Friday, January 31, 2014

Moving On Up

After 27 years of delivering the weather to TV viewers, Chuck Gaidica is going to be working a little closer to the source.

Gaidica, who's been telling us how to dress since 1987 on WDIV-TV (channel 4), is leaving that position in August for the ministry.

He'll be joining the Oak Pointe Church in Novi as its pastor of world outreach.

Leaving broadcast news for the private sector is hardly unprecedented. Nor is leaving it for the public sector; note how many television and radio journalists have joined political administrations.

But it's not too often when one moves from the TV studio to the pulpit. A cynic would argue that speaking into a camera to millions every night is the perfect prep job for what Gaidica is about to embark upon.

“I think maybe we all would like God to send us a message in skywriting but that didn’t happen,” Gaidica told the Detroit Free Press. “God leads people with whispers and nudges.”

Gaidica's decision was hardly made in haste or on a whim.

The 55-year-old native of Chicago has often leaned on his spiritual self, and told the Free Press that the decision to move from in front of the camera to the church was six years in the making.

From the Free Press story:

Gaidica said he spent a month living in Jerusalem last year to study for a master’s degree in ministry leadership. Now that he has earned the advanced degree from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary of Cornerstone University, he says he’s ready to devote more of his time to the huge Oak Pointe Church. The congregation of 3,000 is part of a coalition of 40 southeast Michigan churches.

Chuck Gaidica arrived at WDIV in 1987, and he hasn't changed all that much. That is to say, he showed up clean-shaven, good looking and cheerful, and he leaves television pretty much the same way. Maybe it takes a bit more pancake make-up to prep him these days, but he's one who the camera has continued to love over the years.

The new guy at channel 4 will be Ben Bailey, whose resume includes nine years of being the morning meteorologist for WJBK-TV (channel 2).

It's selling Gaidica short to say that he's just been a "weatherman" lo these many years.

He's won three local Emmy Awards and has been a regular on WDIV's Thanksgiving Day Parade coverage for years. No one knows Santa Claus like Chuck Gaidica.

Gaidica has worked on other TV specials and has been a radio host on WNIC-FM (100.3).

But it's been at 6:00 and 11:00 where Gaidica has made his living, telling us what's going on outside, since we're all too lazy to poke our faces out the window.

I met Gaidica back in the 1990s, when I was running the local programming department for Barden Cablevision in Detroit. Our studio was channel 4's old one, located next door to WDIV's current studios/offices. Gaidica dropped by to check out the old digs. I found him to be very personable and gracious.

Gaidica, in switching from TV weather to the ministry, goes from a job where you can be wrong all the time and not be held accountable, to one where his personal impact will be almost constant.

“Servant, shepherd, if that’s what God wants me to do,” Gaidica said of his new vocation. “I’m going to miss leaving the anchor desk a lot, but this was a really great time to make this change.”

Sure. He's still young, clearly has the passion, and with his being on TV in Detroit for the past 27 years, that kind of name and face recognition certainly can't hurt Gaidica and Oak Pointe Church's cause.

“(Gaidica)’s going to touch everything for us outside the four walls,” says Oak Pointe senior pastor Bob Shirock. “When you get somebody like Chuck, you don’t want to just stick him in an office and have him prepare sermons.”

Heaven forbid!

Good luck, Chuck. It's been fun having you give us false hope with your meteorology reports for the past 27 years!

America's Thanksgiving Day Parade won't be the same, either. Maybe you'll come back and do that every year?

Run that one past the Big Guy, won't you?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

50 Years Ago, The Mania Began

Fifty years ago next month, a quartet of Brits was beamed into American homes on the Ed Sullivan Show and life was never the same on this side of the pond.

John, Paul, George and Ringo---The Beatles---appeared on Sullivan's show in New York on February 9, 1964. Of course, the Beatles were a hit about a year before that, in the UK, but we Americans, full of ourselves, acknowledge the rock group's coming of age as the date they took the stage on Sullivan's show.

Sullivan's TV show was like New York City itself. If you could make it there, you could make it anywhere.

Sullivan helped launch Elvis Presley's monster career, and in less famous ways, those of several comedians.

But it was the Beatles' appearance that virtually overnight turned John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr into household names.

Sullivan's show aired on Sunday nights, so no doubt that on Monday, February 10, 1964, the water cooler talk was focused on how you could barely hear the Fab Four belt out their songs over the screams of the adoring females in the studio audience.

That, and how the Beatles looked.

We had never seen anything quite like the Beatles, in terms of physical appearance. First, theirs was a quartet where everyone seemed to be in the spotlight. This wasn't a front man with three guys behind him.

Second, there was the hair.

Third, of course, was the music.

An estimated 73 million viewers tuned in to watch the Beatles make their first live appearance on American television, on Sullivan's show. A January 3 blip on Jack Paar's Tonight Show was on videotape.

So what songs did they perform? It was a cascade of hits.

After “All My Loving,” Paul sang lead on “Til There Was You.” They also performed “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

According to the accounts of folks who were in the studio that night, security was tight and audience members were carefully vetted. And they were very loud.

Beatlemania was born by the time the kids from Liverpool took their thunderous applause at the end of their set.

America needed something to get excited about, because just over two months prior, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

It's not overkill to say that the Beatles' appearance on Sullivan's show on that Sunday night in February, 1964 encouraged dozens, if not hundreds, of teens and adolescents to want to form their own rock bands.

One of them was Patti Quatro Ericson, who was moved by the Beatles' energy to form the all-girl Pleasure Seekers---especially after seeing them perform live at Olympia Stadium in September, 1964.

“I went to the concert with my friends and sat there, in awe of the ambiance, just stunned,” Patti said . “It was my epiphany moment. I watched everyone, including my friends, crying and screaming, and I just watched and sat there. I went home, called my friends — I knew that was what we needed to do. That moment gave me my calling and impetus to start a band.”

A week after Groundhog Day in 1964, the Beatles poked their heads into our living rooms and thus was declared 50 years of early rock-and-roll springs.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Smell of Teen Spirit

It's all a big joke to Justin Bieber.

Dangerous drag racing, drugs, alcohol, resisting arrest? Pfft!

The mug shot says it all.

Bieber, another young entertainer sliding down the slippery slope of hubris and spoilage, was arrested early Thursday in Miami.

With the aiding and abetting of his own father and mother---TMZ reported that Jeremy Bieber, 38, helped block off traffic for the drag race and may have supplied the alcohol, and that prescription drugs Justin Bieber allegedly used came from his mother---the odds are even longer that the youngest Bieber will get his act together anytime soon.

In the mug shot after Thursday's booking, Justin Bieber looks like he doesn't have a care in the world---giddy, almost.

It's hard to blame him for thinking that way.

He's 19, making loads of dough, has the usual protective inner circle that stars often have, and has parents who are his pals rather than his mom and dad.

He's indestructible, right?

The charges are serious, however.

Suspicion of a DUI cocktail of alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs. An F-bomb laced rant. Resisting arrest without violence and driving on an expired license, all while he was allegedly drag racing.

Laugh it up, kid.

WHY do so many teen stars have parents who seem to want to join in on the fun rather than police it?

Bieber, like Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, Amanda Bynes and many, many others preceding him, has now hit that age where he's no longer cuddly but is still not a full-fledged adult. These are the years that separate the well-adjusted from the bozos.

So far, Bieber isn't handling it well and is heading toward bozo status. But let's look at the parents' role.

We're not talking about looking the other way, here. Bieber's dad was an accomplice, if reports about the arrest in Miami on Thursday are accurate.

It's not clear if the mother's prescription drugs were allegedly obtained by Justin with or without her knowledge.

It's all funny now for Justin Bieber. It's all a big joke. Life is still good. There's still the money, the adoring girls, the hot cars and the protective shell of an inner circle which is all too eager to please the kid.

For now.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

So Long, Professor and Manager

Between them, Russell Johnson and Dave Madden are known, pretty much, for two television characters.

That doesn't mean they were flashes in the pan---it just means that the folks they played made an impression that was almost indelible.

Johnson was The Professor on "Gilligan's Island." Madden played the "Partridge Family"'s manager, Reuben Kinkaid.

Both passed away today. Johnson was 89; Madden was 82.

As is typical when lightning strikes and you find yourself in a role that is enormously popular, Johnson was a little known character actor when he signed on to play the Professor on "Gilligan" in 1964. His life, of course, was then changed forever.

In Madden's case, he first showed up on the small screen as one of the ensemble members of "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In," which debuted in 1967. But the real money and notoriety came a few years later, when he joined the cast of "The Partridge Family," playing the exasperated manager to the performing family, led by matriarch Shirley Jones.

Where Russell Johnson's character was perhaps the most cerebral on his show, Madden was no fool on his, but he was often the foil and the butt of the sassy humor of son Danny (played by Danny Bonaduce).

Johnson's Professor tried to ground his co-island inhabitants, while Madden's Kinkaid just tried to survive each day managing the Partridges.

Madden also did a lot of commercials, his pop-eyed, disarming looks and distinctive voice lending themselves well to the world of advertising and voice-over work.

But despite the more variety in Madden's career versus Johnson's, it's doubtless that an overwhelming number of viewers who are old enough to remember, will correctly identify Reuben Kinkaid with Dave Madden, just as they attach Russell Johnson to the Professor.

The Professor did have a name, by the way---Roy Hinkley. Use that to win a nice bet in a bar someday.

Johnson was a veteran of TV shows, ranging from science fiction to westerns, before he got the role of Professor Hinkley on "Gilligan." And then, in three years, Johnson pretty much erased his career, before and after "Gilligan," from the minds of TV viewers everywhere.

Johnson was the Professor, period.

Even Johnson was hard-pressed to figure out why "Gilligan's Island"---a nonsensical show about castaways who somehow always seem to have what they need to survive yet who cannot gain rescue---was so popular and has such long-lasting appeal.

"It's a phenomenon that we don't really understand," Johnson once said of his and his cast mates' amazement.

Madden, forever dressed in his rumpled suit while managing the Partridges, was much more blunt and candid about playing Reuben Kinkaid.

"What did I like about playing Reuben? The money! Any TV actor who answers differently is probably lying. Face it, it's not exactly Shakespeare," Madden said in a 2008 interview.

No, not Shakespeare, but I bet more people can recall episodes of "Gilligan's Island" and "The Partridge Family" than can recite from "Hamlet."

Not saying that's good or bad. Just, true.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Convenient Ignorance

John Kennedy once said that military victory has many fathers but defeat is an orphan.

I think much the same thing is true for monkey shines committed by a politician's staffers.

Great ideas and policies have many fathers, but scandals are orphaned.

Take New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Please.

The Republican governor and possible presidential hopeful for 2016 has a scandal on his hands. People are getting fired.

It's all about what I will call, TrafficGate.

Seems that members of Christie's staff---in very high places---ordered highway lane closures back in September that severely hamstrung the residents and commuters of Fort Lee, apparently as retribution for Fort Lee's mayor not supporting Christie's re-election bid.

The governor has fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, for lying to Christie about her---and, by extension, the administration's---involvement in ordering the closures, which created hellacious traffic jams, mainly because they first occurred the day kids went back to school after Labor Day.

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Kelly said in an e-mail to David Wildstein, a top Christie appointee on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Kelly initially told Christie that the administration had nothing to do with ordering the lane closures, which was falsely attributed to a fictitious traffic study.

But the the e-mails saw the light of day and the picture they painted wasn't pretty.

Kudos to Christie for axing Kelly, but the governor played the old, "My staff did WHAT?" card, and portrayed himself as being lied to and betrayed.

Now, this may indeed be the case. Christie's people may have acted in a sort of rogue manner, their boss unaware of their sleazy tactics.

But I find it bemusing that political leaders seem to be in the loop and on top of all the good stuff going on in their administration, but they are always so clue-free when naughty things happen.

The tact of throwing your staff under the bus when the heat gets turned up is hardly new in the world of politics. Given the choice, the leader under fire would, apparently, rather look like a misled, ill-informed dunderhead than a Richard Nixon type.

So Christie is pleading ignorance, because as bad as that is, it's still preferable to evil mastermind---especially when you have eyes on the White House in two years' time.

No doubt TrafficGate will be dusted off and presented to the American people ad nauseam, should Christie decide to get involved in running for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. And, frankly, it should.

Because whether Christie was in on it or not, the petty, punitive lane closures not only inconvenienced gobs of folks, it even created some health and safety issues that are unconscionable.

And that stuff came from Christie's office, whether the boss knew about it or not, and when you're running for president, that can't be a good thing.

Clearly, the American people don't want someone in the White House who is capable of such pettiness and bullying, especially when that pettiness and bullying struck at the heart of innocent, tax paying Americans who were just trying to get to work and their kids to school. Apparently EMT vehicles and other emergency response vehicles were negatively affected by the man-made traffic jams as well.

But nor do voters want to elect as president someone who doesn't have a better handle of his gubernatorial staff than this.

I'd say Governor Christie has himself in a lose/lose situation here.

Firing Kelly is a start toward political recovery, but Christie can only fire so many people before voters---and the media---will demand to know what the governor knew and, more importantly, what he didn't know.

And why he didn't know it.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year's Revolutions

Happy New Year. Or happy new year, however you choose to look at it.

As I watched the big ball drop on Tuesday night in Times Square, I jokingly asked my daughter what life would be like if we did that for the change of every month instead of year.


Seems silly, of course.

But so does, when you think about it, going through all the expense and effort to mark the start of a new year. Or New Year.

It's perhaps too cynical---even for me---to say that January 1 is "just another day," but it truly is. It is different, however, in one respect: It's the one day when no one has ditched their new year's (or New Year's) resolutions---yet.

Ahh, about those resolutions.

There's a funny commercial playing on TV right now where a small boy calls it the New Year's "revolutions."

I kind of like that.

You do have to revolt, in a way, if you're going to commit to doing something different from how you've been doing it, which is essentially what a resolution is.

The revolt is internal. A civil war going on inside your body and brain.

The little dudes inside your head have to declare that there is a revolution, and then they have to start symbolically dumping tea into the harbor, i.e. those bad ways you are trying to get rid of.

A new year's revolution.

I don't do resolutions---or revolutions---per se. I make mental notes to change and then hope for the best.

Not working out too good for me, but there you go.

I don't do anything involving weight. I'd like to drop a few pounds, like anyone else. But I don't do any numbers crunching or obsess with the scale in the basement. Notice I said basement.

I don't resolve to change my eating habits, which goes along with the above. My wife is Italian and Polish. I get what I get, and I scarf it down happily. If I lose weight because of diet, it's akin to finding a dollar bill in the laundry.

I don't make any commitments professionally. I don't set out to write X-number of blog posts or set any goals at work. That may sound lazy and uninspired and displays a shocking lack of motivation, but I figure, why set myself up for failure?

In short, my revolutions internally are weak and quickly squashed. I'm the Bay of Pigs of self-improvement.

Now, this doesn't mean that I don't want to be a success and that I don't care about my body or that I have indifferent feelings toward my fellow man.

It just means that when all is said and done, the status quo is OK. I'll continue to help out my wife around the house, put in my 40 hours at work and be as good of a dad as I can be. I'll say my prayers at night and make it a point to perform a random act of kindness now and again.

Wherever that leads me, so be it.

Happy N(n)ew Y(y)ear!