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Showing posts from 2015

Truth be Told

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I feel sorry for those who never got a chance to see "Truth or Consequences."

I don't mean the town in New Mexico, either.

I'm thinking of "T or C" this morning amid the news that host Bob Barker is in the hospital after a fall near his Southern California home.

"Truth" didn't give Barker, 91, his start in broadcasting, but it put him on television for the first time. And there Bob stayed for some 51 years.

It was game show---and reality TV, if you want to know the truth---pioneer Ralph Edwards who passed the torch of "Truth" to Barker, in 1956.

Edwards created "Truth" on the radio in 1940. The premise was wacky yet simple.

The show was among the first "audience participation" offerings of the day.

Regular folks would have to answer an obscure trivia question---always designed for the contestant to fail---and when the answer was wrong, there would be consequences. These usually came in the form of wild stunts that…

The Great Pumpkin

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I do believe that this country has gone out of its gourd with pumpkin.

It's the biggest food takeover in America since the Italians introduced pizza to an unsuspecting public in the late-19th century.

Pumpkin spiced coffee. Pumpkin scented candles. Pumpkin cookies, pumpkin cakes, pumpkin pies.

OK, that last one doesn't count.

Somewhere, in some board room in corporate America, it was determined that pumpkin spice should be sprinkled, mixed, folded, encased and saturated into every possible food stuff we consume.

The ironic thing is that pumpkin, by itself, certainly must taste pretty nasty. It's only edible because of what is added to it.

If you plan on buying a pumpkin for Halloween with the intent of carving it, scrape out a portion and eat it, raw with no helpers.

I dare ya.




Pumpkin isn't invading our food supply, it's the spices added to it that are working their way into our digestive tracts with virulent speed.

Starbucks, for example, only started putting rea…

Statue of Limitations

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In another time, in another era, against another backdrop, a statue of Orville Hubbard outside of City Hall was a monument about which the good people of Dearborn didn't bat an eye.

And not just Dearbornites.

It wasn't just the people who lived in that city that knew what Hubbard, Dearborn's mayor from 1942-78, stood for.

It was an ironic monument, really, because the statue of Hubbard, in an almost welcoming repose, belied the exclusiveness that pocked his reign over the city.

Hubbard was an unapologetic segregationist. That's not opinion.

But those ways were widely accepted by his citizenry, particularly in the first 25 years of his being mayor.

To the people of Dearborn, Orville Hubbard represented the sheriff that kept their streets safe and the town prosperous, despite sharing multiple borders with the city of Detroit.

Everyone knew what safe and prosperous was code for in Dearborn under Orville Hubbard.

No blacks allowed.

Hubbard made no bones about it. African-Americans …

The Inconvenience of News

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"No news is good news."

I always wondered about this oft-used phrase.

Is it saying that there is no such thing as good news, or that when you find yourself without any news at all, that's a good thing?

However you choose to decipher "No news is good news," I have one for you that is without ambiguity.

"The news isn't convenient."

There shouldn't be any confusion over that, but yet there is.

In the whirlwind of social media sharing and updates in the wake of the horrific murders of two young television journalists---one a reporter, the other a photographer---in Roanoke, VA on Wednesday during a live interview, we had ourselves a genuine "made for TV" violent crime, and there was much pontificating about what to do with it.

The alleged shooter of reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward, Vester Flanagan, aka Bryce Williams (on-air name), a reportedly disgruntled and frustrated TV reporter himself, crafted a highly premeditated…

Roses Have Thorns

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My memories of Lynn Anderson are rather sardonic, but that's not her fault, necessarily.

Singer Anderson, 67, passed away the other day of a heart attack in a Nashville hospital while being treated for pneumonia.

She was best known for her song, "Rose Garden," which peaked at no. 1 on the country charts and no. 3 on the Billboard charts in early-1971.

But around the campus of Eastern Michigan University in the 1980s, Lynn Anderson became a notorious figure, forever linked to the school's outrageous efforts to keep its football program in the Mid-American Conference (MAC).

Let me explain.

By 1983, MAC officials were considering kicking EMU's football program out of the conference, because of poor performance on the field and more importantly, poor performance at the turnstiles. The latter was a direct effect of the former's cause.

The conference pretty much gave the university an ultimatum: lift attendance to a minimum threshold (I can't recall what that t…

Christmas (weather) in July

I know this: our hot pepper plants aren't enjoying the cool summer we're having in Metro Detroit.

But fie on them.

The mercury hasn't scraped much past the mid-80s so far, and we're in mid-July.

I couldn't be happier.

I don't do well with the heat. The pepper plants do, however, and ours have been struggling to bear fruit, but like I said, fie on them. I can buy hot peppers at the market, although there is a charm to growing your own.

But if that's the trade off---store-bought hot peppers in exchange for summer days in which I can breathe without an oxygen mask, then I'll take it and run.

Normally by now, we would have suffered through oppressive heat, with temps in the high-80s and low-90s, with enough humidity to curl you from hair to toe.

But this year?

So far, so good.

Cool evenings, enabling you to sleep with the windows open, and is there anything better than breathing in fresh night air as you slumber?

Pleasant daytime temps, which don't mand…

The Many Degrees of DVP

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Which Dick Van Patten would you like to remember and mourn today?

Is it the actor Van Patten, who most famously seeped into our consciousness as Tom Bradford, the patriarch of the TV family on ABC's "Eight is Enough" from 1977-81?

Is it the tennis player Van Patten, whose sons got some of the old man's genes and did pretty good on the court as well?

Is it the animal activist Van Patten, who worked tirelessly for our furried and feathered friends, including founding National Guide Dog Month in 2008?

Is it the entrepreneur Van Patten, who co-founded Natural Balance Pet Foods in 1989?

Take your pick---or take them all, if you'd like.

Van Patten passed away on Tuesday at age 86. Some reports blame the cause of death on complications related to diabetes.

There was some juice to the Van Patten name in the entertainment industry. There was Dick, of course, and there was his younger sister Joyce, a fellow actor. There were the Van Patten boys---Vincent, Nels and Jimmy---…

Spock Would Be Proud

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In the interest of full disclosure, I'm 51 years old.

I only tell you this because, when she was my age, Jeralean Talley was living in the year 1950.

And she continued to live, some 65 more years, until passing peacefully the other day in her home in Inkster.

Jeralean was 116 years, 25 days old when she slipped away, ending her two-month reign as the world's oldest living person.

I wonder what it would have been like to be my age now, in 1950.

Harry S. Truman was president. Television was still a relatively new thing and lots of folks didn't even own one. And if they did. it broadcast everything in beautiful, gorgeous, vivid...black and white.

The NHL had six teams. Major League Baseball had all of 16. The NFL was still finding its audience as teams were experimenting with something called the forward pass. The NBA was four years old.

The only phones we had were mounted on our kitchen walls. You had to actually read the hands of a clock or wristwatch to tell time. Shoes ha…

Meara, Meara

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Comedians/actors Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara were married for 61 years, but had they not heeded warning signs, the marriage might have ended some 44 years ago.

The comedy team of Stiller & Meara was seemingly cruising along in 1970, having just enjoyed a nice run of 36 appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show"in the 1960s, when both members of the team/marriage sensed that something was amiss.

With an act based largely on their real-life domestic trials and tribulations, Stiller and Meara found that despite their success---or maybe because of it---the line between life at home and life on stage was getting further blurred as the years went on.

"I didn't know where the act ended and our marriage began," Meara told People magazine in 1977.

"We were like two guys," Stiller said in the same article.

With Meara questioning things and Stiller worried that he might lose his wife, the act was disbanded in 1970.

But they never stopped working together for ver…

Who Among Us?

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The only thing that is certain in the road rage trial of Martin Zale is that it was tragic.

A wife widowed. Children growing up father-less.

After that, it gets tricky.

Zale is the motorist who is accused of murder in the fatal shooting of Derek Flemming last September 2 in Genoa Township, at Grand River Avenue and Chilson Road.

Zale was allegedly driving recklessly and Flemming, on a beautiful afternoon after having lunch with his wife, didn't appreciate it.

The vehicles stopped at a red light---Zale's in front of Flemming's---and Flemming got out of his vehicle to confront Zale. Witnesses say that Flemming looked very angry and had both fists clenched as he approached Zale's truck.

Moments later, Flemming was dead---shot once in the face. He died instantly.

Zale didn't flee; rather, he pulled off to the side of the road and called his lawyer.

Those are the basic facts. Zale's trial is happening now, and I think it's going to be fascinating to follow.

Of c…

Another Untimely, Tragic Wrap

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As if suicide isn't rotten enough, it invariably raises more questions than it answers. That's because suicide often doesn't answer any questions at all.

Even a note left behind won't necessarily satisfy all the curiosity. In fact, suicide notes are likely to create more questions than they answer, as well.

A suicide note is like a press conference where a statement is issued and the issuer scrambles away, without taking any queries.

Sawyer Sweeten is dead. Apparently it's suicide.

Sawyer, on the verge of turning 20, was one-half of the identical twin actors who played Ray and Debra Barone's twin boys on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (1996-2005). Sawyer played Geoffrey and Sullivan Sweeten played Michael. The twins' older sister Madylin played older sister Ally on the TV show.

According to reports, Sawyer was visiting family in Texas when he apparently shot himself on the front porch of the house where he was staying.

In the early years of "Raymo…

Ebb and Flo

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They were television advertising icons who resided on the banks of our cultural consciousness.

Mr. Whipple (Charmin bathroom tissue). Madge the manicurist (Palmolive dish detergent). The Maytag Repair Man. Even the Qantas koala bear.

Those were just a few commercial characters who invaded our living rooms in the 1970s and '80s. Their ads---usually 60 seconds in length or even longer---were rarely the same. The format might have been nearly identical, and of course the tag lines were ("DON'T squeeze the Charmin!"), but each appearance by Mr. Whipple or Madge usually had them interacting with different customers.

The actors behind the characters were often nameless, as it should have been, but I'm sure their paychecks weren't nameless---or paltry.

The pitchman on TV these days is usually a local litigator or a voice-over hawking prescription meds.

There isn't really any character that is iconic---no one who, when they appear on the screen, instantly lets us…

Still Rockin', Still Rollin'?

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The Rolling Stones are coming! The Rolling Stones are coming!

How much rolling they do nowadays, it's anyone's guess. They're all in their 70s now.

The iconic rock group is touring this summer, and Detroit is on the travelogue, with the Stones playing Comerica Park on July 8.

This isn't ageism, but one can only wonder how strong the voices are, how powerful the guitar riffs are and how much energy is in the tank for the Mick Jagger-led group, who can all order off the seniors menu at every restaurant in the country.

I've been listening to a lot of 1960s-era rock lately, thanks to a nifty little mobile app called Milk Music. The tunes (sans commercials) come in handy while walking the pooch.

The Rolling Stones are part of that, of course, but sprinkled in with the bands I am listening to are performers like Jim Morrison (The Doors), Jim Croce, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Mama Cass Elliot (the Mamas and the Papas) and others who died before their time.

So the questio…

Heat Index

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My first experience with spicy food came when I was a youngster.

I was a latch key kid, and that included lunch. My grade school was literally across the street from the house, more or less. So I would let myself in and prepare my own lunch, as early as age 11.

This was circa 1974-75.

Nobody reported my mother to Child Protective Services. I managed to not burn the house down. I'd fix my lunch, eat it, and be back in class on time.

Somehow along the way I have lost that efficiency in my life, but that's another blog post entirely.

The point being, my first encounter with spicy foods came in the form of those Vlasic hot pepper rings in a jar. Again, I was 11 and I started nibbling on those tangy, vinegar-encased yellow rings, usually combining them with a sandwich of some sort.

That was some 40 years ago, and it was way before I discovered Szechuan Chinese food, Indian cuisine and Thai delights.

It was also way before fast food joints and snack manufacturers discovered anything…

The Justified Bully

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In the 1980s, HBO presented a comedy series called "Not Necessarily the News." In it, pretend anchors used real news clips but altered them for laughs.

Cleverly inserted shots that the HBO show produced, interspersed with the actual clips, would be used for gags.

Of course, the notion of fake news on TV was hardly new at that time. "Saturday Night Live" began the trend in earnest with its signature Weekend Update segment not long after "SNL" debuted in 1975.

While "NNTN" was playful and Weekend Update was very sarcastic, always delivered with a wink and a smirk, there was still further to go in the fake news genre.

Enter Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."

Where "NNTN" was produced sporadically and Weekend Update was weekly (during the "SNL" season), "The Daily Show" was exactly that---daily.

But that's hardly where the delineation ended.

"TDS"'s Jon Stewart was not part of a host rota…

Death in the Slow Lane

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Traditions are terrific things. Whether they run in families, bring together communities or even entire nations, there is no mistaking the notion that honoring tradition is a noble and cozy thing to do, when not misguided.

But let's do away with the funeral procession, shall we?

In simpler, less crowded, less rude times, the funeral procession, particularly when done using the horse and carriage, was a fine way of respecting the newly-deceased.

Today, it's more along the lines of a nuisance and, frankly, it can be dangerous.

The journey from church (or other nonsecular place) to the cemetery or mausoleum can certainly be a somber one. There isn't a limousine leading the way with cans and string attached, with a hand-painted sign that says "Just Died."

So I get it that commuting during an occasion of burial isn't the most pleasant thing in the world. And I have nothing against respecting and honoring the dead.

But the funeral procession has worn out its welcom…

Kept in the Dark

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I think one of the most depressing parts of winter is that we spend it cloaked in darkness.

It's dark when you wake up to get ready for work. The afternoons are often overcast and everyone has to drive with their headlights on. It's dark when you drive home from work. You can go days without seeing any serious sunlight.

In Michigan, you can pretty much put your sunglasses in the drawer in October and not pull them out again until April---if you're lucky.

It's like in wintertime, we've all forgotten to pay the light bill.

That's why, when you get a day of sunshine in the winter, your eyes hurt. You spend the day squinting. Everyone looks like Robert De Niro in every movie in which he's ever appeared.

But there's something called the Winter Solstice, and we actually passed it a few weeks ago---December 21 to be exact. And when you pass the solstice, you're in for longer days, slowly but surely.

When I was a kid, I remember folks talking about December…