Tuesday, December 8, 2009

John Lennon Remembered - 29 years ago

It's so hard to believe 29 years has passed since that awful day in December when John Lennon was shot dead in front of his home, The Dakota, in Manhattan (the city he adopted and loved so much, the country he adored). I remember it like it was yesterday.

Dec. 8, 1980-- I was sitting in my apartment in Schaumburg, Illinois with my friends - my best friend, Moira and a few others... but one man was there who, I remember, my mother had counseled... and he was challenging me. He said, "What would happen if you lost someone you loved?" and I was very cocky in my youth. I don't remember how I replied, but I was so sure we'd all survive.

That evening they all left and I kept playing John Lennon's songs over and over. I'd taken my band into the recording studio that week and we were working on tunes, but were all looking forward to John Lennon's tour where we might be able to meet him and see him perform. His release of "Double Fantasy" was like a new beginning for us all.

So when the call came from my beloved brother, Johnny, that John Lennon had been murdered, I was caught completely off guard and in total disbelief. I said to the receiver, "I won't believe it until I hear it from Moira!" And so she grabbed the phone and Johnny told her the truth: "Turn on the TV, you'll see..." and she did. So we all sat around watching the horrible news. I heard Yoko's statement, "John loved and prayed for the human race... let's do the same for him..."
So I did what any artist would do: I sat down and wrote a song and then I and my band were in the studio the next night recording "Let's Save the Human Race" and on WIND Radio in Chicago, IL the next night talking to the masses about John Lennon's death. We STILL love and pray for the human race and IMAGINE all that he taught us to imagine. [more...]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

FILM REVIEW: "Waiting for Hockney"

Pappas' story reminded me a little of the movie "Rudy" - only Billy seems to be more of a defeatist (i.e., puts all his eggs in one basket, betting his life on a single project and then when that doesn't thrill his so-called "idol" who couldn't be more unlike Billy, he resumes his life as a bartender and just gives up).

On the other hand, having had firsthand experience with the snobbish art world of today, I thought it was AWFUL the way Hockney's assistant spoke of Billy and his wonderful family (his parents, especially his mother, truly love him and were so supportive throughout). Hockney's people talked about Pappas, after their meeting, like he was a joke - a permanent outsider with no chance of ever breaking through to their big shot world. Why would Hockney grant him an audience, have him for lunch, spend 5 hours with him? So he could have a laugh at Pappas' expense? I would encourage Billy to work at his art, if that's what he wants to do with his life. But I don't think he's got what it takes to be a professional artist; he's too child-like, naïve and doesn't have the staying power. But it sure didn't help matters to have his "idol" turn his back on him. [
artnet article] Waiting for Hockney Web

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Does Anyone Watch Network TV Anymore?

Remember the days when TV meant ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS? I remember living in the Chicago area as a child and we had a nice TV set, but not much of a selection. The major channels (we didn't have a remote) were 2, 5, 7, 9 and 11 on VHF and Channel 32 and a couple others on UHF. "The Munsters" on Channel 32 was a real treat! And we'd stay up late at night to watch "Creature Feature" (Bela Lugosi and the like). We'd be dozing off as "The Star Spangled Banner" came on and the networks went off the air.

Oftentimes households used rabbit ears antennas on their TV sets with pieces of aluminum foil on each end to help reception. I'm not sure if that ever actually worked! And in order to stop interference, the most effective way to "fix" your TV was to bang on it! We were one of the first families, thanks to my Dad, to get cable, which required a strange box with a lever that flipped through the few channels that were available... I only remember having HBO.

Earlier this year analog TV sets became, for the most part, obsolete with the conversion to digital TV. Since I'd always had cable all my life, I couldn't believe anyone would actually be affected by the conversion. Those who wanted to continue using their old outdated sets were forced to buy a converter box and, at long last, subscribe to cable TV.

Since CNN went on the air, most everyone I know has been getting their news from cable news networks... though I still see Chuck & Sue in NYC are still going strong!

Eight decades after pioneering the concept of broadcasting, NBC is on the verge of a startling move that illustrates broadcast television's decline. Cable TV operator Comcast Corp. is expected to buy a controlling stake in NBC Universal, perhaps as early as this week, bringing the network of Johnny Carson, Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Hope, Milton Berle and Tom Brokaw under the corporate control of the company that owns the Golf Channel and E! Entertainment Television. Read More: Broadcast pioneer NBC prepares for cable takeover

Friday, October 9, 2009

John Lennon Remembered

John Lennon would have been 69 today... Happy Birthday, John! I wonder what he'd say about Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize on his birthday... maybe, "Give Peace a Chance?"

Brilliant songbird - perhaps the greatest inspiration to me musically. I loved his and Yoko's idea of bagism and write about it in my own book, The Mystic Artist.

You'll truly enjoy One Day at a Time, a book which captures the mood and brilliance of John Lennon in the seventies.

· Plastic Ono Band
Walls & Bridges
Double Fantasy
Shaved Fish
The Beatles

HERE to see Sandy's portrait of John Lennon's Ghost.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lady Gaga Has Talent

The music world has been devoid of imagination and colour for many years now... that's my opinion. But Lady Gaga has burst on the scene with a fresh new talent that isn't just sparkles, makeup, bangles and a great figure... she's got soul and character.

Saturday night she performed her hit, "Paparazzi," on SNL - and more... she wowed us on her piano interlude; she radiated talent in her singing and performance art. She reminds me of Hazel O'Connor and Kate Bush with her fresh, colorful videos.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Peter, Paul, Missing Mary

I was a very small child when I first heard Peter, Paul & Mary... but their songs were always a big part of the soundtrack of my life. How could they not be? With the passing of Mary Travers today, I had to stop and remember how much I loved their songs... and remember the beauty of her voice, her gorgeous long blonde hair, those perfect harmonies... "Lemon Tree," "If I Had a Hammer," "Puff the Magic Dragon," "Blowin' in the Wind"... and such a wonderful lifetime of songs. RIP, Mary!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patrick Lives

I didn't know Patrick Swayze, but he seemed to be a rare bird in the Hollywood scene - a sweet man whose ego didn't get the best of him (he was supposedly quoted as saying, "Good-looking people turn me off. Myself included") who fought to the end with the desire to stay focused on his craft, even refusing pain killing drugs. His smiling eyes always reflected something indescribable and I believe he chose to LIVE to the end rather than to spend his last days dying. And, amazingly, he was married to the same woman since 1975!

He's quoted as saying, "I have a great deal of faith in faith; if you believe something strongly enough, it becomes true for you. I would like to believe that my father is right here with me in this room and that he's my guardian angel, that there's life after death - because if there isn't, why are we here?"

We all loved 'Dirty Dancing,' but his most memorable role was arguably the character he played in 'Ghost,' - Sam Wheat - a man probably not unlike himself - a good man who found true love in life and after death. In the words of Sam to Molly: 'It's amazing, Molly. The love inside, you take it with you.' He gave us a reason to believe in life after death. We love you, Patrick and you will be missed on earth!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

More Great Foreign Films...

Jacques Tati films:
Mon oncle (1958)

The Spanish Apartment - L'auberge espagnole (2002)
The Russian Dolls -
Les poupées russes (2005)

A Very Long Engagement - Un long dimanche de fiançailles (2004)

Poison Friends - Les amitiés maléfiques (2006)

I Served the King of England -
Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále (2008)
Kidnap (2008)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Was a Guinea Pig for Technology

I just had to post this link so I wouldn't forget it. So much of our culture's technology is being outmoded. I've had this discussion with my mother many times recently because she still relies on cassette tapes for her business. The other day we went to Radio Shack to buy some tapes for her and they told her they were discontinuing them.

My demographic has been used as guinea pigs for all the technology and formats that have come and gone over the past 30 years... and I kind of resent it. I had a PC (remember THAT term) in the '80s when you could first buy one for home use and have made a living on my computer ever since. But switching from records to cassettes to CDs (I traded hundreds of my cassettes for just a handful of DVDs to Mr. Cheapo years ago) and DVDs and now this Blue-Ray format... Not to mention all the computers, various types of discs (remember "floppy"?), weird programs that drove us insane, DOS and all those keywords... It's a wonder I haven't been committed to a technology insane asylum!

Don't get me wrong... I'm grateful for technology. But it's been quite a rollercoaster ride, not to mention all the money that we spent. I still have my first digital camera and it looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. And just for the record... I REFUSE TO SWITCH TO BLUE-RAY!!! I'm keeping my DVDs! But we do have HD TVs now... and I never go anywhere without my digital camera. But I really do hate cell phones. If I didn't HAVE to have one, I'd toss it off a cliff!

ADDENDUM: Well, here it is only Oct. 5, 2009 and already technology has proven my point... the link at the top is already expired!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pat Benatar in Westbury, NY

Pat Benatar and her husband and lead guitarist, Neil Giraldo, played the Capital One Theatre in Westbury, NY tonight to an enthusiastic, adoring crowd and standing ovations. Still in top form on their 30th wedding anniversary, Pat and Neil rocked the house with great old favourites such as "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Hell is For Children," and an encore of the timeless "Promises in the Dark." Her voice gorgeous as ever, looking simply adorable all dressed in black with leggings and high boots... she appeared to have discovered the fountain of youth; and "Spyder" Neil with his muscle shirt, tattoos and endless array of guitars... tossing guitar picks at the crowd were refreshing to hear after all these years. No pretentions... Pat still looking longingly at her husband as he wailed on his 13 guitars - some of the greatest rock and roll guitar riffs of all time... "We Live for Love," a highlight of the evening - illustrating one of the most successful rock and roll couples of all time.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Little Boy Lost

With the passing of Michael Jackson, America's beloved pop star, I felt compelled to reprint an article I worked on with one of his former neighbors, George Putnam - radio legend - who passed not long ago himself. Blessings to the family and R.I.P., MJ!

One Reporter's Opinion: Little Boy Lost
By George Putnam

Friday, Nov. 21, 2003

It is this reporter's opinion that the latest charges, the latest allegations, involving pop star Michael Jackson give scandal-hungry America and the world something over which to salivate. I remind you, these are allegations – multiple charges of child molestation. Nowhere do I see in these charges mention of intercourse or rape. But again, let us recall that in America one is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

I'll never forget the day that the Jackson 5 moved into our neighborhood in the mountains above Beverly Hills. It was the Jacksons' first home of any consequence. It was formerly the home of Paul Ziffren, the Democratic Party bigwig. Our cluster included Ernie and Edie Kovacs, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Benny Carter, Jimmy Darren, Rona Barrett and a host of others.

It was my privilege to welcome the Jackson 5 to our community above Cold Water Canyon on Cherokee Lane, Bowmont Drive and Kimridge Road.

When they arrived, they clustered around my convertible and we became instant friends. They were so young and so small and so outgoing, but out of this humble beginning came fame and fortune ... and in the case of the young star, Michael Jackson, a little kid – arrested development and brilliant talent.

Within a few years came agents, sycophants, flesh peddlers and all of those who attempt to further themselves with the fame and fortune of the Jacksons. And let's not forget the star-crazed fans, among them parents eager for their children's association with young Michael.

Then came the charges and the rumors: Why wasn't Michael married? Why were so many youngsters accompanying his every move? Who fathered his children? In interviews Michael foolishly but innocently spoke of kids sleeping in his bedroom, being welcomed with parental approval, and the visits to Neverland.

Michael became freakish in his behavior. The bleached skin, facial surgery, his attempt to look first like Diana Ross and then like Elizabeth Taylor. And with it all, the baby voice, the Peter Pan approach to never growing up.

Michael spoke of his associations with kids quite openly, saying he shared a bedroom but always denying any sexual involvement. He stated that he slept on the floor of his bedroom while youngsters slept in his bed. But, you ask, what about the 1993 payoff and the hushed charges?

And here we go again with the same allegations – multiple charges of child molestation. And now he's 45 years old.

With eager law enforcement individuals openly stating, "We didn't get Jackson in 1993, we'll get him this time," one can only recall that early meeting with the Jackson 5 at their first home in Hollywood in the hills above Beverly Hills and the arrested development of Peter Pan.

Where are the sycophants? The moneygrubbers? Those who should be protecting him? Where are those who should be protecting Michael Jackson against himself and his own pitiful way of life?

Never in all these charges do we hear the word cruelty – not to humans, not to his enclave of animals, not to anyone. Never do we hear anything but love and worshipful adoration and devotion to children. After all, he is one of them.

One can only conclude by his behavior that Michael is, in his own mind, living in Never Never Land – while the world beyond the gates of his ranch looks on in disgust, imagining all manner of sexual scenarios.

As for myself, I can only recall what I saw, what I witnessed, in those bright and shining stars of yesteryear and wonder, sadly, where has Michael gone?

We have a frailty in dealing with the famous in America. We build them up beyond their own talents or human capabilities and then seek the chinks in their armor and set about to destroy them and watch them get up off the canvas to fight again.

The story is made to order for our crazed media, and law enforcement is already talking about three to eight years in jail when what Michael really needs is extended psychoanalysis.

This helpless waif, this lost soul, warrants our pity, not our judgment. What happened to our little tap-dancing kid? Where did he go? It's a sad, sad American tragedy, the story of Michael Jackson.

* * * * * *

The legendary George Putnam was 89 years young and a veteran of 69 years as a reporter, broadcaster and commentator ... and still going strong. George was part of the all-star line-up of Southern California's KPLS Radio – Hot Talk AM 830.
Click here for George's complete bio

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What Happened to Vincent's Ear?

Did Gauguin Slash Off Vincent van Gogh’s Ear? - that's the question of a century of speculating. There is a new claim that it was actually Paul Gauguin who cut off Vincent's ear with his epee.

I wrote about this in a song years ago:

(Gauguin) Wrestling with the Angel
[for Paul Gauguin]

Wrestling with the Angel in a crimson field;
Jacob's in a stranglehold. His heart was never healed.
And the spirit of the dead keeps watch.

Olympia... just throw caution to the wind!
Manao Tupapau, you're defenseless.
Olympia... you're the gilded masterpiece.
And the envy of all the world.

Visions of the Sermon -
Day of God is near.
Yellow Christ is crucified and Vincent's lost his ear.
And the spirit of the dead keeps watch.

He struggled to be recognized, failing to achieve,
He left to find his passions, to live what he believed.
His paintings are alive, his soul wrestles to be freed.
He battles with his demons, but can't unplant the seed.

Where do we come from?
What are we?
Where are we going?
How are we gonna get there?

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I've lost faith in our new president. I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my blog on inauguration day... but today I am ashamed of him. For him or any other American to go to another country and put down the country that I love is dispicable! Calling us 'arrogant, dismissive, derisive'... how dare he! I've had my doubts about Obama since I'd watched him deny knowing about Reverend Wright's anti-American "sermons" while attending that church for 20 years. But this is a stab in the heart of every American, all our troops, not to mention each and every soldier that paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. This arrogant, egomaniac has been granted TOO much power for any one man and we're all going to suffer for the way he is making America look weak. And we're all going to suffer, as will our children and their children - for the trillions he's spending putting us further and further in debt. He should be ashamed of himself!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Grammy's Best for a Change!

Now THIS is a change we can believe in! Last night's Grammy's actually highlighted REAL talent - musicians and performers who can sing and play their instruments - instead of a show featuring flashy dancers with hot bods.

It was fun, exciting, historic and colourful - not the usual ego-fest featuring 90% rap and hip hop. From U2's live debut of their just-released single 'Get On Your Boots' to Album of the Year winners, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - every performance was thrilling and exhilarating. I thought the most moving ones were Jennifer Hudson's 'You Pulled Me Through,' Kid Rock's rousing 'Amen,' Coldplay and Carrie Underwood, featuring her rock lady lead guitarist.

I liked that they didn't have a host stumbling through teleprompter gaffs and cheeky one-liners; and, thank heavens, there were very few mentions of politics or the Big 'O.' What, with live performances by Paul McCartney, Al Green, Smoky Robinson and "the Duke" from The Four Tops, Neil Diamond... you can't go wrong! It didn't seem like an awards show, but rather a showcase of great talent... very refreshing.

Of course, we had to stomach way too much Justin Timberlake; Gwyneth Paltrow gushing over not her own husband's band, but Radiohead; that prepubescent egomaniac dimwit Miley Cyrus; and that dingbat 'I Kissed a Girl' chick flopping around on stage like a rag doll... but overall, the Grammy's reminded me why America is the great bastion of the best music on earth.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Welcome, Mr. President and First Lady Obama

I didn't have time to watch all the festivities today between all the calls and e-mails I was getting from the media all day... but I watched a few moments of the Obamas dancing. What a sight! Michelle looked gorgeous and Obama, quite dashing. It was fun to watch and exciting to think of all the possibilities of a new era. I wish them the best and God speed, happiness, health and strength to solve all the many problems we face in our country.

Obvioiusly the First Lady of Soul hasn't lost that golden voice. It was wonderful to hear Aretha sing, "My Country 'Tis of Thee..."

Let's all have faith in the future and get behind our new president so we can build a stronger America. Good luck, Obamas! God bless!

A Fond and Loving Farewell

I read this transcript of a Rush Limbaugh caller today. I think it's only fitting for me to re-post this today as President Bush leaves office. My sentiments exactly.

I want to bid my commander-in-chief a fond and loving farewell, and I'm probably going to get emotional because, "I want to thank you, Mr. President, George Walker Bush, for keeping us all safe. I can truly say this: You have read those intelligence reports. You know and you have always known the attempts that this enemy has made on our own soil throughout your entire presidency. You truly have protected us. You love our families. You love our sons, our daughters, our nieces, and especially our nephews, as if they were your own, and it's a testament of how you were raised: so humble and so proud. Wealthy or not, you're one of the most humble men, you and your father, that I think this country has ever known."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Passing of Andrew Wyeth

The passing of one of the 20th century's greatest American artists, Andrew Wyeth, reminds me of my own roots in art - having studied some of his great techniques in art class as a youth. Below is an excellent article and a link to his biography.

Andrew Wyeth's Problematic Legacy: Andrew Wyeth, who died today at 91 at his home in Chadds Ford, PA, was the great problem of American modern art. He was a problem first because he so completely refused to be modern in any terms that the art world cared about or could stomach. Long after it was no longer fashionable or even permissible to practice a flinty, granular realism, Wyeth went on making pictures with the kind of brushwork that specified the world in almost molecular detail. That his technical capabilities were so apparent only made it more annoying to some critics that he wouldn't turn his back on them. Virtuosity of that kind was something that we almost wanted to get off the table, an embarrassing reminder of pleasures that painting had to shed if it was to move forward into the brave new world of Modernism and everything that came after. [more...]

Biography: Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life by Richard Meryman