Sunday, January 24, 2021

Suspender Splendor

See? That grizzled, rumpled look didn't come easily. It took a lot of preparation.

Though he was from New York and had the accent to prove it, Larry King's broadcasting career began in South Florida, where he hosted various local radio and TV interview shows. He was helped in this regard by Jackie Gleason, whose 1960s network variety show was taped in Miami Beach, which meant the steady stream of Hollywood stars who came to town to appear on Gleason's show would also drop in for a chat on one of Larry's. He got good ratings doing this, and one would think that would lead to higher earnings. Yet when a shady businessman gave the gravelly-voiced broadcaster some money to get him access to either New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison or Attorney General John Mitchell (stories vary), Larry felt financially constrained enough to pocket the dough instead. To make matters even more confusing, Larry also was said to have passed some bad checks. He was arrested for grand larceny, but the charges were eventually dropped, thanks to some legal maneuvering by his lawyer that ran out the clock on the stature of limitations. Rehired by the television and/or radio station that fired him in the wake of his arrest, Larry's popularity grew. The Mutual Broadcasting Network took notice, and gave him a late night/early morning radio show that also proved very popular. Ted Turner took notice, and put Larry on CNN, where he thrived for 20 years.

I make no great claims for Larry King as an interviewer. He was often tougher on people who called into his radio show then he was with the public figures who were his guests. He at times seemed ill-informed--which he actually took pride in because he felt it gave the audience someone they could identify with. If falling for some celebrity's or politician's line of BS is your idea of being at one with a "journalist", then I guess you found your broadcast soul mate. Just don't write him out a check, as I don't think the statute of limitations has changed much since 1971. All this sounds like I didn't like Larry King very much, doesn't it? In fact, I was a fan. If nothing else, King was fun to listen to and watch, and that is something. King also could be very funny at times, and intentionally at that. More than anything else, King was different. Not different from someone you might find working behind the counter of an adult book store (which reminds me, he was married eight times to seven women) but different from someone you would see on TV. And like Barbara Walters, he could come up with an interesting interview almost in spite of himself. Like this one here:

You wouldn't expect that from Lester Holt, would you? Rest in peace, Larry.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Quips and Quotations (Post-Fascism Edition)


 My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.

--Carl Schurz (1829-1906), German-born American statesman


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Vital Viewing (Disturbing the Peaceful Transition of Power Edition)


 Stories vary. Some say it was when George Washington relinquished control of the Continental Army at the end of the Revolutionary War. Others say it was about 15 years later when he decided not to run for a third term as president. Either way, the man was voluntarily giving up power at a time when such a thing, however laudable, was thought to go against human nature. When word of Washington's decision got back to George III, the British monarch is said to have remarked, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man alive."

As the events on 1/06/2021 have demonstrated, this is NOT the greatest man alive.

Contrary to popular belief, an impeachment in and of itself doesn't remove a president from office. If that were the case, Mike Pence would have been president for the past year, as Trump was first impeached at the end of 2019. Also, the previous century would have ended with a President Gore in the Oval Office. No, according to the Constitution, an impeachment is simply the House of Representatives charging a sitting president of high crimes and misdemeanors, followed by a trial in the Senate. Sure, it seems unlikely that any such trial would conclude before January 20, when Joe Biden is suppose to assume the duties of president, but remember, removal from office is hardly the only punishment for sedition. What about this 25th Amendment they keep talking about? That calls for the removal of a president, temporarily or otherwise, if the vice-president and the majority of the cabinet deems that person unfit to serve for some reason. So far, Mike Pence has signaled that that's not going to happen, but who knows, he could change his mind if Trump, says, orders an air strike on the Palm Beach headquarters of the PGA. Finally, a president can just decide to take an early leave from office, as happened some 45 years ago:

How dignified he looks. Such poise. Such grace under--WAIT A SECOND! What am I saying? This is Tricky Dick we're talking about!

Compared to last Wednesday's criminality, the Watergate break-in might as well have been a parking  violation. And remember, it happened after-hours, when everyone had gone home for the night. So it was much less lethal.

 Let me get back to George Washington. On a visit to Mount Vernon with France's President Macron, Trump is said to have wondered aloud why Washington didn't name his home after himself. Trump, after all, was always naming things after himself. Towers, hotels, casinos, golf courses, even at one time a brand of vodka. And while he denied asking that his face be added to Mount Rushmore, he nevertheless tweeted that he thought it would be a good idea. George Washington, on the other hand, never asked that a city on the Potomac or a state sandwiched between Oregon and British Columbia be named after him. Nor did he ask that his face be put on Mount Rushmore, or the dollar bill, quarter, or on a postage stamp. With the exception of the city on the Potomac (he chose the location), all those things had been named and images of him placed after he died. Washington was content to let his achievements speak for themselves. Trump was incapable of such contentment, and had no such accomplishments. In the final analysis, Trump is neither a conservative or a liberal, a right-winger or a left-winger, a Republican or a  Democrat. His only ideology is--well, I'll let Irene tell you:

OK, that's a bit unfair to Ms. Cara.

As for Donald Trump, instead of fame, I suspect from here on in, he will have to settle for infamy. Baby, remember his name.

Thursday, January 7, 2021



I will not allow angry mobs to dominate. It’s not going to happen.

--Donald Trump



Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Blondes Prefer Gentlemen


Can you dance like the wind is pushing you?
Can you dance like you are pushing the wind?
Can you dance with slow wooden heels
and then change to bright and singing silver heels?
If you ask the two people in the photo at the top of this post, the answer would seem to be "Yes". Such nice feet, such good feet. But whose feet? And not just their feet, either. Look at those arms! To paraphrase Hank Williams Jr, are you ready to rhumba? Or is that a samba? A tango? Waltz, maybe? My guess is generic ballroom. Or generic rock 'n' roll. Whatever it is, that's certainly not Gene Kelly on the right. So who is it?

 Poetry is an Echo, Asking a Shadow to Dance

He would know. That's Carl Sandburg, who spent the first 23 years of his life in the 19th century, but left his mark on the 20th. He worked as a bricklayer, drove (reins, not steering wheel) a milk wagon, heaved coal, worked as a farmhand, assisted a barber, and shined shoes in a hotel, all the while dabbling in radical politics, which eventually netted him a job as a secretary to Milwaukee's left-of-center mayor. Later, he was hired on at a Chicago newspaper, back in the days when you didn't need a journalism degree (and newspapers were still hiring on in the first place), where he reported on city politics, crime, labor issues, and--they had them back then, too--race riots. He also reviewed films, one of the first people to do so in the 1910s. That's how he paid the bills, but in his spare time he wrote poetry. His fourth collection, but first by a mainstream publisher, Chicago Poems,
came out in 1916, and went a very long way towards establishing him as one of the nation's leading poets. As the title suggests, these were poems about the Windy City, but in one of those poems, he arguably came up with a better nickname "The City of the Broad Shoulders". However, Sandburg didn't just limit himself to urban life. 1919 saw the publication of Cornhuskers, which won him a Pulitzer. During the Great Depression, he came out with a book-length poem The People, Yes, a paean to democracy and the resilience of Americans during difficult times. Despite all this verse, Sandburg hadn't forgotten prose. An admirer of Abraham Lincoln (as was another poet, Walt Whitman, whose life overlapped Sandburg's by 14 years), he wrote a six-volume, two-part biography of the Great Emancipator. The Prairie Years was published in 1926, the second, The War Years, in 1939. Despite some criticism that the works were more literary than scholarly, they were immensely popular and The War Years won Sandburg another Pulitzer, this time in History (no doubt jurors had one eye on the situation in Europe when they made their decision. If worse came to worse, Honest Abe might serve as a good role model for a wartime president.) If all that wasn't enough, Sandburg was arguably the first celebrity folk singer, prefiguring both Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger by about a decade-and-a-half. He often brought along a guitar to poetry readings, and in 1927 published The American Songbag, a compilation of folk songs. Keep in mind this was folk music in the original sense of the term. Not newly-written, copyrighted songs called "folk" simply because of the sparse arrangements, but noncopyrighted songs with no known composer to collect the royalties (though since the book was a best-seller that went through several printings, I'm sure Sandburg himself earned a royalty or two, but I wouldn't begrudge him that.)  The aforementioned Seeger saw American Songbag as a landmark that helped spark the folk revival movement of the 1930s (which sometimes gets overshadowed by the more Top 40 one of the '50s and '60s.)  On the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth in 1959, Congress met in joint session to hear actor Fredric March read from the Gettysburg Address, after which Sandburg read a few selections on a second...

There's that blonde again. Who is she? Maybe if we can get her to take off those dark glasses.

 That's right, it's Marilyn Monroe. The story goes that the two first met around 1960 when Sandburg was living in Hollywood working as a film consultant (he would have been in his early 80s at the time, so you can't accuse Tinseltown of ageism, at least not back then.) Thinking she was out of town or something, the studio gave him her dressing room to use as a makeshift office, but she turned up anyway. Rather than get pissed, she was delighted to find the iconic poet there, which shouldn't come as a surprise. Once her fame had been firmly secured, Monroe often sought out the company of literary types (in fact, she married one.) For his part, Sandburg liked her immediately, as did most people who crossed paths with her. He was also intrigued by her background. Born illegitimate in an era where that was considered foreboding enough, Marilyn (actually, Norma Jean) was eight when her mother had a mental breakdown. She spent the rest of her life in and out of psychiatric wards, while her daughter, the future sex goddess, spent the rest of her childhood going from one foster home to another, getting molested by two of those foster parents along the way. This was about as proletariat as proletariat can get, something the old lefty poet could appreciate. Sandburg and Monroe met at least twice after that, with the photos to prove it. Pictures of Marilyn in dark glasses were taken in the New York apartment of photographer Len Stickler, where Sandburg was staying as a guest, only informing his host of the movie star's arrival when she actually arrived. Pictures of Marilyn in a scarf were again taken in New York, at the apartment of Henry Weinstein, an East Coast producer of plays looking to become a West Coast producer of movies (in fact, the uncompleted Something's Got to Give, starring Marilyn, was slated to be his first.) The photographer was the highly-regarded Arnold Newman. However, he wasn't known for his snapshots, so he too may have been surprised when she showed up.

Ooh, these look kind of intimate, huh? Well, rest assured, Sandburg was a happily married man, and besides...

...there were people present.

Some calisthenics before breaking out the booze. Unless the booze is what led to the calisthenics.

 Longtime readers know that as a way of keeping this blog as randomly eclectic as possible, I often pin posts to people's birthdays. So, too, today's is Carl Sandburg's. Here's one of his more famous poems. Nothing political, just mere weather reporting:

The fog comes
on little cat's feet

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on

I would have compared it to a hippopotamus, but then, I'm not a poet.

Finally, I don't want to leave you with the impression that Carl Sandburg only hung around Hollywood celebrities. Here he is with the then-President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. Say... don't suppose Sandburg introduced them, do you?