Wednesday, January 30, 2013


This isn't us - but you get the idea!
I never know where or when a great essay topic will strike. I make sure to keep a journal and lighted pen next to my bed – “just in case”. Yet another inspiration for an essay came to me via The Writer’s Almanac.  Are you familiar with this website? Each day there is a poem and several little nutshell essays on notable birthdays and happenings for that date. There is also often a quote from the birthday boy or girl. The quote for January 20th was from George Burns: "Too bad that all the people that know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair."
How true that is! I have to do an LOL here. I can picture myself and three gal pals – the Brit Chick, the Southern Chick, the Fat Chick (that would be me!) and our little Chiclet - doing our thing in the pool at six o’clock in the morning, water walking and talking, exercising our jaws as we solved the problems of the world.  If only they would listen to us!
Right? Of course right!  

Friday, January 25, 2013


One recent Sunday the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate pointed us to pledge week on South Carolina ETV.  There it was, in all its glory: Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, presented as a pledge week special put together by the show’s former producer, George Schlatter.  Needless to say he picked out the very best bits, and the sketches and lines are still fresh and funny.
Laugh-In was produced in Beautiful Downtown Burbank from 1968 to 1973, and some of the bits seem prophetic: remember the one of then-President Nixon saying “Sock it to me?!”  Yeah, they did, didn’t they?  They joked about then California Governor Ronald Regan becoming President Regan.  In 1981 he did, didn’t he?  They joked around about all the troubles in the Middle East, and those same troubles are still there to this day, forty some-odd years later.

Sock it to Me?!

It was so neat to see original cast in all their glory, and to anticipate their lines:  “Is that another chicken joke?” -  “One ringy-dingy, a two ringy-dingies. And a gracious good morning to you sir.” - “Very interesting, but stupid!” -  “And that’s the truthhhhh.” - “How about a Walnetto?” - “Oh, I’ll drink to that!” -  “Huh?” (That was always Goldie Hawn).


In one sketch, the slyly suggestive Tyrone F. Horneigh sits down and pursues the saggy-stockinged spinster Gladys Ormphby to the edge of the park bench. He leers: “Do you believe in the hereafter?” “Of course!” she counters. “Then you know what I’m here after!” Whereupon she smashes him over the head with her chunky purse.
All of the material was very, very clever, and just squeaked by the censors. “Sometimes,” said Schlatter, “it went too fast for them to catch.” He said that the show was like one big out-take, full of double-entendres, and they had a blast doing it.  The TV comedy of that day was either sit-coms or variety show sketches.  Like Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which started on the BBC around the same time, Laugh-In was “something completely different.” When the Pythons came to American TV the country was (almost) ready for them, having been won over by the zany antics of the Laugh-In crew.

Seeing all those personalities on the special, it was a walk down memory lane: John Wayne, Orson Welles, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Peter Sellers, George Raft, Jack Benny, Sonny & Cher, Kirk Douglas, the still-lovely Raquel Welch, Flip (“That’s Geraldine Jones, Honey!”) Wilson, Sammy (“Here come de Judge) Davis, Jr., Kate Smith, and Frank Sinatra.   Looking at the clothes was a hoot too. Bell bottom pants, leisure suits, miniskirts, Nehru jackets; do you think those will ever make a comeback?

Is this the party to whom I am speaking?

The show and many of its regulars were nominated for or won several Golden Globe and Emmy awards for television.  Many went on to other pursuits, winning Oscars, Tony’s, Golden Globes and other awards in the movies and on Broadway.  The NBC Peacock should be proud of them.

"And that's the Truuuthhhh!"

Uproarious! – “Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls!”



Tuesday, January 22, 2013


This great story came in last week from my dear friend in Ontario:
Lee, Newfoundlanders get razzed a great deal in Canada. They’re wonderful folk, with an amazing dialect (one of the few left in Canada) and in general, a sunny outlook on life, but for some reason, they’re the butt of a truly astonishing number of jokes. Luckily, they seem to take it all in good fun. Here’s the latest:

Gotta luv them Newfies. They come up with the simplest, most practical – and logical - solutions. Maybe they should be running the country...
Each Friday night after work, sun, snow or rain, Jack, being a Newfie, would fire up his outdoor grill and cook a moose steak. But all of Jack's neighbours were Catholic. And since it was Lent, they were forbidden to eat meat on Friday. The delicious aroma from the grilled moose steaks was causing such a problem for the Catholic faithful that they finally talked to their priest.

The priest came to visit Jack, and suggested that he become a Catholic.
After several classes and much study, Jack attended Mass, and as the priest sprinkled holy water over him, he said: "You were born a Protestant and raised a Protestant, but now you are a Catholic."
Jack's neighbours were greatly relieved, until Friday night arrived, and the wonderful aroma of grilled moose filled the neighbourhood. The priest was called immediately by the neighbours; and he rushed to Jack's yard, clutching a rosary, entirely prepared to scold him. However, he stopped dead and simply watched in amazement.
There stood Jack, clutching a small bottle of holy water which he carefully sprinkled over the grilling meat and chanted, "You wuz born a moose, you wuz raised a moose, but now you is a codfish."

My reply to her: Sue, That is wonderful! Do you think I could get someone to come here and sprinkle me with champagne and say “you wuz born chunky, you wuz raised chunky, but now you is thin!” ???
I can dream, can’t I?

Saturday, January 19, 2013


I read in today’s Writer’s Almanac that today is the birth date of Edgar Allen Poe. The entry also included a bit of one of my and many people’s favorite poems, The Raven.  I also read there that it is the birth date of Robert E. Lee who was born two years later. Now that name stirred up a memory about which I’ve written here before.
When I was a little girl my Grandmother, who was born in West Virginia, told me that because my name was Lee that they would be pleased to meet me if I ever went to the southern states. Really, I’m just another carpetbagger come south for the milder climate and the lower cost of living, and happy to be here. As always, the name Robert E. Lee, even in this past Thursday’s New York Times crossword puzzle -54 down- brings that memory back again.  
Be that as it may, Happy Birthday Edgar A. and Robert E.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Our raconteur, Brian E.A. Vigers, wearing his "tres imperméable"
beret, and Frank in his new Norwegian sweater.
Note the "monocular"!
The dictionary defines ‘raconteur’ as ‘one who tells stories and anecdotes with skill and wit’. I’ve known one true raconteur in my lifetime, and this was a wonderful English gentleman, then eighty-one years old, from Surrey. My husband and I met him and his wife in 1981, as we waited on a quay in Bergen to board a steamer for an eleven-day cruise along the Norwegian coast. From the first story he told - of how they’d left their cruise tickets and vouchers at home - we knew we were in for a wonderful trip with them. There were few other English-speaking peoples on board that particular cruise, and we were a tiny little island surrounded, at least four to one, by Germans. 

When you are in a small group on a ship for all those days, you tend to find out much of what there is to know about your fellow travelers. Brian, our raconteur, proved to be one of those people you’d like to talk to for hours.
He could see out of only one eye, so he’d sawn a WWII pair of submariner’s binoculars in half, and used just the one piece to view the passing coastal scenery. He was happy to say that he had another one just like it at home.
He regaled us with wonderful stories during the trip, and later when we visited with him and his wife in England. The story we both remember best, one a lot more elaborate than I can recount here, was the one about his first trip to India. He told us how his host’s first order of business when he arrived there was to take him to see a doctor. The British, no matter where they are, do like to tipple, and he couldn’t have a drink without first having papers to show that he was a “certified inebriate”, and medically required to imbibe.

¿Que Pasa?
To me, the best comedians were true raconteurs. I am not at all familiar with the world of comedy today. In this world of too many choices there is no way I can know all that’s ‘out there’ in TV land. My favorites will always be those of yesteryear and the post-radio comedians world of variety television. With just a hand-full of stations to ‘surf’, and a handy TV Guide, we got to see and know all the shows and stars. I was not so much a fan of the slap-stick, clowning school of comedians like Red Skelton or Martin and Lewis. Yes, I might laugh, but there was something clever missing with their brand of humor. To me the best comedians were true raconteurs. I loved the story tellers: Shelly Berman (“Please Alka Seltzer, don’t fizz!”) or Bob Newhart and his Buttoned Down Mind, George Carlin, the hippie-dippie weatherman, and the gentle, wise, Bill Cosby.

Two of the well-known comedians of that TV era were “Lonesome” George Gobel, and the ever acerbic Don Rickles. I’ve got my own tale to recount about those two. Within the space of about a year I was taken to see shows in which each of them starred. I first saw Gobel at a dinner theater in Windsor, Ontario. I’d always liked his TV act, especially the stories about his wife Alice, and I looked forward to the show. I guess his TV act and his stage acts were poles apart, because the stuff that night was absolutely “wash your mouth out with soap” filthy. Not funny at all, and so disappointing.  

A while later I saw Don Rickles at the Westbury Theater on Long Island. Knowing of his razor-sharp wit and fast come-backs, I expected the unexpected, and I got it. His show was fast-paced and funny, and with just one slightly suggestive but clever line. He realized what he’d just said, and remembered who he’d seen in his audience: a man who had brought along a kid who looked to be about twelve years old. He turned to the guy – this was a theater in the round - and said: “You brought him, you explain it to him.” The audience howled with approval.
I’m delighted that the best bits from my favorite raconteurs are all out there on YouTube. When (when?) I get the time and the inclination they are all there for me to see again and again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


It's another dreary day here in the Carolinas (dreich, as Tania Kindersley would say in her wonderful blog Backwards in High Heels) To say our weather has been a bit strange for January is putting it mildly because mild it has been. This morning it was 62. On Saturday and Sunday the highs were 80 and 79, according to our electronic outdoor thermometer that keeps track of such things.  Those are weird temperatures for January here, and the winter blahs are running rampant.

This morning though I saw a ray of sunshine, so to speak. Alexandra in her blog Ropcorn, reports that today is Tulipanens Dag - Tulip Day - in Sweden.  She says it's a new tradition that welcomes spring. I'd think that spring was over two months away up there, but I'm sure they're eager to embrace whatever helps chase away the winter blues.  I can think of nothing cheerier than a great bunch of tulips, can you?

Friday, January 11, 2013


        Well, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write “the Great American Novel.” There are so many already, and I think I’ve read most of them. There’s my problem: I love to read.  What with life and everything that goes with it, the saying “so many books, so little time” certainly applies to me.  My husband’s always commenting: “never mind reading, write one!”  Yeah, sure!   

No, not this one. I'm not too sure, never having read it,
how great it might be.

       I must admit that on certain sleepless nights I have thought about writing something longer than one of these essays, but by the time I really got into the story I was asleep, and by the time I woke up the whole thing was forgotten.  Now I keep a pad and lighted pen (a great invention!) right by the bed.  Unfortunately for the world, it’s too late to retrieve my magnum opus from the depths of dreamland.  A few words jotted down fairly legibly are enough to fuel an essay, but would never be enough to start a fire under a novel.  However, the other night I had an idea: a generic starter for several novels: “Grandma grounded you, did she?”
       Or was it Grandpa, or Dad who did?  Who is speaking?  Mom, a brother, Auntie Em? Who is being spoken to? An eighteen-year-old, an eight-year-old?  Where are they?  What time of day? What season?  Above all, what was done wrong?  What are the consequences?  The permutations of the situation are endless.
      I’m guessing that that is how many of these modern churners-out-of-novels do it: they use a formula.  Never mind the old “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl” shtick.  Too easy.  They must be using something like my basic generic starter, playing around with the characters and circumstances, and they’re getting rich doing it.  Egad!  There must be starters for everything from modern romances to horror tales to spy novels.
     C.S. Forester wrote:"A man who writes for a living does not have to go anywhere in particular, and he could rarely afford to if he wanted.” Years ago the lesson was “write what you know.” I think I could have happily learned to write what I knew while traveling the world. If I’d wanted to send the characters to Hong Kong or Stockholm, I’d just have had to check it out first.  Couldn’t have the characters wandering down streets that aren’t there or eating in restaurants that don’t exist, could I?  All that lovely travel would all be in the name of research, and today it would be tax deductible. Just think of the sight-seeing tours, the dining out, the shopping. Oh, the possibilities! 

    I’ve gleaned a few essays from my travels, but not the great novel. Frankly, I wasn’t even thinking about a novel when I was traveling. I realize I’ve always been destined to be a reader. What would authors do without folks like me?

P.S. Feel free to use my generic starter.
One never knows what you might write!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


The new year is eight days old, and I am delighted to say that the glut of inane emails seems to have stopped now that everyone is back to what passes for normal life.  I never get too many emails in my "friends and family" account on any given day – some days there are none – but during the busy December holidays it seemed like many of the folks I know were passing on whatever drivel came into their own inboxes.  Didn’t they have better things to do?  I felt as though I’d soon be drowning in emails about cute animals, cute kiddies, Christmas ditties, prayers or letters that have to be passed on to twenty-three others within three days or my teeth will fall out, and jocular advice for the elderly. I’ll always pass on that last type: I’m elderly and it’s usually no joke. And chain emails? - Delete, Delete, Delete – that’s my motto.

I’ve always wondered who is taking the time to amass all the pictures, sayings, jokes, and such that go into one of these emails.  I know for certain that it isn’t the folks sending them to me in particular.  I have this vision of some guy sitting in his cubicle at his desk, supposedly doing his regular job, but cheating on the boss by making up useless emails.  I also have visions of the space wasted on saving this trash among all the employee emails in many company data banks.  Back in the seventies I was the boss of a small bank’s bookkeeping and computer department.  I was strict enough about personal phone calls - I’d have had a conniption if I’d caught one of the staff wasting the bank’s time on creating and sending, or even reading and sending on such stuff as these trashy emails.  Being the boss today would probably drive me bonkers.

Mollie Sugden
                 “And I am unanimous in this!”

Friday, January 4, 2013


I am sometimes very glad that we’ve not got the power to read each other’s minds.  Surely I wouldn’t be thinking this way if we did have the power, but there are so many times that I want to shout at people, tell them off, tell them what I think of their conduct or attitudes.  Not nice, not nice, I know. 

I am invariably polite.  You’ll rarely hear me say, for instance “I like that dress,” or “I like that haircut.”  What I’ll say will be something like “What a dress!” or “That haircut is you!”  There’s a subtle difference there, and there’s no point in antagonizing some poor being who’s probably trying her best.  I do try my own best, and it may not suit everyone else.
There’s a lovely saying, attributed to Elsie de Wolfe: “Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you.”  Sometimes I’ve had to be gracious until my teeth hurt!
I knew a gal once, a friend of a friend, and she and I got talking about people we have no use for.  She said she wished she had a magic finger that she could point, just like a kid uses his forefinger and points it like a gun, and just cock the thumb trigger, and ‘poof’, they’d be gone. I’ve been mulling over the idea ever since we had that conversation. I suppose it’s good we don’t have this ability.  It’s a simplistic solution - and just think of the possible ramifications - but don’t you too sometimes wish you had a magic finger like that? (other than that finger?) 
But then, I wonder who might use that magic finger on me?  I’d better watch my p’s and q’s.