Thursday, June 7, 2018

Robert Kennedy, and Juan Romero

After Robert Kennedy was shot, fifty years ago this week, a seventeen-year-old busboy who worked at Los Angeles's Ambassador Hotel, Juan Romero, knelt beside Kennedy, and attended to him, comforted him, briefly. Kennedy and Romero had shaken hands, a moment before the shooting.

"Is everybody OK?" Kennedy, who would die the next day, asked. Romero told him yes.  Kennedy then turned his head toward his right, Romero recalled, in a newspaper interview which appeared earlier this week. "Everything will be OK," Romero heard him say.

Shortly after, Romero placed a rosary, which he had in one of his pockets, around one of Kennedy's hands.

Juan Romero with Robert Kennedy (Photo: Boris Yaro/ Los Angeles Times)

Here is a brief interview with Mr. Romero, now 67, which aired on National Public Radio last week.

Here, too, is a story from June 2nd's Daily News, in New York:

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

John Prine, on CBS's "Late Show"

There was a wonderful segment, recently--April 12th, to be precise--on Stephen Colbert's CBS program.  

The segment featured singer/musician/songwriter John Prine.  He performed "Summer's End," a song from his new album, The Tree of Forgiveness. The performers Sturgill Simpson and Brandi Carlile joined him, on the program.

I have watched the video of the appearance many times, since then. 

The song; Prine's quiet, unadorned, lovely vocal performance of it, on CBS; and the performances of the accompanying singers and musicians:  they were/are deeply moving, and very beautiful.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Writer Lorrie Moore

The terrific novelist and short story writer Lorrie Moore (Self-Help; Birds of America; a number of other works) has brought out a collection of non-fiction.  I was reading about the new book, and then did some browsing online about Ms. Moore.

I came across an enjoyable interview with her from New York magazine, 2005.  Said Ms. Moore (b. 1957):

"I grew up with Life magazine on the coffee table, Life cereal on the breakfast table, and the game of Life on the card table. People were just so happy to be alive, I guess."

I also enjoyed this, in the interview:  

"I do a very reverential Billie Holiday imitation that’s a complete room-emptier."

Here, too, is the amazon link for Ms. Moore's new non-fiction collection, See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary (Knopf):

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Five years ago today: terrorism at the Boston Marathon

As The Boston Globe reported, today:

"On the fifth anniversary of the day bombs placed near the Boston Marathon finish line left three dead and more than 260 wounded, Governor Charlie Baker reflected on the resilience of survivors, both those injured in the terror attack and those who lost loved ones on that indelible day."

On Sunday, the Globe's weekly magazine carried an essay by Denise Richard.  Her son Martin died in the bombing; he was eight years old.  Her daughter Jane, at the time six years old, lost a leg.  Her husband Bill was injured; she was blinded in one eye.

In the Globe essay, Mrs. Richard writes  "Five years ago, our own City of Boston was the recipient of the world’s love, compassion, and generosity when two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing my son, Martin, along with Lingzi Lu and Krystle Campbell and injuring our family as well as hundreds of others. In turn, we, the families of the deceased and injured, were treated with the utmost care and empathy. Our families were embraced by the spirit of goodness and the determination of a community willing to help."

She writes, in the essay, about the work of the Martin Richard Foundation; she is the Foundation's acting Executive Director. As noted on its website, the Foundation "helps young people to learn, grow and lead through volunteerism and community engagement. We look to advance sportsmanship, inclusion, kindness and peace."

Here, too, is a 2014 story from The Globe about the Richard family; it appeared a year after the Marathon catastrophe:

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dr. King's last speech

This is a film of the very powerful (and haunting) conclusion of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last speech, delivered on April 3, 1968.  He was, of course, killed the next day, at age 39.  It is hard to fathom that it has been fifty years since his death.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Fred Rogers, and "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood"

Fred Rogers is one of the great figures in television history. His remarkable children's program--a gentle, meaningful and beautiful show--began airing nationally fifty years ago.

On March 23rd, the United States Postal Service will be releasing a "Mister Rogers" stamp.  It is a much-deserved honor.

A ceremony will be held by the Postal Service, on the 23rd, at Pittsburgh public station WQED-TV, the station from which, for decades, the show originated. 

The last first-run episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
were taped at the end of 2000, and broadcast in 2001. The program continued to air on PBS for several more years. It is still aired by some PBS stations; some of the stations carry the show on weekends.

Fred Rogers died in 2003--fifteen years ago, last month--at age 74.

Here is a New York Times story about the stamp, from February:

Monday, March 12, 2018

"Neuromancer," by William Gibson

For some time I've had a copy of William Gibson's 1984 science fiction work Neuromancer, but haven't read it.  I recently took it off the shelf, and loved its opening sentence:

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

"The Sue Bennett Show," 1950s, WBZ-TV, Boston

These are rehearsal and publicity photographs from The Sue Bennett Show, a weekly musical program on Boston station WBZ-TV (Channel 4).  The show aired in 1954 and 1955, and featured my mother and the vocal group The Freddy Guerra Trio.

As was true of a number of early television's musical shows (one thinks of network programs starring Perry Como, Dinah Shore, and Roberta Quinlan), The Sue Bennett Show was fifteen minutes long.

The first picture, above, is from a 1954 Boston Sunday Globe story. The photo (cropped, at the bottom, because of damage to it) shows my mother rehearsing a song; the bass player is to the right of the table.  The Freddy Guerra Trio is at the left.

The next three photos are also from 1954.  In the picture below, The Freddy Guerra Trio rehearses before the television cameras (the singers are dressed, for the particular number, in western outfits); my mother watches, near the center/rear of the picture.

In the third photo, my mother is seated to the left; musicians from the show can be seen, off-camera, to the right.

The next photo is a portrait of The Freddy Guerra Trio. From the top to the bottom are: Charles Bean, Freddy Guerra, and Joe McPherson.

Though he performed as a vocalist on the show, Freddy Guerra was best known as a musician, and bandleader.  He is familiar to Glenn Miller fans for having played saxophone with Miller's Army Air Force Band during World War Two. After the war, Guerra played both saxophone and clarinet with The Glenn Miller Orchestra, now led--due to Miller's death, during the war--by vocalist and saxophonist Tex Beneke.  Guerra later led his own orchestra, for many years, in the Boston area.

The final photograph is from a 1955 story from The Boston Sunday Post; my mother is sitting on a piano, during a rehearsal for the show.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Vic Damone, singing on "The Morey Amsterdam Show," 1949

The fine singer Vic Damone died on February 11th.  He was 89.

The following is a video/kinescope of Mr. Damone, from YouTube.  It is from an April of 1949 telecast of the DuMont Network's Morey Amsterdam Show.

Vic Damone, on The Morey Amsterdam Show, 1949

Morey Amsterdam's program, a variety show, made its debut on CBS-TV in December of 1948.  Its setting was the fictional "Golden Goose Cafe," and its cast included Art Carney (who played Charlie, the cafe's doorman).   

The show was cancelled by CBS in March of 1949, and reappeared the next month, on the DuMont Network  Its setting became the (also fictional) "Silver Swan Cafe"; Art Carney now portrayed "Newton the Waiter."  The show aired until 1950.

The appearance by Vic Damone took place on the show's debut broadcast on the DuMont Network. He sang with The Johnny Guarnieri Orchestra, which was featured on both the CBS and DuMont versions of Morey Amsterdam's program. 

The website lists no television appearances by Mr. Damone prior to his 1949 appearance with Morey Amsterdam. It is therefore possible that this was his first television appearance.

Here is the New York Times's obituary of Mr. Damone:

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield, in The New York Times Magazine

There's an interesting retrospective piece about Rodney Dangerfield, in this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine.

Writer AlexThe one-liners were impeccable, unimprovable. Dangerfield spent years on them; he once told an interviewer that it took him three months to work up six minutes of material for a talk-show appearance."

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin

Last Monday (January 22nd), the prominent and influential novelist Ursula K. Le Guin died, at age 88. 

A few days later, I was looking through a 1998 book about television, CBS: The First 50 Years, by Tony Chiu (General Publishing Group).  The book's epigraph is a quote from Ms. Le Guin: 

"There's a good deal in common between the mind's eye and the TV screen, and though the TV set has all too often been the boobtube, it could be, it can be, the box of dreams."

The quote is from a 1980 magazine piece by Ms. Le Guin; the piece then appeared in her 1989 nonfiction collection, Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places (Grove Press).

Here is the New York Times obituary about Ms. Le Guin:

Friday, January 19, 2018

Dion, 1968 Smothers Brothers TV appearance

On Wednesday (two days after the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday), I came upon the following video, on YouTube:  it is from a November 17, 1968 episode of the Smothers Brothers program, on CBS. 

The video is of the singer Dion, performing the exquisite song "Abraham, Martin and John," which had been released in August of that year.  The song was written (by Dick Holler) in the aftermath of the assassinations of Dr. King, and Robert Kennedy. 

Dion's performance of the song, on the TV show (as on his original recording of it) is extremely beautiful--both his singing, and his guitar playing.  

I don't remember being aware, prior to watching the video, that it was Dion who played the guitar on the record itself.

The Wikipedia page about the song notes: "Dion felt during post production that the song needed more depth and added a track featuring him playing classical guitar notably at the bridge, lead ins and the close."

The record had first appeared on the Cashbox music chart near the end of October, 1968 (and on Billboard's chart the following week).  A little over a month after the Smothers Brothers appearance, the song reached #2 on the Cashbox list. It would also reach #4 in the Billboard ranking (and became a #1 record in Canada).

Here is the video of Dion's television performance: