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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rant #1,461: Still Happy Together



In the middle of an intense rainstorm, my family and I attended the latest version of "The Happy Together Tour" at the NYCB Theater (the former Westbury Music Fair) in Westbury, New York, on Saturday night.

Oldies affairs are usually a mixed bag. Acts play the hits that they've played 10,000 times over, and sometimes, they do look bored.

Happy to say that at least at this show, nobody looked too bored, and the three-hour show was the quickest three hours I think I have ever spent anywhere.

There were a total of six acts on the bill, and each one did about five songs, which meant you heard a total of somewhere around 30 hits from the likes of the Buckinghams, the Association, the Grass Roots, Mark Lindsay, former lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders, and, of course, Flo and Eddie of the Turtles.

Yes, I am leaving out one of the participating acts, because they were the reason that I wanted to go to this particular show in the first place.

The Cowsills--I think it was Bill, Bob and of course, Susie--were on the bill, and I had always wanted to see them in concert.

Since their first national hit, "The Rain, the Park and Other Things" in 1967, this act has had its share of ups and downs. Since they are a family act, just the fact that only three members still are alive should tell you something right there.

It has not been an easy road for this family, but at Westbury, they put it all behind them.

Of all the performers on the bill, the trio looked like they were having the most fun.

They mentioned that they had not been at Westbury since 1967, and this real-life model for the Partridge Family played like it was ... well, 1967.

They played their five best known songs, including the "Theme From Love, American Style," which, conveniently, was being played all weekend during a series binge on the Decades TV network.

Kids who grew up during this era always kind of "got" this act, because they were our peers, or we were their peers, whichever way you want to call it.

They are in their late 50s and early 60s now, but back then, sure, we loved the Beatles, but we knew they were from across the ocean. The Cowsills existed almost as if our next door neighbors were pop stars ... even if they hailed from Rhode Island.


All the acts on the bill did quite well with their few minutes on stage, and my wife was astounded that Mark Lindsay, who is in his mid 70s and might have been the oldest performer of the bunch, looked and sounded so good, much better than when we saw him just a few years ago at the same venue.


Flo and Eddie were their usual PG-13 rated selves. My son even asked me why they threw in a couple of curse words, and they did work in a little Frank Zappa into their set, but when it was all said and done, they were the Turtles, and that is who we came to see.

I would definitely check out this tour if it comes to your area, if for nothing else than to see that the Cowsills, at least three of them, are alive and well and ready to entertain you.

video

Classic Rant #113 (October 17, 2009): Don’t Be So Quick To Rush To Judgment



You have probably heard that conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh has been dropped from a group that was looking to purchase the NFL’s St. Louis Rams football franchise. Much was made about such a controversial individual being part of this group, and to increase the group’s chances of winning their bid, they dropped Limbaugh like a hot potato.

Charges rose from both sides. Those against Limbaugh’s participation—including Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson—argued that Limbaugh was not the type of person that should be allowed to be an owner of an NFL team because of his “racist” background. Limbaugh fired back that this was just another incidence of “Obama’s America,” and he called both Sharpton and Jackson racial “hustlers” who are always looking to incite controversy.

Although I am no fan of Limbaugh, if he can afford to be part of this group, then he should be allowed to be part of a purchase of an NFL team as a minority owner. Those against his participation claim that he is racist, and his ultra-conservative views are not in tune with the makeup of the NFL.

Well, what a bunch of hooey!

Who said anybody has to be what is "agreeable" in everyone's mold to become a professional sports team owner?

If anybody cares to look over the pond a bit, there is one minority owner in another professional sport that shows that there is a clear double standard to who and who shouldn’t be allowed to purchase a professional sports team.

Popular rapper Jay-Z is a minority owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team. Funny, I didn’t hear the least bit of uproar when he became a minority owner of that team, even though his music is racist, anti-woman, and completely offensive.

Here are the partial lyrics to one of his songs, entitled “Trouble,” and yes, I have taken out the offensive language:

unh, you little N-- ain't deep you dumb, you N-- ain't gangsta you gum,
I chew little N--
hock-too, spew little N--, I can only view little N-- like little N--
but in lieu of little N-- trying to play that boy, I phew phew little
N-- with the latest toy
unlike you little N--, I'm a grown ass man, big shoes to fill N--,
grown ass pants
prolly hustled with your pops, go ask your parents its apparent you're
staring at a legend
who, put a few little N-- in the they place before trying to eat
without saying they grace before
blasphemous bastard get your faith restored you're viewing your version
of the lord god
mc little N--, applaud, or forever burn in the fire that I spit at y'all
I rebuke you little N--
the meek shall parish, ill roof you little N--, Im a project terrorist,
cute you little N--
think you in my class subsitute little N-- soon feel my wrath, I mute you
little N--
you a little N--, I shall abuse you little N--, I'm a ill N--,
now shoot you little N--
go somewhere and play, cuz the day I loose to you little N--, no day

Twenty uses of the “N” word in just a single passage of the song … and some say that Limbaugh has a problem?

No, our politically correct society has a problem. Things are acceptable now that were never acceptable before. But today, your skin color appears to dictate whether you are right or wrong, whether people turn the other way or not, and that is just plain wrong.

Again, if Jay-Z can be a minority owner of a professional sports team, why can’t Limbaugh?

I think people should wake up. If Jay-Z is OK, why not Limbaugh?

  • And just as an afterthought, if a person like Michael Vick can be allowed back into the NFL, why can't a person like Limbaugh be given the green light?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Rant #1,460: Gay = Happy



With the landmark decision late last week by the Supreme Court that gay marriage was legal in every state in the Union, same sex couples now have the same marriage rights as couples of the opposite sex.

That is fine, it really is.

Gays have to live, too, and at this stage of the game, if they want to marry, they are now allowed to, whether they get married in New York, Arizona, Texas or Alaska.

At this juncture, I personally have no problem with this.

Although perhaps a bit awkward, I think a majority of people favored this anyway, and even though the Supreme Court voting was close, it doesn't matter right now, because it is the law of the land.

If it is the law of the land, then it must be supported by all Americans, and since it is now the law in our 50 states, then I support it.

However, I want to have my say about the gay lifestyle, and I know my view is going to rankle many.

While watching the news this weekend, and seeing the gay pride parades and hearing the opinions of many people about this decision, although I support same sex couples who want to marry, I am not going to go the length that some people are going, looking at homosexuality as "normal" behavior.

It appears that many people are now viewing this lifestyle as "normal," and sorry, I don't look at it that way, no matter what the law says.

Yes, I do believe that some people, probably the majority of gays, are probably born that way. It is in their DNA, in their genes.  I am no doctor, but studies have shown that people are born with this predilection, not necessarily pick it up as they mature.

However, I do believe that with the acceptance we have applied as a society to this lifestyle, some are picking it as a lifestyle choice. Some are simply choosing the gay lifestyle as the lifestyle they want to lead because it is, for whatever reason, convenient for them to do so.

I believe human beings were put onto this earth to procreate, and create the next generation of children.

I do not believe the gay lifestyle is a "normal" lifestyle, by any stretch of the imagination. It is an abhorrent lifestyle that we simply accept today.

Again, I do not accept the gay lifestyle as a normal one.

And I am not going to tote my Bible to prove this, as some would do.

No, I am simply going to say what I have in the past: that as a parent, if either of my children came out as gay, I would support them 1,000 percent, but I would question myself, asking myself what I did wrong as a parent for this to have happened.

Look, we live, work, play, and know people who are gay. They are generally good people, just like heterosexuals are

I have gays in my own extended family.

I am sure most people can probably say that, too.

But while they have marriage equality, sorry guys, this is not normal behavior, and to shove this down people's throats as "normal" as the heterosexual lifestyle is wrong.

I simply believe that the love between a man and a woman is what holds this society together, and anything that goes against that basic tenet makes us weaker.

Whatever we believe now, the mother and the father are the basic backbones of our civilization. The children of that union are the result of the love between the male and the female.

I know that that feeling goes against the grain of our current society, but I will never look at gays as "normal."

That again does not mean I cannot accept the Supreme Court's ruling. And no one should be discriminated against because of their sexuality.

It simply means that as much as gays want us to look at them as normal, in my opinion, that lifestyle will never be that way to me, no matter what some people want me to believe.

This is just one man's opinion, and I will stick with it.

Just don't equate gay marriage to the marriage between a man and a woman, or the gay lifestyle with a heterosexual one.

To me, it simply does not equate. Period.

On TV yesterday, they interviewed a person, who I assume is gay, at one of the parades. He pretty much put it right by saying that even with the ruling, gays would be on the fringes of society because they are "different."

Yes, they are different, and to me, they practice far from normal behavior.

But that being said, this ruling is a bonanza for many, including any business linked with weddings, such as printers, bakeries, suit makers, dress makers, etc. It gives them one more outlet to make money, and they will reap the cash generated by these types of unions.

And somewhere down the line, the courts will increase their workload, as even gays find out that not every union is a perfect one.

We heterosexuals know that already.

They will find out soon enough.

And by the way, I am not asking that anyone agree with me.

Heck, I may be wrong in my appraisal of this whole thing.

I do believe that a lot of people are putting a good face on this decision, so as to not draw controversy to themselves, but I believe that more people are unhappy with the decision than we may know.

For instance, any politician that comes out against this decision is basically cutting his own political throat at this place and time.

But personally, I believe what I believe, and popular or unpopular, I think it is high time someone else chimed in with their opinion on this subject, even if a lot of people would question that opinion.

And I just did.

Classic Rant #112 (October 16, 2009): MGM Our Gang Shorts Recently Released



Warner Bros. Video has just put out a collection of Our Gang shorts from the period after the franchise moved over the auspices of MGM in the late 1930s. I cannot tell you how much I looked forward to such a set, and now that it is finally here, I still can’t say enough about it.

The MGM episodes of the Our Gang series are pretty much looked down upon by enthusiasts of this series as being totally inferior to what came before them—and they are. They have also not been as widely viewed as the Hal Roach portion of the series, because they generally were not included in the TV package that baby boomers remember from their youth.

Thus, even though some of these MGM shorts are pretty good, they are not part of our childhood consciousness, so they can’t possibly measure up to even the weakest of the Hal Roach shorts.

Over 50 shorts were made during the few years that the series was part of MGM, and although they generally lack the charm of the earlier Hal Roach shorts, most of these 15-minute features continue to bring us back to a different time and place.

The earlier MGM shorts pretty much continue the storylines of the last of the Hal Roach shorts, and you have the overly familiar Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, Butch, Porky and Buckwheat to help the viewer make an almost seamless transition from Hal Roach to MGM.

The problem is that as the kids got older, they were replaced by newer kid actors who simply lacked the charm of their predecessors. This includes Froggy Laughlin, Janet Burston and one Mickey Gubitosi, better known as Robert Blake.

It probably wasn’t the kids’ fault, because the scripts became weaker as the series wore on.

And also, MGM decided to use the popularity of the series to promote various causes, including the war effort. If ever a series was mismatched with a cause, this was one of them. Politics should have never crept into the storylines, but they did, to the detriment of the series as a whole. These “rally ‘round the flag” episodes are excruciatingly hard to watch.

But, if you want to see what happened to the Gang as the series progressed, this set is an absolute must, to say the least.

I wholeheartedly recommend this set, and you can find out more about it at http://www.wbshop.com.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Rant #1,459: Why Not?


After talking about several interesting topics this week--the church massacre, the woman who is white but leans toward being black, and the Confederate flag controversy--I would like to take it easy today.

I am pooped out.

Just coming back from vacation, I found a world coming back to me that was filled with controversy.

People are at each others throats again. I haven't seen it this bad since the mid to late 1960s when I was a kid.

And the PC Police are truly coming to take us away, ha ha, ha ha.

I don't know the origins of the term PC Police, but I think I know where their reign of terror over us started.

It was way back in 1977, right before Christmas.

Singer/songwriter Randy Newman released a single, "Short People," that got so many people unnerved that it was really ridiculous.

The song was about people with "short" minds, those that were short-sighted in what they believed in.

But people took the title literally, and that is where all the problems started.

As the song rose to #2 on the charts, people were saying that the song was making fun of those who were, let's say, height challenged.

Many people of short stature, and dare I use the terms dwarfs and midgets, came out against the tune, and even many people who were of "normal' stature said the song was cruel.

Mickey Rooney ranted and raved against the song, and some other performers came out with answer tunes to this song.

But it had nothing to do with short in stature people, it had to do with people with closed minds.

No matter. We were told by the newly formed PC Police that we had to be nice to short people, and terms like midgets and dwarfs were not to be used anymore.

As usual, the PC Police missed the point then, and they continue to miss the point nearly 40 years later.

One has to think for himself to be a real person, not let others think for them.

With the PC Police, you think "my" way or it's the highway for you.

It's a good thing that the PC Police is merely a phrase, because if there was a real police force to enact their policy, I would have been arrested 1,000 times already.

I think for myself. I pretty much always have, as I grew up in Queens, and you have to be on your toes when you grow up in the environment I grew up in.

I don't let others think for me. Sure, there are laws that have to be followed, but in matters of choice, I really don't care what others think, I go my own way.

And isn't that what America is about? Self realization? In many countries, that can't be practiced. They have actual police forces that will throw you in jail, and maybe even take your life, if you think differently than they do.

Here, we have freedom of speech. That is actually what Ranting and Raving is all about, isn't it?

So, to my PC Police friends, a big raspberry to you.

And yes, Short People still have no reason, no reason, to live ...

Classic Rant #111 (October 15, 2009): Capt. Lou Goes Down For the Count



Capt. Lou Albano died yesterday. He wasn’t really a captain, but if you watched professional wrestling in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, you knew who Albano was—whether you liked him or not.

Albano was one of the most successful wrestling managers during this time period, managing everyone from Toru Tanaka to the Samoans. He was mainly a “bad” guy, and he knew how to get the audiences riled up with his totally rude behavior.

His look added to this illusion. Albano, with his pot belly sticking out of his Hawaiian shirt, with rubber bands sticking out of his hairy face and a head topped with unruly hair, well, he was a sight for the ages.

Albano was actually a pretty good athlete in his day, and a fair wrestler. But he really rose to the occasion as a wrestling manager, the guy who accompanies his charges to the ring, occasionally getting involved in the bout, and the guy who yelled as much as his attractions in the interviews that were used between matches to spike interest.

Although 95 percent of his career was spent as a bad guy, his last days with WWF—now WWE, and prior to all this, WWF and even earlier, WWWF—were spent as a good guy. He was paired with singer Cyndi Lauper in the 1990s melding of rock and roll and wrestling, which was incredibly successful, and helped to bring professional wrestling to the mainstream.

He was in several of Lauper’s videos—including a memorable one as her father in “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”—and he became something of a ubiquitous personality all over TV. Nobody would claim that Albano was an A-list star, but he was always in character, no matter what he did.

At 76, Albano lived a very full life.

And his passing once again signaled that another icon from my youth is gone.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Rant #1,458: Why? (Part 3)



Another story developed while I was away that I would like to take a short look at.

Evidently, due to the recent massacre at the Charleston church and other happenings in our country, certain southern states are re-examining their use of Confederate symbols in state and local flags.

Yes, the Confederacy still lives in certain parts of the south, whether unknowingly or knowingly, with certain symbols from the Civil War era embedded in some state and local flags.

One of the main reasons for the Civil War, or at least what we have been told, is that the south wanted slavery, the north did not.

There were many other reasons for the Civil War, many of them economic, and tied into the slave trade.

Anyway, Confederate symbols are thought to be anti-black, bringing up a time when blacks were treated as, at best, second class citizens in this country.

Thus, with all the goings on happening lately, is it time to remove these symbols from our flags, from clothing, from other things that are out there?

Many southern states, and southerners, look at their rebel past as something to take pride in. The Confederate symbol, or at least pieces of it, can be found everywhere in certain areas, and really, no one has taken offense to it with much vehemence over the years.

Heck, I have seen people of color wearing this symbol.

I have seen southern rock bands like the Allman Brothers--a mixed race band--adopt the symbol as their own.

But now, we are in a PC culture, and some think this symbol has to go, and go now.

I can understand both sides.

One one side, people say it is a matter of pride. On the other side, people say it is racist.

Look, if a state or municipality used the swatstika on their flag, I think I would be upset, so I can certainly understand what some are saying.

I think I would back the removal of these Confederate flags and symbols, but I think it has gone a little too far.

"The Dukes of Hazzard" was a popular TV show of yore, and it is still popular among both adults and kids for its comedic hijinks.

Toys are marketed to kids under that name, and the manufacturer owning the rights to the toys now will not produce them with Confederate symbols.

What's next, electronically blocking out the flag on the TV show so no one sees it?

Yes, the PC Police are coming to take us away, ha ha, ha ha!

It's like blotting out the past because it does not apply today.

That is simply wrong. We can learn from past mistakes, past errors in judgment.

Get rid of the flag, but don't get rid of our past.

Classic Rant #110 (October 14, 2009): "This Is … Paul Anka"



The ongoing saga of Michael Jackson continues, and this time, Paul Anka has somehow gotten into the mix.

It seems that Jackson’s posthumous single, “This Is It,” is actually a collaboration from more than a quarter century ago between the so-called “King of Pop” and the singer/songwriter who had many, many hits of his own including “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” and "Diana."

Word leaked out about the song, and Anka’s lawyers evidently got busy when they heard that the song was actually recorded in 1983 for a planned Anka duets album. One thing or another happened, and the song was not released at that time, but was later released under a different title by a singer known as Sa-Fire.

Anka has publicly stated that nothing untoward happened between his and Jackson’s camps, it is just that they needed to be reminded that he collaborated with Jackson on the song, and should be credited as such.

I guess he can feel confident in saying that, since Anka will now receive 50 percent of all the profits made off the song, which is also the centerpiece of the new Michael Jackson concert film, “This Is It,” which will premier soon.

Some might say that Anka has more than enough money. He’s been a hitmaker and popular performer for more than 50 years, and his “Tonight Show” theme was heard for decades on Johnny Carson’s late night talkfest.

Funny, that song was originally written for and recorded by--under a different title--Annette Funicello!

Also funny about this whole thing is that Anka has been known to (legally) cop other people’s songs himself. Anka’s “My Way” is the English version of a French song “Comme D’Habitude.” Anka wrote the English lyrics, but is often mistakenly credited with writing the entire song.

However, the real story is that Anka heard the song, thought it was an awful song but liked it enough to pursue it, flew to Paris to negotiate the rights to it, and the rest is history—it has been recorded by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley to Sid Vicious.

So now, I guess everyone is happy. Anka gets proper credit, the Jackson camp doesn’t have to go through any legal haggling, and the world can hear this “new” Jackson song.

Now that that is settled, maybe we are one step closer to finding out if Jackson’s doctor should be arrested for “killing” the pop singer. I mean, we want to find out the "truth," and we don’t want activist Dick Gregory to starve himself to death much longer, do we (Ranting and Raving, July 30, 2009)?