PUNCHLINES AND PROPHECIES – BY TOM CURLEY

So, last night Ellin and I were watching the Golden Globe Awards.

Normally we don’t that much care who wins or loses. But for the last few years I’ve been getting “screener” copies of all the movies nominated for all the award shows. We watch as many as we care to watch and can watch the ones that win. So, we watched the show. Near the end of the show Oprah Winfrey was given the Cecile B. DeMille award.

It’s their version of a life-time achievement award. The winner gets to give a speech without having to worry about the dreaded “music” telling them to shut the fuck up and get off the stage before they get “the hook.”

Last year the winner was Meryl Streep. She gave a speech eviscerating our “So called Commander-in-Chief.” This year Oprah didn’t really mention the President at all. Even so, she gave a presidential speech and by most accounts, a pretty good one. In the middle of it, I paused the show and said to Ellin. “Holy crap, she’s running for president.”

And sure enough, that was the headline the next day.

I’m writing all of this, not because I support or oppose Oprah Winfrey running for president. I’m not writing this because if he’s done nothing else, Cheesy MacCheese Head has proved the old adage we were taught as children: “Anybody can grow up to be President.”  More importantly, he’s proved that just because anybody can be president, not everybody SHOULD BE!!

No, I’m writing this because I predicted that Oprah Winfrey would be president 28 YEARS AGO!!!

Don’t believe me? I have proof. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far … well actually, it was this galaxy. I wrote a show called “A Half Hour Radio Show.”

The premise of the show was that two hosts, me and my partner Jeff, would present a half hour of witty, satirical bits, and skits. The problem was, we never ever did any of them because something would always happen. We would never get to our actual show. In the first episode, the radio station we were on was sold during the opening music and they installed an instantaneous ratings computer that computed ratings in real time. Every time we went to commercial, the format would change so we never got to our show.

After that, things got much weirder.

In one episode, Jeff and I got sent 30 years into the future to do a show with our future selves. Why? Well, we still had the show 30 years in the future and we realized one day that we had no show for that week.

We thought it would be funny to get our selves from 30 years ago to come to the future and do a show together. Then they remembered that they actually did do that, so now, they had to do that. So, they did.

If that confuses you, it should. If figuring out time travel doesn’t give you a headache, you’re not doing it right.

The point of that particular show was to look at the world 30 years from then. Our young selves asked our old selves about what life was like. We learned things like:

  • There were 5000 TV channels. Today, cable, satellite, fiber, etc.
  • Every song had its own channel. Today, it’s Pandora, Spotify, etc.
  • There was a commercial channel. It only played commercials. Today, it’s on YouTube.
  • When asked who was the President of the United States, our older selves answered: “Oprah Winfrey.”

It’s on tape. You can listen to it here.


Not only did I write it, I wrote it the in early 1990s
when 30 years in the future was 2020!


I was JOKING!! I was trying to be FUNNY!  I thought that was all CRAZY stuff! Considering what’s been going on, maybe it’s not so crazy after all.

I wanted to make the future as funny and absurd as I could. I never thought I’d become “The Nostradamus of Nonsense.”

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 #14 – STUPID OLD PEOPLE

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 #14 – STUPID OLD PEOPLE

Wednesday – July 15, 2015

It’s Frisbee Wednesday again. No more fooling around. New England has turned up the heat … and unfortunately, the humidity too. It’s in the 90s with 99% humidity. As someone said, “It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity.” (I could not find the book from which this quote was taken, but I remember reading it. If anyone can locate the source, let me know.)

On the way to be on the radio.
On the way to be on the radio.

There’s been an excess of stupidity lately. It’s hardly a new phenomenon, but for some reason, it’s more “in my face” this summer. I would like to blame it on the weather. Heat makes people snappish and bad-tempered. It gives me a headache. Ultimately, it makes everyone stupid.

Rockers-300-72

It even makes the dogs stupid. They will sleep wherever they can find a cooler spot, no matter how dangerous — despite living in air-conditioning. It’s too nasty out there for man or beast.

Most people don’t realize how sweltering it gets in New England. How hot and how the combination of super-heated air and ultra high humidity makes it feel like Disney World in August. It feels like there’s no air out there.

72-WNEX Radio_020

We live in a region of extremes. No wonder the American Revolution began here. Talk about hotheads. Sam Adams had a real mouth on him. He kept needling everyone until we began a hopeless war against a super power … and somehow (with a little help from our friends, the French) won.

Because we won that war, we now live in a free country where any moron can proffer his worthless opinions on social media or, for that matter, network news. Is this a great nation or what?

TURN OFF THE RADIO

So we got an invitation to guest on a radio show last weekend. I will not give the name or call letters. Or say who hosted it. Because the host and hostess are lovely, sweet, kindly people. Shockingly unprofessional and painfully ignorant, but well-intentioned.

In studio.
In studio. Looking happier than we felt.

Good intentions are not enough. You need to know something about the subject you are discussing on the public airwaves. Otherwise, you sound stupid.

The subject of the show? Movies (what else?). The call-in person being interviewed was the daughter of a super famous Hollywood star who is no longer with us. Suddenly, our host, who had been uncharacteristically quiet, began the classic “old-timer’s rant.” Don’t you just hate when that happens?

“The movie business,” declared our host as he ramped up his complaints in which he extolled the good old days to the detriment of anything recent, “Isn’t like it used to be. Today it’s all about money. Not like the greats of the past, like Cecil B. DeMille. Now, it’s only about making money.”

Unlike the old days, when they did it for free? For art? Because in the old days, they treated talent so well? Were so concerned with truth and accuracy? When studio heads were generous, fatherly, treating their employees with respect and concern for the well-being and careers?

More traveling.
More traveling.

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but making movies is a business. It has always been about money. Sometimes we get lucky. A movie maker who can afford to take a loss makes a movie just because he or she believes it’s worthwhile. Such benevolence was as rare “back in the day” as it is now. Hollywood was and is all about the bottom line. Everyone knows it.

Those golden olden days made gazillions of dollars for the guys who ran studios. They paid pitifully low salaries to anyone who worked for them and wrote contracts forcing actors, directors, cinematographers, and many others to grind out movies by the truckload without regard for quality or if a vehicle was suited to the talent. All that mattered was money. Moguls became rich as Croesus and laughed all the way to the bank.

We sometimes forget — even those of us who are “into” movies — most of the stuff churned out by Hollywood is/was crap. For every classic we love, maybe 100 (more?) junk films were pumped out. Movies that have been (thankfully) forgotten.

Studios don’t own talent today. Actors, directors and others make their own deals. They can’t be forced to make movies they feel will make them look stupid, or represent values they do not share. They do it anyway, but no one holds a virtual gun to their heads.

RANTERS MAKE OLD PEOPLE LOOK STUPID

Blanket ranting about the good old days by people my age, and weirdly, a cross-section of ranting younger people who can’t use senility as their excuse — as if everything new is automatically bad and everything old was great — makes old people look like imbeciles. It gives seniors a bad name and causes young people to think we are stupid.

No one can control the big mouths, supersized egos, and free access to media that morons have. I sometimes wonder how many of these ranters are in early stage senile dementia.

That’s when “we live in a free country” kicks in. We’re stuck with morons because they have the absolute right to be stupid, ignorant, and proclaim that stupidity and ignorance to the world. What’s scary is how many people listen to and believe it.

Good to be home!
Good to be home!

Can’t we add a teeny tiny codicil to the First Amendment requiring free speech include a semblance of fact? A hint of truth? That there be a relationship between what one is saying and reality?

Thank the universe I retain the right to not listen.

RADIO DAYS – WMEX

We were on Fireside, WMEX in Quincy, Massachusetts. Hosted by Jim Callahan and his beautiful (in every way) wife, producer, and co-host Nancy, we had a great time. Lots of laughter. Garry had the opportunity to tell a whole bunch of his celebrity anecdotes to a new audience and he sparkled, as always.

Again, he heard the familiar refrain: “You should write a book!”

He really should.

All the pictures were taken with the Pentax Q7 and (mostly) the f2.8 5-15mm “standard” zoom.

SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN

When Garry came into the bedroom, I was staring at the radio. Garry takes his hearing aids off at night, so we have bedtime conversations at high volume. Shouting, really.

BEDROOM SOUTH 7

“Why are you staring at the radio?”

“I’m trying to figure out if it’s on. Oh, it just started to make noise. It’s on.”

“But why are you staring at it?”

“I thought if I stared at it for a while, it would start to play. Or not. One way or the other, I would find out what the red light means.”

“What red light, and why are you staring at it? How will staring at it help?”

“That’s how I figure things out. It didn’t come with instructions.”

Pause. “Have you taken any drugs?”

“No. See, there’s the red light. I didn’t if know the red light means the CD player is on or off. I had to wait to see if it started playing. I was pretty sure a blinking red light means pause, but I wasn’t sure what a steady red light means. I waited when there was no light. Nothing happened. So I tried it the other way. Now it’s making noise. Therefore, the red light means it’s on. It’s slow getting started.”

radio and coffee cup plastic BW

I wasn’t trying to be funny, but Garry started to laugh and couldn’t stop. “That’s the sort of thing I would do,” he said,

“Well, how else would I know what the red light means?”

He laughed some more.

Garry thinks I know a lot of stuff I don’t really know, especially about technical issues. I push buttons. If staring (and waiting) doesn’t fix what’s broken, I push another button. Or push the same button again. Or hold the button for a couple of seconds and see if it does something different.

While I’m waiting, I watch. Intently. Maybe I’ll get a message. Isn’t this how everyone fixes stuff? I used to look things up in the manual, but since no one supplies a manual anymore, it’s more art than science.

My husband finds this hilarious.

I spend a lot of time staring at computers, waiting for something — anything — to happen. Hoping an idea will occur to me or for the system to reboot. To see if a blue screen will recur, or the diagnostic will tell me there’s no problem, even though I’m sure there is. For a message.

I must be doing something right. Beethoven is playing on the CD player/radio. And most of the time, the computers work.

A HALF HOUR RADIO SHOW

See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews

This site hosts the original broadcasts of the cult radio comedy show “A Half Hour Radio Show,” syndicated around the US in the early 1990’s.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

When I was in college, I worked at the radio station. The people I met there included two husbands and almost all the people I call friends today. Sometimes, I was part of this show. I wrote some stuff, did voices on and bits. Hung around, heckled, made suggestions, joined in when another body was needed.

It was the biggest hit our little college station ever had. We were young, silly, and frequently stoned. Since then, the show’s producer, Tom Curley,  has put it through, many iterations, refined and rewrote it. After all these years, it’s still funny. You don’t waste funny.

Welcome to my fondest remembered past, the audio time capsule of my youth. From when the world and I were young …

The Show Must Go On

See on captclerk.podbean.com

COVERING R&B MUSIC

Black artists and white singers, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

At the dawn of Rock and Roll in the 1950’s and even into the early 1960’s, it was not uncommon for white singers to cover African-American singers.  Black artists did not get radio play on white radio stations.  That shut them out of a lot of markets and kept much of America from hearing their songs.  This opened the door wide for white singers to record songs heard only on black R&B stations, leaving the impression in many areas that they were the original artists.

The Memphis area, Tennessee label, DOT, founded in 1950, became big by hiring white singers to cover black songs.  Indeed they made stars out of some of these singers.  Among the biggest was Pat Boone.  The crooner recorded Fats Domino’s 1955 song “Ain’t That a Shame,” which became a big hit.  It had been suggested that Boone change the lyric to “Isn’t That A Shame,” perhaps to sound more “white.”  Fortunately they resisted that bad idea.  Boone followed with a number of covers that made him a household name.  His next success was the Little Richard song, “Tutti Fruitti,” which Boone did not want to record.  To Boone “it didn’t make sense” but he was talked into it and it went to number 12.   A song that went all the way to the top was “I Almost Lost My Mind,” originally by Ivory Joe Hunter.  Nat King Cole even covered the song, but Boone had the hit.  The main reason was Boone got a lot of radio play.  The others did not.

DOT also made a star of Gale Storm when she covered the Smiley Lewis R&B hit, “I Hear You Knockin.”  She also recorded “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?”  Snooky Lanson and The Fontane Sisters also benefited from the era of covering other artists.  Eventually DOT cashed in off admitting to the practice with an album of 30 of these songs.  “Cover to Cover,” includes 7 recordings by Pat Boone alone.  It also includes a mediocre version of Chuck Berry’s Rock Classic, “Maybelline,” by Jim Lowe.

The white versions were generally slower and toned down in comparison to the R&B versions.  They were playing to a different audience so they produced versions they thought would be more appealing to that audience.  It was a sign of the racially segregated times and something that would not happen now.  Of course there are still many covers, but for various other reasons.

When Elvis Presley hit the scene, he also brought with him cover versions of other songs.  His 1956 hit “Hound Dog,” was originally by Big Mama Thornton, but Elvis may have been influenced by the 1953 novelty version by Jack Granger and his Granger County Gang, aka Homer and Jethro.  The 1954 hit, “That’s All Right,” belonged to Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup and was originally called “That’s All Right, Mama.”

One of the consequences of all these cover songs was they helped pave the way toward acceptance of this genre of music and eventually of some of the black artists who originated the songs.   Little Richard is said to have claimed that while teenagers and young music lovers may have had Pat Boone on top of their dressers, but they had “me in the drawer ’cause they liked my version better.” 

By the late 1950’s, with the segregation of music dying out, the Doo-Wop group Little Anthony and the Imperials came along and started to hit the big time.  While many of their early songs found great success for other artists, they found wider radio and television play than earlier Black R&B stars.

For a look at the Linda Ronstadt version of this song, see this past article.

ON THE WAY TO OUR DREAMS

He wanted to be a movie star, on the silver screen. I wanted to be an author. Somehow on our way to our dreams, we found our way to the college radio station. A puny thing, just 10 watts when Garry and I met in the tiny studios under the Little Theater. I was 17, Garry 22. He was a little older than most of the undergrads because at 17, he’d enlisted in the Marines and by the time he got out, a few years had passed.

Garry Clean Harbors-SMALLWe found the radio station by accident, but it fit. Garry stayed and became its Program Director. I hung around and began dating the Station Manager, who coincidentally was Garry’s best friend. Which is where our personal history gets a bit tangled and hard to explain, so I won’t. I was the Chief Announcer. Even though I knew I wanted to be in print, not electronic media, the radio station was a great place to try out new skills. There were scripts to be written, newsletters to create. And I had my own radio show and a whole bunch of great friends, most of whom are still great friends.

We were all oddballs. Creative and talented. Almost all of us went on to careers in media and the arts. We turned out a couple of authors, audio engineers, talk show hosts, DJs, TV and radio producers, news directors, commercial writers, college professors and Garry, a reporter whose career spanned 45 years, 31 at Channel 7 in Boston.

Surprisingly little footage of Garry’s on the air career  survived and until someone found this clip, we had nothing from his years at ABC Network. An old friend of Garry’s sent us this footage from 1969, the last year Garry was at ABC before he jumped to television. It’s a promotional piece for ABC News and features faces and voices from the past … and one young up and coming fellow, Garry Armstrong.

Let us return to those days of yesteryear, when television cameras used film and there was a war raging in Vietnam. 1969, the year my son was born, the year of Woodstock, the end of an era, the beginning of everything else.

Look at the equipment circa 1969. Antiquated by today’s technical standards, but the standards by which the news itself was gathered and reported were incomparably higher than what passes for news reportage today.