It's "Russia Week" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert this week, and they show a new segment each day for his trip to Russia a few months back. To promote the week, CBS released part of this first video, which I posted here at the time. But here is the full thing --
The Andy Griffith Show had a lot of musical numbers in it, but two always stood out for me (not counting the classic theme song, of course).
The first one is my favorite, by far -- a song they sang a few times on the show, and included it, as well, I believe, when they did a reunion show. I tried to find a clip of that because it included Ron Howard singing along, but alas couldn't. It's the fight song for the local high school, Mayberry Union High. I always found it very wistful, most especially in how it's used in an episode where they used it for the first time, coming at the very end of a bittersweet high school reunion. Things hadn't gone the way Andy had hoped, as a former girlfriend came back to town, though they resolve things in a tender way. As the two men clean up afterwards, Andy starts to sing and Barney joins in. They brought the song back for this later episode below, which I believe was a class reunion story, as well. If memory serves, Barney comes back to town (Don Knotts had left the show by then), thinking that the news his former long-time girlfriend Thelma Lou wants to tell him is that she wants to reignite their relationship, only to find that it's to tell him she has gotten married. And at the end of the show, a reflective Andy and Barney find themselves alone on the front porch.
This is just one of those kinds of little songs that I dearly love -- helped further because I also happen to love harmony.
The other song I always liked on the series came in an episode when Aunt Bee and Clara wrote a sweet little song about Mayberry, called "My Hometown." It gets on a TV variety show, but is rehearsed as an upbeat rock number (for some odd reason). But when they are aghast at the interpretation and get all in a dither, it finally gets performed properly. But this is the original version --
I'm going to include the "proper" TV variety show version, sung by a character named Keevy Hazelton, who I believe was a local kid from Mayberry. (It's when he goes back home that he hears Aunt Bee and Clara's song.) The reason I'm posting this, as well, is because the actor who plays Keevy here is Jesse Pearson -- who three years earlier had played Conrad Birdie in the film version of Bye Bye Birdie.
I was listening to some music over the weekend, and for no particular reason Allan Sherman's recording of "The Ballad of Oh, Boy" came on. This was from his first album, My Son, The Folksinger, which was a cultural phenomenon and launched Sherman's career.
The song was never one of my favorites (though I like the music for the chorus). Basically, it's just a bunch of names strung together to the tune of "The Mexican Hat Dance," followed by Sherman's reaction to them by how he says, "Oh, Boy." It's fine, and somewhat fun many decades later to hear the names of people who were of interest in the early 1960s. But I'm posting it here for one specific reason -- the person who pops up at the 3:06 mark -- so pay attention! Nice, too, is that there's a photo of the person.
(The video has pictures of most of those mentioned. It's sort of amusing to see when the guy putting this together didn't know who was being referred to. One I recall is the B'nai B'rith, the Jewish charity and service organization. Another is Bo Belinksky, who was a pitcher on the Los Angeles Angles baseball team, quite an outgoing character known for dating starlets, and who pitched a no-hitter in his rookie season, though his career didn't last long.)
For whatever reason, the music level quiets about halfway through. And I won't give away beforehand the person who comes along at the 3:06 mark, so watch. New readers of these pages might not know why I'm noting this, so I'm describe it all after the video below. But long-time readers here should get a smile.
Okay, so there you have it. "The Ballad of Oh, Boy," from Allan Sherman's career-making blockbuster first album, My Son, the Folksinger.
And there, too, you have a chance to see what public figure I was referring to that comes along at the 3:06 mark of the song.
Yes, none other than Newton Minow, father of the wonderful and oft-mentioned around these parts, Nell Minow. (And her sisters, of course. They count, too. Martha, the dean of Harvard Law School, who was Barack Obama's law professor, recommending him to her father and his firm, Sidley Austin, where he ended up working and meeting Michelle Robinson who he married) -- and Mary, an expert in library law who worked for a while in the Obama administration. But that's all secondary, since what counts around these premises is Nell. She has been mentioned here, is one of the world experts on corporate governance, and a film reviewer with her Movie Mom books, and now working for RogerEbert.com. But also my co-partner in the Apology Institute of America, fine analysts of apologies by public figures since 1832. In addition, several years back, Nell reached her lifetime goal since a child of becoming a Kuklapolitan...)
Newton Minow himself -- oh, yeah, right, him -- is included in the song here because he was the FCC Chairman under President John Kennedy, and was made famous by his speech calling television a "vast wasteland." But I prefer to think it's because he poker buddy of my dad, and one of my dad's patients, though I'm admittedly biased.
And to complete the full picture, his wife and mother of those three daughters above is Jo Baskin Minow. And yes, if "Baskin" sounds familiar, it is indeed the ice-cream family.
The only thing remaining is to check with Nell herself and find out if her dad's middle initial is, in fact, "B" -- of if Allan Sherman just picked that randomly to fit the syntax.
And now you know.
UPDATE: We have our answer from Ms. Minow. She answers The Question (about if her dad's middle initial ws, in fact, "B"), as well some other comments below in the Comments section.
This morning, Trump tweeted out that one of his former campaign advisers says there was no collusion with Russia. No, seriously. That's supposedly his big "get" today. Proof positive that his administration is in the clear. Of course, it's when the FBI and Robert Mueller say there was no conspiracy or anything illegal done, that's what you're looking for! (And to be clear, the proper legal term is "conspiracy,", since the word "collusion" has no legal bearing) In fact, going further, it doesn't even matter if the public even believes Trump's tweet about his former campaign adviser. Or about anyone. I do understand trying to get ahead of the PR story, but the FBI and Mueller are really all that matter at the moment. Even despite Trump's campaign adviser giving the thumbs up...
Still, every time I read Trump or a surrogate insist to the general public that All in Well. No Problem. It's Fine. There Was Nothing Illegal. Things Are Great. Nothing To See Here, Move On - I immediately think of this scene from near the end of Animal House, when the parade has started to unravel. (And yes, that's a very young Kevin Bacon as the cadet.)
Heading back once more On the Road with Charles Kuralt, we come across a fellow who's found his bliss stringing plastic beads together and making jump ropes. It's not one of my favorite of the Kuralt pieces, but written wonderfully and presented with charming appreciation.
Driving home this afternoon I was listening to the radio news and Trump was reading a speech, and it was SO sing-songy and whiny and childish, that I couldn't take it and just instinctively started mocking the noise. And then it hit me, and I realized who he sounds like when he's reading off a teleprompter - Beaker from the Muppets.
He's even got the right hair.
This is a TV report of a story I read about the other day. The short version is that a fellow recently out of prison was on the way to a job interview on a bus, when he said a terrible car accident. He asked the bus driver to wait for him, but the driver couldn't -- and the guy ran off anyway to help. He missed his job interview, needless to say, but when the story got out, other offers came in, and a local woman started a GoFundMe project for him, not just for his action but also to him him as he raises a daughter..
After one day, they had raised about $15,000 of the $25,000 goal. That goal has been increased to $35,000, and in just a couple days is now up to $26,000. (I gave a small amount -- I thought his action was awfully generous and worth positive reinforcement.) In case anyone else is interested in donating, I figure that I'd pass along the link here. Here's the story --
This is a very funny segment from last night's Jimmy Kimmel Live show that deals with a young man who had a "Jimmy Kimmel-themed" Bar Mitvah. But as amusing as that part of the story is, it veers off into much-funnier when a surprise guest shows up -- Jon Stewart.
(Some people commenting about the video online have chided the kid for not recognizing Stewart, but two things are clear -- first, he's having a hard time with the two-way transmission, and second, if you listen carefully, the boy actually says "Hello, Jon" before the he introduces himself.)
Plus, there's a really nice, unexpected bonus at the end.
P.S. At one point says something in Hebrew. It means, "Please, be quiet."
I'm not a big fan of the ESPYs and don't tend to watch them. Years back in the past, they've been enjoyable enough in that they don't especially take them too seriously, but there was still always a certain sense of importance and it's grown over the years, now in their 25th anniversary. But a TV sports channel giving out its own Best Of sports awards in the field just has always struck me as a bit unctuous. Not problematically so, since as I said, they don't take themselves too serious. But it's still ESPNs own awards done as if it was industrial and meaningful.
Usually, I just catch up on video highlights later, since there always are a few well--worth watching. And I have three such videos here.
I think they'll be fun for most people, but if you don't like sports I understand, and you're excused. The lobby is over there, and we'll be serving snacks.
This first is the opening monologue by Peyton Manning. It's pretty funny, and he does (not surprisingly) a solid job. There are a few points where the targets of his jokes are stone-faced, but I have a feeling they cleared some jokes ahead of them and are in on it, much the same way Matt Damon seems unmoving at Jimmy Kimmel's slams at him. Those this video says 13-minutes (and is), the monologue is only 10 minutes. Still, that's a long time to do such a good job for someone who's not a professional comedian.
One last thing -- for some reason when ESPN released these videos, they did something bizarre with a sparkly-star universe in the background and the image smaller in a box in the center. Don't ask me to explain in. It's distracting but their choice.
This second clip is a lovely Icon Award presented to the legendary Los Angeles Dodger announcer Vin Scully, who retired at the end of last season, after 65 years behind the microphone. There's a very good presentation by Brian Cranston (who grew up in L.A. listening to Scully), a nice montage of Scully highlights, and then a not-surprisingly gracious speech by Vin Scully, who'll be 90 in four months and looks in high-announcing form.
Why the headline of this says that Scully "trolls" Cranston is utterly beyond me. He repeats on thing Cranston says, but that's more a case of he had clearly planned it all along, and the two men didn't compare notes. Other than that...not a clue.
And finally, the ESPYs give a Best Moment in the entire world of sports, and there's only one choice they could go with. The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series after 108 years.
There is a very nice montage of the minutes building up to the Best Moment, and some fun joshing around by lifelong Chicagoans Bill Murray and Nick Offerman, joined by David Ross -- the beloved journeyman catcher who oddly just finished second in Dancing With the Stars. I'm not quite sure why they didn't have any of the Cubs starters or longtime stars on stage, though doing it this way did keep the moment far lighter. For Cubs fans, this is all fun, though it probably goes on a bit longer than necessary for most people, especially Chris Dunn, though that's part of the reason for including it here...
The other reason, of course, is that how could I not?!
After posting the story earlier about the iceberg breaking off from Antarctica, it only follows that I figured I should post something from Titantic. But no, not the movie, but the Broadway musical.
Though the ship had a tragic history, it had a great year in 1997. That was when the film was released and won the Oscar for Best Picture the next year. And it was the same year that the stage musical tale of the story won the Tony Award for Best Musical.
The stage musical is quite good, with a score by Maury Yeston and book by Peter Stone (who wrote the book for, among many other things, 1776.)
This is the segment from the 1997 Tonys, with an edited down sequence of the show's open, trimmed for the TV broadcast. It has three songs that sort of blend into one another, two of which I find so wonderful and moving -- "I Must Get On That Ship" and "Godspeed, Titanic." They're heartbreaking, with emotional and soaring music, combined with such hopeful lyrics sung by people who, alas, don't know what's in store for them.
It's a remarkable stage achievement, being able to pull off this story without the benefit of...well, an ocean, ship and movie special effects. But they do, and with only a touch of simple stage magic and some angled-sets. (One memorable moment: when a food cart suddenly starts to roll across what should be a level ship board, which the passengers horrifyingly realize for the first time means the vessel is starting to tilt.)
There's one other thing that stands out for me from this clip. I remember watching at the time and thinking -- even through small TV speakers with low-end fidelity -- "Yipes, those voices sound stunning." GIven that it was all in mono, and given how poor TV audio is compared to sitting in a stage theater, I couldn't figure out why it sounded so amazing, and thought it was either a false perception on my part, or the audio equivalent of an optical illusion, perhaps the result of the soaring emotion of the score. Maybe there was a reason, but it was beyond me.
I always remembered it, though, and one day mentioned it to a friend. I think it was Mark Evanier. And from what he told me, it turned out that it wasn't an "audio illusion" at all, but that I was right and there was a very real reason for what I heard.
For most Broadway musicals, when they pick the chorus, the people not only have to sing wonderfully, but they also may be called on to dance a little, but also there is a certain "presentation" factor. The reality that, this is a stage show, after all, so appearance is often almost as important as vocal ability. You still have to sing really well, but you also have to look good on a Broadway stage.
In Titanic, however, there are none of the latter restriction. There's little dancing, if any, that I recall. And "young, tall and thin" is not an issue. The chorus -- playing those on board -- are the myriad of passengers, crew, staff and third-class immigrants on board, young and old alike. And many of them are bundled in bulky clothes throughout. So, being Broadway svelte simply doesn't matter. Through the number, but especially as it builds to the crescendo and the camera begins to pan across the multitude, notice that you are not looking at a typical Broadway chorus. Only one thing mattered when they cast it (and many of the diverse roles, as well) -- being able to sing with a glorious voice. And so that's what came through the TV speaker that night. And I think at least some of it should still come through an even lower-fidelity computer speaker, hopefully.
Regardless, it's a wonderful, moving opening number, introduced here by one of the actors in it, two-time Tony winner Michael Cerveris (who plays the ship's designer, Thomas Andrews). And if you ever get to see a revival of the stage show, it's not only very good, but you'll get the full glory of the voices live, compared to most other shows.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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