JOAN OF ARTS @ THE G

mondale family

On 4/19/2021 we lost a much admired man, Walter Mondale. He spent many of his 93 years working in public service. He epitomized what a politician should be, honest, hard working, dedicated not only to his views, but mindful of the views of others. He held many public offices including U.S. Senator and Vice President.

The son of a preacher man, he was religious in the true sense. Rather than preaching his religion to others, he practiced his religion in deeds. He cared. He was a role model for many and admired even by those who did not share his political agenda. He was a devoted family man

He stuck by his views both in talk and deeds. For instance, he was a strong advocate for the ERA rights Amendment, equal rights fort women. He was the first U.S. presidential candidate to select a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, as his running mate.

I never had the pleasure of working Walter Monday, but I did have a delightful time with his wife, Joan, and two of his children, Eleanor and William. This is the blog post I wrote shortly after Joan Mondale died on 2/3/2014.

Because Walter Mondale had been out of the national limelight for a while, the death of his wife, Joan, received only a slight notice in the press outside of Minnesota. Mostly tied in with the fact she was the wife of Walter, ‘Fritz’, Mondale.   She deserved more than that just on the basis of her own life.

She was an artist, author, and patron and defender the Arts. She was dubbed Joan of Art, by the national press. Many of the her projects, such as establishing a gallery of American Artists, in the Vice Presidential Mansion are still monuments to her work in the Arts.

My encounter with Joan Mondale took place when her husband was campaigning for the Vice Presidency under Jimmy Carter, and I was working at the Guthrie Theater.

 She was attending a gala at the Walker Art Center, which was attached to the Guthrie. Her two youngest children, Eleanor and William, teenagers at the time, wanted to see the play at the Guthrie instead going to the hoopla.

Jon, the Guthrie Production Stage Manager, brought them up to the booth and told us the two kids would be watching the play from the booth. He showed some chairs to the left of the stage manager. Eleanor, noticing the chair to the right of my lighting board, announced she was going to sit there. Jon managed to crack a smile and as he went to leave, he commented that if they had any questions, ‘Just ask Don. He’s our resident babysitter.’ He was referring to the fact that I often brought children to watch the shows from the chair Eleanor had taken, something he really didn’t approve of.

‘What’s he? The resident clown?,’ Eleanor asked me, loud enough for Jon to hear as he walked to the door.

At intermission, William had many questions. When I explained how the lighting board worked and he said he thought I had a ‘cool’ job. Eleanor said she was going to be an actress; and after she made it big in the movies, she would come back and act at the Guthrie. William rolled his eyes. I certainly couldn’t disagree with her. She seemed to be a young lady who would work hard for what she wanted.

When the play finished I had some work to do in the attic, to prepare for a different play the next evening. William asked if he could go along and I said come on

He and Eleanor followed me up the ladder to the catwalks where I changed some gel colors and replugged some lighting instruments. I brought them down into some lighting coves and showed how the lights were pointed to a specific area on the stage. We could see Joey B. and the shifting crew working below, changing one set for the other. William thought that was ‘cool’ also.

Jon walked on stage with Mrs. Mondale. He hollered at me, telling me Mrs. Mondale was here for the children and wanted to know where they were. At the mention of ‘the children’, Eleanor muttered, ‘The clown in residence!’ I hollered down that they were with me in the attic and we’d be down in a few minutes.

At the mention of the two being up top with me, Jon began to bellow. How could I be so crazy as to place the children of the next Vice President of the United States in danger? The two kids both shouted to tell their mother that it wasn’t dangerous. Jon kept it up. I bellowed back that if it was so dangerous, maybe I should be drawing hazardous duty pay along with my wages. I could hear Joey B. and the shifting crew laugh.

When the three of us made it down to the stage, Jon kept up his harangue. How could I make Mrs. Mondale wait? She’s got important things to do. She was too important to have to wait on me. I should apologize to her for making her wait and for placing her children in danger. And if he had known that I was going to screw up so bad, he would have babysat the children himself. Both Eleanor and William came to my defense, and Mrs. Mondale said she didn’t mind waiting.

   Jon didn’t seem to hear them. He was having too much fun showing off. He knew I wouldn’t give him an argument in front of the Mondales. Joey B. and the shifters weren’t too sure though, and they stopped working and waited for me to order Jon off the stage. He was crossing too many lines, including the fact he was acting like he was my boss, which he wasn’t.

He was also upsetting Eleanor; and she began to walk toward him, when her mother stopped her. Then, Mrs. Mondale shook my hand and thanked me for giving her children an experience in theater that they would never forget. And she added, ‘If I didn’t have high-heels on, I would ask you to take me up and show me the catwalks.’

Then she turned to Jon, the silent one, and she commented, ‘Do you have any teenagers, Jon?’

‘Ah, no. I don’t have any children.’

I thought as much,’ she said, and went off stage, followed by the children, into the center aisle that led to the lobby. She turned and waved goodbye to Joey B. and the shifting crew. So did Eleanor and William, who both hollered out thanks to me. Jon followed.

‘Hey, Jon,’ I shouted, ‘When you can, come on back. You and me have to talk.’ Joey B. and the  shifters laughed; but Jon didn’t acknowledge my request. In fact, he stayed out of my way for several days.

Joan Mondale was a ‘dutiful’ political wife. She did everything right as her husband, Walter, rose from Minnesota Attorney General, to U.S. Senator, U.S Vice President, Democratic nominee for President, Ambassador to Japan.

Well, she did have one glitch. In an interview, she requested that she not be asked, like most politicians’ wives, what her favorite recipe was. To atone for this supposed slam at American homemakers, she quickly released a book containing ‘all her favorite recipes’, her PR people thought would go well with the Mrs. Cleavers of America.

And she suffered when Walter was trounced by Ronald Reagan in election of 1984. And years later when he was nosed out by Norm Coleman in the race for the U.S Senate vacated by the death of Paul Wellstone, just eleven days prior to the election.

Joan Mondale, the mother, saw her three children become successful. Both Ted and William went into the political and private sectors. Eleanor, as she promised, tried Hollywood, and then into talk radio in Chicago and later Minneapolis. She was a tabloid celeb, dubbed the ‘wild child’. Then at the age of 40, Eleanor was diagnosed with brain cancer. She fought it for 11 years and died at the age of 51. Every time I think of Eleanor, I remember her comment, ‘Who is he? The resident clown?’

And now reading about the death of Joan Mondale, I remember a kind and intelligent woman, a politician in her own right, and a good mother. And often wished she had changed her shoes and came back to the Guthrie so I could have given her a tour of the Guthrie catwalks.

Spoke PAUL NEWMAN

Celebrity endorsements or protests of political figures or views exploded during the Viet Nam Conflict. Nothing like what is going on the 2020 presidential race, but something totally unseen in the US before then.

Before WWII there was the Isolationist Movement with Charles Lindbergh as the figurehead; but after Pearl Harbor, the movement disappeared. Even Lindbergh volunteered to fight for the Allies. Turned down by the Army Air Corps, he was hired as a civilian advisor. Countless celebrities expressed their views by action, entering the War via draft or volunteering. Their actions better than words.

The Korean Conflict, America’s Forgotten War, received little media attention, let alone public concern. The American Legion and the VFW took a lot of soul searching and time before they accepted the fact that the participants were actual foreign war veterans and could become members. The US and the other countries involved did so under the auspices of the UN because of the Domino Theory, fear that if the Communists weren’t stopped in Korea, they would hit Japan next. The biggest Celeb attention came from the TV show M.A.S.H. filmed years later.

And then came Viet Nam. A civil war of words and protests broke out. Household names, personified by John Wayne on the right and Jane Fonda on the left, voiced their opinions on the involvement like never before. One side used the Domino Effect and patriotism, ‘My Country Right Or Wrong’, as the base of their arguments. The other pointed out that it was a Civil War fought to end French Imperialism and has nothing to do with the US. In short, we were involved in an unjust war.

Did the dueling names have any influence with their public views? Perhaps. The US involvement continued in spite of government lies and illegal acts, and the Draft was changed to add a numbering system; and finally our government yelled ‘Uncle’ and withdrew. Today the Communist country of Viet Nam is a prime trading partner of the US.

Did their views harm the careers of the endorsers? Well, in spite of history proving him wrong, the career of the outspoken John Wayne actually got a much needed boost; that and the fact that he finally learned how to act instead of just being the Duke over and over. It also gave him another military-hero movie to proclaim his patriotic spirit and remind people of his bravery in WWII…films.

Jane Fonda’s career nose-dived; not because of her protesting per se, but it’s extreme. She went into the capital, Hanoi, of the enemy our military was fighting. She cavorted in her photo-ops just a few miles from where American POWs, American heroes, were encaged. Her actions were not only in poor taste, they bordered on treason. It took many years and a lot of exercise tapes before she regained a career as the excellent actress she was prior and still is.

The Viet Nam draft was geared toward the lower middle class and minorities. Those of wealth and fame were passed over by the local Draft Boards. The most notable exception was Mohammad Ali, the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World.

Ali was vocal in his refusal to fight in Viet Nam on religious and civil rights grounds. He said he did not believe a man should kill another man. He also asked why should he shoot brown people who never did him any harm when nothing is being done in his own country to protect the rights of dark skinned citizens from civil abuse. He was found guilty of refusing the decision of his draft board, and the government of the United States stripped him of his World boxing title. He didn’t lose it like he won it, in the ring. It was a World title but the US, and the US alone, took the title from him. To hell with the rest of the world.

The US Supreme Court, by an 8 to 0, vote over-ruled the guilty decision. Ali, a few years later, won back his World Title the way he first earned it, in the boxing ring.

There were no celebs fighting Viet Nam at the time but many of the veterans of the fighting became famous afterwards…men like Oliver Stone and Kris Kristofferson saw action and translated their experience into movies and music.

Some, like ex-VP John Kerry, went and fought in Nam, earned a chestful of medals, came home and then protested the war.

Student deferments were one way of avoiding the draft. Some like ex-Pres Bill Clinton used the deferments in the right way. He finished near the top of his class in Columbia, did two years at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and finished near the head of the class in Yale law school.

Others needed a little help. Ex-VP Dick Cheney, a hawk who pushed for our attacking Iraq and Afghanistan among other things, lost his deferment when he flunked out of Yale. Faced with a One- A physical, he quickly entered the U of Wyoming and managed to keep up enough grades to avoid the draft.

Money and pull also helped. Wayne LaPierre, of NRA fame, was in trouble until his rich daddy found a doctor who stated that Wayne had a nervous condition. This phobia would prevent him from ...wait for it.. ever firing a gun.

When it looked like ex-VP Dan Quail was about to be drafted, his father managed to get him in the Indiana National Guard HQ, even though this perfect refuge was full at the time.

Ex-Pres H.W. Bush, a true WWII hero, had no sons drafted. His one son, ex-Pres George W. Bush, a true war hawk who was responsible for our invading 2 innocent countries that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack on the US, managed to avoid real military service through pull. He got into the air wing of the Texas National Guard and was trained as a jet fighter pilot. His lack of good aptitude and his poor attendance would have 86ed most other trainees, but he managed to receive millions of dollars worth of training; and He would have saw action if Texas ever was under attack but…

Oh, also he skipped out of the last several months of his service requirement to work in a senate election race in Alabama. Still he was given an honorable discharge.

Many avoided the draft by pretending insanity. The rocker/NRA poster boy/reality TV hunter, Ted Nugget tells the most disgusting story of how he ‘fooled’ the docs about to give him his physical. It’s on the net but if you have a weak stomach I would suggest not reading it.

And some like ex-mayor, Guiliani, avoided it under never-explained-circumstances. But then so much he does is impossible to explain.

Europe was one refuge for draft dodgers. Sylvester Stallion, who like John Wayne, is an actor who fought a lot of battles…in films only. He didn’t bother to report to his draft board when he turned 18 and went to be a ski instructor in the Alps instead. While his fellow Americans were being shot at, Stallion was enjoying himself earning his nickname, The Italian Stallion. And bragged about it. But unlike another well known draft dodger who fought the battle of avoiding VD and bragged about it, Stallion never called those who did fight ‘Losers”.

Mitt Romney, who backed every war except the one he have had to see action in, took advantage of slow draft board and went to Europe on a Mormon door-knocking mission.

Although almost 100,000 American males went to Canada to escape the draft and or deserted the service itself, there no celebs among them.

ExPres Jimmy Carter, a US Naval Academy grad, who served seven years in active service, five of which were in submarines, and who left the service only because his father died and he had to go back to the family business, ran for the presidency vowing to pardon all Viet Nam era draft dodgers. And always true to his word, Carter pardoned them all on the day after he took the oath of office. Carter was a one term president. Many vets said they voted against him because of his pardoning the draft dodgers. Wonder how many of these same vets voted for Trump.

Only about half of exiles choose to return to the US where a military record or lack of one meant a great deal in obtaining work. Government work, and some private employers, gave preference to military veterans. If a man had no military history employers wanted to know why. If a man had been in the military, the need for proof of an honorable discharge was required. The thought of a draft dodger getting elected to public office was out of the question…or so we thought.

Does it help? It certainly can’t hurt as long as the celeb that is doing the endorsing is a little higher than a has-been D-Lister, or an organization such as the Taliban.

Is it fair? I’ll defer that question to Paul Newman, outstanding actor/idol, and such a strong advocate of liberal politics and politicians that he made the FBI Enemies List in the Viet Nam Era.

When I was in charge of the stage of Northrop Auditorium early 60s, several times a week prominent speaker was booked for a free noon- speaking engagement. No tickets. No ushers.

The speakers were from all fields, but in those days, the ones that spoke out against Viet Nam involvement and the one pro-Civil Rights were the most popular; but none so popular as a symposium consisting of two pro Viet Nam advocates and two anti Viet Nam Advocates, one of the later was Paul Newman, and a moderator.

Unlike the usual audience of less than a thousand, this one was standing-room -only on the main floor with young ‘ladies’ elbowing their way up the aisles to get closer to the stage, and the balcony was almost half full also. At least 4,000.

It was a well informed and interesting hour, even if most of the audience only listened when Paul Newman spoke. When it wasn’t his turn to speak, he sat listening intently, all the while chewing on his gum. Paul Newman Cool.

I and my student crew had constructed a TV ‘studio’ backstage for a Paul Newman press interview after I pulled the stage curtain shut. Everything went well until one of the TV reporters asked him if he didn’t think it was fair that a famous celebrity like Newman should get involved in something as important as the Viet Nam War. People might agree with him only because he’s a movie star.

I swear the temperature rose ten degrees. Those famous blue eyes blazed. He took out his gum and threw it in a waste basket. He stood up… and Paul Newman spoke.

I can’t quote him verbatim but I can relate the gist of his speech: I am an American man with the right of Freedom of Speech. I am a father with a son that I hope will never have to fight in a war as unjust as this one. I am not a black man, but I am part Jewish and know that we must fight for Civil Rights and condemn the racial and religious hatred that persists in this country.

I am an actor and most people will listen more to me than to a truck driver or farmer, or even a clergyman. Not only is it fair for me to make my views public, it is my obligation. Whether or not they listen and believe in my viewpoint is immaterial. At least I might have opened the door to a different side of the argument than what they are use to listening to. And if I am just singing to the choir I am letting them know that I agree with the songs they are singing.

Thus spoke Paul Newman.

(A little aside from the topic.)

Many of the young ladies in the audience were not interested in going to their next class. They wanted to hang around Northrop to get a glimpse or better yet an autograph of Paul Newman. When one of my student crew was locking up the main auditorium a young lady whispered him aside. She offered him five bucks if he would get the gum that Paul Newman was chewing on. He dug it out of the trash can and sold it to her. Then he and another crew member got a couple packs of gum and after chewing a stick, would offer it in a very discreet manner to a waiting fan. I heard later they started asking ten bucks but dropped it down to five if a phone number came with it. I often wonder what happened to those two bandits. Probably became Social Media zillionaires.)

I purposely tried to avoid any mention of ‘he-whose-name-must-not-be-mentioned’ before, even though he is the most famous draft-dodger at this time, because he is beyond being just a chicken-hawk draft dodger. The way he speaks about veterans, their families, the fact he has done nothing about his good friend, Putin, paying on bounty to the Taliban to kill American military, the fact that both Putin and the Taliban are endorsing him… how can anyone who served vote for such a treasonous person is beyond me. Commander-In-Chief!

And how anybody can vote for a hate-filled who backs the would-be-nazis that are coming out of the sewer at his instigation. Lock Him, (and his friends),Up.

Or vote for one who sees over 200,000 deaths of citizens he swore to protect with the phrase, ‘It is what it is’. As one who moves from bleach injections as a cure to killing off the weak and old ones in the herd. ‘They are what they are’!!!

Enough! Please!

Wrap it.

Stay Safe.

And pray that the sun will shine again.

Oh! P.S. If you are offered a deal on an old wad of chewing gum purported to have been Paul Newman’s, don’t bite, it might be a scam.

COFFEE WITH ALI

This is a reblog of a post I did June/8/2014, right after Muhammad Ali died.

It recalls an isle of calm for me in the sea of fire. Civil Rights Protests. Anti-Vietnam Protests. Looting, destruction, and shouts of blame from both side of the political aisle.

When this incident took place, we had Hope. We knew that once things calmed down the Civil Rights would take hold in fact not just word. And we knew that we would never go to a War again unless it was really needed, and we would never allow the War to last very long.

But like the song says: ‘We were young and foolish.’

I need an isle of calm today so I brought it out and read it. So topical! Topical in that it follows my Dalton Trumbo posts regarding a man standing up for his beliefs, only to be persecuted by politicians whose only belief is pandering to the lowest common denominator. So topical! I wish today’s violent ‘protesters’ could hear the words of Muhammad Ali, a man known for his violent art, speak with the wisdom of Martin Luther King, a man known for his non-violent speech.

There was this old bulll standing in the middle of the railroad track and far away the train was comng fast. But that old bull just stood there and the people all admired the old brave bull. And the train blew a warning…anotherand another as it came full steam head on. And the people oohed and aahed because that old bull never flinched. Just stood his ground…And…

And all those people that oohed and aahed when the brave bull was standing tall in the center of the tracks, just looked around at what was left of him scattered in little pieces for a good miles, yup, all those people who called that bull brave a short time before changed their tune.

Boy, was that bull ever stupid,” they said, and walked away.’

Thus spoke Muhammad Ali talking about Violent Protesting.

Today I have Hope. I believe that when the stupidity of the politicians is removed from the equation, the genius of our medical scientists will find a cure and a vaccine for the Virus. As far as the Civil Rights issue is concerned…Hatred and genocide are embedded deep in the history of this country.

ali rip            The Champ and I spent the better part of an hour, just the two of us, talking and drinking coffee in the stagehands’ room, my office, at Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota.

I called him Champ, even though he no longer had the belt, lost it, not in the boxing arena, but in the political area.He was on a lecture tour, Pro  Civil Rights, Anti  Viet Nam Involvement. Although the latter was the stated reason for taking away his right to be called World Champion, the former had earned him powerful enemies, just as it did for Martin Luther King. Overlooked by the main stream press, the Champ had a third point he stressed, namely Anti Violence. After his speech at Northrop, there was to be  an interview and a Q&A with reporters from TIME. Finally what he was actually saying was  more important than his celebrity status.

Today Americans accept his views; but in the late 60’s, these views were tinder for the fires that were spreading out across the land. But the Champ spoke his piece and stood his ground even though it was highly controversial and had cost him greatly. It wasn’t that he was wrong, it was just that he was ahead of his time. I had always felt strong about Civil Rights; but it really wasn’t until our status in Nam changed from advisory to full scale combative, that I took a better look and decided against us being there.

When the Champ and his welcoming committee walked backstage, he commented on the aroma of coffee coming from the open door of my room. One of the committee said he would run to Dinky Town and get him some coffee. I told the Champ that I would be glad to bring him a cup in his dressing room. He nixed both offers and instead said he wanted to go in the room, drink coffee and relax. When some of committee tried to follow us in, he held up hand. He told them to stay out, close the door, and see to it that nobody bothered him until he came out.

He commented that he realized they meant well, but he was getting tired of the constant ‘meaning well’ pressure of people. He said he was tired of the tour, tired of being away from home, his wife, and especially his little baby girl, Maryum, his first child. He slumped down in the chair, and when I handed him a cup of the fresh coffee, he raised the cup in thanks. I respected his need for silence.

In those days, boxing was followed much more than today. Early TV had free major matches weekly. And sitting across from me was a boxer I had followed since his Olympic days. I remembered listening to a radio as he did something nobody thought he would, take the title away from Sonny Liston. Oh, there was no way I would have called him the ‘Greatest’ at that time. His best was yet to come.

But, that day, I was more in awe of him as a great human being than a great athlete. It takes a brave person to stand up for one’s beliefs the way he did and at what cost.

When he finally did break his silence in the room, he spoke of being afraid his little girl, Maryum, wouldn’t even know her daddy, because he was away so much. She wasn’t even a year old yet, and he heard that the first year of a baby’s life was so important in their life. And she wouldn’t even know her daddy.

I assured him she would know her daddy, even though she wasn’t seeing much of him at this time. I told how I had worked two jobs for years, and now at Northrop, I was averaging over eighty hours a week, and my sons, only four at that time, always knew their daddy. He had nothing to worry about. He smiled and said he hoped so.

He opened his wallet and took out several pictures of his little Maryum and asked if I had any pictures of my sons. He looked at my pictures and wasn’t satisfied until he remembered their names and could match the name with the right boy.

We didn’t talk about his boxing career, about civil rights, and about his refusal to be drafted. We just talked. There was no chucking or jiving, no boasting and poetry on his part. His public image was set aside and he presented his personal side. Just two men, two fathers, talking, taking the time to know a little about each other.

He was interested in what went on at Northrop. I told him about the various attractions: lectures, music, dance, even a week each May of seven different Metropolitan operas on tour and how much work and how many stagehands it took to put them on. The Metropolitan Opera was familiar to him because of where the building was in relation to Madison Square Garden.

We did touch on boxing when I mentioned that recently Paul Newman had been at Northrop talking against our involvement in Viet Nam, the Champ told how much he liked Newman playing Rocky Graziano in SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME.

I related how I got so excited watching Sugar Ray Robinson defending his crown against Graziano on TV, that I knocked over and broke a lamp. He laughed and asked who I was rooting for, and I told him Sugar Ray, my favorite boxer. He said Sugar Ray was his favorite too.

The time flew by. He finished off his second cup of coffee, thanked me, and followed as I led him to his dressing room. Naturally, his committee followed also, ready at his beck and call for anything he might want, or anything they think he might want. As much as I admired the man that day, I wouldn’t have traded places with him. I could see one of the reasons he was tired and just wanted to go home and play with his baby.

My coffee with Ali took place almost a half century ago. I remember seeing his arm raised in victory many times. I remember seeing his arm raised as he lit the Olympic torch. And I remember he raised his cup in thanks for my coffee. I was so fortunate to have sat and had a quiet talk with the man now referred to as ‘The Greatest’.

R.I.P. CHAMP

There were event entering into this story and after; but I will save them for another time. Right now I am too sad because he is no longer with us.

BUSH & THE BEACH BOYS

Bush

During the Memorial events for President H.W. Bush, the TV picture always had a banner running across the screen proclaiming him to have been a President and a Patriot. Both titles are embedded in history below his name.

But the themes of the eulogies were memories of the man. His kindness, his warmth, his friendship. The following is a story of these attributes of this man told to me by a friend and union brother, Steve.

At this time, Steve was the head rigger for the Beach Boys. He was responsible to see that the sound and lights were hung safely in the best positions possible in the venues, and for setting up the portable stage for outdoor events.

In the early 80’s, the Beach Boys played the July 4th concerts on the National Mall in Washington D.C. A few days prior to one of those concerts, the band was invited to give a mini-concert for the Bushs and some friends at the Naval Observatory House where the Vice President lived in D.C..

Steve drove the rental truck with a small set up to the front of the house. He went to the front door knowing full well that it would be opened by a butler telling him to go around the back to unload. He was surprised when Vice President Bush, himself opened the door, introduced himself to Steve and the other hands, as if that was needed, and told Steve to bring the equipment through the front door. Closer to the ballroom, he explained.

When the crew went into the ballroom, Bush introduced them to the house electrician Steve had requested. Best the house electrician do the electrical hook-up. The last thing Steve wanted was to have an electrical outage in the V.P.’s residence.

Then Barbara came into the room and once again George made the introductions. Barbara told the men that there was a buffet with a chef standing by down the hall for whenever they wanted a meal or just a snack.

‘Catering, Honey,’ her husband teased. ‘Catering is show business talk for food. And there’s also a full bar and a bartender in that room too, guys.’

‘Thanks, Mrs Bush,’ Steve said, ‘But we have to setup first. The band will be wanting to do sound check in a couple hours.’

When they did go into the catering room for a meal, the first thing the chef asked was how do you want your steak? And the bartender looked a little disappointed when the hands that drank just wanted beer. Sure beat what the rock promoters considered catering.

Steve said it was less like working a gig and more like being invited to a friend’s house. Everybody was so friendly, especially the Vice President. Even the Secret Service men in their customary dark suits, had occasional smiles as they handed out the stickpins with the head painted the color of the day. These ID’s had to be pinned where they could be seen.

 

Vice President Bush was in the ballroom almost all the time. He watched the crew setting up everything and had a million questions. ‘If I learn how to be a roadie, will you hire me?’ he kidded. ‘You know, this being a Vice President really stinks. Worse job I ever had.’

‘You’re hired,’ Steve said. ‘How’s your golf game? We play a lot to golf on our days off.’

‘My kind of men,’ the Vice President said. And naturally the talk turned to golf.

Steve asked if Mr. Bush had ever played Willie Nelson’s golf course outside Austin. When the Vice President said no, Steve proceeded to tell him about it. ‘Only course where it is all rough. Strict rules: Like no more than 12 to a foursome. No bikinis or see through dresses – unless they’re worn by women. Drinking and smoking is not allowed – unless it is shared.

‘Next time I go to Austin, I will have to play that course,’ George said. ‘I’ll tell Willie that I am a friend of the Beach Boys crew. I miss my Texas. This job wouldn’t be half bad if I could do it down in Texas.’

When the Beach Boys arrived they were greeted by the Vice President and Barbara and where showed the room where they could tune their instruments. And also told about the catering and the bar.

“Now where’s Dennis? George asked. ‘They told me I could always tell who Dennis was because he always wore a Texas hat.’

‘Sick. Something he ate didn’t agree with him,’ was the excuse that was given. Dennis Wilson had a grave alcohol problem and the band didn’t want him to embarrass himself in front of the Vice President. Dennis died a few years later. He was was drunk and went scuba diving alone.

‘Oh! Oh! Guys, I got something to tell you. I got talking with your crew about golf. They said they got Monday off so I gave my country club a ring. All you have to do is tell them you’re the Beach Boys and crew and you can play a round on me. They said they would work in you in throughout the day. And the nineteenth hole is on me.’

It was evident that as the actual concert approached, Vice President Bush was feeling mellow. He met each guest, about 50 all toll, encouraging each on to ‘have a drink’. When the concert started he sat in the front row tapping his feet to the music and mouthing the words of the songs he knew or thought he knew.

After about six songs he stood up and went up to the band. ‘In honor of my wonderful wife, Barbara,’ he said pointing to her in the chair next to the one he just got out of, ‘Play my favorite of the Beach Boys. BARBARA ANN.’

Almost as if on cue, Mike Love, and Al Jardine quickly joined Carl Wilson at the front mic.

‘Bah, Bah, Bah, Bah Barbara Ann. Bah, Bah, Bah, Bah Barbara Ann.’

By now, Vice President George Bush had got to the mic and grabbed the mic off the stand.

‘Bah, Bah, Bah, Bah Barbara Ann,’ he sang, drowning out the startled entertainers. His voice left a lot to be desired but not his energy. The only words he knew where the chorus which he kept repeating over and over until one of the singers started a verse. Then George stopped. Only to jump right in with the chorus when the verse ended.

It was probably the longest rendition of the song ever. The audience and the band and the crew were all smiles. The only one in the room that wasn’t smiling was Barbara Bush, who sat still with her hands folded on her lap. At last George stopped singing to his lovely wife; not because he thought he reached the end of the song, but rather because he was out of breath and wanted a drink. As he sat down Barbara slapped his knee and shook her head.

The concert went on and when it ended they played BARBARA ANN as their encore. They signaled to have the Vice President join them and the audience applauded. George Bush got up, went to the mic, and sang his favorite line several times.

‘You know, gentlemen,’ he said, ‘That is the best song you ever wrote. On behalf of myself, Barbara, and all our guests, I want to thank you all for a great time.’

The Boys, the band, and the crew applauded their thanks. Nobody told him that they didn’t write BARBARA ANN. It was a do-wop song by the Regents.

The next Monday the band and crew played golf courtesy of Vice President George Bush.

In April of 83 the Beach Boys were forbidden to play July 4th on the National Mall. The least popular member of the Reagan Cabinet, James Watt, Interior Secretary, declared that rock and roll bands were not welcome anymore on the Mall because of the element they attracted. Drunken rowdies and smokers of illegal substances. He wanted somebody more patriotic like Wayne Newton, who was a big Republican donor.

Vice President George Bush led the outrage against Watt’s decree, declaring, ‘These men are my friends!’ First Lady Nancy Reagan declared herself to be a mega-fan of the Beach Boys. Mike Love argued on behalf of the band by saying they played a lot of patriotic songs…like SURFING U.S.A.. Watt lost.

There was an attempt made to get the Beach Boys back to play the Mall but it was too late. The publicity made the band the hottest item in the country and they were booked at Atlantic City on the 4th to the largest crowd in the history of the event. And the Beach Boys began to be called America’s Band.

As for James Watt, a few weeks later he made what he thought was funny, racist terms about a committee that opposed his Interior agenda. Watt lost his Cabinet position and went to teach in a university out west. Both he and the band give credit for starting the uproar to Vice President Bush declaration that ‘These men are my friends.

And whenever the Boys were in the D.C. area, George Bush made it a point to see they could play a round of golf at his country club.

Like the banners proclaimed ‘President and Patriot’, and as the eulogies said, ‘friend and a wonderful human being’.

R.I.P. George Bush

True and fearless Patriot

Sully the service dog of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush in his final months lays in front of Bush's casket at the funeral home in Houston

His Friend

THE CIRCLE EXPANDS

ERIK AT WORK

 

Published 12/2/00 – SP PP, Bulletin Board

The story about the little guy who knew the difference between imaginary monsters and real lions reminded me of taking my oldest grandson, Erik, to the movie, LION KING, when it first opened. He was more than happy to go with me even though he had just seen it a few days before with his parents.

It seemed like we had no more than settled down, when he made a bee-line for the lobby. I quickly followed and asked what was wrong. He told me there was a real scary part coming up that he didn’t want to watch, and he would go back when it was over.

Naturally, I got down on one knee and spouted some silly grown-up logic about it being only a movie, nothing to be afraid of, just images on the screen, etc..

“I know all that, Poppa,” he said, “But what if the glass breaks?”

Made perfect sense to me. We watched the movie in bits and pieces. When he took off for the lobby, I quickly followed without argument.

This is one of the first Old Hand stories. Today, Erik is on the other side of ‘the glass’. After graduating with a degree  from Gustavus,  he got a plum internship in EPCOT Center’s Living Seas Aquarium, the second largest aquarium in the world. His prime job is putting on a wet suit and taking care of the manta rays, although he swims with other varieties of sea life, including sharks.

This in turn led to his present job at Sea World where he performs similar duties.

And on Cinco de Mayo he will be marrying lovely Erin O’Neill in Tulsa, OK. Almost all of our immediate family will be there. With a very sad heart I will be there only in spirit due to some recent health problems. But Erik will know I am standing beside him on this, his special day.

Erik is our oldest grandchild, our only grandchild for several years, our first day-care grandchild, and he and I have a special bond.

I look out the window and I can still see him getting off the school bus, running across the field, and coming directly to my ‘office’ so ‘Poppa Donald’ could read him another chapter of HARRY POTTER.

I bought him a pair of goldfish and he learned how to take care of them. He did such a good job the two fish lived for years beyond what pet goldfish usually survive. His two favorite stuffed animals were Sebastian and Flounder from THE LITTLE MERMAID. When he began to read for himself he studied whales and sharks.

The two us once went to the Science Museum to see a documentary on whales. We leaned way back and watched the movie almost directly over our heads. Not content with the narration of the film, Erik, about five or six at the time, supplied a more complete study of the mammals. Finally an usher came and told me that if my little companion didn’t keep quiet, we would have to leave. Erik stopped talking but would whisper to me some important facts that weren’t mentioned.

He loves all animals but has a special love for marine animals.

He and Erin got together because she had gotten an internship at the Minnesota Zoo. Erik was working as an instructor at the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul. Erik’s mother had a relative living in Tulsa who was a friend to Erin’s mother. Naturally this led to long distance introduction between the two animal lovers. And, well as they say, nature took it’s course.

It is wonderful that they both got work in the field they both studied for in college. And eve more wonderful that they found a partner they have so much in common with

They live outside Orlando. Erik works at Sea World. Erin at Disney World.

Erin at work

Erin at work feeding one of her pets

 

May the sun shine bright for the rest of these two wonderful members of our family.

OUR CIRCLE OF LIFE EXPANDS

   

GUILTY AS CHARGED

This is a reposting I did when Cosby’s hidden secrets burst into public knowledge three years ago. After the verdict of guilty as charged I thought I should bring it back if only to remind myself of how wrong I had been all those years I enjoyed working Cosby.The sad part is why, if these criminal acts were known for decades, why wasn’t Cosby stopped years ago?

Does money, power and celebrity status entitle a person to be above the law?

OH YES, MR. BILL

n-BILL-COSBY-STATUE-large300COSBY STATUE REMOVED FROM DISNEY WORLD

When I thought about starting this blog, I knew I would have to include some anecdotes about working with Bill Cosby, having worked him so many times over the years. I pieced three stories together, one about the first time I worked Cosby, another quite a few years later, and one that slammed the door on me ever communicating with him except what was needed in working his show. But just about the time I was going to post the finished product, Cosby’s protective wall of unique celebrity status and of course his money, began to spring a leak.

The rumor that he had been accused of doping and then raping women that had been around for years, suddenly erupted when a young black comedian, Hannibal Buress, who had a routine about Cosby always putting down young Blacks, ended it one show by screaming out, ‘you rape women’! The accusation went viral. Women came forward in public with stories about how they had been doped and raped by Cosby as far back as 1965, a year before my first story of that post occurred.

I revised my blog post, dropped the last anecdote, and replaced it with information that was coming out about the accusations. That deleted story had taken on a new meaning for me.

Cosby had changed over the years, especially after the senseless murder of his son, Ennis. The fun-loving guy backstage had become a somber man who spent as much time as possible in his dressing room. Respecting his grief, we no longer expected him to joke around with us as before.

It was between the two shows Cosby was performing at Northrop. A young woman came into the stagehands’ room and asked for me. She had Children’s’ Cancer Fund tee shirt and asked if I would take it to Cosby and have him autograph it so it could be auctioned off at the next benefit. She said it had all been set up and Cosby was expecting it.

            Cosby was very good about supporting  good causes. I suggested that she come with me and I would point out his dressing room, and she could go in and ask him herself.

            She jumped back and said, ‘No! I was warned not to go into Mr. Cosby’s dressing room.’ She extended the shirt and marker to me and said, ‘They said you would do. Won’t you?’

            ‘Sure,’ I laughed and took the shirt across stage. At the time I thought that the word ‘warned’ she used seemed a bit hard. Instead of just saying I was told not to, she said she was warned. At the time, I figured somebody was afraid she might commit some kind of gaffe meeting a big time celebrity like Cosby.

            I knocked and Crosby growled, ‘Come in.’

            He was sprawled out on the couch watching a March Madness basketball game on TV. He turned his head, saw who it was, and turned back to the game.

            I spread the shirt out on the table and laid the magic marker beside it. I told Cosby what it was for and he said he knew all about it. I didn’t really think he would sign it right at that moment, but he stood up and went to the table.

            ‘They told me some woman would bring the shirt in to me,’ he said as he signed his name. ‘What, she scared of me? Thinks if I get her in my dressing room, I’ll jump her bones.’

            ‘Oh, no,’ I answered, ‘I think… I was going to say she was just shy, but Cosby threw the shirt at me.

            ‘I don’t care what you think!’ He turned and went back to the couch. ‘Just get out! I want to watch the basketball game.’

            ‘Well, excuuuuuse me,’ I said as left the room, trying to slam the door, but it was rigged to close slowly. And even though I worked him several times after, that was the last time I ever talked to Cosby except when I really had to.

I had attributed his rudeness up to the fact things had to be getting to him. He changed over the years and for good reasons. His son’s death, his lack of a TV show, never really had movie career, his audience was getting old and his preaching about what the young people were doing wrong was not gaining him any new fans, his books were no longer best sellers, and comedy album were things of the past. He was growing old and was completing a very full week of work.

He had already done a benefit, which I worked, at the Convention Center, in midweek. He had done two shows the night before at Mystic Lake Casino, and now two shows at Northrop. He had to be tired.

Over the last few years he worked a lot of benefits, good pay, short hours, probably the hottest attraction in shadow-show business. And he knew how to play it. When he got the gig to do a benefit or an industrial expo, he contacted promoters in the town where he was to play and try to fill out with other shows in other venues. He was an easy show to sell tickets for, and the shows sold out with very little lead time and advertising.

And while I was giving him the benefit of the doubt, I was unaware of his secret reputation as a rapist. But Cosby wasn’t; and when I said the woman refused to go into his dressing room, it must have hit home. At the time I thought he was just referring to the old racist view that blacks all wanted to rape white women.

But as the rumors and accusation hit the public press, I thought back on Cosby’s anger and his words about her afraid he would ‘jump her bones’. And I remembered her using the words ‘warned not to go into his dressing room’. Who warned her, I have no idea, but somebody, maybe the promoter, might have known about the rumors and wanted to insure nothing would happen on his watch.

And this incident also happened around the time of a lawsuit against him on a dope/rape charge. He paid the woman off and it didn’t generate much negative publicity. Another case of a woman trying squeeze money out of a celebrity. After all this was Bill Cosby, not some meth-head playboy.

The first post I wrote about Bill Cosby was titled OH NO, MR. BILL!!! , giving him the slim benefit of the doubt.  Now, we just found out that back in 2005, Cosby admitted in a deposition he bought drugs to use to rape women. The deposition was sealed when there was a monetary payoff made and the woman who brought suit against him was satisfied. A recent lawsuit forced that deposition to become public, and as soon as all the women named as victims who were going to testify in that suit, agree to it the entire deposition will be made public. Just the part that has been revealed already has proven that Cosby, by his own sworn words, to be a liar, a hypocrite, and someone who actually purchased drugs with the intent of using them to rape a woman..

And when all this negative publicity hit, Cosby acted like a complete fool. Many of his upcoming gigs were cancelled, but a few promoters stuck with him, and during these shows Cosby actually tried to joke about the ‘lies’ people were telling about him. He zeroed in on one accuser calling her a liar and now is being sued by her for defamation of character. This conduct caused other women to come forth and volunteer to tell their experiences with dope and rape, and Bill Cosby.

The New Jersey Supreme Court will decide if criminal charges should be brought against him for rape because there is no statute of limitations for rape in New Jersey, where one of the accusers said he raped her.

Even if he skates on criminal charges,  the rest of his life will be spent in court fighting lawsuits. This pressure would be hell for anyone, let alone somebody in his late 70’s. And I can’t imagine him getting much support and sympathy from his wife of 50 years as the accusations and lawsuits pile down on him.

While this type of conduct that of a rich celebrity resorting to drugs and raping a multitude of women, surprises the majority of us, it recently was proven that it happens as in the case of Darren Sharper. Sharper, rich, handsome, intelligent, and articulate, a former NFL star and a current TV commentator, pleaded guilty in four different states to drugging women and then raping them. He is currently serving time for his actions.

Some women raped by Sharper admitted they would have been afraid to even mention it if it hadn’t been for the women coming foreword in the Cosby affair. And, I imagine the women in the Cosby affairs stand a better chance of being believed because of the confession of Sharper that proves these things do happen, even if the celebrity in question is ‘America’s favorite father’.

Cosby is 80. If he actually serves any time it will be a ‘life sentence’ at his age. And after this verdict many of the other accusers are in the wings waiting. 

Cosby was a real pioneer in breaking the barriers for Blacks in television. Now he is a ground breaker in criminal justice for the rich and famous sexual creeps.

R.I.P. PRINCESS LEIA

Actress Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher arrive at the 2011 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles

So much has been written about Carrie Fisher, her talent as an actress and as a writer, her openness about her addictions and mental disorders, her Princess Leia being a different role model for girls, and the way people who knew her regarded her as a friend, she was certainly much more than just a celebrity based solely on her ‘Royal Hollywood’ parentage. She convinced me, in my short time working her, that she was a warm and caring person who respected and loved her fans, traits she obviously got from her mother.

It was a Women’s Expo at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Carrie and her mother, Debbie Reynolds were the celebrity speakers, wrapping up a symposium of experts on various Women’s Topics. While the two of them had prepared a combined talk that fit in with the purpose of the Expo, it was evident that there was a lot of ad-libbing going on also. They were delightful, witty, very open, and educational. The rapport between mother and daughter showed they were much more than parent and child, they were also best of friends.

When they had finished their part of the program, they weren’t finished. Instead of disappearing upstage and going to their dressing room, they went downstage to greet the audience who were crowding the front of the stage. Both Carrie and Debbie sat on the edge and signed autographs, answered questions, told personal antidotes, laughed and talked with the women, many of whom had already been on their way out but stopped and came back to join in the fun. It was more of a group of old friends intermingling than it was two celebrities and their fans.

After quite a while, the Promoter had to break up this fun-fest. He went downstage and explained that the hall would have to be evacuated because it had to be changed over for another event. Reluctantly, the women left the hall and both Carrie and Debbie followed the crowd out. It took about an hour for us stagehands to break down the lights and sound and then we left. But when we walked out into the hallway, we got a surprise.

There, sitting in two chairs, was Carrie and Debbie, and they were surrounded with their fans. Both women were signing autographs, answering questions, telling personal antidotes, and laughing and talking with women that had been at the EXPO, and maybe a few who just happened to be walking outside and saw the commotion through the windows.

I have no idea how long these two stars held court. Their willingness to remain with the audience for that long a period of time was something I had never seen before or since. What a couple of gracious, warm, down-to-earth professionals. I have many memories of both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, but none have impressed me more than that impromptu love-fest at the Convention Center.

R.I.P. CARRIE FISHER

And now it was just announced that Debbie Reynolds has been rushed to the hospital because of a stroke. Best wishes and speedy recovery, Debbie Reynolds. While we understand the great shock and lose of the death of your daughter, please don’t follow her yet.

 

MARCEAU / HAMILTON BOOED

After the first performance of his sold- out week at the Minneapolis Pantages, the great mime, Marcel Marceau stepped to the apron of the stage, and breaking out of his character, Bip the Clown, SPOKE.

And the Audience BOOED!

–           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –            –

hamilton

Shortly after the election VP-To-Be Pence attended a performance of the hit musical HAMILTON on Broadway, and as he walked down the aisle to his seat, the audience booed! The ­­audience, not the cast, booed.

I can’t believe Pence attended a hip hop/rap musical/opera, based on the life of an immigrant bastard, whose mother was reported to have been part Black, for his own entertainment. More of an ego trip, a test of his newly granted status to be able to jump in line ahead of others.

Mr. Pence was a good choice to ride shotgun on Mr. Trump’s Hatemobile. He has a record of attacking Human Rights and the laws that protect them, first as a right wing radio talk show host, and later in his political career. Unlike Trump’s Twitter approach, Pence uses the evangelical-tunnel-vision-Tea Party-judgmental method. Thump the Bible, or what you think should be in the Bible, to support your stance against fellow human, and be sure to avoid any reference to the second part of what Christ said was the most important commandment: To love your neighbor as yourself.

As Pence was walking out after curtain call, Brandon Dixon, who played Aaron Burr, stepped foreword from the cast and spoke to Pence, who turned and listened. The words were courteous, well thought out, short and to the point. It was a thank you for attending, followed by an expression of fear that the new regime will not defend the planet, the children, their parents and uphold the inalienable rights of every American. The closing was, ‘We thank you for sharing this wonderful American story, told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds, and orientation.’

Pence was silent about the affair but not the Head Hater, Mr. Trump. Trump got on Twitter, declaring Pence was harassed by the cast of HAMILTON. He demanded an apology from the cast and producers of the show, which Trump said he heard was very overrated. Trump also said the theater should be a ‘safe’ place.

To say the theater should be a ‘safe’ place is proof he knows about as much about theater as he does about Human Rights and the Constitution. From the time of the ancients Greeks the theater has been a place to shake up the audience and their hard fast ideals, whether the performance is tragedy, comedy, or a musical.

Nothing is more topical in our current atmosphere of hate than the play that premiered in London during the worse persecution of English Jews. The popular actor, director, theater owner and playwright, William Shakespeare, risked his career, his theater, his life, alone with the specter of causing riots with his new ‘comic’ offering, The Merchant of Venice. Going along with the hatred of Jews, he created a villain, Shylock, in the stereotypical role as a Jewish money lender. And then addresses the hatred and prejudice against the Jews  by giving Shylock one of the most poignant speech in literature against prejudice and hatred. ‘If you prick us, do we not bleed?’.

            As Mr. Dixon argued against an apology, he pointed out, ‘Art is meant to bring people together; it’s meant to raise conscientiousness.’

To say that it was not the time or place to issue such a statement goes against the history of theater. To step forward and speak to the audience directly, to break the 4th wall, is a time honored tradition. No playwright was more adept at it than Shakespeare, in the play itself, like Hamlet’s many monologues: at the end of the play, like Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which starts: ‘If we shadows have offended…’  While the type of breaking the 4th wall as Mr. Dixon did, is not that common in America, it is quite common in other countries.

Personally I have seen this speaking directly to the audience used many times.

From the serious: On 9/11, we were setting up for a run of RIVERDANCE. Prior to the performance that evening, the multi national cast assembled in full on the stage. A spokesman spoke of the sorrow and offered condolences and prayers. At the end of the curtain call a dancer stepped forward and requested the audience join the cast in silent prayer.

To the silliest: During a performance of a play by the Stratford Theater at the Guthrie, Bill Hutt, a veteran Canadian actor made his entrance in a scene; but before he spoke his lines, he informed the American audience that the Canadian National Hockey Team had just beaten the Russians.

Trump’s Tweets accomplished what he wanted, keeping his Cesspool of Hate aboiling, giving his Brown Shirts something to rail against.

They called for a boycott against HAMILTON, a record breaking Broadway show with tickets sold out for months and waiting lists for more tickets both in NY and other cities where the touring companies are or will be playing. Frankly, I don’t think many Trump hard core supporters would go to HAMILTON with or without a boycott.

Of course there is a good possibility that the new regime will declare the musical to be VERBOTTEN and shut it down. But even then it will continue to be played around the globe as a symbol of American art and a remembrance of American freedom.

The Brown Shirts also called for a boycott of a small theater which has nothing to do with HAMILTON the musical. It has had the name Hamilton for decades because it is located in – wait for it – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada!

Then there was incident during a performance of the road company in Chicago, where upon hearing the word ‘immigrant’, a drunken Follower went ape. Screaming, swearing, threatening to kill the ‘Democratic assholes’and women and Blacks. threw wine on his own son. His wife was in tears pleading for him to stop. And even as he was being expelled from the theater by three security guards, he kept screaming, ‘We won! Get over it. This is Trump’s America now!’ PS: He is the CEO of a national company.

(That kind of behavior hits close to home for me. My nephew, Rick Dalglish, is Head Props for that touring company of HAMILTON.)

–           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –            –

marcel  

          The Marcel Marceau incident took place at the first performance of his farewell to America run at the Pantages in Minneapolis. And in spite of the boos, this brave man repeated his breaking the fourth wall after every performance.

            It was that terrible time in our history. Using the never proven pretext that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Bush the Younger was about to loosen the dogs of war against Saddam Hussein. It was a time of bad intel, half truths, and outright lies.

            Unlike the 1st Gulf War, where Bush the Elder had a large coalition of nations and U.N. approval, the only backing Bush the Younger had was Tony Blair of the U.K., who later admitted he had been wrong in his backing of Bush.  Neither Bush nor Blair had approval of the majority of their advisors. And even though the terrorists of 9/11 were Egyptians and Saudis, and had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein, much of the backing for this invasion of Iraq was wanting revenge for 9/11.

            France, who backed the 1st Gulf War, was outspoken in its disapproval of invading Iraq this time. France was hated by the American hawks. A Congressman sensing a chance to pick up future votes, actually submitted a bill to change the term French Fries to Freedom Fries.

            It was in this time of rupture in America and in the Western World, that Marcel Marceau spoke to the audience and was booed. This French Jewish gentle man of peace did not preach, did not take sides. This man who had known the horror of war first hand, simply asked the audience to pray the whole affair could be worked out without violence, without war.

            I doubt if many in the audience feaared they would have to fight in Iraq. Let the kids in the service take the risks. I doubt if many in the audience had ever served in the military, let along fought in a war. Yet these chickenhawks booed Marceau’s request for prayers for a peaceful resolve.

            Marceau was just a teenager when Germany breached the Maginot Line, the ‘Wall’ that France had built to stop any German invasion and took over France.  The Nazis took his father to Auschwitz where he was ‘exterminated’. Marcel and his brother joined the French Resistance.

            (This also strikes home to me. My wife’s birth father, a French Jew, left his Mexican wife and new baby girl, my wife, and to back to his homeland and fight in the Resistance. He was never heard of again.)

            Marcel was personally responsible for smuggling 500 or so children to Switzerland. It was during this time, he got into mime, silent entertainment to keep the children quiet.

            With the Liberation of France he joined the Free French and was a translator for General George Patton.

            He knew the horrors of war.

            I was standing in the wing with a flashlight waiting to help him offstage. I clapped as loud as I could after his prayer for peace, but the boos won out. As I led him off I commented, ‘Dumb, damn, chickenhawk S.O.B.s!’

            He put his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘C’est La Vie, Don. So many fought and died so people can speak their mind, or even boo. This great freedom  is not allowed in a Fascist government . Let us hope it will always be that way in America and France and all over the world. ’

            When Marcel Marceau went to leave the Pantages for the last time, he paused and hugged me. ‘Merci, Don, for joining me in the hope for peace. And, when things happen that you disagree with, just remember, C’est La Vie. That’s Life, mon ami.’ When his farewell tour was over he went back to his home in France where he died a few years later.

            To Mime aficionados Bip the Clown will always be the King of Mime. And we who knew him also as Marcel Marceau, we  are twice blest. We admired his deft artistry of silence and also the deep humanity in his speech. To us he was both an artist and a hero.

–           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –            –

This was written in the time between Trump was elected by the outdated procedure  of the Electoral College, 

which overruled the fact that he did not win the Popular Vote, 

and the time he took the Oath of Office.       

Sorry, Mr. Trump, if you can’t stand the booing you chose the wrong road to travel down. I suggest you have the First Amendment of our Constitution explained to you. And maybe even go to a performance of HAMILTON. Learn how that immigrant from Nevis and the other Founding Fathers created the foundation that makes America great.

Soon Mr. Trump, barring a successful revolt by the Electorial College voters, you will have to take an oath to protect and obey this Constitution for ‘the diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds, and orientation’ that make up our great country, America.

Oh! Oh! Little did we know or even imagine!

And now we must do what we can do

Vote!  Wear a mask! Abolish the hate!

C’EST LA VIE

 

 

COFFEE WITH ALI

ali rip            The Champ and I spent the better part of an hour, just the two of us, talking and drinking coffee in the stagehands’ room, my office, at Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota.

I called him Champ, even though he no longer had the belt, lost it, not in the boxing arena, but in the political area.He was on a lecture tour, Pro  Civil Rights, Anti  Viet Nam Involvement. Although the latter was the stated reason for taking away his right to be called World Champion, the former had earned him powerful enemies, just as it did for Martin Luther King. Overlooked by the main stream press, the Champ had a third point he stressed, namely Anti Violence. After his speech at Northrop, there was to be  an interview and a Q&A with reporters from TIME. Finally what he was actually saying was  more important than his celebrity status.

Today Americans accept his views; but in the late 60’s, these views were tinder for the fires that were spreading out across the land. But the Champ spoke his piece and stood his ground even though it was highly controversial and had cost him greatly. It wasn’t that he was wrong, it was just that he was ahead of his time. I had always felt strong about Civil Rights; but it really wasn’t until our status in Nam changed from advisory to full scale combative, that I took a better look and decided against us being there.

When the Champ and his welcoming committee walked backstage, he commented on the aroma of coffee coming from the open door of my room. One of the committee said he would run to Dinky Town and get him some coffee. I told the Champ that I would be glad to bring him a cup in his dressing room. He nixed both offers and instead said he wanted to go in the room, drink coffee and relax. When some of committee tried to follow us in, he held up hand. He told them to stay out, close the door, and see to it that nobody bothered him until he came out.

He commented that he realized they meant well, but he was getting tired of the constant ‘meaning well’ pressure of people. He said he was tired of the tour, tired of being away from home, his wife, and especially his little baby girl, Maryum, his first child. He slumped down in the chair, and when I handed him a cup of the fresh coffee, he raised the cup in thanks. I respected his need for silence.

In those days, boxing was followed much more than today. Early TV had free major matches weekly. And sitting across from me was a boxer I had followed since his Olympic days. I remembered listening to a radio as he did something nobody thought he would, take the title away from Sonny Liston. Oh, there was no way I would have called him the ‘Greatest’ at that time. His best was yet to come.

But, that day, I was more in awe of him as a great human being than a great athlete. It takes a brave person to stand up for one’s beliefs the way he did and at what cost.

When he finally did break his silence in the room, he spoke of being afraid his little girl, Maryum, wouldn’t even know her daddy, because he was away so much. She wasn’t even a year old yet, and he heard that the first year of a baby’s life was so important in their life. And she wouldn’t even know her daddy.

I assured him she would know her daddy, even though she wasn’t seeing much of him at this time. I told how I had worked two jobs for years, and now at Northrop, I was averaging over eighty hours a week, and my sons, only four at that time, always knew their daddy. He had nothing to worry about. He smiled and said he hoped so.

He opened his wallet and took out several pictures of his little Maryum and asked if I had any pictures of my sons. He looked at my pictures and wasn’t satisfied until he remembered their names and could match the name with the right boy.

We didn’t talk about his boxing career, about civil rights, and about his refusal to be drafted. We just talked. There was no chucking or jiving, no boasting and poetry on his part. His public image was set aside and he presented his personal side. Just two men, two fathers, talking, taking the time to know a little about each other.

He was interested in what went on at Northrop. I told him about the various attractions: lectures, music, dance, even a week each May of seven different Metropolitan operas on tour and how much work and how many stagehands it took to put them on. The Metropolitan Opera was familiar to him because of where the building was in relation to Madison Square Garden.

We did touch on boxing when I mentioned that recently Paul Newman had been at Northrop talking against our involvement in Viet Nam, the Champ told how much he liked Newman playing Rocky Graziano in SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME.

I related how I got so excited watching Sugar Ray Robinson defending his crown against Graziano on TV, that I knocked over and broke a lamp. He laughed and asked who I was rooting for, and I told him Sugar Ray, my favorite boxer. He said Sugar Ray was his favorite too.

The time flew by. He finished off his second cup of coffee, thanked me, and followed as I led him to his dressing room. Naturally, his committee followed also, ready at his beck and call for anything he might want, or anything they think he might want. As much as I admired the man that day, I wouldn’t have traded places with him. I could see one of the reasons he was tired and just wanted to go home and play with his baby.

My coffee with Ali took place almost a half century ago. I remember seeing his arm raised in victory many times. I remember seeing his arm raised as he lit the Olympic torch. And I remember he raised his cup in thanks for my coffee. I was so fortunate to have sat and had a quiet talk with the man now referred to as ‘The Greatest’.

R.I.P. CHAMP

There were event entering into this story and after; but I will save them for another time. Right now I am too sad because he is no longer with us.

SOUTHERN SNOW

snow driving

            In Minnesota: ‘Yeah, you bet, heard about the snow com’n. Changed the oil and tuned up the snow blower and snow mobile first week in October, just like always. You betcha!’

            Down South: ‘Snow! Snow! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!’

 

Last week the East Coast and some Southern states got hit with a blizzard. And the 24 hour news stations talked so much about the snow coming and falling and melting that there was little news about anything else.

They darn near missed the Palen endorsement of Trump. It happened the same day her son got arrested for using his girlfriend as a punching bag. Sweet momma Sarah explained that it wasn’t Track’s, (Track???), fault. It was Obama’s. Poor Track did a tour in Iran during the G. W. Bush’s administration, and although never got in any combat, came home with PTSD according to his mother. Later she said she was misunderstood, and then said pretty much the same thing again. A real Alaska Snow Job. At least she didn’t blame Obama for her daughter’s habit of getting pregnant sans marriage certificate.

And they darn missed another important Trump endorsement. One of John Wayne’s daughter, standing in front of a statue of her father in the John Wayne Museum in Somerset, Iowa, stated that if her father was alive, he would certainly endorse Trump.

(If her father was alive he would be 109 years old.) And the cool thing was Trump accepted the endorsement stating that he once met John Wayne in person and always admired Wayne’s legacy. The rest of Wayne’s family disavowed the endorsement. I was only too happy to be rid of the silliness leading up to the Iowa caucuses.

 I did run across a great bit just after the snow fell someplace. There was a reporter standing hip deep in snow talking about the big snowfall. As the camera pulled back, it revealed the dehorn was standing in front of a chain link fence that captured a lot of snow. As he struggled to get out of the drift, the snow gradually became less and less until he was standing snow that was no higher than his ankles.

Snow down south causes problems because people have no experience in what to do when it snows. It frightens them just as it would frighten me to look out and see an alligator in the back yard.

We got a little snow, a couple inches, in Fort Bragg, N.C., one time. It snowed three times when I was in the Army down there. This particular time I had a midmorning dental appointment. I hopped on my motorcycle and drove to the main post. There wasn’t much traffic and when I got on the less traveled streets, there wasn’t any tire tracks. Only one car in the dental lot, the plates were from Wisconsin.

The car belonged to a dentist on Reserve duty for two weeks. No receptionist, no dental techs, no other dentist, just me and angry Captain Angry from Wisconsin. He was mad at the Army, mad at the snow, mad at his hangover. He smiled when he told me the Novocain was locked up and he didn’t have a key.

‘But a little pain won’t bother a bad ass paratrooper, will it?’

Oh, was he wrong? And every time he spotted me clinching my fists, he cheerfully reminded me it was a court martial offense for an enlisted man to hit an officer. A little Southern snow and I was silly enough to drive in it. Should have just used it as an excuse not to keep the appointment. Every time I have the slightest inclination to root for the Green Bay Packers, I think back on Captain Angry’s license plate and that removes the inclination.

Another reason snow is so bad down South is they don’t have the necessary equipment to handle it. We can send out a fleet of public snow plows. Pickups rigged with plows to clear out parking lots and some driveways. Snow blowers waking up the neighbors early in the morning. Snow shovels used to clear steps and the like. People in the south don’t have much in the way of fighting the snow. Heck, down South a snow shovel in the garage is as rare as a liberal in the closet.

Another time a storm in Bragg brought about a good foot of snow, with no place to put it in the main drag in Fayetteville, so they just left it in a long pile in the center of the street. Naturally, some of the boys parked their cars on the mound, it was the weekend and the bars were full, and when it came time to go back to post, they  couldn’t get them off, sunk to the frame. The tow trucks were busy and the city told them to stay away from downtown, and then proceeded to ticket each car for illegal parking, each day it was left on the mound. When the tow trucks came down the hill to get the cars, they towed them to the impound lot. Some expensive parking!

And down South they just never learned how to have fun in the snow. Oh a few snowmen and a few snow angels, but not real fun like skiing and snow boarding, snow mobiling, clearing snow off a frozen lake to skate or ice fish etc..

Some members of 82nd Signal Battalion were going with one of the line companies to Alaska for Winter Training. They were issued white snowsuits and a pair of skis with poles. For several weeks they were getting prepared out in the field behind the barracks, wearing those hot suits and trying to glide along on the grass on their skis. As if gliding the skis on the grass actually prepared them for anything. But there’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way.

Then we got a nice snowfall. I told some of the guys, I’d show them how to have fun in the snow and maybe even teach them a little about skiing. That night I ‘requisitioned’ the Old Man’s jeep. I was the Old Man’s clerk. We got some ropes and went out to a Drop Zone where I pulled the men on skis behind the jeep. A good time was had by all. Especially since the two MP’s that caught us, believed us when we told them it was authorized training to prepare for the upcoming Cold Weather Exercise in Alaska.

The worst experience of being caught in a Southern Snowstorm came when I was hitchhiking back to Bragg after a few days in Washington D.C.. Talk about shutting down a major city! It was shortly after noon when the snow hit. Offices emptied and the roads filled with cars filled with bad drivers trying to get home. And none about to pick up a hitchhiker, even if it was a soldier in uniform dressed for the warmth of the South, not a snow storm of the North.

I was alternating my hands, one thumbing for a ride, the other covering my ear until my hands got so cold I had to put them under my arm pits inside my Ike jacket which was getting wet from the heavy flakes. Doing a little dance to keep circulation in my feet.

Finally a car braved the slipping and sliding traffic and pulled to the shoulder. The passenger door opened and I jumped in. I was busy saying thanks and putting my hands in front of the heater when I heard this angelic voice telling me that she was only going as far as Arlington; but at least it was far enough to get me out of the heavy city traffic and I would stand a better chance of getting another ride.

What a sight for sore eyes! Not only because she stopped for me, but also because she was beautiful. A few years older than me. Long black hair. Green eyes. A smile that would melt the snow and warm the heart.

I was trying to get the numbness out of my hands, my ears, and still trying to carry on a normal conversation with her without distracting her as she was driving. It was evident she wasn’t use to driving in that kind of weather. She kept a steady pace until there would be a car poking along ahead. Then she would veer out to pass, slip and slide, head for the ditch. Had to hand it to her, she didn’t panic, managed to get straightened back on the road. I must admit I tightened up a few times.

‘Whoa,’ I said, ‘You just missed the Arlington cutoff.’

Again with that smile. ‘I know,’ she said. ‘Fort Meade is down further. There is a shelter where the soldiers stand, and cars pull in the side road and give them rides. You’ll stand a better chance of getting a ride in a hurry down there.’

I protested. I pointed out the road was bad. The snow was getting heavier. She should just leave me off and get home as quick as possible.

‘No,’ she answered. ‘My husband is in the Army stationed in Korea. From what I hear, they have terrible winters there. Snow. Cold. And I just hope that if he is hitchhiking, and the weather is bad, someone will pick him up.’

Wow! I sure hoped that soldier appreciated the woman he married.

She was right about Fort Meade. I got ride right away. As I got in the car I could see her car heading back to the Arlington cutoff. I said a silent prayer that she would make it home okay. We got out of the Southern snow storm in about fifty miles. My new ride took me almost to Bragg. He talked and I mostly listened, and thought about a very kind lady whose husband was stationed in Korea.

snobama

            Right now it is snowing. They say it might be the biggest so far of the season. About 6” to a foot. Schools will close early. It will be a slow afternoon commute home, but by tomorrow’s morning rush hour the driving will be much better. Our army of snow plows will see to it. Yet there will still be a rash of accidents and cars in the ditch. Not every one up here knows how to drive in a snow storm, especially those driving big SUV’s. They know they can bust through all kinds of snow; but they forget that sometimes they can’t stop on the wet pavement.

Of course, I won’t be one of those fighting the elements. I will be safe and snug in the house. I am retired!

 

And that’s a wrap for today.       

OH YES, MR. BILL

n-BILL-COSBY-STATUE-large300COSBY STATUE REMOVED FROM DISNEY WORLD

When I thought about starting this blog, I knew I would have to include some anecdotes about working with Bill Cosby, having worked him so many times over the years. I pieced three stories together, one about the first time I worked Cosby, another quite a few years later, and one that slammed the door on me ever communicating with him except what was needed in working his show. But just about the time I was going to post the finished product, Cosby’s protective wall of unique celebrity status and of course his money, began to spring a leak.

The rumor that he had been accused of doping and then raping women that had been around for years, suddenly erupted when a young black comedian, Hannibal Buress, who had a routine about Cosby always putting down young Blacks, ended it one show by screaming out, ‘you rape women’! The accusation went viral. Women came forward in public with stories about how they had been doped and raped by Cosby as far back as 1965, a year before my first story of that post occurred.

I revised my blog post, dropped the last anecdote, and replaced it with information that was coming out about the accusations. That deleted story had taken on a new meaning for me.

Cosby had changed over the years, especially after the senseless murder of his son, Ennis. The fun-loving guy backstage had become a somber man who spent as much time as possible in his dressing room. Respecting his grief, we no longer expected him to joke around with us as before.

It was between the two shows Cosby was performing at Northrop. A young woman came into the stagehands’ room and asked for me. She had Children’s’ Cancer Fund tee shirt and asked if I would take it to Cosby and have him autograph it so it could be auctioned off at the next benefit. She said it had all been set up and Cosby was expecting it.

            Cosby was very good about supporting  good causes. I suggested that she come with me and I would point out his dressing room, and she could go in and ask him herself.

            She jumped back and said, ‘No! I was warned not to go into Mr. Cosby’s dressing room.’ She extended the shirt and marker to me and said, ‘They said you would do. Won’t you?’

            ‘Sure,’ I laughed and took the shirt across stage. At the time I thought that the word ‘warned’ she used seemed a bit hard. Instead of just saying I was told not to, she said she was warned. At the time, I figured somebody was afraid she might commit some kind of gaffe meeting a big time celebrity like Cosby.

            I knocked and Crosby growled, ‘Come in.’

            He was sprawled out on the couch watching a March Madness basketball game on TV. He turned his head, saw who it was, and turned back to the game.

            I spread the shirt out on the table and laid the magic marker beside it. I told Cosby what it was for and he said he knew all about it. I didn’t really think he would sign it right at that moment, but he stood up and went to the table.

            ‘They told me some woman would bring the shirt in to me,’ he said as he signed his name. ‘What, she scared of me? Thinks if I get her in my dressing room, I’ll jump her bones.’

            ‘Oh, no,’ I answered, ‘I think… I was going to say she was just shy, but Cosby threw the shirt at me.

            ‘I don’t care what you think!’ He turned and went back to the couch. ‘Just get out! I want to watch the basketball game.’

            ‘Well, excuuuuuse me,’ I said as left the room, trying to slam the door, but it was rigged to close slowly. And even though I worked him several times after, that was the last time I ever talked to Cosby except when I really had to.

I had attributed his rudeness up to the fact things had to be getting to him. He changed over the years and for good reasons. His son’s death, his lack of a TV show, never really had movie career, his audience was getting old and his preaching about what the young people were doing wrong was not gaining him any new fans, his books were no longer best sellers, and comedy album were things of the past. He was growing old and was completing a very full week of work.

He had already done a benefit, which I worked, at the Convention Center, in midweek. He had done two shows the night before at Mystic Lake Casino, and now two shows at Northrop. He had to be tired.

Over the last few years he worked a lot of benefits, good pay, short hours, probably the hottest attraction in shadow-show business. And he knew how to play it. When he got the gig to do a benefit or an industrial expo, he contacted promoters in the town where he was to play and try to fill out with other shows in other venues. He was an easy show to sell tickets for, and the shows sold out with very little lead time and advertising.

And while I was giving him the benefit of the doubt, I was unaware of his secret reputation as a rapist. But Cosby wasn’t; and when I said the woman refused to go into his dressing room, it must have hit home. At the time I thought he was just referring to the old racist view that blacks all wanted to rape white women.

But as the rumors and accusation hit the public press, I thought back on Cosby’s anger and his words about her afraid he would ‘jump her bones’. And I remembered her using the words ‘warned not to go into his dressing room’. Who warned her, I have no idea, but somebody, maybe the promoter, might have known about the rumors and wanted to insure nothing would happen on his watch.

And this incident also happened around the time of a lawsuit against him on a dope/rape charge. He paid the woman off and it didn’t generate much negative publicity. Another case of a woman trying squeeze money out of a celebrity. After all this was Bill Cosby, not some meth-head playboy.

The first post I wrote about Bill Cosby was titled OH NO, MR. BILL!!! , giving him the slim benefit of the doubt.  Now, we just found out that back in 2005, Cosby admitted in a deposition he bought drugs to use to rape women. The deposition was sealed when there was a monetary payoff made and the woman who brought suit against him was satisfied. A recent lawsuit forced that deposition to become public, and as soon as all the women named as victims who were going to testify in that suit, agree to it the entire deposition will be made public. Just the part that has been revealed already has proven that Cosby, by his own sworn words, to be a liar, a hypocrite, and someone who actually purchased drugs with the intent of using them to rape a woman..

And when all this negative publicity hit, Cosby acted like a complete fool. Many of his upcoming gigs were cancelled, but a few promoters stuck with him, and during these shows Cosby actually tried to joke about the ‘lies’ people were telling about him. He zeroed in on one accuser calling her a liar and now is being sued by her for defamation of character. This conduct caused other women to come forth and volunteer to tell their experiences with dope and rape, and Bill Cosby.

The New Jersey Supreme Court will decide if criminal charges should be brought against him for rape because there is no statute of limitations for rape in New Jersey, where one of the accusers said he raped her.

Even if he skates on criminal charges,  the rest of his life will be spent in court fighting lawsuits. This pressure would be hell for anyone, let alone somebody in his late 70’s. And I can’t imagine him getting much support and sympathy from his wife of 50 years as the accusations and lawsuits pile down on him.

While this type of conduct that of a rich celebrity resorting to drugs and raping a multitude of women, surprises the majority of us, it recently was proven that it happens as in the case of Darren Sharper. Sharper, rich, handsome, intelligent, and articulate, a former NFL star and a current TV commentator, pleaded guilty in four different states to drugging women and then raping them. He is currently serving time for his actions.

Some women raped by Sharper admitted they would have been afraid to even mention it if it hadn’t been for the women coming foreword in the Cosby affair. And, I imagine the women in the Cosby affairs stand a better chance of being believed because of the confession of Sharper that proves these things do happen, even if the celebrity in question is ‘America’s favorite father’.

And that’s a wrap.

MONARCH HIGHWAY

Monaarch and Milkweed

Oh, watching the flight of a Monarch butterfly, flittering from flower to flower, is such joy; but it a joy that could disappear if we don’t do anything to help the butterflies out. Like honeybees, they are natural pollinators, and like honeybees are being killed off. If this trend, both in butterflies and in honeybees, not only will we lose some of the beauty that is in nature, we will lose the natural way of growing our food.

There has been a decline of 90% of the Monarchs in the last two decades. Some of the reason being the frosts in Mexico where they winter; but more so genetic grown crops, herbicides such as Roundup that is wiping out plants like milkweed, the loss of prairie and wetlands. In short, We are killing them off by starvation and outright poison.

The government has offered a plan to help reverse the decline in Monarchs and indirectly help out the honeybees, plant prairie flowers, such as milkweed, along the I-35 Highway corridor, 1,500 miles from Minnesota to Texas, the route taken by Monarchs migrating to the winter home in Mexico. It will not only be a needed food source in their flight, it will provide shelter also.

Oh, not to mention a restoration of some of the prairie beauty the pioneers experienced in their migration across our country. And the price will be but a drop in the bucket to conjuring up yet another weapon of destruction.

 

The following is an article I wrote a few years back .

Published: St. Paul Pioneer Press – 1/4/20/11

The Old Hand:

Our oldest grandchild, Erik, has worked summers at Como Park Zoo, first as a volunteer, then as an intern. The past summer Erik led tours of the butterfly exhibit. One day, he and I got to talking about the monarch butterflies’ migration and the freeze in the Mariposa Reserve in Mexico killed off a large number of the butterflies. I pointed out the various places around my land where I had patches of milkweed plants for the Monarchs. 

One of Erik’s college professors wanted his students to write an essay on something they could do to improve our world. For the most part, the students wrote of great pie-in-the-sky projects like stopping war, doing away with hunger, etc.. Erik’s project wasn’t so grandiose. He suggested that the college plant patches of milkweed on campus to help propagate monarch butterflies. The professor liked both the project and the fact that it was something that could be accomplished. He encouraged Erik to get the project underway. The school officials liked the idea and encouraged Erik to work out the details. 

When Erik called me with the good news, he asked if I had any ideas where to get milkweed seeds or seedlings. I suggested a greenhouse or a seed company that specialized in plants for prairie restoration. We discussed the concept of restoring the original prairie that were native to Minnesota, plants and flowers that have been replaced by the grasses in lawns, pastures, golf courses, all alien grasses that need an enormous amount of water to survive in Minnesota. 

Today Erik called me to tell me the good news. The school is buying milkweed seeds along with other seeds of prairie plants in the prairie garden they are going to plant in the spring. Erik might never change the world but he will make it a better place to live if he has his way. 

It’s so great to be a grandparent. The pride my wife and I take in our five children is increased as we watch how our children raise their children.

 

Today, Erik has his degree in Marine Biology and is currently working with manta rays and sharks. Here’s an earlier post of mine concerning Erik, which you might enjoy: BEHIND THE GLASS

JOAN OF ARTS @ THE G

mondale family

Because Walter Mondale had been out of the national limelight for a while, the death of his wife, Joan, received only a slight notice in the press outside of Minnesota. Mostly tied in with the fact she was the wife of Walter, ‘Fritz’, Mondale.   She deserved more than that just on the basis of her own life.

She was an artist, author, and patron and defender the Arts. She was dubbed Joan of Art, by the national press. Many of the her projects, such as establishing a gallery of American Artists, in the Vice Presidential Mansion are still monuments to her work in the Arts.

 

My encounter with Joan Mondale took place when her husband was campaigning for the Vice Presidency under Jimmy Carter, and I was working at the Guthrie Theater.

 She was attending a gala at the WalkerArtCenter, which was attached to the Guthrie. Her two youngest children, Eleanor and William, teenagers at the time, wanted to see the play at the Guthrie instead going to the hoopla.

Jon, the Guthrie Production Stage Manager, brought them up to the booth and told us the two would be watching the play from the booth. He showed some chairs to the left of the stage manager. Eleanor, noticing the chair to the right of my lighting board, announced she was going to sit there. Jon managed to crack a smile and as he went to leave, he commented that if they had any questions, ‘Just ask Don. He’s our residentbabysitter.’ He was referring to the fact that I often brought children to watch the shows from the chair Eleanor had taken, something he really didn’t approve of.

‘What’s he? The resident clown?,’ Eleanor asked me, loud enough for Jon to hear as he walked to the door.

At intermission, William had many questions. When I explained how the lighting board worked and he said he thought I had a ‘cool’ job. Eleanor said she was going to be an actress; and after she made it in the movies, she would come back and act at the Guthrie. William rolled his eyes. I certainly couldn’t disagree with her. She seemed to be a young lady who would work hard for what she wanted.

When the play finished I had some work to do in the attic, to prepare for a different play the next evening. William asked if he could go along and I said come on

He and Eleanor followed me up the ladder to the catwalks where I changed some gel colors and replugged some lighting instruments. I brought them down into some lighting coves and showed how the lights were pointed to a specific area on the stage. We could see Joey B. and the shifting crew working below, changing one set for the other. William thought that was ‘cool’ also.

Jon walked on stage with Mrs. Mondale. He hollered at me, telling me Mrs. Mondale was here for the children and wanted to know where they were. At the mention of ‘the children’, Eleanor muttered, ‘The clown in residence!’ I hollered down that they were with me in the attic and we’d be down in a few minutes.

At the mention of the two being up top with me, Jon began to beller. How could I be so crazy as to place the children of the next Vice President of the United States in danger? The two kids both shouted to tell their mother that it wasn’t dangerous. Jon kept it up. I bellered back that if it was so dangerous, maybe I should be drawing hazardous duty pay along with my wages. I could hear Joey B. and the shifting crew laugh.

When the three of us made it down to the stage, Jon kept up his harangue. How could I make Mrs. Mondale wait? She’s got important things to do. She was too important to have to wait on me. I should apologize to her for making her wait and for placing her children in danger. And if he had known that I was going to screw up so bad, hewould have babysat the children himself. Both Eleanor and William came to my defense, and Mrs. Mondale said she didn’t mind waiting.

   Jon didn’t seem to hear them. He was having too much fun showing off. He knew I wouldn’t give him an argument in front of the Mondales. Joey B. and the shifters weren’t too sure though, and they stopped working and waited for me to order Jon off the stage. He was crossing too many lines, including the fact he was acting like he was my boss.

He was also upsetting Eleanor; and she began to walk toward him, when her mother stopped her. Then, Mrs. Mondale shook my hand and thanked me for giving her children an experience in theater that they would never forget. And she added, ‘If I didn’t have high-heels on, I would ask you to take me up and show me the catwalks.’ Then she turned to Jon, the silent one, and she commented, ‘Do you have any teenagers, Jon?’

‘Ah, no. I don’t have any children.’

I thought as much,’ she said, and went off stage, followed by the children, into the center aisle that led to the lobby. She turned and waved goodbye to Joey B. and the shifting crew. So  did Eleanor and William, who both hollered out thanks to me. Jon followed.

‘Hey, Jon,’ I shouted, ‘When you can, come on back. You and me have to talk.’ Joey B. and the  shifters laughed; but Jon didn’t acknowledge my request. In fact, he stayed out of my way for several days.

 

Joan Mondale was a ‘dutiful’ political wife. She did everything right as her husband, Walter, rose from Minnesota Attorney General, to U.S. Senator, U.S Vice President, Democratic nominee for President, Ambassador to Japan.

Well, she did have one glitch. In an interview, she requested that she not be asked, like most politicians’ wives, what her favorite recipe was. To atone for this supposed slam at American homemakers, she quickly released a book containing ‘all her favorite recipes’, her PR people thought would go well with the Mrs. Cleavers of America.

And she suffered when Walter was trounced by Ronald Reagan in election of 1984. And years later when he was nosed out by Norm Coleman in the race for the U.S Senate vacated by the death of Paul Wellstone, just eleven days prior to the election.

Joan Mondale, the mother, saw her three children become successful. Both Ted and William went into the political and private sectors. Eleanor, as she promised, tried Hollywood, and then into talk radio in Chicago and later Minneapolis. She was a tabloid celeb, dubbed the ‘wild child’. Then at the age of 40, Eleanor was diagnosed with brain cancer. She fought it for 11 years and died at the age of 51. Every time I think of Eleanor, I remember her comment, ‘Who is he? The resident clown?’

 

And now reading about the death of Joan Mondale, I remember a kind and intelligent woman, a politician in her own right, and a good mother. And often wished she had changed her shoes and came back to the Guthrie so I could have given her a tour of the Guthrie catwalks.

 

GOT THE TIME?

mikey mouse watch  My First Watch

Did you get a watch for Christmas? If you did, I bet it was digital. And I bet it wasn’t a pocket watch either. I remember when men had pocket watches. They placed them in the watch pockets of their pants, or the bib of their overalls. Most of them had fobs attached to them, decorative objects hanging outside the pocket allowing the users to quick draw when asked for the time. Sadly, they were replaced by wrist watches. I know that some people pay big money to wear a fancy wrist watch as jewelry; but to me, they can’t replace the eye-popping beauty of a gold plated pocket watch.

I found one once on the shoulder of the highway. Wow! I thought I had made the big time. But a man stopped at my great aunt’s and asked if she knew anybody who found the watch he lost while changing a tire. He gave a dime reward for finding it, and bawled me out for not answering his ad in the Lost and Found in the Minneapolis paper. I told him I didn’t even know Minneapolis had a paper. All we ever got in Mendota was the St. Paul paper. He could’t believe we didn’t get the Minneapolis paper, and threatened to take back the dime for sassing him. When he raised his voice, my dog growled. The man quickly got into his car.

When wrist watches were first introduced they just told time, later the day and date were added. Stem winding became self winding, finally battery operated. Now they fight to remain relevant by adding features that appeal to certain groups. You can buy one to tell you the depth of your sea dive, the altitude of your sky dive, your temperature and pulse rate. A friend of mine has one that controls the functions of his two hearing aids. It gets harder to find one that simply tells the time.

Dick Tracey Recently, I see where reality finally caught up with fiction. In 1946, Dick Tracy, the foremost cartoon policeman, had a two-way wrist radio to talk to the other policemen. In 1964, they were upgraded to wrist TVs  Now we have wrist radios, aka smart phones, worn on the wrists.

A few years ago I needed a new watch. I found the perfect one. It has a large old fashion face. with 12 LARGE numbers, two hands and a stem to set the correct time. It runs on a battery, which I like:  press the stem and it lights up, which is handy:and while it does have a small insert with the day and date, I have never bothered to fool with that function.

When I finally found my perfect watch, I paid for it, put it on and walked away. The young clerk reminded me that I did not take the instruction book. “Miss,” I said, politely, “If I thought I needed an instruction book for this watch, I would never have bought it.”

Old Hand of Oakdale:

I had gotten out of the car when a well dressed young man asked me if I could tell him the time. I told him it was ten to four. He looked puzzled. “I don’t understand,” he said politely.

My first instinct was to repeat what I said, only louder and clearer. But then I realized that this young man only knew how to tell time digitally. “It’s three fifty,” I told him. He smiled, thanked me, and went on his way.

We are constantly bombarded with new words, such as ‘phish’, or new meanings of old words, such as ‘catfish’. We even have to learn a new language, ‘texting’. And we are seeing phrases as old as time, being rendered as archaic as Shakespeare’s English. Phrases such as ‘ten to’, ‘quarter after’, ‘half passed’, are used only by those of us raised before the digital age.

As for me, I find these phrases much more pleasant to the ear than saying something like three fifty. But then, for me, some habits are hard to break. Often I find myself calling a refrigerator, an icebox.

Published SPPP, Bulletin Board 4/22/13

Darn! I wonder whatever happened to my Mickey Mouse watch. I suppose like my old baseball cards, my mother threw that old watch in the trash.

VIEWS ON THE NEWZ

Today problems are black and white. There seems to be no gray area, no compromise. It seems the only time our law makers can agree is when there is a country to be invaded or to vote to take away our fundamental rights, like enacting the Patriot Act, that almost all the signers agreed they never bothered to read.

Yet, there is a threat of rebellion if there is any intrusion on the right for a well regulated militia or any dehorn with money at a gun show to bear any type of arms that the NRA lobbies for. And yet, there was little outcry when our votes were usurped by crooked voting machines and even the Supreme Court. Or when said Court declared that corporations have the same rights as an individual. And the ice keeps melting on the poles. 

What a world we’re leaving to our children and grandchildren!

Here’s a few views that I wrote over the past several months that come from as far left field as the original thinking that spawned them.

Both Rand Paul and the NRA want to arm teachers.

I tried to think back at all the teachers in my life for one that I think could have handled being armed.
The only one is could come up with was old, old Sister Damacia, who taught me in sixth grade in St. Francis. (She also taught my dad.) That old gal could whip out that piece of rubber hose out of her sleeve, hit you upside the head, and put it back before you could even see it coming. At her age, you sure couldn’t compare her to Billy the Kid, although she could probably outdraw him. The hair on her chin reminded me of Buffalo Bill. But he was never known for his quick draw. But, then too, she always dressed in black like an old time gunfighter. Now, if that was a gun up her sleeve, instead of a rubber hose, she’d be a natural to arm.

Of course, the problem would be her eyes. Even with the coke-bottle glasses, she really couldn’t see very far. If someone acted up, and she wasn’t sure of who did it; she just whopped the kid closest to her. So maybe, like 99.9% of the teachers I ever had, I wouldn’t consider her someone I would want to be carrying a gun in the schoolroom.

Maybe they should zero in on arming the janitors instead. A mop bucket would be a good hiding place for an Uzi. Or better still, get the gun makers to manufacture an assault rifle in the shape of a mop.

If I had a bicycle, and rode my bicycle, not only would I not ride my bicycle, I would recycle my bicycle in the trash after reading the letter in which the Republican head of Washington State’s transportation committee states that people riding bikes cause more pollution than cars.
He points out that sweating people riding bikes produce CO2, a greenhouse gas that pollutes the air. I guess that during the annual Bike across Iowa each year, the participants should be sucking on oxygen masks instead of beer bottles.

And then there is the quote by the role model of the Republicans, President Ronald Reagan, who said in 1981,’ Trees cause more pollution that automobiles.’ After hearing that, I wanted to go out and chop down all the trees at my place. It just goes to say that the natural world is more dangerous to our breathing than the man-made world.
And then there’s the methane gas that is expelled by cows as they digest their food. They create oodles of methane gas that is not only a major source of pollution, it is also dangerous. I remember when the Taylor twins burned their dad’s barn down when they were lighting cow farts. That’s the truth, can’t make up things like that.

I heard that they stripped the ban of assault rifles and large magazines from the purposed Gun Control Bill for MN. They must have read some of the articles in defense of these weapons for the average homeowner. There is one in particular that I remember. It was written by the chief lobbyist for the assault rifle manufacturers, who incidentally has his office a few miles from Sandy Hook Elementary. While he agrees assault rifles have no use in hunting and little use in precision target shooting, they are a must to defend us during the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse.
So if the perfusion of these guns cause you to fear going to the movies, don’t go! Wait and buy the DVD! If you shudder each time you send your children off to school, don’t send them! Home School them!
We must sacrifice certain aspects of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’, in order to have a ‘well regulated militia’ bearing arms, capable of winning the battles of the Zombie Apocalypse. It is our Constitutional Right!

HOWEVER THERE IS NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT THIS KIND OF NEWS!!!

Recently, a 3 year shot and killed a woman at a picnic. The gun was owned by a deputy sheriff. Two days later a 4 year old shot and killed a 6 year old playmate. Regardless of the 2nd Amendment, regardless of the NRA, regardless of pro or anti gun control arguments, babies should not be shooting guns. Any SOB that disrespects the power of a gun and leaves it unprotected so anybody, even a baby, can play with it, has no right to own a gun.

Yesterday, a 5 year old shot and killed his 2 year old sister with a 22′ rifle that was given to him as a gift. It was kept in a corner, and the family said they didn’t think it had a shell in it. It was a model ‘especially made for children’. Well, it’s only a 22′!
A 22′, at a 34 degree angle, can propel a bullet l.5 miles. It is a powerful weapon! And gun manufacturers make models for babies! And it is sold to S.O.B.’s who allow it to be stored, standing up in a corner.
Yesterday also, a ‘concerned’ parent started proceedings to have ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ banned from schools. Too bad important books don’t have a lobby like the NRA to protect them.

16