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Friday, December 2, 2016

Rant #1,793: Big Bad Mac

Most of us have eaten at least once something called a "Big Mac," the signature sandwich at the McDonald's restaurants chain.

(Come on, you know you have, two burgers with the special sauce, lettuce, cheese, onions, pickles, on sesame seed bun.)

The Big Mac pretty much made McDonald's what it is today, and whether you love them, hate them, or are somewhere in between, you pretty much have to agree that sometimes, something simple can actually be a bit more than that: it can be a real game changer, and that is what the Big Mac was for McDonald's and for the entire fast food industry.

McDonald’s franchisee Jim Delligatti created the Big Mac, and debuted it in the mid-1960’s at his Uniontown, Pennsylvania restaurant.  It became so successful that in 1968, it was rolled out to all McDonald’s restaurants in the United States, and later, pretty much to McDonald's around the globe.

Delligatti, who supposedly made no extra cash from his creation, passed away Monday at 98 years of age.

The businessman was supposedly a legend in the industry, also creating what became another signature of the fast food chain, its breakfast menu. Seeing hungry workers come into his restaurants after all-night shifts, he figured fast food breakfast was what they needed, and he evidently was right on with this idea too.

Delligatti is given credit for creating the Big Mac, but not for creating the name of the sandwich. Evidently, an office worker for the fast food chain is given credit for that, although the businessman claimed that he came up with that too. Reports are that he said he created the name "because 'Big Mc' didn't sound right" to his ears.

But whatever the case, Delligatti was American ingenuity personified, and every time someone purchases a Big Mac--probably hundreds of thousands of times a day, if not more than that--his creation cements itself as one of the most popular concoctions of all time.

And he listened to his customers, as they had asked him for a sandwich featuring more than one hamburger.

Look, not every fast food concoction wins out. I remember that McDonald's once had something called a Ham-O, which was probably the precursor of its successor breakfast sandwiches like the McMuffin, but the Big Mac became popular from the get go, and probably paved the way for other such sandwiches from other fast food restaurants, like Burger King's Whopper.

Whatever the case, Delligatti was the guy behind the idea, and few people outside of the industry probably knew who he was--and I bet he liked it just like that, or at least as much as people enjoyed his creation.

Speak to you again on Monday. Have a good weekend.

Classic Rant #446 (February 16, 2011): Wednesday's Birthday On Wednesday

Remember the kid who played Wednesday on the TV show "The Addams Family?"

Her name is Lisa Loring, and she turns 53 today.

Although I preferred "The Munsters" as far as the creepy TV show trend that lasted a few years in the 1960s, one of the reasons I watched "The Addams Family" was because of Wednesday. Even as an eight year old kid, I guess I must have had a crush on her.

She was a cute kid, but in real life, she has had several challenges to meet, and overcome.

Loring was a military brat, meaning that her parents were in the military. She wasn't even born in the continental U.S., but in the Marshall Islands, where her parents were stationed.

Her mother was an alcoholic, and died when Loring was in her teens and way out of the Wednesday character, a role that lasted just two years.

I can't find much about her teenage years, but I know that in her early 20s, she was on the soap opera "As the World Turns," a gig that lasted two years. She turned from a cute kid to quite a vivacious young lady, and she had that soap opera look, if you know what I mean.

She then was featured in "The Addams Family" reunion film on TV (not the theatrical movie), and heck, she was a beautiful woman by this point.

Around this time, she was married and divorced twice.

She then married again, and for a few years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, she was on every talk show known to man with her husband.

Her husband, Jerry Butler, was one of the hottest porn stars of the day.

Need I say more?

I guess she knew what he did for a living when she married him, but she evidently couldn't handle being married to a guy who slept with thousands of women, so she went on all the talk shows--with him, by the way--to discuss this problem she had.

Well, I guess she never conquered the problem, because she divorced him in the early 1990s.

I know that sometime after that, she went to rehab, worked in public relations with a hotel chain, and got really heavy.

And that is where the information stops. I don't know what happened to Loring after this period, and she probably wants it that way.

Which is fine with me. I just have those two images in my mind of her: that cute little kid and that beautiful girl in her 20s.

Now that she is 53, who knows where she is in her life now?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Rant #1,792: These Are My Songs

The other day, I told you about the music of my life, my top five favorite songs in the whole wide world, and I said I would get back to you on the next five songs that I consider to be my favorites.

Well, since nothing much else is happening in my world that I really want to write about now--I could go on and on about my job situation, but I've done that already, and there are no new developments, it still stinks like rotten eggs--I figured the first of the new month would be a fine time to round out my personal top 10.

The next group of songs are great tunes, really great tunes, and while I have to put them in six to 10 order, really, No. 6 is no better than No. 10, No. 7 is no better than No 8, etc.

They are simply great songs that I simply love.

So here goes:

6) Petula Clark - I Know a Place: If there was ever a song, and a singer, that epitomized a different time and place in my life, it is this song and this singer. The 1960s were a time that everything and anything went, where the rules were being written about music, and thus, there were no rules at all. The British Invasion produced so much good music, and allowed for so many different types of artists to emerge. Although I loved Clark's music canon from 1965 to 1969, this song simply stands out because of its exuberance.

7) Lulu - To Sir With Love: Like the previous Clark song, this tune really captures a time and a place as well or better than any other song I have ever heard. I am not much for ballads, but I just love this song. Couple that with the movie that this song was featured in, and you have something that is very special to me, as not only is this one of my favorite songs of all time, but the movie is one of my favorite films of all time (more on that another time). And Lulu's vocal performance is certainly one of the best of the time period. She was not a one-hit wonder, but ask anyone what song they remember from her, and this one is it.

8) Cheap Trick - Surrender: Well, we had to move into the 1970s eventually, and although the 1970s could not compare with the 1960s musicwise, this song really hit me on the side of the head when it came out about 40 years ago. Although never a really big hit single, it has become a mainstay on classic rock stations over the years, heavily influenced by the power of 1960s music and created by the newer wave of artists who were born in the 1950s and grew up in the 1960s. "Mommy's all right, daddy's all right, they just seemed a little weird," is just one of the non-sequitor lyrics in this song, and every time I hear it, I think back to my college days.

9) Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Pump It Up: Although I have written off Elvis C. nowadays because of his stance against Israel, when Elvis C. was a young artist, he had lots of anger inside of him for a variety of reasons, and his punk/new wave/pop songs showcased all of that anger in an attractive sort of way. I think that this song was the epitome of that type of music, and remember, this was the tune that he played on "Saturday Night Live" when he basically thumbed his nose at the show and played a different song than was scheduled, which riled lots of people, but thrilled others, like myself. Power punk at its best, it is sad that as Elvis C. progressed through his career, his music became less and less listenable to me.

10) Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock: Look, I was a little baby in the 1950s when Elvis was at the height of his popularity, so his entire 1950s and early 1960s musical canon I heard, well, second hand on oldies stations like WCBS-FM in New York. But can you question the power of this song, even 60 years later? One cannot imagine the force that Elvis was on the music scene way back when, and I could actually choose any one of this songs from that era as a favorite. This is the one I chose, simply because I like it the most of all of them. When I hear it, I think to myself, "That is Elvis!" And it is, and it still sounds great.

And yes, there are plenty of songs that I left off this list but are right up there in my mind as among my favorite songs, such as the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows," the Grass Roots' "Midnight Confessions," the Turtles' "Happy Together," a whole slew of Motown songs including "Love Child" and "Reflections" by Diana Ross and the Supremes ... and there are plenty of others that just missed my personal top 10.

What are your favorites? Please let me know.

And if there are favorite singles and songs, there must be favorite albums, too.

And yes, those are probably coming too, later this month.

I mean, it is December, the month of "Best Ofs," so why not? Everybody else has them out, why not me?

Classic Rant #445 (February 15, 2011): Hope Springs Eternal

Snow is still on the ground even though we have been going through a warmer couple of weeks without any of the white stuff coming down.

The calendar reads February 15, so we have plenty of time before winter ends and spring begins.

But you know what? I am in a spring mood today.


Pitchers and catchers report this week to Florida and Arizona for baseball's annual spring training.

Right now, every team has a chance. The Pittsburgh Pirates have as good of a chance this time of year as do their cross-state rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies.

Everybody is on the same level now, and before you know it, full squads will report, and then we will really be in the swing of it.

You just know the weather is getting warmer when you see ballplayers stretching.

It just warms the heart.

Everybody says that the Phillies are a lock to win the World Series. I don't doubt that they have a terrific team with an incredible starting rotation.

But somehow, I don't think it will be that easy. There are some other pretty good teams out there--including the defending champion San Francisco Giants--and I believe it will be a real fight to see who gets to the World Series from the National League this year.

In the American League, things are as wide open as they have ever been. Some are conceding the World Series to the Red Sox, but I tend to differ. I don't think their pitching is that good, and remember, they are in the same division as the Yankees are. Never, ever count the Yankees out. And what about American League champs the Texas Rangers?

But during this time of year, the Kansas City Royals even have a shot.

As do the sorry New York Mets, involved in a financial scandal so critical that the owners, who have offered a portion of the team for sale, might have to actually give up a bit more of their ownership to make full financial amends.

Thanks, Madoff. Aren't you happy he was a Mets fan and not a fan of your team?

Anyway, hope springs eternal now, and anything can happen this year.

After the interminable football season, and with the equally endless and pointless hype surrounding March Madness around the corner, all I can say is ...

Play ball!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rant #1,791: My Dad

Today, November 30, 2016, is a big day in my family.

My dad turns 85 years old today.

By doing so, he catches up with my mom, who turned the same age in March.

Eighty-five years old ... I can't believe it, but on the other hand, I can believe it.

He is my hero, always was my hero, and always will be my hero.

We are at times as different as night and day, but what he taught me was competitiveness, and the value of family.

Family always comes first above everything else.

My father had humble beginnings, growing up on the Lower East Side of New York, but he made it, through hard work, proving that the American Dream exists.

I talk about my job travails, but he had perhaps an even bigger one more than 50 years ago.

He was a butcher, and old-style kosher chicken butcher, working with my grandfather in their store on Delancey Street.

But New York City was changing, the business was not what it was, and the final nail in the coffin was the the city was going to build a highway right through the store.

He had to make a decision--stay with the butcher business or try something else.

He not only tried something else, but he made it a career--he became a New York City licensed medallion cab driver and owner, and became quite a success with his change in career.

It helped us as a family, it enabled us to eventually move out of New York City and into a supposed better life in the suburbs, and what's more, my dad loved doing what he was doing.

Whether he picked up common folk or celebrities--from Michael J. Fox to Tiny Tim to Martin Scorcese to Jackie Kennedy Onassis to Earl Weaver and many more--he treated them all alike, with respect, even if he sometimes didn't get that back in return.

He also picked up people who didn't fit into society for whatever reason, and transported them where they needed to go. Less the cash, a "thank you" was all he needed.

He finally retired a few months ago. He suffered a bout of pneumonia, but his will to get better trumped everything else, and we should all have recovered and be as healthy as he is at this age today--of course, my mother had a lot to do with that, helping him follow the regimen to get better.

He always talks about living "the good life," and this former Marine, with two kids--my sister and I--and five grandkids, a nice home, and a loving wife, certainly fits that bill.

He is the strongest person I know, and like me, stubborn as all heck. He loves to win, hates to lose, but again, family always comes first.

So, on this momentous day, I wish him at least 85 years more of "the good life."

He is truly my hero, and I truly thank him for being there for me all the time, and being the best father a guy could ever have.

Classic Rant #444 (February 14, 2011): Music, Music, Music (Not)

Since I spoke about Valentine's Day in a previous rant, I am going to bypass that subject and speak about something else that is not really near and dear to my heart.

The Grammy Awards.

I have never liked the Grammy Awards. This is supposedly the showcase for the current hot acts of the moment. The Grammy Awards have always strived to be hip, with it, and now, but they rarely are.

And it is even moreso now, when the talent level of today's most popular acts is so thin.

Let's be honest about it; the music that kids listen to today is awful. There isn't an original chord in the whole mess, and mix that with c(rap), where everything is out there, and, well, you have a lot of garbage that passes for music today.

Yeah, I am speaking like an old fuddy duddy, but c'mon people, I don't see any Beatles on the horizon, nor do I see even an American Breed in this mess.

What you have are a lot of performance acts where the music is secondary.

Take Lady GaGa (please), a Madonna wannabe who came to the Grammy Awards last night in an egg.

Yes, an egg.

What this has to do with the music is beyond me.

She owes a lot to Madonna (another act that I really can't stand), to David Bowie, to Alice Cooper and to others who blended music with performance.

You can trace this back to probably Screaming Jay Hawkins when he performed his hit, "I Put a Spell On You." He would come out looking like a voodoo medicine man, with his coffin following him from behind.

It was great theater.

Later, when the Monkees did their concerts, they burst out on the stage from large, fake speakers. That was so different from the norm of that time, when acts just basically came on stage and did their thing.

Bowie stretched the boundaries even further, and so did Alice Cooper.

But with those acts, the music still came first.

With an act like Lady GaGa, and Madonna for that matter, the performance is much more important that the music. The music is secondary, and I didn't think the Grammy Awards were about that.

Yet, so many people think she is so creative.


And then you have rap, which is pure garbage that some people think is an art form.

Sorry, but it's so easy to say every curse in the book; it's harder to work around it.

These "artists" don't work around it.

Their music is repetitive, often racist and anti-human being, and it is garbage.

Please, critics, don't pass this off as art. Sorry Eminem, I don't care how many records you sell, you are not an artist by any stretch of the imagination.

Last night, some oldies were there, including Barbra Streisand (an eternal ugh!); Mick Jagger (who is nothing without Keith Richards), and Bob Dylan (another ugh!), and there was a tribute to Aretha Franklin by some much lesser talents than her. Funny, I didn't think the Queen of Soul was dead yet.

Anyway, I guess by not liking the Grammy Awards, I don't like the current popular music.

You can assume that, and if you do, well, it's true.

I would rather get out my dusty Archies records and listen to them.

There is more credibility in that music than there ever will be in the current crap, er, crop, of music.

And that is a shame, because I am sure there is talent out there.

Somewhere ...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Rant #1,790: The Top of My World

When your personal world is in turmoil, as mine is right now with my job and place of business both teetering on the edge of oblivion, or when you simply need some comfort, one thing that you can always go back to are the songs of your life, the music that really moved you when it was new and still does something to you years after it were originally released.

My main focus is on music of the 1960s, but I have enjoyed music of all eras, whether it be the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and even the 1980s. My new music interest waned in the 1990s, and it was during this period that I really went back to my roots, and re-investigated the music of my youth, something which I do to this day.

I really don't like the current music, with a few exceptions, and let's be honest about it, you cannot go wrong with music from the eras I mentioned.

During those years--in particular, the 1960s and early 1970s--the music was more than just a tune in your head, it meant much more, often signifying a lifestyle, a message, or a statement.

So, it got me to thinking, as we enter the last potion of calendar year 2016--when all the lists come out of best ofs in music for the year--what are my absolute favorite tunes of my life, the Top 10 songs that I can hear anytime and that calm me, soothe me, and bring me back to another time?

Let me tell you, it was not easy to come up with such a list. During the eras I mentioned, there was a real cornucopia of excellent music being produced, songs that were fun and often had a message, even a subtle one, beyond what was on the surface.

And others were simply pure fluff.

So, as we near the last month of 2016, here are my top five of my top 10 favorite tunes, in order. I don't know how much you also like these songs, but to me, each and every one of them has meaning, and each and every one of them, when I hear them, makes me happy.

1) Beatles - A Hard Day's Night: I think that this tune really epitomizes what I mentioned earlier about songs that put me in a good mood, songs that are fun, and songs that have a meaning beneath the surface. Let's be honest about it: the Beatles were it, are it, and will continue to be it for generations to come. There was no act like them, and although they had a multitude of hits, to me, this one is special. I was young when it came out--seven years old--and hearing this really made me take notice of the music around me. I liked just about everything they put out at the time, but to me, as a rock and roll song, this one, like the Fab Four, is it.

2) Monkees - Daydream Believer: I have always loved the Monkees, and I remember that when this record came out, my sister and I played it over and over and over and over. There was just something so interesting, and so different, about this song. I still can't put it into words. The Monkees Machine took this John Stewart song, changed some of the lyrics, and made it into their own. No, it is not the Monkees' best song--more about that later--but it is my favorite song of theirs. Again, it epitomized the time and the place that I was in, and maybe the time and the place that I am still in.

3) Dave Clark Five - Any Way You Want It: To me, the raw power of rock and roll is displayed in this song perhaps better than any other song I have ever heard. Everything in the song just works, making a true wall of sound that simply cannot be forgotten. The DC5 were a true singles band, although I liked their LPs too, but to me, this was their finest creation, putting into two minutes more might than can be found in many songs twice the length.

4) Paul Revere and the Raiders - Kicks: My first daily introduction to rock and roll was not "The Monkees" TV series; it was "Where the Action Is," the daily show produced by Dick Clark which ended up having Paul Revere and the Raiders as the centerpiece of the program. They were wild, they were funny, they wore funny outfits, and they were talented, and this tune really put all those eggs in one basket. Hailed--or derided by some--as the first rock and roll anti-drug song, it has hooks the size of the Grand Canyon, and even if the message goes over your head, the greatness of the tune won't.

5) Strawberry Alarm Clock: Incense and Peppermints: Well, if there was ever a song that epitomized a certain time and place, this tune is it! It is so hard to pin this song down, even after nearly 50 years since its release. Is it corporate psychedelia, pure bubblegum, or what? To me, it is simply a great song, one that soothes me every time I hear it. Although their fame wasn't very long lasting, and although they were not a one-hot wonder per se, I think most people of my generation would agree that this was one of the great songs of the 1960s, whether you rank it as part of a Top 10 like I did or simply just love to hear it.

I will give you songs six to 10 later this week. In the meantime, if you haven't heard these songs in a while, get those records off the shelf and play them.

Yes, decades later, they still sound so good, they still hold up to a certain extent, and heck, they really were pieces of work in the positive sense.