Sunday, May 28, 2006

Remembering SM North Drama

Two of my favorite high school teachers, Frank Robertson and Margaret McClatchey, are retiring on tuesday night at 7pm in the Auditorium. They taught Drama, Speech, and English at Shawnee Mission North.

Mrs. McClatchey taught drama to me during my senior year (1982-83). She told me about an audition for a role in a video. The county outreach department was looking to cast a family in a short drama called the "The Pain Games" and Clancy Hathaway directed it. I got the role of the son caught in the crossfire of his parents' divorce. We filmed it over Christmas break, in part at McClatchey's house. I slammed a bag of groceries down on the kitchen floor in my big scene. I was green and it showed, but it was a great experience.

I didn't think much about it until a couple of years later I ran into the sound man and I was shocked to learn that it was still being shown. Apparently in Johnson County when you file for divorce, they make you watch this show. We made it in 1982 and they're still screening it today. Once in a while, I'll run into a friend who says, "I got a divorce recently and they made me watch this video..."

I theorize that it's so bad that people come out of there going, "what a crappy show - my divorce, not so crappy afterall!" I like that.

I don't think I'll ever win an Academy Award, but if I do, I'll be thanking Mrs. McClatchey and Mr. Robertson. Hey, maybe that's the speech I'll make on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hugh Williams update

"Huge" Hugh Williams worked as a cameraman for Cable News Network after graduation from KU in the mid 80's; first in Atlanta and eventually in Australia where he still works as a videographer and producer for CNN. You never forgot Hugh Williams whether you heard him on KJHK or knew him in person. He's the kind of guy that left an impression - 6'7", smiling, Australian accent.

Hugh and I were students in a video production class at KU's Jolliffe Hall back in 1986 and he impressed me with his flair for shooting and editing. He did a piece where he shot footage of downtown Lawrence street scenery and edited it with music by Kraftwerk. It flowed from shot to shot, something that didn't come easily for most beginners, but it did for Hugh. Our university equipment was ancient but that didn't phase him. There were no camcorders. We carried a large VCR with shoulder strap for location shooting and we had to "white balance" the camera everytime we used it to get the proper spectrum of colors. Hugh's the kind of guy who shouldered a big load and he's seen some big events too.

He witnessed the Mir space station's fall to earth. He got a kiss from Elle MacPherson, a childhood friend. And most recently, Hugh the hero, though I'm sure he wouldn't be comfortable with that moniker - tried to save the life of Richard Carleton after the reporter for the Australian version of 60 Minutes collapsed during a press conference last Sunday, May 7th.

Thanks to Tim Savage for the update.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

R.I.P. - Grant McLennan

Grant McLennan of the Australian band The Go-Betweens, died Saturday of a heart attack at the age of 48. Here's a link to where you can read more about McLennan, The Go-Betweens, and hear Cattle and Cane, voted one of the 10 best songs in the history of Australian songwriting.

Cattle and Cane is a song that I forgot about for many years until I rediscovered it on a scratchy cassette tape I found at my house in 1990. I had lots of cassettes and a jambox at my apartment in Lawrence in the mid 80s. Sometimes I'd pop in a blank cassette and record KJHK, knowing that I'd listen later, perhaps in my car outside of the broadcast range of the station, and find something worthwhile. This is what happened with Cattle and Cane. I went walking for exercise one summer day in 1990 and popped in an unlabelled tape. It was KJHK mainstay Vicky (now Victoria) Sloan from an airshift done three or four years previously and Ms. Sloan always did a good job. She knew music and her knowledge was my reward that day as evidenced by her inclusion of that song by the The Go-Betweens providing the soundtrack for me.

Later in the tape she played Snowman, by XTC, another indie pop gem. Let's hope Andy Partridge remains in good health.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Remembering the Tan Man

During my Oread odyssey (1984-1985), my college roommates and I threw wild parties at our mansion on Tennessee street. We hired bands like The Dancing Bears and bought kegs of beer for our thirsty friends and their thirsty friends. It was open house and the pinnacle of our Oread party experience was the moment one Saturday night when a shirtless middle-aged man in a leather jacket stopped in for brew. He was the Tan Man, a Lawrence legend if there ever was one. We had arrived.

"How was the party?" someone asked me at class the following Monday. "Pretty good," I replied, "the Tan Man was there." That's all one had to say. There was no need to gauge a party barometer beyond that statement. The appearance of the Tan Man said it all and here's why.

The Tan Man was not a social creature. Oh sure, he spent part of each school day at Wescoe Beach catching rays, and he wasn't the grumpy sort. But the Tan Man didn't make the scene after dark. He loved the sun and he worked nights. Another famous Lawrence personality, The Olde-Hipeye, also put your party into high status with his patronage, but Matthew was a night owl, a frequent visitor to evening functions. His attendance said less about the magnitude of your gathering than the sight of this gentle man, who rode a bike donated by the K.U. class of 1981.

John Schneider, AKA The Tan Man, disappeared from his concrete sun perch in the late 1980s. I wondered what happened. His back was beyond tan, it was the color and consistency of a well basted turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Did he die of cancer or perhaps leave town for warmer climes? Praise the Lord and pass the sun screen. The Tan Man Lives!