What I groove on

Did Dale know? What about Trigger?

santa-monica-pier-sunrise-josh-whalen   It was a beautiful Sunday morning, crisp and clear, and I was drawn to the venerable Santa Monica pier. I wanted to check on my theory (still under investigation) that the pier fishermen who dress better, will catch more fish. It pieris important when one ventures into that sector of this fair city that it is done early before the pier feels the roar of it’s juices, then proceeds to throw up on itself.

As Catalina lurked out at sea like a huge sleeping seal, I reminded myself that the island gave inspiration to the great screenwriter Robert Towne who wrote “Chinatown” at the Banning Hotel there at the Isthmus.  As I glanced north to the Pacific Palisades, I thought of Alan LeMay who wrote the book “The Searchers” which later became one of my favorite movies.  Alan wrote it from his small office behind the incorrigible “House of Lee” restaurant where I had spent hours swilling Cambodian Mules, Saucy Scorpion Bowls, and Rum Giggles.  (It was also at the House of Lee, as a young child that I was tricked by my family to take a bite of the tightly rolled hot towel thinking it was an exotic appetizer… I hope someday my trust level will return.)  The restaurant is long gone, Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 4.00.05 PMreplaced by a soulless venue. But when you think of the H.O.L., think Trader Vic’s but without any semblance of class, filled with waiters who were incurably addicted to fumbling, whose clientele were sopped with both despair and elation depending on the hour, and was run by those who had an incredible tolerance for the uneven.  The movie “The Searchers” stared John Wayne, Ward Bond (both friends of my grandparents), Jeff Hunter (who lived in the Palisades) and of course a young Natalia Niko Laevna Zacharencho (also known as Natalie Wood).  The movie also has an interesting musical connection – after seeing the movie at the State Theatre in Lubbock, Texas and hearing John Wayne’s character utter “That will be the day” four times in the movie, a young Buddy Holly was inspired to write his number one hit of the same name.

images-1Somehow this all brings me to the end of the Santa Monica pier, where the crust level increases and poorly dressed fishermen, whose hands shimmer with bait fish scales, have as much luck catching fish as a group of alley cats belting out a major cord on key.  A big smiley face with chiclets for teeth holds on to a fiddle in an old poster. His name is SpadeUnknown-2 Cooley.  Spade was huge in his day as an American Western swing band leader, actor, and television personality – hitting it big in the 40’s and 50’s. He and his band battled Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys to be “King of the Western Swing”.  In 1948 he hosted his own variety show, broadcast on KTLA from the Santa Monica Pier Ballroom, thus according to some, Unknown-3was the first variety show on television. His guests included Frankie Lane, Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, and the Chairman himself, Frank Sinatra. The Main Spade was very successful at the time, having brought in his future wife Ella Mae Evans (no relation to Dale) on vocals. He packed them in too – sometimes up to 8000 folks would come for the show and dance with their fellow bolo tie and boot crowd.  Spade gave his band members country names like Smokey Rodgers, Cactus Soldi and Pedro Depaul, even though the majority of them were cool city cats from Cleveland, Brooklyn and Milwaukee. It wasn’t till 1956 that Spade’s ratings suffered because of the new guy on TV, Lawrence Welk .

imagesSpade bought a huge pad out in isolated Willow Springs, in the Antelope Valley, where he parked Ella Mae and the kids. AfterUnknown-1 seeing the success of Disneyland, Spade wanted to make a huge water park on his property called “Water Wonderland.”  That didn’t work out and Spade’s world started to unravel.  The marriage between he and Ella was going down the toilet due to Spade becoming a huge booze bag and the wandering eyes of both Spade and Ella. It all came to a head when Ella confessed to an affair with Roy Rodgers (did Dale know? Did Trigger know?) It was April 3, 1961, and Spade’s jealous rampages meant bad news for Mrs. Cooley. He beat her, interrogated her, burned her with his cigarettes, and eventually killed her. The authorities were called and the dark-souled Spade was sent to the Big House – found guilty of murder by his peers after using the old “fell in the shower” line to explain Ella’s beat up body and cig burns. (Has that “fell in the shower” excuse ever worked ?)

scjailSpade was sent to San Quentin then to a softer Vacaville prison where he was a model prisoner.  Ron Reagan became governor of Cal in 1966, waved his magic wand, and Spade was going to be a free man. In 1969 the parole board voted unanimously to parole the country crooner effective on his 60th birthday. He did less than nine years for killing his wife. Four months before his release, Spade was granted a 4 day furlough to perform in Oakland at a benefit concert for the Sheriffs department. The crowd loved his performance and from the side of the stage he remarked “I think it’s all going to work out for me. I have a feeling that today is the first day of the rest of my life.”  WRONGO (my Dad’s saying) – Spade grabbed his chest, dropped his fiddle and fell dead at the age of 59 of a heart attack.

So what did we learn from a trip to the pier on a Sunday morn?  That Roy Rodgers was not as squeeky clean as his wife Dale Evans or his horse Triggerimages-4 had hoped,  that the ” fell in the shower” excuse never works (Greg Hardy), that you can call a Spade a spade, and that the theory that nicely dressed fishermen catch more fish is still being explored and tabulated. Groove.


Let us drink wine and escape for a moment or two


campThe word escape means different things to different people. Escape could mean getting away from something that curdles the blood and hazes one’s judgement. It could mean getting away from a loveless marriage or a life baked hardpan hard.  And it can also mean escaping from a World War II prison camp with the help of the world’s most famous board game, Monopoly.

Aaaaahhh Monopoly…  Who hasn’t spent a few pleasant hours trying to steal Monopolyimages-1 cash when your sisters aren’t looking or perhaps sprucing up some of those ill gained properties with a few stolen green houses or red hotels….then watch as the sisters grovel – unable to pay the exorbitant rent that you charge…and then see them curse their unfortunate choices of the thimble, the joyless iron, or that little yapping Scotty dog.  Okay, none of that actually happened (I’m pretty sure), but the point being, is that we’ve all enjoyed the game.  It began to be mass marketed in 1934 and I’m sure there are some of us who recoiled in horror and disbelief upon hearing the plans to replace the Scotty, the race horse, the hat, the wheelbarrow, the imagesshoe, the battleship, and of course the thimble. (The new pieces have been chosen, but their lameness prevents listing.)

During WW2 large numbers of British airmen found themselves in POW camps trying to figure out how to escape.XIB_BU3856  Well, here comes the Monopoly angle: Germany, in a rare nod to the Geneva Convention, allowed humanitarian groups to distribute care packages to the prisoners and one of the items allowed in those packages were “games and pastimes.”  So the British came up with fake charities that sent Monopoly games to the prisoners. The games were licensed to the British, so instead of having streets from Atlantic City like the American game, the British ones had streets from London.  Carefully placed inside the boards were escape tools like tiny compasses that could fit on the fingertip, metal files, German money which was mixed into the Monopoly money, and most important, silk maps (silk because they were hardier than paper, wouldn’t tear easily or desolve if wet and they didn’t make noise.) Royal Air Force flyers were told that if there was a red dot in the free parking area of the board that it was a “special edition” with the escape tools within.  It is estimated monopoly_wwii_silk_escape_map_-_credit_phil_orbanes_0that more than 35,000 P.O.W’s successfully escaped from prison camps with approximately 1/3 using the rigged Monopoly sets. In a way this gives new meaning to the “get out of jail free” card.  Unfortunately, there are none of these special boards in existence because the airmen were told to destroy the boards in order to keep the secret from the Germans. Escape they did with the help of the escape tools and old Rich Uncle Pennybags (that’s the name of the chubby guy with the stash and the top hat who is always so happy ) .

Escape can mean many things. Some want to escape reality, some want to escape a mundane existence.  Some want to escape the sin-then-repent cycle, some want to escape the necessity of choice. But for many of us, you can never escape

YUM! wear 309

the want and need for a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken or a pair of Double Doubles with grilled onions and a fry pack when you’re hung over. Groove.

Come On Over For Some Booze, Steak and Abdominal Thrusts

IMG_4001[1]There are some things I am good at, but there are many things at which I am a complete failure. As much as I have tried, I’ve been unable to bring in velour as a staple fabric for Men’s clothing, I cannot open a string cheese package to save my life (I now use a combination of various saws, pliers and a blow torch), and despite a concerted effort on my part, to this day nobody calls me Commodore. But, one day a few years ago, I did do something right. I successfully administered the Heimlich maneuver on a very good friend of mine when he was choking on a piece of steak.

It is not an uncommon practice for me to gather friends around and chew on chucks of meat while consuming alcohol,DSCN1431 and thus it was on a sunny day in the backyard when my very good friend and a wonderful gent Big Joe Smith (Titanic to some…when he goes down he takes others with him) suddenly rose from the table, turned blueprint blue, and indicated that the ribeye had not found its rightful home. A clogged pipe it was.  So I sprang into action (anyone who knows me, knows I never ever spring into any action) and I got behind Big Joe, did the pointy thumb thing into his solar plexus (or there abouts), and let her rip. Out came a piece of steak the size of Mickey Rooney, which sailed across the yard at the speed of a Nike missile landing somewhere on Wilshire Blvd.  Joe seemed fine so we threw down more booze and ate more meat.

Dr.-Henry-Heimlich1So what is the deal with the Heimlich? Well, Dr. Henry Heimlich lives in Cincinnati, and as of this writing he is 95 years old.  He is wierdly related to some very cool people (perhaps not). First of all, he is the uncle of Anson Williams, better known as “Potsie” from the 70’s TV show “Happy Days” and secondly, his father-in-law is ballroom-dancing entrepreneur Arthur Murray. (The



pressure on the first dance at their wedding had to be enormous.)  Hank first published his views on the Heimlich maneuver in June of 1974.  Shortly after that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that a retired restaurant-owner used the

Arthur Murray

Arthur Murray

procedure to rescue a choking victim and since then it has been reported to have saved thousands of lives. From 1976 to 1985 the choking – rescue guidelines of the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association taught rescuers to first perform a series of back blows and if that didn’t work then use the Heimlich maneuver . From 1986 to 2005 the AHA and the ARC dropped the hard blows to the back and only recommended the Heimlich Maneuver.

But for some reason Doc H. hopped on the train to Wierdsville and believe me he made it to themalaria2 station on time. He started saying the HM was a good treatment for drownings and strongly recommended Malariotherapy (the deliberate infection of a person with benign malaria) to treat cancer, lyme disease, and HIV. His son Peter has a website which describes what he alleges to be his father’s “wide-ranging, unseen 50 year history of fraud.”  The American Heart Association ceased referring to the “Heimlich Maneuver” now refers to it as “abdominal thrusts” and the American Red Cross is also fazing out the name “Heimlich”.

DSCN0475So who knows, soon old Doc Heimlich might drop off the face of the earth and with him goes his name connected to this mighty maneuver.  Perhaps a swift  kick to Big Joe’s undercarriage might have taken care of that Porterhouse and the maneuver was unnecessary.  So let us gather around and have a steak and booze session in our backyard, try to get meat stuck in our throats, fool around with some “abdominal thrusts” and some intense back pounding, maybe some good old self induced malaria, and see what really works. Who’s in? Groove.

On to Aqaba for some rum drinks and Cosmo Tidbits

216661751_8d4bf8a42e_mMany moons ago, when the flame of stupidity burned hotter than it does now and the call of mischief was considerably louder, I used to roll into Trader Vic’s in Beverly Hills at Merv’s place, the venerable Beverly Hilton. I images-1would throw down a river of Samoan Fog-Cutters and if the timing was right, I’d order something called  Cosmo Tidbits. Never found out who Cosmo was (Cosmo Topper ?), but I always enjoyed his tidbits:images-6
crispy rolls of Asian delights, ribs bathed in red dye number 2, enough deep fried grooves to make Orson Wells cry with happiness and perfect if you’re a quart low.

images-2So in honor of Cosmo here are a couple of History’s tidbits:  1) Lawrence of Arabia was called Ned by his family (Ned of Arabia?) and only became famous after WWI because he was featured in a 1919  lecture tour by American war corespondent Lowell Thomas. Unlike the 6 foot 3 inch Peter O’Toole who portrayed him in the 1962 epic “Lawrence of Arabia” (the film is unusual because there are no women with speaking credits), the real Lawrence was just 5’4″ and was very self conscience of his diminutive stature. He refused knighthood because of his belief that the British government betrayed the Arabs, but he did join both the Royal tank corp and the Royal Air Force under assumed names to dodge the glare of celebrity and lived under assumed names until his death. Lawrence images-3worked for and became great friends with Winston Churchill, who upon hearing of Ned’s passing said  “I deem him one of the greatest beings alive in our time.”  Lawrence died in a motorcycle accident in 1936 at the age of 46 and the surgeon who tried to save his life, Dr. Hugh Cairns, then developed some of the first crash helmets for motorcycle riders.

images-52) The Statue of Liberty’s full name is Liberty Enlightening the World, or as I call her, Lew.  She was given to us as a gift from France in 1886 and was designed by Fred Bartholdi. Lew’s shoe size is a 879 wide. Gus Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame (1889) was the cat who built the metal frame workAssembling the Statue of Liberty (1) that holds the copper skin of Lew. Gus was later found guilty of misappropriation of funds during France’s failed attempt at the Panama canal, but never did a stretch in the Big House because of a technicality.  If you hold 2 pennies together that is the thickness of the copper skin on Lew (3/32 of an inch). Lew was slightly injured when some wacked out German saboteurs set off a bomb in 1916, but she shrugged it off and has been lookingAssembling the Statue of Liberty (5) really good for a gal 128 years old (a bit on the stiff side, but still very cool.)

It has been a long time since I’ve been to Trader Vic’s and perhaps it is time to return. I first went there as a young tot with my Grandpa Dan, who was a dapper gentleman, both kind and generous.  I think a few Samoan Fog-Cutters are in order, so if anyone would like to join me, please let me know.  It’s time that we throw down some sweet Rum mystery, order up a vintage-postcard-from-trader-viccouple of Cosmo Tidbits and make numerous toasts to Ned, Lew, and Granpa Dan.  Besides, right around now I am feeling a quart low. Groove.


Go Johnnie Go…the life we’ve lived

johncolterrunJohnnie, stripped of his clothes and shoes, was running naked as a jaybird, stepping on prickly pears, blood running from his nostrils as it does with racehorses when extreme exertion causes the lung tissue to hemorrhage.  Basically Johnnie was trying to escape from the maw of death.  I suppose we all have made runs such as this, in some form, at some point in our lives.  A run of shame, a hasty

Cabrini Green

Cabrini Green

yet nimble retreat down rickety back stairs;  a young, clothes clutching lad, who was running towards his certain demise at the Cabrini-Green public housing project in Chicago, scooped up by a haloed, trash truck driving savior;  the tire iron and croquet mallet wielding miscreants chasing an innocent Dodger fan through the parking lot of Jack Murphy stadium.  These events are all too common in this day and age where unshirted zealotry is coupled with a bovine lack of curiosity, where imaginations are used more than memory, and where charm and reliability rarely come in the same package .

images-1But Johnnie’s issues did not come from this day and age.  Johnnie Colter’s issues were from 1808 when this fur trapper, mountain man extraordinaire, member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and first person of European descent to enter the region now known as Yellowstone National Park, met up with some Blackfoot Indians in a liverish mood. While canoeing up the Jefferson River he and his partner John Potts ran into several hundred Blackfoot who motioned them to the side of the river.  Johnnie went ashore where he was forced to nude up by the Indians, but Potts tried to get away.images  He was riddled with arrows like a sewer’s pin-cushion and his body was brought to shore where it was hacked to small pieces. Johnnie thought his fate was going to be the same as his buddy Potts, but no. The chief, after much council, thought he would make a game of it.  Telling Johnnie to dash, it all became clear – John Colter was in for the run of his life.  He was given a two hundred yard head start then chased by 300 young warriors full of menace.  Johnnie had to hear their horrid war whoops closing in behind him and probably thought he had as much chance to outrun the young bucks as Donna Summer did getting into the images-4Rock-n-Roll hall of fame (actually she made it in 2013 ….so weird.)  He looked back and saw that the chasing Indians had scattered and he had gained ground on the main body of his pursuers with the exception of one brave who was within 50 yards. By this time he had run 6 miles and could still hear the footsteps close behind him.

Suddenly Johnnie stopped, turned around, and spread his arms. The Indian, totally surprised by the images-2suddenness of his action, and perhaps because of Johnnie’s bloody appearance, also came to a halt, but tripped and fell to the ground, his spear breaking at the blade. Johnnie grabbed the blade section and impaled the Brave onto God’s good earth. The trailing Indians saw what occurred and increased their pursuit with renewed vigor and vengeance.

Johnnie ran like few of us ever have, eventually jumping into the freezing Madison River, where he hid in cottonwoods var_mtnmanand beaver dens to survive. He walked, climbed high snow covered peaks, and ran for eleven more days, usually at night, until he finally arrived at a trading post on the Little Big Horn. His life had been won.   In the end the wild life of the Mountain Man lost its attraction, and Johnnie fell back to St. Louis where he found his wife and found his last days.

We all have friends like Johnnie who are bold with adventure, who percolate in their own vitality – and we are better for them.  We all have friends that have found themselves in difficult situations (usually self made) where things could have gone terribly wrong, but now are just good stories.  Good FriendsSome have been forced to run for their lives, either figuratively or literally, and their thunder-clap stories enhance us and shield us from the winds of normalcy.  So let us toast to the gallant, to the foolish, to those who defy slumber, to those with affections and afflictions, to those who shirk the mundane, to those who bring smiles and head shakes to us with their exploits.  So here is a toast to Johnnie Colter and to our wonderful friends. Groove

Join Us in Protest

photoLike a tasty wedding cake except without all the damn complications, Groove Central LA showed up in the Los Angeles Times sports section (in an article by the great Chris Erskine) by making a headless Bobblehead (bobbleteers) protest baseball game in the front lawn.  As diplomatic as an artillery bombardment, this statement is

In action

In action

designed to show the thirsty greed of our Los Angeles Dodgers and the inherently evil Time Warner Cable who are depriving 70 % of Los Angeles from watching Dodger

Night game

Night game

games and missing out on perhaps Vin Scully’s last year. These are high crimes and misdemeanors and put all Dodger fans in liverish moods. Perhaps We fans have failed to persuade – so now it is time to demonize. Join us at the rally 3 pm at the Shortstop Bar in Echo Park this Sunday (June 1). Is not being

Vinny keeps his head

Vinny keeps his head

able to watch Dodger games akin to the burning of the library of Alexandria? Perhaps not, but it is a blight on the joyous side of our existence and must not continue.   Link to article: Join Us in Protest!

Groove.   Unknown-1

Groove Central LA Quiz Masters Tourney

quizIt is time again for the 2nd annual Groove Central LA Quiz Masters tourney. After a long journey the two winners from the last contest, the noble Nelson Holdo and the superlative Tom Collins, have been paid in full. Both wore the crown with dignity and both wore it well. If you remember, the first two contestants who answer all of the questions correctly will win 3 drinks to be purchase by the Groovemaster himself at an appropriate venue. This also includes a limited amount of witty conversation and a hearty hand clasp thrown in as a bonus. Best of luck, but as the great Branch Rickey said “Luck is the residue of design.”

1)  Herb Alpert (of Tijuana Brass fame and A & M Records (A meaning Alpert, M for Jerry Moss )    Unknown-1

  • a) was born in Tijuana, Mexico and would often perform at the famous ” Long Bar ” bar in downtown TJ
  • b) comes from a Jewish family that came to the US from the Ukraine
  • c) Father worked on the presidential sculptures on Mount Rushmore
  • d)  Mother was a famous flagpole sitter during the 20’s.

2)  We all groove on Duke Kahanamoku, a pioneer of surfing and 3 time Oly gold medal winner. Duke was alsoimages

  • a) instrumental in bringing  ” beach Volleyball ” here to California and was also the athletic director at Santa Monica’s “Beach Club”
  • b) was an amazing dancer to the point of being admired by Fred Astaire.
  • c)  refused to eat anything red
  • d) starred in a Tarzan movie along with friend and swimming champion Johnnie Weissmuller playing the part of  “Mombobo”, a tribal chieftain.

3)  In ” Mein Kampf ” (My Struggle) , Adolf Hitler’s 1925 memoir, the only American who was mentioned favorably is

  • a) Al Capone
  • b) Charles Lindbergh
  • c) Henry Ford
  • d) Ryan Braun

4)  Which one of these items were NOT originally made in Switzerland ? ch~

  • a) electric toothbrush
  • b) LSD (not talking about the great new band Lake Street Dive)
  • c) cellophane
  • d)  rotary phone dial

5)  Marlon Brando’s son said “the last time my father left his house to go anywhere it was with ………    He was instrumental helping my father through the last years of his life.”   Was he referring to

  • a) Jack Nicholson
  • b) Dean Martin
  • c) Michael Jackson
  • d) Johnnie Carson

6)  We all know and groove on the early 20th century writer Zane Grey (whose first name was Pearl), who appeared to be a



pleasant and unassuming dentist from Ohio who wrote adventure stories, mostly cowboy, then hit it big with “Riders of the Purple Sage.”  He also had a big pad in Catalina overlooking Avalon harbor which is now a hotel.  Over the years, 112 films have been made from his works and in his peak he made $500,000 in one year. By comparison, F.Scott Fitzgearald, in his best year, made $37,500.  But Zane had a secret. It was :

  • a) His books were written by a blind and deaf brother who never knew of his brother’s success or fame
  • b) He kept an enormous cache of pornography sometimes with Zane as the star performer
  • c) Was arrested, but not convicted, of a string of murders of young girls in Mexico City
  • d) was a cross dresser preferring Angora sweaters, tight black dresses, and red pumps.

7)   After refusing surgery this person  said: “I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share. I will do it elegantly. ”

  • a) Eleanor Roosevelt
  • b) Steve Jobs
  • c) Albert Einstein
  • d)  Walter Cronkite

8)   Here, I will lob you a beach ball right across the plate. Sandy Koufax, Dodger great and one of the coolest cats around, Sandy-Koufax-Ballscould hold how many baseballs in one hand ?   (Try it yourself…)

  • a ) 4
  • b) 5
  • c) 6
  • d) 7

9)  If you fell off a 30 foot building would you wildly scream, utter a quick yelp, or silently face your fate?   This is NOT part of the quiz. I’m just asking.

10)  Which of these records was established way back in 1978 and has yet to be broken

  • a) the Men’s long jump
  • b) the top speed on water
  • c) the top speed on land
  • d) the Women’s discus throw

11) Boston Corbett was the man who shot and killed John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln’s assassin) in a barn in Virginia 12 days after Unknown-3Lincoln’s assassination.  Henry Rathbone was with Abe and Mary in the booth at Fords theatre when the dastardly deed was done, sustaining a serious wound from Booth’s Bowie knife.  Beside being part of this American trajedy what else did these two men have in common?

  • a) both were placed in an asylum for the insane
  • b) both died in the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 which killed 21 people
  • c) both played for Abner Doubleday’s ” Knickerbockers ” baseball team
  • d) both played at the 1st Nick Talent Full Throttle Wide Open.

12) Who said that he “half-regretted the demise of so many of the valley’s orchard trees, because now there are no longer enough trees to hang all the troublemakers who live there. ”

  • a) George Armstrong Custer
  • b) William Sheridan
  • c) Gutzen Borglum
  • d) William Mulholland

Well there you have it. Good times await a couple of wonderful souls who will have the great fortune of consuming alcohol with the Groovemaster.   Nelson and Tom, do you have the juices for a repeat?    Thanks and Groove.

With Tom

With Tom

With Nelson

With Nelson

Let Us Pause and Drink a Toast to San Francisco

San-Francisco-2“The Cool Gray City of Love”.  San Francisco, a place where the groove is easily found. Nothing like rollin’ into a hundred year old San Francisco bar with a stack of twenties and then rollin’ into a few more. A few touristy places to avoid, but I suppose it is the scent of burnished brass and smoked soaked, paneled walls that smell like so much history that is attractive to me. Let us not forget the possibility that in San Francisco one just might make a little history of their own. The night might be vigorous and savage or perhaps sanguine and solitary, but I’ve never had the feeling for San Francisco that one has for a plate of food after attempting to eat it’s less than noble contents.

Most of the physical sites in the “City” are cool (Alcatraz, Coit Tower, Lombard Street, etc), but it is the people who make up the complicated fabric that are so fascinating – their tolerance of the uneven, their embracing of the odd, and their joyful  understanding of the less fortunate and bizarre.  A couple of cases in point: Batkid  (please do not mistake for Bat Boy…long time fodder for the greasy tommyrot tabloids) and Emperor Norton .

Nov, 2013. A five-year old named Miles Scott was delivered the thrill of a lifetime thanks to the “Make -a-Wish Foundation” opvdr-bat-kid-1and the wonderfully empathetic City of San Francisco, which for a short time changed into Gotham City. Miles had suffered for the past 3 years from Leukemia which was now in remission. His greatest wish was to be Batman and the “City” and “Make-a-Wish” promised to make that come true. The effort included Miles’ own Batmobile ( a black Lamborghini), a Bat-kid-san-francisco-event-viralpersonal call from S.F. Police Chief Greg Suhr for help, the apprehension of the Riddler, and a flash mob involving hundreds of people in Union Square alerting Batkid to the fact that the PenguinMiles had kidnapped Lou Seal, The S.F. Giants mascot. Batkid then chased the Penguin around AT&T Park, rescued Lou Seal, thus earning a chocolate key to the city which was presented at City Hall before thousands of onlookers.  All of these exploits were covered on live television and written about in the “Gotham City Chronicle” with the top stories penned by Clark Kent and Lois Lane. I just can’t see all this happening in the City of Fallen Angels…

His-Imperial-Majesty-Emperor-Norton-I-portrait-cropJoshua Abraham Norton, came from England to San Francisco in 1849 with $40 grand – ready to make it big. He had early success playing the real estate game, but in an effort to try to corner the rice market he lost all his dough, his pad, and apparently his marbles. He fled San Francisco in a terrible state, but returned to the “City” in 1859 with a very different mind-set.  Josh Norton was no longer Josh Norton – he was now Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, Emperor of the United States and emperor-nortonProtector of Mexico. Immediately the city of San Francisco opened its arms to the Emperor’s eccentric “Imperial” behavior which consisted of the issuance of various decrees (the firing of the United States Congress (I concur), making the use of the word ” Frisco” a crime, demanding that the “League of Nations” be started, construction of an underwater tunnel between Oakland and San Francisco begin, and the building of the San Francisco Bay Bridge……amazing how many of these ” Decrees” came to later fruition.)   Although penniless, he 8f40839dd4ce3a681c1dbc16f8c92258regularly ate at the finest of restaurants decked in an elaborate blue uniform with gold-plated epaulets given to him by the officers of the U.S. Army  post at the Presidio. Restauranteurs took it upon themselves to add brass plaques in their entrances which read “by Appointment to His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Norton ! of the United States.”  Such “Imperial Seals” were much sought after and were a substantial boost of groove to the restaurants. No play or musical performance would dare to open without IMG_6212reserving balcony seats for Norton. In 1867 , a policeman without a clue arrested Norton to commit him to involuntary treatment at a mental facility. The Emperor’s arrest outraged the citizens of the fair city and sparked scathing editorials. The Police chief Pat Crowley ordered Norton released and issued a formal apology.  Norton, with a bow and a sweep of the hand granted an “Imperial Pardon” to the errant policeman.  After this incident, all S.F. policemen saluted the Emperor as he strolled inspecting the condition of the sidewalks, cable cars, and the appearance of Police officers. The 1870 U.S. census lists Joshua Norton “as 50 years old and residing at 624 Commercial Street; occupation “Emperor.”

Norton-0021The Emperor called it a day January 8th, 1880 and by the good graces of the Pacific Club of San Francisco, Norton was laid to rest in a rosewood casket and buried at the Masonic Cemetery. The San Francisco Chronicle reported “…all classes from capitalists to pauper, the clergyman to the pickpocket, well dressed ladies and those whose drab grab and bearing hinted of a social outcast” lined the street to say goodbye to the Emperor. Some accounts say up to 30,000 were there to sayjoshua-emperor-norton-i-norton-1 adieu. Isobel Osbourne, in her book The Life I’ve Loved wrote “Norton was a gentle and kindly man, and fortunately found himself in the friendliest and most sentimental city in the world, the idea being let him be the emperor if he wants to. San Francisco played the game with him.”

There are good times in San Francisco and you don’t have to look too hard to find them. The waiters are not plastic actors in waiting, but actual waiters and there is decent value in their cocktails. Dress and act like Batkid or Emperor Norton and no one will bother you. It fact, they will probably smile and buy you multiple drinks. Just don’t call it “Frisco” or you will pay dearly for your egregious crime. Groove.

Tigers get the Win the Colonel goes for a Swim

KfcWe all have hopes, dreams, and goals…some loftier than others. Perhaps it is to be the first female President of the USA or to climb the 10 highest peaks in the world.  Or maybe to rule the Planet Mars with an iron fist covered in purple crushed velvet or to own a 1000 ft luxury yacht and force your crew to dress in clown costumes.  These all make sense to me – but my hope, my dream, my goal last Sunday, after a night of extended Christmas partying, was to go to KFC and get some chicken.  Clearly, I was a quart low.

As I was filling my pores with the Colonel’s best and wondering why we have similar facial hair, suddenly I was reminded of a dark sinister curse involving the Colonel.  Not the Red Sox Curse of the thBambino, not the Cubs Curse of the Billy Goat, but the Curse of the Japanese Hanshin Tigers baseball team by the deceased KFC founder and mascot, Colonel Harlan Sanders.

01colonelcurseThe Curse is said to be on the team because of the Colonel’s well placed anger from the grave (The Colonel called it a day in 1980) over the treatment of one of his storefront statues.  Following their teams’s victory in the 1985 Japan Championship Series (they’re only  championship ), the Colonel’s statue was thrown into the Dotonbori River by celebrating Hanshin Tiger fans.  The Tiger fans are known as the most fanatical and dedicated fans of 428628_10151356196460807_1699313501_nJapanese baseball.  They have a reputation for rough and sometimes violent behavior, which is very rare in Japanese sports yet oddly in keeping with the rough and violent behavior of Colonel Harlan Sanders, who twice lost jobs for brawling with colleagues and ended his legal career after he engaged in a courtroom donnybrook with his own client.  Koshien Stadium (where the Tigers th-1play) is the oldest ballpark in Japan; built in 1925 and the Tigers themselves were founded in 1935.  The stadium was once visited by the great Babe Ruth in 1934.

After the Tigers won their championship in 1985, fans celebrated by having people who looked like Tiger players jump into the Dotonbori Canal (an odd concept at best…hard to imagine Tigers_Fans_JumpBoston Red Sox fans jumping into the Charles River because they look like Big Papi or Dustin Pedroia.) According to legend, because none of the fans resembled star player Randy Bass (a white American first-baseman playing for the Tigers) fans grabbed a life sized statue of the Kentucky Fried Chicken mascot Colonel Sanders from a local KFC Randy-Bass-Colonel-Sandersstore and threw it into the river. (The only resemblance Bass had with the Colonel was that he had facial hair and was not Japanese.)  Since this attack on the plastic American icon the Tigers have not won another championship. They made it to the finals in 2003 only to lose to those spunky Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, but that didn’t stop some 5300 fans from jumping into the canal.  This celebration turned to tragedy when Tiger fan Masaya Shitababa drowned after being shoved into the river by revelers.

The Colonel was finally discovered  in the Dotonbori River in 2009 and hauled out of the mud – seeing the light of day for the colsanders200-afc2106f280c2519805d9f6a474481a2e506ce4b-s6-c30first time since 1985.  The right hand and lower body were found the next day, but the left hand and glasses are still missing, and thus the curse continues until all of the Colonel can be found.

Curses are a bitch, especially from the Colonel. He might make some fine artery clogging fried kfc1chicken, which is delightful when a hangover the size of a mastodon is sitting on your head, but you chuck the likes of him into a Japanese River and you can kiss your championship season goodbye for a long time.  So when you are in the shower singing the Hanshin Tiger’s fight song “Rokko Oroshi” (The Downward Wind of Mount Rokko)  “Powerful hits and skillful pitch achieved a thousand times” think of the Colonel and the importance of repressing 250px-Colonel_Sanders4your need to throw plastic replicas of founders of fried chicken chains who very vaguely resemble an American ballplayer into Japanese rivers.  Groove.

Annie Did Not Steal Trousers to Buy Cocaine

Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley

The headline in one of the America’s biggest newspapers read that she was in prison for “stealing the trousers of a negro in order to get money with which to buy cocaine.”   She was “adopted” by one of the masterminds who dealt the United States one of it’s biggest military defeats of the 19th Century.  She could be considered one of America’s first movie stars and her husband was so distraught upon her death that he died just 18 days later.

Annie Oakley was a five foot tall American legend. She thrilled audiences around the world with her Annie_Oakley-1daring gun shooting exploits. She helped fuel turn-of-the-century nostalgia for the vanishing mythical American West, even though she never lived west of the Mississippi.  A champion in a man’s sport, she forever changed ideas about the abilities of women, yet she opposed the suffrage movement. Her fame and fortune came with her self taught skills with a gun, yet she was a Quaker.

Little Annie was born Phoebe Anne Moses in the woods of Ohio and first picked up a gun at the age of 8.  She taught herself the use of firearms as a way to help her struggling family by shooting quail, squirrels, and other small animals then selling her take to local markets and families. Thanks to her prowess with various weapons, she became her household’s primary breadwinner and developed a reputation as quite the shot.

th-2Frank Butler was also making himself a name as a marksman and on a trip to Ohio, he challenged a local hotel owner to a $100 bet ($2300 in todays dough) that he could beat anyone around. Frank was very surprised when a 15 year old, five foot tall, 100 lbs. girl took the challenge. He not only lost the match, but Annie won  his heart. They were married soon after and toured as Butler and Oakley (Oakley is the name of a small province in Ohio), the name that Miss Moses adopted.

Annie dazzled crowds around the country first on the variety circuit, then the circus, then finally with annie_4Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. There she was “adopted” by Chief Sitting Bull, main architect of the Battle of Little Bighorn (also known as Custer’s Last Stand) where 268 soldiers of the 7th Calvary were killed. Sitting Bull called her “Watanya Cicilla” (which means “Little Sure Shot”).  Oakley amazed audiences by splitting playing cards in two (edge to edge) from ninety feet.  After stopping at 40 cities around America she and the Wild West Show hit Europe in 1889 going to The Paris Exposition. The Wild West show travelled all around Europe where she entertained the likes of Oscar Wilde, Queen Victoria, the King of Italy, President of France and other crowned heads of state. Oakley had such good aim that at his request, she knocked the ashes off a cigarette held by newly crowned German Kaiser Wilhelm II.  It was the stuff of stardom.

After meeting Tommy Edison in Paris she agreed to go to his studio in New Jersey where Tom filmed her with his new invention called a kinetograph, a primitive device which was the forerunner of the movie camera. She was filmed shooting glass balls which were filled with powder and feathers, which for the times was very dramatic.  The film became hugely popular and spread her fame further.

With Fame so often comes trouble and that is what the scumbag William Randy Hearst tried to strap on little Annie.  In 1903 he printed a story in his newspapers that Annie was in prison for theft which she did in order to maintain her coke habit.  Though completely false, the story was picked up by newspapers from coast to coast. Annie was pissed and though many newspapers issued an immediate retraction she ends up filing 55 libel suits. The legal battles would run another 7 years with Annie traveling back and forth across the country to testify.  The evil Hearst hired a detective to visit her home town to get dirt on Annie, but this time his smear campaign failed. Too clean to smear. She collected a lot of dough from the libel suits, but lost income and time in doing so.

th-3Annie retired from showbiz (in her 60’s) and she and Frank bought a place in Pinehearst, North Carolina.  They went to visit Buffalo Bill, who had made foolish investments, was an easy mark, and whose health was failing. Creditors had been selling off his possessions and bankruptcy was in the cards.  Finally, their old friend passed away in Denver, CO in 1917.  Annie wrote “William Frederick Cody was the kindest, simplest, most loyal man I ever knew…. The personification of those sturdy and lovable qualities that really made the West.”th

At the start of World War I, Annie wrote a letter to the Secretary of War that she was willing to gather a troop of “sure shot” women to help in the war effort.  He thanked her, but declined.

Annie and Frank moved back to her home town of Greenville, Ohio and on Nov. 03 1926 she died of frank-e--butler-2natural causes. She was 66 years old. After the death of his beloved wife Frank Butler refuses to speak, eat, or drink and dies 18 days later.  They were married for 50 years.

Annie Oakley should get the nod for being one of the first female international superstars  and she spread her sharp shooting skills to over 130 cities around the world. The Irving Berlin musical “Annie Get Your Gun” came out in 1946, was an immediate hit, and still plays today. th-1 One of the hit songs from the musical is “There’s No Business Like Show Business” which was originally sung by the first “Annie,” the great Ethel Merman.  If you ever see Nancy Doyle or Ann Banning Wright on the streets of America they will break into that song with little provocation and do it Ethel Merman style.  A sight that enchants the senses and delights the ears. Please let me know if you have had that pleasure. Groove.

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