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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.


Classic Rant #443 (February 11, 2011): Happy No. 75 to the Ultimate “Good Ole Boy”

Burt Reynolds is 75 today.

During the early 1970s, Reynolds was probably the hottest movie star in the world. His "good ole boy" persona was captured in such films as "The Longest Yard," "Gator," and "Smokey and the Bandit," and he was able to show his dramatic side in "Deliverance."

No, he wasn't the greatest actor in the world, but everyone seemed to love him.

Prior to this stardom, Reynolds was just another busy actor in the 1960s, appearing on lots of TV shows. He even starred in a few (remember "Dan August"?).

Then he posed nude in Cosmopolitan magazine and his career went skyward.

But after the 1970s and early 1980s, his career basically fell flat on its face. Several really bad movies (remember "Rent-A-Cop"?), divorces, and other stuff made him a has-been.

He did star in the fairly successful TV show, "Evening Shade," and produced several TV game shows, but his real comeback was as Jack Horner in "Boogie Nights," a role that landed him an Oscar nomination.

He hasn't done anything up to that standard since, but he remains a very popular actor and guest star in TV shows.

But 35 years ago, he was Hollywood's biggest star.

I remember a memorable "Tonight" show where he just strolled into one of the tapings, supposedly unannounced (although I find this hard to believe) and took over the show. He had a seltzer bottle, and after shooting everyone around him with seltzer, he put the nozzle down his pants and shot himself. It was hilarious.

There has been a rumor going for years that Reynolds was such a huge star at the time that he was offered the James Bond role prior to Roger Moore getting that plum part, but this has never been substantiated, but it has never been refuted either.

Anyway, Reynolds turns 75 today. Somehow, you just don't think of him as an older gentleman; you still have that vision in your head of that good ole boy drinking a beer while and explosion is going off in the background.

And that is the image that will live on forever in the movies.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Rant #1,789: And When He Died ...

Welcome back to the Ranting and Raving Blog.

To my scads of readers, thank you for bearing with me during this time of grief, as my job and my company begins to fade away.

But today's column will look at those who actually did pass away during the past couple of days when we were away for the Thanksgiving break.

Fidel Castro is gone. I guess you can say "good riddance" to his passing.

Florence Henderson died. I was never a "Brady Bunch" fan, but she did welcome Davy Jones--another past passing--into her TV home.

Ralph Branca is gone. He may have delivered "The Shot Heard Around the World," but he also delivered a lot of grace, dignity and sportsmanship by being a human being, not a goat, about the whole thing.

Ron Glass left us too. Best known for his role on "Barney Miller," Glass was another TV icon that left us too soon.

And then we come to Jerry Schatz. He left us too, just prior to the Thanksgiving break.

Yes, Jerry Schatz. And if you are a Baby Boomer and don't know who he was, shame on you.

Jerry Schatz, as Jerry Tucker, was one of the last of the Our Gang/Little Rascals comedy actors, and although he usually was nothing more than a bit player in most of these shorts, he did have his glowing moment.

In one of the Gang's funniest shorts, "Hi Neighbor," he played the rich kid who stole the girl from Wally because he had a brand new, gleaming red fire engine. Wally and the Gang didn't take to this very well, so they built their own fire engine.

It wasn't red, it was pretty much put together with spit and polish, but they had their fire engine, and the two fire engines then had a race to see which one was best.

If you remember the hill that they went down, it was probably the steepest hill that God has ever created on this earth, or at least the gods of the Hal Roach Studios could create.

All havoc ensues, Jerry loses the girl, the Gang wins, and Spanky ends up taking off his clothes down to his skivvies because the rest of the Gang lost their clothes going through the bushes.

It is a comedy classic, really demonstrates what this series was all about, and Tucker is truly the star of this short.

He would have ancillary roles in these comedies over a period of years, and while doing those shorts, he also appeared in numerous other films in bit parts, including "March of the Wooden Soldiers," a Thanksgiving favorite, so his passing came at an interesting point of the year.

But when he left the movies, he even said time and time again that he actually went from being Jerry Tucker to Jerry Schatz, and he lived an unassuming, yet interesting, life after the films.

He served in the Armed Forces in the Navy, won a Purple Heart during World War II, and for much of his life was an electrical engineer with RCA Global Communications.

He married, became a father, and lived in Copiague, Long Island, a town not very far away from where I live. Unbeknownst to most people, except those very close to him, Schatz was part of the Our Gang ensemble in an earlier life.

He was "outed" a few years ago by Long Island's Newsday newspaper, and he lived out his life finally being comfortable with the Tucker/Schatz connection.

He died in the Veterans home in Stony Brook, New York, the same place where my father in law is now. I asked my father in law this weekend if he knew Schatz, and he said he didn't, but he did hear that someone who was very involved in various causes had died, and Schatz was quite involved over the years in various veterans groups, so putting two and two together, that was Schatz that he was referring to.

Schatz had his funeral this past weekend, which was not much of a surprise if you knew his background. Interestingly, as a footnote, Schatz was one of the few Jewish Our Gangers, along with Jackie Cooper, who was half Jewish.

Anyway, for the Baby Boomers, another icon of our youth has left us.

Sure, he might have been more of a footnote than an icon, but he will be missed.

Not too many Our Gangers are still with us, so when you lose one, you really lose a part of your own personal history, and the passing of Jerry Schatz hit me, personally, harder than the other deaths.

That's just me, I know, but he and the other Gangers bought so much joy to my life, I think it is understandable that I would feel the way I do.

Classic Rant #442 (February 10, 2016): Smoke Rings

Reports are that our President has finally given up smoking.

The President's wife, Michelle, made the announcement the other day. She basically said that due to pressure from their children, he finally gave it up.

No patches or pills for him. He just gave it up.

Good for him, and for his family.

Smoking is a completely disgusting habit. I don't understand what the allure is of smoking a rolled up paper with minced up leaves in it is, but millions enjoy this pleasure.

And in our society, they have a right to enjoy this pleasure.

But they also have a right to stop smoking, stop polluting the air, and stop infecting their family with second-hand smoke.

Let's face it, in today's politically correct age, it looked ridiculous for the President to smoke, and then, on the other hand, have his wife touting healthy activities as much as she does.

Looking back, I can't remember a single President who didn't smoke, at least a cigar if not a cigarette. Maybe President Carter might have been the only one, but I honestly don't remember.

And President Clinton had his own use for cigars which I won't get into here.

In my own family, my father smoked until my mother was pregnant with me. The story goes that the doctor told him that with a new arrival soon to come to the house, he should stop smoking.

And he did. Cold turkey, too.

My grandfather is another story. My mom's dad smoked like a chimney. He smoked cigarettes, pipes and cigars in one fell swoop. I don't remember ever seeing him without some tobacco product in his mouth.

And he got sick, real sick. That is when he stopped, but it was too late.

He was just 74.

With all the allergies I have--and with all I saw with my grandfather--I vowed early on in my life that I would never smoke, and I have lived up to that vow. I have never smoked anything.

So when I heard the President's wife say that her husband had stopped this idiotic habit, I was pretty happy.

But he should take a page from my father's book.

My father is a New York City cab driver, has been for nearly 50 years after many years as a butcher.

My dad has told me that even after more than 50 years since his last cigarette, he still gets the urge to smoke.

In the old days, when smoking was permitted in cabs, he used to get that second-hand smoke aroma and the urge would kick in. Even now, with smoke-free cabs, he still gets the urge now and again.

But he swears that he has never succumbed to that urge, and I believe him.

So the President isn't smoking right now, but the urge will always be there.

The trick is to be strong enough to resist the urge.

Let's hope that for the sake of his family and the President himself, he can be strong enough to resist that urge.

It is hard to do, but my father has proven time and time again that it can be done.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Rant #1,788: I Am the Turkey

Yes, that is how I feel today.

I am the turkey, already fully stuffed with nothing but negatives.

But I am going to look at the upcoming Thanksgiving celebration as a positive.

It will give me a few days to relax away from my workplace, which is always a good thing, but in a place such as mine, with all the turmoil we are going through there, it is a necessity.

For this holiday, I know how thankful I am about many things--my family first and foremost--and the wonderful things that have happened to me in the past year.

And I pray that I can be thankful about my line of work and my teeth. I hope both situations improve in the coming year.

We are having a small gathering this year, just myself, my wife, our son, and my parents. It should be fun, without the usual pizzaz of past larger Thanksgivings.

I will watch "March of the Wooden Soldiers" again, maybe this year in its original black and white--until the soldiers do their thing, of course.

And I will also continue my job search; I will have the time to do it.

Circumstances being what they are, for today's column, I decided to look back to better and different times, and to what Thanksgiving actually means to me in normal circumstances.

Here is what I wrote, in edited form, back in Rant No. 133, November 18, 2009:

"It is just a few days before Thanksgiving, and I have to admit that I am starting to get the pre-Thanksgiving blues.

I can't wait for this holiday--I am pretty burned out from work lately, and Thanksgiving always serves as a respite from the usual daily cares that I have. And since I get Black Friday off, too, it makes for a nice, tidy, four-day weekend.

Anyway, this Thanksgiving will be a little different for me, because my sister and her family will not be celebrating it with us. My daughter also won't be there.

With my parents in tow, we will have a good gathering."

Have a happy and healthy holiday. Speak to you again on Monday.

Classic Rant #441 (February 9, 2011): Lindsay! Lindsay! Lindsay!

Here we go again.

Lindsay Lohan will be charged with felony grand theft in connection with a $2,500 necklace that was removed from a jewelry store.

Evidently, on Jan. 22, a necklace was borrowed for Lohan by her assistant, but her assistant--or Lohan herself--was late in returning it. It is supposedly a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry, making the lateness even more of a big deal.

Although the necklace reportedly has since been returned, the actress will be arraigned later today. She has agreed to turn herself in to avoid the paparazzi.

If convicted, this would be a clear violation of her probation, and she could get up to two years in the slammer, although experts state that this cold be whittled down to three to six months.


It is clear that we are seeing a starlet self destruct right before our eyes. It is kind of sad, but she has had numerous chances to redeem herself--including her latest probation--and she seems to explode right when you think that things are possibly looking up for her.

No one wishes ill will on her, but hey, she brings this type of behavior onto herself, doesn't she?

She--and for that matter, her entire family--believe they live in a different world from the rest of us. They believe that because of Lindsay's stardom, they deserve certain life perks that "normal" people don't get.

Well, if the escapades of Lindsay haven't brought them down to earth, then nothing will.

This is a girl whose life is completely out of control. She probably needs a mental institution more than a jail cell.

But the media uses her as a "toy" for their own exploitation, because she is young, good looking, has a nice figure, and because she is so "out there" with her behavior.

Look at the photo of her that I posted with this rant. I guess I am not immune to the lure of this pretty, um, demented, young lass.

I guess us "normal" people love to hear about her exploits.

But in this most recent episode, couldn't she have afforded to simply buy the necklace rather than pilfer it?

You might say yes, but she has been known to "adopt" things as her own.

There was an incident about two or three years back where she went to a club and took someone's jacket and refused to give it back. That made some headlines, but of course, it was covered over in the "I thought it was mine" defense.

I wonder what her defense will be this time?

"I am a stupid human being."

Nah, I doubt it, I really do.

She will paint herself as the victim, as she always does.

My question: Has she ever heard of the story about the boy who cried wolf? He did it so many times that when he really was being truthful, no one believed him.

Well, I think Ms. Lohan has reached that point, don't you?