The Red Pepper Caper

By Larry Teren

The knock on my door came with authority. I had just put away the groceries having returned from the fancy supermarket. You know- the one with the newfangled self-checkout machines.

I answered from inside the apartment while looking through the peephole. There were two guys in the hallway. One shouted, “open up- it’s the police!”
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The Right To Bare Arms

By Larry Teren

father-knows-bestAre you old enough to remember watching first-run television programs in which the daddy came home from work every night wearing a suit and tie? Jim Anderson (Robert Young) of Father’s Knows Best, an insurance agent, always dressed up unless it was the weekend. He would rarely be seen in only his shirtsleeves but at least wearing a sweater. The same usually went for Mr. Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont) on Leave It To Beaver.the_cleaversThere was also always the sartorially splendid Bentley Gregg, played by John Forsythe on Bachelor Father.

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The 500 Club

(Spoiler Alert- name the three -non-news division- television shows that have broadcast 500 episodes?)

When it comes to accomplishments, the number 500 can represent a special milestone in various areas of life. There are several associated with Sports:

Any basketball coach who has piloted at least 500 victories is applauded not only for his success but for his endurance as well. To be able to stay around coaching in the NBA for 15 to 20 years is a remarkable achievement and to regularly win at it is to be especially appreciated. Continue reading “The 500 Club”

Son of a Gun!

Few entertainers get lucky with a catchphrase or persona that makes them a household name. Jack Benny played on his cheapness and vanity attributes. Bob Hope was Old Ski Nose, Henny Youngman, the King of One Liners and Jackie Gleason- The Great One, just to name a few.

Milton Berle milked the show business lie that he stole other acts material. In fact, he was one of the few who legitimately paid for routines rented from the originators, but not the performers. Another comic may have done a bit in Vaudeville that Berle saw and wanted to revive on his television show. The guy who performed it in Vaudeville would get incensed because he considered it his act. But Berle was smart. He knew that the performer paid a gag writer to put together the bit. The rule was that the bit’s ownership stayed with the writer, not the performer. He would seek that person out and pay him for the use. Nothing wrong with that- that’s why they called it show business.

joeybishopJoey Bishop was another one who got lucky with a persona as well as catchphrase. He coined the expression “Son of a Gun” when he first used it in a cameo appearance in a movie called Pepe and received such a tremendous amount of fan mail telling him how funny the bit worked in the film. He was also known as having a dour expression, sort of like the look on the face of a headwaiter when called out to listen to the complaint of a dining customer.
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Hanna Barbera and Baby Boomer Cartoons

By Larry Teren

Enjoying cartoons is one of those things a person never outgrows, right? It must be- Matt Groenig’s The Simpsons has been around for more than twenty seasons of new-run episodes and still going strong. The 1930’s and 40’s have Walt Disney, Max Fleischer and Leon Schlesinger. The 1950s and 60s have Hanna Barbera. I and most baby boomers will take that ex-MGM animation team, Hanna Barbera, thank you.

huckleberryhound yogibear flinstones topcat

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Politics of Change

As a kid growing up in the 1960’s I was a Democrat because I didn’t know better. It had been schooled into me that Republicans were only for rich people and believed in war which was in their opinion good for the economy. It didn’t make a difference since I couldn’t vote.

The first time I took notice of politics was when we road home in a school bus from Orchestra Hall on Michigan Avenue back to our school in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s Far West Side. We had just been treated to seats up in the rafters watching and listening to a matinee presentation put on by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This was around the same time Leonard Bernstein was doing television shows dedicated to the same purpose and they were quite popular.

On the forty-five minute ride home due west we rode through neighborhoods with signs on front lawns or taped to windows that either read ‘Go All the Way With JFK’ (John F. Kennedy) or ‘For the Future’ (Richard Nixon). My buddy Perry sat next to me and he made a point of telling me for whom I should be but it did not resonate. When it came down to it, Kennedy made more sense because he was better looking and didn’t look mean. Besides, I had a kid’s version of Kennedy’s book Profiles in Courage or was aware of it so I had somewhat of a sophisticated approach to my choice.

I recall being fascinated on election night watching the news coverage and Walter Cronkite explaining about all the sophisticated computer equipment in the room that was making loud noises in the background.
He said that with the equipment, he would be able to predict who won the election within a couple of hours after the polls closed. In those days, they did not make predictions on East Coast electoral votes until all the states had officially closed down the voting. There was still a sense on the part of the media in playing fair and not trying to discourage West Coast voters in wasting their ballots on a loser.

I liked watching war movies on television but in real life preferred to be a passive bystander although not a conscientious objector. My simple philosophy was ‘leave me out of it’. Besides, I wore glasses due to depth perception problems and double vision as well as had flat feet. I inherited these from Ma.

By the time 1969 came around, I was not yet seventeen and hardly a member of the pot smoking peace movement. Heck, I choked whenever someone smoking a cigarette was within fifteen feet of me. Didn’t have long hair because the high school administration frowned upon it and besides I was not out to make a statement. Did, though, grow a beard which looking back on it was ridiculous as at best it was Solzhenitsyn-like. And you needed a magnifying glass to see the accompanying mustache up close.

During the summer of 1970, after graduating high school, a kind of rash or impetuous thing overcame me. I invited a female classmate to go a movie, a quasi-date. I don’t recall if I even paid for her admission ticket. Wasn’t really that much interested in her romantically- at least, I didn’t think so. I knew her as far back as kindergarten. Anyway, we agreed to meet at the theater and saw Mash. At the time, it was a very risque comedy, totally irreverent, making fun of actions taking place during the Korean War.

The movie had little to do about the 1950 police action in Korea. It was more about the nascent anti-war attitude during the height of the Viet Nam era. There were several things disturbing about the plot- it made fun of suicide, presumed that all married military personnel were playfully cheating on their spouses back home and that all soldiers were against the war. The actors seemed to have haircuts that were more popular after the 1964 Beatles Invasion than the 1950’s crew cuts they should have worn. The dialogue was more late 1960’s than Eisenhower era. It was a distorted political statement. And it helped turn me off to the anti-war cause. Yet, I went through the 1970’s with a “can’t we all get along” attitude mostly because I was hoping to butter up the “man” or basically get on somebody’s good side who would help improve my economic condition.

It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the conservative approach to politics appealed. When Ronald Reagan ascended to his Presidency I finally felt that the voice of reason and a pragmatic approach to an American lifestyle would finally direct the nation back to our collective senses.

The schism that divides America has always been there. Hey, we even had a civil war, remember? So, why is everyone so worked up about trying to get us all to agree? I kind of like the balance of power. I just don’t like paying taxes at the Federal, State and Local levels.

Everyone hates America but everyone wants to live here. I like things the way they are but also like new ideas if they make sense. I’m a bleeding heart conservative who sides with the underdog.

Hey, if I make sense then give me the change.

Can’t We All Get Along? No!

By Larry Teren

Rodney King once famously said, “can’t we all just get along?” No!

Nowadays, in the world of politics, its hard to find an international enemy not to pick on, Since detente in the early 1990’s, the Russians are allegedly our friends now that they gave up that Soviet business. Even when we want to slap them for doing things we don’t cotton to, we have to look the other way. There’s no fun watching a tennis match if you cannot look side to side to see how the other player is going to respond to the first one’s volley.

There used to be a time when one could rely on a good feud to keep him amused. Where have the Hatfields and McCoys gone when you need them?
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Nothing But a Hound Dog

By Larry Teren

Hound Dog was written in 1952 for a much-forgotten female singer. It was reworked in 1956 to the more up-tempo hell-bent rhythm barked by the legendary King of Rock, Elvis Presley. It sold more than five million records and made an instant national star out of Elvis Presley when he sang it on the Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan television shows.
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Games People Play

Baby Boomers well remember three big games shows that were broadcast in prime time during the 1950 and 1960’s. They were What’s My Line, I’ve Got a Secret and To Tell The Truth. For sure, there were others but these were unique in that they matched up four celebrity panelists against guests whose job it was to keep them finding out something about them. Most often the give-and-take led to embarrassing moments. The panelists would dress up in their finest clothes and try to act dignified and with a sense of propriety. This made any red faced discoveries that much more dramatic and fun to observe.

I’d like to see a new game show called It’s Embarrassing. A contestant would let the viewing audience in on an incident that left them with egg on their face. I’d volunteer to be on the show at least twice. Each one had to do with events that happened around a work situation but not exactly because of it.
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Changing Times

Kids growing up nowadays marvel at the thought that there was a time when a person had to use a rotary dial to make a phone call. It sounds so quaint yet archaic. This is not that much different when we baby boomers looked in amazement during the early 1960’s watching The Andy Griffith Show. Sheriff Taylor would click a receiver to get Sarah’s (the operator) attention in order to put a call through

Today’s kids cannot believe that we could only choose among five or six channels to watch on television and that the tv set needed an aerial or sometimes a wire hanger to get half decent picture reception. Or that cars didn’t come with air-conditioning and a rear defogger or an on-board computer screen that helps you navigate where you were going. Part of the fun of going on a vacation trip used to be waiting for the motor club to send a map with the route laid out highlighted by a colored magic marker. In our family, one of us- usually me- would have the responsibility to hold onto the map and tell Dad ever so often how we were doing on course. (It was usually a ruse. He knew where he was going- it was just to keep me preoccupied)
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