A better way for Bloomberg and Steyer to spend all that cash

This is a really GOOD idea! They should do it!

THE SHINBONE STAR

The Republicans are in full hypocrisy mode. Their entire argument against impeachment is “The Democrats are being mean because they just don’t like President Trump.”

They have attempted to hijack the narrative with their histrionics about the unfairness of the process and how Donald Trump did nothing wrong in requesting a foreign country to conduct an investigation into Hunter Biden for his sweetheart deal with a Ukrainian gas company — because we certainly can’t trust the FBI or Interpol, right?

I won’t get into the weeds of the impeachment procedures since there are no weeds. Trump did it, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Trump did it, career civil servants said he did it, and Trump himself said he did it. Republicans aren’t saying he didn’t do it, just that it wasn’t a crime and they yell, scream and sound like a choir of square dance callers and livestock…

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EVERY DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Daily

There was a time … and not very long ago at that … when daily meant normal. Things that occurred on a daily basis were normal and we didn’t need to pay a lot of attention to them. These days, it’s a new crisis every day. Not a little crisis either. Major crises, Nearly end of the world crises. Stress and high blood pressure are the words of the year. Years. No matter how frightening yesterday was, we count on tomorrow being just as bad or worse.

The world

It used to be as you got older, mostly you complained about the music the kids were playing. These days, we wonder if we are going to have a world to live in. Is it going to blow up? Drown as the ice melts? Will there be any birds or lions or elephants left?We are moving from a natural world into a world so highly mechanized that I barely understand it. Maybe I don’t want to recognize it.

The silly daily dilly-dally of the earlier years has turned into the terror of nuclear war and loss of our entire democracy. For once, being old isn’t so bad. We won’t need to see it all happen. At least that’s a good thing, right?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY OLE BLUE EYES – GARRY ARMSTRONG

It’s Frank Sinatra’s 104th birthday. Somewhere, Sinatra and his pals are smiling and ordering another round of the good stuff.

I recall another Sinatra birthday celebration. 1962. It was a very good year. ’62 was the year JFK met with a group of young reporters and told us we were making history. I’m not sure we understood.

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY: SINATRA, FRANK, 1953

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY: FRANK SINATRA, 1953

It was the year a bumbling team, the New York Mets, made their début as National League baseball returned to Gotham led by ringmaster, Casey Stengel.

It was the same year in which my Mom received a phone call from someone named Jilly. She was perplexed. That didn’t happen often.

“Garry”, Mom yelled, “Some strange man named Jilly is on the phone for you. Is he one of those drinking people I told you to stay away from”? I gave Mom an insolent look and curtly told her Jilly Rizzo was a confidante of Frank Sinatra. Mom gave me a look that indicated disbelief and anger. Payback later, I quietly concluded.

“Kid, is that you?”, Jilly croaked as I picked up the phone. “Geez, Your mom’s a pistol! No disrespect, Kid.” Jilly Rizzo, a nightclub confidante to Frank Sinatra and an “A” roster of celebrities, was apologizing to me about my Mom. I beamed inwardly.

Rizzo went on to explain “Frank” wanted me to join him and a few friends for a small party. I blurted out a thank you and got details.

For those who didn’t read an earlier story, I had met Frank Sinatra a few weeks earlier. It was a chance encounter during an interview I had done with Jilly Rizzo for our college radio station. For some reason, Sinatra liked what he heard and saw and we had a long conversation over drinks after the Rizzo interview. Sinatra even asked pals Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr, and Hank Henry to give us the table.

Go figure!

FrankSinatra9

We had chatted about personal stuff. I shared the difficulties of my hearing loss and ensuing diction problems. That apparently opened the door for Sinatra to talk about his own diction problems and his concentration on crisp phrasing of lyrics.

After the conversation was interrupted, Sinatra promised we’d get together again. I thought he was just being polite to an aspiring reporter. I was wrong!

Back at Jilly’s Nightclub again, I was greeted by Sinatra pal, Hank Henry who, without hesitation, handed me a double scotch neat and led me into a backroom. There were about a dozen people gathered around a large table. I blinked twice because I recognized almost everyone.

Dino, Sammy, Joey, Richard Conte, Joey Heatherton and radio icons like William B. Williams among others. There was a big birthday cake in the middle of food and booze on the table. The cake frosting was topped by a Sinatra figurine. The classic Frank Sinatra with raincoat slung over his shoulder. I just stared.

sinatra at mic

“Something wrong with the booze, kid?”, Sinatra asked, grinning as we shook hands. I nodded no and took a long slug of the scotch. Good stuff!! Sinatra beamed and led me over to the table introducing me as a friend. There were nods and smiles all around.

Across the room, the music began. Big band stuff. Instrumentals no vocals. It sounded like Tommy Dorsey. There were lots of jokes about Sinatra, his hair (it was very thin and receding), his affection for “renegade” talent and taunts that Eli Wallach was looking for him. By then, it was well-known that Sinatra had gotten his legendary “Maggio” role in “From Here To Eternity” with a little “help” even though Columbia Pictures had originally wanted Wallach for the role that earned Sinatra an Oscar and kick-started his comeback.

At some point, Sinatra pulled me aside and said he wanted me at his party because he liked my style. I was confused. Sinatra smiled and explained he wanted a young person around to remind him of his own youth and personal struggles. He said he’d appreciated that I didn’t try to get a scoop in our first meeting.

There was more chat about dealing with adversity, about how media was changing and the challenges he faced to stay relevant. I just nodded. He asked how things were going for me. I told him about my meeting with JFK and he grinned.

Pictured: Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra in a scene from FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, 1953.

Pictured: Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra in a scene from FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, 1953.

We talked about movies a bit. I mentioned I hadn’t seen “The Kissing Bandit”, a well-known Sinatra clunker. We shared our love of westerns. I started doing lines from “The Magnificent Seven” and he laughed. He told me about working with Steve McQueen in “Never So Few”. I did little bits of scene-stealing shtick as he discussed McQueen. Laughter all around as others listened in.

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Sinatra finally was serenaded by Dino, Sammy, and the others with a raucous version of “Happy Birthday” laced with profanities.

I just sat smiling, sipping my scotch and not believing I was in the middle of all this. Later, as I got ready to leave, Sinatra approached with two more drinks and smiled, “Cheers, Kid!”.

They were still laughing and singing as I walked out.

FROM RUSSIA WITH MUSIC – Rich Paschall

Leonid and Friends, by Rich Paschall

There are lot of “cover bands.” You know, bands that “cover” (play) the music of famous bands. Some are good or very good. Some are bad or very bad. A few are amazing. Here in the midwest we can see bands all around the area who play as if they are the original band. We have a few who dress like the Beatles and are pretty good at it. I’ve seen cover bands play Led Zepplin and Black Sabbath that are also very accurate. These are different from nostalgia bands who play a variety of “oldies.” Cover bands desire to be exactly like the band whose music they are playing.

Leonid (right) and Friends

About a year ago a friend posted a video on facebook of a band “covering” Chicago (the band). “You’ve got to see these guys, they are amazing.” Of course, I was skeptical. I have many Chicago albums and have seen them a least a dozen times in concert. I have seen their television specials and guest appearances. I recently reviewed their latest “Chicago Christmas” album. I figure you have to be pretty darn good to try to pass yourselves off as Chicago. They are better than darn good, they are amazing.

The surprising thing about this collection of players is they are not local. They are not even from the USA. The group is mostly from Moscow, but are collected across a vast region to come together for their love of a different kind of music. They had posted a few videos previously, but their rendition of 25 or 6 to 4 (“Без 25 или без 26 минут 4”) on You Tube went viral and now has over 2.6 million views. In case you think they have not nailed it, listen to the original Chicago audio here.

Leonid Vorobyev, a musical director from Moscow, had reached the age of retirement (60) five years ago, but wanted to put together a studio project for a Chicago song. Chicago had never been to Russia. The sheet music was not available there. So Leonid listened to the song carefully and set out to write down the music and vocal harmonies, transcribing what he heard. “We have only audio records and videos (to help us learn Chicago songs),” Leonid told a reporter.

The plan was to create a studio recording that sounded exactly like the studio recording of Chicago. One project led to another. If you watch the early videos, you will see that he uses different musicians along the way. They had no thoughts of live performances and tours.

Then they became famous. Even members of Chicago liked the tribute. Leonid’s son joined on as manager and got some live performances for the intergenerational group. In early 2019 they brought the group to the US for a handful of shows. They were a hit. More invitations were received. That led to a Fall 2019 “Fancy Colours” tour.

Saint Charles

Arcada Theater, St. Charles, Illinois

Just west of Chicago, a little more than an hour from where I live (two in rush hour), is the town of St. Charles. It is home to the 897 seat Arcada Theater. Built in 1926, the theater building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Since 2005 it is operated by the Onesti Entertainment Corporation. This group has been able to line up big name acts for the theater. They saw the Leonid videos and booked the group. The band was coming to Chicago…well, almost.

Leonid and Friends played some of Chicago’s biggest hits as well as some album tracks that Chicago does not play in concert. It is Leonid’s labor of love, and the group plays his choices. You can see the band is a diverse group, and they blend together well.

Leonid explained that finding someone to sing the parts originally performed by Peter Cetera  was a challenge. They ran an online competition to find the right person. Their choice was not in Russia but in Kiev, Ukraine. Serge Tiagniryadno (vocals, guitar) does a commendable job on the early Chicago tunes.

Just as in Chicago, Leonid and Friends uses a number of singers. Sergey Kashirin (vocals, guitar) covers some of the songs performed by Robert Lamm. He may not sound exactly like Lamm, but he has the delivery down perfectly. The inflections in each performance would make you believe he listened to some of the songs over and over.

In addition to playing guitar like Lamm does on Beginnings, he covers the Terry Kath guitar parts with an accuracy you can hardly believe. Kath was arguably one of the best rock guitar players ever, and his live performances can not be duplicated. The studio work must have taken many hours of practice, even for the well educated musician. At the St. Charles performance, Sergey was wearing a t-shirt that said “Kath” and contained the famed Chicago guitar player’s picture.

Leonid and Friends

Serge Tiagniryadno (left) and Sergey Kashirin

Roman Vorobyev acted like an emcee and introduced a few of the songs and gave some background of the band. Leonid, who also speaks good English, introduced the band members to the sold out theater audience.

Roman Vorobyev

At the intermission, a Russian gentlemen in my row said he had seen the group in Moscow. “You know how many groups are playing music like this in Russia?” he asked. I guess a few of us in the row just had blank faces for a response. “None!” he said. “No one else is doing this.” Actually, only one other group continues to play music like this here… Chicago, the band.

Sources: “How a group of guys from Moscow became an internationally renowned Chicago tribute band,” Los Angeles Daily News, January 11, 2019.
Leonid and Friends,” Official website.
Arcada Theater Building,” wikipedia.

See also: “Chicago Christmas“, SERENDIPITY, November 24, 2019.
Chicago NOW,” SERENDIPITY, November 13, 2016.
It Never Gets Old,” SERENDIPITY,  September 1, 2019.

FEARLESS – Marilyn Armstrong

Just as pain warns our bodies that something is wrong, fear warns our brains to be cautious. Excessive or unreasoning fear can cripple us, make us unable to do anything at all. Phobias can eliminate some activities entirely.

75-MountainsStream-HP-1

If you are terrified of heights, sky-diving and mountain climbing are likely to be non-starters. If you are scared to death of insects, forget that jungle exploration trip down the Amazon!

But normal fear based on a sensible understanding of a situation keeps us from doing dumb stuff. From climbing that rickety ladder, from diving off the cliff into the rocky, shallow water below.

I think, in the context of my life, I have done many things others might have thought dangerous, but weren’t. All the dangerous things in my life were medical and happened to me, not because of me.

I can’t think of anything I would have done — that I wanted to do — but rejected because of fear. I pretty much did what I wanted. On the whole, it worked out fine. What didn’t work out?

I had terrible judgment about men until I finally got my head together. I was stupidly trusting of people and sadly, I think I still am stupidly trusting. These days, at least I try to do the research before I get ripped off. And, I’ve been excessively generous to people who did not deserve it.

Fear never entered the equation, but maybe it should have. My problems generally involved a failure to think things through. Being smart doesn’t mean you actually use your brains.