Monday, March 15, 2010

oveur and out

Tonight's planned television viewing was interrupted by 1967. While "Chuck" and "24" were still recorded by my DVR, I chose to fire up the DVD player and watch a couple of episodes from season 2 of "Mission: Impossible." My daughter gave me the discs for Christmas in 2008.

The inspiration for my retro-viewing party was the death of Peter Graves, the one, true Jim Phelps. I was too young to stay up and watch M:I when it first aired but I got hooked on the show during high school when one of the local New York stations showed reruns of it every night. The episodes from season 2 that I watched tonight are ones I don't recall seeing before.

The teamwork of the IMF and the intricate plots renewed my displeasure with the way the Tom Cruise movies abused the franchise. Martin Landau was quoted in an article about Graves' death. The original stars also smelled a rat and refused to sully their characters by appearing in Cruise's vanity project.

On "World News," Diane Sawyer reported Graves' relation to his brother, James Arness, like it was news. I think her exact words were, "here's something we didn't know..." Huh? I've known that piece of TV trivia for as long as I can remember.

Peter Graves died just outside his home as he was returning from a Sunday brunch to celebrate his upcoming birthday. Is it weird that I am incredibly curious to know which restaurant served his last meal? Get me Dearly Departed Tours on the phone!

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

the larp-er image

Chris Butler is a movie buff. During our time working together at Power 106 he always knew which movies had gotten thumbs up from Siskel & Ebert. Therefore it was no surprise that he scored six out of six in the Oscar prediction poll. He won a year's subscription to the site, which grants night-before access to industry news and daily emails with headlines and other stories of interest. However, he already subscribes. Webmaster Don Barrett allowed him to give the prize to somebody else and Chris chose me. I had started reading the site again recently when Don made more free content available. As a once-again subscriber, I especially like having the headlines emailed to me.

The interview process for my job at Power 106 was more memorable than most. I knew immediately that Chris was an important part of the Jay Thomas show. He accompanied Monica Brooks (now known as Lori) to meet me for breakfast at the Universal Hilton. He ran the board for Jay and maintained the audio archives for replay when Jay was away.

By comparison, breakfast with Monica and Chris was normal. The night before, I had dinner with Jay and promotion director Paul Sansone. They pretended to be a gay couple to see how I would react. At the time, the station played a lot of dance music and was the major sponsor for a dance-athon to benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles. When they sensed that I didn't care a whit about their sexuality, they revealed their charade. So I guess it was more than a coincidence that the station booked the Village People for a retro party the next year. You might recall that they sat behind me at a movie screening the night before the gig.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

not everybody loves Raymond

If the parade police wanted to cut a parade short this year, they should be looking at the Tournament of Roses Parade, not the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Unfortunately for me, it's the New York Police Department, not the parade police, who are making the demand.

The New York Daily News gets it right by calling police commissioner Ray Kelly "a turkey." His edict to shorten all New York parade routes by 25% doesn't go into effect until after Kelly serves as grand marshal of the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

The Macy's parade is not the target of the cost-cutting move. My favorite parade is part of the collateral damage. With his five-hour time limit, Commissioner Kelly appears to be going after lengthy marches such as the West Indian American Day Parade and the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Thanksgiving is exactly nine months away. There's plenty of time to fix the mistake.

Maybe Commissioner Kelly can copy his predecessor Bill Bratton and move to California. He could help my second-favorite parade, the Rose Parade, by eliminating the equestrian units. The floats and marching bands are great but the people on horseback don't add much to the telecast. I realize that they are included as part of a 122-year old tradition. Maybe the horses could walk alongside a flower-covered float. Or better still, a team of horses could pull each float.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ober reaction

Comedian Ken Ober, best known as host of "Remote Control," was found dead Sunday. I had the good fortune of knowing Ken when he worked at the Comedy World Radio Network.

In the mid '90s, Ken co-hosted a show on KLSX with Susan Olsen. A few years later, they both worked at Comedy World although on different shows. While most of the programs needed time to find their legs, "The Ken Ober Radio Hour" sounded good from day one. He surrounded himself with funny people like Lou DiMaggio and Charles Zucker.

When news of Ken's passing first started popping up on the Internet, some debunked it as a hoax. Sadly it turned out to be true. My friend Susan was distressed by the conflicting reports. After the death was confirmed she wrote several things on Facebook, including: "Most agree it seems Ken Ober was in a good place in his life before passing. There's some consolation in that. He was a great guy to work with, I'm so glad I saw him recently." A little later she posted: "Well maybe Kenny is having a cocktail with Ed McMahon and busting his chops for introducing him on Star Search as 'Can Opener.'"

On the day of the O.J. Simpson verdict, Susan brought a camera to work. She put together a 9½ minute video of what went on in the KLSX studios and hallways. Like most of us, Ken's reaction was pure outrage. His language on the tape is definitely NSFW. In our current times, it is amazing to see that so many people once worked at a single radio station. You might recognize the Regular Guys, Kato Kaelin and Mother Love.

There are many comments on the web about how Ken was as nice as he was talented. I can tell you from first hand experience that it was a genuine pleasure to be around him.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

live like you were Mayan

The preposterous new movie "2012" has some good parts. However I am baffled about why they put the worst scenes in the trailer. Surely you've seen the limo racing just ahead of crumbling streets or the plane dodging falling buildings and the 10 Freeway. Those sequences reminded me of the old "Back to the Future" ride at Universal Studios.

Willing suspension of disbelief is required for an audience to accept a work of fiction. I was fine with the big picture stuff about the inside of our planet melting and the earth's crust shifting. I liked their take on the government's secret mission for the survival of the species. It would have been nice to see more of their plans to save civilization. All I got were brief cameos by famous artworks and some zoo animals.

What almost ruined the movie completely were the many, many narrow escapes by John Cusack's character. He launches a limo through a collapsing building, among other implausible events. Some small details are equally irksome. Although the movie is set three years in the future and even has the year 2012 as its title, the filmmakers forgot about the digital TV transition of 2009. There are several shots of televisions with the type of analog static that was eliminated by the switch.

I wondered if the producers have a real problem with two of my former homes, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. As the trailer shows, they destroy both cities on film. They also show the Vatican demolished in a way that must have made the crew of "Angels & Demons" jealous.

As for the good, Woody Harrelson steals every scene he is in. He plays the crazy host of a conspiracy-theory radio show who has all the answers about the world's impending doom. I wish the syndicated overnight show on the local talk station was 1% as interesting as Woody.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

rain, man

A nice swim after a torrential storm feels great for two reasons. First, it's as if I have stolen a rainout back from Mother Nature. Plus, the pool water has a clean, fresh taste from the infusion of raindrops. Tonight it also helped clear my head and burn some energy after one-too-many cups of delicious free coffee at work.

While I was enjoying the water, my thoughts went to two swimmers in the news this past week. Natalie Coughlin exceeded my expectations on "Dancing With the Stars." For the most part I'll be splitting my votes between her and Donny Osmond. Both she and he are posting updates on Twitter.

Another swimming story popped up in one of my Google Alerts. The granddaughter of a man named Frank Murphy swam the English Channel. Samantha Simon is only 19 and plans to go for the Triple Crown of open-water swimming. She hopes to swim around Manhattan and from L.A. to Catalina within a year.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

frosting shot?

Have cupcakes jumped the shark? The New York Times predicted a cupcake crash a year ago, comparing them to the brief, big-city popularity of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Several other publications, including Newsweek, are saying that the cupcake fad is about to fade. The intensely pro-cupcake blog, Cupcakes Take the Cake, alerted me to the latest round of naysayers. At least The Philadelphia Inquirer says the "trend has outlasted expectations."

The recent popularity of cupcakes is credited to the product placement of Magnolia Bakery on "Sex and the City" and the opening of the cupcakes-only Sprinkles in Los Angeles. Here in scenic East Tennessee, it takes a little longer for trends to reach us. One would assume that the same delay applies to the end of the cycle.

Based on two hours last week, I would say that the cupcake bubble has definitely not burst in Knoxville. I observed a nearly constant stream of customers going into The Cupcakery while I was doing a remote broadcast from Massage Envy on Thursday. As I told my sales manager, The Cupcakery has the best looking cupcakes even if other places have better tasting treats. I'll attempt to prove it with some repeat photos from previous blog entries.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

y'all come back now y'hear?

The Brian Setzer Orchestra is coming to Knoxville! This is a huge deal for me. I so badly wanted to see their show in Nashville a few years ago but couldn't make it. Sixteen weeks from now they will bring the Christmas Rocks! Extravaganza to the Tennessee Theatre. I must somehow get tickets to be there on December 8th.

The BSO released two new songs on iTunes today. Two more will come out next week in advance of the new album, "Songs from Lonely Avenue," due October 13th. Megan from Surfdog Records was kind enough to send along copies of the first two tracks for me to hear.

"Trouble Train" is an uptempo song that warns "if you hear the devil call your name, don't get on that trouble train." The powerful horns on the album were arranged by 87-year-old Frank Comstock. He wrote music for many big stars of the past and also wrote the "Rocky & Bullwinkle" theme.

"Lonely Avenue" is a slow number that captures the film-noir feeling that Setzer is going for. The new album is the first entirely written by Brian himself. The disc will include ten vocal tracks and three instrumentals.

My wife and I saw several Brian Setzer Orchestra shows when we lived in California. I have great memories of the concerts at the Greek Theatre, the Universal Amphitheatre and the House of Blues one New Year's Eve. Obviously, it's been a long time since then. I have been hoping they would come to East Tennessee for years.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

focus on the family

The recognizable voice of John Waters was on NPR this afternoon when I got in my car. I knew that I knew the voice but it still took me a minute to identify it. When I tune in to the middle of an interview, I like to play "guess the guest," a game made possible because so many of us in radio are bad about identifying interviewees once the conversation has begun.

In today's case, it was a trifle more challenging because Waters was not talking about himself but about the Tate/LaBianca murders. Apparently he has befriended Leslie Van Houten, a member of the Manson family who was convicted of the murders of Mr. and Mrs. LaBianca. Waters says that Van Houten has been rehabilitated in prison and should be paroled.

The broadcast was timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the murders, which took place August 9 and 10, 1969, a mere three weeks after a much happier event. While looking online for another link, I found a blog that commemorates the murders. It has a lot of recent entries because of the anniversary but was actually started over four years ago.

I remember reading "Helter Skelter" while in grammar school. Years later when I met Vincent Bugliosi at KLOS, I told him that I still had a vivid memory of a crime scene photo in the book. In it, Leno LaBianca's body was whited out but a fork was still visible protruding from his abdomen.

My friend Lisa Burks, who writes "Adventures in Grave Hunting" among other blogs, sent me a DVD titled "The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter." It is hosted by her friend Scott Michaels of Dearly Departed Tours and Scott serves as tour guide and takes the viewer to the crime scenes, the homes of the other victims and more significant locations. The most effective parts of the film are when he retraces the steps of the murderers.

I found Scott's trip to Barker Ranch in Death Valley to be especially creepy. I was also surprised to learn that Sharon Tate and her friends ate their last meal at El Coyote, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants during the time I lived in California. It wasn't until I moved to Tennessee and started watching "The Beverly Hillbillies" reruns that I appreciated Sharon Tate's talent as an actress.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

dream a little stream

If money were no object (but it is), I would drop a hundred bucks or more on one of the fancy new WiFi clock radios I've had my eye on. In addition to receiving AM and FM, they can receive any radio station that streams online. One model can even record audio, like a DVR does with TV.

For years I had gotten along just fine with a regular clock radio. I would awaken to the audio simulcast of WATE. Before the digital TV transition, any station on channel 6 would bleed through onto the FM band at 87.7. I learned in college that the entire FM band sits between channels 6 and 7 on the old VHF dial.

At 4:00 each weekday morning, ABC World News Now gave me a good dose of news that helped prepare me for work. Plus listening to talk helps me wake up whereas music puts me back to sleep. Now that WATE has gone digital, the 87.7 simulcast is no more. Obviously I could put a TV in my bedroom, but I really don't want one in there.

Since June, I've been trying different stations searching for something I like. Because I'm not a conspiracy freak or a believer in UFOs and the paranormal, I find the the overnight programming on the local news talk station to be unlistenable. I tried listening to Fox Sports Soup on the sports talk station but didn't like the way all the hosts yell, including Matt Smith who used to work with me at KROQ. The NPR station is still playing classical lullabies at that hour. Even the uptempo music on Star 102.1 didn't wake me. I needed a talk fix.

As I started thinking about how much I could use a WiFi clock radio, an alternative idea came to mind. I realized I could save $100 or more by leaving my laptop in sleep mode on the nightstand. In the morning I could pop it open and listen to a radio station online. But which one? Perhaps I should try some stations from the places where I used to live.

When I first started working the early morning hours at WAVA, I would wake up to Larry King's overnight radio show. I especially loved it when he had showbiz old-timers on as guests. When Larry gave up the radio show, I started listening to Bill Mayhugh on WMAL, not so much for him and the cheesy Roger Whittaker album he often played, but for the rambling live news reports phoned in by Larry Krebs on the police and fire beat. When I moved to California, I tried a few options before settling on KNX.

The CBS streaming player works well. I can choose a station before bed, start streaming, close the laptop and it resumes when I open the laptop in the morning. WTOP in DC uses the Microsoft Silverlight player which failed to restart when I opened the computer. In my sleepy haze, I don't want to have to navigate around a website to find the "listen live" button.

One night I started streaming KFWB and really liked the way they have shifted their focus to include a heavy dose of entertainment news. They now use the slogan "Hollywood listens to KFWB." However during the 4 o'clock hour (Eastern time) they air a refeed of "Doug Stephan's Good Day." I switched to KNX that morning.

I also tried WINS in New York and will sample other CBS stations. Listening to WINS was a little disconcerting. They play most of their commercials individually rather than in a cluster. Each on-air commercial is replaced by a different commercial on the stream. Unfortunately the transition isn't smooth. It wouldn't be as bad with a cluster of spots.

On Friday I clicked onto WMAL in DC. From 3 to 5 a.m. they air The Midnight Trucking Radio Network. While I expected a lot of talk about carburetors and such, what I heard would have fit nicely on any conservative-leaning talk station, such as the news talk station in Knoxville. At 5:00, I heard a few minutes of The Grandy & Andy Morning Show before I had to leave for work. In case you were wondering whatever became of actor-turned-congressman Fred Grandy, know that he sounds like he's enjoying himself as one of the very few live and local hosts on a station full of syndicated programs.

When I got home from work on Friday, it was still early enough to catch some of the Kevin & Bean show. In the 11:00 a.m. (Eastern) hour, I empathized with Bean's anxiety over his wife wanting him to take a dance lesson with her. I doubt that he will cave in like I did. At least my wife doesn't expect me to attempt the super-difficult Argentine Tango.

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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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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 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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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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Sunday, May 24, 2009

change for twenty

Fr. Eric Andrews of John XXIII University Parish has a great new job. He is headed to Los Angeles to become president of Paulist Productions. Like the epistler they are named for, the Paulist Fathers specialize in communication. Before becoming a priest, Fr. Eric interned with The Jim Henson Company. I interviewed him on the radio after reading about the "Muppet priest" in the News Sentinel. In a column to UT students, Fr. Eric wrote that the Paulists have nominated his replacement, subject to the bishop's approval. John XXIII and Immaculate Conception are parishes in the Diocese of Knoxville but are staffed by Paulist priests rather than by diocesan priests.

During the time that Knoxville was without a bishop, Fr. Al Humbrecht served as diocesan administrator. Only a very few priest reassignments are made by a diocesan administrator. Fr. Al was forced to make some decisions when Fr. Vann Johnston was named Bishop of Springfield - Cape Girardeau. Now that Bishop Richard Stika has arrived in Knoxville, a relatively large number of priests are getting ready to move on August 1.

The list of new assignments was released this past week. There must have been quite a backlog. I wondered if the many changes were made entirely by the new bishop or if they were the recommendations of Fr. Al and other diocesan officials. A little bit of both, was the answer I got from a parish priest I saw Saturday. He also told me that a domino effect was set in motion by the retirement of Fr. Joe Brando from St. Jude in Chattanooga.

My parish, All Saints Church loses one priest but gains two. Fr. Augustine Idra is leaving All Saints to go to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Chattanooga. He will also be chaplain of Notre Dame High School. He will be greatly missed both for his spirituality and his fun-loving Chicken Dance at parish functions.

Fr. Tony Dickerson leaves NDHS to make a welcome return to Knoxville. He made a good impression on Bishop Stika as the master of ceremonies of the bishop's ordination in March. His new duties are three-fold: associate pastor at All Saints, co-chaplain at Knoxville Catholic High School and master of ceremonies for the bishop and diocesan events. All Saints pastor Fr. Michael Woods will be the other KCHS co-chaplain. All Saints is just across the parking lot from the high school, making it easy for Fr. Michael to minister to the students when Fr. Tony is traveling around the diocese with the bishop. From what I know of Bishop Stika and Fr. Tony, they are both regular guys who will probably get along great, especially at sporting events.

Fr. Antonio Giraldo, a native of Colombia, comes to All Saints from St. Thérèse of Lisieux in Cleveland. Since the parish town hall meeting, I have been anticipating the arrival of a Spanish-speaking priest. I think a Spanish Mass will be added fairly quickly after his arrival. The luxury of having four priests (the three I've mentioned plus Fr. Ragan Schriver) at one parish comes with a bit of a price. The priests of All Saints will have to take turns making the long drive to Scott County each Saturday to celebrate the 5:30 p.m. Mass at St. Jude in Helenwood.

A couple of other priests I know have new jobs too. When Bishop Johnston left for Missouri, Fr. Al appointed Fr. David Boettner as moderator of the curia. Fr. David described it as being a pastor to those who work for the diocese. At the time, Fr. David retained his position as pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Lenoir City. Bishop Stika has now reassigned Fr. David to be a priest in residence at Sacred Heart Cathedral, which is conveniently located right next door to the Chancery. Fr. Michael Maples leaves Sacred Heart to become associate pastor at St. Thérèse of Lisieux, replacing Fr. Antonio.

Fr. John Arthur Orr is known for wearing a cassock almost everywhere he goes. He is also known for celebrating Mass in Latin at his current parish, St. Therese in Clinton. His affinity for the more traditional makes me think he will especially enjoy his new assignment at Holy Ghost Church, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

popular culture

Menchie's Frozen Yogurt celebrated its grand opening in Knoxville this weekend. My wife and I stopped by the new Turkey Creek location for a taste on Saturday. Local franchisee Bruce Smythe introduced us to Danna Caldwell, who founded the company and her sister Shir Balas, who handles marketing. Danna (pronounced Donna) is the mensch who gave the store its name. Menchie is her husband's nickname for her.

Frozen yogurt has become fashionable again in Southern California. Some chains, like Pinkberry, specialize in tart flavors. Menchie's offers both tart and sweet yogurt. The ratio varies by locale. Danna opened her first store in Valley Village. When we told her we had lived in Burbank, she happily described the location of her store there and her other San Fernando Valley locations.

The customers serve themselves at Menchies. You pick a flavor or a mixture of flavors and then add your own choice of toppings. The cashier puts your finished concoction on a scale by the register, where you pay 44 cents per ounce. Trying to be concise, I said on the air Friday that they charge you by weight. Oops.

I mixed dark chocolate and island banana yogurts in my cup. My wife said it might be a good idea for me to try mixing the dark chocolate with tart pomegranate next time. I had intended to top my frozen yogurt only with fruit however all the other choices proved irresistible. I was especially intrigued by some rice thingies called mochi that were like miniature marshmallows. Danna said they had no taste themselves but picked up the flavors surrounding them. Afterwards, we remembered hearing about mochi last summer on "I Survived a Japanese Game Show." The contestants tried to eat the most mochi balls while riding tricycles.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

better than hot water and ketchup

A video on Funny or Die appealed to my inner child. In it, Adam West has fallen on hard times and is having a garage sale outside the Batcave. I wish I had looked for the Bronson Caves in Griffith Park when I lived in California. What if he really was selling stuff there?

If money were no object, I would buy memorabilia from my favorite show, much like KROQ's Ralph Garman has done. The first thing on my shopping list might be the bust of Shakespeare from Stately Wayne Manor.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009


Once again, Paley Fest has made me a bit homesick for Los Angeles. Every year the organization formerly known as the Museum of Television & Radio puts on a series of seminars with the casts and creators of quality television programs. This year's festival starts Friday.

If I were still living in the Southland, I would try to get tickets to see Tuesday's presentation on "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" and next Friday's panel on "The Mentalist." My kids got me to watch "Dr. Horrible" while they were here for the holidays. "The Mentalist" is a show that truly entertains me. In fact, I'm watching the most recent episode as I type this. Coincidentally, the plot centers on an investigation at a Hollywood studio.

During week two of Paley Fest, I would want to see "Fringe" and the unaired "Pushing Daisies" episodes. I got hooked on "Fringe" while watching for "Fish Bait's" Darby Totten. She appeared as an FBI agent in several episodes. "Pushing Daisies" was chock full of clever dialogue that often made us hit the replay button. It looks like I will be able to see the last three "Daisies" from the comfort of my own home. ABC plans to burn them off on Saturday nights in May and June.

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Monday, March 16, 2009


After the town hall meeting at All Saints Church on Saturday, my wife and I made a beeline for the mountains in an effort to catch a movie at the Gatlinburg Screenfest. The meeting had run long and the rainy weather slowed our drive which made us miss the beginning of the film. Fortunately, my pal Brad Bumgardner is one of the festival organizers. After the screening room cleared, he restarted it for us. He happens to be in "Boys of Summerville," the movie we drove all that way to see. Most of his screen time comes early in the film including the corn dog scene that I mentioned last year. Brad stole the show, as expected. I told him I would have enjoyed seeing his character more. How about a "Summerville Origins: Murr" prequel?

After the movie, we looked for a place to get something for dinner. Driving past all the pancake joints in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge left me with a craving. I hadn't had a pancake since that Oreo concoction last summer. Obviously I wasn't going to wait six or seven hours for one of the breakfast restaurants to open. The problem was solved as a familiar sign came into view.

The only Denny's within 50 miles of my house is in Pigeon Forge. We walked in around midnight, thinking that getting a table would be easy. Not so much. The place was packed with church group kids who were in town for the Smoky Mountain Winterfest at Thompson-Boling Arena. Note to the KTSC: the chaperones told us that even though the event moved to Knoxville, they continue to stay at hotels in Pigeon Forge because there is more there for the kids to do.

The large groups taxed the restaurant staff. Our waitress disappeared after taking our order. She had to serve a group of 70 kids from Georgia who were wearing matching t-shirts. Half an hour after we placed our order, another server delivered our Grand Slam Breakfasts and refilled our water glasses. While we waited, some women approached a large man with Elvis hair and glasses at an adjacent table. They wanted a picture with him.

The delay gave me plenty of time to study the amusing Rockstar menu featuring items named after alternative bands and a plug for the Warped Tour. The menu got me thinking that the last time I was at a Denny's was either in Burbank or maybe at the rock 'n' roll Denny's on Sunset Boulevard. Oh, and the two pancakes satisfied my craving for another six months or so.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

the homecoming queen's got a gun

George Mason University's homecoming game was televised last Saturday. I watched it, in high definition no less, on Comcast SportsNet MidAtlantic. So why has it taken almost a full week for me to find out that this year's homecoming queen is a dude? There was no mention of it during the telecast. The Washington Post finally had the story today. WTTG-TV and WRC-TV aired reports last night. I got all three links this morning when my daily Google Alert for GMU arrived. I suspect that the mainstream media got their news from Broadside, the weekly student paper.

Reann Ballslee, the queen in question, has previous royalty experience as a drag performer at Freddie's Beach Bar. When not in character, Reann is a popular student named Ryan Allen.

Oddly enough, this is not the first time I've mentioned GMU and drag queens in the same blog post. Please see the last paragraph of my May 18, 2006 entry. It tells you that I knew of the Queen Mary but not that I've also been backstage. The Queen Mary is the same club that Tobias Fünke referenced on the "Arrested Development" rerun I watched yesterday on HDNet.

Tobias would be jealous to know that Maximilliana had me hold his falsies as he dressed as a she. Max has posted video from that night on YouTube. It was part of the infamous Mark & Brian Show football bet punishments.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

trashing my scene

The big story in entertainment news this week was the angry rant by Christian Bale which was recorded on the set of an upcoming "Terminator" movie. Yesterday Bale, without the help of his publicist, made more headlines by calling the Kevin & Bean show on KROQ to publicly apologize. You can hear the call on the KROQ website. I think they'll let me embed it here too:

Both Kevin and my friend Bean thought they were being punked. Earlier in the week, Ralph Garman had done an excellent imitation of Bale. On Friday, Ralph had to insist that he had the real Bale on the phone. To put the apology in context, you can listen to Ralph's comedy bits that Bale said made him laugh. It sounded like the real thing when the fake Bale called to apologize but then launched into another tirade. It's at the beginning of Tuesday's Cinco De La Tarde podcast.

At the request of a listener, Ralph did the voices of both Christian Bale and TV's Batman Adam West. That happens about 20 minutes and 40 seconds into Thursday's morning show podcast.

In a similar vein, the NPR program "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!" mixed Bale's rant with audio of Tom Daschle's apology. You can hear it about 4 minutes into the "Who's Carl this Time?" segment of today's show.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

serious name dropping

The History Channel has been running presidential-themed programming all day. Earlier I watched a segment about James Madison on a show called "The Presidents." Tonight I was completely drawn in by a show called "Secret Access: Air Force One." As nice as the plane is, the couch that converts into the president's bed made me think that the customized 747 is actually the world's fanciest R.V.

Air Force One delayed my flight in April, 2005. President Bush was supposed to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park for Earth Day. Bad weather kept him at McGhee Tyson Airport instead. While he was here, I was waiting to go to the Washington, D.C. area via the late great Independence Air, which I still miss.

In all the years I lived in the D.C. suburbs, I only had two presidential encounters. Jimmy Carter waved at the box office staff when I worked at Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts. I later met Mr. Carter a couple of times when I booked him as a guest on KLOS. He came in at least twice to promote books he had written.

I've already written about the time my friend Bean and I broadcast from the White House lawn for a Redskins victory celebration. We saw Ronald Reagan throw a pass to Ricky Sanders. Yes kids, there was a time when the Redskins were that good.

I shook hands with George H.W. Bush, but not while he was president and not while in D.C. He made a campaign stop at Villanova University. I foolishly spent two semesters there as a math major and soon realized that I fit in better at the student newspaper and student radio station. Mr. Bush had a luncheon with student leaders in the Connelly Center as many of us looked on from an upper level. He made some remarks and acknowledged the people he was with, including Villanovan editor Marianne Lavelle. I started a chant of "Marianne, Marianne," which prompted Mr. Bush to call her to his side for a hug. Cameras flashed and a big picture of the two of them was splashed above the fold on the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer the next day. That's when Marianne told me that her family members were leaders in the local Democratic party and that she now had a lot of explaining to do.

Bill Clinton came to Los Angeles after his term to speak at the Radio & Records convention. I was working at the convention for my friend Pam Baker. She assigned me to be the liaison for "Access Hollywood" anchors Nancy O'Dell and Pat O'Brien. I had known Pat for years from his frequent guest appearances on KROQ. He felt comfortable telling me that he really wanted to be introduced to Mr. Clinton, which wasn't on the official agenda. I was aware of the path that the former president would take through the kitchen to the ballroom so I positioned Pat and Nancy in the corridor until the time was right. As Mr. Clinton was chatting with some people in his entourage, I saw my opening and took it. "Mr. Clinton, I'd like you to meet Nancy O'Dell and Pat O'Brien," I said. He quickly turned to greet them, as I thought he would, especially since Nancy is gorgeous.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

party quirks

More often than not, my wife and I stay home on New Year's Eve. One year we went over to the next door neighbor's house. Another year we went to the home of some church friends. We had three memorable New Year's Eves in California.

We rang out 1999 at a spectacular black-tie party for the film "Fantasia 2000." So many people were afraid of Y2K, that we got invited to fill out a table that had been purchased by a corporate sponsor. After a screening of the movie, there was live music by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Chicago. Maybe you've heard of them.

Another year we got tickets to see the Brian Setzer Orchestra at the House of Blues. Because the tickets had come from Setzer's management, we found ourselves seated at the same table as Brian's wife. I've already written about the New Year's Eve we spent in Pasadena, getting within smelling distance of the Rose Parade floats.

I had a great time saying farewell to 2008 on Wednesday night. I got to play improv games with my Einstein Simplified pals as part of the First Night Knoxville festival. The evening started early with an appearance on "Live at Five at Four" to promote our performances. Then we had dinner at The Tomato Head, which was packed with people. Despite the huge crowd, the staff found a way to seat our party of 16. I amused myself by ordering the vegetarian chef salad and then having them add free-range chicken to it. The words bacon and salad on the menu got me wondering if there is such a thing as bacon salad. It would have mayo and celery like tuna salad but with bacon instead of fish.

I was a little anxious about whether or not we would draw an audience. Our performance space was in a conference room in an office building across the street from Market Square. I said that I hoped ventriloquist Gene Cordova could draw a crowd. He had shows at 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. in the same room we would use at 9:00. When we got to the TVA West Tower, Gene Cordova had a standing-room only crowd that spilled out into the lobby area. Another conference room across from ours had musical performances by Bantry and Tennessee Schmaltz. They had a decent sized audience too, not Gene Cordova numbers, but decent. Most of the audience who filled the room for our two shows had never seen us before. I was surprised when a former WAVA listener in the crowd re-introduced himself to me. It was Don Samples, cousin of the late Junior Samples. Our shows went very well and I think more than a few of the people will come see us at Patrick Sullivan's in the future.

We ended our second show around 11:30 p.m. and went outside to see the "ball" drop. It was more like a balloon on a tether and not that impressive. Next year they should drop an orange construction barrel, as suggested by reader Cassie. A live band on the Market Square stage made the event feel like Sundown in the City, except for the bitter cold. Like the popular summer event, there were way too many cigarette smokers blowing their exhaust on others. We found a spot that was relatively smoke-free and watched the countdown to midnight. It was 25 seconds slow but who's counting?

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

the world is a stage

Why does the Tournament of Roses bother having a parade theme each year? Or why don't they do a better job of enforcing the use of the theme in all the floats? This year's theme was "Hats Off to Entertainment," apparently chosen because the current tournament president owns a restaurant called The Hat. There were some great floats that made use of the theme but there were others that made no sense to me. Knoxville native Jack Hanna rode on a float with realistic representations of wild animals. I didn't see anything about entertainment there. Hanna even kept his hat on. I also wonder why they still have so many equestrian units in the parade. I like parades with floats, bands and balloons. I don't need to see people riding horses unless they're doing something special, like the group that does rope tricks.

I thought there was a meeting each year for all the float sponsors to present their sketches to the committee. If any were too similar, changes would be made. The City of Burbank's self-built float represented a 3D sci-fi movie. A professionally built float for Trader Joe's also had movie monsters and 3D glasses. I have a feeling that this has happened to Burbank before but I can't remember exactly when. They might also want to make sure no two bands play the same song, like "That's Entertainment!" for example.

The City of Roseville had a float that looked like an old steam locomotive, spouting clouds of steam. It was funny that the float giving off the most steam exhaust won the trophy for best depiction of life in California. Jack in the Box entered the parade for the first time with two other firsts. According to the announcers, it was the first float with a disco theme and the first float with its own bathroom on board. The highly-touted, overrated Honda entry took forever to do its little trick and shoot confetti out of a hat. I think the rest of the parade had to pick up the pace to make up for the extra time Honda took.

I am curious to know how Stephanie Edwards got her old gig back as co-host of the Rose Parade coverage on KTLA. The station must have done some callout research. Bob Eubanks and Stephanie could also be seen nationwide on the Travel Channel. I could not find a high definition feed of KTLA's coverage like I did last year. Unfortunately the Travel Channel is still not in HD on DirecTV. The picture was blurry and unwatchable. On top of that, they ran an annoying crawl across the bottom third of the screen with text messages from viewers. In Los Angeles, the KTLA broadcast used to be commercial-free. The Travel Channel stuck advertisements for the Snuggie, the Twin Draft Guard and Mighty Mendit into the live broadcast, which made it feel like we missed seeing some parade entries. They should have timed the commercials to coincide with the equestrian units. KTLA has posted video of the entire parade on their website.

While the Travel Channel was unwatchable, the NBC coverage looked great but was unlistenable. Al Roker would not shut up. When some shirtless Hawaiians were on screen, he declared the new parade theme to be "pants off to entertainment." When the Penn State Blue Band performed, Roker said that it would take a long time for the band to "clear our cameras." When I flipped past, I almost always heard Roker talking over a band's performance. An interesting article in the Los Angeles Times says the Tournament of Roses gave NBC better camera positions to keep them from dropping their coverage.

Meanwhile on ABC, the parade hosts let the pictures do the talking. They let the bands be seen and heard. In the past, I have felt that ABC's coverage was lacking, that they only broadcast the parade as part of their obligation to get the rights to air the Rose Bowl. This year's telecast had a different feel. The hosts, Hannah Storm and Josh Elliott of ESPN seemed happy to be there, they did a good job of describing the floats and bands without getting in the way, they had good camera angles and interesting pre-taped features by John Naber about the building of the floats. It's as if the network stepped up and made their coverage the "official" broadcast of the parade. They had microphones on Cynthia Nixon and Cloris Leachman with the intention of interviewing both ladies as they rode past. Nixon's interview about breast cancer went well. Leachman's mic worked fine but she seemed clueless that Storm and Elliott were talking to her. Hannah Storm handled the mishap well. Because I was flipping channels, it took me a while to even realize that I was watching Hannah Storm. A couple of years ago I was critical of the terrible job she did on CBS' coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I've realized since her departure from CBS that it wasn't her fault. Her replacement made all the same mistakes, which indicates that the problems are with the writers, researchers and directors of the CBS coverage. CBS has stopped covering the Rose Parade. They should drop the Thanksgiving parade too.

Another possible reason for my not immediately recognizing Hannah Storm could be her new look. She may have had some kind of fashion makeover. Whatever she did, it worked. Toward the beginning of the broadcast, Josh Elliott sat there staring at her while she was talking. He looked enamored. About 40 minutes into the broadcast, WATE came back from a local commercial and forgot to switch from SD to HD. I had just complained about this same thing during the public affairs show I did this past week. Naturally, I called WATE to inform them. The guy who answered the phone put me on hold and called master control. As he got back to me, the problem was fixed. I noticed that they were right on time with all of their other switches after local commercials.

At the same time I was flipping between ABC, NBC and the Travel Channel, I was recording the commercial-free HD broadcast on HGTV. If I could only watch one version of the parade, this would be it. The audio was excellent, the video was excellent and the hosts did a solid job. Jann Carl and Robb Weller did both say "toin coss" instead of "coin toss." But if it was the only channel I watched, I would have nothing to write about today except their inadvertent spoonerism.

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