Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Chevrolet Sings

Driving a car can be an exciting thing, just ask the folks at Chevrolet circa the early 60s. They issued a driving hygiene record, "Chevrolet Sings of Safe Driving and You" for prospective drivers. A college roommate and KJHK compadre named Michael Bassin turned me on to the cool folk stylings of "(driving a car can be) An Exciting Thing", as well as other cuts, back in the mid 80s. Michael donated the album to the radio station in 1986 and for all I know it's still there. I was surprised today when I googled the term and found this picture and several website mentions. It popped up more than once on the play lists of eclectic radio shows. A copy of the vinyl album went for over 50 dollars recently online and I also stumbled across a blurb about a performer in Colorado who covered the album from start to finish as a performance. The lyrics and spoken word interludes are hilarious and very corny but I can't get some of the acoustic melodies (and earnest harmonica work) out of my head.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Q & A With Todd Gilmore

Todd Gilmore is the K.U. graduate (architecture, '88) who conceived the original "Beware of the Phog" banner that hung in Allen Field House. Our mutual history goes back to the fall of 1983 when I lived on the tenth floor of Oliver residence hall and he had some friends who lived in the same wing. I caught up with him over winter break and asked him some questions.

FJ: The KU men's basketball program was at a relative nadir when you and I arrived at school in the fall of 1983. People may not realize how different it was that year. What do you recall about the basketball program when you were a freshman?
TG: To be honest, I wasn't much of a basketball fan prior to college. I remember my Dad telling me during the summer before I left for KU that they were going to have a good team and I'd heard that Larry Brown was coming in to coach. Fortunately for me, a few of the guys on 10th floor at Oliver (particularly Pat Sieb) talked me into going to that first game and I was hooked.

FJ: What did you like best about living in Oliver Hall besides the clean restrooms?
TG: Walking up 144 stairs into the wind, both ways to get to campus. It was a little more wild freshman year than sophomore year. They ended up moving the guys to the first 5 floors and the girls to the upper floors because we caused "problems". Gobbies out the window were always fun and the yell fights with Naismith. Oh, and you couldn't beat the Pink Floyd paint job down the hall on the 10th floor. I wonder if it's still there?

FJ: People think I'm crazy when I tell them that as students we didn't stand the whole game or try to distract the opposing team's free throw shooters. What else has changed about the Allen Field House experience since the mid '80s?
TG: I think that was the case when we were freshman. But there were fanatics then trying to get everyone to do that and eventually we all started. One of the guys at Oliver was the guy that started the "Whoosh" yell after made free throws. I also remember the seating arrangements were MUCH tighter before they installed the permanent seating on the lower level. We used to stand kind of sideways to fit everyone in and then when we did sit down it was pretty cramped. The new seats gave us more room.

FJ: During the mid '80s, the two biggest personalities in Lawrence were William S. Burroughs and Larry Brown. Did you ever meet either one?
TG: I met Larry Brown a couple of times in passing as he was giving us doughnuts in the morning after we had camped out for some games. I never shook his hand or anything.

FJ: What's your favorite K.U. basketball moment besides watching the team win the NCAA tournament in 1988?
TG: It was the quietest and loudest moments at Allen Fieldhouse in the span of about 3 seconds. It was the night we were playing OU in 84 and Calvin Thompson drained a shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. When he let that ball go, it got so quiet as you could almost hear everyone in the building take a deep breath at the same time. Slow motion is what it felt like as halfway through the arc of the shot, the light came on behind the goal and then a HUGE explosion of emotion when the shot went down. I still get goose bumps thinking of it. It was the loudest moment I can remember in the building. (Although, I'm sure there were others, that one has always stuck in my mind.) Unfortunately, OU went on to win in overtime. They cut down the nets in OUR building and my roommate (remember Larry?) took a swing at Billy Tubbs as they headed back to the locker room. (He missed by a long shot as we were all being held back by security, but it was a swing nonetheless :-)

FJ: The Oliver Hall library had a subscription to Playboy but somebody kept tearing out the pictorial pages. Was it you?
TG: No, that wasn't me, but I noticed that some of the pages that hadn't been torn off were stuck together. Whoever kept checking it out must have eaten their French toast with their fingers.

FJ: How did you come up with the idea for the "beware of the phog" banner?
TG: I can't vividly remember any spark where I said, "Eureka!", but it had been something I had been thinking about for a while. I liked the fact that places like New Mexico and Clemson had stadiums with names like The Pit and Death Valley. I thought AFH should have something like that. The Beware of the Phog came from commercials for John Carpenter's movie, 'The Fog'. They used that line and I just changed the spelling. I can't honestly tell you where the pay heed came from. It just kind of popped into my head.

FJ: Where is the original phog banner now?
TG: I've been told that it's in storage and will supposedly be displayed in the new KU athletic hall of fame when it's built. I've heard that there is plans to build it right in front of the fieldhouse.

FJ: It would seem you have some merchandising opportunities there. Did you copyright the phrase "beware of the phog"?
TG: Um. No. We joke about it, but I probably lost out on some pretty good coin by not copyrighting it. Oh well. I just look at it like I've contributed a lot of money to the KU athletic department :-)

Learn more about Todd's unique contribution to K.U. history in this essay and this Journal World story by Joe Gose.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Remembering the Battle of the Bulge

When I worked for the Kansas Audio Reader Network in the late 80s, one of our volunteers, Mrs. A.B. Ewing, told the story of Christmas Eve 1944, and how the Battle of the Bulge came home to Lawrence, Kansas.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Twilight in the borderlands.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Meanwhile in New York

Steve Martin debunks the myth that King Tut was born in Arizona and Woody Allen reports that Daffy Duck is a scientologist. (Thanks Evanier)