Saturday, December 31, 2005

Remembering New Year's Eve 2000

In 2000 we stayed home with our 18 month-old son. After more than 20 years of New Year's Eve parties and outings, we called it quits. At least that's when I lost track of my New Year's Eve memories.

The excitement of the New Year's eve experience waxed and waned over the years. It's tough to live up to the occasion. Times have changed too. People celebrate stuff throughout the year and so the novelty factor isn't there. Plus nobody wants to become a statistic on the highway.
I've had a lot of good NYE memories. Read on and enjoy. Only the last 10 entries are displayed here on the front page. To see all the New Year's eve memories, visit the December 2005 archive link. Happy New Year and here's to 2006.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1999

Sue and I dropped our baby son at the grandparent's house for a sleepover and went to dinner before we hit the party at Rob L.'s house. We went to J. Riley's on State Line road. It's a re-done Steak and Ale. We ordered the Lobster from the special holiday menu. They deep-fried it. I was surprised that the deep fried feature wasn't mentioned on the menu, but it tasted pretty good. Sue spilled drawn butter on her party dress. A fashion tragedy was narrowly averted when the acrylic fabric resisted the oily spill. We mingled among fifteen 30-somethings when the New Year rang in without any Y2K madness at Rob's house. At midnight we missed the countdown on TV. Rob's PIP feature covered the numbers. We rang it in a few seconds late. I spent most of the evening smoking cigars in the garage with Rob and Sue and Rob's sister Michelle. We got home safely at about 1:30am.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1998

Sue and I went to the home of friends Terry and Maureen O. It was a small gathering of six people. We listened to the mix 93.3 countdown of the best party songs of all time. "Super Freak" by Rick James was on and we were dancing around in the kitchen "She's a super freak, super freak!" We looked up and saw two strangers in the house. Apparently they were invited to another party in the neighborhood, got the address wrong, and walked in. I told them we were getting ready for charades and they were welcome to stay but they high-tailed it next door to the 20-something get-together. Then we played michigan rummy. I am officially old.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1997

Sue and I ate dinner on the plaza with our friends Kurt and Paige W at Figlio's. We enjoyed the Plaza scene and holiday lights and ended up over to the Parkway where our friend Mike W. was tending bar. Kurt got in trouble for shouting "Chumba-Wumba", although that was the name of a popular top 40 band of the day. Sue and I went home and Kurt and Paige stayed at the Raphael hotel.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1996

I worked at the radio station until midnight. I drove back to Burt C.'s house for the encore of the party tradition we started the year before. It was a stark contrast. Unlike 1995 where we had upwards of 25 people, the crowd this year featured about five people including Sue (now my wife!). Angie H. was back. bless her heart. I tried to liven up the event by regaling the crowd with stories of radio station hijinx from years gone by. It was not enough to save the party. We crashed another bash across the street but the crowd was sinister. Meanwhile back at Burt's house, a different drunk neighbor with purple fingers stopped by to smoke cigarettes and wax his mustache. We left. So much for tradition.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1995

It was a party at Burt C.'s house around the corner from my house in Prairie Village. I was grateful for the short drive. Girlfriend Sue wasn't feeling well so I attended stag. There were plenty of snacks including those red weenies in BBQ sauce (oh shades of 1990!). Angie H. and her roomate were there and Bryce P. was there with his jogging friends. They all had secret nicknames for each other. I decreed that Burt should have this party every new year based on the turnout - a new tradition. At midnight, I felt rather anal and demanded we ring in the new year by consulting the U.S. naval observatory master clock.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1994

The first big snow of the season rolled into town and the local roads were wet and slushy. I drove to the airport to pickup Sue, who returned from a visit to her parent's house in Florida. It was white knuckle all the way up from Johnson County. To make it worse, the Chiefs lost to the Dolphins in the first round of the play-offs. We watched part of the game in one of the airport bars. We ate dinner at Chili's and rang in 1995 at O'Leary's. We were home by 1am and it was good to have Sue back.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1993

Sue and I returned from a visit to her parent's house in Florida in time to join the KFKF staff for our station sponsored New Year's eve party at the downtown Marriott. I got free drinks and a room for working. I found it hard to sleep without the soothing sounds of my electric fan. Sue woke up early, she was anxious to return to our apartment and see her cat, Sasha. We ate runny scrambled eggs at the breakfast buffet and checked out.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1992

It was a low-key holiday. Girlfriend Sue and I went to the Paradise diner at Oak Park Mall and then on to O'Leary's taproom to ring in the new year. It was the first time in two years where I didn' t have to work either New Year's eve or New Year's day at the radio station.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1991

I worked at the radio station until midnight. We did our own local countdown of the top 94 country songs of 1991 and it was a challenge to get it to time out exactly at midnight. I ran a bit short so I padded with "countdown extras". Who listens to the radio on New Year's eve anyway? I suppose people who have to work like truck drivers and 7-11 clerks might listen. At 11:58 and 40 seconds I started a recorded cartridge with a really well-produced 80 second New Year's countdown. Mark McKay, our station image specialist and afternoon drive jock, brought it in from the San Francisco station where he'd been on staff previously. It featured the trippy part of Steve Miller's Fly Like an Eagle, where he's singing "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', into the future", and then every 20 seconds or so, an automated voice gave the time update. At the stroke of midnight, Auld Lang Syne faded in and the KFKF jocks gave recorded wishes for the coming year.
It was a weird feeling driving sober on the streets at midnight, dodging drunk drivers. I met my new girlfriend Sue at O'Leary's bar in Overland Park where we started the celebration a little late.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1990

Mike W. had a buddy visiting from Cincinnati and we did a package deals at Birdie's sports bar in Overland Park. They offered an open bar and a buffet for one low price (think crock-pot of little red weenies). We played pool and had a swell time. (The buffet was right next to the pool table). Oh, suburban strip mall joy! At one point, Mike shanked the cue ball off the table and into the potato salad. We slinked home while the gettin' was good. I'm surprised I didn't have to work on either side of midnight at the radio station.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1989

I'd landed my first post-college radio gig working part time at KFKF-FM in Kansas City a couple of weeks earlier. I worked the overnight shift on the weekend and pulled holiday duty this night. I went on the air at midnight and stayed until 6am. It wasn't the best New Year's I'd ever experienced and it certainly wasn't the last holiday where I'd be on the air. Goodbye college life, hello working stiff.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1988

I drove back to Columbia hoping for a repeat of the previous year. Stu was in California but Lei and I agreed to meet at Kim H.'s new rental house for the holiday. When I arrived Lei called and said she wasn't coming due to snow in St. Louis. Since I was already half way, I drove to St. Louis and arrived at her house at 11pm. There was like a half-inch of snow. She has wussed out. We watched Dick Clark ring in 1989 and drank cheap champagne. The next day we met another summer camp (and KU) friend Lori D. We had brunch at a local pancake house in south St. Louis. When we got back to her house, I made some courtesy calls to other St. Louis area camp alumni. Willow W. invited us to a New Year's day bash in the central west end. It was at a swank town house and what a unique occasion, a New Year's night party. We had a wonderful time with Willow, talking about camp and catching up. I hadn't seen her in seven or eight years. Then I drove five hours back to Lawrence, KS so I could be at work the next morning at Audio Reader.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1987

I drove to Columbia, Missouri to meet my summer camp friends Lei and Stu. We stayed at Kim H.'s off-campus apartment. Stu's younger sister was a surprise special guest. We partied like it was 1999, even though it was still 1987. We went to Denny's about 2am and Stu ran out of gas in sub-zero weather on the way home. We found a gas station in downtown Columbia that was open and we didn't have to brave the elements for very long, sparing Stuart the gory prospect of having his innards sliced open with a bowie knife so the rest of us could warm our hands on his body heat.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1986

I stayed in Lawrence for the big Embarrassment reunion concert at Cogburn's (AKA The Bottleneck). The Micronotz opened and Dean Lubensky came back for the occasion. The bands did an all-ages show late in the afternoon and then a 21 and over show in the evening. Blake Norris and I (of KJHK radio) got permission to record the concert. I had big ideas about dubbing copies for other college radio stations. That didn't pan out but the shows were tremendous. I also got to meet the guys in the band and Ron Klaus and Bill Goffrier were really cool. They even let a local guy, Dayton Simmons, play saxophone on one song. You can hear them call Dayton "the 5th Embo" on the tape from the show. I went to Blake's apartment in the Oread after the show and we agreed it was one of those musical experiences we'd always remember.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1985

Went to a party at Tom A's house across the street from my parent's place in Fairway. Tom was a nice kid, but we didn't hang out much. I was a public school kid and he went to private school. It was cool to hang out with him. Charlie D. was there and so was my college sweetheart Patty W. We weren't tired at midnight so we moved the party over to Mission Inn. The next day I was stunned to hear about Ricky Nelson's death.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1984

Back from K.U. for the winter break and a blizzard threatened to keep our college bodies at home. We found a ride to Errol and Eric's house in Mission. The twin brothers opened their basement to us and we made the best of the situation. I had trouble telling the boys apart so I called them both "Big E" to be safe. There were probably 15 or 20 people there, a low-key affair, but very satisfying since we almost didn't get out at all. I think we had about eight inches of snow by the following morning.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1983

I was home from college and went to a party at Sean's apartment on Jarboe street in Kansas City, Missouri. Many of my high school friends were there. After a paucity of kisses at midnight, I met my golf shop buddy J.D. for a late-night gathering at another location. We celebrated until 4:30 am. I went to bed with a shameful lack of lipstick on my collar.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1982

We had a hotel party at the Best Western at I-35 and Shawnee Mission Parkway. I found out later that this was the former site of an amusement park in the late 19th century. President U.S. Grant himself stopped to dedicate the facility. No vestige of the park remained but it was a rollercoaster evening. I kissed the lovely Leslie G. until my ex-girlfriend showed up. She wasn't over our breakup from the previous August and made a scene. Chalk it up to teenage angst. I followed up the next week with a phone call to Leslie but she decided she wanted to be friends so the ex wouldn't have a cow at school. Total rip!

Remembering New Year's Eve 1981

Jeff P. had an open house bash in Roeland Park and everyone from school was there. One jock from the football team did a chin up on the gas line in the basement and it started a leak. Thank goodness the house didn't ignite. They turned off the main and turned up the rock-n-roll. I revved up the charm as midnight approached. The grand prize of stolen kisses was there: cheerleader Jennifer Wisely. At midnight I retrieved a bottle of cheap Champagne from Mike's orange Chevrolet Impala and popped the cork. I don't think I kissed ole Jennifer though. If I did, I have forgotten the moment. The last thing I remember was waking up in the Impala with Mike at the wheel and Sean K. yanking Christmas lights off a house in Mission Hills. I got home about 3am.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1980

Mike, Randy and I went out looking for fun. Mike was the only one of us who had a driver's license. We were riding in his mom's Plymouth Horizon and I thought he was driving too fast through the hilly residential streets near Shawnee Mission North High School. At one point I was so unnerved that I demanded to be let out. I didn't have to walk far before Mike came back and promised to slow down. I'm glad he came back. That would have been a long walk home. We went to a party at Chris Rogers' house. A couple of our good buddies, Greg and Kurt, had dates. I was ticked that they blew us off for a couple of skirts, but our aim this year hadn't changed much (see 1979) so I really couldn't blame them. KY-102 played the album of the year on the radio at midnight. It was Back in Black by AC/DC.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1979

My friend Randy had a party at his house in Mission. We were 9th graders anxious to grow up. We wanted to meet some girls. This party had no girls. Ten of us walked over to Carl F.'s house. I didn't know Carl that well. He left the area after this particular school year so this was my only Carl F. party experience. His parents and/or grandparents were upstairs and we were in the basement. It was all Jimi Hendrix downstairs and Guy Lombardo upstairs. I got crazy and accidentally broke a lamp. (Sorry about that Carl, wherever you are). Then we walked back to Randy's house. I slept on a mattress in the basement.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1978

My father wanted a Toyota Land Cruiser jeep and he couldn't bring himself to purchase one straight-away. He rationalized the decision by devising a cottage business plan. I was his partner. He saw guys with snow blades plow parking lots in the winter and figured to make a few bucks. I kicked in about four grand in savings from my grandfather Jones fund. We shook on the deal and agreed that I got the Land Cruiser when I turned 16. We purchased it but we never got the blade. You need a pickup truck with some ballast to balance the extra front-end weight. We switched to residential snow removal and bought a portable snow blower instead. It snowed like a bastard on New Year's Eve and Dad and I agreed to work the next morning. I stayed home. We got about six inches of snow and went looking for business at eight dollars a driveway. It was not a very festive holiday. Three years later when I got my driver's license, Dad reneged on the pledge to hand-over the Land Cruiser due to safety concerns. He made up for it by purchasing a different vehicle for me (Datsun pickup), and I drove the Land Cruiser on occasion, but it was a sore spot between us for a time.

Remembering New Year's Eve 1977

7th grade romance was in bloom. Randy and I made arrangements to visit our respective Old Mission Junior High sweeties, Lynn H. and Robin S. We played monopoly and made out with the girls. Lynn gave me Grand Illusion by Styx as a belated Xmas gift. I gave her some cheap jewelry from Venture. I wore cheap cologne too. We talked the adults into letting us have a sip of Champagne at midnight. I spent the night at Randy's house and the next day I caught the replay of Casey Casem's year-end countdown. The top song was Evergreen by Barbara Steisand. That was a New Year's day bummer but 1978 would be an excellent year for puberty and me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Sugar Plum Visions

I got a lot of nice things for Christmas: a Best Buy gift certificate, tickets to the Jayhawks game this Thursday, new clothes, and the Ramones' Rocket to Russia CD. I have no complaints. The best gift of all was a moment I shared with my three year-old daughter. It was Christmas eve and I sat down at the foot of the stairs and lifted her on to my lap. She let me hold her close. She didn't squirm. We talked of Christmas magic in hushed but hopeful tones. She shared her personal sugar plum visions in that faux three year-old whisper that an entire room might hear, but nobody else did. There were no other household concerns. It was a moment frozen. I'll remember it long after the other gifts lose their holiday luster.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Remembering Christmas 1971

It was Christmas 1971 and anticipation was at an all time high for me personally as Christmas Eve ended. I was six and the youngest boy in the house at the time. I knew the rules about being asleep before Santa came and I was eager to oblige.

I awoke later and got out of bed, opened the bedroom door and walked down the hall toward the front room. The hall light was on and I saw two new fisher price toys under the tree: the parking garage and the airport. Santa had come to Roeland Park. Our dog Watson didn't even bark.

I went to my parents room, tugged on my father's pajamas, and relayed the big news. He did not share my enthusiasm. It was only 3am and he was content to wait until morning and reminded me that I needed to do the same despite my discovery.

I returned to my room and got back into bed. It was the best, most satisfying feeling knowing that I had it all, my parents, my home, and new toys from Santa. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Another Show I missed

I wasn't there but it doesn't matter since Warren Zevon's 1990 concert at the Shadow in Kansas City, MO is now available for download.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

New Concepts (personal)

At lunch (while perusing the sushi menu): boston roll
At work (while sitting near a co-worker with the habit): betel nut
At home (while fiddling with this web log): snowclone

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Oswald Gets Clipped From Clip Show

TV Land is airing television's 100 most unexpected moments. These list shows always omit something. I know it's subjective but they left out Lee Harvey Oswald's assassination by Jack Ruby. That was a stunner, much more so than any Jack Benny quip on Password.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sic Transit Trivium

Five years ago today I was in New York taping Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and I got to thinking about the way trivia changes as we age. If you don't know what I mean, try watching a re-run of You Bet Your Life. Groucho asked some trivia questions that seemed really obscure but must have been gimmes in the 50's. For example, they might chat with a professional hobo about the best places to get a free meal and the folksy gent might woo the audience with his home-spun humor and earthy appearance. Then Groucho would say it's time to play you bet your life. "What father of modern critisism studied at Coll├Ęge Royal, Lyon from 1832-36?" And without pausing our hobo responds, "Baudelaire!". Ding, ding, ding. That's right. Such is the nature of what every school boy knows. On this day that holds no small significance to me, enjoy this annotated version of Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, by Emily Dickinson (1852).

Sic transit gloria mundi
"How doth the busy bee"
Dum vivamus vivamus
I stay mine enemy!--

Oh veni vidi vici!
Oh caput cap-a-pie!
And oh "memento mori"
When I am far from thee

Hurrah for Peter Parley
Hurrah for Daniel Boone
Three cheers sir, for the gentleman
Who first observed the moon--

Peter put up the sunshine!
Pattie arrange the stars
Tell Luna, tea is waiting
And call your brother Mars--

Put down the apple Adam
And come away with me
So shal't thou have a pippin
From off my Father's tree!

I climb the "Hill of Science"
I "view the Landscape o'er"
Such transcendental prospect
I ne'er beheld before!--

Unto the Legislature
My country bids me go,
I'll take my india rubbers
In case the wind should blow.

During my education
It was announced to me
That gravitation stumbling
Fell from an apple tree--

The Earth upon its axis
Was once supposed to turn
By way of a gymnastic
In honor to the sun--

It was the brave Columbus
A sailing o'er the tide
Who notified the nations
Of where I would reside

Mortality is fatal
Gentility is fine
Rascality, heroic
Insolvency, sublime

Our Fathers being weary
Laid down on Bunker Hill
And though full many a morn'g
Yet they are sleeping still

The trumpet sir, shall wake them
In streams I see them rise
Each with a solemn musket
A marching to the skies!

A coward will remain, Sir,
Until the fight is done;
But an immortal hero
Will take his hat and run.

Good bye Sir, I am going
My country calleth me
Allow me Sir, at parting
To wipe my weeping e'e

In token of our friendship
Accept this "Bonnie Doon"
And when the hand that pluck'd it
Hath passed beyond the moon

The memory of my ashes
Will consolation be
Then farewell Tuscarora
And farewell Sir, to thee.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Hello John Cleese

Marc in front of John Cleese's apartment in suburban London in 1983. We were visiting people around the corner when they mentioned the famous comedian lived nearby. We strolled down and hoped to catch a glimpse but all was quiet. Marc pretended to walk in the front yard and I took this picture. For all I know it may not even be his place. Perhaps you know.

Friday, December 02, 2005

You want a sandwich?

Have a danish, and other contractual obligations with Van Morrison. Courtesy of WFMU.

Recommending Iron & Wine

I'd like to thank my friend Michael Bassin for turning me on to Iron and Wine.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Nicest Boy in Kansas

Capote's In Cold Blood mentioned another death-row inmate. Read Mike Belt's Journal-World story about the nicest boy in Kansas, Lowell Andrews.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Remembering Roesland School

My folks moved to Canterbury street in 1974 and I was the new kid in fourth grade at Roesland elementary school that fall. Mom and I took my enrollment form and medical records up to the office before the first day and walked through the silent hallways. Roesland was built in the model of the singular small town school rather than a suburban school. The gymnasium had a balcony (reserved for sixth graders) and there were showers in the boys restroom (we didn't use those). Inside my classroom, three panels mounted on spindles concealed the coat nook. What appeared to be a chalkboard or bulletin board changed when you twisted the knob and pulled on the left side. The three panels opened together and revealed our coats and bookbags. The playground included a tennis court but nobody played tennis. Maybe they stopped getting so sweaty out there when the showers quit working.

They tore down the oldest section of Roesland in 1977 and erected a pod-style replacement wing with an open air library in the hub. They walled up the balcony in the gym too. It was very contemporary but even that did not last. Crews tore down the entire school last week. A new Roesland will be built here sans tennis court and balcony. It won't be the same.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sayonara Sudler Annex

KJHK plans to move its studio to the student union in the next three to five years.

Ethnic Cowboy Sighting

I drove my mother to a reading at Aimee's coffee house in downtown Lawrence last night. An assortment of eastern Kansas writers and poets read to the crowd and surprise to me - Rick Frydman (KJHK 1977-85) played guitar and sang before the show and during the intermission. He told me the Jolly Ranchers played a couple weeks ago (after a long hiatus). He still looks the same as he did 20 years ago. He's an attorney by day and sponsors the annual Kaw Valley Songwriters Association contest.

Monday, November 14, 2005

More Capote

Here's the excellent series the Lawrence Journal World did recently on Truman Capote's In Cold Blood experience.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What is it?

If you said the top of a ball turret on a B-17 Flying Fortress, you'd be right. Taken on 10/23/05 in Kansas City, Mo.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Recommending A Scanner Darkly

If you have windows media player, you can check out the trailer for the upcoming screen adaptation of Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly. Be sure to disable your pop-up blocker.

Director Richard Linklater employs the same animation technique that he used in Waking Life. If you haven't see that film, he shot it live-action and layered the animation over the action to evoke a feeling of unreality, a notion that should work well with Dick's reality/unreality theme in this movie. I'm looking forward to the release, scheduled for February 2006.

I'm still waiting for somebody to adapt my favorite Dick novel, Ubik. That's my favorite P.K.D. melon twister of all time.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Remembering Castle Films

If you're over 40 like me, then you saw dozens or maybe hundreds of Castle films during your childhood. I saw Castle films at school, on local television cartoon shows, and at Shakey's pizza. They produced quite a variety of kid fare. Here's a great gallery of Castle film boxes, and here's a fabulous recollection and history of Castle films by Mark Evanier.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween Hangover

Anoka, Minnesota did not have the first U.S. halloween celebration in 1920 (or 1921) and I can prove it.

I jumped out of my recliner Sunday when I read a factoid in the almanac section of the Kansas City Star that gave the Anoka claim. I knew it was wrong. My great Aunt Mae Youker kept a diary in 1914 and I was familiar with her October 31st entry:


Went to choir rehearsal. Olive Ostrander, Ruby Bishop, and Hazel Rockwell met me. We went to [ ] store and got Kathryn Walker and all started out for Halloween fun. Met Leo [ ] and he took us up to his house and Olive and Hazel dressed up in Sailor's clothes and Leo in girl's clothes, then we went out on street. We met Dr. Petrie and the girls started to pelter him with flour. He said if we would only let him alone he would take us all in Greek's and treat us so we all went in with him. We went in all the stores and marched around and out again. Had quite a lot of fun. I came home a little after eleven.

It's got all the elements of the modern celebration: the costumes, the trick, and the reprieve granted by the promise of a treat. "Greek's" was the local candy and ice cream merchant in Dolgeville, NY in 1914. They also visited a number of businesses, although there is no further mention of treats.

Research on the topic revealed that Hiawatha, Kansas also beat Anoka, Minnesota by five years. This entry is from the Kansas Historical Society website:

Tragedies and excessive property loss moved communities to find creative ways of occupying children on Halloween night. Hiawatha's solution, an annual Halloween Frolic, was so successful that it was widely copied by towns throughout the United States. Started by a townswoman who lost a fence and flowers one Halloween, the Frolic's main entertainment in its early years was a parade of costumed revelers. Local business owners, eager to avoid property damage, provided cash prizes for the best costumes. The local newspaper proudly reported on the first Frolic in 1915, "There was no destroying of property and the marshals had the lonesomest Hallowe'en they have ever had."

If you visit the Anoka Halloween website, the description of their first Halloween celebration is almost identical to the Hiawatha account.

In light of this evidence, I contacted the source of the newspaper factoid, the U.S. census bureau. Their website included a press release about halloween with the outdated (Anoka) information. I received this response on 10/31/05 from Mr. Robert B Bernstein of the Public Information Office:

Thanks for your message about the origins of Halloween. The diary entry was very interesting! We will delete the sentence in the Facts for Features referencing the celebration in Anoka.

Wow! My Great-Aunt helped shed light on the origin of Halloween in the U.S. Now, I don't think that Dolgeville, NY or Hiawatha, KS invented the American Halloween experience, but at least we know the Anoka, Minnesota claim is flawed. 'First' anything is a claim that's hard to keep unless you're Neil Armstrong.

Before you write to tell me that Hallowe'en has been around since the druids, don't bother. I'm talking about the origins of the modern U.S. tradition. We know that the tricks on All Hallows Eve were recorded long before the appeasement process began. We may never know the absolute first, and it really depends on how one defines celebration. People in Anoka, the self-proclaimed Halloween capital of the world, may argue that their 1920 celebration was the first because the parade was followed by an organized candy giveaway, and that's a point that's missing from the Hiawatha account.

Where did the Anoka reference come from? It's on the Anoka website (they don't claim it outright themselves). They say it's "believed" and the claim has subsequently been referenced in dozens of other online stories about Halloween history. A search of "Halloween origins -- Anoka" returns a few references to a Yale Anthropologist named Ralph Linton. The original source may have been a 1950 book by Linton called 'Halloween through Twenty Centuries'.

Here's what had to say about it:

The definitive scholarly work on Halloween has yet to be written. Ralph Linton and Adelin Linton's Halloween through Twenty Centuries (New York, 1950) is an adequate introduction, though dated. Lacking substantial citations, it should be read along with other texts to ensure its accuracy.

I'll let you know if I find out anything else. In the meantime, I wrote to the mayor of Anoka, Mr. Bjorn Skogquist, and gave him the new information. I'm sure Anoka is a nice town with lots of Halloween spirit and a great civic tradition, but I'd like to find out more about the true genesis of the modern Halloween tradition in America, and I'm keeping Mayor Skogquist and the rest of you posted as I go.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Omega Julius Man: Xmas Redux

The grim reaper of retail lives in Johnson County and I’m not talking about the Burlington Coat Factory. This year I decided to purchase all my family Christmas gifts at the dead mall. My shrink declared that I was in the throes of a passive-aggressive episode.

She said, “Keep the receipts in case you get a moment of clarity before the stores close on Christmas Eve.”

“Nonsense,” I said. And besides, who pays a shrink for shopping tips? “I’ll be back on the couch after New Year’s Day. We can dissect the terse wording in the thank you notes I’m sure to receive when I return.”

Visiting the dead mall during the holiday season is the closest we narcissistic suburbanites come to witnessing the aftermath of the apocalypse. Natural disasters and riots aside, exploring an indoor shopping center that has lost its proverbial luggage store is the ultimate exercise in consumer ennui.

Parking was not a problem. I walked in a side door where barefoot kids with smiling eyes sold Chiclets to the new arrivals. The enterprising sales lad assured me these third-world sweetmeats wouldn’t stick to Grandma’s dental work.

I listened for the faint sound of falling water and followed my ears past a padlocked door. "Orange Julius is closed?" I asked, with mock astonishment. "And Mastercuts and Thom McCann too? They're all gone." Sad news indeed, Jim McKay. I wondered what else wasn't here as I circled the penny fountain on the ground floor.

There was no Santa this year. Once during the Nixon administration he parachuted into the mall parking lot on the day after Thanksgiving. Suburban kids waited in the crisp autumn air and looked skyward for a sleigh or a small Cessna. I wondered if his chute would open.

This yuletide ghost town fascinated me despite Saint Nick’s conspicuous absence. I looked through the shuttered entryway of a K.G. Men's wear and saw a few forgotten sock hangers strewn on the carpet. It evoked a feeling similar to the low level of background radiation left over from the big bang. Or maybe I confused this vague notion with the low level of Orange Julius drink powder residue that coursed through my veins after 30 years. In this post-galleria age they became one.

Exploring the dead mall for gift ideas allowed me to live out an Omega Man fantasy. I looked past the long-gone storefronts of B. Dalton bookseller and Lady Footlocker and prowled the inner-most recesses of this skeleton city like Charlton Heston with a shotgun and fuel can in tow. I searched for a glimpse of last year's calendar left hanging above the empty check out counter at the formal wear outlet. It's a moment frozen forever, like the pit-stains in the last tux rental back from the homecoming dance. My kingdom for a burgundy cummerbund. Just Dad’s size, and marked down 50% on the rent-to-own table. Score!

There was no chance meeting with a faux mannequin Rosalind Cash on this shopping foray; only surprise encounters with other mutant mall tenants. They are the last paying customers on the manifest: a rug emporium, a Chinese restaurant with the life-saving street entrance, or Dr. Zerbe's dental care office. A sign in the window touted “every check-up has a happy ending”. It sounded like they were pulling more than teeth in there, but you gotta pay the rent.

Mr. Bulky covered expenses. Confectionery traders filled the scales with chocolate gold coins and there was a run on gummy while I was there. A young girl with a headset bought virtual kilos of gummy bears, worms, and o-rings before she got the word on her flip phone. “Sell, sell!” Many customers held worthless sacks of the rubber confection when the frenzy subsided.

“If you can’t take the heat, get yourself to Topsy’s post haste,” the ebullient candy broker said. “You heard me, popcorn,” and pointed my way. I traded my Chiclets for five pounds of Pez and left.

A carnival calliope serenaded mall walking zombies in orthopedic athletic shoes. In this deadest of dead malls, the organ store played on like the Titanic band. I followed a woman in a purple track suit to the Hickory Farms outlet. The variety pack of cheddar wedges and summer sausage will tickle Mom this Christmas morning.

One name remained on my list; a music lover. Alas Babylon, Record Bar had gone the way of all the other music retailers in this place. Wasn't there a Christian Science reading room in the mezzanine? Who needs an iPod nano when free informational pamphlets make great stocking stuffers. Brother will be so pleased.

I paused to reflect on my successful shopping adventure. A childhood icon fell on hard times and this might be the mall’s last Christmas with all of us kids. Don’t wait too long to gather your returns. If the mall is dead now, it will be an archaeological dig in January. I trudged on in search of the elusive omega julius.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Photo-blogging: The B-17

Inside the nose of a B-17 Flying Fortress, taken last Saturday at the downtown airport in Kansas City, Mo.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Remembering Herk Harvey

I like to think about Carnival of Souls this time of year. Here's a nice bio of director Herk Harvey, from wikipedia.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Aboard the Nine O Nine

I did something I've never done. I walked through a working B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. That's the Nine O Nine pictured above. It was at the downtown airport in Kansas City, Missouri today along with a B-25 Mitchell bomber. My six year-old son and I paid 12 bucks for a chance to see these historic artifacts of World War II.

We walked through the bomb bays on the cat walks, touched the .50 caliber machine guns, and generally marvelled at the machinery, like the ball-turret. It was tiny. I can't imagine anybody being stuck in there for eight to twelve hours.
We stood in line next to a WWII veteran flyer. This particular gentleman flew with the 94th in the war and got shot down on his 24th mission . He eluded capture and made to Switzerland with the help of the underground. He said it was the first time in 50 years he'd been this close to a B-17.

We climbed a metal step ladder into the front compartment under the cockpit. The nose area where the bombadier and the navigator were stationed was on our left. We moved on our hands and knees and toward the top turret. We stood up and looked into the camped cockpit. It was roped off to visitors, but we had an intimate view of the vast amount of dials, switches, and knobs. We checked out the ball-turret, a metallic globe in the floor of the airplane with all kinds of mechanical protuberances. We tiptoed through the bomb bay, and lounged in the spacious radioman's desk area. You could lay down in that compartment. The twin .50 caliber machine guns in the rear were harnessed but they had ammo in place and bombs in the bomb bay. We exited through a door in the rear on the right side. It was an amazing experience.

I snapped some pictures of my son in front of the plane. He wasn't crazy about standing in line in the bitter cold while we waited 20 minutes to get inside the airplane, but I hope someday that he'll cherish the memory, especially when these relics disappear for good.

Read more about the history of the Nine O Nine.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Where do the waffles come from?

Does Belgium really exist? Author Lyle Zapato says, "Land of Sprouts and Chocolate, I Think Not!"

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Just in time for Christmas

What's the deal with the inordinate amount of Ramones anthologies available these days? They must have half a dozen greatest hits compilations. Well hey ho, now The Ramones have a boxed set with songs, videos, AND a comic book. How can I resist?

Friday, October 14, 2005

30 Years of the Sound Alternative has a bevy of articles and essays to commemorate the 30th anniversary of KJHK including nice contributions from Blake Gumprecht and Steve Wilson.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Dancing About Architecture

"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."

Who said that? The answer may be Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, or Martin Mull depending who you ask as this article by Louise Schumacher details. Alan P. Scott also explores the mystery surrounding the quote here.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Thirlwell at Carnegie Hall

I stumbled on a Carnegie Hall listing that included a performance series listing for the Kronos Quartet. I wasn't surprised that the Kronos foursome was getting some Carnegie time. Afterall, they've pushed the boundaries of the classical genre for over 25 years. What really surprised me was the inclusion of the world premiere performance (on April 7, 2006) of Mr. J. G. Thirlwell, AKA Jim Foetus, at Carnegie Hall.

Here's what Ira Robbins said about Thirlwell:

Thanks to modern technology, any chump with a studio can now open up the bomb bays and drop sonic megatonnage. That's the easy part. Nailing targets and causing serious devastation, however, is a job for professionals, and no one in modern rock wrecks shit with a sharper balance of artistic control and unmitigated power than J. G. (Jim) Thirlwell, whose unmatched skill in sculpting audio thunder into theatrical monuments of bludgeoning agility is positively Zeus-like. (Thanks Trouser Press)

Get down with Jim (as Clint Ruin) on this KJHK ID (circa 1985).

Friday, October 07, 2005

Del Fuegos Frontman Now a Tot Rocker

Read Jon Niccum's profile of Dan Zanes, from the Lawrence Journal-World. When you're done, hear drummer Woody Giessman doing a straight read on a KJHK legal ID.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

KJHK Lore - The Red Hot Chili Peppers ID

KJHK had quite a collection of artist IDs in the early/mid 80's. There must have been 50 individual tape cartridges in the studio with personalities doing a variation on the script, "Hi, this is so-and-so from the band-you-know and you're listening to KJHK, Lawrence.

If they nailed the call letters and the city without anything in between, we called it a legal ID. A station must identify itself once an hour, within five minutes of the top of the hour with the call letters followed by the city of license, hence KJHK, Lawrence.

If the artist took liberties with the script, and thank goodness many of them did, it was a non-legal ID. No big deal.

What became the big deal was the technology we trusted. The tape cartridge was an industry standard for more than 40 years. Come to think of it, many of the carts at KJHK were probably that old. The cart itself, which resembled an 8-track tape, tended to wear out.

The spring of 1984 was my first semester on the KJHK staff. Late in the school year, a new band called the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their first album and we played the crap out of that record. It was great. Sometime not long after the release, the Chili Peppers made an appearance in Lawrence. The details of that show escape me, but they left a calling card. They recorded an ID. But it wasn't the regular, run-of-the-mill station identification. Anthony Kiedis devised an original, funky rap on the spot inside Sudler Annex and for my money, it's one of the best we ever recorded. Thanks to Lori Wray and Charles Brown for capturing it after the fact.

In the summer of 1984, they decided to play all the celebrity station IDs on the air one after the other. Better yet, they recorded it as it happened. A few years later many of the tape cartridges wore out. I feared this ID was lost for good. Thanks to Lori (and Charles) I now have a copy and so do you. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

KJHK Lore - The Jason Ringenberg ID

Here's another KJHK ID from a cassette tape I found in my basement. Enjoy this heartfelt sentiment voiced by Jason on one of his many visits to Lawrence, Kansas in the '80s. I suspect it was recorded in 1985 by Jeff Hekmati when the boys came back to Lawrence for a well-received appearance on campus. And while we're dank with nostalgia, recall this sweet week from April of that year when the concert calendar was ripe with roots rock opportunity.

The Blasters (4/22/85 at Parody Hall, K.C. MO)
The Beat Farmers (4/23 at Parody Hall)
Jason and the Nashville Scorchers (4/26 at the Uptown Theatre, K.C. MO)
Jason and the Nashville Scorchers (4/28 at Hoch Auditorium, Lawrence, KS)

I was only 20 and the first three shows were at 21 and over venues, although it's possible they let the kids in the balcony at the Uptown show. I worked the Hoch show for SUA and it was fun; a good way to end the year. My memories aren't as vivid for that show as for the R.E.M. concert or the Reggae Sun-splash from that time. The Jason show went without a mishap. I remember Jason's leopard-skin jacket and Perry Baggs being kinda kooky. It was great.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Return to the St. Louis Arch

I took the family to St. Louis last weekend and we did the Arch. I snapped this picture as we approached from the north. We rode the rail over from Union Station. It was my first trip inside the Arch since January 1985 and third visit overall.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Right on Remedy Records

Shawnee Mission North grad Jerry Johnson ('83) is helping Lawrence bands get recorded. Read Richard Gintowt's story at

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Wishing you good thoughts during this restless night.

Friday, August 19, 2005

KJHK Lore - The Lou Reed ID

Here's another KJHK relic: The Lou Reed ID. Like many of the artist ID's in the studio, No one seems to remember how it got recorded. There are four possibilities:

1) A field recording was made at a concert venue.
2) A production room recording was made following a live in-studio interview.
3) An ID was recorded over the phone.
4) A reel of tape may have arrived from the record company as part of a promo package in support of a album.

There are several well-known examples of field-recorded KJHK IDs: drops from the members of X, and the Go-Go's were recognizable as field recordings by the amount noise in the background. Our Lou Reed mention is recorded in quiet surroundings. So it's not a field recording.

We had a few phone IDs. My favorite was from Patti Smith, who identified the station correctly, but seemed to say "in Lawrence Canyon" instead of Lawrence, Kansas. Phone lines have limited fidelity and Lou is obviously in front of a microphone and not a handset.

I can't rule out a visit to Sudler annex. Lou played in Lawrence and Kansas City in the late 70s and early 80s, but it seems unlikely that Mr. Velvet Underground would be available for the college radio handshake tour. He just didn't need it.

That leaves the fourth option: the promo tape from the record company. The probability of this was reinforced by the fact that KJHK had other unsolicited IDs in its collection: Ace Frehley from KISS and Nikki Six from Motley Crue. We never played KISS or Crue records so why did we have the IDs? For years I never knew. I figured they were bogus. When I located some copies of these old IDs, the Frehley ID was included and after listening to it again and then seeing an interview with Ace on VH-1's "When KISS ruled the world" I am convinced that we had the real Frehley on tape.

I believe the KJHK Lou Reed ID was a gift of sorts from his record company and that he spent an afternoon in the studio reading a list of similiar IDs for stations all across the country. They were mastered to Reel-to-reel tape, dubbed onto five inch reels and distributed. A few stations like KJ treasured them. I suspect most were discarded. If you know more, drop a line.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Keep the Dead Air Coming

I had the dead air dream again...

I was back at the radio station. This time the country format included Van Halen records and nobody thought it was strange. I took the controls in the air studio and settled in for my air shift. The song ended before I cued up the next one on the playlist. It was on reel-to-reel tape of all things and I had no time to find the correct cut. I hit play and fired up the first number. I was cueing up the next song (also on reel-to-reel) when I noticed the first tape ran out. I scrambled to keep the silence to a minimum but lost the battle.

I've been out of radio for almost ten years, but my sub-conscious maintains that dead air is my worst nightmare. That dream re-occurs a couple times a year. I'd much rather dream about silence on the air waves than something really bad, like losing a loved one. So word to my brain, keep the dead air coming.

Here's a practical joke you radio people can play on a co-worker. Brad Olson pulled it on me back at KKCJ in 1994 and I have to admit it was a good one. Wait until the jock on duty leaves the air studio to go to the bathroom or have a smoke. Go in and turn the studio monitor all the way down. Panic and hilarity ensues when the jock returns to total silence in the control room. Hardy-har!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Hidden history revealed - The REM/dBs station I.D.

I took time recently to figure out how to hook up my dad's vintage Nakamichi 500 cassette deck to my computer. I've got a stack of old cassette tapes that will wear out eventually and I wanted to dump the audio into my hard drive and convert the highlights to .mp3.

While listening to a tape from the KJHK era (1984-1987), I found this station I.D. with elements of R.E.M. (probably Mike Mills) and the dB's telling you that you're listening to KJHK.

I had doubted in a previous post that anyone from REM did an interview the day of the Hoch auditorium concert (September, 1984) until I uncovered this audio relic. I don't know how I could have forgotten about it. The cart stayed in the air studio and was played hundreds of times over the next few years. Now it appears that they did make it over to the shack at sudler annex for a brief interview and an improvised recording session that featured a harmonica version of the Andy Griffith theme in the background. I've got a couple of other station I.D.s and perhaps I'll post a few more for your listening pleasure.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Elvis & Emmy Lou

Former KJHK jock and Shawnee Mission North graduate Joe Kellogg ('84) saw Elvis Costello and Emmy Lou Harris last week in Chicago and posted this synopsis:
Gigantic purple velvet curtains as a back drop.

No opening band, 8pm Elvis and the band walk out and with no introduction or chat and immediately jump into 30 minutes of all “Attractions” era songs.

8:30 Emmy Lou comes out and they sing together for and hour, not all her stuff, not his stuff . . . I think they even did a Hank Sr. song! If Elvis wasn’t a part of one of her songs vocally he was playing.

At one point Elvis announces they’re really going to get into the country music and rattles something like, “not the country music you’re thinking of, not like that Toby Keith, you know I saw a picture of Toby Keith the other day holding a martini glass and I thought . . . . that’s so un-American” I loved that quote.

9:30 Emmy Lou leaves and Elvis kicks it up a notch with another 30 minutes of more recent songs.

10:00 They leave (but barely for a minute) before coming out for what turned out to be an hour long encore . . . an encore that included Emmy Lou. She sang with Elvis on all his songs and they sounded great together doing his stuff. It looked like they were having a blast doing Pump It Up! He was even doing schlock rock type guitar moves. They also sang the Stones’ Wild Horses which sounded cool. They ended with a war protest song . . . somber but a cool way to end.

All said and done Elvis was on stage non-stop playing from 8 till 11, never taking off his bright blue jacket or tie. Definitely got the $15 worth.

Thanks Joe!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Q & A With Peter Jesperson

Peter Jesperson is a life long music fan. He was the co-founder of Twin/Tone records back in 1977 and was responsible for bringing bands like The Replacements and Soul Asylum to national prominence. Today he is a Senior Vice President/A&R with New West Records in Los Angeles and still enthusiastic about music. It's an honor and a treat to post this Q & A with his responses:
FJ: I recently bought Loudon Wainwright's "Career Moves" CD online for four dollars and it's been worth every penny. Who is your favorite Wainwright these days and why?

PJ: well, I'll always love Loudon, through thick and thin. He's an amazing singer and guitarist though, admittedly, the great material has ebbed and flowed over the years. I love his cleverness and sense of humor. Just got the new one, haven’t listened to it enough to comment yet but sounds good. I like much of what Martha has done getting her own thing going. But, with all due respect to them both, Rufus would be my favorite Wainwright. On a purely vocal level, there aren't many in the business today that can touch him if you ask me. I find him to be an absolutely thrilling singer. And his musical vocabulary is staggering. Sometimes overly complicated but always challenging.

FJ: Did you ever visit Lawrence, KS in the early days and if so, do any memories stand out?

PJ: I sure did, several times. The most indelible memory is of Bob Stinson nearly being electrocuted. Blake Gumprecht, then from KJHK, had brought The Replacements down for their first show in Lawrence, in some kind of old airplane hangar-like building ("the Off the Wall Hall" maybe?). We were sound checking. I was standing at the soundboard. Bob had one hand on his guitar, touched a microphone and couldn't let go. He was writhing around uncontrollably, I was sure he was done for. Then Chris Mars jumped over his drum kit and kicked the mic stand loose from bob's grip. It was terrifying. I also remember hanging around KJHK, being allowed to play whatever records we felt like on the air, it was a gas. True college radio. The band were quite well known there very early on. With Blake leading the charge from the first album on, we'd send a new Replacements record down and it automatically entered the KJHK chart at #1.

FJ: Some of the most talented KJHK staffers found their way to Minneapolis in the 80s: People like Blake Gumprecht, Todd Newman and Lori Wray. In fact Medium Cool worked with Todd as part of the Leatherwoods. Were you aware of this Lawrence to Minneapolis pipeline?

PJ: Yes, I was very aware of the pipeline. Blake was our first actual employee at Twin/Tone. The Mortal Micronotz came up to Mpls and played, slept on my floor. Todd Newman was a huge inspiration, such a talented musician. The Leatherwoods were a dream come true for me - like a perfect combination of The Beatles and the Everly Bothers. They came along right after The Replacements disbanded in '91. Todd and co-singer Tim O'Reagan really had it going on. They had enormous potential that, sadly, was never realized. I never knew Lori Wray very well. The Embarrassment were from that general area too I think, right? I liked them too.

FJ: The Embarrassment – Yeah, one of my all-time favorite bands! Besides artists in the Twin/Tone catalog, who were some other personal favorites of that time?

PJ: R.E.M., Joy Division, The Soft Boys, The dBs.

FJ: What's the most important lesson you learned about running a record label during the Twin/Tone era?

PJ: #1, That it was really hard work. We had some brilliant artists but limited resources to promote them. #2, That whenever a group wasn't successful, the label got the blame, whether we deserved it or not.

FJ: You wore a number of hats while working with The Replacements: producer, manager, and promoter. How would you like to be remembered in reference to The Replacements?

PJ: I guess for having discovered them. I knew they were great before they realized it themselves. It was just so incredibly exciting to recognize something like that. I could hardly believe it myself at first.

FJ: In the days before the Internet, the scene was tied to geography and locations like Oar Folkjokeopus were important gathering places. Describe Oar Folkjokeopus to those of us who aren't familiar with it and why was it important to the Minneapolis scene?

PJ: Oar Folk was like a clubhouse for music nuts. I'd like to think it was important for several reasons: because we started carrying lots of 45s, imports and indie label stuff in '73, before it became widespread; because we embraced all kinds of music, from underground rock to pop to R&B to folk to German electronic and zillions of other things ... Hell, we sold tons of disco - great records by the likes of George Mccrae, Chic and Donna Summer; because all of us who worked there were serious students of music, lived and breathed it, were experts in our field and took great pride in it. We were fanatical. For instance, when the 2nd Mike Mcgear record ('Mcgear,' the stunning collaboration between Mike and his big brother, Paul Mccartney) came out in '74, we loved it so much that we covered an entire wall with display copies for weeks and kept it on the new release rack for a year. Sold nearly 500 copies of it - honestly, one of the accomplishments I'm most proud of in my life! Gotta put in a shout-out to the store's owner Vern Sanden, who is a record lover/collector himself, for allowing us inmates take over his asylum, so to speak.

FJ: Blake Gumprecht wrote an excellent history of the origin of Athens, Georgia in reference to the evolution of the alternative scene there. He profiled personalities that made it what it became. Tell me about one person you knew in the Twin Cities that was influential in making that music scene work, an unsung hero if you will.

PJ: If I had to talk about just one person, it'd be Andy Schwartz - a New Yorker who went to college in Wisconsin, gravitated to Minneapolis and lived there from '72 to '77. He is a walking encyclopedia of music and started writing about it for the Minnesota Daily (U of M newspaper). He was the first person that I remember who wrote a serious dissertation on the importance of the Suicide Commandos, the granddaddies of the whole late 70s/80s (and beyond) local scene. We hired him at oar folk in '75. He was a real catalyst for the musical community. He's back in N.Y. these days, working for the R&R hall of fame, opinionated as ever!

FJ: Have you ever been to Winfield, Kansas for the bluegrass festival? If so, give me your impressions.

PJ: No, I have not.

FJ: Speaking of festivals, I'm guessing you've been to SXSW a few times. How has that scene changed over the years and do you like it more or less than you used to?

PJ: I've gone every year since 1993. It's changed in sheer size and in the fact that a lot more people who are simply music fans attend. The traffic is overwhelming at times and it's harder to get into shows as so many of them "sell-out." you have to plan better than you used to, you have to have alternate options in case you can't get into the shows you most want to see. It's changed profoundly for me, personally, being a part of new west records who have such a large presence there every year. Usually 7 to 10 of our artists are appearing (some more than once) so it's more about new west work than scouting new bands. Not complaining though, it still seems like each year is the most fun I’ve ever had at SXSW!

FJ: Rapid advances in technology allow artists unprecedented opportunity to record and distribute their material. What's next and how will it effect what you do at your label?

PJ: Well, again, the traffic is intense. But, ultimately, there's more music now than ever before and that's a good thing. Not sure what's next but I do know that, as new west branches out into other areas of music, we're more affected by people burning our records and not paying for them which has an obvious affect. I'm all for sharing music but I simply believe an artist, like anyone else, should be paid for their work. I've primarily worked with left-of-center music all my life and those artists are already scraping to get by; it's tougher now than ever.

FJ: Are you a vinyl fan? Do you lament the fall of the vinyl record like I do? There's a certain tactile thrill you get when holding a full sized vinyl album that doesn't carry over to the CD or downloading an .Mp3, wouldn't you agree?

PJ: Yes, I'm a huge vinyl fan; still have thousands of albums and singles. But, yeah, I do lament it’s time having passed. But I also find it thrilling to hear about a new band and be able to type their name into a search engine, find their site and be listening to music in seconds. Like the other day, somebody told me a group called Nine Black Alps were cool and I was listening to a song by them in less than a minute. They sounded great by the way!

FJ: Excluding the job you hold now, what's been the best gig you've ever had?

PJ: I've loved just about all the "gigs" I've ever had. Haven't had that many actually. I've tended to have jobs that lasted a long time. But I suppose the 10 years running oar folk, from '73 to '83 was a highlight, I learned an incredible amount of things there. But Ii hafta say that working at New West is unquestionably my dream job. It took me almost 30 years to get into a position like this and I thank my lucky stars daily. Hourly sometimes. I work with a truly extraordinary team, from the staff to our stable of artists. In particular, Cameron Strang, who owns the label is one-in-a-million, an exceptionally gifted business person who loves music and has a heart the size of Nebraska.

FJ: I checked the artist lineup and you've got some heavy hitters: Yoakam, McClinton, Hiatt et al. (Not to mention Old 97s and Drive by Truckers). In your opinion what do these artists share in common?

PJ: They're all extraordinary artists who are great, both on record and live.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Doo-Dads play the Sylvan Lake sub-division block party. Sweet!

Friday, July 15, 2005

.PLS and Windows media - An unholy alliance

I've been frustrated in recent years by Windows Media Player's inability to read a .pls connection string. What's that mean? I couldn't take advantage of the streaming audio from until now. Tonight I found a free program that does the translation: by Jon Galloway. Enjoy.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Jonathan Richman in concert

The Jonathan Richman show was good. It wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be but that's not a bad thing. He played on the deck Saturday night at the Hurricane in Westport, Kansas City, Mo. It was hot. They had big electric fans to cool the area but Jonathan requested they be unplugged so everyone could hear him in his quiet, reflective moments. To say that Jonathan does an unplugged show is obvious. He unplugged himself nearly 30 years ago.

The crowd was a mixed bag of young hipsters and aging hipsters, and the tragically unhip. I'm not telling you what category I belong in. They impressed me as a group; everyone resisted the urge to sing along and turn the event into a Jimmy Buffet karaoke-style festival. Back in the mid 80's when I saw Jonathan at Parody Hall there was a drunk guy who insisted on singing along on "Walter Johnson". Jonathan stopped the song and asked the guy to give him a break. But this crowd knew better and he's got a lot more material now. I only recognized about half the English language songs, some were in Spanish or French.

We got there about 9:30pm, a full thirty minutes before show time and there weren't a lot of people there. The deck filled up by show time but I was able to stand about 10 feet away from the stage throughout the evening. He came out wearing a blue, button down shirt, slacks and a sport coat. He wore those crazy off-brand sneakers that look like the pair the Skipper wore on Gilligan's island. He looked more like an off-duty accountant than a touchstone of D.I.Y. musical brillance. He smiled and walked through the crowd to the stage where he removed the jacket.

Tommy Larkin manned a full drum kit, and sat on a wooden box that he also played. There was no towel on the snare drum this time. Jonathan played guitar, cowbell, wooden blocks, and tamborine stick.

An incomplete set list (not in show order):

Give Paris one more chance
Behold the lilies of the field
Pablo Picasso
You Can't talk to the dude
Egyptian Reggae
That Summer feeling
Nineteen in Naples
Down In Bermuda

They played two 40 minute sets with a 20 minute break. There was no opening act and no extended encores. After the show, he stepped off the stage and talked to all who approached.

I went with two buddies and it was their first time seeing him live. My friend Rob chatted with Jonathan after the show. I hung back. I couldn't think of anything clever to say. Rob spoke with Jonathan and pointed at me and Jonathan looked over and waved. I waved back. I think Rob gave me credit for dragging him to the show. A wave from Jonathan Richman, a little acknowledgement, it made my night. Thanks Jonathan!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Under the stage with R.E.M. - 1984

I worked for Student Union Activities (SUA) special events committee my sophomore year at K.U. (1984-1985). Our first big show that fall was R.E.M. at Hoch Auditorium (September 14th). The dB's opened.

R.E.M. released their Reckoning album that spring and So. Central Rain broke through to a larger college audience. It moved from the KJHK playlist to the jukebox at the mainstream Jayhawk cafe, a 3.2 beer bar on Ohio street. Booking R.E.M. was a coup for SUA special events director Fran Macferran. The timing was ripe to attract a large crowd. This wasn't lost on the R.E.M. people. The next time they came through Lawrence, wait a minute, there wasn't any next time. This was R.E.M.'s last appearance in Lawrence, though nobody knew it then, not even the far-sighted Macferran.

Macferran and KJHK station manager Stu Wright were responsible for "Day on the Green Hill", a free concert on the hill at Memorial Stadium. The hill show in the spring of 1984 (featuring headliners Get Smart) was my first collaboration with Macferran's SUA and following its success (it was a small but appreciative crowd) he asked me to join the special events committee for the upcoming school year. Wright graduated (and later managed a Denver band called The Fluid), but the fall of '84 special events committee featured other KJHK staffers including station manager Barb Robertson and promotions director Rob Leichter.

We met a couple of times in the weeks that led up to the show, but the bulk of the planning was in place by the time we got back from summer vacation, a testament to Macferran's skill as a promoter. He knew what had to happen to get R.E.M. on the SUA schedule and he knew how to secure the venue. This was accomplished by telephone from his SUA desk. He couldn't predict (or control) the inevitable chaos of show day and needed the rest of the committee members to assist on site that day.

Our instructions for show day were simple; report to Fran Macferran in the back stage area of Hoch Auditorium as soon as possible. What time? It didn't matter, come as soon as we could get there. He assured us we'd have things to do. I was a gopher.

The band arrived and the crew began building the stage, positioning the lights, and setting up the speakers. The "Little America" tour was the biggest production yet for R.E.M., in contrast to their two previous appearances in Lawrence, the last being in November 1982 for a show with the Mortal Micronotz at the Opera House. Many expected the band to stop by the KJHK studios for an interview. I remember tuning into the station that day. Rob Leichter and Mike Chitwood did a weekly "What's Your Problem" call-in show and somebody phoned in to ask when the R.E.M. interview was going to happen. It didn't. (In a previous visit they stopped in the station and were somewhat amused by the record review taped to the cover of their chronic town EP. They took a pen and wrote their rebuttals on the sleeve and autographed it. This created a station heirloom that remained in the stacks for many years, but was gone on my most recent visit to the KJHK studios in 2004.)

The R.E.M. tour bus was parked on the access road behind Hoch auditorium. The bus exterior was non-descript and the rotating placard above the driver's seat read Nobody You Know. Michael Stipe stood outside the tour bus signing autographs for a few savvy fans who knew who it was. There were no security people in this area at the time and it wasn't a problem for the band that year. KU parking services prevented unauthorized vehicles from parking in the area for the concert but that was it.

I was given all-access credentials and felt quite important. The moment faded when we received our first assignment: laundry. Barb Robertson and I drove over to the Laundromat at 25th and Iowa to do the band's wash. The guys themselves also needed a scrub. Rob Leichter led Mike Mills (and whomever else) down to Robinson Gymnasium for showers. The dressing rooms in the rear area of Hoch lacked amenities. I don't recall actual dressing rooms. The band mates readied themselves on their bus, and spent some time in the catering area/green room that was assembled in the storage room under the stage before and after the show.

The appearance of the New West Promotions dude was another sign that R.E.M. wasn't the same band that college kids saw at the Opera House or Off-The-Wall Hall. Although this was a co-production, SUA did most of the logistical support. I don't remember what New West brought to the table other than perhaps coordinating ticket sales for Kansas City outlets.

Keith Lueke was the New West rep on-site that night and he butted heads with Macferran right away. The two show runners were a contrast in styles: Lueke was a throwback to the WKRP days of 70's style rock promotion with blow-dried, thinning hair, tinted aviator style glasses, and a satin concert jacket. Macferran was an all college radio type: short hair, blue jeans, black t-shirt and chuck taylor all-stars.

I don't remember any of the actual beefs between Macferran and Lueke that night. Lueke showed up several hours after Macferran and I think Macferran resented Lueke's interference. I played go-between at times; conveying messages between the two camps as the evening progressed, and everybody got paid, had a good time, and went home happy.

I was pressed into security service after the doors opened. No alcohol was allowed. I felt out of place policing the crowd for booze. I wasn't old enough for anything other than 3.2 beer. My approach was to deal with the obvious offenders as they passed through the front doors of Hoch, and look the other way the rest of the time. I didn't have to wait long for the first not-so-clandestine attempt to carry in contraband liquor. A guy walked with his jean jacket under his arm and two Pabst Blue Ribbons cans fell to the floor as he walked past. I reluctantly claimed them in the name of sober justice! He was bummed. Hmm, warm Pabst Blue Ribbon. A different vibe permeated backstage with beer and drinks on ice in the green room under the stage. After 20 minutes on sobriety watch, Fran asked me to interview a guy at the box office who had a delivery for Peter Buck.

I interviewed the young man; early 20s, dark hair, tallish, over 6ft, Caucasian. He told me Pete Buck ordered an Embarrassment cassette tape and he was there to deliver it. I went back to the green room and found Pete and asked him if it was true. He said yes, he wanted an Embos tape and so I got the guy into the auditorium and took him backstage to deliver it. I think it was Fran's idea to let him drop it off. I don't know who the delivery guy was. It wasn't Bill Rich and it wasn't Kevin Gasser, but it was definitely a Rich protege. He gave Pete the tape and they chatted for a few minutes. I thought it was cool that Peter Buck was an Embarrassment fan and even cooler that he spent time with the label/delivery guy.

The dB's opened and they were great on stage and off stage. I'd been asked to hang out near them in case they needed anything. I don't remember anything specific other than I was impressed with how friendly they were in general. Peter Holsapple was very chatty. I lit a few cigarettes and got refreshments for them.

Even though the Embarrassment wasn't there that night, their reputation was not lost on either band as my previous story about Pete Buck and the Embo cassette illustrated. The dB's also paid homage to the Embarrassment on stage as John Cheney recalls:

dB's made the crowd very happy by playing a cover of Sex Drive. I thought they were better than REM. I was a volunteer stage crew member for that show. I didn't talk to any of those guys, but saw one of them side stage when REM was on stage. He gave two of us a thumbs up when he realized we were munching on REM's snack tray.

Around this time Fran recruited me for my next special assignment. The T-shirt vendor needed change for a hundred dollar bill. In fact he needed 100 one dollar bills. Fran pointed me toward the vendor in the Hoch lobby and he handed me a wrinkled c-note.

It was after 6pm and all the banks were closed. In high school, my friend Greg Fornelli worked at the local grocery store and they were always up to their armpits in cash. I got in my Datsun pickup and drove to Rusty's IGA at 9th and Iowa. I bypassed the checkout lanes and went to the courtesy booth. The nice grocery lady took a look at her cash reserves and declared them short of a hundred. Before I walked out she gave me a tip: try the movie theatre.

I'm not sure how she knew it but that's where I got the change. I don;t remember if the Hillcrest theatres weren't able to help me, in retrospect that seemed like the logical first stop since they were right around the corner from Rusty's. I don't recall success there. I ended up downtown at the Granada where the box office gal directed me to an assistant manager who counted out a hundred singles, no questions asked.

I returned to the lobby about 30 minutes later with a thick stack of dollars. He gave me a free t-shirt for my trouble. It was a simple black R.E.M. short-sleeved job with a cryptic symbol that resembled an eyeball on the front, and the words "seven Chinese brothers" on the back. I loved that shirt. I kept it for 15 years until my wife, unaware of the quest for one hundred singles, threw it away. Ah, wives and the old t-shirts they loathe, a match not made in heaven.

The crowd gravitated toward the stage after the dB's finished their set as Jeff Hekmati remembers:

They had put several rows of chairs up-front closer to the stage, but there was lots of open floor, roped off, between the front row and the stage. People ducked under the rope, moved up front and stood in front of the seated elite. Before and during the DB's, security was successful at making people leave. I knew that they were slowly losing control, so I moved against the ropes for when the inevitable happened. As soon as the lights went on for REM on stage everyone rushed to the stage. I was about 5 rows of standing people back, but at 6'2" I had a great view. The people who had "front row seats" were irate. I didn't care. They were all probably connected to ticket master or something.

My duties were complete once R.E.M. took the stage. I was free to watch the show from the wings or go find a seat in the auditorium. I did both. Toward the end of the show I met my girlfriend near the front of the stage and we hung out. It was fun. I don't remember many of the actual songs they played. I pretty sure they covered all the tracks on Reckoning and I have a distinct memory of them covering bits of Moon River and the theme from Ghostbusters. They didn't take themselves too seriously. They wanted to have fun too.

After the show, a handful of faithful concert-goers waited outside the backstage entrance. They hoped to meet with the band members. I thought they'd hang out for awhile, give up, and go home. I was very surprised when somebody opened the door and let them all into the green room. I decided to follow them down to see what happened.

The band was in the green room and they spent the next half-hour chatting with the fans that had waited for just such an opportunity. Unlike before the show, the shy Michael Stipe appeared for the post-concert hospitality session. He had a bag of Drum tobacco and rolled a few homemade cigarettes. We all hung out and I thought it was so cool of the band to do this. It certainly wasn't planned. But there we were, drinking Heineken with the boys.

That's my favorite memory of the evening but it would not be my last encounter with band members. R.E.M. returned to Kansas City for a Memorial Hall show in the fall of 1986. I opted for a different show that night. Richard Thompson played Parody Hall downtown. He played two sets and during the intermission in the packed club, I brushed against a gent carrying some drinks through the crowd. I turned to offer an apology and there was Peter Buck. He and Mike Mills came by after they finished thrilling the masses in K.C.K. We chatted for a moment but I didn't want to bust his chops. After Richard finished (a great show by the way), I asked Mike Mills when they were coming back to Lawrence. He assured me they'd return, but their college campus days were gone with the Heineken under the stage at Hoch auditorium in 1984.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

See Henry Z. "Hank" Jones

Author, Actor, and genealogy expert Henry Z. Jones appears at 2pm Saturday, June 25th, at Unity Temple on the Plaza, Kansas City, Missouri. He'll be speaking on "Psychic Roots: Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy". Tickets are 12 dollars in advance and 15 dollars at the door. Call (816) 931-0738.

Henry Z. Jones is the author of over ten classic genealogy texts including "The Palatine Families of New York - 1710". The event is presented by Psychic Studies Institute, a non-profit organization my father has been involved with for over 30 years.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Photo-blogging: The Royals

A couple of weeks ago I took my son to the Royals game. It was youth league night for our pee-wee team and they let us walk around the warning track before the game. I snapped a few pictures with my digital camera along the way. It was a fabulous night at the ballpark. The weather was perfect and the Royals beat the Yankees and nobody pulled a muscle thanks to this pre-game stretching.

Manager Buddy Bell (3rd from left) and the Royals coaching staff in the dugout at the stadium before sweeping the New York Yankees on June 2nd, 2005.

Carl Pavano on the field at the Royals game before starting the game for the New York Yankees. The Royals won.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Where's the Mortal Micronot?

Can you find the former member of the Mortal Micronotz, the great Lawrence, KS post punk combo, lurking in this swampy, top 40, diva-ridden TV landscape? I'll give you a hint. He's the art director.

Monday, June 06, 2005

We Jam Econo

The history of The Minutemen is now a feature length documentary film.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Little Hits

Lawrence area musician Jon Harrison blogs a new Little Hit everyday.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Steve Mingle - Photographer

Former KJHK staffer Steve Mingle has posted part of his vast collection of photos he took in the 80's. After you see this gallery of musicians, personalities, and people, I think you'll agree that he is one talented artist.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Shawnee Mission North Faculty - 1975

The S.M. North class of '75 is having their 30th reunion later this year and they have a nice web site that includes a where are they now listing for the faculty.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Tonight in Lawrence

Former KJHK staffer Lawrence Peters returns for one night only at the Replay as part of Plastic Crimewave Sound.

Lions and Dogs meet the 'Mats

From former Lawrence area drummer Jade Gurss.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Brava, Brenda Fowler

I enjoy archaeology and it was no surprise to myself but it may come as a surprise to you that I checked out Iceman by Brenda Fowler, published in 2000 by Random House.

Synopsis: In 1991, a five thousand year-old corpse thawed out of a glacier in the Italian alps and became a hot commodity in the European scientific community and captured the attention of people around the globe. A lot of people wanted a piece of the iceman. Fowler's book is a chronicle of the discovery and the fight over the iceman's remains, between countries, scientists, as well as a detective story of the story of the iceman's true past.

SPOILER ALERT - If you know nothing of the iceman and want to read the book, stop reading this entry here. I checked it out knowing how the story stands today and so I was surprised when her writing stopped short of the most show-stopping detail of the iceman's post mortem story: the discovery of the arrowhead in his back. Less than a year after Fowler and Random House published Iceman, a scientist looked at x-rays and saw the arrowhead that solved the mystery of his death. What an uber bummer for the author to spend several years piecing together a patch work of personalities and forensic detective elements, only to have the climactic scene elude her. (Fowler foreshadowed a possible telling discovery in her final chapter, and followed up her book with an in-depth article about the arrowhead episode for the New York Times in 2001.)

Brenda Fowler, is without a doubt, the de facto American journalist expert on the iceman story. The book jacket featured a brief bio about her: born in Iowa, attended university at Madison, WI, but it skipped what I consider the most interesting aspect of her personal life. In the acknowledgment section that followed the last chapter she said:

"As a fifth grader at Brookridge Elementary school in Overland Park, Kansas, I had the tremendous fortune of landing in the class of Ms. M. Kay Willy..."

Fifth grade, at least back in the 1970s, was the year the Shawnee Mission schools showed elementary school kids the National Geographic film about the Leakey's discovery of the jawbone in the dirt at Olduvai Gorge. It was a watershed moment for Fowler, and it was satisfying to discover another Shawnee Mission school kid who did good, and who remembered to thank a teacher. Well done.

Friday, May 06, 2005

A Tough Break

I returned to Shawnee Mission North district stadium and Merlin Gish Track Friday night for the final North relays held in the original stadium, built on an angle to run parallel with the Strang line many decades ago. I'm not happy about the progress. The track named for North legend Gish will be no more and Larry Taylor field is going away too. But perhaps when the construction is done and the new facility is opened, Gish and Taylor will regain their small measure of immortality. That will be decided later, but for now, the track was full of hopeful athletes from no less than 30 area schools.

The weather was perfect for a track meet: sunny and warm with no wind. There is the home side with the tiny press box and concrete stands and facade and the visitors side with the aluminum benches and the football locker room underneath. The place was full and my kids loved the commotion and the non-stop action of racing and associated field events. We sat in front of the pole vaulting. The class of '83 was represented not only by myself, but by Lance Balderston, on duty as an Overland Park policeman.

The complex will be torn down on Monday and a new modern district stadium will take its place, but it will be years before the ambiance approaches anything like what they have. I don't feel nostalgic about the bleachers. They aren't pretty. What made this stadium unique was its proximity to a grove of mature pin oak trees directly behind the home stands. No less than six of these beautiful ancient trees will be removed to allow for new construction. Seeing the trees with the orange X's was something I wasn't prepared for and I can't say I was happy about it.

In another shocking event, a young runner from Blue Valley West failed to clear her first high hurdle not 25 feet from where we sat and crumpled to the track in obvious pain. She began to bleat like a baby seal and I saw that her ankle was broken. This was not a green stick break. This was Joe Theisman rag doll style. We left as a throng of adults surrounded her until the ambulance arrived.

Only in Lawrence

The William Burroughs garage sale is happening tomorrow (5/7) in Lawrence. Read Dave Ranney's story from

Friday, April 29, 2005

KU Facilities - A Fact Sheet

Trivia nerds like me who have an obsessive compulsive appetite for facts and figures love this kind of list. It's a roster of K.U. buildings with their respective dates of birth included.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Monty Hall Dilemma

I flipped past Mr. Holland's Opus the other night and it happened to be the scene where the Governor, played by Joanna Gleason, walked into the auditorium to honor Mr. Holland. This morning I discovered she is the daughter of Monty Hall and that led me to this: The Monty Hall dilemma.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Thinking Outside the Carton

Can you bake cookies with the dough that comes with cookie dough ice cream? Story and photos by Kirk Anderson.

Home alone |

What's the connection between Bob Dylan and Lawrence 80's country punk Homestead Grays? Its Chuck Mead and he's home alone in Lawrence this weekend.

I’m Empty and Aching and I Don’t Know Why

Last night I dreamt I was awakened by an adjutant to her Majesty the Queen of England. I was told to prepare for her immediate arrival and he instructed me to sing a song for her amusement. I expressed concern for my voice rather than the fact I was dressed in a t-shirt and sweats. The royal family appeared in the guise of small dolls. I was in a child’s bedroom, though not one I recognized. The Queen was there and the Queen Mother along with many other royal dolls. I sang America by Simon and Garfunkel, a song that I certainly don’t have the range for at any time of the day. I woke up when I got to the “Kathy I’m lost I said, though I knew she was sleeping…” verse.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Mitch Hedberg, R.I.P

I was sad to hear of the death of comedian and actor Mitch Hedberg. My favorite Hedberg line: "I can't wait to finish this set. I've got half a pack of life savers in my pocket and the next one is pineapple", or "I love eating a kit-kat bar, unless I'm with more than four other people". He was only 37 years old.

I saw him on the Dave Attell/Lewis Black Comedy Central tour a couple of years ago and he was fantastic. He was truly an original.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Fun With Carnival of Souls

Off Color Films is releasing a new CARNIVAL OF SOULS DVD that includes the original film, a colorized version (egad!), and an audio commentary track by Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. The website includes a colorized version of the original theatrical trailer.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

A KU Fan in Recovery

When Wayne Simien's Laettner-esque last gasp failed to give KU the victory in Friday's first round upset by Bucknell, I thought to myself that never has such a talented KU team disappointed more fans in a shorter time span. That's not a totally fair summation.

Last night's loss shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's followed KU this season. This KU team struggled against lesser foes like Iowa State and Missouri. We saw it on the court in several games: bonehead turnovers, anemic perimeter shooting, and no offensive rebounds. Nobody stepped up to help the big three (except Mike Lee), and coach Bill Self’s low-possession game plan allowed undermanned teams to stay close to KU in matches where we should have applied more pressure and increased our advantage when we had the opportunity.

Today I am in recovery. Unlike earlier losses where I took comfort in the notion that the upcoming tournament offered an opportunity to make things right, I have no such crutch this morning. The rest of 2005 looks like one big zone defense right now.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

March 17, 1979

26 years ago today, one of the most memorable characters ever to appear in a single sketch appeared on Saturday Night Live. Ladies and Gentlemen, remember the sublime moves of Fred Garvin, male prostitute.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

In My CD Player

What I've been listening to lately.

Peter Tosh - Scrolls of the Profit
Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Armed Forces
Pixies - Surfer Rosa
Bettie Serveert - Attagirl

BR549 - Even If It's Wrong
Nancy Sinatra - You Only Live Twice
Aimee Mann - Save Me
Bob Marley - Zimbabwe

Friday, March 11, 2005

The 70s Suburbia Comedy

A few years ago I posted some thoughts about Don Coscarelli's first film Kenny and Company (KAC, 1976) at IMDB. Since then I've received several earnest emails from KAC fans asking if I have a copy of the film on tape (I don't). Coscarelli, who later wrote and directed Phantasm, was in the news yesterday when they announced another installment of the Phantasm series.

The very last line of that blurb featured news that KAC fans have been waiting for. A company named Anchor Bay will release KAC on DVD later this year. It's been 25 years since I've seen it but I remember it as a realistic, relatable comedy about kids growing up in suburbia. It featured Mike from Phantasm and the immortal Reggie Bannister too. It's a must see for Phantasm fans and for fans of the 70s suburbia genre. I don't know if that's an actual genre but I suppose it is now.

In a related story, Billy Bob Thorton appears in a remake of another 70s suburbia classic, The Bad News Bears.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Name the Rocker

Who couldn't get into Florida State in this 1964 film (windows media req).

Monday, March 07, 2005

Get Hot Quickly

I see a pattern in KU's five basketball losses this season. The image shows first half stats from those contests. KU has a hard time responding to a hot team. In all games except one (Texas Tech), they shot a lower FG% and 3pt FG% in the first half than their opponent. In each game except one (Villanova), KU came back to tie or nearly tie each contest in the second half. Also noteworthy, the opposing teams were pretty hot, shooting above the opposing average allowed by KU. Cold KU plus hot foe equals half time deficit.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Remembering John Parker

The Shawnee Mission North field house trophy case houses a small shrine to the 1953 boys state champion basketball team. I found it one day after lunch when I was a student there. The trophy cases for most North sports are kept in the small foyer of the field house. There's an old box office window there, long since papered over. It's quiet throughout the school day. The sun streamed in from the parking lot that day and in the sudden gleam that occurred when a cloud moved away, I saw five 50's era photos and the title "state champions".

North's glory days of championships ended when the district grew to the point that it demanded more high schools. The talent pool was split in the late 50s when Shawnee Mission East opened. West followed in the mid 60s but the football team remained successful under coach Larry Taylor until Shawnee Mission Northwest opened in the late 60s or early 70s. There have been other champions since (1982 Baseball), but for the most part, the teams that lived on in high school eternity were from before 1970. That 1953 North basketball team featured players Gene Elstun and John Parker. Their small black and white photos sat next to the ribbons and trophy that came with the championship. Identified by last name only in the modest display, I didn't realize that they went on to greater fame in college.

KU basketball fans may recall that Elstun and Parker were senior co-captains on the 1957 KU basketball team that reached the final four. In one of the greatest NCAA championship games ever, KU and North Carolina played three overtimes before North Carolina emerged victorious. A strapping sophomore from Philadelphia named Wilt Chamberlain was named tournament MVP. The Jayhawks returned to Allen Field House for an appreciation rally that featured Louie Armstrong. That's a fairly decent consolation. I think it's cool that one of the greatest KU teams ever was led by two kids from Shawnee Mission North.

John Parker died this week. He was 70. But his basketball legacy endures and you don't have to visit the North field house foyer. See John and Gene and Wilt in action from the '57 season in a series of short films narrated by Max Falkenstein and produced by Centron (quicktime required).