Personally, I can’t remember when I last wrote other than a list by hand. I’ve been touch-typing since I was 10 and never looked back. No one, including me, can read my handwriting. My hands cramp when I try, which isn’t often.

But there are times when you really need something in writing. Back when I was still trying to get established in a profession, I accepted any job with a connection — no matter how tenuous — to writing. In those pre-Internet days, getting a job was simpler than now.

Early Autumn September 11

You phoned or wrote a letter. You attached a résumé or brought it with you. You went for an interview. A day or two later, they called you back. It was either “Yes, you’re hired,” or “No, thank you.”

Every job didn’t require 30 hours of interviewing with everyone from the company president to the IT crew. There was a job to do. You were qualified to do it, or not. Whoever interviewed you had the authority to hire you. That was why he or she was doing the interviewing. Unlike today.


I don’t remember the details of the particular job, but I remember it was in the city. Manhattan. I wasn’t thrilled about its location. I lived in Hempstead, on Long Island. Getting there and back meant taking the Long Island Railroad which was not comfortable or dependable in the 1960s. I’m told it has improved since I last rode it.

I took the job because it was with a large corporation. I thought it might lead to something better. I was working, so I quit the job I had — whatever it was — and two weeks later, on the appointed day, I showed up for work.

The guy who had offered me the job was gone. Quit or fired, no one seemed to know. Moreover, no one had heard of me, or my so-called job. I had nothing in writing. No job. Without proof, I was barely eligible for unemployment. I learned the most critical professional life lesson:


Whatever it is. If it’s not written, dated, and signed, it’s not worth the paper it isn’t written on. Or less.


I was still a kid, working at the college radio station in Hempstead, New York. I was a little older than the other kids, because I was recently back from my short stint in the Marine Corps. I don’t remember who provided my entrée for that interview, but I remember the night. How could I forget?

As a kid, I listened to big band vocalist Sinatra on “78” records. He was special even then. By the early 60’s, Sinatra was an entertainment institution. Music, movies, television and the subject of myriad publications which alluded to political and criminal intrigue.

How many romantic evenings have all of us had — candles, cocktails and Sinatra playing? He was a legend, America’s most iconic celebrity.


Heady stuff for a young reporter invited to one of Sinatra’s hangouts. The story was about Jilly Rizzo. He ran a famous night spot in New York. “Jilly’s Saloon” (everybody just called it Jilly’s). It catered to lots of celebrities, but most notably Frank Sinatra and his “rat pack”. My primary focus that night was Jilly himself. We did a low-key chat about his club. Jilly did the talking. About his youth, how hard he worked to make his club a success. I let him talk, which he appreciated. He was fascinating. A real life Damon Runyon character.

The interview wrapped. I figured my night was over. Wrong. Jilly kept referring to me as “Kid”. As I prepared to leave with my engineer, Jilly tugged at my sleeve and motioned for me to follow him.

“Kid”, he said in his raspy voice, “I want you to meet some pals”. Jilly led me to a table filled with lots of cigarette smoke, profanity and laughter. I was a little nervous.

I had cause to be nervous. I made eye contact, my brain began to register and I began to smile blankly. Sinatra, Dino, Sammy, Joey Bishop and other familiar faces looked at me. My brain kept shifting gears. Apparently Jilly had introduced me as “Kid”, a newbie who was okay. That turned out to be my access card.

I realized I had a big glass of scotch in my hand. Frank Sinatra was talking to me, a big glass of scotch in his hand, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. I think I still had a glazed smile on my face.

“So, Kid”, he asked, “What the hell do you do that makes Jilly like you?”

I told him I had been listening to Jilly and found his back story fascinating. I told Sinatra I enjoyed listening rather than talking. It was easier, I volunteered. “You’re on radio and you like to listen rather than talk?”, he asked.

“Yes”, I said. I just stared at him.

He stared back, then said, “Kid, you’re okay”.


I slid into some questions about his childhood, about his weight, the difference between his singing and his conversational voice. Sinatra was off and running. The anecdotes had little to do with celebrity and lots to do with the guy behind the legend. I kept listening.

He noticed the tape recorder wasn’t running. Puzzled. I said this was social time. He looked even more puzzled, then shook his head and smiled. Sinatra said he wasn’t used to such treatment. I smiled. An easier smile.

I talked a little about my hearing problems, diction problems. My determination to get things right. Now Sinatra was listening. He said he too had diction problems during regular conversation which he tried to cover up with sarcasm and bluster. I realized he was leaning in as if to confide with me. I also noticed the other celebs had backed away, giving Sinatra privacy.

The conversation continued for another half hour, maybe 45 minutes. Jilly kept checking to make sure our drinks were fresh. I knew other people were staring at us. I figured they were wondering who the hell was this kid chatting up Sinatra. Actually, we were talking about music and radio. I told him about how I loved doing tight segues blending solo vocals, chorals, and instrumentals. He began giving me tips about how to segue some of his music. In a couple of cases, I was already doing it. He loved it.

We talked a little about sports. I told him I was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and Duke Snider was my favorite player.

Sinatra said Joe DiMaggio and the Yanks were his favorites. I gave him a look and he smiled. Casey Stengel was our peace broker. Earlier that year, I’d spent time with Casey who was managing the fledgling New York Mets. Sinatra laughed at my recollection of conversation with Casey.

“Diction”, we both said and laughed.

Jilly Rizzo finally broke up the chat saying Sinatra was needed elsewhere. Sinatra grumbled, gave me a card and said there would be another time. There would be. Another story for another day.



A Collaboration of Garry and Marilyn Armstrong

We watched “Rustler’s Rhapsody” again last night. I love this movie. It’s an affectionate spoof of the B-Westerns of the 1940s starring Tom Berenger, Patrick Wayne, G.W. Baily (currently with “Major Crimes” on which Berenger has a recurring guest role), Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey.

The women include Sela Ward, a solid dramatic actress perhaps best remembered as Dr. Richard Kimble’s slain wife in the movie version of “The Fugitive”. There’s also Marilu Henner who riffs on the Miss Kitty/Miss Lily saloon ladies of our favorite TV westerns.

Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey both play power-mad cattle barons. Fernando usually plays an international drug czar and you probably remember him in “The French Connection”. He is slimy sinister personified. Rey and Griffith make a very odd couple. Check out the scene where they argue about who gets to do the countdown for killing the hero. They are hilarious, but Andy Griffith steals the show.

We love the movie so much we own two identical copies of it on DVD. It wasn’t going to be available for long, so Marilyn bought a copy for us, another for our best friends … and an extra. Just in case.

rustler's rhapsody dvd cover

NOTE: As it turns out, “Rustler’s Rhapsody” is available. Again. Who know for how long? If you are interested, Amazon has the DVD and the download.

Tom Berenger is The Hero who shoots the bad guys in the hand. Pat Wayne is the other good guy, but he used to be a lawyer, so be warned. Casting Pat Wayne was an inspiration. “Rustler’s Rhapsody” could easily be homage to his Dad’s ‘poverty row’ westerns of the 1930s. Pat even nails Duke’s acting range of that period.

My heroes have always been cowboys, even the stalwarts of those budget-challenged B movies. I had the good fortune to spend time with two legends of the genre. Buster Crabbe and Jack “Jock” Mahoney.

Crabbe, most famous for his “Flash Gordon” days, contends he had more fun playing the lead in the oaters where the line between good and bad is always clear and you get to wear nice costumes. He considers his westerns as “small classics” not B movies. (Crabbe continued his career into the late 60’s when producer A.C. Lyles revived the B cowboy movie with over the hill actors including Johnny Mack Brown, Rod Cameron, Bob Steele, Hoot Gibson and Richard Arlen among others).

Jack “Jock” Mahoney, known to many as TV’s “Range Rider”, is a former stuntman who graduated to supporting roles as nimble villains and finally established a following at Universal-International, playing literate good guys in lean, well written westerns. Mahoney clearly is proud of his work in the B movies. I remember the smile on his face as he recalled the fun of being recognized as a cowboy hero.

I think all the cowboy actors I’ve met (Including John Wayne) would heartily approve of “Rustler’s Rhapsody”. It’s an affectionate tribute to their work.

This is the song they play at the end of the movie when the credits are rolling. I love the song and the memories it brings because I’m of the generation that went to the movies and watched those B movies as part of the afternoon double-header at the Carlton or Laurelton, the second (third?) run movies houses where you could see two movies and a cartoon for a dime.

Warner Brothers, 1982. “Last Of The Silver Screen Cowboys” by Rex Allen Jr. and Rex Allen Sr. Be sure to listen for Roy Rogers in the final commentary and chorus!

Take a look at “Steeds of Renown” on My Favorite Westerns. It’s a good one.


Yesterday, we gathered to celebrate the life of a friend who passed away earlier this year.

Our friend was Joe Day. Joe’s name should be familiar to those who’ve lived in New England during the past forty years. He was a highly respected TV news reporter for four of Boston’s major television stations (WHDH, WCVB, WGBH, WBZ). Joe specialized in politics. He covered presidents, governors, senators, congressmen and local elective officials.

But many of us fondly remember Joe’s “people” stories, vignettes about everyday folks living their lives in relative obscurity. That was Joe at his best. On and off camera, he was a modest, plain-spoken guy despite the richly deserved awards he received which recognized his career.

Yesterday, there were smiles and tears as people shared stories about Joe. We were mostly the generation of “old fart” journalists, recalling the days when news wasn’t just a business. Joe Day was at the core of all those memories.

It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces. We have drifted apart geographically and socially in many cases. Sometimes we paused before hugging because we no longer look the way we did in our “head shot” days.

Joe Day’s family marveled at the size of the gathering. It’s one thing to send an email or video tribute. But to turn out in impressive numbers on a hot August Saturday, that says so much about how Joe touched the lives of people around him.

Fame is fleeting and transitory in TV news. Friendship is another thing. Usually it fades quickly after changing jobs, states and retirement. You always mean to stay in touch but it rarely happens.

That’s what makes the celebratory gathering so special. All those folks bonding in their memories of yesterday when our world was young and Joe Day touched our lives, making each one of us a little better just for knowing him.

Such good friends.


Eleanor of Aquitaine, “The Lion In Winter” (1968): “What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?”

Marilyn asked me to write something last night because she was running low on creative juices. I agreed but wasn’t sure what to say because I wasn’t in the best of creative or emotional places.

Yesterday, Marilyn posted a piece featuring photographs of my familyBingo! The light went on.


Garry Kaity Divot RiverBend

We are in the midst of dealing with our respective families. It’s difficult and challenging. We love them all but brokering some of these situations often leaves us in “loud conversation” with each other. Which is not fair. It isn’t even our drama.

We don’t have Mom and Dad, Gramps or Gramma, Uncles or Aunts to consult for help. We’re it!

July 1963

July 1963

So, I look at the old photos of my family from long, long ago. I wonder how they dealt with these things. They look so young and carefree. I know things were not always easy for them as my brothers and I grew up. I still recall “loud conversations” between Mom and Dad.

1990 in Ireland

1990 in Ireland

I wondered why they didn’t resolve things easily as they did on those family TV shows where father knew best and Ozzie was always at home to deal with family stuff. I even once asked my Mom why our house wasn’t like Donna Reed’s home. You can guess how she replied to me.


I look at my granddaughter Kaity ready to go off to college. I’m proud of her and wish all the good things in life for her. Like so many grandfathers before me, my memories of a younger Kaity fill my mind. Why didn’t the clock stop?

Why didn’t the clock stop for Marilyn and me when we were younger and healthier with some of those beloved family members still around to talk to us.

Silly and naïve questions, I know. We’re the “old people” now. Family begins with us. It’s disconcerting.


Autumn, 1987. Boston, Massachusetts

I was recently back from Israel. I’d been gone almost a decade. Much had changed. My friends had half-grown children who I’d never met. They had married, divorced, changed jobs, moved to different cities. The tribe had dispersed.

72-Marilyn & Garry in studio July 11

Garry was in Boston, working for Channel 7, as he had been when I’d left, but we were different. We each had survived wrenching relationships and awful professional periods. Though we’d known each other since college, we weren’t the kids we’d been. Life had beaten us up.

We were in love, not for the first time, but for the last time.

We looked at each other differently. Rod Stewart was on the radio. As I drove around — in the first new car I’d ever owned without a co-signing husband — this was the song.

I sang along. It was how I felt.  This time, it was our time.


From lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown comes and interesting challenge in which she asks us to post our ten best pre-teen memories. Childhood happy memories are rather thin on the ground for me, so I hope you will excuse me for including memories from other times, when I was free to do my own thing.

Please post your ten favorite youthful memories to your blog with a link to mine. To form a link, go to that page in your blog and select and copy the URL. Then come to my blog and in the comment box, make a comment if you wish and paste your URL. Then you can see each other’s lists via the hyperlinks on my blog.

And here are a few of mine.

Mary (left), Marilyn (middle), Carol (right). I think we were about 6 or 7.

Mary (left), Marilyn (middle), Carol (right). Age  6 or 7.

1. My girlfriend Mary’s mother was the only mom in our little group who had a car and could drive. She would take us to Coney Island where the three of us, little tiny girls, would ride the great big Cyclone roller coaster. We rode it again and again, screaming until our knees were so shaky we could barely stand. But we were still laughing.

2. Sixty year later, I joyously relived the experience with my 10-year-old granddaughter.

72-Cyclone with Kaitlin

3. Hanging out at the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park on the Hudson River. Cutting school, taking the subway all the way up to the very top of Manhattan. Roaming the museum, pretending I was in a medieval castle. Looking down on the great Hudson River. Pure bliss.

4. The day I got my Steinway grand piano. It was my 14th birthday. I cannot imagine a better gift, ever.

5. Long days spent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Traveling in time from the Egyptian mummy exhibit at the front of the museum all the way up to modern times, far at the rear. Again, I was alone, so happy to take my time and immerse myself in each exhibit.


6. Trips with my mom into Manhattan in the winter. She wore her raccoon coat. We linked arms like girlfriends and equals. We might catch a matinée on Broadway (there were always tickets, even if the seats weren’t great) … or check out the window at FAO Schwartz.

7. We bought hot chestnuts from the vendor in front of the library, then sat on the steps under the shadow of the lions, peeling and eating them. And laughing. My mother wasn’t motherly, but she was adventurous, smart, had a sharp sense of humor, and a sharper tongue. She made me laugh. She was nothing like the mothers of my friends, but perhaps she was just the right mother for me.

8. At 16, with three wacky friends from college, piling into Micki’s VW bug. Driving all night to visit her boyfriend at his summer-house on Eagle Point Lake, high in the Adirondacks. We had no money for gasoline or food, but we were young.You could coast down the mountains to save gasoline.

9. Finding a riding stable that would rent me a good horse. Then, galloping down the trail on my own, wind in my hair. Totally lost but trusting that the horse knew the way.

Boardwalk at Coney Island - Marilyn Armstrong

10. Getting married at 18 and realizing I’d never have to spend another night under my parents’ roof.