversations while he still lived at home. His health continued to deteriorate and he moved into a nursing home.

I went to the Highland Memorial Funeral Home last night to pay my respects. Paul's widow Bobbie told me that radio was his first love. As a child, he would play with a microphone instead of a toy gun like the other kids. She also said she had heard that a radio station in California was going to do an on-air tribute to Paul that morning.

The service began as four men wearing white aprons processed into the chapel. They recited the Last Masonic Rites and placed an apron on Paul's coffin. I think they called it a lambskin. The light blue casket had the words "Going Home" on the inside of the open lid.

Paul's daughter Teresa sang one of the songs at the service. In his remarks, Preacher Guy Milam of North Knoxville Baptist Church said "our paths lead not to, but through the grave." Another song included the lyrics "though your sins be as scarlet, they will be as white as snow."

When I got home from the funeral I powered up my old laptop to see if I had saved any of the emails Paul and I exchanged. Here are a few of the things he wrote to me in 2003 and 2004:
Hey Frank,
Thanks for the note. It seems that the best and brightest broadcasters at least came through the South and Midwest. I'm sure that you were one of them. Thanks the offers of goodies, Frank, but I am a diabetic and on a very strict diet. I have myriad other medical hassles which keep me homebound.

Sorry about WOKI. I knew a number off your compadres, including Johnny P. It saddens me to say it, but broadcasting, especially radio, is a ball-busting, low paying job, which takes and rarely gives. I say that after having worked at 37 radio/TV stations over a period of almost 40 years. I let the job take four wives and my self-respect. I wound up in a treatment center for boozers at The Hazleden Foundation in Minnesota. I am a native of Knoxville and have been back home with my childhood sweetheart for almost 29 years. I worked at almost every station in town. Ask Phil Williams about my work here. Despite it all, I still have goose bumps when I think of radio. I really miss the mic, although I have been retired eleven years.

Let me know what's happening at WOKI now -- if you know -- and what your plans are. If I can be of help in any way, let me know.

The best,
POA (Paul Brown)

What a pleasure talking with (AT) you this morning. I could tell within a minute that you were a real broadcaster, kicked in the stomach enough, and been around the horn enough times to have earned the title.

I apologize for talking so much. It is rare that I get to talk to anyone who knows radio like you do. Once in a while I hear from Neil Ross, Tom Murphy, Buzz Barr (KISN) and a couple of others.

If we don't get a chance to meet in person, don't forget me, and remember that I am praying for you. I feel that you will be glad that you were booted at WOKI. You sound like you have the experience and smarts for ANY market.

I know it doesn't often work like this, but I never sent a tape or resume in my long and checkered career. I got the program director or G.M. on the telephone and that worked for me. I really hope for you the very best. I know right where you are. I was there a great number of times and always came out better off than I was when the travails descended upon me. I know that you will do well.

God bless

Hey Frank,

I had already read in the local scandal sheet that you had connected. And then, you were on the LARP. I just cleared my e-mail, some of which was a week old. I had 73 when I got busy this morning.

Hang in there, pal. Instead of moving every time I was offered a bigger market and a couple of bucks more than I was earning, I would have been dollars and serene times ahead had I stayed put. Can't tell yourself the truth when it WOULD have set you free.

You are smarter than I. Good luck to you and your family. If I can ever be of service, please call or write.

God bless,

I am just going through my old e-mail and ran across one you sent when first I was out of the hospital. I have just now returned from another open heart operation, and the addition of a defibrillator to my pacemaker. I am hanging on -- barely. I now have diabetes (the worst of my ailments, I feel), prostate cancer, heart failure to the point that I stay in bed most of the time. No energy. I fell perhaps a couple of dozen times, leaving me with several visible skull fractures. Other than a couple of other minor ailments, all is well with me. I am too damn mean to die.

Speaking of which, I thought of the good guys who were with me in the sixties at KISN who have passed in recent years. Tom Matthews, Don Kennedy, Bobby Simon, Whitey Coker, whom I spoke to just a couple of days before his throat cancer took him away. (God, I loved him.) I guess we are too tough to buy the farm just yet.

I am 73 last October. I don't sweat it, since I have not control over when and where I will go. I am ready whenever the Big Guy calls. I have lived a hell of a life, so I can't complain if I go today. I have done everything I thought I was big enough to do. Can't ask for more in one life.

God Bless,

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Monday, June 08, 2009

pink ribbons

The silent auction items are starting to arrive for the charity event my friend Maureen is co-chairing. She owns Fox Chase Farm in Middleburg, Virginia, which will host the Ride for the Cure Virginia to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

The media sponsor for the October event is WJLA-TV in nearby Washington, DC. Maureen is thrilled that Greta Kreuz and Suzanne Kennedy are planning to ride horses at the function.

Susan Olsen has promised to send an autographed copy of her upcoming book "Love to Love You Bradys: The Bizarre Story of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour." Maureen sent me photos of two autographed items that have already arrived. Melissa Etheridge sent a copy of her greatest hits CD. My pal Jimmy Kimmel sent a personalized basketball jersey.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

walk of life

An early Father's Day present from my daughter arrived via email today. She is giving me the day off by being my guest blogger. She recently returned from the real Holy Land (not the Holy Land Experience) and is willing to share some highlights with us:

If you ever crave an omelet in Nazareth, Israel, be sure to take a stroll through the market streets just outside the old city. On day one of my pilgrimage with Give Thanks and Remember, I walked down the limestone-paved roads of the marketplace and saw a stand selling really fresh eggs straight from the source and another where you could buy your own living hatchlings. I’m not sure if baby chicken is an ingredient in some Middle Eastern dishes or if most customers buy them to raise them to adulthood, but they sure were cute.

We walked to the Fontana di Maria restaurant, one of the many local eateries in Nazareth. The narrow roads were not sidewalks as I had first thought. No, they were two-way streets. It was a wonder to find any cars newer than a banged-up 1990 Fiat, so I had to document the spotless parked Mercedes taking up almost half of the road.

I ordered a Coke at lunch. Even though the label was written in Hebrew, I can assure you that the classic formula tastes just as delicious in Israel, especially when made with cane sugar.

After a huge three-course meal for lunch, we traveled by bus to Cana in Galilee where Jesus performed His first miracle at the wedding feast by turning water into wine when the bridegroom’s supply had run out. The three married couples traveling with us had the chance to renew their wedding vows for each other in the church built to remember the first miracle of Christ’s public ministry. There was not a dry eye amongst us. It was truly moving to see these couples, who combined have been married 100 years, once again vow before God to love each other selflessly and completely until death parts them.

For the next ten days I witnessed and experienced things that I never would have imagined. From the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to the Sea of Galilee, Holy Sepulchre, Garden of Gethsemane and to the place of Calvary, I walked in the steps of Jesus. As I prayed and reflected in all these holy sites, I grew in my faith and even started to feel at home. Looking back to that first day when I felt so far from home in a completely foreign culture, it seemed like I had lived two years instead of two weeks. Here I was in His hometown, visiting where He first spoke the message that has echoed to all the corners of the earth and I realized that when I go back to my hometown, He’ll be coming with me.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

as the fire popped and crackled...

The combination of words demanded my attention. I saw "free book" followed by "crime scene." Dozens and dozens of copies of the same title were arranged on a table just inside West Town Mall last night.

The freebies were from Harlequin Books, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary. "Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch" is part of the Harlequin Intrigue series. The author, B.J. Daniels, has at least five more books being published this year.

I don't know if there were more books at any of the mall's other entrances or if I stumbled upon the whole supply. The inside cover of "Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch" says that sixteen free books are available for download at www.HarlequinCelebrates.com.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

beach bath & beyond

The Snuggie that I bought while sick made somebody think that I would also want another odd item. At least I guess that's why they sent me a link to the Wearable Towel. The similarities are obvious. The Snuggie is a blanket with sleeves. The Wearable Towel is a towel with arm holes.

Weather permitting, I go for a swim every day during the summer. I usually come downstairs wearing only a beach towel around my waist. I grab my swimsuit off the clothesline and pull it on under the towel. After my swim, I put the towel around my waist again and slip off the suit underneath. So it's not that I couldn't use a Wearable Towel, I just don't think that I would look good in a toga. All the guys in the video are sporting six-pack abs and wearing it off one shoulder. Whereas John Belushi knew to wear his toga on both shoulders.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

dittohead drive

The address in the phone book seemed like a joke. I was looking up the number of some fellow All Saints parishioners in a new mini phone book that arrived in our mailbox the other day. The listing said the family lived on Rush Limbaugh Lane in Knoxville. Obviously I would have to ask them about it.

They told me that they did, in fact, live on Rush Limbaugh Lane but that they usually drop the Rush when giving their address. For example, the church directory has them listed on "Limbaugh Lane." Apparently the developer was a big fan of El Rushbo. So was one of their neighbors who tried to get the talk radio superstar to do a remote broadcast from the street. Another neighbor was not so enthused. He had the builder put his house facing sideways on the lot so his front door would be on the cross street instead. No, the cross street is not Sean Hannity Circle.

Are there more streets named after radio personalities? There ought to be. Before I worked with them, Mark & Brian had a parade down the very short Mark & Brian Parkway in Santa Ana. A neighborhood in Lakewood called Radio Park named streets after Amos & Andy, Gene Autry, Hedda Hopper and a few others back in 1941 when they were radio stars.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

coco chris

It's unfair to judge "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" after only two episodes but I thought the first two shows were okay. Tom Hanks was, no surprise, a great guest. Green Day was fantastic. They should have booked both of them for night one instead of Will Ferrell and Pearl Jam.

Many people I know posted the cold open from Conan's first show on their Facebook pages on Tuesday. I was proven wrong when I thought for a moment that the whole bit would be recorded in the New York and Los Angeles areas. I loved it when I saw that he was really traveling across America.

As they showed Conan running through Wrigley Field, I grabbed my cell phone and called my son, who was downstairs in his room. I said, "you've got to come up and watch this." I rewound the show to the beginning and noticed that NBC started the show at 11:34 but my DVR didn't start recording until 11:35. It stopped recording at 12:35 while the show continued until 12:37.

I also got a kick out of Conan hijacking the Universal Studios tram. They took it out onto Lankershim Boulevard. I pointed out to my son that they drove past Toyota of North Hollywood and the 99¢ Only Store, which were both walking distance from the Kling Street apartment where I lived before my family moved West to join me.

The first two nights of Conan's show felt more like the real "Tonight Show" than Jay Leno's ever did. Some of that comes from the set, which mimics Johnny Carson's and the "More to Come" bumper art. The music helps too. Max Weinberg plays with an energy more like Doc Severinsen than the sleepy slow jams Kevin Eubanks played.

Conan won't get me to switch away from "Jimmy Kimmel Live." On nights that I'm up late, I might watch Conan or David Letterman for their first half hour before switching over to ABC. I have a season pass set up to always record Jimmy's show whether I'm awake or not. That reminds me. There is something wrong with the HD feed from WATE. I've been meaning to call or email somebody about it for the past week or two. They've got eight days to get it fixed.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Emily Loyless went to Atlanta to audition for "So You Think You Can Dance" on Monday. My fingers are crossed for her to do well. Emily is an excellent dancer. My plodding performance in our rumba together doesn't quite do her justice.

A much better representation of Emily's skills is available to Knoxvillians via Comcast on Demand. She and Jeremy Norris did three dances at the Ruby Slippers Benefit for Family Promise of Knoxville. From the On Demand menu, choose Get Local, and then Special Events to see half an hour of highlights from the event. On the video, I saw several other instructors and students from Academy Ballroom dancing to the music of the Brad Walker Orchestra.

The ballroom staff is getting ready for a move to a new location in The Shops at Western Plaza. For now, they are still open at Downtown West, where some of the "Dancing With the Knoxville Stars" participants will reprise their performances on upcoming Friday nights. Terry Morrow and Gretchen Bartlett are set for this Friday with their respective professional partners, Rhonda and Mark Becker.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

yo old lady

Marshal Andy Smalls invited me to his Big Band Showcase at the Bearden Banquet Hall yesterday afternoon. He performs there on the last Sunday of every month, alternating between big band and western shows. The price of admission includes a buffet meal from Buddy's Bar-B-Q. They were supposed to serve chicken yesterday. Due to a scheduling mix-up, we had some delicious pulled pork instead. Normally the pork is served every other month during Marshal Andy's western music show.

My wife and I sat at a table with Brad Walker and Gary Bluemel, "the singing deejay." Gary would sing two songs with the band later on. During lunch, Brad told me about his new show on WKTI, Sunday afternoons at 3:00. He said he might have me on as a guest to talk about some of my favorite songs.

The Sisters of the Silver Sage were the opening act. They sang songs like "Mr. Sandman" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" rather than their western tunes. Their calendar shows them performing at Marshal Andy's Cowboy Jamboree next month, presumably with pulled pork on the menu.

Near the end of his set, Marshal Andy surprised me by announcing that I was in the audience and asking me to come up to the microphone. Although it was the Big Band Showcase, he was going to try to teach me to yodel like Eddy Arnold. I warned him that I couldn't sing, much less yodel. All I had to do was follow him, he said. Before starting, he said that if I knew the song, I should make sure not to get ahead of his lead. I didn't want to offend the good Marshal but I don't know any Eddy Arnold songs. In fact, until recently, I used to get Eddy Arnold confused with the guy from "Green Acres." Fortunately (I think), my wife was quick to grab the camera and switch it to video mode. You can see me nervously grabbing my pockets.

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