Being the Ricardos

Being the Ricardos.

It’s rare that I sit down and actually watch a movie or series. I’m that person who, more often than not, watches the first episode of a series on Amazon or Netflix and never goes back for the second episode. If a show doesn’t hook me early, I’m out. I’ve written before about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime, Modern Love on Amazon Prime, The Undoing on HBO, and Mad Men (I watched this on Amazon Prime long after it was broadcast)…all series that I completed. Oh, Succession on HBO is another one. But there aren’t many recent shows or movies that fall into that category of shows I’d spent time watching.

Enter Being the Ricardos, a movie on Amazon Prime. It stars Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz. Before watching, I wondered if I would believe Kidman and Javier as these two icons, but I need not have wondered.

Wow.

I Love Lucy. Yes, just like the rest of America, I love Lucy. I even loved every incarnation of television shows starring Lucille Ball. Being the Ricardos is a biopic about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and I love it. After hearing about and reading outstanding reviews of it repeatedly, I finally sat down last night to watch it. I had read that Lucie Arnaz, their daughter, had given it two thumbs up as a pretty accurate portrayal of her parents, so that piqued my interest. I didn’t get to watch it one sitting, because of household distractions, because I have a husband, a teenage daughter, and three dogs… but wow…what a film.

Most people in my generation and my parents’ generation feel like we knew Lucy and Desi. I wasn’t alive when I Love Lucy originally ran, but I feel pretty sure I’ve seen almost every episode in syndication…a concept that was invented by Desilu Productions, the production company founded and co-owned by Lucy and Desi, in fact. But I feel like I knew Lucy and Desi. I knew he was a womanizer. I’ve toured Paramount Studios in Los Angeles and seen a brick wall Lucy allegedly had constructed over the door to Desi’s office to keep women from “visiting” him in his office. But did any of us really know Lucy and Desi? No. This movie, though, gives us a glimpse into their lives behind the scenes, and it’s heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time.

I got so swept up in it, in fact, that I suddenly had a crush on the late Desi Arnaz! Or maybe I have a crush on Javier Bardem playing Desi Arnaz? That Cuban accent! Wow! The charm! The humor! The intelligence! Whether it’s Desi or Javier I’m admiring from afar, I can go back and listen to that Cuban accent over and over…and I never grow tired of hearing it.

I also learned a lot about Desi and Lucy as people. I had no idea Desi had fled the Cuban revolution in the 1930s. I knew he came to the US from Cuba, but in all these year, I thought he came here to pursue a career in music. No. He came to the US to flee the revolution in 1933, when he was just 16. He attended Catholic High School in Miami. No, I didn’t learn all that from the movie. I did a little research after watching, because I needed to have a good timeline of his life. He was a fascinating man, and clearly, lots of women thought so at the time, because in 1960, Lucy filed for divorce from him.

Lucy’s life was just as fascinating, but in a different way. I’m not sure I ever knew she had to testify before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in 1960, because she had registered as a Communist in her youth. According to the movie, by registering as a Communist, she simply was honoring the man who had raised her. If things truly played out the way they played in the movie, Desi Arnaz was a genius in getting the American public to look past that and continue to love Lucy. He had fled Communism to come to the USA, a country he loved. He was also a genius in developing a special three-camera system for TV and for convincing CBS and Phillip Morris (the sponsor of I Love Lucy) to allow Lucy’s pregnancy and Little Ricky’s birth to be portrayed on the show.

I’m grateful to Mr. Arnaz for clearing Lucy in the court of public opinion, because I love Lucy. And I’m grateful for the contributions they both made to American entertainment.

If you haven’t seen it, watch Being the Ricardos on Amazon Prime. It’s worth your time, if you’ve ever been a fan of Lucy or Desi in anything they ever did.

I Love Lucy.

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I Love Christmas Specials!

I love Christmas shows! I always have. When I was a little girl, I could hardly wait for “Christmas specials” to come on, and when they were over, I was sad. Back then, we couldn’t just record them and watch them whenever we wanted. If they came on at 7:30 one night and we didn’t get home in time, it was just tough luck till the next year. But times have changed! We can set our DVRs to watch what we want when we want…and we can even watch some things On Demand! I’m ready to watch!

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I love both versions, the old cartoon, and the 2000 live-action movie. I love everything about both movies, including the music, but I really love the liv-action movie. The sets and costumes are glorious. The characters are well-defined. And the story is golden, as it is based on the Dr. Seuss book. I could watch it several times a year. Jim Carrey is amazing as The Grinch. It comes on Thursday, December 2, on Freeform at 8:20pm. Set your DVR or tune in!
  • Frosty the Snowman. This animated Christmas special was made in 1969 by Rankin/Bass, the producers of lots of holiday specials back then. It was one of my favorites as a child, and it’s still one of my favorites. Anyone who has seen it wants a snowman to come to life in their neighborhood! See it Saturday, December 4, on Freeform, at 7:10pm, followed by my very favorite…
  • Ruldolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Produced in 1964, this stop-motion Christmas special has always been my personal favorite. I’ve written before about how watching this show transports me back in time, even at the ripe old age of 54. When I watch it, I feel the same way I felt as a little girl, lying in my pajamas on the floor of the family den, in front of our giant Zenith console TV. It comes on Saturday, December 4, on Freeform, at 7:45pm, right after Frosty the Snowman.
  • Love, Actually. Apparently, there is some debate about whether this movie is a holiday movie or not, but it counts in my book. This romantic drama follows nine intertwined stories of love. I love it; I had not seen it till a year or two ago, but it sucked me right in. Watch it or record it at 12:30pm on Tuesday, December 14, on Freeform.
  • Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town. Another of my childhood favorites, this one was produced in 1970 as a stop-motion TV special…another by Rankin/Bass. Narrated by Fred Astaire, this one follows the life of Kris Kringle, the man who becomes Santa Claus. It has lots of fun characters, including the frightening Burgermeister and Winter Warlock, but the story is lovely. Anyone who has seen it can still sing Put One Foot in Front of the Other, one of the songs sung by Kris Kringle and Winter Warlock. I loved it and looked forward to it as a kid every year. My mother used it as motivation for us to get ready for bed extra early. See it or record it Tuesday, December 21, at 1:00pm.
  • The Year Without a Santa Claus. This oft-forgotten stop-motion television special from 1974 is one of my favorites. In fact, my whole fifth grade class loved it so much that we produced a performance for the whole school. It features iconic characters like Heat Miser, Snow Miser, and of course, Santa Claus. It’s narrated by Shirley Booth, an actress who won the triple crown of acting: an Academy Award, two Emmy awards, and three Tony Awards, but I remember her as the title character in the sitcom, Hazel, which I watched in re-runs as a child. I can only find one airing of this special, on December 3, at 12:15am on AMC. With that time slot, you know it’s not the most popular Christmas special…but I promise it’s worth watching. You can also rent it on Amazon Prime.
  • A Christmas Story. This movie about Ralphie wanting a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas was produced in 1983 and has lots of memorable scenes. It has become one of my personal favorites, and I have the leg lamp to prove it! With so many memorable scenes, it’s hard to pick just one part I love…the Bumpus dogs, the leg lamp (Fra-gi-le!), the flat tire, the soap in the mouth, the tongue on the flagpole, the mean Santa, the bunny suit, the BB gun…it has become a classic. See it for 24 hours on Christmas Day on TBS, or you can watch it on Amazon Prime!
  • Elf. This movie, starring Will Ferrell, quickly became a favorite in households across the country. It’s cute. It’s quirky. It’s fun. See it on December 9 on Starz at 9:00pm. Or for a more fun experience, see it in local theaters on December 11 as a Sing and Cheer Along experience on the big screen! Check local Regal theaters. I’ll be seeing it at Regal Stonecrest in Charlotte at 1:00pm.
  • Miracle on 34th Street. I mean the original, which was released in 1947 and stars Natalie Wood and Maureen O’Hara. It won three Academy Awards and has become a classic…and a movie I never want to miss. You can see it on HBO Max or Hulu, or you can rent it on Amazon Prime. If you’ve never seen it, you need to sit down and watch it to get into the real spirit of the holiday.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life. When I was a teenager, I forced my whole family to sit down and watch this classic. My dad was not happy that it was on during a basketball game, but he humored me, and it became his very favorite Christmas movie. My mother and I always watched Christmas classics together, and this one was at the top of her list too. Watch it on Amazon Prime anytime for free with your Prime membership.
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. This one is a little more bawdy…it is National Lampoon, after all, but it’s hilarious! No one loves the Griswold family and their crazy lives more than I do! Come on, Chevy Chase is brilliant in this movie! See it on AMC or record it Thursday, December 2, at 8:00pm.
  • Holiday Inn. My mother and I discovered this one late one night in the 1980s. Made in 1942, this musical stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, so you know there’s good singing and dancing. In fact, there’s a song in the movie about how each will win a woman’s heart with his singing or dancing. The plot? An inn in Connecticut becomes a nightclub for 15 holiday nights out of the year. The song, White Christmas, was first introduced in this film and won and Oscar. See it on Amazon Prime.
  • The Polar Express. This one is a favorite for lots of people, and that’s why I’m listing it. It’s not one of my favorites. I think it’s a little creepy…don’t give me flack for that. It’s dark, and the story is weird to me. But hey…to each his own. If you want to see it, check it out or record it on TNT on December 2, at 1:30pm.

The holidays are a fun time for television! You can get as nostalgic as you want…and I plan to be pretty darn nostalgic this year. In fact, I’m going to try to get my daughter to watch some of these movies with me this year, since she goes off to college in the fall.

***And I promise the Stocking Stuffers post will be published December 2!***

Modern Love

Modern Love…

Back when I subscribed to The New York Times, one of my favorite regular columns was the one titled Modern Love. The Times describes the it as “a weekly column…about relationships, feelings, betrayals and revelations.” I had been struggling to find the words to describe it, but that sums it up.

The column is different every time, because it is written by readers. Readers submit their own personal stories. I can only imagine how many stories they receive, because I can only imagine how many I’ve read over the years. Sometimes they are poignant. Sometimes they are touching. And oftentimes, they are even funny!

I cancelled my subscription to The New York Times several years ago when I realized I was paying about $80 a month for the daily paper. It was the last newspaper subscription I had; at one time, I received three papers a day, but I had stopped subscribing to the other two when I realized how much I was spending on newspapers. I was sad to drop the NYT, but I just couldn’t justify $80 a month for a newspaper…and I didn’t like how the price seemed to continually climb…it started to feel like I was being ripped off. And it seemed excessive. So I cancelled it, and I have missed it.

This past weekend, I had coffee with my friend, Jennifer. She is my TV/movie guru friend, and she sometimes recommends things for me to watch. This time, she asked, “Have you ever read the Modern Love column in The Times?” I told her I had, indeed, read it many times over the years…and how much I used to look forward to it when I had my daily subscription. And that’s when she told me about the Amazon Prime series based on the stories in the column. It’s called, of course, Modern Love, and Jennifer said it is a must see.

Based on Jennifer’s recommendation and the fact that I love the column, I sat down and watched a few episodes from Season 1 of the series last night. It seems the stories are based on stories printed in The NYT over the years, with some fictionalization added, of course. And the stories are great ones…riveting, even…very well-written.

The first episode is about a young, single editor looking for love in all the wrong places while living in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn. Early on, we learn the apartment has been in her family for some time, so we don’t wonder how she can afford the lovely apartment in a doorman building. And the doorman is central to the story, as we learn early on that he is omnipotent and can “see” if each of the editor’s dates will turn into something more. Without giving away too much, I will tell you it will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions during the half-hour episode.

Episodes that follow are based on different characters…an entertainment lawyer’s struggle to find love, a seemingly perfect love, a betrayal, and more. The series is good, because the acting is good, but also because the stories seem real. You might even see your own story in some of the episodes.

And I think it’s the “seeing yourself” that makes it especially interesting. It made me think of my own “modern love” story. I’ve been married for 21 years, since I was 33. But before that, I was the perfect example of someone “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Or maybe I just had some growing up to do. I met my husband through some friends at work…not a very interesting start, unless I tell you I had gotten out of a years-long relationship just three weeks before meeting him. Because of my own experience, I always tell young people who are in an iffy relationship, “You won’t meet Mr./Miss Right as long as you’re with Mr./Miss Wrong,” meaning if you stay in a dead end relationship, you won’t meet someone with whom you might have a meaningful, lasting relationship and start your own family. I was just lucky I didn’t meet the man who became my husband three weeks earlier, because it would have been a missed opportunity…I was still with Mr. Wrong. I choose to think it was divine intervention that brought him to my office three weeks later. That’s my Modern Love story, in a nutshell. Maybe I will write it in detail one day…

For now, I’m recommending you take the time to watch Modern Love on Amazon Prime. Each episode is about a different set of characters, so if you find yourself not enjoying an episode (like the one starring Anne Hathaway), you can move on and not miss a beat. I will warn you, though, that while I was initially annoyed by the Hathaway episode, it ended up being a good story, so stick with it if you can.

And because I have fallen in love with Modern Love, the series, I might resubscribe to The New York Times. I used to love reading it…not so much for the news, but for the fashion, the entertainment, the well-written columns…like Modern Love.

While He Was Gone

While he was gone…

A few times a year, my husband and I go on our own vacations. Yes, we vacation together too, but we don’t always enjoy the same places, so instead of arguing about it, we do our own thing.

Last week, my husband visited the beach where he grew up. He got to hang out with his friends there, and I didn’t have to go! Seriously, I didn’t have to go…thank you, Lord. It’s a lovely beach, but it’s just not somewhere I want to spend my vacation time…so he goes when he wants. I go several places each year without him. We take vacations together too…no big deal.

But this time was different. He left Wednesday. He had a routine departure early that morning, and honestly, I was looking forward to having a few days to myself…to enjoy the peace and quiet, catch up on some reading, watch some rom-com movies I’ve seen advertised, and just do whatever I wanted to do. But my plans were foiled as early as the first night.

About ten minutes after I got into bed that night, I heard chimes in the hallway outside our bedroom. The chimes were followed by a loud female voice saying, “The battery is low on your smoke detector. Please change the battery now. The battery power is very low.” Yes, we have a weird talking smoke detector. I felt sure it couldn’t be too low, and I thought it probably wouldn’t talk to me again before the next morning. I was wrong. The “lady inside the smoke detector” repeated her message ten minutes later. I promptly grabbed my pillows and went upstairs to sleep in the guest room.

The problem? I’m short, and we have ten foot ceilings in the hall. I could reach the smoke detector with a ladder (which we have), but I have vertigo. Ladders are not my friend. And any time I lean my head back to look up, the vertigo kicks in…I’d likely fall backward off the ladder. I know my limits.

The next day, I got a neighbor to come change the battery. Problem solved, right? I will be able to resume my peaceful weekend, right? Wrong.

That very afternoon, as I climbed the stairs to retrieve my pillows from the guest room, I noticed that as I got closer to the top of the stairs, it got warmer. Not good. I walked over to the upstairs thermostat, and it was blank. It’s electronic, so I tapped it, hoping it was just in sleep mode. It wasn’t. My husband always deals with the HVAC company, so I called him and asked him to call his contact there. A couple of hours later, the technician arrived, and after an hour or so, he told me we needed a new upstairs HVAC system. I wasn’t surprised, because I knew it was about time for that, but I didn’t expect it to happen when the husband was out of town.

The next day, I sat down with the representative from our service provider, and the day after that, we had a new system installed. It was pretty quick, but it meant I had to sit home half the day while they worked. Not exactly what I had in mind for my peaceful weekend at home.

As soon as the new HVAC was installed, I sat down in the kitchen and thought, “Well, at least I get two more nights to myself.” Not…so…fast! Less than ten minutes later, my husband called and said, “I’m coming home today. Hurricane Ida is coming in, and even though it won’t be a direct hit here, the traffic is going to be impossible if I don’t leave now.”

OK. OK. The peaceful weekend of rom-com movies simply wasn’t meant to be. My husband arrived home safely last night, and we are back to watching the shows he wants to watch. Don’t get me wrong…I’m happy he’s home. I just feel like I missed an opportunity. At least he was grateful that I had handled all the issues in his absence.

It’s OK, I’m driving our daughter to Asheville next weekend for her to meet some friends, and I will stay in a hotel by myself…eating room service and watching rom-coms!

The Best Part of Weekends

The best part of weekends.

Weekends take on different meaning throughout life. I remember when I was a little girl, weekends meant going to the “candy store” on Saturday morning with Daddy after watching cartoons. As a kid, weekend nights didn’t mean much, except I might have slept over at a neighborhood friend’s house. We might have stayed up to watch Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show on a Friday night…and maybe even The Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack. When we were elementary age, my parents would drop us off at the movies on Saturday nights. They went out for date night while we watched a double feature.

As a teenager, weekend nights meant high school football games or basketball games, school dances, movie dates, or just hanging out with friends…maybe staying out till midnight at a party.

College weekends were all about the parties and sporting events…staying out till all hours. Good times.

As a parent, when my daughter was a baby, weekend nights were no different than any other night. We knew we would be up early the next morning, because our daughter woke up early. As she became a toddler, we might get a babysitter and go out to dinner with friends, but the greatest thing about weekend nights was knowing we could sleep in (a little) the next day.

As she got a little older…elementary and middle school age…she developed her own social life and had things to do on weekends. We became her own private Uber, and we were OK with that. We enjoyed taking her where she needed to go and where she wanted to go.

And then she got her driver’s license. She doesn’t need us to drive her around anymore. She goes out with friends on weekends. They go to parties. They go to sporting events. They will go to concerts now that live music is starting up again. They just go. They have a lot of fun. And when the night is over, she and her friends often have group sleepovers. Sometimes, six or eight of them will sleep at our house. And we are thrilled to have them.

The best part of Friday and Saturday nights these days is seeing all those teenage girls piling into our house after a fun night. They are always hungry when they arrive. Sometimes I order pizza, but the most fun is cooking breakfast when they come in. Last night, I had a total of six girls here, so as soon as they arrived, I asked, “Who wants breakfast?” All of them were hungry, so I scrambled a dozen eggs, cooked bacon, and made enough toast for all of them. One girl wanted grits, which was fine (I love grits too), but I told her they would have to be instant grits. I wasn’t going to cook real grits while I was trying to get everything else ready. She was fine with instant grits.

And while I cooked, they sat around the kitchen table, laughing and talking. They showed each other TikToks and talked about old times, and they laughed about things that had happened during their evening out.

I worked like a short-order cook and listened to their silly stories and their funny giggles. They asked me questions about when I was a teenager, and I told them funny things that happened. They love hearing about the 80s almost as much as I love listening to them all sit around laughing together.

I love that they are making fun teen memories, and I hope late night breakfasts at our house will be locked into their long-term memories.

Soon…in just one year…they will all be off to college. They won’t be in Charlotte on weekends anymore. My weekends won’t be filled with teenage laughter anymore. Of course, there might be weekends when some of them are in town at the same time. On those weekends, I sure hope they will have a group sleepover and let me cook them breakfast in the middle of the night while they sit around laughing.

But until then, I’m going to savor every weekend night they are here. I will continue to cook late-night breakfast for them, and I will enjoy the laughter. It’s the best part of the weekends.

There’s Something About Joe

There’s something about Joe…

Namath, that is.

That’s no secret, though, right? I’ve heard Namath’s name my whole life…and I’ve written about him more than once. I was born in the late 60s, and my grandparents were Alabama football fans. My grandfather was offered a place on the Alabama football team as a kicker, but because the family home burned down, he stayed home to help his parents. My parents both went to other colleges, but my mother was a Bama fan. Daddy grew up in Florida and liked Florida State, but he knew a good athlete when he saw one, I supposed…so he was a Namath fan too.

Plus, I’ve written about Joe’s charm and charisma before…you want to like him, and you want to root for him. He still has that same charm and charisma…at 77.

I’ve said before that when I was a little girl in Alabama, my parents would let me stay up and watch The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson if Joe was going to be on. He was always so funny and self-deprecating…and always smiling. I’m sure there were lots of jokes that went way over my head. All I knew was that Joe Namath was on TV, and everybody else on the show seemed to love him. Even now, whenever I hear he’s going to be on a TV show, I make a point of watching it. He is still just as charming as ever. He seems like a man who loves his daughters and granddaughters. And he remembers where he came from.

But I’m not writing this to try to figure out Joe Namath. He’s an enigma. No one will ever figure him out. I’m guessing he doesn’t even know the secret to his charm, but it has carried him a long way. He’s that guy. The one about whom we say, “Women love him, and men want to be him.” Even at 77…he’s still that guy.

I’m writing, because I will never get over how many people seem to love him. In 2018, I wrote a piece about visiting his hometown (Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania). It was an impromptu visit to the riverside town. My friend, Mary Ann, and I had been on a long road trip with our kids and decided to visit Beaver Falls on the way home. You can read about it here. Interestingly, that is the most-read piece of my blog this year…just like it was last year. It seems lots of people put “Joe Namath” or “Joe Namath home” in their search engines, and sometimes, it takes them to my little blog, where they read about my visit to Beaver Falls and my posing (in the rain with no makeup) with the plaque honoring Joe right there in the middle of town…next to the Carnegie Free Library.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Like I said, I’ve heard about him my whole life, and he wasn’t even playing for Alabama anymore when I was born! He was already playing for the New York Jets, but his was a household name…in my house, for sure. In fact, I remember seeing Richard Todd, another Alabama quarterback, play in the Senior Bowl in January 1976 in Mobile, and then I remember hearing he had been drafted by the Jets to take over after Joe Namath retired. Joe played the 1976 season before going to the LA Rams for the 1977 season and then retiring. To put it all in perspective, I was only eight years old at that Senior Bowl, and I knew all about Joe Namath.

Last year, for my birthday, my friend, Linda, gave me Joe’s autobiography called All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters. I was so excited to get it and just as excited to read it! Joe has had an interesting life, so it made for an easy read. If you’d like to read it, first, check your local bookstores to see if they have it, and if not, then you can order from Amazon. Since I’ve had him on my mind today, I decided to see if there are other books, and I found three more I want to order for my husband for Christmas: I Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow…’Cause I Get Better Looking Every Day, Namath: A Biography, and Countdown to Super Bowl: How the 1968-1969 Jets Delivered On Joe Namath’s Guarantee To Win It All. Think he’ll let me read them too? You can find them all on Amazon here. Also, if someone in your family is a Namath fan, shop the Joe Namath Fan Shop here.

If you grew up watching Joe on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson like I did, or even if you didn’t, his life makes for a fun read. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised so many people search him on the internet. Like I said…women love him, and men want to be him. And if you ever decide to visit his hometown, Beaver Falls, PA, please stop in and get some goodies from Oram’s Donuts. I might just have to make a special trip there for those donuts.

***Feature photo from joenamathfanshop.com***

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Saturday morning cartoons.

Ahhh…the good old days…when Saturday morning meant eating cereal in my pajamas while seated on the floor in front of the console TV. Saturday morning cartoons were the best. Everybody I knew who was a child in the 70s watched. For whatever reason, those cartoons made quite an impression on us…so much so, that I often find myself making references to them as a 53-year-old!

Just today, in fact, I caught myself making a reference to a Saturday morning cartoon. I got my shower and got dressed. Keep in mind that every November, I observe Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and since purple is the color for pancreatic cancer awareness, I try to wear it as much as possible. Sounds crazy, I know, and I don’t own as much purple clothing as I used to, but today, I put on some purple leggings with a cute, comfy tie-dye sweater. I then looked in the mirror and said aloud, “Grape Ape.”

When I was a kid in the 70s, The Great Grape Ape Show was one of the cartoons I loved. It featured a 40-foot tall purple ape who often uttered these words, “Grape Ape! Grape Ape!” My most vivid memory is of Grape Ape riding on the roof of his friend’s car after revving it up like a push toy. He was giant. He was purple. My leggings made me think of Grape Ape. You get the picture. You can see episodes of The Great Grape Ape Show on Amazon here.

During football games for my college team, I often can’t watch. My ego is apparently so healthy that I think my very presence actually has an influence on the outcome of the game. When someone asks why I don’t watch, I reply, “Because I’m Schleprock.” Lots of times, I get a puzzled look in return and have to explain that Schleprock was a character on The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, a spinoff of The Flintstones. Schleprock walked around in all gray clothing, often with a dark cloud (literally) over his head. He is known for having exceptionally bad luck, and when he is around, bad things tend to happen. So yes, if I think I am the catalyst of bad luck, I call myself “Schleprock.”

And since I’m talking about The Flintstones, I absolutely must mention “Yabba Dabba Doo!” Anyone who is familiar with the show knows those three words were used by Fred Flintstone when he was happy or excited…like when the whistle blew signaling the end of the work day at the quarry. I’ve used the exclamation many times over the years. First, every time I take a vitamin of any kind, I actually say, “Yabba Dabba Doo!” This is because, as a kid in the 70s, I took Flintstones vitamins, just like every other kid. In fact, when my brother was two or three, my mother and I were in one part of the house and heard him repeatedly saying, “Yabba Dabba Doo!” We ran to the kitchen to find him taking Flintstones vitamins and making the exclamation every time he took one. Good times! Fortunately, they contained no iron, so he was in no real danger. As an adult, I once noticed that an ice cream shop served Fruity Pebbles ice cream. I said to my then-10-yr-old daughter, “Yabba Dabba Doo!” She didn’t get it. Anyone who remembers The Flintstones knows they did the ads for Fruity Pebbles cereal. In fact, they’re still on the box. They’re also on the box for Cocoa Pebbles cereal.

Going from the prehistoric Flintstone family to modern times, everyone I know is aware of my fascination with midcentury modern architecture. Better yet, they know I love what’s referred to as Googie architecture, which was popular in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s futuristic and space age architecture…like The Jetsons cartoon. I used to have some dinnerware that had a space-age looking pattern on it, and I called that dinnerware my “Jetsons dishes.” Many times over the years, I’ve referred to building as Jetsons buildings. Come on…who hasn’t looked at the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport and thought about The Jetsons? Want to watch The Jetsons? You can rent episodes on Amazon here.

Anybody remember Hong Kong Phooey besides me? Sure, the name of that cartoon about a dog who is a private investigator is totally politically incorrect now, but back in the 70s, no one paid attention. The lead character was voiced by Scatman Crothers…what a great voice he had! The bumbling PI jumped into a filing cabinet to change from mere mortal into Hong Kong Phooey. Can I walk past a filing cabinet without thinking of the theme song? Hong Kong Phooey, number one super guy. Hong Kong Phooey, quicker than the human eye. He’s got style, a groovy style, and a car that just won’t stop. When the going gets rough, he’s super tough, with a Hong Kong Phooey chop! (Hi-ya!) Like I said, it’s not exactly politically correct. But mention the words “private eye” to me, and all I can think about is Hong Kong Phooey.

But by far, the Saturday morning cartoon I reference the most is Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Everybody loved Scooby Doo. It is one cartoon that truly stands the test of time. My now-17-yr-old daughter loved it so much as a kid that we used it as a measure of time. When she was four, if she asked me how long it would take to get somewhere, and it was an hour away, I would answer, “About three Scooby Doos,” because each episode, without commercials (on DVD) was about 22 minutes. When my daughter was little, if she said she was hungry, I would offer her a “Scooby snack.” Many times, I’ve referred to my daughter and her friends as “meddling kids,” a Scooby reference, for sure. And I’ve even said, “Jinkies!” and “Zoinks!” as exclamations of surprise. But what have I used the most from the show? Scooby Doo’s own, “Ruh-roh,” when I’ve hit a snag. Wanna see some Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Check it out on Amazon here.

So yes, Saturday mornings are still influencing my daily lexicon, and I love it. There were some awesome live-action shows on Saturday mornings too, many made by Sid and Marty Krofft, but that’s a story for another day. It’s fun to feel like a kid again every now and then!

All Quiet on the Home Front

All quiet on the home front.

Oh, COVID, how I hate thee. Not only have you messed up the last six months, but now you’re forcing me to be quiet in my own home.

School has started for the 2020-21 school year…remember when we were all excited about moving into the year 2020? It was supposed to be the year of clarity. We got clarity, all right! I can see clearly now that it’s going to be another messed up school year! And it’s mostly going to be messed up, because it’s taking place in my kitchen.

Actually, I have to give credit where it’s due. At least our school is trying to get back in the classroom. Our school opted to divide the students in half and they go on alternating days. That means every other day, my daughter will be camped out in my kitchen. Last year, she opted to do “remote learning” in the upstairs game room, but this year, she wants to be in the kitchen. I get it. There’s more light.

But there’s also more noise in the kitchen than upstairs in the secluded game room…and more chance of interruption.

Take today, for example. While our daughter was working in the kitchen, I was in my room trying to get some work done. I recently started some contract work of my own…not full time stuff…just something to keep me busy. I can work on my own schedule, as long as I have my computer, so today I was working in my room with Shark Tank on the TV for background noise. Occasionally, I would look up at the screen, if something seemed particularly interesting, or if someone said something funny. A lot of funny stuff happens on that show.

And then it happened. A guy made a fantastic deal with one of the “sharks,” and I expressed my disbelief…loudly. My daughter promptly texted, “Quiet plz!” I can only hope her high school English teacher didn’t hear my exclamation of surprise…it might or might not have contained an expletive.

So here’s my question: am I actually going to have to be quiet every other day in my house?

For most folks, that likely wouldn’t be a problem…especially if they’re working on a project of their own. But for me, it could be a problem. I’m accustomed to having free reign in my own home. I’m accustomed to talking as loudly as I like. I accustomed to laughing heartily and talking on the phone as I walk into the kitchen. I’m even accustomed to playing music in the living room, which is adjacent to the kitchen, during the day.

I guess all that’s coming to a screeching halt. I guess I’ll take all my phone calls on the patio. I’ll try to keep my voice down and my laughing to a minimum. I’ll try not to walk into the kitchen while laughing and talking on the phone with a friend…like I did today in the middle of my daughter’s history class. I don’t know if the history teacher or anyone else noticed, but I sure got a nasty look from the daughter. At least I had on clothes, right?!? I’ve read about moms who have unknowingly walked past the zoom classrooms in various levels of undress. That wouldn’t happen around here, because I don’t tend to walk around the house unless I’m fully dressed, but I am in danger of dropping an occasional expletive in the middle of class.

Next thing you know, my family will start shipping me out to a hotel on remote learning days. Honestly, I would welcome the opportunity to order room service for lunch. Should I make my reservation now?

All quiet on the home front…this is going to be a tough order. Any other moms of students who are learning remotely want to meet me for a long lunch every other day?

Memories of a 1970s Childhood

Memories of a 1970s Childhood.

After reading the Leif Garrett memoir, I find myself thinking about the 1970s. I was born in 1967, but most of my childhood memories were in the 1970s. In fact, I think my brain retains information from that time in my life better than it retains any other decade…and in much more detail. I’ve written before about how I believe we remember events better when they are attached to an emotion…happiness, fear, sadness. Maybe childhood is more emotional, because we have so many more new experiences, so we remember more. Lots of my memories from adulthood are either gone or more difficult to retrieve.

I can probably tell you the telephone number of almost every childhood friend I ever had, and I lived in different places. It’s not like I was dialing the same numbers in 1980 that I was dialing in 1975. I can even tell you the street addresses of childhood friends…the ones I went to kindergarten with. 112 Lakeview Circle? I know whose address that was. 203 Dawson Street? Yep…I know that too. If I don’t know the house number, I know the street name of almost everyone.

It was an epic time. I’m sure everyone thinks their own childhood was the greatest era, but I truly believe it. Our country was pulling out of Vietnam. We didn’t feel the imminent threat of nuclear war that kids felt in the early 1960s. Our relatives weren’t being drafted. Lots of cool things were happening. Here are a few:

  • The milkman delivered to our house. When I told my daughter about the milkman, she looked at me like I had fourteen eyes, saying, “Wait a minute. A man drove a truck around town, dropping off milk on front porches?”  We bought a lot from him…regular milk, chocolate milk (only one carton per week of this special treat), and even eggs, butter, and orange juice! The really big treat we got sometimes, though, was ice cream in a rectangular cardboard carton, and somehow, it just tasted better!images-2
  • When we took photos with our Kodak Instamatic cameras that used 126 or 110 film, we had to drop off the film cartridges at a local TG&Y, Harco, Revco, or other five and dime store to have it developed. We would pick up our photos a week later. We didn’t have the instant gratification…looking at photos immediately to see if they were good. And if we needed flash for our photos, we used flashbulbs atop those cameras! Correction…we had the instant gratification if we had a Polaroid instant camera. They were fun, but with only eight photos per photo cartridge, we wanted to get it right the first time.il_1588xN.2288145040_30ua
  • Kids rode bikes any time the weather permitted. My brother could ride a two-wheeler when he was two or three…much earlier than most kids. I could ride one when I was four or five, and we rode bikes all the time. Our only rule? Don’t ride it across the highway. So if we rode our bikes up to the front of the neighborhood, we had to leave them on the side of the road while we crossed the FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY to get candy and a Coke at the little mom and pop grocery store on the other side. Yes, I said FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY.
  • Kids rode their bikes in the fog from the mosquito truck. OK, so this is not such a great thing, but it’s a memory, for sure. Personally, I was terrified of the mosquito truck, but there were boys in our neighborhood who looked forward to seeing that truck in the summer. I don’t know why it was so much fun for them to ride in the fog…that may or may not have contained DDT…but I can see it vividly in my mind.images
  • Sunday nights were for TV dinners, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and The Wonderful World of Disney. We had to buy TV dinners on Saturday, because blue laws meant grocery stores were not open on Sunday. In fact, nothing was open on Sunday. Beer and alcohol certainly weren’t sold on Sunday.
  • Families watched TV together. Parents sat in chairs or on the sofa in the family den, while the kids lounged on the floor in front of the console television. It seemed everyone had a giant, color console TV in the family den. Johnny Carson was America’s favorite talk show host, and occasionally, our parents would let us stay up to watch him on The Tonight Show. Later, TV stations signed off with the National Anthem.56adbe711edad2afdadc86c0de9153f8 
  • We stayed outside all day and sometimes, into the night. Our mothers wanted us to come home when the streetlights came on, but with permission, we could stay out and play Kick The Can at night with the neighborhood kids.
  • Seatbelts? What seatbelts? Yes, cars had them, but hardly anyone used them. Kids bounced around on the back seats of cars or stood on the front seat…while the car was moving on a busy highway!photo-1564833840938-2f5041df082d
  • We had a locally owned single-screen movie theater, and it cost $1 for kids and $2 for adults. Most weekends, you could get in at 5:00 for the double feature, which meant you watched a full-length older film first…or maybe an old cartoon movie. Our parents dropped us off in time for the double feature, so they had four hours to go have date night. We got Cokes, popcorn, and Milk Duds. When I was eight, I saw Jaws on the big screen with my six year old brother! It was rated PG; PG-13 didn’t exist yet, and anything that wasn’t rated R was fine. We also saw Smokey and the Bandit, Rocky, Car Wash, The Bad News Bears, and more…all unaccompanied. If you think The Bad News Bears was made for kids, watch it now. I bought it years ago on DVD for my then-five-year-old daughter, because I didn’t remember just how bad the language was!
  • Pizza parties. We were thrilled to go to Pizza Inn (or Shakey’s or Pascuale’s) for a pizza birthday party. Everyone sat around a big table eating pizza. That was the party. We were likely in middle school, and we had the best time hanging out, eating pizza with our friends! Just good fun.
  • TV theme songs and commercial jingles were the best! Seriously. Do TV shows even have theme songs anymore? I can throw out one line from so many TV shows, and I imagine most folks my age can name the show.  1. Come and knock on our door… 2. Here’s a story of a lovely lady… 3. Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed… 4. You take the good; you take the bad; you take ’em both, and there you have… 5. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, shlemiel, schlimazel…Those are TV theme songs, and for commercial jingles… A. Here’s to good friends, tonight is kind of special… B. Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun! C. My baloney has a first name… D. Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us! E. Have a bucket of chicken… *See below for answers*

Oh, those were the days! A lot of life revolved around television. It was epic in the 1970s. And to think we fret about our kids’ screen time! Bahahaha!

I’d love to hear your memories from the 70s…

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TV them songs shown above: 1. Three’s Company 2. The Brady Bunch 3. The Beverly Hillbillies 4. The Facts of Life 5. Laverne and Shirley

Commercial jingles: A. Lowenbrau B. McDonald’s Big Mac C. Oscar Mayer D. Burger King E. Kentucky Fried Chicken

Remember Leif Garrett?

Remember Leif Garrett?

Yes, this is on my mind today…Leif Garrett. He was a teen idol when I was a preteen in the 1970s. He had been on a couple of TV shows…Three for the RoadFamily (with Kristy McNichol), and a guest spot on Wonder Woman. He had a singing career with a hit in I Was Made for Dancing. He was in the Walking Tall movies. He was on American Bandstand. And he even had his very own TV special on CBS. All that happened before he was 18.

I don’t even know why I started thinking about Leif Garrett yesterday. Sometimes, I start looking for movies I liked as a child or teenager, and yesterday, I thought of a coming-of-age film from the 80s called Little Darlings, starring Kristy McNichol and Tatum O’Neal. Somehow, that made me think of Leif Garrett.

Oh, he was such a dreamboat at the time! With his flowing blonde locks and surfer-boy looks, lots of teenage girls had his posters all over their bedrooms. Back then, we had Teen Beat and Tiger Beat magazines (remember those?) to keep us up-to-date on our teen idols, and in the late 70s, Leif Garrett was at the top of the list. But as we all know, most teen idols don’t last. Most are a flash in the pan…including Garrett. But there was something different about him. He had charisma that the others didn’t have. Well, David Cassidy had it, but I can’t think of anyone else from my time who had the same X Factor as Cassidy and Garrett. Somehow, David Cassidy managed to reinvent himself as an adult in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on Broadway, but the only place we’ve seen Garrett was Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew…sadly.

I’ve seen clips and read articles about him over the last 24 hours, and his story is tragic. He started acting in commercials as a child before moving into TV and movies. At some point, a management team decided to make him a singing star. With his charisma, Garrett was a walking dollar sign. He felt like he had no say in his own career and told Rosie O’Donnell on her show that he didn’t see a lot of the money from his fame.

But the real turning point in his life was a tragic car accident when he was 17. He was driving his Porsche, and a friend was riding with him. They had an accident, and the friend was left paralyzed from the waist down. Alcohol and drugs were involved. All terrible. It’s also something that could happen to lots of teens…a cautionary tale.

It’s tragic. The friend’s paralysis is tragic. The guilt and downward spiral afterward of Garrett are tragic too. Had he not been in show business, would this have happened? It’s an ugly business. Tragic. He became an addict…cocaine, heroin…sad. Was it the guilt of the accident that sent him over the edge? He made some bad choices, but this was a kid who had too much freedom and too much power too early. Who could handle that at 17? Fame and money make a strange life for a teen. Even good people can get caught up in the trappings of fame. Drugs plus guilt…perfect storm.

I am not diagnosing Garrett. I am not a psychologist. I just wonder what could have been. I look at that innocent face of the 1970s, and I want him to have a mother or someone else to keep him grounded. Had he been more closely supervised, and had he not chosen to drive under the influence that night, would his life have spiraled out of control? It’s sad to look at the photos of that sunkissed, young, hopeful teen and know what a terrible turn his life took. I don’t think he was a horrible individual. He was a teenager without boundaries. He’s likely not a horrible individual now, but wow, he has had a tough life. If he had stayed clean, would he be living a “normal” life now? We will never know. Some teen idols go on to have seemingly healthy lives, but the vast majority seem to have more issues than the “average” kid.

So that brings me to Garrett’s book, released at the end of 2019. Of course, I didn’t know about it then, and I didn’t hear about it earlier this year. With COVID in our midst, there hasn’t been a lot of press about the memoirs of former teen idols. But when I learned about it yesterday, I ordered it from Amazon, and I’ve read a couple of chapters, and it’s pretty darn good so far. It’s called Idol Truth: A Memoir. Yes, I will be the first to admit that I tend to be sympathetic. I’m a bleeding heart. I tend to want the best for people, and I’m sure I will still want the best for Garrett when I finish this book. If you’re interested, you can order from Amazon here. It will be available on the Audible app on August 11…I’ve already preordered it.

In the meantime, I’ll give my teenage daughter some extra hugs and be grateful that she’s a normal teenage girl living a normal life in North Carolina…not a teen idol. And I’ll tell her the story of Leif Garrett as a cautionary tale. I’ll tell her how quickly his life spiraled out of control, and hopefully, we will both learn some valuable lessons from Garrett’s experience.