The Bakkers

Jim & Tammy Faye

I met Jim Bakker in the mid- 80”s at his Heritage USA site in the Carolinas when Bakker and his wife, Tammy Faye were at the top. Their televised PTL Club was the hottest televangelist show on TV. Their Heritage USA was a national attraction. Bakker’s sex scandal was forgotten about. His obvious financial frauds were being overlooked because Ronald Reagan didn’t want to antagonize the large bloc of Evangelical/Southern Baptist votes.

My friend, Brunt, a NYC stagehand who had worked for years at CBS, and myself, were going around the East Coast, learning all we could about satellite TV, a concept Brunt believed would push cable TV out. It certainly has fulfilled Brunt’s belief in it, but also proved my skepticism of us ever raising enough funds to get into the race.

Bakker welcomed us when we requested to visit his TV studio. He put us up in a mansion on the grounds and gave us carte blanch to the 24 hour free food in cafeteria building on the grounds. There was a huge crowd of followers and freeloaders that had rooms in the many smaller houses on the grounds and were regulars at the 24/7 cafeteria.

Unlike Swaggart, Bakker treated his followers with respect and charity. Unlike Swaggart, Bakker was congenial, easy to talk with.

In our brief sit-down with him, he was thrilled to find out I was from Minnesota.

‘That is where I fell in love with my lovely wife, Tammy Faye.’

Tammy Faye was from the Iron Range in northern Minnesota. They met when both were working in downtown Minneapolis, and attending bible college.

‘Love at first sight. We married shortly afterwards, dropped out of school and started our itinerant preaching, any place, any where. One of the first places was a church converted from a movie theater in Minneapolis.’

He apologized for having to cut short our chat. The coming Sunday was Palm Sunday and he had so much to do yet.

He turned us over to Franklyn, his number one man, assuring us that Franklyn would show us everything on both PTL campuses. He did and was quite candid about everything and everyone at the PLT Club.

Brunt was very impressed by the state-of-the-art television studio. He said it was by far better than CBS’s studios. He insisted we go back a second day and I bowed out at the last minute. Darn migraine! I spent the day people-watching and reading, and second guessing this whole TV venture.

Sunday we went to church. The parking lot was full, buses, RV’s, many nice cars, but rust-buckets jalopies took up most of the spaces. Franklyn said Bakker didn’t charge them to park. ‘Soften them up so they don’t feel they are getting taken for a ride when they pop for his overpriced goodies, and keep having to contribute to another collection.’

To enter the church from the lot, you first went into a very large room filled with a maze of tables on which were Bakker’s overpriced goodies. Since there was no direct aisle to the church proper, you had to zig-zag around tables and the people manning each one. A brilliant money-trap.

I stopped at one and opened a bible autographed, at a slight cost above one without Bakker’s imprimatur. Then I opened another and compared the signatures.

Franklyn snickered. ‘The only time Jim writes his name is on his secret bank account.’

I asked Franklyn how long he had been with the Bakkers, and he said, ‘Too long.’ I asked how long he planned to stay and he said as long as Bakker manages to stay out of jail. That was the first time I heard the words ‘Bakker’ and ‘jail’ in the same sentence.

Franklyn sat us in reserved seats, front row, center, in the balcony. Best seats to watch live entertainment in any theater.

After assuring us we’d get a kick out of the service, he went to his seat in the VIP on-stage, folding chair, section. He later told us that they had to sit in those uncomfortable chairs because there was less chance of dozing off during the sermon.

It dawned on me that there was one important person who wasn’t to be seen…Tammy Faye.

The choir was top notch but didn’t have a lead singer as good as Jimmie Swaggart. Bakker led off with the story behind Palm Sunday. One of his favorite Biblical stories, he said.

Years later he confessed that the first time he read the bible was in prison. Up until then he got by by just perusing ‘Cliff Notes’ of the interesting parts.

It was a much softer service than Swaggart’s Fire and Brimstone, Repent or go to Hell, sermons. Bakker stressed ‘Prosperity Theology’, aka the Protestant Ethic. Money was a sign of God’s love and okay. The more money you have, the more it proved you were pleasing God.

‘And I am a shining example of that,’ he said, as he bade them to contribute to the church. which in turn would intercede with God and see to it you will be rewarded in this world and the next. And the KFC buckets were passed around for the first time.

Then he went into his spiel to sell ‘Life Memberships in Heritage USA’ at a thousand bucks a pop which would include a 3 day stay in one of the several luxury hotels that were to be built. Only one of these hotels were actually built.

This was the scam that made him big bucks but also the cause of him going to prison for mail and wire fraud.

Brochures were handed out detailing the this dream- come- true opportunity. And the means to get in on the ground floor. Then, on with the service.

He dedicated the next round of contributions to the PTL Youth Ministry. And to kick it off the giving, he pointed out there was a large ‘party-boat’ in the PTL lake, and he was donating that to the Youth Ministry.

Kachink!!! Bring back the KFC Bucket Brigade.

Afterwards, Brunt mentioned to Franklyn, he thought Bakker should be praised for his concern about the kids.

Franklyn snickered. ‘The money donated for the Youth Ministry goes in the same pot as all the other money. The Youth Ministry gets enough to keep it going, no more. And as far as that damn boat is concerned, it’s only April, and he has given it away four times so far this year. Once those hotels get built, the only way any kids will get a ride on it, will be with their life-membership parents.’

Snake oil slick.

There wasn’t a healing hands schtick like Swaggart’s, per say. First, Bakker put his hands to his forehead. ‘Seeking a vision.’ The first vision he got was there was someone in the audience whose Pacemaker needed a new battery, post haste. There was a collective gasp from many of the flock. The ones who suddenly grabbed at the left side of their chest.

Next, he invited all who were ailing physically and or spiritually, to come to the rail that divided them from them the sanctuary. He said he would lay healing hands and pray for them to be healed and to be reborn. It was necessary to be reborn if anyone desired to attain the God-given sign of forgiveness, namely a lot of money. The rail was quickly filled with the pilgrims who were sitting closest to it.

Bakker called a halt to the others who were coming. He said time prevented him to heal everyone in a physical way, but he would heal the others via the spiritual path. And he began with the laying of hands, audience-right.

Enter Tammy Faye. Quietly. She snuck in by way of a door, audience-left, that opened by the rail. The followers were intent on Bakker, and didn’t see her. Only people like me, who were bored with the whole thing, noticed her.

She came wearing a dress a tad too short to be deemed modest. But, what she lacked in dress, she more than made up for in make-up. Pictures of her famous facial make-up did not lie. She stood for a bit looking at the rail lineup.

There was a young man in tight jeans about three from the end of the rail. She moved quickly and pushed her way between the rail and the young stud. I could only imagine the look on his face, as she pulled him tight against her and held him there with both her hands on his buttocks.

Jim stopped healing and put his hands to his own forehead. Another vision.. ‘I feel..I feel there are people in this church who have Lust in their hearts,’ he said, in a voice louder than he had used before.’ Lust, deep in their hearts, that they must control. Lust they have to exhume if they are to be saved..

The lad in the tight jeans made an attempt to step back, but Tammy Faye pulled him back. Bakker then continued to work his way down the rail, slapping foreheads and asking that their prayers be answered.

He was moving faster then before, and his healing slaps were louder. They had some real sting to them. Franklyn verified my thoughts afterwards.

‘Not much love in that marriage anymore. Lately she’s been going out of her way to rile him up,’ he snickered. ‘That one today was a dozy,’

With only three foreheads to go before Bakker reached his wife and her special ‘sinner’, Tammy Faye released the young man and slipped out the door. The lad watched her go and turned his head just in time to receive a healing slap on his forehead. If anybody in the church was dozing off, that very loud slap would surely have woken them up.

I had to fight like crazy not to bust out laughing. The highlight of the PTL visit.

That service was the last time I saw Jim Bakker or Tammy Faye in person.

The next day, we met with Franklyn, before we left. We had wanted to thank Bakker for our fine stay but Franklyn told us Bakker had gone into hiding after the Palm Sunday Service. He didn’t bring Tammy Faye along.

‘Oh’, I said, ‘I dropped the car keys and had to pick them up right by the piano. I saw a mic taped to the leg. Was that a bug?’

Franklyn smirked. ‘Sure’, he said. ‘There’s bugs all over the house. One reason I never talked much in there. The phones are tapped too. A lot of bugs and phone taps in the village. Bakker’s got people that screen the tapes for him.’

‘No kidding!’ Brunt hollered. ‘What a goddam pervert!’

‘No,’ explained Franklyn. ‘He’s not a voyeur. Well, at least, not with these bugs. The only time he wants to know about is if somebody is something different then they claim to be. Like, maybe are an undercover Fed Agent, checking out the finances. Or a fink trying to dig up more dirt on Bakker. A lot of other preachers are jealous of the setup here, and want to take it over.’

As a couple outsiders, Brunt and I thought that worrying was excessive. The PTL and the Bakkers were on firm ground.

As an insider, Franklyn knew the end was near for both the marriage and the PTL Cub. He could feel the hot breaths of both Swaggart and the Feds.

‘About time to get packed,’ he said with a straight face and a shake of his head.

‘Oh, we’re packed,’ Brunt said. ‘Our suitcases are in the car already.’

‘I was talking about myself,’ Franklyn said, ‘Today’s a good day to move on’

I never heard anything more about Franklyn. I do know that where ever he went, what ever he wanted to do, he’d land on his feet. His predictions about the Bakkers came true soon after.

First hit was the Swaggarts revisiting Bakker’s sex scandal, costing Bakkers to be defrocked and expelled from the PTL Club. Next came the Reagan Administration failure to continue to look the other way at his getting-rich schemes.

In spite of Tammy Faye crying in the court and on TV, he was sentenced to 45 years in Federal Prison. Cut back to 8 years on appeal, because the judge had not held back on his contempt of money-grabbing crooked ministers.

Bakker served only 5 years thanks to the letter wring campaign of his son, Jay. And the promise of his celebrity lawer, Allen Dershowitch, that Bakker would never again preach this type of religion and commerce that led to the frauds.

He was paroled, but he still owed 6 million to the IRS. His dream world was a nightmare now. He had lost so much… including his family.

Tammy Faye had divorced him prior to the appeal; and had quickly married their old friend, the man who was the construction supervisor at Heritage Village.

Jim and Tammy Faye’s daughter, Tammy Sue, and son, Jay, had not only inherited their vocation, preaching, from their parents, they also inherited the millstone of the scandals.

Shame, depression, lack of self-confidence, therapy after therapy, rehab after rehab, battles with alcohol, drugs. Tammy Sue gave up a promising career as a singer to seek solace in religion. Jay turned from traditional Evangelism and became an ‘evangelical punk preacher.

Jim Bakker changed his religious philosophy. He now said the Protestant Ethic was a false doctrine. He concocted a religion based on ‘’proverbs, both Biblical and his own, based on the news of the times. For instance:

Hind- sight – Hurricane Matthew was God’s wrath against then President Obama.

Fore-sight – Civil War if President Trump is impeached.

Get-Rich-Schemes – Made a lot during the Pandemic when he sold colloidal silver as a cure for COVID. Escaping another prison term, he had to pay 160 thousand to the sheep that had bought into the scam.

After prison, Bakker became a big draw on the Guest Preachers’ circuit, where he met a Reverend Lori Graham. In spite of the 18 years difference in their ages, they were married a month later, and became a duo on the circuit.

Lori’s early years had been a disaster… abusive father, abusive husband, 5 abortions, sex, drugs, etc.. Her life changed when she decided to be Born-Again. Followed by becoming a minister

She devoted her time to helping women in their struggles. She was a good stepmother to Bakker’s two children and a good mother to the five children she adopted over the years.

Sadly though, she partnered with her husband via TV and books to tout the religion of proverbial visions, and she turned a blind eye to his scams.

The two wandering preachers finally found themselves a home base in Branson, MO, the hub of live entertainment in America’s heartland. In 2003, he got back on TV and was quickly picked up by religious TV channels. Stressing the upcoming Apocalypse, God’s retribution against men of bad faith. He’s got a new enterprise now to augment his usual goodies for sale. He sells buckets of frozen ‘Survival Food’ to survivalists that fear the disaster. Naturally, God told him about the Apocalypse in a vision.

In 2008, one of his flock, who credits Jim Bakker with saving his marriage, donated 25 Million so the Bakkers could move their TV show to Blue Eye, MO.

Not even a slight stroke could dent the vast TV following he continues to have on religious channels. Nor could the stroke interfere with God appearing to him in visions. Nor could the stroke stop him from becoming richer by the broadcasting minute.

The Evil that men do

Lives after themselves

The Good is oft

interred with their bones

Well, it would take a hell of a lot of de-interring to find any Good in the bones

of ‘Ministers of the Word’

the likes of

Jimmie Swaggart and Jim Bakker

But, in all fairness, there are examples of Good done by some Televangelists.

Stay tuned for: the ‘Ultimate Drag Queen’ who became a great ‘angel of mercy’, and the effect a famous preacher had on one of his flock.



Jimmie Swaggart

It was in the early 80’s. For three years, Jimmie Swaggart had a week long Revival shindig at the Met Hockey Arena. Swaggart was one of the big names in TV preachers and he wasn’t tainted with public scandal…just yet.

The first Revival week came just before I was about to enter into new contract talks with the Met. Frank, the manager of the Met, had warned me that Swaggart had been hard to deal with in working out leasing arrangements. Frank suggested that I, being Business Agent for the Local, might carry more weight in keeping Swaggart in tow. Working a TV preacher certainly wasn’t something that interested me; but it was good money, and perhaps a way to grease the contract talks with the Met. Frank gave me the opinion that he would like to see me cool the Reverend Swaggart’s jets.

The rigging crew had been working a couple hours before the hands and myself were on call. When I got there most of the rigging motors were hung. When I went to talk to Cap’n Scowl, a well deserved nickname for our head rigger, I noticed a young man sitting in the hockey penalty box watching the work. Scowl told me the ‘punk’ was some relative of the act, and the ‘dehorn’ thought he knew how to rig.

‘I listened to his BS a little bit, then I took rigging paper and showed him where to sit and shut up,’ Scowl told me, as he continued to yell up at our high riggers. I said I hoped he made his suggestions to the kid in a nice way, and he grunted, ‘Of course.’ I knew better though. Scowl had a lot of good qualities, but tact was not one of them.

This rigging nepotism happened a lot over the years, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rodgers and others. The star wants to save money and give a young relative a show biz job, so he thinks appointing the lad head touring rigger is the answer. It’s a good way to have tons of light and sound equipment come raining down on the act.

My first encounter with Swaggart came a couple hours later. ‘Hey! You with the hat, come here, Union Big Man!’

Sure is a wonder how those good ole Southern boys can spew forth the word ‘union’ and make it sound like a ‘union’ is the 8th Deadly Sin.

Swaggart had just come from Frank’s office to complain and Frank told him to go see the union steward, the guy with the hat.

I just waved and went about my business.

‘You, Union Boss.’ he hollered, as he hustled over to me, ‘I want to talk to you.!’ He stuck his face close to mine and continued to speak loud enough for everyone to hear. His eyes looked to be on fire and his breath smelled like…

‘I demand that you fire that rigger of yours. And that he apologizes to my rigger for disrespecting him. And for calling him an asshole.’

Whew! What a way to start out a seven day run! Good thing Frank warned me about this guy.

‘Well, Reverend’, I said after a little pause, ‘Our rigger was the union steward at the time. Now in 1974, in the NLRA, the US Supreme Court sanctioned the use of rough language by union stewards in a work dispute. (I knew that clause by heart and used it many times over the years.)

‘Now,your young rigger admitted that he was pretty green and had never seen a situation where there was a large scoreboard in the center of the rig. Our head rigger worked around it numerous times. In fact he is the one that hung that scoreboard to begin with.

‘Our head rigger is OSHA certified and has rigged here and in mant major venues in the US. He would have been more than willing to show your young lad the way it had to be done, but the lad was intent on being the boss. He had to get off the floor and shut up. Your relative is unqualified and could cause a serious accident, and costly a costly lawsuit.

‘Of course, you certainly can write letters of complaint to our employer, the Met Management. If they agree that Cap’n Scowl should be fired, I would have to do so. And then follow up with a petition to the EEOC and a lawsuit against you.’

Jimmie Swaggart squinted at me and his jaw was so tight I thought he was going to bust his teeth. Each time I mentioned a government agency I could see him getting madder. Good ole boys hated government agencies as much as they hate liberal-Yankee anti-segregation laws.

He spun around and marched off. One of the hands started whistling Yankee Doodle Dandy.

If I had known then what Swaggart was capable of, as I know now, I would have done one thing different. I never would have taken the job.

Next day, as soon as I walked in… another mad rant! He was waiting by the door for me. Hw was livid. He said one of the stagehands had laughing during the previous day’s service. Swaggart found this out when he previewed the tape back in his hotel room, prior to give the okay for showing it on TV.

Swaggart brought me into a dressing room to show me. Craig, our hand paging Swaggart’s mic cable, was sitting in the VIP’s section, on stage, stage right. In full view of the audience and the camera. He was smiling, trying not to laugh, and actually did laugh out loud a couple of time. Since he was behind Swaggart’s back, Swaggart was one of the few that wasn’t aware of he was being made fun of.

He certainly became aware when he watched the tape of the service.

‘You can actually see him laughing out loud at the most crucial moment of the service. The laying of my healing hands on the cripple. And when the man threw down his crutches and walked, you can see your man laughing like a crazy clown.’Swaggart, said in his loud voice with his bad breath once again in my face.

‘ I want an apology! I want that man fired! And don’t give any of your liberal alphabet of government agencies. I want him fired!

And then Swaggart lowered his voice to almost a whisper and said.’You better punish him…or I will.’

I got chills when Swaggart said that and I felt it was as much a promise as a threat.

I also was at a loss for words. I was ashamed. Craig was a good hand, good worker, always cheerful. But what he did was unprofessional. Stagehands work the show, not become the show. Goofing around backstage out of sight with the masking preventing the audience from hearing the offstage fun is one thing. Doing something like this in full view is another.

‘I apologize, Reverend,’ I finally said. ‘It was highly unprofessional. I will replace him with a competent hand’, I said.

‘But as far as him apologizing directly to you… and firing him for laughing, that could open up a big can of worms. I don’t think our employer wants a 1st Amendment debate whether laughing counts as a right of free speech. And as Union BA, I am honor bound to defends a members rights, even though he acted unprofessional.

’ I know you are in the process of ironing out an agreement with the Met for next year.’ I didn’t tell him that we were also in contract negotiations with the Met. Suffice to say let me handle my man. Accept my apology, and let’s leave it at that.’

‘Okay,’ he said, after a thinking on it. ‘Maybe the tape can still be used if that jackass is cropped out. But that’s two strikes on your union, Mr. Boss Man,’he said in that low threatening tone as he motioned me to leave the room.

At that time, I had no idea of how far he would go to carry out a threat/promise. I knew he was a slick snake-oil salesman, but I never realized until years later, he was also a reincarnation of The Snake itself.

I went and talked to Craig. He had only been working as a stagehand for a couple years and I just gave him a talking to, and a warning never to do anything like this again. I assigned him the t spotlight in the farthest attic cove where nobody could hear his laughing and told him not to jiggle the spot if he had to laugh. Frankly, I had found the whole service very funny myself.

Next, I assigned a different hand to be the cable pager. One that never found anything funny, and I hoped would not become bored and fall asleep at the job.

That bit where Swaggart lays his hands on a halt, sick, or lame person from the audience was the hit of the show…every show. In that first one, in spite of Craig laughing, when man threw down his sticks and limped offstage, the audience erupted, drowning out Craig’s uncontrolled yukking. And the KFC buckets were passed among the followers a second time so they could show their approval,,, with more money donations.

The first time the buckets were passed was during the opening hymn. The third time buckets they were passed was during Jimmie’s singing of the final hymn.

To paraphrase an old WWII song ”Praise the Lord and pass those chicken buckets.”

I don’t know which preacher came up with the idea of using KFC buckets instead of collection plates, but he sure belongs in the Preacher’s Hall Of Fame.

Those cardboard buckets were perfect, big to hold a lot of money, deep enough so no one could reach in to make change, and were always in full sight as they were passed. After every collection they were nested in two stacks and carried off by two ushers, who then brought back two stacks of empties for the next money drop. Stacked so only one bucket was in danger of being lightened by the carrier. And two carriers of the bucket, each watching the other so there wasn’t any lightening the load.

The collection ushers were part of a cadre of about a dozen of Swaggart’s men. Their other duties revolved around selling Swaggart goodies like albums, books, even special Bibles autographed by Jimmie himself. The swag could be bought at tables placed by all the doors in or out of the arena. For each show one man was rotated out of the normal duty roster and became the stooge for the day.

He was the man who gets miraculously healed by Jimmie’s hands and prayers. While the throwing down the crutches and walking was the most popular, other bits, like a man stooped over being restored to a proper posture, or having a deaf man hear, a mute man to speak, were worked to break the monotony for the believers, who came to one or more shows.

Each of the shows over the three Revival weeks stuck to the healing hands bit, even if the stooges changed from year to year. There was never any sitting on their hands by the followers when the Reverend Jimmie did his healing hands schtick. I did notice though at times there was slight jiggle of Craig’s follow spot.

Those first two days were both Swaggart and I were marking our territories was the only times the two of us knocked heads for the rest of all three runs. We nodded to each other when we passed but didn’t talk. Anything that Swaggart wanted concerning the union hands were few and far between minimal requests that came to me via Frank the Met director. Cap’ Scowl put the show rigger in the penalty box without any complaints about his action or his rough language. Cable paging went complaint free.

There was one rant from Swaggart in the second Revival Week; but not directed at us. One of the hands pointed out to Jimmie that not too far away was a dinner theater that was featuring his cousin, Jerry Lee Lewis. Swaggart lost it and went into a fire and brimstone tirade against his cousin, calling him a spawn of Satan and singer of music of the devil.

(He mellowed in his later years as to his feelings toward his cousin. There are many videos of the both of them singing and playing old familiar hymns. No video showing them both rocking outto Great Balls Of Fire, though. Although with a little revision that rocker could have been Swaggartized to Great Balls of Fire and Brimstone. Or maybe another of Jerry Lee’s ‘Music of Satan, could be changed to A Whole Lot of Praying Going On.)

And, of course, during the three Revivals, Swaggart never stooped to give a mundane thank you such as ‘goodbye’ or’ good work’. A ‘thank you’ was as foreign to that Narcissist as was the Sign of the Cross.

But heck… the work wasn’t hard, the hours were fine, and listening to Swaggart sing hymns was a treat.

And the money was good. After we signed the new contract with the Met, the money was even better. Frank saw to it an event that would also be televised at a later date was worth a real good raise.

Those three Revival weeks was the extent of my contact with Reverend Jimmie Swaggart. Thank goodness. It didn’t change my belief in TV evangelists. It just verified them..

For more verifications, stayed tuned for TV Preachers Live (2) starring

The Bakkers

Jim and Tammy Faye


Of the three Ferriday cousins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley, and Jimmy Swaggart, the first one to be born, Jimmy Swaggart, is the last one living.

Jimmy was was born on 3/15/35 to Willie Leon Swaggart and Minnie Belle Herron.

Willie Herron, known more by the nickname ‘Sun’ was a Hell-Warning, down-home, country preacher, and a hell of a down-home country fiddle player. Minnie Belle was a dutiful wife and mother. The two were closely related, which was not unusual in these close-knitted towns, where the ‘clan was intertwined like a big tight ball of rubber bands’.

Jimmy and his sister, Jeanette, spent much of their youth going to churches where Sun preached and played.

And in his spare time, Jimmy hung around with his cousins, Jerry Lee and Mickey, enjoying the music at the Blues club in Ferriday. Music was the big thing in the lives of those three boys and Jimmy led the way by playing piano and guitar and singing.

Jimmy married Francis Anderson whom he met at the church in Winster, La, where he would provide musical accompaniment and his rich baritone singing to Sun’s churching. Jimmy was 17 and Francis was 15. The year was 1952. And the marriage continues yet today in spite of struggles that would doom most marriages.

The early 50’s were years of poverty that found Jimmy working part time at odd jobs and preaching where ever he could. He picked up a little cash for singing hymns at various Pentecostal churches.. Mid- 50’s picked up when Jimmy was given a flat bed truck to use as a moving stage. and he preached full time, holding revivals all around the south.

In 1960, he started recording Christian music that got a lot radio play. Sam Philips, head of Sun Records, wanted to sign him as the recording company’s start in a Gospel Music division. Swaggart said no, as it would interfere with his spreading the word. In 1961, he was ordained as a minister in the Assemblies of God Pentecostal Church, preaching in a church he founded in Baton Rouge, La. He had arrived.

Now here we have one of the three cousins, there is Jimmie, the cousin that had only one wife, and is still married to her, Jimmie, the cousin that is proclaimed to be a ‘man of God’, Jimmie, the cousin that achieved fame and fortune through religion, no rocking and rolling, no running a saloon, and no booze or drug addiction. The shining star of the three cousins. Well think again!

He might have devoted his life to serving God, on the surface; but in reality, his life has been one scandal after the other. Compared to Cousin Jimmy Swaggart, Cousin Jerry Lee Lewis is a saint.

Jerry Lee Lewis was rash and reckless.

Jimmie Swaggart is cold and calculating.

Jerry Lee Lewis is a member of 2 Hall of Fames

Rock and Roll HOF & Country Music HOF.

Jimmie Swaggart is

Not a member of the

Gospel Music HOF

But if there was an Elmer Gantry

Hall of Shame

Preacher Jimmie would be inducted

on first vote.

And Jimmy’s wife, Francis, hasn’t been a long suffering woman. She been a partner in most of his scandals and a few of her own. Their son, Donnie, is also a preacher following in his father’s way to gain wealth and satisfaction. Donnie’s son, Gabriel, who heads the Swaggart Youth Ministry, continues to lead a lustful life while wearing the garb of a man of God. Dog loose in the meat market’

All four can be seen and heard on the Swaggart’s 24/7 cable TV network, Sonlife Broadcast Network, preaching, praying, pleading, while pretending to be sincere Bringers of the Holy Word, (Bringers of the Bucks), and Bringers of the Holy Life, (Bringers of the Does), they are prime examples of do-what-I-say, not-as-I do.

Originally, I had thought this bio post would run like my posts on the other two cousins. I started skimming over the sins of Swaggart with a little detail of the most prominent one. Before I knew it the bio post was over 4,000 words and still more. Not only was I surprised as I got into his life, I was also disgusted. I decided to take a different approach and use a cut-back- tact.

Jimmie Swaggart is the subject of countless news articles, magazine articles, tabloid fodder, books, documentary films, state and federal writs, court hearings, grand jury investigations. What he seems to lack, outside his books and pamphlets he sells through his Ministry, is any positive statements… except as regards his singing and playing.

Here is a very brief account of his ‘life’s work’.

Hypocritical Defamation or as he calls himself a Religious Vigilante accusing other preachers of ‘sins’, get-rich-quick, sex outside of marriage The very same ’sins’ that are also his vices. Takes one to know one.

Financial Fraud – He never served time for fraud like Jim Bakker, another TV evangelist did, but he makes Bakker’s fraud seem penny-ante. His victims – the elderly, the poor, orphans, his followers. His frauds involve around a Children’s’ hospital, Hurricane Katrina, Swaggart University, his porno-printing company, African missions, conning money from followers’ wills, bribery and or hush money payments for his misdeeds but paid for by his Church. He did pay a million dollar plus fine out of his own pocket when the IRS hit him up. He never built a Crystal Cathedral, but he di spend church funds to have a lavish and large estate.

Sex– His first public sex scandal came about just after he go both Jim Bakker and John Gorman defrocked for sex/rape incidents.

Whine – He cried teary eyed on live TV and asked for forgiveness. He was forgiven but two months deemed insincere and was defrocked as a Pentecostal minister. Didn’t lose any followers though. What he did lose was the shackles of the Pentecostal Church. When he got caught in a sex scandal the second time, he didn’t cry and whine. He just told how God talked to him and told him to just say it’s none of anybody’s business but his own. And he still lives by those words.

Mayhem – quick tempered, threats of violence, many carried out either by Jimmie or ‘persons unknown’.

Murder – He and and some his church officials were put for trial for the beating death of an elderly lay just a few days after she willed everything to Swaggart Ministries. The jury absolved Swaggart and ruled that some of the officials were involved. A payment to the woman’s son by Swaggart Ministries to help the poor lad get over his grief was made and the matter forgotten by the courts.

Two of Jimmie’s favorite prostitutes disappeared after telling people that they feared for their lives after Jimmie made threats to them. They have never been heard of since. Swaggart Ministries gave monies to the families to soften their grief.

Witness Intimidation – Bribery – Hush Money – Countless times. The most prominent one concerned the prostitute in the motel scandal. She was easily identified in the pictures. Then she disappeared…for good. Not wanting to be linked with the disappearing, he paid another prostitute to sell her ‘story’ of being in the motel with Jimmie. She got money from the tabloids and money from Swaggart Ministries. She failed the lie detector tests but never veered from the story over all these years.

Her mouthy brother was given some hush money as a compensation for his sins of calling his sister a liar, along with the promise any slander in the future could be unhealthy.

Women – Sex – And More Women – Jimmie Swaggart’s sex exploits are the stuff that sell tabloid news and tell-all books. Over the years he has accumulated long time mistresses and long and short time prostitutes. They all seem to agree on his preferences…kinky and weird and young. His favorite place, his Lincoln Town Car, parked or moving. His favorite foreplay, haggling over the price. One of his regulars said she went along with his all demands… except when he wanted a three-some. The third participant being the prostitutes nine year old daughter. Since God spoke to him, Jimmie has no comment when quizzed about his hobby.

And Francis Swaggart shares the same vices as the men in the family. Several times, Jimmie has said in public, that because of his infidelities, Francis has severed any sex with him, years ago; and she has taken many lovers…all women.

Song – And now to give the devil his due, we go to the one positive aspect of Jimmie Swaggart…his singing voice and musical talent. Even though these achievements are backed by many followers trying to kill two birds with one stone, namely buying a closer walk with God via enjoying good gospel music, the results are startling.

In just the decades of the 70’s and 80’s, Jimmy Swaggart sold 17 million LP albums of his musical talent. He remains a top seller of gospel music even today at age 84…even today though his rich baritone voice is heard for free on countless radio and TV shows 24/7…even today when his scandals should have, but never did, destroyed his career.

Of the three cousins

I worked The Killer once


I worked The Urban Cowboy twice


I worked The Preacher many times

Double Darn

At the apex of his popularity

I also had some personal dealings with another TV evangelist

Jim Bakker

At the apex of his popularity

Stay tuned for TV Preachers Live


Bad weather. Schools closed, except for teaching via the net. Before your time, we had bad weather, school closing, but no idea there would ever be such a thing as the net.

Back in those days, there was also no TV, no Tik Tok, no E Books and as far as cell phones were concerned, never even dreamed of such things. We were considered blest to have a wall mounted dial phone, even if we shared it with an eight other phones on the party line. But we had radio. The Golden Age of Radio.

And like today, we had weather. And like today, weather was talked about a lot. And like today, there was nothing we could do to change it.

This is a remembrance of that time long ago.

Miss Fee

Another back-in-the-day post:  before we had streaming TV, heck before we ever heard of TV, we had radio, and before we had schools with basketball courts and buses to transport us to these wonderful buildings, we had one-room schoolhouses. One room, one teacher, grades One thru Eight. The enrollment went from 8 pupils one year to a high of 14 another year.


The Original Story

Growing up on a small farm, our one radio was the only source of outside entertainment available to me. I hurried with my chores so I could listen to “my programs” – Tom MixLone Ranger, etc.. After supper, Mom controlled the dial (Dad worked nights in the packinghouse), and we listened to comedies like Fibber McGee, dramas like The First Nighter, and music like Your Hit Parade. Sometimes, when she was busy, I would lower the volume and find a crime show like Sam Spade, or a thriller like Suspense. A second radio would have been wonderful but was out of the question.

I went to the one-room schoolhouse across the field. Miss Fee, who lived on a farm with her four bachelor brothers, taught all eight grades as she had for years. She ruled with a stern scowl and a wood ruler.

One very cold early evening, she walked into our kitchen and announced she could not get her DeSoto started and was going to spend the night with us. And she added, that she hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. Mom, who also had Miss Fee as a teacher, would never had dared to offer any alternatives, and did everything that Miss Fee ordered, even letting her control the radio dial.

After that first night, the DeSoto seemed to fail every time the mercury dropped below zero, and we would have our very demanding guest. Mom told Dad that she didn’t believe the “car won’t start” story. “Those Fees are so tight with a buck,” Mom explained, “It’s her way of getting a good meal and a warm bed, having somebody else do the work.” Dad just smiled. “And,” Mom added, “She even has to listen to her radio programs! I go to listen to Kraft Music Hall. She turns on Sunset Valley Barn Dance!”

I saw an opening, “Well, if we had another radio…” Mom cut me off with her “Think-we’re-made-of-money” look. Dad shook his head.

Then one night, a Monday night, Miss Fee walked in. Everything went as usual except when eight o’clock came, time for Mom’s one must-listen-to program, Lux Radio Theater. She had hurried with her work and was sitting in her favorite chair, her crochet materials in her lap, listening to the words, “Lux Presents Hollywood,” her favorite hour of the week, when…Miss Fee turned the dial to Doctor I.Q.!…”I have a woman in the balcony, Doctor. And for three silver dollars…”

Mom stood up, and without a word, went to bed.

The very next payday we got our second radio. From then on, Mom could listen to Jack Benny and Bing Crosby, and I could solve crimes with Johnny Dollar and get goose bumps from the squeaking door of Inner Sanctum except when Miss Fee’s DeSoto wouldn’t start.

    Technically this is not an OLD HAND published newspaper story. It was published in the OLD TIME RADIO CATALOG. They asked for stories concerning old time radio. This was the first they ever published and I received ten CD’s of old time radio for it. Their web site is excellent. If you want to know what old timers like me listened to instead of TV, go to their web site. Not only is it informative, there is free old time radio programs you can listen to.

ADDENDUM to the published story.

This was only part of the story. That first night Miss Fee declared she was spending the night, there were three choices, Mom and Dad’s bedroom, the kids’ bedroom, the living room couch. Naturally, Mom put her in her and Dad’s bedroom. Mom would sleep with my sister and Dad would sleep on the couch.

There would be no problem. Every night when Dad came home from work, Mom always woke up. She knew she could intercept Dad when he was sitting at the kitchen table eating a sandwich. She would explain the problem.

But there was a problem! Mom never woke up that night when Dad came home; but boy did she wake up when Dad started screaming and swearing. We all woke up.

Poor Dad. He was clad only in his jockey shorts and was standing facing the corner of the hall by his bedroom, trying to protect his head with his hands.

God damn it, woman,’ he kept yelling over and over, ‘You lost your mind or something? I’m your husband, not a god damn burglar.’

And Miss Fee, wearing long johns and her gray wool sweater was working him over with a broom, this pervert who had tried to climb in bed with her.

Mom jumped to the rescue and grabbed the broom away from Miss Fee at the same time trying to explain to both participants what had happened.

And the three of us older kids just couldn’t stop from laughing at the sight caused by the misunderstanding. The baby of the family slept through it all.

Miss Fee quickly retreated to the bedroom and we could hear her praying the rosary behind the closed door. Dad stomped into the living room and Mom followed, apologizing all the way after yelling for us kids to go back to bed. We did but it took a long time for us three kids to stop laughing and finally go to sleep; and by that time, we woke the baby and it took a long time for Mom to get him back to sleep.

The next day at school, Miss Fee brought me into the back room and begged me not to tell any of the other pupils what happened the night before. I said I wouldn’t, mainly because I had told some of them before school had even started and by then they all knew.

And Mom and Dad arranged for a signal that Miss Fee was spending the night, just in case Mom ever overslept, which she never did again.


The end of one year. The start of another. A time filled with new hopes and old memories. At my age, the later takes up the most daydreaming.

Thinking back earlier today, I realized that which I always considered my start in show biz, wasn’t. Before I was hired by the U of Mn to be the assistant stage manager at Northrop Auditorium, a 5,000 set house that was home to University events, Mpls Symphony Orchestra, rock concerts, even a week each year of seven different Met Opera of New York productions, I had my first taste of show biz back in grade school

I was cast as Scrooge’s nephew in that one-room, one-teacher, all eight grades-schoolhouse’s production of A Christmas Carol.

The only line I remember was, ‘Christmas, a humbug, Uncle! Surely, You don’t mean that’. Scrooge growled. And I exited to polite silence from the audience. Not much an actor can do with a vanilla role like the Nephew.

The star of the production was the turkey, a football with paper-mache drumsticks. When it was brought out on the platter, the audience roared, biggest reaction of the day.

I got a lot of laughs though, in the spring variety show, I got a comedy skit because I could do a good Swedish accent. The teacher brought in a prop she had used in her other schools’ variety shows. It was a very old telephone, the one that had the talking tube attached to the wall and the listening tube on a cord, the one you had to twirl a crank and ask a live operator to get you such and such a person. I asked to speak to the doctor.

‘Vell, Doctor, I vas putin da cooper under the mule’s tail… Yah, dat’s vhen he kicked me. Sent me a flyin. No, I ban ok. Landed in the soft manure pile. But that mule is sure hurtin cuz I kicked him back…’

This time I excited to a big round of applause. Heck, I thought, maybe someday I’ll do my act on a TV show like Milton Berle’s.

That teacher left after that one year and was replaced by a nineteen year teacher. One year of her and my folks sent me to a parochial school in St. Paul, reached by a mile walk to the mile-long Mendota Bridge and a ten mile street car ride. Nice weather I hiked. Bad weather, Dad got up, having only slept a few hours after working the night shift in the packing house, and drove me to the streetcar. I finished my 6th, 7th, and 8th grades there.

It was in the 8th grade where I worked as a stagehand for the very first time. It was love at first sight. No, not the work…the gal puppeteer. Long black hair. Deep brown eyes. Exotic looking. Years later, I would go on a blind date with a gal that fitted that description. Again love at first sight. So much so, that two years later we were married.

But to get back to my my story. Sister Kenneth, my 8th grade teacher, whom I also had a crush on, (Just a normal boy in his puberty dilemma),sent me and three other boys backstage at the gym/auditorium to help put up the touring puppet show for a school assembly.

One sound effects geek, Larry. The head puppeteer/boss. And her, Rita.!

Mr. Hot-Shot honcho ordered us around like we were something he stepped in the dog park. She talked to us softly and said ‘please’ when she asked us to do something. Hot-Shot treated her just like he treated us. At one point he even swore at her!

That did it. I got in his face. Looking up, quite a ways up, I warned him to watch his language and treat people with respect, or …

‘Or what, little mouth? Or what? You and your gang going to do something about it?’ He looked around at the other three kids; but just laughed when he saw that they had their backs to us, a sign I was on my own. ‘Looks like you’re on your own, dude.’

‘No! There’s also Sister Kenneth. She won’t like the way you’re acting. Hollering! Swearing! She’ll run you and your wooden dolls right out the door. Then she’ll call and have you booted off the school tour…’

I was getting his attention. The sound guy whispered something in his ear. Finally Hot Shot backed off and suggested we get back to the set- up.

Exhibiting a fault that would get me in trouble throughout my life, I wanted the last word and told him that he should apologize to Rita. and say please to us before we went back to back to work.

He just glared at me. One of my gang started whistling Whistle While You Work. Rita, standing behind Hot Shot, was shaking her head no and mouthing please. The sound man asked that I come and help him.

‘Or,’ I said, ‘we could just get back to work.’ She nodded in agreement.

It was a good show. There was a Punch and Judy skit and several others leading up to the finale. There was the sound of hooves, followed by a cowboy and his mule plodding slowly along, actually walking in place; it was just a small space. The Sons of the Pioneers were singing Cool Water. The cowboy was holding a canteen that he tuned upside down to show it was dry. At one point the mule stumbled. Song ended. Lights down. Lights up. The cowboy and mule bowed. The three artists came around and bowed. Hot Shot gave a short thank you speech, mentioning Sister Kenneth and the four hands sent to help set-up. The stage curtain closed and us four hands ran backstage. I was assigned working with the sound man. Rita and the other three worked on the set. Hot Shot had the puppets laid out on a couple tables and was carefully preparing each one to be placed in their packing box.

And all the while he was criticizing his coworkers. The sound man came in too late on one cue. The hooves beat sounded just like banging coconut shells on a table, which was how the sound was made. And he had numerous complaints as to how Rita worked her strings, especially working the mule.

‘Looked great from where I was sitting,’ I blurted out. And then, again with a prod, ‘I thought the mule was the best part of the show.’

He glared at me! ‘Sister Kenneth thought so too.’ I pulled that one out of my hat. But the mention of her name cooled him down. He finished packing his puppets, the cowboy on top. covering them up with the puppet stage curtain. He said he was going to get the van and told the Larry to button up the crates. He motioned to Rita to step outside with him.

He was yelling so loud we could hear every word. He didn’t like the way she handled the set-up, or the performance, or the pack-out. He went so far as saying he might have to get a different assistant. And he swore a lot.

I committed a cardinal sin of show business. I broke a prop…on purpose.

While Larry and the other three hands were facing the loading door, I opened the puppet crate. Reached beneath the fabric and grabbed the cowboy puppet’s arm…and snapped it!

As soon as I heard the crack, I felt guilty, wishing I hadn’t done what I did. I jerked my hands from the box, and silently closed the lid. A foolish act committed by a young boy suffering the dilemma of puberty.

We finished the load out and both Larry and Rita thanked us. She gave me a smile. I smiled back, but I wasn’t happy to see her walk out of my life.

Mr. Hot Shot wasn’t content to give us a short thank you. He had to puff up his chest and go on about how we were the best crew he worked with in any of the schools. You could tell it was rehearsed and given at every school he worked at. When he finished he turned and left the building.

‘Goodbye, good riddance, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass when you leave,’ I shouted. ‘Ouch!’ Somebody pulled my ear…hard. I knew who that somebody was right away. Sister Kenneth.

I turned quickly and defended myself by saying, ‘That guy was a real jerk.’

‘Oh, I agree.’ she said. ‘He’s got a lot of growing up to do, especially if he wants to stay married to her. She seemed like a nice person…’

Married to her. Rita was his wife!

I was traumatized. My first big crushes. One was a nun. And one was a married woman. I briefly reconsidered entering the priesthood. I had lost all faith in finding a woman to marry when I grew up. And I also gave up any thoughts of working in show business’

But that was long ago. Long before I spent 45 years as a professional stagehand. And long before I found my wife of 60+ years.

Let the New Year ring in

with the promise of peace

As for me

I make my usual resolutions

Lose weight


Eat more pie

Maybe this year I can keep the first two longer than a couple weeks

I never have a problem keeping the last one

AN AROMA OF COOKIES – Season reblog



She told me of this incident that occurred prior to her first Christmas as a single parent.

To date, the two children, her son who had just turned seven, her daughter not quite four, hadn’t noticed how she had been pinching pennies, cutting corners, living from paycheck to paycheck; but with Christmas coming…

The tree would have to be smaller. A lot smaller. Presents would have be fewer. More emphasis on clothes. Less on toys. The usual Christmas feast would be more like an everyday dinner. Dessert, usually a Lazy Susan array of puddings and pies, candies and cookies, would be only her traditional oatmeal cookies. A lot of oatmeal cookies. And to sweeten them, the two children would help her with the baking.

The additional heat from the oven made the kitchen extra toasty. The sounds of Christmas from the radio made the event more festive. And the aroma of oatmeal cookies filling the house gave a promise of a happy Christmas, in spite of…

The sight of her two elves, clad in their pajamas, working happily away, gave her joy and pushed her fears aside. She’d work again on finding a better paying job after the holidays. But for the moment…

The boy’s hand was perfect to form the right size mounds of dough; and after he placed each clump on the cookie sheet, he twisted a little curl on top.

It wasn’t that easy for the little girl. She had to take two handfuls and crush them together. Then tried to plump it into the correct shape. She didn’t bother with a curl, but liked to pinch off a little nibble as a reward.

It was almost time to take some of the cookies out of the oven when there was a knock at the front door. The young man of the house went to see about it. When he came back, he told his mother that it was two men from church. They had two bags of Christmas food, Care Packages they called them, for the poor people.

He said he told them that they must have the wrong address ‘cuz we’re not poor’.

She told me how she panicked. Weren’t poor!!!  She hoped she would have time to catch them and get the offered food. But first, she couldn’t let those cookies burn. She quickly pulled out the sheets and put them on top of the stove; but in her haste, she burned her thumb on the last one.

She gave a little yelp and sat down, blowing on her thumb. Her little doctor quickly pressed her thumb in the butter stick, and her little nurse offered some TLC by volunteering to kiss her owie.

It was too late to chase down the two men. And she was glad that it was. Had she ran after the them and taken the food parcels, she would have embarrassed her son. And she would have acknowledged to the two children that there was money problems.

Besides, looking at her two most favorite people in the world, made her realize the boy was right when he said they weren’t poor. They were very rich in what counts, family.

The little lady finished off the after-work cookie and milk and hurried to bed. She said she wanted to go to sleep real quick. The house smells so good, she explained, she knew she was going to have lots of sweet dreams.

The man of the family hung back. Finally, with a knowing smile, he asked if he could change what he had asked Santa to bring for his mother.

She said it depends. If he told her what the change is, she would write Santa a letter the next day at work and mail it and wait and see if he got the request in time.

He smiled and said he wanted Santa to bring his mother an Oven Mitt so she wouldn’t burn her thumb anymore. He gave her a kiss and went off to bed.

And now, years later, she’s carrying on a tradition she began just before her second Christmas as a single parent. Her elves, this year, are three of the grandkids. It’s a sleep over at Grandma’s, but the special sleep over. It’s the cooking- baking sleep over.

Like always at the cookie-baking party, the oven makes the kitchen extra toasty. The Christmas sounds from the radio has been replaced by Christmas sounds from the MP3 player; but nothing has, nor nothing can, replace the aroma of the oatmeal cookies, that fills the house.

The three children have their own way of making the shapes, like the twist of a curl on top has been lost over the years. But not so, the little pinch for a nibble of the dough.

There’s much more baking to be done each year, and the cookies have to be packaged, thirteen to each plastic bag that has a zip lock to hold in the aroma. The next day, the four of them will bring the cookies to the parish school gym to be placed in the Christmas food bags, Care Packages, for the parish less- fortunates.

When the baking is finished for the evening, she gives the children a small glass of milk and a fresh cookie. Then with a kiss, she sends them off to bed, with the admonition to have sweet dreams. She knows she will have sweet dreams, and sometime in the night, she will imagine hearing a long ago voice reminding her that ‘we’re not poor’.

Over the years she often been asked her secret why her oatmeal cookies taste so good. ‘Real vanilla,’ she replies, ‘Real, not imitation! And,’ she adds, ‘A dash of faith. A dob of hope. And a dollop of love.’

Here’s wishing all of you that the holidays of your choice be filled with the love of your  family and the aroma of cookies.

UNCLE ELMER’S GOAT – Season Reblog


The Old Hand: Another Back In the Day

Most Christmas gag gifts are forgotten by New Year’s. Some however last a lot longer. My great-uncle Elmer and his old friend, Gene, kept one going for years.

A couple acquaintances of Elmer wanted to give their children a pet and they settled upon a cute little billy goat kid. The problem was the kid outgrew his cuteness very quickly. He became a real problem for the parents and the children who wouldn’t even go outside unless the goat was tied up.

Since nobody answered their ad, offering a free goat, they did the only thing they could think of to get rid of the animal; they took it out to Elmer’s farm and gave it to him, knowing well he was too nice to refuse it.

I image that the goat had been given a name by it’s former owners, but uncle Elmer named it Goat. He never was too imaginative about his names. He had a border collie that was the best cattle dog I ever saw. Elmer called the dog, Dog. He had several horses with the same name, Horse. He had about twenty cows with the name Cow, except for the one he called Bull.

His first child was a boy and was given a normal name, which not too many people remembered over the years. Elmer nicknamed his son, Boy, the first time he saw him, and the name stuck all the rest of Boy’s life. As their family grew, Aunt Amanda, laid down the law, no more of those silly names, and the other kids grew up being called by their given names. But since Amanda never cared what he called his animals, Elmer gave them names he thought was appropriate.

Elmer got a lot of teasing about being such a softy and taking Goat. He just laughed and defending his action by saying, ‘You can’t look a gift goat in the mouth’. Although there were many times, he wished he had.

That animal was foul-smelling, obnoxious, mischievous, contrary, mean, ornery, and the list went on and on. In fact, if you look up some of the aforementioned words in the dictionary, you would probably see a picture of Elmer’s goat.

The one thing nobody ever did twice was turn their back on Goat. It was as if the critter saw the seat of a person’s pants as one big target. Ram! Bam! And after he played his little joke on the poor sap, you could swear there was a smile on Goat’s face.

Of course, Goat never tried anything with Elmer, one big reason was Dog. Not only was Dog a great cattle herder, he was also a darn good goat trainer. Dog could actually make Goat behave. But, if by chance some poor unsuspecting man turned his back on Goat, Dog was known to look the other way. Dog would never allow Goat to accost a woman or a child though, and Goat never tried to after Dog nipped him a few times for even thinking about it.

Gene, one of Elmer’s best friends had a farm a couple miles down the road from Elmer’s. The two had a lot in common, especially teasing and playing practical jokes on each other.

I  loved  Elmer telling the story about Gene hearing drinking goat’s milk was good for arthritis. When Gene found out that Elmer had just been given a goal and  he offered to buy Goat from Elmer. Elmer had that goat sold until some loud-mouth told Gene that Goat was a billy, not a nanny. ‘Yup,’ Elmer would laugh, ‘I’d a paid money to see the first time Gene paid to milk it.’

After almost getting taken by Elmer on the sale of the goat, Gene teased Elmer about his goat every chance he got. ‘Hey, if you want to get Elmer’s goat, just ask him about his Goat.’  Or when Elmer would stop in at the VFW for a euchre game, and Gene was there already, Gene would holler, ‘Hurry up and close the door. Must be a goat outside. I sure can smell it.’

It was the second Christmas of Elmer having the goat that Gene came home from Midnight Mass and saw lights on in the barn and his pack of dogs barking up a storm at the barn door. When he opened the door there was Goat in the box stall with the team of horses. Goat was helping himself to the hay and the two horses were standing as far away from the intruder as possible.

Around Goat’s neck was a large red ribbon and bow. It didn’t take much to figure out who the Santa was that left the present. Thinking back, Gene should have figured something was up when he didn’t see Elmer at Midnight Mass.

Like Elmer, Gene never looked a gift goat in the mouth and accepted it with a laugh. The only thing was Gene never called the goat, Goat. He renamed it Elmer. If Elmer the goat had any ideas that life would be easier without Dog around, he was wrong. While Gene didn’t have a dog like Dog, actually nobody did, Gene had a pack of dogs that managed to keep the goat in line.

And then come the next Christmas and there was no Gene at Midnight Mass, Elmer wasn’t at all surprise to open the barn door and see Goat, nee Elmer, standing there with the big red ribbon and bow around it’s neck. Dog jumped around and actually licked Goat’s face. Elmer laughed and commented later that at least Dog was happy to have Goat back.

This ritual went on and on. Whoever it was that was going to get the goat made sure he went to Midnight Mass to make it easier on the giver. The red ribbon and bow was an important part of the gift so it was always kept in a safe place. They couldn’t trust it just hanging in the barn for fear the goat might eat it.

The goat, Goat or Elmer depending on which farm he was spending the year, matured thanks to age and to Dog and Gene’s pack as trainers. It got so was actually a pet. The two men found a pony harness and cart at an auction and broke the goat to be hitched up and pull it. Whenever kids would come to the farm where the goat was, it was drive-the-goat cart time. The goat and the cart and the kids were also big attractions in the parades at the various fairs and get-togethers during the summers and falls. And although the red ribbon and bow was also an important part of the goat’s wardrobe, the only time he wore it was Christmas Eve.

It was in the summer of a year when Elmer the Goat was living at Gene’s farm that Gene had the fatal heart attack while milking the cows. The day after the funeral Elmer told Gene’s widow what he intended to do and she thought it a good idea. Later that day Elmer came and took the goat, the harness, the cart, and the red ribbon and bow back to his farm – for good.

Every Christmas Eve, Elmer put the red ribbon and bow around the goat’s neck before Midnight Mass and took it off right after. If the goat missed Gene and Gene’s pack of dogs, he never showed it. He seemed content to live at just the one farm and didn’t seem to mind that no one ever called him Goat or Elmer anymore. From the time he came at Elmer’s to stay for good he went by the name, Gene.

Published BB 2/13/17

  •                                                      — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

This is a true story of Friendship. While it concerns itself with Catholic Christmas and Midnight Mass, Friendship is an important part of what the universal Seasons Greetings is all about.

I realize many of you read this story before, this is the third time I posted it; but I enjoy telling it. And one thing you realize when you hit Senior Citizenship, is the joy of telling a story over and over. Seasons Greetings.

Sibling Rivalry – Reblog


My original intention was to write the posts on the three cousins of Ferriday one after another, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley, both of whom had died recently, and ending with the post one the last and only living one, Jimmy Swaggart.

I knew he had a couple scandals involving women, but I never realized that he had numerous scandals involving just about every aspect of his life. Too numerous to be glossed over. And just not fitting to be told as we approach the Season of major High Holidays and Holy Days in every Major and Minor religion around the world.

I decided to instead put off the scandal-ridden story of this ‘man of the cloth?’ until after the Season ends. And post instead three reblogs celebrating the spirit of the Season.

This is the first. While it does not take place within the calendar of the season, it is a story of the joy of Giving and Sharing.

——————————– —————————————————————————————————

3 darlins

One is never too old to learn. One is never too young to teach.


One of the birthday presents our 7 year old granddaughter, Jayda, received was a $15 gift card.

The other day, her mother took Jayda and her two younger sisters to the store so Jayda could buy something with her gift card. Jayda knew how she wanted to spend the card, but had kept it a secret.

She took her time, trying to find something that she would not only like, but would fit in with her plan. Finally, she found the perfect thing, a pair of ‘Princess’ sandals for $5.

She figured out that the $15 would not only buy her a pair, but would also buy a pair for each of her sisters.

Her gift card may be depleted but all three girls enjoy Jayda’s birthday present.

Such a sweet, sharing child. She sure makes it easy to be a proud grandfather.

jada's present

The Old Hand of Oakdale:   Published SPPP Bulletin Board 9/10/13



Of the three famous cousins Ferriday, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley, Mickey Gilley was the youngest… and led a more normal life than his two cousins, free of scandal and addictions and self-imposed tragedies that marked the lives of the other two, free of the animosity many people had for the other two.

And in spite of all this, he had the shortest life, 86 years, and was the first to die, 5/7/2022.

Oh, I am not endorsing a life style like Jerry’s or Jimmy’s in order to have a longer life span. I am just stating a fact.

Mickey lived across the Mississippi River from Ferriday and his two cousins. But that did not stop him from coming under their influence. He often went with them at night to listen to the Blues at the Ferriday nightclub. He learned to play and the guitar from Jimmy, and the piano from Jerry. His family moved to Texas about the time he started high school. In Texas, traditional Country Western/Grand Ole Opry music prevailed, although he never forgot his roots in Jerry’s boogie-woogie and Jimmy’s gospel.


For someone whose drinking habits were modest, an occasional beer from a long necked bottle, Mickey Gilley was best known for selling beer. That is, he was co-owner in Gilley’s Club, the world’s largest honky-tonk saloon. Located in Pasadena, Texas, it seated 6,000, and was usually filled every night. It was the size of a football field and had tables for sitting at, tables to shoot pool at, tables to shoot the bull at while watching people getting bucked off the mechanical bull, and still have plenty room to line dancing. In short, it was a way of life for it’s regular beer drinking patrons.

Esquire Magazine did a feature on two of these regulars. James Bridges saw it as another Saturday Night Fever with C&W replacing disco. He sold the idea to a studio, wrote an adaption of the article, and directed the film.

John Travolta jumped at the chance to dance in another film. Debra Winger jumped at the chance to restart her stagnant movie career. Mickey’s partner jumped at the idea of Gilley’s as the film’s location. Mickey was noncommittal.

He saw it as an opportunity the club and himself, but…He had dislikes the magazine article and he hated the mechanical bull.

Gilley had been on tour when his partner bought and installed the mechanical bull without asking Mickey’s blessing,. Mickey hit the roof. He didn’t like the ugly piece of scrap metal and the loud excitement it created. He reasoned that somebody could get injured and sue them big time. But it was too late to remove it, it was standing room only with people, drinking a lot of long necked bottles of beer, waiting their turn to ride it and/or make a fool out of themselves. YIPPEE!!!

The movie had a talented cast, who had to compete with the other costars, namely, the mechanical bull, the Honky-Tonk saloon, C&W music, cowboy boots, cowboy hats, and domestic violence. The movie made Gilley’s an icon and a boon to the makers of cowboy boots and hats.

Surprisingly, the movie introduced Mickey Gilley to a host of people, but did little to enhance his record sales. Only two of his hits came after the movie. One from the soundtrack, a cover of the great Ben E, King song, Stand By Me.It did start him to establish a series of mini honky-tonks, all called Gilley’s. Then he opened up one of the first musical theaters in Branson, Missouri, helping it to become the entertainment mecca of middle America.

His cameo, playing himself in the movie, led to a minor career in TV acting.

As for the original Gilley’s, Mickey and his partner broke up shortly after the movie and they closed the place down. The vacant structure burned down a year later.


Good old southern boy, Mickey, married his first wife, Geraldine. when he was only 17. The marriage last 8 years and 3 children, who were raised by their mother. He married his 2nd wife, Vivian, a year after the divorce, and that marriage last until her death in 2019, and produced his 4th child.

His last marriage was to Cindy Loeb and lasted a shade under 2 years, ending with his death. She was a long time business manager for his night clubs and musical career Now she manages his estate.

Unlike his 2 cousins, Mickey never had a scandal that involved his wives and or other women.


Where else would a talented guitar and piano player living in Texas and listening to the endless C&W songs on the radio, go, but to Nashville, home of The Grand Ole Opry. He quickly found work as studio musician playing piano and or guitar.

Others in the group included Kenny Rogers, bass player and Glen Campbell, guitar player extraordinaire. This group of studio musicians played on most all of the songs cut in Nashville at the time, no matter who was doing the singing or what record company. It was steady work and good money for those musicians who were waiting for their chance to take the mic,

When his cousin, Jerry Lee, busted loose with A Whole Lot of Shaking, Mickey decided to make his move to signing. He cut his first single in 1959, Kenny Rogers on bass; but it was good he kept his day job.

His singing success was nil, just more cutting records that were never distributed. Only one of his recordings earned him some money. It was used in a TV ad selling baby food. But he kept trying.

Then 15 years from his first attempt, his singing career broke loose…and that was by accident.

Mickey was certain that the song She Called Me Baby would be a winner. He still needed one for the B Side of the record and chose, as a lark, to cover a hit from 1949, A Room Full Of Roses. When it was played back to him, he hated it. He complained that the steel guitar was too loud and that he had got lost in the piano solo, and… But the rep of the record said said enough is enough, it’s only a B Side fill- in; and the record company couldn’t afford to waste more money on Gilley..

Fill- in! That fill- in gave Mickey his first start as a C&W mainstay. Thanks to the B side, it was his first record to be distributed nationally. Mickey had egg on his face over his dismissal of the cut.. Kind of like his disapproval years later of the mechanical bull.

The record was one of the few hits for Playboy Records, a venture of Hugh Hefner to show case a girlfriend, Barbi Benton. More an attempt to impress a girl than to actually actually be a record producer, Hef sold the Playboy Records when Barbi moved out of the mansion.

Now at the age if 38, Gilley had the start of career in music that he dreamed for years.

Mickey followed through with a number of C&W hits in the traditional style of prevelent in Nashville during the 70’s.

There were other hotbeds of Country music besides Nashville. Memphis, thanks to Sun Records and it’s early stable of Elvis, Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. And in Austin, the Outlaw music of singer/songwriters Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson was coming on like a fast moving train. But Mickey stayed put in the Eddie Arnold/Grand Ole Opry scene in Nashville. That was the kind of man he was, loyal to the horse that brung him.

The 80’s saw a change in C&, even in staid old Nashville. Glen Campbell, Kenny Rodgers, and others were very successful in Country Pop, which crossed over into pop radio stations and introduced twang to a much larger audience.

Gilley never achieved the phenomenal success those two friends from the studio orchestra days achieved, but he did okay.

He had 39 Top Ten Country, singles, 17 of which hit #1 in the 15 years. But then in 1986, county music reverted back to it’s traditional roots with young talent like Clint Black, Randy Travis, and Reba McEntire racking up the hits. This time he didn’t follow the trend. He was content to ease into a life of semi-retirement.

He got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted along with his two famous cousins in the Delta Music Hall of Fame in Ferriday. The HOF is basically a museum dedicated to the three cousins. It’s not Graceland, but it draws a lot of visitors and keeps Ferriday on the map.

For 2 years he was The Academy of Country Music New Comer of the year, and in 1976 swept the honors as best entertainer along with best single and best album of the year, for the single and album, Don’t All The Girls Get Prettier At Closing Time,

He included some Gospel in his playlist, but never wore his religion on his sleeve like Cousin Swaggart. He did enjoy Cousin Jerry’s vocals and his piano style and played many duets, live and recorded, with The Killer over the years.

Mickey Gilley was popular, easy to talk t, good listener, and had a great many friends, in and out of the music scene. He never turned down a request to help a friend. In 2009, he was helping a friend move when a bench fell on him and broke his back. He went through extensive therapy but his back bothered him the rest of his life. It took a year but he did manage to get back to singing on stage, but he could never play the piano again.

This back problem was responsible for him taking a bad fall that resulted in brain surgery. His health deteriorated. His wife, Vivian, became more of a nurse than a wife, and preceded him in death by a few years.

Persuaded by his manager and soon-to-be-third wife, Cindy Loeb, he recorded an album, Kicking It Down The Road, a mix of some old, some new. This was in 2017. A year later he recorded another, Two Old Cats, all duets with his friend, Troy Payne. It was good therapy to help ease his pain.

. . . . . . .

I had worked Mickey on a few occasions, but had no direct contact with him. He came to the Minneapolis Auditorium in a package concert on in three concerts I worked. There was a Nashville promoter who would put several C&W B-List artists on one card and tour some big cities. He would bring a group to Minneapolis a couple times a year.

For the most part, the artists kept to themselves in a green room the promoter stocked with food and drink. The only one that spent any time backstage was Dottie West. She was friendly to the hands, especially Mark, the stage carpenter.

When Mickey became a name act, he performed at the Flame, a small C&W honky-tonk saloon, but never was booked in a big venue that the union worked.

Looking back now, I wish I had seen more of him. He rightfully earned a reputation as a talented, hard working professional, whose hat size never grew when he mad the big time.

Mickey never gave up

his chasing his dream

and finally caught it

Mickey Gilley passed away on 5/7/22.

His cousin, Jimmy Swaggart officiated at the funeral.

His other cousin, Jerry Lee Lewis was in a hospice

and would join Mickey 5 months later.

P.S. :The last of the three cousins coming up, next.




The Killer has vacated the arena!

On 10/28/22, Jerry Lee Lewis, age 87, died. His death was reported three days after he was falsely reported to have died. Since he was on the doorstep for several years, his death was not a surprise. His living that long was a great surprise. Considering the environment he grew up in, his life style, and the many tragedies suffered, both by accident and self-inflicted, the odds favored he probably wasn’t going to see 30. And yet he outlived every original inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; and had a life span greater than the departed members of the Country Western Hall of Fame in which he was recently inducted into as a performer and influencer.

The Environment: Ferriday, Louisiana. A dot on the map near the Mississippi border, just up the road from Baton Rouge. Aa town of mostly blacks and steeped in the Blues, highlighted at Haney’s Big House, a famous ‘house of the Blues’.

The small minority of whites in and around the town were poor farmers eking out a living, mostly blood relatives, sharing both a short living span and a Pentecostal religion that featured fire and brimstone preachers and hymns.

His Early Life Style:

Music. Church music and the Blues. This escape from the hard-pan reality of his home was shared with him by two cousins, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart. Those three were destined to put Ferriday on the big map with a boast of more famous people per square foot than any other place in the USA.

Influenced by an older cousin, Carl McVoy, a big time piano player, the three adopted the piano as their get-out-of-Ferriday weapon.

Jerry’s parents mortgaged their farm to purchase a piano of his own so he didn’t have to beg to use Mickey’s or Jimmy’s. Then his parents sent him to a Bible Institute in Texas where he would play only religious music.

He got kicked out when he decided to add some back-home boogie-woogy at a church assembly. A strong indicator of his future life style. He pounded each day just as hard as he pounded the keys on a piano.

His dad then put a piano in his pick up and traveled from town to town so Jerry could entertain from the mobile stage. His mother told him to ’Kill them dead’. And thus his nickname, The Killer, was born.,


His older brother died in an auto accident. His three year old son, living with Jerry’s ex, drowned in a swimming pool. Another young son died in a car accident shortly after. His 4th wife drowned in a swimming pool just before the divorce settlement was final. His 5th wife ODed just 77 days into the tumultuous wedding. His gun ‘accidentally’ went off and shot his bass singer’. The gate at Graceland was closed when he tried to drive in to visit Elvis.

His black-listing by the hypocrites in the pop music industry at the time when it was found out the 13 year old once removed cousin was not just on tour with him for kicks, she was his wife. Dick Clark, the tsar of determining whether an artist and or a single would be a hit or a miss, along with the payola- radio DJs judged Jerry Lee to be an unfit star even though he was a pioneer in the fledgling rock and roll industry.

Self Inflicted ‘tragedies’.


Perhaps an occasional TBird or some bubbly but like a true son of the south, white lightning in poor times, Jack Daniels when he could afford it. His alcoholism was augmented with tokes of Blue’s grass, sniffs of snow, and above all, pills of many colors. His life might not have been as hectic if he had faced up to all his addiction not just the pills. He did go to the Betty Ford Clinic to overcome the pills that had caused a major removal of part of his stomach.

Every time he had a problem with a gun, both he and the gun were loaded.

In spite of these addictions, he outlived so many of his friends and compadres in the business with similar problems, like Elvis and Johnny, Waylon, Little Richard, etc..


Seven wives! Wife #1 was a sometimes- thing competing with other women who often charged for their services. Wife #2 did not charge, but her brothers and their shotguns made Jerry pay a price by forcing him to marrying her, even though he was still married to #1.

Wife #3 was, Myra. the 13 year old 2nd cousin that he ogled when she was 12. Later he used the argument that he never was married to her because he was not divorced from #2 when he married #3. The ‘marriage’ last 13 years with, according to Mayra a total of only 14 nights nights they spent together.

Bigamy wasn’t a factor in ending the marriages to #4 and #5. Death was. Wife #4 moved out within a month but the divorce didn’t come until ten years later, shortly before the divorce became final Another accidental drowning in a swimming pool.

Jerry married Wife #5 less than a year later. This lasted 77 days. OD was the stated cause of death but the bruises on her body was enough for Rolling Stone Magazine to demand a Grand Jury investigation. Lewis was cleared. A year later he married Wife #6, Kerrie.

For 14 years she nursed him through his addictions and their aftermath…his roller coaster career which now included his revision of traditional country and western music. They were separated but remained married for another 17 years.

His 7th marriage, 2012 to his death, was to Judith Brown, former wife of his 3rd wife’s brother. From all reports it was free of things that marked his other marriages…things like adultery, physical and emotional abuse, not living together. Etc. Of course it took place in the twilight of his life when he was too old to do most of those things.

Other women besides his wives…well it seemed like he never passed up his opportunities, free or paid for.


A pioneer in introducing Rock and Roll to the world. A pioneer in introducing Country/Western to a greater group of listeners with his boogie-woogie style.

His musical feats are too numerous to list in this blog…just as the performers he influenced are.

Every note he sang or beat out on a piano was pure Jerry Lee Lewis. Hymns – He would take a well known one like My God is Real, put a Jerry Lee touch to it, even if it got him in trouble. Rock and Roll – Move over Little Richard, this cracker is pounding the path to bring R&B into the world of R&R, no matter if Dick Clark finds me offensive or not. As much as he respected the talent of Hank Williams and Tex Ritter, he thought there was room to update the genre, be it a new song like What Made Milwaukee Famous, or an old standard like Mexicali Rose, or a recent hit like Crazy Arms, his first recording, and swing it, no matter if Eddy Arnold’s Nashville wants me in the Grand Old Opry or not.

There is music and there is music by Jerry Lee Lewis.

Always a big fan of his, I only had the opportunity to see him perform just one time

In 62, my pre-stagehand life, Lewis was slated to appear in a nightclub close to where my wife and I were going broke in a cafe we and the bank owned. Joe, the club owner promised us good seats for the show. It was canceled due to the drowning of Jerry’s little boy.

The next opportunity came when he appeared in a club where the Mall of America is now. The club was found to be a money laundering operation after about two years. The owners let it be known that if I, or any other stagehand union official, entered it, even via a paid ticket, we could expect to be used as batting practice. Needless to say, I passed up on seeing Jerry Lee perform there.

Finally, towards the end of my stagehanding days and Jerry’s touring days. I got to work his show at Orchestra Hall. It was promoted by an out of town promoter who had a Jerry Lee show in Iowa the previous night.

Seeing the difficulty Jerry Lee had in walking around backstage, it seemed unlikely he could perform onstage. He was escorted, helped, on with a stunning girl on each arm. He sat down on the piano bench… and reverted to the Jerry Lee Lewis of old. His voice was strong and he used all parts of his anatomy to pound on the keys of the piano. He played for close to an hour and one half, without leaving the stage. And then went to the front lobby to meet and greet.

We were almost done breaking down the sound and lights when the promoter came backstage to thank us and wanted to find out the number and size for our tee shirt tip. He never came back with the shirts;

He had been met and greeting by a cop and a warrant for his arrest. It seems the night before this snake oil slickster had not only skipped out without giving the hans the promised tee shirts, he also skipped out with the portion of the gate owed to the venue. We never heard if gave Jerry Lee his money or not.

So if by chance, Mr. Promoter, if you are out of jail and still alive, and you read my blog, you still owe me a tee shirt.

So to close, RIP Killer.

There will never be another like you.

And now I will listen to my favorite Jerry Lee Lewis cut, Mexicali Rose.

PS: Stay tuned for an upcoming post on Mickey and Jimmy, the other 2 famous cousins.


Sam at the wheel.

Back in the day, before he got married, my son, Dirk, had a great dog, Sam. An Australian Shepherd. He was Dirk’s shadow They went everywhere together, except when Dirk went to work.

This is a story, Dirk told me recently about a grocery run with Sam along.

Dirk pulled his car into a space in the grocery store lot. Than, as usual, he turned off the ignition, shoved the gear shift, which was was on the steering column, into reverse gear. A common practice in lieu of putting on the hand brake. He rolled down the window enough to give Sam air but not enough that Sam could squeeze through. Told Sam to stay and went into the store.

Just as he was about to check out, he heard an announcement that the owner of a silver Toyota should report to the policeman outside. Dirk’s car. He went out right away.

The cop was standing there with a scowling man. When Dirk said the car was his, the angry man got in Dirk’s face.

‘Your goddamn dog almost ran me over with your goddamn car!’

Dirk was at a lose for words. He extended his hands, palms up, and looked at the cop, who stepped between Dirk and the man. Dirk’s first thought was the man was off his rocker.

‘Your goddamn dog almost ran me over!’

Before the cop could say anything, the man leaned over the cop’s back and repeated, ‘Your goddamn dog almost ran me over!’

Finally the cop got a chance to explain. It seems the car, which was no longer in a parking space but in the car lane and the dog was the only one in the vehicle.

‘If your goddamn dog can learn to drive, the goddamn dog can learn to watch out for people. He goddamned nearly ran me over’!

The three went to the car. Sam got all excited seeing Dirk. He began to jump around hitting the steering column several times.

‘See, your goddamn dog’s trying to run us all over!

Dirk looked in the window and saw the gear shift was in neutral. Sam must have been jumping around and knocked it into neutral. The parking space had a slight incline so the car coasted down into the driving lane…just as the man was walking by.

Dirk and the cop agreed that is what happened. The explanation didn’t matter to the man. He just walked away and shouted back over his shoulder, ‘Your goddamn dog! Your goddamn dog almost ran me over’

Dirk said he jumped in the car and pulled it back into the parking space and the spent about five minutes laughing before going back into the store. And all the while he was laughing, Sam was trying to lick Dirk’s face. Before he got out of the car, he put the shift into gear and put on the parking brake to boot.


The Old Hand:

I watched a man trying to back his SUV into a parking space at the mall. There was at least six spaces empty on either side of the space he wanted. He tried about five times, finally just left it. One half of the SUV was in one space, the other half was in the space next to it. I noticed both spaces were posted for ten minute parking only. Since he was parked in two spaces, does that mean he can park there for twenty minutes?

I have a hard time understanding what is accomplished by backing into parking space. You might get out faster but since it takes the average driver seesawing back and forth about three, four times, whatever you gain in time on the exit, you’ve lost on the entrance by a long ways. And then if you want to put groceries etc., in the trunk, you probably have to pull the vehicle ahead. I saw a customer with van at a big box store loading plywood after he had parked backwards in the space. He had to actually pull the van into the driving lane, blocking any other vehicle from using the lane. He got the plywood loaded but he also caused a lot of horns to be honked and fingers to be waved.

I always get a leery whenever I see somebody back into a parking space when there is a bank close by. Is it because the driver might want to make a quick getaway?

Published St. Paul Dispatch- 7/14/13


Another story about a car of Dirk’s.

No, there was no dog driving this time. Fact is there was no one driving it…and this time the car wasn’t just coasting…it was moving under it’s own engine power.

As told to me by my nephew, Rick:

Rick had a few days off from touring with WICKED and stopped off in town to see his folks and family. He had a chance to work a quick easy stagehand call so he went to the State Capital Mall for a quick load out. He said he would go over to Dirk’s for a bit.

But when he got to his car he looked back and saw Dirk standing by his car. He drove over and asked Dirk what was wrong.

‘Won’t start. Won’t even turn over. Dead. Probably the alternator. Get it home and I’ll check it out. I got Roadside Assistance. Might as well use it.’

Something went right that day…the tow truck arrived quickly. Rick and Dirk sat on a bench and didn’t pay any attention to the driver as he hooked up the cable to the rear of the car.

But he got their attention as soon as he pushed the button to start the wench. He swore and jumped back. The car’s engine had started and the car shot up the raised tow-bed.

The large trailer hitch on the car’s rear bumper hit the tow-bed’s front safety barrier with a resounding crash. Luckily the barrier held and the car’s engine died…otherwise the car would have ended up on the roof of the cab.

A perfect storm. Dirk had left the car in reverse and the key turned on. No biggie! The car wouldn’t start anyway.

But the tow truck driver committed two cardinal sins of towing a vehicle. Check the key. Make sure the ignition is not on. Pocket the key so it doesn’t get lost.

Make certain the transmission is in neutral. Had Dirk’s car been winched forward it would have ruined the transmission. Could you imagine if a Jag or Rolls were pulled against their gear setting what the cost would be?

And the fact it was in reverse and winched backward could have really done some bad damage had not the barrier held.

The Buck Stops At the Tow Driver.

Both Rick and Dirk ran over to the truck. But when they got within a few feet of the driver, they stopped and retreated. The driver was frozen in time. His face was ghostly pale and his pants were getting darker by the minute. And, oh, did he stink!

When the driver regained his composure, he managed to lower the flat tow-bed and get the cable taut and then had to get up on it to survey the damage. It was a sore sight to see him move with his loaded pants. Spread legged. Trying to make believe nothing was wrong.

‘The car’s okay!’ he screamed as he reached in and pulled the key and cracked the gear shift into neutral. He didn’t comment when he surveyed the huge dent in the safety barrier. Must have been doing a lot of silent swearing every time he had to move though.

At home, Dirk showed him where to put the car next to the garage and then both he and Rick stepped far back… and upwind of the guy. Nobody spoke as the car was unloaded and nobody said good by as the driver got in and drove the truck away.

‘Hope he stops off and cleans up before he has to explain to the boss about the dent in the barrier,’ Rick said.

‘Or the stink in the cab,’ Dirk added. ‘I guess that’s what they mean when they talk about being shit scared.’

And they both laughed.


Old Hand::

Since my wife doesn’t drive, and I don’t shop, I spend a lot of time in nice weather sitting in the car, read a little, snooze a little, observe the life of the parking lot. I see children mistaking the it for a playground, shoppers, with full carts, blindly believing in the right-of-way of pedestrians, and drivers whose only focus is finding a parking space. I see a lot of accidents waiting to happen.

A few lots have speed bumps in their entrance lanes to help counter some of these potential accidents.. Most drivers see the bump, slow down, ease over it, and maintain a sensible rate of speed. Some don’t notice the bump and go flying over it. It’s amazing how, when their tires return to the road, and their right hands can no longer hold onto the steering wheels, their left hands always manage to keep holding the cell phones tight against their ears.

But the drivers that really make me shake my head are those that avoid the bump altogether. They speed up, pull into the wrong lane, then quickly get back into the correct lane once they are past the bump. Such a shame when something that is meant to promote safety becomes an excuse to drive stupidly. But then, some people don’t need an excuse to be stupid when they get behind a wheel, it’s just second nature.

So when you go into a store parking lot, remember the warning of the old sergeant in Hill City Blues TV and

be careful out there‘.

Don’t be a part of the accident that happens.

Pub St. Paul Dispatch 4/23/09


Be careful out there is right.

There was 42,915 traffic related deaths in the US in 2021.

That’s almost as many deaths as gun related US deaths in 2021, which totaled out to 45,222.

Auto deaths are confined to roads.

Each year brings stricter laws to safeguard against traffic accidents.

Gun deaths take place anywhere, anytime, with or without a reason

And too often they are not accidental

And gun laws must not infringe on the 2nd Amendment.

There are 285.5 million cars in the US

There are 436.4 million guns in the US

Owning a car like a T Bird was cool

But owning an AR15 is the new cool

Joking about traffic is universal

Joking about guns is taboo

Guns makes the US unique.


The Old Hand: On days when it is so hot there are warning to stay inside, it helps to remember, not too many months ago, when there were winter warnings to stay inside. This story, that our friend Paula told us, happened on one of those days several years ago.

Paula had to drive her elderly mother to the doctor. The snow was almost causing whiteout, and sane drivers were taking it slow and careful. But there’s always some!!!

First, the black SUV came up fast, and just a few yards before it would ram her car, it pulled out opposite lane. And naturally, pulled back right, cutting her off. She braked and her car turned into a toboggan, sliding and refusing to respond to her steering. Luckily, as it began to spin, the front wheels hit the curb, and the car stopped.

She said she gripped the steering wheel and tried not to cry, and tried harder not to say anything. She knew any words that came from her mouth would be words that a person should not utter in front of one’s mother.

‘Paula, honey,’ her mother said and placed her hand on Paula’s, ‘Don’t let them bother you like that. Now I don’t know how it helps but try this.’ She held her fist up and then extended her middle finger in the direction the SUV took. ‘This is what they use to do to me when I was driving.’

So enjoy the summer even with the heat and mosquitoes. State Fair and going back to school is coming fast. Next will come raking leaves and prepping the snow-blower.

Bulletin Board 9/2/13

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

I was driving my usual five miles over the limit when a car behind swung out, horn honking, got even with me, and I could make out the driver leaning across the passenger and flicking her hand about something. Naturally I had to keep my eyes on the road, so I just flashed the middle finger salute.

My daughter-in-law called later to tell me she spotted my car and tried to wave hi to me. She said she was excited and told her friend that she thought that was her father-in-law ahead.

When she pulled even and I flashed the middle finger salute, she laughed and said to her friend, ‘Yup. That’s my father- in- law alright.’

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

When my father-in-law’s wife died, my son Dirk asked if my wife and I wanted to ride up to Bemidji with him, his wife, and kids. I didn’t have time to accept because my wife told Dirk we would love to.

‘You know how crabby your dad gets when he drives a long way?’

I was about to say it wouldn’t be so bad if I had a relief driver. (It had been years since my wife decided not to worrying about getting a driver’s license.) But since it was almost time for her to start making dinner, I didn’t say anything more then to tell Dirk we would welcome the ride.

After the church service we all went to a hall and talked, and laughed, and ate. Another son, Danny, couldn’t make the service but made it to the hall. After he gave condolences to his grandfather, he joined us at our table. He mentioned that he ran into a lot of traffic and asked Dirk how the drive was for us. We came the day before and stayed overnight in a hotel.

‘Well,’ Dirk said, ‘It went pretty good.. The kids behaved themselves… pretty good. We took a lot of back roads and stayed of the freeways. Prettier scenery. A lot of horses and cows. We saw a lot of deer.

‘And you know, I never had to swear at a bad driver. Not even once!

Dad did it for me.’

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

If it sounds like I’ve reached the old age of ‘Darn you kids! Stay off my lawn! But I like nothing better than to watch kids playing ball on our couple acres of lawn. Just like my sons did when they were growing up. Memories.

My wife likes the kids playing on the grass also. The geese stay away when the kids are at play.

Now as far as my attitude about bad drivers, I’ve had that since the days when I would be riding my horse on the side of the road and some wise guy would honk the horn trying to scare the horse. And my attitude got worse when I began to drive. And it multiplies in this age of headphones and cellphones.

The wife of a co-worker told me how her husband finally entered the modern age. He now texts on his cellphone. Their daughter texted him to find out the time to meet him for dinner.

He texted her back ‘I can’t really talk right now because I am driving home. And I do not want to get into an accident while I am driving and texting. I could even get a ticket. When I get home I will call you on the phone.’

Since I know that he can’t type, I wonder how long it took him to text this epistle about the dangers of texting while driving.

When my dad taught me how to drive the Model A, he told me to keep an eye on the rear view mirror as well as to the front. And be leery if there’s a car stopped on a cross road. Bad drivers can get you from the back and side as well as the front. And even in those days, road rage was a part of driving. A lot of fist waving. Some mild swearing and never, ever using a dirty gesture’

But road rage has escalated beyond fist waving, swearing and finger saluting.

Today you could get shot.

I have learned keep my one fingered salutes below the dash

and hide my swearing with a fake smile.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Stay Safe;

Be it behind a windshield or COVIC mask


My last post, The Shadow Circuit, convinced me that interest in Don McLean was very high right now. His walk out of the NRA Convention. It is the 50th anniversary of his American Pie. His mental breakdown. His Starry, Starry Night/Vincent has surpassed American Pie in popularity today.

The Vincent Van Gogh Immersive Experience has taken major cities in the US and Europe by storm. Every time one of his paintings is auctioned off, it breaks fiscal records. To think the man died a pauper and only sold one of his works while he and his brother were living. His sister-in-law took control of his work and got him placed in the hierarchy of the Impressionists.

I thought this would be good time to re-post my blog Starry, Starry Night, from 2013. And last, but not least, it brings back fond memories of back-in-the-day, when I was a lot younger.

images (3)

House lights go down for the second act of VINCENT, but the stage lights remain dark. Then Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night fades on the two picture sheets that are upstage of the set. Music fades in, Don McLean’s recording of his song, Vincent, aka Starry, Starry Night. The song continues as a montage of Vincent’s paintings appear on the screens.

In the ambient light from slides you can make out the silhouette of Leonard Nimoy. He stands off to one side, his back to the audience, looking at and enjoying the art along with the audience.

The music fades out. Starry Night reappears for a moment and then fades out also. Backlights fill the stage and Nimoy turns as the front lights fade in and he resumes as Theo Van Gogh telling us about his brother, Vincent.

Selecting the Van Gogh paintings was hard because of the volume of great works and the little time allotted to show them. Selecting the music for the interlude was harder.

Leonard wanted Don McLean singing Vincent from the very start; however he had a friend he relied on for advice who thought the song was Pop, unfit to be part of ‘serious’ art. The friend, an artistic director of a regional theater, was pretentious to say the least. He never said Shakespeare, but always said ‘The Bard’. Theater was always spelled theatre and ‘Arts’ should never be coupled with ‘Crafts’. He backed off somewhat when it was pointed out that the very same recording was played hourly at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and a copy of the sheet music was buried in the museum’s time capsule.

young mclean

Don McLean, singer/songwriter, troubadour/poet, is an American treasure, but not exactly a household name. He is mostly identified with his American Pie aka The Day The Music Died, known for it’s mysterious lyrics and it’s extraordinary length. ‘Drove my Chevy to the levee and the levee was dry.’ His second most famous work is Vincent, his ode to Van Gogh. ‘And now I understand what you tried to say to me”.

American Pie represented a sad time in McLean’s life, the death of an idol, Buddy Holly. Vincent reflected the sadness of his early life especially after the death of his father when Don was only 15. It was written on a brown paper bag during a period of marital problems. McLean had always identified with Van Gogh, who was never appreciated during his lifetime, and is reflected the lyrics ‘They would not listen, they’re not listening still. Perhaps they never will’.

            Outside of an excellent rendition by Madonna, American Pie is left by other recording artists for McLean. His recording of it was voted #5 of the 365 Songs of the Century by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Vincent, on the other hand, is covered by many other artists, like Julie Andrews, Julio Ingesias, Chet Atkins, and my favorite cover, Jane Olivor.

His song, And I Love You So has been covered by the likes of Elvis Presley, Shirley Bassey, Glen Campbell, Howard Keel, a cover by Perry Como reached #1in the Easy Listening genre. His song, Wonderful Baby, was dedicated to and recorded by Fred Astaire.

In his recordings and his concerts, his repertoire includes his own compositions as well as songs identified with singers like Sinatra, Buddy Holly, his mentor, Pete Seeger, Gordon Lightfoot, and Marty Robbins.

When Ray Orbison released his song Crying, it was received just so-so. McLean cut a cover of it that hit #1 in the international market. Orbison made a rerecording of it, using some of the innovations of McLean, and it is now a classic. Orbison said McLean had the best cover of any of Orbison’s songs and said McLean had ‘the voice of the century’.

Don McLean was also responsible, indirectly, for another classic,  Killing Me Softly With His Song. Lori Lieberman, singer/songwriter, said that she was so touched by Don McLean in concert, singing his song, Empty Chairs, inspired by McLean looking at Van Gogh’s painting of The Chair,  that she wrote a poem as soon as she got home. The poem was set to music and Roberta Flack’s version was 1973’s Record Of The Year.

Dennis Babcock, Guthrie’s Special Events Producer, and the man who put the production and tour of VINCENT together, booked in Don McLean in concert during our VINCENT rehearsal period. Great concert! First time I ever worked McLean. First time Nimoy ever saw him in person and met him. McLean saved Vincent/Starry, Starry Night for the encore and dedicated it to Leonard and the upcoming tour of VINCENT.

As usual, I was house electrician for the concert. When I asked McLean about his lighting preferences, he just smiled and told me to do as I wanted. I did. Used various gels for mood, slow color transitions, sometimes just back light to silhouette him.

When we were knocking down the concert equipment, Eric, Nimoy’s dresser and the self appointed major domo for the tour, came on stage.

‘Don,’ he said, in his dramatic basso voice, ‘I know that your lighting of VINCENT is in the tradition of the stage; but frankly, it is vanilla pudding. Now your lighting of the concert tonight reflected Van Gogh and his paintings. You should incorporate that into VINCENT. Be bold! Spice it up!’

‘Well,’ I confessed, ‘I have often thought about doing just that, but I don’t know if Leonard go for it.’

‘Who do you think brought up the idea? And I agree with him. Leonard had to go out to dinner with Mr. McLean and he asked me to mention it to you. So you could perhaps have some of it in tomorrow’s rehearsal.’

I didn’t need much time at all. I had it pretty much finalized by the time rehearsals started the next day. The key was my use of colored backlights. In his last years, his most ambitious period, in and around Arles in southern France, he used a preponderance of cobalt blue and amber yellow In one of his letters to his brother, Theo, Vincent defended his use of new colors and bolder brush strokes talking of

“vast fields of wheat under troubled skies”.


The play’s set had two picture sheets a backdrop. The backlights hung downstage of them, in such a way as to avoid spilling any light on the sheets. There were three distinct parts of the set.

Stage Right was Theo’s office, a desk and chair. The backlight for this section was the cold heavy blue of Vincent’s midnight sky on cloudless nights.

“Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue”

Eyes of China Blue

Stage Left was Vincent’s studio. A rough built table with a paint smeared smock on it. A palette and brushes. A stool. An easel. This backlight was the yellow amber of Vincent’s home and sparse furnishing at Arles. His sunflowers.

“Morning fields of amber grain”


Center stage was the neutral zone where the two colors combined. I controlled the intensity of the two backlight colors, in all three sections depending upon where  Leonard was and the mood at the time,

“Colors changing hue”

Starry Night

Leonard liked the new lighting. Erik liked the new lighting. Sandy, Leonard’s wife at the time, liked it.

I knew I had aced it when, on opening night, Alvin Epstein, the Guthrie’s Artistic Director, told me that my lighting was like bringing a Van Gogh painting to life.

But naturally there was a voice of dissent. The Pretentious Pal felt my lighting was vulgar, unfit to be part of serious art. He suggested that Leonard get a ‘real’ Lighting Designer. And naturally he knew the names of several of who he had used in his theater. Leonard said thanks but no thanks. When Leonard was approached by Babcock about a Guthrie production of the skeleton version Leonard first brought to town, Leonard agree and wanted me to be involved and to light it.

At the risk of bragging, theatrical reviewers seldom mention the lighting, and yet in almost all the reviews we got around the country my lights were not only mentioned but also praised. When we played a benefit for The Pretentious Pal’s theater, he really cut loose on me. After all I was a stagehand and lighting was art and the two should be kept separate. And I was not only a stagehand, I was a union stagehand!

I didn’t bother to tell him that this was not the first time this union stagehand designed lights at the Guthrie. And this union stagehand had crossed into his sacred world of ‘Art’ in another way. A few years before I won a prize in a national One-Act playwriting contest, and my play had been published and produced.

In respect of Leonard and Mrs. Nimoy, I listened his criticism and then silently walked away. After I left though. the Nimoys had quite a few words to say to him about his rudeness.

(Hey, Mr. Pretentious Pal, VARIETY  ‘The Bible of Show Business’ said in their review of VINCENT, “Donald Ostertag’s lighting was Excellent”. And they also liked the use Don McLean’s recording of Vincent, in the play.)

The entire of tour of VINCENT consisted of three separate legs. The first was produced by the Guthrie. The second was a month in Boston, Leonard’s home town, and was under Leonard’s production. Once again, The Pretentious Pal came and offered suggestions during the rehearsal. And once again, tried to get Leonard to drop Don McLean’s song and Don Ostertag’s lighting. Again, the answer was thanks but no thanks. The next year the third leg went back on the road to other cities. The third leg was produced by Leonard and another producer.

Neither Dennis Babcock nor myself took the show out on the third leg. Since it was no longer affiliated with the Guthrie, Dennis felt he should concentrate on his ‘day job’ at the theater. He found a Tour Manager to replace him.

My life had changed drastically. I had left the Guthrie and had been elected as Business Agent/Call Steward for the local as well as working off the Union Call List. My three oldest sons were working as stagehands and also going to college. In a few years, they would be joined by the two younger sons. I had missed so much of their growing up; but once I went on the Extra Board, I got something that few fathers get, a chance to work shoulder to shoulder with my sons. And over the years, I also worked with four nephews, a young cousin, and a future daughter-in-law. My days on the road were over as well as my days as a lighting designer foe the Guthrie.

When Leonard found out that I was not going out with him, he said he wanted two stagehands to replace me. I sent two out with him. Dennis and I were involved with the rehearsals, which took place in Minneapolis followed by a week of shows at the Guthrie. Then it was off to Atlanta with Dennis and I going along to help with the first real stop.

Oh, of course, The Pretentious Pal had come to Minneapolis town for the rehearsals, and again with the his suggestions to change both the lighting and the music. Again, Leonard stood firm on my lighting, but he did cave on the music. Don McLean was replaced by a classical piece of largely unknown music by an unknown composer.

The music had two things going for it. The composer had lived in Arles at the same time as Van Gogh, although they probably never met nor even knew of one other. The second thing in the music’s favor was the album cover was a Van Gogh painting of ‘A Bridge Near Arles’.

a bridge near arles

That leg of the tour ended with a filming of the production for VCR distribution and also to be shown some 50 times on the A&E network. That was also the end of Leonard Nimoy in the stage production of VINCENT.

I stayed away from the filming and left it to the two hands. I did however sit in with Leonard and a few others for the showing of the finished product.

I had been forewarned by the hands that although the credit read that the lighting was based on a concept of Donald Ostertag. Don’t believe it. It was basically, all the white lights available are turned on, then off.

As soon as the film started, Leonard wanted to know why my lighting wasn’t used. Julie, Leonard’s daughter, who was around during the filming and had worked with the camera crew on locations of  IN SEARCH OF, explained that the director said the colors and cues wouldn’t work in the film. Leonard didn’t like it that my lights were left out and said so. I just sat there, not wanting to present my view that my lights would have transferred to the film.

The excuse was bogus. Basically, this was a case of the LA boys going to fly-over-country, filming a VCR as quick as possible, and then back to L.A.. Surf’s up!

Leonard’s second comment was at the top of the second act. ‘Never should have replaced Don McLean with this music,’ he muttered. I guess you could say that The Pretentious Pal finally got his way, even if Leonard did not like it.

Thirty plus years later:

The VCR was upgraded to DVD with some added commentary and stories by Leonard for which he received a small fee. Now, he could have used it to buy photography equipment for his new profession or other things; but true to his nature, he divided up the money and sent checks to those of us who had worked on the VINCENT tour.

What a compliment to know your work was still appreciated some thirty years later.

And just recently, Don McLean’s past work was appreciated in a very big way. The notebook that he used to work out the lyrics of American Pie recently was bought at auction for $1,200,000, the third highest money ever paid for an American literary manuscript. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer, more talented artist. Just too bad he didn’t save that paper bag he used to write out the lyrics of his Vincent.

don mclean

And that’s a wrap – for today.


There is an area of show business that I call the Shadow Circuit. What it is people in the public eye, be it politics, arts, entertainment fields, who come to a city to appear before a closed audience at conventions, business meetings, private functions, employee thank you parties, etc. In and out and the public has no idea they were ever in town. Sometime the public is aware of the appearance, but unless they belong to the sponsoring organization, or are big donors, they can’t attend.

To work the Shadow Circuit, the person’s name must appear on a list bookers have which is available for potential clients.

I don’t recall ever seeing Bob Hope appearing before the general public in the Twin Cities in my lifetime, but he was in St. Paul on the Shadow Circuit in 1984. He cracked jokes at the dinner honoring the 80th birthday of Herb Carlson, founder of Radisson Hotel chain, among other ventures.

He talked with the stagehands for a long time, after he asked ‘Just who is this old fart I am suppose to be best friends with’? He ate the dinner, gave a funny spiel about his ‘old friend’, and left.

Before he got into the limo that replaced the Winnebago dressing room he stopped to say goodbye to the stagehands and praise us for doing an honest days work, not like what he had just done. Lying about knowing a total stranger, just for a couple bucks and something to do.

And sometimes it more than a couple bucks. Margaret Thatcher, after she retired as British Prime Minister, let it be known, through an agent, that she would be touring the US on a speaking tour. The Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce was only too glad to be included on her stops. I worked the Iron Lady’s talk.

When I handed in the stagehand bill, the Finance Officer laughed at the small amount compared to what was paid for Thatcher to appear, 70.000 plus expenses for a 45 minute talk.

While I worked Shadow Circuit gigs with the likes of Maya Angelo, Eisner the CEO of Disney, countless politicians, and advocates pro and con on the issues of the day, entertainers were the largest group on the Circuit. Many of these entertainers I had also worked in public concerts.

Recently the National Rifle Association, NRA, the largest gun lobby in the U.S. held their annual Convention. This homage to guns was a few days and a few miles from the latest massacre of school children by a shooter armed with legally purchased guns. Both the convention and the killings took place in Texas, a state where the politicians have made the purchase and carrying of guns of all ilks, almost mandatory.

The entertainment as always was booked via the Shadow Circuit.

But when the news of the killing broke, the entertainers began to cancel out of the gig in respect of the poor children. The first to exit was singer/songwriter Don McLean, followed by the others. Lee Greenwood was the last to walk.

Rudy Giuliani offered to sing ‘God Bless The USA’; but the NRA told him just to send ‘thoughts and prayers’ like all good GOP politicians do, and canceled Entertainment Night.

Now for entertainment they only had the stand-up comic, Donald Trump, who did his usual shtick but adding a litany of the names of the murdered children, followed by a dance, before breaking into his Big Lies routine.

I worked McLean once in concert and one on the Shadow Circuit. Greenwood I worked numerous times on the Circuit.

I worked McLean at a Guthrie concert just prior to the start of the Leonard Nimoy’s Vincent tour. McLean’s recording of his song Vincent was used as background during a segment of Van Gogh’ paintings projected on the screen. The recording was also played hourly at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

I worked McLean also on the Shadow Circuit for the Dayton Department Store at their annual fashion show to raise funds for the Children’s Hospital. At that function, he sang his biggest hit, American Pie. When I suggested to Eric, the Event’s manager that McLean should also sing Vincent, Eric said he never heard it. I told him that another title for the song was Starry, Starry Night. Eric wasn’t familiar with that either. But a few years later, McLean’s recording of it was used in a segment of the fashion show.

That show also featured Brooks Shield, emceeing off the Circuit. I am happy to report, she is as beautiful in person as in the media. And her personality and warmth are genuine.

In praising the exit of McLean from the convention, one comment was why did he ever agree to sing there in the first place. Well, an appearance at a Shadow event in no way endorses the event’s purpose. Like stagehands, (I worked events at the NRA Convention when it was held in Mpls., and had to hold back my feelings throughout the event.), people working the Shadow Circuit do so to make a living and project their job.

Don McLean had recently suffered a mental break-down that resulted in domestic violence. I image the Shadow Circuit was his only source of work.

The Shadow Circuit was the main source of work for the last entertainer to pull out of the NRA Convention, Lee Greenwood, for a good many years. I worked his show numerous times. He is a favorite Shadow Circuit singer for conservative groups who pride themselves for their love of God and Country.

His show is about 45 minutes of C&W and then a black-out just long enough to trip the kabuki drop and the lights come back up to a backdrop of his gigantic US flag.

Lee busts loose with his biggest hit, ‘God Bless The USA. The crowd goes wild. At show’s end the audience is happy and Lee pockets easy bucks on the Shadow Circuit.

By walking out, Greenwood has the most to lose. An ultra right winger who is a main-stay at Trump rallies. An avid gun lover who said in his press conference on Fox News, ‘That weapon killed children’.

Pro gun advocates never forget that kind of talk. He’s going to have to do a lot of singing at Trump rallies to get back in their good graces.

Shadow Circuit bookers find entertainers people like to hear and see, singers who once were big and now…The one that I always enjoyed the most was Chubby Checkers. The audiences loved his singing and dancing and his getting everybody to join in on the Twist. Heck, he almost had me dancing several times.

Another favorite booking was Frankie Valli singing the Four Season’s hits. This was prior to the musical, ‘Jersey Boys’ opening on Broadway in 2005. The musical features the songs and lives of the Four Seasons. After the musical made it big, Frankie and his three cohorts were back on the concert circuit, too big for the Shadow Circuit.

PS: Frankie does not speak with a falsetto voice. His voice is gravely and has the gruff of New Jerseyites. He is also easy to work with.

Some entertainers use the Circuit to show off talents that are not evident to the public. Jim Belushi, actor and younger brother of the great comic actor, John Belushi, fronts his R&B, The Sacred Hearts. (I have no idea as to why he choose that title.) For years, it was a frequent booking on the Shadow Circuit.

Jim Belushi’s musical talent, like his acting talent, is in the so-so range. His biggest asset is his the fact he is John Belushi’s brother.

But show biz is in his rear view mirror thanks to his new vocation that pays better and not much hard work. He is a California State Sanctioned cannabis grower. John would be proud of his kid brother.

Not all Shadow Circuit acts are appreciated though. I worked Doug Krenshaw, the Cajun Fiddler at a closed event. He was big in Louisiana and some of his work was getting national air time. He got a big applause for his playing, but then he decided on a little comedy relief and told, what he thought were a few funny jokes. They might have been funny in the Mississippi Delta, but in the head waters of the river, they were way too raw for the audience. They booed him off the stage.

Backstage I could hear the booker shouting at Krenshaw for using that language. And all the while the booker was screaming in worse language than what Krenshaw had had used. I never worked him again and if he still managed to work the Shadow Circuit, it would have been events in Bayou country, where he just got honored in the Louisiana Hall Of Fame.

Another example of riling up the audience was Joan Rivers in a Shadow Circuit booking for Jewish Women’s Charity Drive. When she asked, ‘Can we talk’, she talked in some very unladylike language. She went so far as to think since both she and the audience were Jewish, she was free to revert to old Jewish stereotypes. She even tried to get humor out of the Holocaust. Raunchy, racist, and tasteless, she ignored the boos and kept on digging her hole deeper.

One of the committee members ran backstage and tried to turn off my lighting consul, thinking it it controlled the mic. When she walked off stage she gave the audience a middle finger salute.

Rivers got a lot of boos and I bet a lot of bucks for that Shadow Circuit event. And a big red warning flag to any bookers via the Shadow Circuit.

I worked her show in a theater venue…once. Her public concert made her Shadow concert seem tame; but since the audience bought tickets, they should have known what kind of show they were in for.

Big companies use the Circuit for various reasons. Target Stores had a yearly event where they brought in managers of their stores from all over. The event was rich with name singers, who were releasing new CD’s. Some of the biggest names like Tony Bennett or Celine Dion would release a CD, say with tens songs and also a CD sold only at Target stores with four additional songs on. Always a lot of talent appearing before a closed audience.

Best Buy, in the years of their orginal founder, used entertainers off the Circuit for parties. For non management employees Best Buy corporate campus was turned into a festival. Free food, soft drinks, bands for dancing, and several big names like Lennie Kravitz. The management had their party in the Convention Center with food and drinks and rows of arcade game and big time entertainment. One year, Elton John headlined. Elton John… and the public never knew he was in town.

In 2007, Tom Collins, of Champions on Ice fame, rented the Target Center for a birthday party for his wife, Jane. The biggest array of greatest figure skaters in the world came and performed before the closed audience of family and friends of Janie. Everyone present knew that it would be Janie’s last birthday. She died a few months after. After the death of his wife of 41 years, Tom Collins sold Champions On Ice.

I never thought I would ever write anything in my blog praising Cosby but I have to give the devil his due. Nobody worked the Shadow Circuit like he did. He mastered it.

When he was offered a Shadow Circuit event, he contacted Mystic Lake Casino, and arranged for a day or two of two performances per day. Next, a call to Minneapolis booker to get several days of two a day performances in a Minneapolis concert venue

He was an easy sell, did not need much advance publicity, sure sell out every performance, not many stagehands.

For stagehands it was apiece of cake to set up and take down. Even on spots it was a snap. Pick him up as he came on stage. Once he sat down, you could lock down the light because he never moved until the end. His show lasted about an hour and another started an hour later. Two performance pays in the time it usually takes for one regular show.

For Cosby, it was also a snap. Sit in an easy chair, smoke a big cigar and repeat some of the old stories he has told, recorded, written in books, for years.

A Shadow Event that generates another dozen or so performances! And for over a decade, he did this n in the Twin Cities three or four times a year; and he worked Shadow Events all over the country. Cosby ruled the Shadow Circuit…until!!!

The names and faces that were on the Circuit since I worked it may have changed, but it is alive and well yet today; and it remains a big source of income for entertainers, celebrities, and stagehands..


As told to me a few times by Morrie Chaflen. In his own style and his own words as I remember it. Here’s his adventure in the USSR.

“Hubert Horatio Humphrey came to the U of MN from a small, very small, town in South Dakota. The biggest business in the town was his dad’s drug store and soda fountain. The biggest events were the Church Fall Festival and the summer arrival of a traveling circus. The kind that consists of one extended family that change into the next act by changing costumes. So the lion, (one old toothless lion), tamer also was part of the high wire act, and so it went with everybody. Nobody was a one-act performer.

The one who never changed costumes was the head man. He wore his clown suit as the head clown and the emcee. Hubert said that clown was the best part of the show.. Hubert really liked clowns; and when he found out that the Moscow Circus with Popov, the Russian Sunshine Clown, was performing t the Brussels’ World Fair, he got the State Department to appoint him as a U.S. Ambassador to the fair. Once there he widened the culture exchange, got the city that had elected him mayor years before, Minneapolis, the first week engagement of the Russian Circus, and even got his old friend, me, a tour in Russia. And darn near broke up that old friendship when those two yahoos had their guns pointed at me.

But wait I’m getting ahead of myself.

The kids were all gung- ho about the tour, chance to see great ballet, art museums, Russian history and culture…but what they saw was USSR Collective farms, Collected factories, and Collected ruts on the roads we had to travel on. Each day had a short bus tour to see the sights and listen to somebody from the Propaganda Ministry drone on about how the USSR life was the best in the world. After the first couple rides, nobody wanted to go on another; but Smith, our State Department overseer, said we had to have a few go on each tour, and he suggested using a round robin so each skater went on one bus in every venue.

On the tour, our food was centered around the beet. Beets fixed every way imaginable… and dark bread, and chicken. To drink, there was water, vodka, water mixed with vodka. Most all of us stuck with the water, even if it had a gray color and a taste that varied from city to city.

But heck, we were making more money than ever before on a tour, thanks to the State Department. We had a small per diem to spend in the USSR, and the rest waiting, tax free, in our bank accounts back home. Since any money you received in the USSR had to be spent in the USSR. You couldn’t take it out of the country. You could leave it in an account and spend it when, if, you came back.

I was allowed to bring in one hand to be the stage carp to Russian hands. One wardrobe mistress to handle the Russian wardrobe gals. One sewing machine that the Russians never used…they argued they could sew better and faster by hand. And one ice-maker/Zamboni mechanic/driver…and Wee Willy was the best there was.

Wee Willy stood about 6’4”. He had a build that would qualify him to play tight end for the Vikings. Strong as a Russki weight lifter, gentle as a lamb, and a natural mechanic. I called him just Willy. Darned if I was gong to call someone wee when I to look up to talk to. I asked him once what was with the nickname Wee, and he said because he was the runt of the family. Hate to foot the food bill for that bunch.

I had hired him shortly after we got our first Zamboni. We were in Charleston, WV and the machine needed a tune-up. Our driver didn’t want to get his hands dirty and Willy, who surfaced the arena ice by hand, asked to take a shot at fixing the machine. Half hour later he was driving it like a pro. Hired him on the spot.

When the Russian tour came up, Willy had also just returned from a short visit to the factory of Peter Zamboni, the man who conceived and built the first Zamboni, the Model A.

Peter had built it just to use at the Zamboni brothers ice skating rink. Sonja Henie heard about it and demanded he build one for her tour. Now when Sonja spoke, the figure skating world listened and pretty soon Zamboni was making his machines for all the big skating shows, including Holiday.

We got one of his first Model B’s. Now, instead of just putting the ice scraper on top of a Jeep, it was on top of a frame built for it. And some new improvements to the scraper. We took a Model B on the Russian tour just like Humphrey told us to.

When we got to the first city we were briefed by Smith, the State Department liaison.

‘Glad to me you, Mr. Smith.’

‘Not Mr. Just Smith.’

‘Is Smith your first or last name?’

‘Both.’ Then he points over to the 3 men wearing black leather coats. ‘And these are your translators.’ I started to talk to them but Smith grabbed my elbow. ‘Don’t bother. They can’t speak English.’

‘Then why?’

Kilo. Golf. Bravo.’

‘Oh! What’s their names, Manny, Moe, and Jack? Hey, maybe…Larry, Moe, and Curly? Since they couldn’t understand English, I figured I’d get a poke at the bad ass KGB I heard so much about.

‘Yeah, the second sounds about right. If you need help talking to a Russian, go through me or Svetlana. I was told she’ll be with us all the time.’ He nodded to a woman talking to Willy. ‘Call her Svet for short.’

There was nothing short about Svet. In her work boots, she was only about two inches shy from looking Willy straight in the eyes…when she wasn’t checking him all over. That gal had plans for Willy; but so did a lot of the skaters, and they had all struck out. Willy always put them of by saying he had a fiancée back home in the mountains, but that didn’t put off Svet. His mountains where far away.

Svet became his shadow. She sat next to him when they ate, or on bus rides, and was behind him when he was tuning up or driving the Zamboni. After the first venue, she knew enough to take over for Willy, if needed.

(It didn’t dawn om me at the time but Willy had a second shadow, Moe. On bus rides, Larry and Curly sat in the last row. Moe behind the driver. Willy and Svet in the next row. If Willy and Svet were not on the ride, neither was Moe.)

On the first day of our second city, Willy complained to me because Svet kept pestering him to let her drive. ‘Boss, I keep telling her, if you want to drive, get your own. And she says she can’t. There isn’t another Zamboni in the whole USSR. And then she says but there will be soon. I figure they must have some on order with Mr. Zamboni. Oh, and Boss, she keeps volunteering me to go on those darn bus tours’.

I couldn’t help him with Svet but I knew how to keep Willy off the tours. Once I said he has piano playing fingers, long and slim. When I asked if ever played piano, he said no, just my harmonica and he played You are my sunshine. I asked On the him to play another tune but he only knew Sunshine.

Next day tour I asked him to play a song for us. When he finished playing Sunshine, everybody applauded and asked him to play again. So we got another Sunshine. A little later, I asked him to play a tune for us… Yup no more demands from Svet that they go on the day tours.

We sold out every performance in the tour. Standing room only, even in the aisles. They sure loved figure skating. Smith said they grew up with ballet and skating was ballet on ice. I laughed and asked if they had a Bolshoi Figure Skating. He gave me a small smile and commented maybe in the near future.

The audiences liked the show, but the biggest applause was always reserved for Willy, Svet, and the Zamboni. Some of the audience came early to watch the ice being surfaced for the. They stayed in their seats at intermission and waited after the show until Wee Willy finished and parked the Zamboni. I thought maybe I should have left the skaters at home and just brought the Zamboni. Smith said those Zamboni lovers were workers at Russian ice arenas.

All in all, I was very happy with the tour. I had already talked to Smith about a possible China Tour. Get a little détente going there too. And then after the last performance of the tour, I got bite where it hurt most!

Looking in the rear view mirror, I should have known! But Russian mirrors are foggy. Heck, they’re so foggy, I grew a beard, for fear of cutting my throat shaving.

I had wrapped up the paper work, aka Red Tape, and was about to check on the final load out when Slats, our head carpenter came running. He was shouting something about the Zamboni.

I took off running. They weren’t going to pull something like that on me. No way! But I pulled up in a hurry when the KGB’s answer to the Three Stooges came from behind the Zamboni.

Moe, with his hands in the pocket of his black leather ankle length coat, stood in the center of his two stooges. He had that come-on-I-dare-you look on his face.

Larry and Curly were wearing their black leather knee length leather coats. And each had a BIG pistol pointed at me.

Thinking back I should have been praying; but at the time all I could think of was, “What in the name of Hubert Horatio Humphrey did I get into???”

Willy was standing by the machine watching as a herd of Russians, supervised by Svet, were tearing the Zamboni apart, piece by piece. He held out his hands palms up and came toward me; but Smith, who had placed a hand on my shoulder, waved him back.

As much as I wanted to stay, the sight of those BIG guns and the look on Moe’s mug, were more than enough to allow Smith to get me in his assigned car and drive away.

I cut loose with a string of swearing for a good five minutes. Once I got my over it, I apologized to Smith for my language. He said no sweat, he had heard the words before. So then I cut loose with some I figured he never heard before because I was making them up as I went along. And I didn’t stop until we got to the hotel.

I told Smith I had already packed and brought my luggage to the arena. Why did we come back to the hotel. Smith said to pick up something I forgot.

There was an U.S. Embassy ‘translator’, complete with a BIG bulge under his suit coat sitting in front of the room door. He nodded to us and stepped aside so Smith could unlock the door. I followed Smith into the dark room. No light on. Shades down over the window. Once we were in and Smith shut the door, he turned on the light.

I used a couple words Smith had heard before! On the bed, there was U.S. greenbacks scattered around, a lot of them; and when I looked closely, they all had old Ben Franklin’s picture staring back a me. Now in those days, a hundred dollar bill was as rare as a two dollar bill today. And a flock of them were sitting on the bed.

‘Should be enough to pay for the Zamboni,’ Smith said.

‘Probably three,’ I said, ‘And enough left over for a couple steak dinners when you and I get back to the good old USA.’ Smith laughed and said it was a date.

Then I came back to Earth.

‘Hell,’ I said, ‘We have to spend it all here. There’s no way we can get it out of Russia. Damn! Damn! Damn!’

Smith laughed and put them into a large metal attache case that had US Diplomatic Pouch painted on top and bottom with a chain welded to it and a handcuff on the other end. And while he took care of the money, he told me it was tax free to do whatever I wanted with it, and said there is also a new Zamboni waiting back in Minneapolis.

‘Now, let’s go home.’

In the car he broke the news that Willy was staying in Russia for a while. He and Svet had work to do, seeing that the parts the Russians had duplicated were assembled correctly to make ‘Russian Zambonis’, and Russians were taught how to drive them. For how long he was staying, who knows. There’s a lot of arenas in the USSR, and if Svet has her way, he might never come home.

‘Nah,’ I told Smith, ‘Wee Willy’s got a girl back in the mountains waiting to marry him.’

I fell asleep in the plane as soon as I sat down and buckled up. Hours later I woke up and immediately asked Smith how much did Hubert Humphrey know and when did he find out?

‘He was briefed last week,’ Smith said, ‘And ordered not to let you know. Then your old friend did some ordering of his own. That new Zamboni waiting for you…Senator Humphrey ordered that that be added to the money you would get because you lost your Zamboni to the Russians. Then he ordered that everyone on the tour receive a nice tax free bonus on top of their wages.’

‘Sounds like the Hubert Horatio Humphrey I know’, I said. ‘How about you? Did you get a bonus too?’

Smith smiled and told me no bonus but a jump up one pay grade and all his wages during the Russian tour were made tax free.

‘Good! Great!’, I muttered and went back to sleep.

After a couple weeks vacation, we began another tour. One stop was in West Berlin, as close to the wall as possible, hoping to spread a little detente by osmosis. I was in my office wagon with my back to the door when it opened and let the sunlight in, briefly, then disappeared because of the large man entering. Wee Willy was back!

‘Come to tell you, Boss, I’m back. Smith had told me I would still have a job when I was ready.’

I didn’t bother to look up. ‘Since when is Smith telling me who I have to hire?’ I said in the gruffest manner I could without letting on how happy I was. He began to hem and haw and I jumped up and gave him a hug. Well, as much as I could, my arms were too short to wrap my arms all around him.

I made him sit and tell me what happened after we left.

Seems the mechanics were working in 12 hour shifts turning out the machines. Soon as they built one, Svet would try it out. She had last say on whether it passed the test. Next was to line up the would-be driver and Willy would be the instructor. If any of the mechanics or drivers screwed up, Svet’s brother, Ivan, would ship them off to a collective farm.

‘He sounds like a real bad ass.’

‘He was bound and determined I was going to marry Svet. He didn’t want me to go back home because that would mean Svet would take charge of all the Zambonis in Russia and he didn’t want to see her with that kind of authority. Said he was going to see that I could never leave Russia.’

‘A Real bad ass. Glad I didn’t have him around on the tour.’

‘Boss. You did! Only you called him Moe

‘Little Moe was big Svet’s brother! Must have had different fathers. So how did Svet take it when you said you were leaving?

‘She loved it. Forgot all about trying to marry me. She said with me gone she’d be number one Zamboni expert in the whole USSR.’

‘So when is my number one Zamboni expert ready to get back to work?’

If it’s ok with you, I’d like some time yet. See I’m flying home and marrying Li’l Lou.’

I had to laugh. Wee Willy and Li’l Lou. ‘Lil’ Lou? She the runt of her family?’

‘Oh, no, Boss. She’s regular size. Li’l Lou is nickname. Her folks were thinking their first born to be a boy and name him Amos after his Pa, and have nickname of Junior. So when the first born was a girl, they named her after Lou Ella, her mom. And they nicknamed her Li’l Lou instead of Junior. They saved the nickname Junior for their first boy.

‘And what does Li’l Lou think about having a husband on tour most of the time?

‘Well, Boss,’ Willy said, ‘I know you have a hard time finding good wardrobe people and then keeping them. Li’l Lou can sew by hand or by machine. Can make a dress from a pattern or just from a drawing…’

Willy had it all figured out.

‘Tell you what, Willy,’ I said, ‘Get married and go on a four week paid vacation for my wedding present to you. Then come to Minneapolis and I’ll give Li’l Lou her present. A job so you both will be on the same tour. Now get moving.’

He wanted to say more but I waved him out. ‘Oh! Just one more thing, Willy. Play me a song.’

That sure made him smile and he launched into You Are My Sunshine. I never thought he had time to learn anything else to play like maybe the Russian National Anthem.

So now, anytime you watch a Russian win a medal for figure skating or a Russian score a goal in hockey, you can bet that the ice they learned on was surfaced courtesy of a descendant of the Zamboni the KGB got from me.

Of course, if you mention the word Zamboni to a Russian, he’ll tell you, with a straight face, it’s another earth-shaking invention the Russians came up with.”

And then when Morrie finished his story would hum a little of

You Are My Sunshine.

Like I said

Morris, (Call me Morrie} Chaflen was


a risk taker, a warm human being, and

a great story teller.

If you ever met him, you would never forget him’

I know that for a personal fact.


The other of the big three ice productions came about when Maurice Chaflen took his ten year old roller blade touring show, Skating Vanities and converted the idea to an ice show, Holiday On Ice. It differed from the other two in that it had several productions traveling all at the same time and it carried it’s own ice making equipment, which meant they didn’t have to confine the tours to cities with ice arenas in the US or around the globe.

Holiday began it’s US operation in 1945. The first international company was called Ice Vogues and started with a tour of Mexico in 1947 and toured Mexico and South America. In 1956, the name was changed and Holiday On Ice now toured all over the globe.

Except for a few years when Sonja Henie joined the company, the show did not use big name skaters. It featured the spinning wheel, skaters linked arms one by one, ending in the spokes of the wheel skating from a central hub. Each performance ended with a kick line and fireworks.

To attract a new audience the reviews introduced kiddie themes like Bugs Bunny, Peter Pan, Ali Baba, and the like, the first of the costumed ice show that led to today’s Disney On Ice.

In 1964, the North American show was sold to Madison Square Garden, leaving Chaflen as owner of Holiday International, which grew to have three companies traveling around different countries at the same time breaking new ground in Russia and China. The US version ended in 1985, but the International shows are still touring.

Tom Collins, a Canadian skating champion, joined Holiday, and when his skating days ended, he and Morrie Chaflen started Champions On Ice. No sets or chorus lines. Just figure skating champions performing the routines that brought them fame.

Morrie Chaflen sold out his share to Tom, but not until he married Tom’s sister, Martha, also a Canadian champion skater.

At first Tom could use only amateur champions but when the rules were changed to allow professionals he brought in names like Brian Boitano, Katrina Witt and Michelle Kwan, and every big name skater in the 40 years he had Champions. Sometimes he used skaters that hadn’t made their mark yet, just talent and promise. One such promising youngster was 12 year old Dorothy Hamil.

When he staged his final tour in 2007 and sold his company, shortly after his wife died, he was regarded as the most powerful person in figure skating.

Tom’s father had been a gold miner, but never found a mine as rich as his son found in figure skating. He was grossing over 50 million a year. But when he was sitting backstage talking to hands like myself you would think he just one of the guys.

But Tom Collins wasn’t one to sit back and enjoy retirement. He went on tour with Neil Diamond and revolutionized the selling of swag at concerts. No more just a CD was for sale. Tom had T shirts and caps, posters and autographed pictures. Swag was now big business. He went on tours with other performers and bands. His brother, Butch, had been working for me as a stagehand and Tom got him involved in selling Swag for Sesame Street Live whose headquarters are in Minneapolis, and I lost a good hand in Butch.

The big shows of Ice Follies and Ice Follies are now just show business memories like Ziegfeld Follies and Vaudeville. Their time maybe over but they broke ground in figure skating. They proved there was a market for skating shows, and a career for skaters even if they never became household names giving a reason for the hours needed in the grueling task of becoming a figure skater. And they introduced the art of figure skating to a new audience, an audience that continues to support the ice shows that followed.

The people behind ice shows, past and present, had for the most part, one thing in common, ice skating was a big part of their life since they were old enough to have skates laced on.

But one of the biggest mover and shaker in the business was a non- skater, Morris Chaflen, a true entrepreneur. Chaflen, ‘call me Morrie’, was a man who dove into things without worrying about the depth of the water. Once you met him, you never forgot him.

Morrie grew up in Minneapolis. He was still in knee pants when he started his first business, selling newspapers and candies on a street corner. His first big-boy enterprise was a combination pool hall and bowling alley.

I knew a lot about hawking newspapers and playing pool. That’s how I grew up, not shooting basketballs or ice skating.’

In 1947, he and his partner, Ben Berger, bought the Detroit Gems, a professional basketball team, to Minneapolis and renamed it the Minneapolis Lakers. Luck of the draft brought them George Mikan when the Chicago team he played for two years folded. Mikan helped establish the NBA into a major sports organization and was name the Greatest Basketball Player of the 1st half of the 20th Century.

In 1957, he and Berger sold the team to Bob Short, another Minneapolis entrepreneur and politician, who moved the team to Los Angeles, three years later’. It broke a lot of hearts including your truly.

Yeah, Short was always running in state or federal elections. Running but never winning. Maybe some voters figured he’d sell them out just like he did with the Lakers. You think?’

Morrie was active in politics also. A behind- the- scenes worker. Never a candidate. In 1944, he was in the liberal arm of the MN Democratic Party when, under the leadership of Hubert Humphrey, merged with the larger MN Farmer Labor Party. He became friends with Humphrey from the time Humphrey came to study at the University of Minnesota and he worked for Humphrey’s city, state, and federal campaigns, as Humphrey went from Mayor of Minneapolis, to MN’s Senator in DC, to Vice President under Johnson, and back to Senator. The two remained close throughout their lives.

US Senator at that time, Hubert Humphrey met with Morrie Chaflen at the 1958 Brussels’s World Fair and the meeting resulted in a warm up of the Cold War and the beginning of the Cultural Trade Treaty between the USA and Russia as it was originally intended to be.

When Hubert worked out that exchange of the Moscow Circus and Holiday On Ice, a lot of people said it wouldn’t work, but we showed ‘em. Up til’ then it was just we’ll send you a piano player and you send us a cello player. After we went to Russia, the exchange went big time with theater groups, museum things, opera, and ballet. Just think, without ballet companies coming over, all those dancers never would have defected.’

Humphrey had purposed that the US would send over the Ringling Brother’s Circus with America’s famous clown Emmett Kelly, even though Kelly was no longer with Ringling. In return, Russia would send the Moscow Circus with it’s great clown, Popov. The USSR said da and nyet. They would send Popov and the circus to the US, but they wanted Holiday On Ice, instead of a circus…and it had to bring everything including the ice making equipment and the machine that shaves the ice.

Without asking Chaflen, he quickly signed the agreement, He knew Morrie would be more than happy to take the show to Russia. Humphrey had a caveat though. The first stop on the tour would be a week’s engagement in Minneapolis, MN where he started his political career.

Soon after the Russian adventure, Holiday broke the barrier of another closed nation, China.

Chaflen traveled around the world with his Holiday On Ice shows playing before European Royalty and World leaders like Nikita Khrushchev, and a Who’s Who of celebrities at the time like Princess Diana and Elvis Presley.

Morrie lived a life he never could have imagined as that ten year old kid standing on that corner in Minneapolis back in the day.

But it also had two tragedies that could have had driven him into a life changing depression, if he had been a weaker man.

On St. Patrick’s Day 1960, his wife, Martha Collins Chaflen and their three children, ages 2, 6, 7, were flying to Miami when the plane broke into pieces in the air and crashed. Morris Chaflen’s beloved wife and children were among the 63 people who lost their lives in that still unexplained horror.

On Oct 31st, 1963, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Arena, just as the opening night performance of Holiday was into the finale, a leak from a LP tank, stored under the bleachers, was ignited by an electrical short and blew up, killing 81 and injuring some 400 more. Morrie was not there and none of the cast or crew were hurt; but the fact that there was 81 deaths and so many of the over 4,000 in the audience, and a statement from the sheriff stating that if the show had not started 15 minute late, the deaths and injuries would not have been as great, hit Morrie hard.

Criminal charges against six of the arena’s staff were dropped after more investigation. The arena reopened and hosted a cattle show six weeks later, and The Beatles a year later, followed a month later by a return of Holiday On Ice, which broke the arena’s attendance records.

It took Morrie quite awhile to get back to being the easy going person he was before, but slowly he reverted to the man who was so much fun to be around. He remarried and had two sons with his second wife. He lost his ownership in Holiday International by a court ruling over a stock issue. He started Chaflen International and dabbled in various businesses. He died in 1949 at the age of 72, a year after the death of his good friend, Hubert Humphrey.

Morrie was a natural story teller, and you never forgot him or his stories. He loved to sit backstage and regale young stagehands like your truly.

Now did I ever tell you about…’

You probably heard the story before but any story Morrie told was worth hearing again. He had a twinkle in his eye and just a slight accent. He used his hands in telling a story. He could have had a career as a story telling comedian.

He had that gift of entertaining through the art of telling stories that seems to be second nature to those who lived in the shtetls of Eastern Europe. Like the Boston barber, Max Nimoy, father of Leonard Nimoy, who told stories of living in and escaping from a shtetl in Ukraine.

And like Myron Cohen who came to the US from Russia at the age of two. Cohen was a traveling salesman who endeared himself to his customers by telling them funny stories. He was talked into performing at comedy clubs and soon became a household name because of his appearances on the TV variety shows of the 50’s.

And like Zero Mostel,’If I were a rich man’, who, when cast as the original Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof’, balked at the concept that the original stories by Sholem Aleichem, who lived in a shtetl in the Ukraine before coming to the US, being ‘too Jewish’ to succeed. Using stories he heard from his father of life and dreams of the inhabitants of an East European shtetl, he crafted the Fiddler we know today. And over the years his Tevye was adhered to by actors like Herschel Bernardi, Theodore Bikel, Leonard Nimoy among others.

Morrie’s favorite story was what happened on that first Russian tour. It also is my favorite Morrie story.

I took off running. They weren’t going to pull something like that on me. No way! But I pulled up in a hurry when the KGB’s answer to the Three Stooges came from behind the Zamboni.

Moe, with his hands in the pocket of his black leather ankle length coat, stood in the center of his two stooges. He had that come-on-I-dare-you look on his face.

Larry and Curly were wearing their black leather knee length leather coats. And each had a BIG pistol pointed at me.

Thinking back I should have been praying but at the time all I could think of was, “What in the name of Hubert Horatio Humphrey did I get into???”

Whoa! Whoa! Morrie’s story needs a post of it’s own.

Stay tuned for KGB AND THE ZAMBONI.


CBS TV showed parts of the Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga concert at Radio City in Special touted as the last time you will see Tony Bennett, who is 95 and has Alzheimer’s. What a cold way to sell a show!

I watched one song in it. Tony was standing in the crook of the piano singing ‘Love For Sale, while Gaga danced. I turned it off. I felt that it was a case of taking advantage of Bennett. See the old man try to remember the words. Kind of like going to an auto race hoping to see a crash. Going to a hockey game hoping to see a fight. Slowing down driving by an accident to see if it was more than just a fender bender.

But Danny Bennett praised both the concert and the special. Said it was good for his father. And Danny loved his father. He gave up a musical and producing career to save his father’s life and get him back to being the man that Tony Bennett was before he hit rock bottom.

In an interview on CBS’s Sixty Minutes, Lady Gaga also said that working with his music again helped Tony Bennett. She described how during rehearsals and the first of the concerts, Bennett sang his Standards without missing a beat; but she said he was oblivious to her and everything else. But then when she came on stage in the second concert to do her duets with him. Tony watched her as she approached him. He broke out in a big smile and said, ‘Lady Gaga’. He remembered her.

Her words were a breakthrough in my understanding how the music helped Tony Bennett, even if only for a short while. I thought back on the countless times I held a fussy baby in my arms and sang,Hush, little baby, now don’t you cry.’ Or cuddled a little one in my lap and sang,’You are my Special Angel, sent from up above’. While the song brought to the little one it also helped the singer’s disposition.

Familiar music brings back warm memories of bits and pieces of my life when I hear a certain song. There isn’t a day that I don’t tell Alexa to play songs from my library.

Jan and Dean were pioneers in Surfing Rock music. One of their biggest hits was Dead Man’s Curve. It dealt with a dangerous curve in a highway outside of L.A.. At the peak of their career, Jan Berry, driving his usual dangerous speed rammed into a parked truck a few miles from the curve. He was thought dead at the scene; but he manged to live, even if it took years before he could regain a semblance of his past life.

During these rehab years, Jan went on tour with Dean. One of the concerts was at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. I worked the lights from the stage right wing. Prior to half hour I went into the green room to get a cup of coffee. Both performers were sitting there. Dean was friendly and talked a good bit with me. Jan didn’t look at me. He stared out the window all the time. When they came into the wing waiting to go on stage. Dean smiled as he led Jan in. Jan had a hard time walking and just stared ahead.. My first thought was there was no way there would be a concert with Jan in that condition. I took the house lights out, the band began, stage lights up and watched as Dean holding onto Jan’s hand led his partner to the mic.

When the applause ended, the two began to sing. Jan gazed out into the darkness but he sang his parts without any problem. At the end, Dean led him off stage and Jan was back to his blank stare persona.

Eventually, Jan recovered and led a normal life in the music industry, albeit, with much physical pain. Then, 38 years after the accident, Jan suffered a stroke and died. But for that second lifetime, music was his medicine.

Back in 2016 I read where one of favorite lyric poets, singer/songwriter, Kris Kristofferson was in the early stages of Alzheimers. Kris was living on his ranch in Hawaii with a large portion of his 8 children, their children, and just about anyone who wanted to spend some time there. His wife took him to their place in California where the only extraneous noise would come from the music that Kris liked best. His memory improved in the solitude and in the fact a California doctor’s diagnosis was Lyme Disease, not Alzheimers, and changed the medicine. Kris announced his retirement in 2020, not because of health concerns but just old age. His wife says he is constantly filling up scraps of paper with new lyrics. So music helps but so does Second Opinions.

Brian Wilson was the musical genius behind The Beach Boys; the writer, producer, co-lead singer; but he thought the music was pedestrian, and aspired to compose in the manner of George Gershwin and others. His first nervous breakdown came on tour in Australia. He was replaced by a fine studio musician, Glen Campbell.

His bouts with mental illness led him to enlist a handler, Eugene Landry, a self professed expert, (aka con man), in helping the mentally disturbed. Landry soon became the biggest influence in Wilson’s life, taking over Wilson’s finances and in return ‘rehabilitated’ him with LSD, coke, opium, booze, junk food, etc., and cutting him off from his old friends and family.

In one of the rehab years, Wilson’s brothers Carl and Dennis, persuaded Brian to go on tour with the Beach Boys. One of the stops was Northrop Auditorium at the U of MN.

When it came time for Brian to take part in the concert, it was as if I was seeing Jan and Dean again. Brian’s two brothers led him to the mic. As he was led past me. I saw that blank stare Jan had had .But when it came time to join in, to co-lead sing, he did so just as if he was back in his old form. The same way Jan had done.

It took several years before he came back completely and when he did he broke off on his own. His two brothers were dead. Dennis drowned and Carl died of cancer. Their was bad feelings and lawsuits between Brian and the other members of the group.

Once again I witnessed the effect that music had on a person who was in grave need of it.

Age can also bring about a softness in the heart. I see where Brian Wilson is going to reunite with cousin Mike Love and Al Jardine, two other founders of The Beach Boys, and former unfriends, in a reunion tour of the group. You think maybe a new album will come out of the tour?

I worked many Frank Sinatra concerts over the years. Heck, I even paid to see him, once prior to being a stagehand and once while I was in the business. I worked the Rat Pack Tour in 1988 just after Dean Martin pleaded sickness and was replaced by Lisa Minnelli. The tour was just two years after Sinatra was hospitalized with a serious intestinal malady. It hadn’t slowed him down. His road manager told me that Martin left, not because of illness, but because of the antics of Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., like lighting firecrackers in the hotel corridors late at night.

But his age and past life caught up with him soon after. His heart, his lungs, his stomach began to slow him down. And he developed a form of dementia. One of his last concerts took place at the Met Ice Arena in Bloomington, MN., during the Super Bowl Week festivities in the Twin Cities in 1992. He had regressed greatly since I worked him in 88.

I got a hint of his problems during the stage set up. We put three very large video monitors across the front stage. In the test I saw the words to songs Sinatra had sung for years. The band was conducted, not by names like Nelson Riddle or Buddy Rich, but Frank Sinatra Jr., whose main concern was not so much the conducting as taking care of his father.

After sound check Jr. left to bring his father to the arena. I was there when he helped Frank out the limo in the corridor. Of all the times I worked Frank Sinatra he always pointed at me and said he remembered the hat. Always. He had always joked with the stagehands, but not this time. He looked only at his son.

I held a flashlight and walking backwards up the escape stairs to the stage shined it so Frank could see the steps, while Jr. followed, placing a reassuring hand on his father’s back.

He was breathing heavily as he struggled up the stairs. He paused midway up and spoke.

‘Hey, kid, where did you say we were?

‘Minneapolis, Pop.’

‘I’ve been here before, haven’t I?’

‘Couple years ago on the Rat Pack tour.’

‘They with me tonight?’

‘No, Pop. Just you. You’re the big act for the Super Bowl shindig.’

‘Super Bowl! Who won?’

‘It’s next Sunday, Pop. We’ll watch on TV at home’.

I tried to swallow the lump that was in my throat. We waited stage left as the band played the introduction. Stage lights to dim and Jr. brought his dad to the large glow tape X where the vocal mic stand stood. Frank took the mic, held it the right distance from his mouth and launched into his first song, Night And Day’.

His voice was raspy but he still pronounced the lyrics distinct as he always did. He gave a good performance, relying on help from the video monitors. A few times he went up searching for what was next in the song; but Jr. and the band covered until he was back on track.

His familiar music was working a transformation. With each song’s ending, he seemed to regain more and more of his personality. His old patter returned, the wise cracks, even his remembering that it was Super Bowl week. But his voice was sounding more and more tired. Near the hour mark of the concert, the band cut loose with ‘Come Fly With Me’. At the end of the song, the stage lights went down. The applause erupted. The lights came back full and Sinatra sang ‘My Life’. Each time I find myself flat on my face, I just pick myself up and get back in the race.’

The lights dimmed and the applause was louder than before. Sinatra’s encores always consisted of six or more song; but when the stage lights returned, Frank was at the top of the escape stairs with Frank Jr. and me and my flashlight.

‘Do I go back on, Kid?’

‘No, Pop. We’re going back to the hotel and then fly home tomorrow.’

‘Good. I am tired.’

Thank goodness the set had not included Frank singing ‘My Way’; but ease time I hear the song and the words ‘And now the end is near and I must face the final curtain’, I think back on the last Frank Sinatra concert I worked.

Frank Sinatra died two year later. But his music is still a favorite way of mine to relax me.

Glen Campbell suffered from Alzheimers for several years. His last tour is the subject of a documentary by James Keach of his last tour. The title of the film is ‘I’ll Be Me’. If you have a couple hours free and a couple boxes of Kleenix, I would recommend watching it.

In the first part Campbell is happy go lucky, singing his songs, carrying on with the three of his children who are in the band, doing Donald Duck impressions, teasing the young son of the bus driver, and fighting back against the loss of memory. But helpful as the first part of the tour was to Campbell, the second part broght out the horror of the disease. It showed Campbell in a foul mood most of the time, constantly complaining about the way the music was being played, the audiences, and wandering around the stage changing songs on the fly. Making up things to rant about. Forgetting importing things. At peace only when he was deep into singing or talking to his daughter.

His music had helped him but the length of the tour just was too much for anyone, much less a person with his mental problems.

The film premiered in 2015 and was updated in 2017 when Glen Campbell died.

The award winning song, ‘I’ m Not Going To Miss You,’ came about from a quote of Glen Campbell’s one day when he grew tired of trying to answer questions about his Alzheimers. ‘I don’t know why everybody’s worried about. It’s not like I am going to miss anyone anyway.’

And to Jan Berry, Kris Kristofferson, Brian Wilson, Frank Sinatra, Glen Campbell, and Tony Bennett, we understand about the times you didn’t miss anyone; but believe me I will always miss you and your music, memories, and medicine.

And I, for one, use your music as a balm to help overcome the anxiety of growing old.

And in the words of William Congreve

Music has charms to soothe a savage breast’


Tony Bennett – Age 95 +

On his 95 birthday, Tony Bennett with Lady Gaga performed at Rockefeller Center. They did another show the next day. The advanced billing proclaimed it was the last time Bennett would ever perform. His son/manager, Danny Bennett announced that because of age frailty his father official retired.He did not mention that his father was afflicted with Alzheimers.

A month later Tony cut an album, Love For Sale, with his costar Lady Gaga.

Singing was an important part of his life even as a youngster. At the age of 10, standing next to Mayor La Guardia, Anthony Dominick Benedetto sang at the opening of the Triborough Bridge in New York City. Even though he had to drop out of school to help support his family, he continued to try and advance his singing career by working as a singing waiter and going to amateur singing contests, landing a small gig at a club in Paramos, New Jersey, under the stage name Joe Beri.. And all the while trying to earn a decent wage in Hoover’s Depression, a impossible task that made him an outspoken Democrat from then on.

When he tuned 18 he was drafted. The War in Europe was nearing the end. The Battle of the Bulge had reduced the German Army to slow combative retreat. The Allies were pushing the Germans back to their Father Land but at a heavy cost on both sides.

In March of 45, Benedetto was sent to the front in the 255th Infantry Regiment which had suffered enormous casualties in the Bulge and continued as it led the assault to push back the Germans to their homeland and hopefully their surrender. As Tony described the fighting as a ‘front row seat in hell’. House to house, hedgerow to hedgerow. Wondering if the next dawn would be his last. Somehow he escaped death and physical damage. But the insanity caused Benedetto to be an outspoken pacifist from then on.

He took part in the liberation of a German concentration camp which held a number of American POW’s. This event only increased his hatred of War.

After VE Day he was assigned to Special Services as a singer. But that plum duty was short lived.

He was seen dining with a soldier, a friend from high school, a black soldier. Demoted for this US Military ‘crime’, he was transferred to a desk in Grave Registrations. Funny, while he couldn’t dine with a black soldier, he could work on registering the proper graves of the dead soldiers, irregardless of their color, religion, or any other difference. This punishment did nothing to change his acceptance of people.

Nor did he take a hiatus from his goal of being a professional singer. He found he could entertain in the military by using his old stage name, Joe Beri.

His discharge brought Tony a chance to advance his singing via the GI Bill. He enrolled in the American Theater Wing, a school more dedicated to the theater arts rather than the teaching of music, especially pop music. He was taught in the bel canto method, a 19th Century Italian Operatic school of preserving one’s natural voice and respecting both the melody and lyrics.

He adopted the style of certain musicians, like Stan Getz and Art Tatum. And he followed Frank Sinatra’s respect for the lyrics of the song, No crooning like Bing Crosby but crisp and precise pronunciation of each and every word.

There were several recordings done in a small studio under the Joe Beri name, but none took off. Pearl Bailey hired Tony to open her show in Greenwich Village where Bob Hope saw him and hired him to go on tour. Hope told Tony Benedetto to shorten his name to Tony Bennett. After sending a demo to Columbia he was signed by Mitch Miller to help fill the void of Sinatra who had just left Columbia.

The first Columbia recording for Bennett was a cover of The Boulevard of Broken Dreams, accompanied by the Marty Manning Orchestra and it had a modest success, which prompted Miller to have Bennett work with Percy Faith.

Faith, the originator of ‘easy listening’ put a lush arraignment to Bennett’s singing Because of You, a song from the movie I Was An American Spy. Ten weeks #1, way over a million record seller. Tony Bennett made the big time. With the song still on the charts, Tony did something he would be known for his whole career, he introduced himself to a brand new audience..

Hank Williams was the hottest C&W artist of the time, one of the best of all time. Williams had a big C&W hit of hisCold Cold Heart and recognizing the greatness of the song, Tony Bennett cut a recording of it. It helped both men because it introduced them both to a new audience, one of the first crossover hits. Williams telephoned Bennett and told him how much he loved Bennett’s version and he plays it on the juke box all the time.

Bennett’s next record, Blue Velvet was hit with the teenagers and he played a run of 7 concerts daily at the Paramount Theater in New York City. Rags to Riches followed and was another #1 hit. The producers of the upcoming musical Kismet got him to record A Stranger In Paradise, a song from the show in order to promote the opening. It worked and the recording hit #1 in Britain, and the young man from Queens became an international sensation.

In the late 50’s Ralph Sharon became Bennettt’s pianist, arranger, conductor, and confidant. Sharon persuaded him to get back to his jazz roots, to forget the sugary songs, and work with jazz instrumentalists like Herbie Mann and Art Blakely. Sharon worked with Bennett for over 50 years.

Sharon almost made a grave error when he put a copy of a song in a drawer and forgot about it; but years later, he remembered it and brought it out for a tour that included San Francisco. I Left My Heart In San Francisco far exceeding the boundaries of the Bay Area and became Bennett’s signature song.

(The first time I worked Tony Bennett was a two concert night at the Guthrie. When we were almost done with loading out the sound equipment, Tony came up to me, shook my hand, told me how much he enjoyed working with us, and asked if he and Ralph could work out something on the piano, which was still on stage. I told him fine and when the sound was loaded, I sat backstage and enjoyed a private Bennett/Sharon concert.

What I didn’t know at the time was Ralph Sharon had taken a few years off from working with Bennett to avoid the endless touring and this was their reunion concerts, and I was privileged to be present when they worked out details of what they thought should be improved on.

Although I worked Tony Bennett many times, one concert was at Orchestra Hall. In addition to Bennett, I worked Anthony Benedetto.)

The other talent Anthony enjoyed as a youngster was drawing, painting when he could afford oils and canvases. Once he became an established singer he turned to art as a relaxation. Oils, water colors, still life, landscapes, and portraits of the likes of Ellington, Fitzgerald, Gillespie, Mickey Rooney, and others.

His amateur status as an artist soon became professional. His works are in in galleries round the world. There are three hanging in the Smithsonian. All his art is singed Anthony Benedetto, which allows them to stand alone, not on the crutch of the famous ‘Tony Bennett’.

(The concert at Orchestra had a large screen and Anthony Benedetto’s art was projected on it as Tony Bennett sang downstage. I was on a spotlight in the balcony, a perfect place to see the painting projections and hear the Tony sing and Ralph on piano. What a treat!)

The 70’s s started out strong for Tony. He worked and recorded with jazz greats like Basie and Adderly. Then the Beatles turned the pop music into the dominating force. Bennett tried his hand at pop and failed. He tried acting and one picture convinced him to forget it.The one positive was he participated in the Civil Rights marches.

He moved to London and became a modest hit with his own talk show. Came back home and started a recording company which turned out two fine Bennett jazz records; but with no experience in distribution, the company failed.

At the end of the decade, Bennett had the IRS on his back along with a cocaine monkey. His music career was nothing except for gigs in Vegas. He almost died from a drug overdose. Enter his son, Danny, an aspiring musician whose career was going no where fast. He devoted his time to getting his father’s life and career back on track.

He convinced his father to stick to the American Standard tunes with jazz backing. Forget Vegas. Take gigs in small venues. He brought back Ralph Sharon just in time for me working the two of them at the Guthrie. Thank you, Danny.

While Tony’s fans stuck with him, he and his songs were unknown to the younger generations. To cure that Danny got him booked several times with Dave Letterman which led to MTV taking an interest and Tony Bennett Unplugged resulted in bringing not only young fans but also a contract again with Columbia, which led to Unplugged winning Album of the Year. Like Sinatra had done, he forewent recording singles and concentrated solely on albums.

Theme albums featuring the works of a great such as Duke Ellington or Louis Armstrong followed along with his Duets album where he sings with a pantheon of great singers like Barbra Striesand. Elton John, Paul McCartney, among others. Albums with just him backed up by jazz artists.

He teamed with the talented K.D.Lang in both recording and live concerts. Later he would do the same with Lady Gaga, who would sing with him in Duets II, along with the voices of Willie Nelson and Amy Winehouse and others.

As the accolades and honors poured in, he continued to work for charitable and political causes. He wrote two books of his memories. There was a big to-do when he reached the age of 80, little did anyone suspect he would have another 15 years of work ahead. At age 88 he recorded another Grammy winner, Cheek to Cheek, which debuted at #1 on Billboard. And he went on an extended tour with Lady Gaga. There was another big to-do when he reached 90, followed by a singles recording of Fascinating Rhythm which he had recorded a few weeks short of 69 years before. At the age of 95, he cut his album. Love For Sale.

The last time I actually spoke to Tony Bennett was New Years Eve, 2015, in an elevator at the Paris Casino in Las Vegas. Bennett was appearing that evening at the Paris where my wife and I were staying. Tickets for his performance had been long sold out and much too expensive for us anyway.

(I was going to the lobby when the door opened up and Tony Bennett got in.I offered condolences on the death of his friend, Ralph Sharon. Tony smiled and said it was a great loss after all those years working with his friend.

Tony asked if I knew Ralph; but the elevator stopped at Bennett’s floor and ended our conversation. He wished me a Happy New Year.

And as the door closed he gave me a thumbs up.


During the heyday of Ice Follies another big ice show, Ice Capades, toured the country. It’s birth was as unpredictable as was it entire life. Capades grew out of an idea of John Harris, manager of the Pittsburgh ice arena, who hired the Swedish ice skater and movie star, Sonja Henie, in 1936, to skate between periods of the hockey games, hoping to build ticket sales for the team. It worked and soon other team owners followed suit with other figure skaters.

Four years later he and other arena managers around the Eastern states joined together and started Ice Capades.

Although it never attracted many big name stars like the Follies did, it was very popular for several decades. It made no pretext to be a serious art form and relied on corny, crowd pleasing acts for the most part. And it did not bother to develop stars. It relied on getting established stars from other shows and ice skating medal winners.

In the late 80’s, when all the ice shows began to decline, it managed to get Scott Hamilton under contract for a short time before he started his Stars on Ice, a show that stuck to the routines of the skaters without any extra things like sets or chorus lines. In 1991 it went bankrupt.

Then Capades was purchased by Dorothy Hamill, America’s new skating darling, an Olympic Gold Medalist and several times World Champion. And whose hairdo, ‘the short and sassy look’ became a fad.

She tried presenting a version of Cinderella on ice. It lasted only two years, just long enough to borrow a great deal of money to keep it afloat. Hamill sold the company to the Televangelist Pat Robinson. An investment only. I don’t think he used it to convert more potential donors.

Capades bounced around for several more years in some form or the other, but finally gave up the ghost in 2009, stranding skaters and crew without pay and running out of it’s suppliers.

(One of my favorite Woody Allen lines comes from HANNA AND HER SISTERS. Woody is discussing the afterlife and someone reminds him that there is a belief that when you die you just relive your life all over again. ‘Oh, great,’ Woody whines,’That means I have to watch Ice Capades over again.’)

We had the pleasure of working with Dorothy Hamill for two Decembers when she did her Nutcracker On Ice at the Orpheum in Minneapolis. It was a ‘cute’ show but it could not really compete with the many Nutcrackers that are danced every year in the Twin Cities.

Dorothy was a real pro, treated her audience and her crew with respect, in spite of the fact she was very unhappy at the time. She suffered from depression all her life. Twice married and twice divorced to Dean Martin Jr., she was devastated by his death when his National Guard jet plane hit a mountain.

She was married to her second husband during her two seasons of Nutcracker on Ice. He was the complete opposite of his wife. He was abrasive, rude, and treated the time-honored traditions of show business with all the slickness of a used car salesman. He regarded her as his property instead of his wife.

One of his publicity stunts was to buy matching fur coats for himself and Dorothy. The coats were humongous and hideous to boot. Dorthy hated them but he insisted that the coats would be worn to and from the theater. Somehow on the very first day of them wearing them, protesters from PETA and like fur coat haters, were there in full force and each day the crowd grew bigger. Dorothy would run into the theater in tears while he stayed back and made fun of the protest. He loved it. He was also accused of leaking the wearing of the fur coats to PETA from the start.

She has another husband now. I hope her marital disasters with her first two husbands has taught her something and she found one who will be a good partner and appreciates her for herself and not just celebrity arm candy.

The third major ice show was Holiday On Ice. This show came about in 1942 when Emery Gilbert developed a portable method to make an ice rink anyplace. He brought the concept to a Morris, Morrie, Chalfen, a Minneapolis entrepreneur, who saw a way to compete with the two major ice shows, put traveling shows with smaller casts, 20 girls, 10 boys, where the major shows could not visit because there were no ice arenas. As Morrie loved to say, ‘Have rink. Will travel’.

At it’s peak, Holiday had companies in the U.S., Europe, Central and South America. It’s first tour out of the country was to Mexico in1947. For a few years, Sonja Henie headlined a company, first in Paris, finished off in South America.

More about Holiday On Ice and Morrie in the next On Ice Post.