Monday, August 21, 2017

Remembering Jerry Lewis

As I'm sure you are aware, on Sunday, August 20, the world lost a comedy legend. Jerry Lewis passed away at the age of 91. 

Because Lewis and his work was a part of my life, I feel I must take his passing as an opportunity to reflect on the many hours of laughs and entertainment he provided for me over the past 57 years. This post is my tribute to the life of Jerry Lewis.  

Because they are so readily available through the internet, along the way, I will be sharing some of my favorite clips from Jerry Lewis movies. 

The most successful portion of Jerry Lewis' career began just after WWII and continued until I was about 12 years old. I only got to see him in a movie at the theater once. But thanks to the wonder of television I got to enjoy his movies just the same. 

As I was growing up, if Jerry Lewis was on TV it was on at our house. His movies, both those with Dean Martin, and those he starred in alone, were iconic to us.

Back then TV was the only access to old movies so when a Jerry Lewis movie was on it was almost always "must see TV".  

First in his career was the 10 years of success he experienced as part of a team with Dean Martin.   
My favorites Martin & Lewis movies were: Never Too Young, The Stooge, and Living It Up. 

Here's a link to a You Tube clip of my favorite moment from "Never To Young". Lewis plays Wilbur Hoolig a grown man pretending to be a 12 year old boy. He's being chased by both a love struck girl and a villain played by Raymond Burr. He ends up on stage with Dean Martin and the Interstate Choir:
Martin & Lewis: I Like To Hike

Here's a clip from "The Stooge". Lewis plays Ted Rogers who becomes part of Dean Martin's act. Martin & Lewis In "The Stooge"

"Living It Up" is my favorite Martin/Lewis film. Part of the reason is that Janet Leigh is their costar. But the plot is so 1950s that it's very entertaining.   

Lewis plays Homer Flagg a railroad worker from Jackson Hole, New Mexico who, along with his doctor (Martin) pretends that he is terminally ill with radiation poisoning, just to get a free trip to New York. 

Here are a couple of You Tube clips. One shows Lewis' talent as a dancer and the other is a song that is vintage Martin/Lewis. 

Homer Flagg Dances In "Living It Up"

Martin & Lewis In Living It Up

I liked Jerry Lewis' solo performances in: The Geisha Boy, Rock A Bye Baby, and of course the outstanding, Nutty Professor. Not only were those films classic comedies; they also showcased Lewis' range as an actor. 

My mother and sister loved "The Geisha Boy". They cracked up laughing every time they saw it. In this clip, Lewis plays a magician traveling on a plane with his rabbit. The Geisha Boy

"Rock A Bye Baby" is the film that has Lewis singing the song "Rock A Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody". It gave him his only Top 10 pop hit in 1956. But my favorite song from the film is a song that Clayton Pool (Lewis) sings to the triplets left in his care. In this clip, the babies' grandfather joins in with their caretaker. It shows Lewis' ability to effectively be the exact opposite of his typical character. Jerry Lewis/Rock A Bye Baby

The last movie clip I want to share with you is from "The Nutty Professor". 

Julius Goes To The Gym

My cousin Gary, my best friend growing up, loved the Nutty Professor character, Julius Kelp... much that he once impersonated him for a summer camp group picture.  

I've got one final clip I want to share with you from a Jerry Lewis movie. 

In "Who's Minding The Store" Lewis performs my single favorite bit of his career: a pantomime to the Leroy Anderson composition, The Typewriter Song.

While searching through You Tube for the clips you just watched, I discovered that you can also find full length versions of most of Lewis' movies. I plan on going back and watching them myself over the next few weeks. 

Of course, the thing that I will always remember Jerry Lewis for, mostly, is his many years as host of the MDA Labor Day Telethon. 
In 2008, I wrote a blog post all about how much the annual program, which he hosted for 43 years, meant to me and my family. Here's a link to that post:
Jerry Lewis Telethon: A Labor Day Tradition

Jerry Lewis' last significant movie role was in 1982, as Jerry Lanford, a late night talk show host who gets kidnapped, in Martin Scorsese's "King of Comedy." 
A movie that starred Robert Dinero. It was the only time I saw Jerry Lewis on screen in the theater. I really liked the film and it put the name "Rupert Pupkin" forever in my brain. 

Earlier I mentioned Jerry Lewis' biggest pop hit that was included in "Rock A Bye Baby." In the 1980s when I became a fan of the Dr. Demento show on the radio, I discovered another recording by Jerry that was more typical of the zany Lewis style. It was called:
Sunday Driving. Click the link to listen. 

A few years after moving to Kentucky, I read a book by Jerry Lewis called "Dean and Me". It got me interested in seeing more of their performances other than their movies. I bought a 4 DVD set that had a lot of clips from Martin & Lewis hosting the Colgate Comedy Hour on NBC in the 1950s. 

I've included a link to a full episode of this program from November 1950. It's 40 minutes long so you might not want to watch all of it. But if you do you will see that this is a typical example of what Martin & Lewis were like together. 

Also it gives you an idea of what TV was like back in its infancy. Take notice that opening credits list "All In The Family" creator, Norman Lear, as one of the show's writers.  
Colgate Comedy Hour Circa 1950

I also remember a TV show that Lewis did by himself when I was really young. Here's a clip of him singing a song to a puppet, Bobo the clown. It's was his show's theme song and still one I always connect to him.
Jerry Lewis Sings "Smile"

I hadn't seen or heard much from Jerry Lewis since he left his position with the MDA back in 2011. 

A couple of years ago, I also saw a very good biographical documentary on PBS a few years ago. It highlighted Lewis' innovations as a film maker. Occasionally, I would see him do a TV interview.  You could tell by looking at him that his health was declining. 
  My most recent encounter with Jerry Lewis came during my recent tour of the Fabulous Fox Theater in St. Louis. 

In one of the backstage dressing rooms was a mural left by the 1997 national touring company of the revival of the play "Damn Yankees". 
It starred Jerry Lewis. Just to the left of my shoulder in this picture is Lewis' autograph. 

As a fan of his entire career, naturally, I was saddened by the news of Jerry Lewis' death on Sunday. But it also took me back a bit because it was the same day as the 18th anniversary of the day my father died as well. 

I don't remember my dad being a huge Jerry Lewis fan but I do know that he really liked his typerwriter routine. Although I think of and miss my dad a lot on August 20th, watching that clip earlier made me miss him even more. 

I want to conclude this post with one final tribute to Jerry Lewis. It's the You Tube clip from Labor Day 2010. It was the last time Jerry Lewis hosted the MDA telethon. He closed it out with his signature song. The clip is a little long but the part I want you to see is between the 3:04 and 5:07 mark. It was the way he ended the show every year. This time he barely gets through it. 
Jerry Lewis: You'll Never Walk Alone

Thank You Jerry Lewis for all you have meant to me, my family, and friends. You were one of a kind. Your legacy will always be the hours and hours of laughs and entertainment you've left behind for us all. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Going Back Part 1: On The Road

Yes, I am back!! It's been over a week since I posted that I was going on a break. Now I can share with you exactly what that break was. 

For the first time in 7 years I went back to the Pennsylvania/New Jersey to visit my family & friends. This was a solo trip whose purpose was attending this year's family reunion. More on that later in this series. 

To start things off I would like to share with you some of my travels and how I made the solo trip across 4 states to visit the places where I spent my first 38 years. 

I made the 750 mile trek from south central Kentucky to the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania on Thursday August 10. Here is a link to a video I shot along the way. BTW, this was shot safely and hands free using a dash mounted phone.  Movin Right Along I-71

I ran into some construction delays on the Kentucky side of Cincinnati. You can see the bumper-to-bumper traffic in front of me, the Riverfront area sign on the right, and Paul Brown Stadium in the distance on the left. 
After I got through the slow down in Cincy, it was mostly smooth sailing all the way through to Pennsylvania. I stopped a couple of times along the way to get a drink, fill the car's gas tank, and other things. My choice of places included truck stops, Cracker Barrels, and Speedway convenience stores. 

I ran into a bit more of a delay between the Pennsylvania state line and the turnpike. But I passed the time by listening to a baseball game on the radio. The Reds made an unlikely late inning comeback against the Padres. It was an afternoon game played at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, which I had passed earlier in the day. 

The PA turnpike was the next to the last leg of my trip. If you've never traveled it before let me tell you that there is a series of tunnels that you have to go through. In the middle of the day it makes for a cool transition. Here's a quick video I shot. 
After a rest stop at one of the service plazas, I got off the turnpike at Carlisle. I ran into some more construction along Rt 81. But once I got on Interstate 78 it was clear sailing to Easton. 

I parked in front of my sister, Peggy's house on Berwick Street at 8:30 EDT. That was 12 1/2 hours after leaving the grove. I was tired but not exhausted like I usually am on such a long trip. 

Let me quickly skip ahead to four days later. It's Monday August 14 at 7AM. I have checked out of my hotel and stopped at my sister, Shari's house. She lives right near the I-78 on ramp so I stop to say "good-bye". 

My drive back home is pretty much the same as the one the previous Thursday. The only exception was that due to a lousy night's rest, I was rather tired. I yawned a lot during the first few hours on the road. 

On my way through Columbus I was getting a little road weary. I took a bit of a detour north of the city to find the Lego Store in the area. This would give me a much needed break. 

I was a little curious about the store. When I got into the area I received a double surprise. The first was that my GPS was guiding me to a town called "Easton".  
The second was that the Lego Store was part of a very large shopping area called "Town Center". It was very much like the "Commons" area Paula and I spent time at while in Destin, Fl this past may. 

Here's a bird's eye view of the fountain that's the centerpiece of the area.
I found a parking spot and, after asking directions from a family eating on a restaurant's outdoor patio, found the Lego Store. There was a fun "Lego Friends" sculpture sitting outside. 
The store was sold out of the Najago Movie mini-figures I was looking for so I came away empty handed. 

As I mentioned, the Town Center was quite a place. Here's a link to a video I shot just looking around.  Easton Town Center

My wife and I have talked about taking a weekend trip to Columbus sometime to visit their famous zoo. Now, that I know there's a nice shopping area to visit as well. 

Rush hour traffic and yet another construction detour made getting through Cincinnati quite a chore but soon I was back on track heading down 71 toward Louisville. 

A quick trip on the Gene Snyder Parkway around Louisville got me on my final leg of my trip; an 80 mile drive on I-65 South. 

I pulled into my driveway at close to 7:30PM CDT; making my travel time getting home close to the same as the drive there. 

My total mileage for the entire adventure was just under 1700 miles. 
So there you some of the details of my time on the road during my "Going Back Home" trip this past week. 

Now that I've shared the details of my travel time, the next few posts are going to share what I did during my stay. 

That includes revisiting some of my childhood hangouts, "stepping" back in time, meeting some family & friends again after many years, and going back to a unique church. Come on back and I'll be happy to share the details. See you again soon. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

B4 "The Break"

I've been doing my best to publish posts as over the last few weeks. I've currently have 3 posts I'm working on all at the same time. I've got ideas for a couple more that I want to share with you. But I'm afraid that those are going to have to wait. 

Once again I am going to be taking a bit of break.  

What I will be doing during that time will give me even more material for creating content for future posts. I'll be seeing places and visiting people I haven't seen in a long time.

But before the break, I want to share a few things from the last week or so. 

Last Thursday, while shopping at the Sam's Club I ran into someone I never expected to see in Bowling Green, comedian Rik Roberts. 
 Rik's been in the comedy business for over 20 years. He tours the country doing stand-up in clubs and motivational speaking engagements. 

He also runs the School of Laughs which features comedy writing and performance classes in Nashville and online. 

And if that's not enough he also puts out a bi-weekly School of Laughs podcast. You can find all about Rik and the many facets of his career on his website:  School of

The great thing about Rik is that he's really just a regular guy. A family man and a man of faith. We stood in the middle of Sam's Club talking about stand up comedy, family vacations, strange observations about Disney movies, and more. 

Thanks for hanging with me, Rik. Hopefully, one day we can sit and have an even longer conversation. 

There's a new Lego element in my home office. I already have a pencil holder like this one... 
...and some small Lego boxes... part of my desk set up. A couple of weeks ago I added this. 

It's a perpetual calendar that can help me keep track of the date as I'm working at my computer or recording a Rewind program. 

In a couple of posts over the last couple of months, I've made it a point to show you the changes happening in the town where I live. 

Recently there's been indication of a change that is literally close to home. When I say "close" I mean right next door. 

In the lot that's just left of our house there are now wooden stakes with red flags on them.  

As the son of a surveyor, I know that these markers are indicators of property lines. 

I have learned that these are there because the landowner plans on building a house on this lot. This will be something new, and not necessarily, a welcome change for us.

We've always enjoyed having the open space next to us. It kind of gave us a sense of privacy. But what can you do? I'll keep you informed of just what's going on as this situation develops. 

The phrase "Just like Mom used to make" came into play for me this past weekend. At my request, my wife, made me a batch of blueberry muffins from a Jiffy mix. 
My mom used to make these for my dad, my sister, and me when I was a kid. I hadn't had them in decades. Eaten warm from the oven with some melted butter they brought back memories of my parents. They weren't the best muffins I've ever had but they were loaded with nostalgia. Thanks for the treat, Sweetheart. 

Last year at this time we were in the midst of converting one of the two rooms in the back of our house into Paula's office. This year we are working on the other room in preparation for making in our new bedroom. 

We've been using it for a storage room the last couple of years. So over the weekend we sorted through the boxes and moved all the furniture out so that it can be painted later this week. 

Just for reference purposes here's the "before" picture. The room still looks pretty cluttered but believe me, it's a lot better than it was. 

The empty closet in the background is a major accomplishment in and of itself. 

A lot of the stuff we sorted through made it's way to the Good Will store or other places. Some of it is stashed in other areas of the house. We will decide what to do with it some time in the near future. 

I will share the "after" look for this room once the painting project is complete. 

I forgot to mention this in the middle of last month but this little guy, my grandson, turned 9 month old on July 19. 
Now, not many people make a big deal when a child turns 9 months old but I do. I figure it's significant that he's "been out as long as he was in". But that's just me. 

Anyway, Gabriel is crawling now and starting to walk while holding on to furniture. Pretty soon, we'll have to put things up so he can't reach them when he comes to visit. Based on my experience that means putting it up twice at high as we think he can reach. 

Last but not least comes a milestone that seems to have come out of nowhere but was bound to happen. 
My grand daughter, who has been my little sweetheart for the last 5 years started school this week. 

I talked to her through a video chat, on the morning of her first day. She seemed excited and a bit anxious at the same time. That's one thing I love about her. She's always anxious to experience new things. 

A year and a half ago in a post on my Goofy Guy blog I described the feelings I experienced when I saw Aria in the Magic Kingdom for the first time as: "an overwhelming emotional appreciation of a special moment." On the morning of August 9, I had that same feeling but doubled. 

I look forward to sharing the things she discovers with her. But I can't help but realize how fast time passes when you're not looking. 

There you have a few of the things I wanted to share with you before the break. Keep watching my Facebook feed or check back here for more posts in the near future. I promise it'll be worth it. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Fabulous Fox-Part 2

Welcome to my 2nd and final post devoted to the Fabulous Fox Theater in St. Louis, MO. 

I know it seems like I've been going on and on about this amazing place. How-ever, no matter how much I share with you on this blog, I can't truly convey the magnificence of this building.  

It has a 90 year history is filled with fortune, fame and an amazing resurgence. I'm not going to give you all the details here. Here's a link to what one source has to say. Fox Theater History

My goal in this 2nd post is to take you on a review of the tour that we took on the Saturday we were in town. 

This was a 2 1/2 hour tour with stops in just about every nook and cranny of this theater. I want to share as much of it as I can. So this is going to be a very detailed post with plenty of pictures. 

As you may recall, the tour started with a quick side trip to a newly built area of the theater. A lounge named, "Curtain Call" on the left side of the building. 

This is a shot that shows some of the posters and tables. 

Here are a couple more posters.

This shot taken through the archway that divides the split level room, shows the black piano. It's kind of hard to see. Look closely on the left. There's a candle setting on top of it. 
 And of course, no lounge would be complete without a full bar to provide the libations before or after the show. 

 Curtain Call reminded me of what a speak easy from prohibition days might have looked like. The posters give it that international touch. 

Once we were led back into the lobby, the large group was divided into 2 smaller ones each with their own tour guide. Our guide was an older gentleman named "Ted. S." Let me say from the very start that this guy knew his stuff. You could tell he had a passion and appreciation for the theater. I'm just sorry I didn't get a picture with him. 

We started out by filing into the showroom being directed to find a seat somewhere in the first few rows. One of the special touches is the back of the seats were embroidered. 

On the way down the aisle my head was on a swivel as I tried to take in all I could from this vantage point in the theater. Here are pictures of my two favorite views: The chandelier & ceiling... 
 ...and the raised stage curtain. 
There will be a better view of the facade above the stage later.

Sitting spaced out so everyone could have an unobstructed the front of the stage, our group got ready to see an integral part of The Fox Theater. Something that is only included on the Saturday version of the tour. 

An element that was just as impressive on this day as it was when it made it's debut on January 31, 1929. That's the day The Fox opened it's doors. 

Words cannot adequately describe this object. I have to show it to you. 

Because of the limitations of the blogspot website, I had to put the videos on You Tube. The first link is just below. First, I have a couple of things to tell you about it. 

The music you hear is being played live. It takes about 30 seconds for you to see just where it's coming from. But its worth the wait. Here's the link:
The Best Thing At The Fox

The organist, Jack Moelmann...
...was a talented and humorous host for this introduction to and demonstration of one of the hidden secrets of The Fox. 

Here are a couple more You Tube videos of the moments that had me mesmerizedThe Fox Theater Organ

Jack Moelmann Plays Music That's Not From "Phantom"

As part of his talk with us, Mr. Moelmann proudly announced that in his younger days he served in the U.S. Air Force. 

He then led us in a sing-along of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" followed by a verse of "America The Beautiful". 

Standing there singing those songs accompanied by that organ was so much fun. I loved it. 

After the sing-a-long was finished we were guided out of the showroom. We headed up to the 4th floor. 
Don't worry we took the very stylish elevator. We started at the top and worked our way down. 

A hallway at the top of the theater is a special area devoted to the history of the shows that have come to the theater. 

It's known as "Peacock Alley" because there is a peacock overhead at each end. 
 Along the sides of this hallway is a series of collages. Each is a composite of the shows that played the theater in a specific year ever since it's reopening in 1982. 
Also on the 4th floor was a special tribute that gave me a "Wow, I never knew that" moment. 

When I was growing up, Stan Kann was the very funny guy who appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and other talk shows. He would bring on inventions or gadgets that never worked right or fell apart. 

These "malfunctions" initially happened by accident during his initial appearance with Carson. Check out this link:
Kann On The Tonight Show

But, as you can see, his misfortunes quickly turned into his gimmick. Here's a link to a clip of one of his typical talk show appearances.Stan Kann With Bill Cosby

But this display paid tribute to Mr. Kann, a native St. Louis resident, for his many years as the official organist of the Fabulous Fox Theater. 

Among St. Louisians, he is considered a cultural legend and a master musician. 

It just goes to show you that you never know what you don't know. There's a lot more to share about Stan Kann. I'll be doing that in a future post. 

Next we worked our way down to the next level. Here's a unique look down through the theater's spiraling stairs. 
Our next stop was on a floor that's somewhat exclusive. It's the Fox Club level. 
This is the level that is for those special theater supporters. Among the perks is the availability of an exclusive lounge. 
The Fox Lounge has a full bar and food available. It's a place for Fox Club members to sit and have a drink after the show or something to eat before. There's several balcony tables that over look the theater lobby. 
Fox Club members also have their own luxury box seating area in the showroom. It is on what is normally considered a mezzanine level and gives you a great view of the stage.  
You can also order food and drinks from the wait staff throughout the performance.

Sounds great right? But you'd better get out your wallet. A full season membership for a group of 4 seats costs over $34,000. I think I'll pass.  

During our time in these luxury boxes I took this shot of the full sized elephant's head that's above the stage. 
Also, as promised, here's a shot of the entire stage. This is the view from the seats at the Fox Club level. 
Once we left the lap of luxury, our guide stopped us on the 2nd floor and had us look over a balcony at the showroom vestibule for us to see this. 
Ted explained that we were looking down at the Fox's ghost light. 

He told us that, traditionally, it is kept burning at all times to keep away the condition of total darkness in the theater. Supposedly this would keep the theater's ghosts quiet when the place is empty.  

Although he has never seen any, there are other people who work in the theater who claim to have encountered The Fox's resident haunts. 

He went on about them a little too long for me. My guess was that he was trying to promote interest in the "Ghost Tours" they have around Halloween.  

We took the elevator down to the basement and after a quick stop in the screening room headed for the stage. 

On our journey through the basement passage ways and rooms we were introduced to a Fox Theater tradition. 

Since it reopened 1982, any act or show, or company that performs at The Fox leaves their mark on the walls in the hallways of backstage area. This is usually done with a painted logo or representation unique to the show and signed by the cast.

There are hundreds of these works of arts throughout the theater. They are every where you look. Here is a video spanning just one of the many rooms with walls covered with this commemorative art work. 
Here are some of my favorites. 

Paula liked this display that was painted on the back of a stairwell because it included real branches. 
And we were both impressed with this memento left behind by the great comic Red Skelton. 
Finally, after snaking through the basement and backstage area it was time to step onto the stage. 

We were fortunate enough that no show was set up on the stage. That would have made it off limits. 
I thought it was really cool to be on the same stage as the hundreds of shows and artists represented by the drawings we just walked past. And of course, most recently, the two comics we had seen just 2 nights earlier, Martin & Short. 

Ted showed us, the locations of the 2 lifts. They lower a section of the stage floor down into the basement and allow sets and props to be moved during a show. He also literally showed us the ropes that allow stage crews to manually raise and lower scenery.  

We also got to see what the showroom looks like from the performers perspective. It was yet another awe inspiring view of an amazing place. 
Here's a video panning the room. You can hear our tour guide giving us instructions. I tried to get a close up view of the organ but it didn't quite work out. 
From the stage we went back up to the 4th floor where we saw the dressing rooms. After that it was back down to the main floor. 

After close to two and a half hours of exploration, we were back in the lobby. I was tired and needed to sit down. But in the Fabulous Fox Theater even sitting down can be something special. 
So there you have the highlights of our tour. It was a great time and I can't really convey the feeling of wonder and anticipation at almost every corner. 

I have only shared a small portion of what we saw on the tour and a fraction of the detail that makes the Fox a true monument to this country's past. But I had to give you at least a taste of this magnificent place. 

There are ornate and intricate details literally everywhere you look. 

I want to thank my wife, Paula, for her contribution in helping me capture some of the amazing things we saw that morning. If she hadn't taken pictures I wouldn't have been able to share them with you. 

Because my first experiences with The Fox Theater were so compelling I will make it a point to get back there the next time I'm in St. Louis. 

I sure hope you enjoyed this post and what I shared in it. I know it was extremely long, even for this blog. But I had to give you as close to a complete picture of just what a great experience it was.  

Thanks for taking the time to come by. I'll see you at my next post very soon. For now, good-bye everybody.