YOU NEVER CAN TELL

A couple of days ago, I got a comment (via Twitter) from a musician whose work I have admired for many years. It was a wonderful, joyous moment. I’ve previously gotten comments from actors, authors (usually after I reviewed their books), and other famous or sort of famous people who I admire and are my role models and heroes.

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Every time it happens, I’m thrilled, delighted, awestruck. I’m 10 years old again and star-struck.

You never know who is reading or following you.

A few years ago, I bumped into an ex-mayor of Boston … and he was following me. These are people that may never comment. If they do, they probably show up as anonymous. Sometimes, you recognize the website or pseudonym, but often you are just left wondering “Who was that masked man?”

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For all of you who think nobody reads you, nobody follows you because you aren’t getting a lot of comments? Most readers don’t comment, especially people whose names are known to the public. Many (most?) don’t even leave a “like.” It doesn’t mean they aren’t there. I would suggest as much as 90% of your audience is comprised of lurkers. You really don’t know who is reading your blog.

It’s a reason to be optimistic about what those statistics really mean … and cautious about things you say. A note to book reviewers: authors read reviews. Even reviews by relatively unknown bloggers. If you flame an author, he or she will not forget and will never forgive.

I won’t give you names because I think that celebrities in general prefer to keep a low profile when they are making unofficial contact with people. I’m just grateful whenever someone whose work I love lets me know they are reading my words and liking them. It means a huge amount to me. It’s a kind of validation. It’s like winning a prize. It makes the sun shine brighter even on a rainy day.

It can happen to you. If you are patient, it probably will.


NOTES: I thought I’d add a few notes about this. My most frequent contacts are authors, probably because I write about and review books. Typically, when I give a positive review (if I really hate the book, I usually don’t review it), I hear from the author. The first time it happened, I almost fell off my chair. Now, I am less surprised, but no less happy. Garry hears from children of stars he worked with and authors who want to use his encounters as reference material for books. Which is very cool, too.

If you love books and authors, writing good, smart, fair book reviews is an excellent path to meeting the authors. Book reviews don’t get the big numbers that other posts get, but reviews have a long shelf life. You may find you get hits on them for years after they are initially published. Republishing them is easy since they don’t go “out of date.”

Music and movie reviews, and anecdotes about personal encounters with celebrities may get someone you admire to contact you. It’s fun and comes with a bit of stardust. It can make blogging an adventure — in the best possible way.

IN THE MIDNIGHT HOUR

She Wants More, More, More, by Rich Paschall

Perhaps that’s the Rebel Yell you hear in the midnight hour, when the music picks up and the time to dance is at hand.  I had been wondering what to suggest as my top Midnight songs but the Midnight Memories kicked in and It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.  I observed that Midnight’s Another Day and the Top 10 list was revealed.  While you may think of many Midnight songs in The Shadows, I will be your Midnight Cowboy and give you my Top 10.

10. I’m A Midnight Mover, Bobby Womack.  Whether you hear the Womack version or Wilson Pickett’s growl infused version, you will think they are channeling James Brown.  Both recorded the song and it is a rhythm and blues special either way you go.  They have co-writing credit for the hit.

9.  Walkin’ After Midnight, Patsy Cline.  The country classic was originally offered by the writers to pop singer Kay Starr, but her record label rejected it.  Reportedly, Cline was not immediately impressed with the song, but ended up with a mega hit in 1957.

8.  Midnight Blue, Melissa Manchester.  This was the first song on which Manchester collaborated with famed song writer Carole Bayer Sager. The 1973 composition was pitched to a producer for Dionne Warwick and later Manchester pitched it to Dusty Springfield who turned it down.  In 1975 it was the first single off Manchester’s first album for Arista records.

7.  Midnight Confessions, The Grass Roots.  The biggest hit for the band was released in 1968.  Recorded with a large group of studio musicians, reports are that the group did not actually play on the record but only did the vocals.  They did perform it live themselves.  I played in a band for a few years that performed this song regularly.

6.  Midnight Rider, The Allman Brothers.  The song first appeared on the Allman Brothers 1970 album, Idlewild South, and was released as a single in March, 1971 without much success.  Composer Gregg Allman released it as a solo effort in 1973 and broke the top 20.  Versions by other artists have also found some success.

5.  Midnight Rambler, The Rolling Stones.  Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the song was released in 1969.  Mick provided lead vocals, of course, and harmonica, while Keith Richards recorded all of the various guitars heard on the original recording.  The song continues to appear in Stones’ concert and was recently on the playlist for the historic performance in Havana.  Here they play for just a million and a half people in Rio, the largest concert ever held.

4.  Midnight at the Oasis, Maria Muldaur.  Released in February of 1974 the song is certainly the best known effort by Muldaur.  The soft rock hit with its sexy lyric was made even more popular by the tease in her unique voice.  I absolutely loved this song at the time, still do.

3.  Midnight Train to Georgia, Gladys Knight and the Pips.  The song was written and recorded by Jim Weatherly as Midnight Plane to Houston.  It was then passed on to Cissy Houston who recorded it as Midnight Train to Georgia.  Then Weatherly’s publisher passed it on to Gladys Knight and the Pips.  They won a performance Grammy with it.  Here the Pips are really workin’ it!

2.  Midnight Special, Johnny Rivers.  Creedence Clearwater Revival had a hit with the song, but it is hard for me to hear a CCR song and not think about the lead singer, John Fogerty.  Apparently there is no arena big enough for his ego.  The Johnny Rivers version was used as the intro to the Midnight Special television programs featuring musical performances.  In my time zone, the train came through right on time, and Wolfman Jack was the conductor.  This performance is from Hullabaloo.

1. After Midnight, J.J. Cale or Eric Clapton.  Cale wrote the song and recorded it in 1966.  When Clapton covered it in 1970, Cale did not know about it until it was a hit on the radio.  At the time, he was broke and grateful for the song’s success.  He subsequently included it in a 1972 album.  Since they both have great versions out there, the only fair thing to do is show them playing it together, Cale on vocals.

DEAR DEANNA DURBIN: I HAVE A CRUSH ON YOU – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Marilyn and I were discussing “legacy.” Our legacies. Such as they are. The subject matter was the basis for Marilyn’s piece yesterday (WHO HAS A LEGACY?) and left me thinking.

It’s interesting to ponder. Who will care about you after you’re gone? If you’re a public figure, you’re only famous until you’re not. I was a very familiar figure to tens of thousands during my TV news career. Now, I am frequently asked, “Didn’t you used to be Garry Armstrong?” (Yes, I was … and remarkably, I still am.)

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For the past week, I’ve been watching Deanna Durbin’s movies on Turner Classics. Who remembers Deanna Durbin? For a short period during the late 1930s and early 1940s, Ms. Durbin was one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, more popular than Judy Garland.

MGM mogul, Louie B. Mayer, screen tested Durbin and Garland as starlets. Mayer chose Garland. Universal Pictures snatched up Deanna Durbin who quickly shot to stardom, saving the studio from bankruptcy.

Durbin projected a sweet, wholesome, cute-as-dickens image that won the hearts of many people seeking options to screen sirens like Harlow, Dietrich, and Crawford. Deanna had a wonderful, rich singing voice — almost operatic. Very impressive for a twenty something, always top billed over veteran stars.

Deanna Durbin

I discovered Deanna Durbin after she had retired in 1948,. She was at the height of her fame, but decided the glitter of Hollywood was not enough. She moved to France where she lived quietly until her death a few years ago.

My memories of Deanna Durbin, 60 plus years ago and now, remain vivid. She glows with performances of “Loch Lomond,” “Going Home,” and “All Alone By The Telephone” in movies that are rather less than memorable.

“Going Home,” is usually associated with FDR’s funeral train procession. It’s a guaranteed heart-tugger when Deanna sings it in “It Started With Eve.” I usually skip through most of the film, then do a multiple replay of Durbin singing that song. It always gets to me.

I had an immediate crush on Deanna Durbin as a boy. I wanted to meet her and tell her how much I loved her. Alas, it was not meant to be. Yet all these years later, I still have a crush on her.

That’s a legacy.

WHAT ARE YOUR RANDOM THOUGHTS?

Share in the great thoughts, Rich Paschall

What are your great and random thoughts on any topic? Comment below and remember the more random, the better. Also remember, I have to keep it civil, so you do too.

Donald Trump is on the cover of Esquire as “Hater in Chief.”  Has it come to the point in our history where we will elect someone we all agree is a hater?

Was Marco Rubio really born in Miami?  I want to see his birth certificate.

Ted Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and applied to formally renounce his Canadian citizenship, which happened May 14, 2014.  His father is Cuban.

Cruz was a complainer about whether President Obama was born in Hawaii and that his father was not American.

Where are the Cruz “birthers?”  Oh wait, those Republicans do not want too much egg on their faces.

Do you think all these random thoughts are easy?  I have to stop every three sentences and get a cookie.

Is it officially hot chocolate weather?

If my marsh mellows are left over from last year, can I still use them for hot chocolate?  S’mores?

If you do not have a team in the NFL play-offs do you really care?

Do you still watch the Super Bowl just for the commercials?

How many think a concert in the middle of the game is appropriate?  How about before the game so we can cut down on the six to eight hours of pre-game analysis on various networks.

Pre-game analysis on the NFL Network official begins two weeks before the game.

I still want to see the Super Bowl in a snow storm.

Will the NFL have their lawyers send me a cease and desist order for using the words “Super” and “Bowl” along side of one another?  I guess they are a rather unique combination of words requiring a trademark.

Giant flakes of wet snow look really nice coming down, until you have to shovel it up.

Healthy couples with healthy teenage children should be made to shovel their walks or face fines…just saying.

I don’t think I ever made a snow angel and I am not going to start in a wet snow.

I bought a ticket to see an act I never heard of (R5) so that I could see the opener, MAX Schneider.

There are many videos that will show off his singing better than this one, but this one is more fun.

I bought a ticket to see Steve Grand. I had written about the All-American Boy in the past, but never got a chance to see a live performance.

Album

Album

I am excited that Chicago is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I have seen them at many venues around town and I was never disappointed.

Chicago in Chicago, August 2014

Chicago in Chicago, August 2014

Tom Law supports some of his music videos via a website called Patreon.  That is where you can be a patron for each video for any amount you wish.  At a high enough level you get to chat with Tom and even get his music a little before it comes out.

Chicago is at the United Center in April.  I have never seen them there.  mmmmm?

Chicago Cub fever is already beginning.  It’s not even time for Spring Training.

Why does the election season have to be so long?  Why?

Why does the baseball season have to be so long?

Some “charities” I have never supported have sent me more mailings over the years than I could count.

Some charities I have supported have sent me so much mail I wonder if they have made any money off me.

Don’t bother telling charities to stop sending snail mail.  It doesn’t seem to help.  It seems to work for email.

I saw a facebook meme that claimed President Eisenhower ended segregated schools by executive order.  I guess they never heard of the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

Here’s what I have to say about facebook memes.  “Snopes!”

A 19-year-old Australian boy, Joel Adams, seems to be moving up the charts with one of his own songs solely off social media hype by fans.  At first it did not do well and they were giving it away (I downloaded it.)  You can go to itunes for it now.

I guess it is tough to lip sync your own song.  That is what they are doing in the music videos.  Tom Law says when he does not get it just right, that’s when you cut to another angle or some shot where you do not see him singing.  Ooops, did I give away an industry secret?  Nah.

Winter, Chicago and this guy!

MORE GREAT THOUGHTS

Random Greatness, by Rich Paschall

How many random and unconnected thoughts can you come up with in one week? Just how random is your life anyway? If I keep writing random statements, does that indicate a failure to focus?  Uh…what was I saying?

Since I received 15 calendars in the mail from various organizations, down from almost twice as many a few years ago, I had no need to buy calendars for 2016.

I bought two calendars for 2016.  One is the Tom Daley calendar and one is Chris Mears.  Chris’ calendar is autographed, although I can not make out the signature anyway.

You don’t know who Tom Daley and Chris Mears are?

If I was going to the Olympics, I would want to see diving and my friend would want to see basketball.  I guess we will stay home, in our respective countries.

If my friend from Colombia comes to visit I plan to take him to the nearby Colombian restaurant to see how authentic it really is.

When we go to German restaurants, I compare the food to the memory of my grandmother’s cooking, or her sister’s.

When my friend from France visits we do not go to a French restaurant because he can get that at home.  Besides, he says, the French charge too much here for food and wine.

Eat local, drink local.

I did not find any Andes candies in the Andes.

To Rionegro

The Andes

Do you think any Eskimos go to Arizona or Florida in the winter?

My yellow tortilla chips are yellow.  So are the white ones.

The spicy guacamole from the local store is too spicy and the regular is too mild.  We need a medium.

There is a big difference between currency exchanges here and currency exchanges in other countries.  The ones here do not exchange one currency for another.

I think I will have to go back to the airport in Miami if I want to exchange Colombian pesos.

This is not a new story but I just ran across it.  It seems a man practicing his right to “open carry” his brand new gun was robbed of it, at gunpoint.  I guess the thief was glad the other guy displayed the gun openly because he told the victim he liked his gun.  KOIN news story is here.

Every now and then the line from Forest Gump comes to me.  You know the one.  “Stupid is as stupid does.”

There is something called the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act that will never pass Congress.  The NRA is against it.

If an organization supports the right of terrorists to buy weapons (as a second amendment right), does that make them a terrorist organization?

How many people still think Mark Zuckerberg is going to give them a lot of money if they share some Facebook post?

OK, everyone, repeat after me, “I will check Snopes.com or responsible websites before reposting stuff on Facebook, twitter and other social media.”

By responsible websites I do not mean FOX News.

All followers of the news channel whose name should not be mentioned should watch the movie Citizen Kane and keep watching it every week until they get it.

Followers of so-called Patriot radio should watch A Face In The Crowd and should keep watching it every week until they get it.

If you have not heard of Senator Joseph McCarthy, you should definitely read up.

Is it just too random if I switch from politics back to entertainment?

British musician and YouTuber Tom Law says he is moving to Croatia.

From photo shoot in Bath, England

Tom Joseph Law, from a photo shoot in Bath, England

Having missed him at least twice in 2015, I think I will definitely catch MAX Schneider in March.

Sometimes I catch myself randomly watching popular You Tube personalities and saying, “I don’t get it.”

What is your favorite Humphrey Bogart movie?  If you do not say “Casablanca,” don’t even speak to me.  How can you possibly say something else?casablanca-poster

I was disappointed to read that George Lucas does not like the direction of Star Wars under Disney.  I guess he should not have sold it.

How many Congressmen have ever visited the Library of Congress?

If the band Chicago is from Chicago and the band Kansas is from Kansas, where did UFO come from?

Resolutions?  What resolutions?

THE DUKE AND GARRY: A PILGRIM’S TALE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Our Arizona vacation is a trip back in time to some of my favorite western movies and TV shows. The cactus covered fields and surrounding mountains evoke memories especially of John Wayne-John Ford classics.

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The locales around Phoenix are similar to areas in Utah where Wayne and Ford made some of their iconic films.

In the aftermath of my first Arizona post, there were requests for my oft-told story about meeting Duke Wayne. If you’ve heard it before, head for the nearest saloon, Pilgrim.

Forty-one winters ago, as I reckon, it was John Wayne versus the anti-Vietnam War crowd at Harvard and surrounding areas of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Duke was cheered and jeered as he sat atop an armored “half track” which moved slowly through the crowd as light snow fell. Some dissidents lobbed snow balls at Wayne as they shouted in derision. The Duke smiled and waved.

At one point, everything stopped as the legendary star hopped out to shake hands amid a flurry of snow balls. It was a bad situation for a reporter attempting an interview.

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I remember calling in a few favors. Somehow, Duke and his entourage slipped into an empty theater. Long moments — an eternity to me — followed  as I waited alone on stage. Suddenly, the stage lit up and I froze.

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“Hello, Garry!”, Duke Wayne boomed in a friendly voice as he ambled in that familiar gait across the stage and greeted me. My TV persona kicked in as I shook hands with my hero, beaming with a pseudo happy smile.

I was oblivious to the cameras and time. Later, I would learn that it was a pretty fair interview with me swapping stories with Wayne including some anecdotes about my stint in the Marine Corps. Apparently, that impressed the Duke. He laughed when I recalled how I’d upset several drill instructors during basic training with my irreverent behavior.

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The interview apparently ran long because a press agent finally had to pry Duke loose to resume his “march” to Harvard.

During a formal, group interview at Harvard, Wayne singled me out as “his pal and former Gyrene”. I remember basking in the glow of that moment as other reporters glared at me.

Later, as the gathering dispersed, Wayne approached me and said, “Good to see ya again, Gyrene”.

I offered what must’ve been a broad, idiotic smile and said, “Good to see YOU again, Duke”. I could see, over my shoulders, my crew smirking and laughing. Didn’t matter to me.

Back in the newsroom, I walked around repeatedly asking people if they knew who shook my hand that day. Finally, someone told me to throw some cold water in my face and get on with my job.

They didn’t get it. I had spent “private” time with the Duke. With Hondo, Sgt. Stryker, Ethan Edwards, Capt. Nathan Brittles, and Rooster Cogburn … among others. Damn, I had swapped stories with the man who really shot Liberty Valance.

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Sadly, there were no personal pictures from that memorable day. No autograph. I’d always felt uneasy about asking celebrities for these artifacts. Ironically, this gesture apparently opened the door for more candid conversations and some unforgettable social afternoons and evenings with Hollywood legends, Royalty, Presidents, sports heroes, wise guys, godfathers and even Mother Theresa who singled me out from a crowd, chastising me about news coverage. I never figured that one out.

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Topping all those memorable days and nights was my afternoon with the Duke. Back here in Arizona, where the Duke galloped through so many westerns, I think maybe … mebbe … I can top that encounter in the future.

That’ll be the day!

OL’ BLUE EYES AND ME: THE SECOND TIME AROUND – GARRY ARMSTRONG

It seems like everyone on the planet is celebrating the 100th birthday of Frank Sinatra. 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 ring master, 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, 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!

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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 was 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.