PEOPLE LOVE FREEBIES

radiopromo

I’m going to a Dodger game tonight and I can usually judge how early I have to leave by knowing if they are having a  free give-a-way night or not. Whenever it is announced that a free bobble head, fleece blanket, keychain, beach towel or any other merchandise will be given away free as you enter I know to leave 20-minutes early. People always arrive early on these nights to make sure they get their freebie before they run out. It is a wonderful marketing ploy…people love to get stuff for free. I use the word stuff because the life expectancy of most of these items is a week at the most before they break, tear, or pop. The marketers have their logo and tag line stamped across the item so when you are you are using it you are also giving free advertising for Target, California Pistachios, State Farm Insurance or whoever is sponsoring that night’s give-a-way, but hey it’s free with the purchase of your $55.00 Dodger ticket. What ticks me off are the greedy pigs who horde as many free items as they can. You can see them as they walk back to their car before the game to store all the free bootie in the trunk. I don’t know what you do with that many rain ponchos in L.A. but it’s free. I have seen the police called in at Angel Stadium when they ran out of bobble heads due to the first group grabbing as many as possible leaving others out in the cold and not happy about it. People stormed over the poor volunteers who were well in their 70’s to try to get one. The volunteers eventually ran for help leaving a feeding frenzy among the sharks. It was an ugly scene, people got hurt, kids were left crying and it took police force to calm the situation down. All of this for a bobble head, which by the way is the crown jewel of all give-a-ways. The worst part was that it was the adults who were doing all the shoving, swearing, and hording. The kids would have gotten trampled if they got in the way. Then in most ballparks they will shoot out free t-shirts to the crowd which causes another fracas. Why? It’s free. It doesn’t matter what the t-shirt has written on it or the size, just elbow out your neighbor and grab the t-shirt. I have also learned that there is nothing free about getting a free sporting event ticket. Yes you get in the stadium for free, but you will end up spending $20-$60 on food and merchandise. A hot dog, beer, and peanuts will run you $20 alone. You can multiply that times the number of guests and if you buy a beer or two for the person who gave you a free ticket you can easily come close to spending close to $100, almost twice the ticket cost. The cost of stadium food is on par with movie theaters for mark up. I understand the need to make a profit but $5.50 for a hot dog and $11.00 for a beer would be laughed at anywhere else. Yet at the ballpark the lines are long to pay these prices. Once you are in there aren’t any alternatives and people seem to have accepted the ridiculous prices just like movie theaters. 

I learned a lot about freebies or chachkies while working at a local television station. The station would have community events with booths or tents set up at the event to disperse free samples and information on the sponsor’s product. It didn’t matter what the give-a-way was, if it was free people would line up to get it. It could be a basic household pen that may write for 2-days tops but it was free so there was a line and if someone wasn’t monitoring the booth the pens would be grabbed up by one piggy. It isn’t limited to any economic class, people of all ages and incomes love free stuff. We once took a group of sponsors to Spring Training in Arizona. We paid all expenses including airfare, hotel, meals, and tickets to the games. We also gave each client a bag of merchandise including a hat, sunscreen, a disposable camera, and a signed baseball. It was a very nice trip for those who had spent a good sum of money to sponsor the baseball team. The guests were all well off, many of them owned their own car dealerships or held a high ranking job at their corporation. Yet despite the best of intentions I got a call at 2am in my hotel room and it was an upset sponsor who said he didn’t receive a disposable camera in his bag. The man could have bought 20 thousand disposable cameras but he felt cheated that he didn’t get a free one like everyone else. We got him his camera the next day and being a good salesperson all I could say to him was that we were sorry for the mistake when I really felt like shoving the camera up his ass…I mean how much could a disposable camera cost? I’ve been told, “There are no free lunches” and it is true. When you are given something for free there is almost always a catch. “Enjoy a free weekend in Palm Desert” the letter read. All you needed to do was listen to an 4-hour seminar on time shares to qualify. “Buy-one-get-one-free”…that isn’t really free. “Call for a free consultation” then spend $100 dollars for the next visit, no freebie there. People love free stuff and to aggressively step over people to get it is wrong. Take one and move on so that everyone can share equally. That may sound idealistic, but the alternative exposes the ugly and selfish side of people.

MY KID IS GONNA’ BE A PRO

SPORT MLB BASEBALL

Anyone that has sat in the stands of a youth sports event will eventually overhear a parent talk about how their child is planning to be a professional athlete. The parents sole focus is making sure their child gets noticed above the other kids. The poor kid is brainwashed at age 12 that he must achieve greatness in his or her sport. Sure the kid is good at the Little League level and even improves to be a star athlete in high school, but that is where most pro dreams die. The odds of going on to play at the NCAA level are incredibly low and astronomically low that they will reach the professional level. This doesn’t deter those parents who are sure that their child is the one to beat all odds. They have hired private trainers, sent their kids to sports camps, played year round on club teams, and have all the latest equipment. Education takes a back seat to all the demands of being a future superstar. I always wondered if these parents just put half of much effort in to their kids school work as they did sports if the child’s chances of being successful in a non sports field would greatly increase. I was there…sitting in the stands with the other parents watching my three children play years of baseball, softball, and soccer. I would daydream that my kid would go on to be a star in college and maybe make it to the pros but not to the point of being obsessive about it. We still kept close watch on their school work to make sure they would make it to college with their brains if athleticism didn’t quite cut it. Over the 20+ years of watching youth and high school sports I only knew of one local kid who made it to the pros in baseball and he is struggling in the minors to get the call up to the majors. That is one kid out of about 1,000 that has even come close. Baseball provides the best odds to go pro due to the number of teams, roster size, and the many minor league teams. Plus it’s the one sport every parent is an expert in, so with the parents help it will be a sure thing that the kid goes pro. Let’s say your child makes it to the high school level in baseball which is very possible if he has any talent at all. The odds of high school senior boys playing interscholastic baseball being drafted by an MLB team is about 0.5%. Of those kids drafted to the minor leagues only 1-in-200 will make an appearance at the big league level. That is depressing given that a recent survey showed that 15% of parents with kids playing high school baseball expect their son to turn pro. And baseball has the highest chances of any major sport. About 0.09%, or nine in 10,000 of high school seniors playing high school football will eventually be drafted by an NFL team. Basketball is about 0.03% of high school seniors that will be drafted by a NBA team and soccer about 0.4%. Basically there is less than one-half % chance that your child will be playing professional sports and 99.5% that they will not. Time for parents to sober up. I don’t contend that the children should stop playing sports as I think it is a great social experience and builds friendships as well as keeping your child physically active. I also have found that you can spot a kid right away who has the potential to turn pro. They are years ahead of other kids their age in ability and stand about a foot taller than the rest. My point is that parents should have a PlanB available to them should their kids not make it to the pros…most notably education. The odds are in your favor if parents monitor the child’s schoolwork and make sure they get acceptable grades to get in to college. Sure you can hope for some form of athletic scholarship which about 1.5% of high school senior athletes will achieve , but the odds still favor an academic scholarship to help pay the bills. A perfect balance would be a talented athlete who is also good student, but that is asking a lot, and if you have to pursue one or the other the safe bet would be on education. Sure most kids would rather be outside playing ball rather than studying for an english test, but a balance has to be set early in life and most importantly the parents have to set realistic goals for their children. Telling your kid that he will be a professional athlete is just not realistic. Sure you don’t want to spoil a kid’s dreams but as they grow older and enter high school it has to be about what is best for the child, not a parents dream of having their child turn pro.

MY FAVORITE FAT COMEDIANS

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There are five comedians that I am so fond of that I would go see there movies just because they were in them. They all share the same physique – overweight and unfortunately four out of the five are dead, three at young ages. It’s not that I am attracted to fat comedians, they just happen to be funny comedians who are fat. One popular theory is that comedians are covering up their insecurities; they are more likely to be depressives, and are “comfort eaters”, to make them feel better. It’s all about making themselves feel better whether with food or by making people laugh. A second theory is that as overweight kids they get bullied a lot and use comedy to deal with it to stop the bullying. Whatever the psychological reason, all I know for sure is that they are funny. Who knows, maybe the fat gene is part of the comedy gene…doesn’t sound likely, there would be a lot more comedians in the world if it was. My top 5 fat comedians in no particular order starts with 1) John Candy. Anyone who grew up without seeing Uncle Buck or Trains, Planes, & Automobiles is a poor deprived child who needs to make amends by renting these classic Candy movies. He also starred in Space Balls which was absolutely hysterical and is still on my playlist of all-time comedies. Some of his other comedies that he played a leading role in included Cool Runnings, Stripes, Summer Rental, and The Great Outdoors. John was a very large man who died of a heart attack at the age of 43. I’m sure his heart had been running on overload for some time. 2) John Belushi was no stranger to over indulgence whether it be food, drugs, liquor, or anything else that could be consumed. He was one of the original stars of Saturday Night Live and helped launch the show to the heights that it has reached since. Between seasons of SNL he made one of his best-known movies, Animal House where he played the total slob, Bluto, and stole the movie. The Blues Brothers was another classic that he made with fellow SNL comedian, Dan Aykroyd. He too died at a very early age of 33 from overdosing on a mixture of cocaine and heroin. I read his biography, Wired, and the amount of drugs and liquor he put in to his body over a 24-hour period would have killed a racehorse. John was a big man with a big apetite. No.3) is my sleeper in Kevin James, maybe because he is the only one of my five still alive. He starred in the television show King Of Queens with Leah Remini as the Heffernans for nine years, one of the most underrated comedies in television. I always wonder how the fat comedians get such hot girlfriends and wives. The show also starred Jerry Stiller, another great. Kevin has not had as many hit movies as other comedians but I enjoyed Paul Blart: Mall Cop, though I certainly wouldn’t call it a comedy classic, but watchable. Kevin James is actually a fantastic stand-up comedian who manages to get laughs without using raunchy humor which is hard to accomplish. It is basically observational comedy like Seinfeld but with a twist on body image. Kevin is also a large man who seems to live a healthier lifestyle than the others…I’m sure that is a good reason why he is still around. Perhaps my favorite comedian of the group is 4) Chris Farley who became a huge star on Saturday Night Live and was known for loud intense characters with a lot of physical comedy. His portrayal of motivational speaker, Matt Foley, who lived in a van down by the river was one of his best characters. It was hard for the other cast members not to crack up while he was doing the skit. He went on to star in one of my favorite comedies of all-time, Tommy Boy with David Spade. I have seen the movie at least 20x and still laugh out loud. It is a must own for any comedy library. He followed that with Black Sheep, also co-starring David Spade and Beverly Hills Ninja. Similar to his idol, John Belushi, Farley died of a speedball overdose at the age of 33…big bummer. The oldest and skinniest comedian on my list is 5) Rodney Dangerfield who is one of the most well known stand up comedians of our time. Dangerfield was known for never being able to get respect. His weight varied from extra large to just large as he grew older and he lived to the age of 82. He was much more well known for his stand-up but had three movies that I would put on the highly recommended list with one being a must see, Caddyshack. The other two, East Money and Back to School, are hilarious as well. My favorite fat comedians are also my favorite all-time comedians with the exception of Steve Martin and Will Ferrell who are both thin and alive. It is too bad we didn’t get to see more of Candy, Belushi, and Farley but I’m glad that we got a glimpse of their comedic genius. I still don’t know what weight gain has to do with being a funny comedian, but their must be some connection, as their have been many great comedians over time that shop in plus size clothing stores.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE

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The show is now over 53-years old having started in 1959 and running thru 1964 on CBS. At the time this program was a must see due to it’s originality and science fiction twist. The series consists of paranormal, futuristic, or otherwise disturbing and unusual events. It has been in re-runs ever since and the term Twilight Zone is commonly used even today as something that can’t be explained. Each 1/2-hour show had it’s own plot, twist and moral. Created by Rod Serling, “the angry young man of Hollywood”, the anthology television series was the most imaginative series on TV and I would make that claim even to this day. Serling wrote or co-wrote 92 of the show’s 156 episodes. He was also the show’s host and narrator, delivering monologues at the beginning and end of each episode. “There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone”. Although it might look outdated being shot in black & white it is worth the time for younger viewers to watch a few episodes to see what made it so special. TV guide has rated it as the fifth greatest show of all time. The series is notable for featuring both established stars and younger actors that would become famous later on such as Robert Redford, Bill Bixby, Robert Duvall, Leonard Nimoy (Dr. Spock), William Shatner (Capt. Kirk), Dennis Hopper, and Burt Reynolds. Of the 156 episodes I have selected three that were my all time favorites. 1) A Kind of a Stopwatch-which features a character, Patrick McNulty, as a disgruntled employee and general pain in the ass outside of work. After being fired and kicked out of the local bar a drunk hands Patrick a stop watch that in fact can stop all time. When he realizes that he can make a lot of money with the stopwatch he goes to rob a bank, but drops and breaks the watch thereby freezing time permanently.He soon realizes he is the only person in the world not in a frozen state and begs mercifully to change his ways but it’s too late. 2) Time Enough to Last – This episode is about a loner, Henry Bemis (Burgess Meredith), whose only desire is to be left alone so he can read. He works at a bank and during his breaks he goes in to the bank’s vault to be alone and read. While securely locked in the bank vault a nuclear attack occurs which Henry soon realizes after coming out of the vault. At first devastated he soon realizes that with everyone gone he can pursue his dream of reading every book available to him. He goes to the local library to surround himself with books and as he gets ready to crack open his first book his thick glasses fall off and as he searches in vain to find them he accidentally steps on them and smashes both lenses. Virtually blind, he is now stuck in a world with all the time and books he could ever want and no way to enjoy them. This unhappy twist would become a common feature during the show’s run. This particular episode was one of Serling’s favorites. 3) The Eye of the Beholder – As a kid this episode terrified me for weeks. A young women undergoes surgery to improve her appearance and look like everyone else. When the doctors remove all the facial wraps they declare the surgery a complete failure-but the audience sees a beautiful young lady and are left wondering how this could be. It all becomes clear when the doctors and nurses are revealed, all with hideous, monstrous faces which are the norm for this bizarre society making normal faces, as we know it, the hideous. Great Twilight Zone.

Rod Sterling was the face in front and behind the scenes of Twilight Zone. A popular screenwriter, playwright, and producer Serling often clashed with network executives over a wide range of issues including censorship, racism, and war. His scripts were constantly censored by the network for political overtones which was popular in the 50’s and 60’s due to the Cold War. Fortunately enough of his scripts were approved to provide an everlasting look into the fifth dimension.

FROM HERO TO ZERO OVERNIGHT

lance-armstrong        Tiger-Woods

In the past decade we have seen several well known and popular athletes fall from grace. The most recent is the trial of Oscar Pistorius, the sprinter from South Africa who is charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius gained notoriety in the 2012 Summer Olympics when he became the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics when he entered the 400 meters. His custom made prosthetics earned him the nickname Blade Runner and people from all nations cheered him on as a person who had beaten incredible odds to make it this far. He became an instant favorite and his story was one of the most inspiring to come out of the Olympic Games. He was a hero to all, particularly to those facing personal obstacles themselves. Then it all ended very abruptly when the news comes out that he was accused of murdering his girlfriend in February 2013, shooting her at his home in the early morning hours. Instantly people’s opinion of him change from extremely positive to ” What the hell…”. How could our hero turn in to such a monster overnight. It happens…a lot. Another example of hero to zero in even a bigger spotlight is Lance Armstrong, the seven time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor who is now banned for life from competitive cycling due to doping infractions. Armstrong had been under the microscope for doping for years as his feats on the bicycle had made him famous worldwide. When interviewed Lance steadfastly maintained his innocence and I for one believed him. I had thought maybe the French were going out of their way to disgrace an American hero who had made a mockery out of their famous bicycle race. Besides everyone here in the US got behind Lance’s Livestrong Foundation, which provides support for cancer patients, by wearing the yellow bracelets that can no longer be seen on wrists. Lance was a hero until January 2013 when he admitted to doping in a Oprah Winfrey television interview. Lance had been lying  to us all those years…another hero fallen. Joe Paterno was another classic example of a fallen hero that shocked the nation. “JoePa”, 85, had been the face of Penn State football as head coach for 45-years. He was an American institution who had a god-like status in the state of Pennsylvania and was untouchable on the campus of Penn State. That was until it was discovered that he had concealed facts relating to his defensive coordinator’s, Jerry Sandusky, sexual abuse of young boys. Paterno had also tried to persuade the university not to press charges…the university said NO. On July, 2012 the NCAA vacated all of Penn State’s wins from 1998 to 2011 as part of it’s punishment for the child sex abuse scandal, eliminating 111 of the games Paterno had coached and won, dropping him from first to 12th on the list of winningest NCAA football coaches. After 45 years of being a loved coach, it took only weeks to turn his name and reputation to trash. Big mistake by Joe which he payed dearly for. After his dismissal he died only 2- months afterwards, his legend gone and his memory permanently tainted. Down goes another hero. Tiger Woods also knows what it feels like to drop off the cliff of stardom to the valley of doom when on the night of Nov.27th, 2009 Woods left his home at 2:30am in his Cadillac and collided with several objects. At the time he credited his wife for helping him from the car. Woods later admitted to having extra-marital affairs with several women and took an indefinite break from professional golf. Woods would later be divorced from his wife and lose millions in endorsement fees. He is one of the few to overcome his indiscretions and came back as Player of the Year in 2013. I think by coming out and telling the truth shortly after his affairs were made public and his sincere apologies to his family and friends helped the public to overcome and forgive. His image is now tainted but nothing illegal was done and he came clean rather than lying and putting himself farther in the hole which I think is note worthy of any person, celebrity or not. People will accept sincere and honest apologies, however painful they may be, but will not accept flat out lying. Why people just don’t come out originally with the truth is a mystery to me. Is there something about popular celebrities that make them feel invincible and justified in their lying? Or, is this normal behavior that happens all the time in the public but without celebrity status no one hears about it? I believe that celebrities do feel invincible and their egos do not let them accept failure. It may be the same ego that has driven them to the pinnacle of success that drives them to never admitting guilt. The truth eventually catches up and then it is a free-fall from all the adulations and hero-like status. As Tiger says “I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to” makes me believe this attitude is common with elite athletes and famous celebrities. There are countless others who have had to be found guilty before admitting anything wrong, too late. One poster child for continuous lying before being busted was track star Marion Jones who repeatedly said she was innocent to doping charges only to end up spending time in prison and losing her track career and potential winnings. Another hero down. My point is two-fold, 1) Don’t cheat in the first place, and 2) if you have been accused of some illegality that you know your guilty of come out and be honest up-front. People will forgive those who seek honest forgiveness but have no patience for those who continuosly lie only to confess after being found guilty. It can be a fast and unforgiving drop from hero to zero.

ALBUMS THAT TELL A STORY

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Throughout the years there have been a handful of rock albums that take the entire album to tell a story. Some call them concept albums and some call it a lost art due to the majority of music being downloaded song by song rather than the whole album. Still others call them operas which I think is a bit far fetched if you were a true opera fan, maybe the term rock opera works better. They are albums which are best listened to as a whole, although there may be some hit singles included, it is best to just lay back and listen to the whole story. I have been captivated by some of these albums in the past and have listed those which I personally have found the most enjoyment from. The Who’s Tommy is on about everybody’s top list of rock albums. Released in 1972 the double album was the first musical work billed overtly as a rock opera and was a huge success. Tommy was a traumatized boy who was “deaf, dumb, and blind” who later becomes the leader of a messianic movement. The story and the music are both wonderfully written. Tommy witnesses a murder by his father and to cover up the incident his parent’s tell him he didn’t see or hear it dropping Tommy into a semi-catatonic state and becomes deaf, dumb, and blind. Inside his head, however, sensations from the outside world are changed into amazing visions accompanied by music. After years of abuse and mis-diagnosis he is finally freed as a mirror he is staring at is smashed. His miracle recovery soon makes Tommy a religious like figure with many followers and as the story ends, the disciples reject Tommy and he retreats inward again. Some of the single hits from this album are Pinball Wizard, I’m Free, See Me, Feel Me, and Go to the Mirror. Tommy is definitely a classic. Another album without near the notoriety is Thick as a Brick (1972) by the often overlooked Jethro Tull. The entire album is one song and is a satire poking fun at the band itself, the audience , and primarily music critics. It is an album that should be heard once for those who like to discover something unique. While the words are sometimes whimsical, the music is on par with the best of albums. Thick as a Brick is my sleeper pick. Pink Floyd comes in with two themed albums, Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and The Wall (1979), both classics, but I have to pick Dark Side of The Moon as my favorite of the two as it came out first and just blew everyone away with it’s themes of greed, the passage of time, and mental illness. The best adjective I can use would be ” spacey” to describe the music. It was an immediate success and became iconic with the stoner crowd. The two radio hits off the album were Money and Time, but my favorite single was Us and Them. This album is frequently ranked as one of the greatest of all time. The Wall is considered a rock opera and is performed live with elaborate theatrical effects. Roger Water’s is basically building a wall between the band and the audience. It is based on a character named Pink who has to overcome ridicule and abuse from schoolteachers and family. All this contributes to his mental isolation from society, represented by a metaphorical wall. The Wall is a double album and some of the more popular singles from it include Another Brick in the Wall, Hey You, and my personal favorite, Comfortably Numb. Other “themed”  albums that stand the test of time is David Bowie’s, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972), which is based on the rise and fall of a bisexual and alien rock star. This album took me by surprise because it was different and he was different. I got to see the Ziggy Stardust Tour live in San Diego and the crowd was full of glitter and glam rock. David Bowie was lowered from the arena’s roof singing Rock ‘N Roll Suicide dressed up as Ziggy Stardust and the crowd just stood in awe as if witnessing an alien invasion.  The songs on this album are great one right after another and has been considered one of the greatest albums of all time, with Rolling Stone ranking it the 35th greatest ever. David Bowie is an artist who continues to reinvent himself, but I will always be partial to the Ziggy Stardust phase with songs like Starman, Suffragette City, and Ziggy Stardust. The most recent album that falls under the concept genre that I also enjoyed was Green Day’s American Idiot (2004) that tells the story of an American Rebel, Jesus of Suburbia, leaving his town for the city. The album is in the rock opera vein and contains a flurry of hit songs including American Idiot, Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Wake Me Up When September Ends. I have always enjoyed Green Day since hearing Dookie for the first time. This album is harder to follow as a story due to no one really believing Green Day could put one together but it became a huge success and I’m thankful to Green Day for keeping hard driving rock ‘n roll alive amidst all of the pop stars lately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(2004

AN ORIGINAL – ANDY KAUFMAN

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The first time I had ever seen Andy Kaufman was on the very first episode of Saturday Night Live in 1975…it was memorable. He stood on stage with just an old fashioned record player and lip-synched the words to the “Mighty Mouse” theme song, that was his entire act. The audience and people at home had no idea what they had just witnessed and were left wondering, ” Who in the hell was that guy”. People still wondered about Andy until his death in 1984 and even then many thought his death was a hoax and he would reappear soon as he was still young, only 35. Most people know Andy as Latka on the TV sitcom Taxi from 1978-’83. He was great in that role as an immigrant mechanic working for Danny Devito. But that role was scripted which is completely opposite of his more bizarre stand-up acts. Andy took comedy and performance art to the edges of irrationality and blurred the dividing line between reality and imagination. He was an eccentric whose career included doing a one man show at Carnegie Hall and then taking the entire audience out for milk and cookies via 35 waiting busses. Elaborate ruses and pranks were major elements of his career. His first major character was “Foreign Man” and he would try to do celebrity impersonations which were just awful as he never broke out of his foreign man accent until it came to Elvis, which he did a dead-on impersonation sending the audience in to laughter. Another well-known Andy Kaufman character is Tony Clifton, an audience-abusing lounge singer who opened for Kaufman at comedy clubs and eventually performed on his own. Sometimes Andy played the role and other times his brother or friend did leaving everyone wondering who Tony Clifton really was. On the live show Fridays [similar to Saturday Night Live] he broke character and refused to say his lines and got in a heated confrontation with cast member Michael Richards (Kramer) which led to a brawl on camera which most thought was real but was actually a practical joke known by only three people and not the total cast which caused more havoc. When introducing the musical act, The Pretenders, he took so long in his intro rambling about the harmfulness of drugs that the group could not go on until after commercial break. His most bizarre role as far as I’m concerned was that of a professional wrestler. Kaufman began wrestling women during his act and offered a $1,000 prize to any woman who could pin him. He had a perfect record against the women, some of who were in on the act and then made the near fatal mistake of challenging Jerry “The King” Lawler , a veteran pro wrestler, who did not like Andy’s making fun of his sport. Kaufman went into a tirade of insults against Jerry, the world of professional wrestling, and the city of Memphis which he called ” the nations red-neck capital”. Kaufman even sent videos to Memphis showing residents how to use soap. Jerry Lawler angered about the mockery of his loved sport challenged Andy to a real wrestling match. Kaufman was pile-driven in to the canvas and suffered a broken neck. Andy continued wearing a neck brace after that and it was 10-years later that Lawler admitted the whole thing were staged, after Andy’s death. The whole wrestling campaign was very bizarre at the time and after he angered the SNL audience with his female wrestling routine Kaufman asked the audience if he should ever appear on the show again. The audience voted NO, so Kaufman did not appear live again. This was typical Kaufman with the audience never knowing whether the vote was a hoax or not. Among other stunts Andy enjoyed standing on the stage alone reading excerpts from The Great Catsby and punishing the audience with it’s boredom. If the audience became too mad he would ask them if they preferred that he play a record. After an overwhelming Yes to that question he would cue the record player to continue reading where he had left off. Audiences really never knew what to think of him. In Andy’s words “There is no way to describe what I do. It’s just me”. He was so original that his style of entertainment is now known as ‘performance art’…they had to find some term to describe what he did.

I actually met Andy Kaufman at Jerry’s Deli in Studio City. He worked there during his Taxi days as a busboy to keep himself grounded. He had his neck brace on and as I approached to say hi he became very skiddish as if I was going to do a wrestling move on him. He later warmed up when it was obvious that I was no danger to him and then talked on and on about the most bizarre of subjects. It was a strange encounter and I still don’t know what to make of it. Andy was known to never break character, even when he wasn’t filming. I didn’t know if I was talking to Andy or one of his characters. His work maintains a cult following and a film, Man On The Moon, was produced in 1999 as a biographical comedy starring Jim Carrey. Carrey did a great job but the film was overall only average at best. It’s hard to put down on paper exactly who Andy Kaufman was. In my mind two words, original & bizarre, best describe him. He was a true ground breaker who did things that have never been done before and left audiences wondering what they just witnessed. It’s that feeling you get when you see something brand new for the very first time, very refreshing and memorable. I’m glad I had the chance to briefly meet him before his young death of lung cancer though he never smoked. “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away”, Henry David Thoreau.

HIPPIES – WHAT’S SO FUNNY?

Ian-hippie

I can only laugh now when I see kids dress up as hippies for halloween or costume parties. It’s a curious time period to them that is fun to imitate. But not to all. There seem to be three distinct interpretations of hippie life and how it affected society. The first group is those that were parents during the time and their memories are generally very negative. In their opinion the country was turned upside down and the gap between their vision of how kids should act was the exact opposite of how many kids were acting. Families were split apart as many youngsters moved away from home, dropped out of college, or just stopped doing as they were told by their parents. This group is well into their 70’s and 80’s by now and I’m sure still think it was a good-for-nothing time in our history. The second group are those that were in their teens and 20’s at the time between the mid 60’s – mid 70’s and were right in the middle of it. This group would for the most part have fond or mixed emotions about the time… fond memories of the music, bad memories about the rampant drug use. This is the hippie generation grown old with the majority in their 60’s by now. Those under the age of 50, by far the largest group, see hippies as a curious time to be made fun of…everything except the music. It means nothing to them, nor should it, the majority weren’t even born yet. To them it’s a reason to wear peace signs, beads, long wigs, bell-bottoms and John Lennon eyeglass frames to a costume party. Between my parents, my siblings, and my children we represent all three groups. It wasn’t an easy time on my parents as my older sister was right in the middle of the hippie lifestyle and soon found her place in a Santa Cruz commune, she was in deep. My parents post-war upbringing just couldn’t grasp the new youth movement as it questioned US policies, particularly Vietnam, and was seen as anti-American. The message of Love, Sex, and Drugs went over like a ton of bricks with them. Hippies had created their own communities, listened to psychedelic rock, embraced the sexual revolution and used drugs such as LSD to explore altered states of consciousness. The gap between parent and child was just too wide to overcome for most so kids fled to New York’s Greenwich Village, San Francisco’s Haight-Asbury district and anywhere other than home. The message was peace & love which sounds admirable in itself and if it had stuck to that it could have been. Unfortunately the drug use overcame the dream and young kids started to die from drug overdoses and the movement fizzled. I graduated from high school in 1972 which will be remembered as the year the military draft stopped from being mandatory to voluntary. After hearing stories from those that had witnessed Vietnam, and the strong public sentiment against the war, not too many of us were eager to sign up. The music is what hippie life meant to me. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan,The Doors, Stones, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Lou Reed, and the Beatles ground breaking Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band were just a handful of popular groups making the rounds at sold-out concerts and music festivals across the nation. I loved the music and still do. I went to the record store at least twice-a-week to see what was new and built a significant record collection. I also embraced the idea of peace, love, and understanding which I guess sounded better in a song than practicing it in real life. But for a time it was real which seems odd by today’s standards, even comical, which I find to be a bit sad. What probably caused the biggest split was the war in Vietnam. The politicians felt it crucial to stop the spread of communism in to South Vietnam while many questioned why we were even over there…it wasn’t our fight. These anti-war protests filled the TV airwaves and led to some violent confrontations which left a sour taste on both sides. Violence also erupted at the Altamont Free Concert (Rolling Stones), Charles Manson made headlines in 1969 which shocked many Americans including the Hippies themselves. The movement seemed to be veering off-course and again rampant drug use just made burn-outs out of peace activists.

Hippies sought to free themselves from societal restrictions, choose their own way, and find meaning in life. They declared their willingness to question authority. Hippie fashions and values had a major effect on culture, influencing popular music, television, film, literature, and politics. Since the 60’s, many aspects of hippie culture have been assimilated by mainstream society. The hippie legacy can be observed in contemporary culture in a variety of forms, including health food, music festivals, sexual acceptance, and art. It would have been nice to have had a happy ending with peace & love being more prevalent in our everyday lives particularly as the world grows smaller with the information age. Those ideas often get laughed at now with materialism being king…welcome to the 80’s. For almost a decade people tried a new path with good intentions only to have it end with drug abuse and violence. The music lives on and hopefully a piece of the innocence within us. Imagine.