Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Icing on the Cake

“You can’t have your cake and eat it, too,” Jonathan Swift

In “10 Things That Piss Me Off,” acerbic humorist George Carlin claimed he hated people who used the old English proverb about having cake but not being able to consume it.  “Screw that!!!” he griped, “What good is a damn piece of cake if you can’t eat it?”  Carlin, who died five years ago, was once arrested in Milwaukee after performing his routine “Seven words you can never say on television.”

Bernie Holicky forwarded this message from Patricia and Richard Gonzales concerning his April 1 get-together: “It was icing on the cake to have Jim Lane crash.  Great amounts of delicious finger food and lively conversation.”  Upon arriving, I told the group that I had planned to crash their soiree in order to see Lance Trusty but that Bernie invited me, so I acted like I couldn’t come in order to make my appearance a surprise.  While “icing on the cake” denotes something already good getting better, some people employ the phrase ironically, meaning a bad thing becoming even worse.

In Jonathan Briggs’s History of Popular Music class talking about Vivian Carter and Vee Jay Records one person wondered if the Dells could have sued the Four Seasons for using “Oh What a Night” as the first line in their hit “December 1963.”  An African-American woman bought the Gary book I took along and was disappointed the Traces magazine containing my article “Goodnight Sweetheart” wasn’t for sale.  Jonathan expertly handled the computer functions, installing the flash drive, CDs and VHS that had photos, songs, and a Letterman appearance of Jerry Lee Lewis and Neil Young performing Jimmy Reed’s “You Don’t Have to Go.”  I made the point that Jerry Lee and Elvis were inspired by rhythm and blues; Elvis’s first hits were cover versions.  When I played Betty Everett’s 1964 hit “It’s in His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song),” with an East Chicago girl group The Opals doing backup, a student noted that a version by Cher appeared on the soundtrack of “Mermaids.”  One student mentioned that Motown toned down rhythm and blues to make it more palatable to whites, but so did Vee Jay to some extent.  The pop market was where the most money lay, and they received royalties for cover versions by the likes of Pat Boone and the McGuire Sisters.

When I mentioned being from the Philadelphia area, someone asked if I’d ever been on “Bandstand.”  I didn’t lie but mentioned an event at Willow Grove Amusement Park hosted by Dick Clark where I danced with a singer he was promoting, Mary Swan. I repeated Phil Arnold’s story about getting girls in college by claiming he’d been on  “Bandstand.”

For his Elvis Blog Phil Arnold has written a three-part account of Circle G Ranch in Mississippi, where Presley retreated with wife Priscilla in 1967 when not making movies.  He installed a group of trailers on the grounds for his entourage.  Phil noted the passing of Jordanaires stalwart Gordon Stoker. During Elvis Week 2004 in Memphis (an event I also attended) Phil managed to have dinner with Stoker eating in the hotel restaurant.  He wrote: When the waitress came by, Gordon ordered for me.  He was eating meatloaf and raving about it, so he wanted me to have it, too.  He was right.  It was great meatloaf.  We chatted through the whole meal, and he was charming.”  Not only that, he picked up the tab.
 The Dells

On Facebook Jonathyne thanked me for bringing to his class “some real musical treats.  He included a YouTube video of the Dells (from Harvey, Illinois and originally the El-Rays) singing “On What a Nite” that showing numerous photos and album covers of Johnny Funches and the group.  Jon hadn’t heard of the HBO documentary “Phil Spector,” but his interest was piqued upon learning that Al Pacino played the legendary record producer charged with murdering a young lady who came to his “castle.”

Mike Certa is writing his memoirs and will have a section entitled “IU Northwest and Beyond.”  I told him I’d love to see it.  He’s already written about 150 pages.  He started at the university as a student thanks to a scholarship Dean Herman Feldman helped him obtain and taught part-time before becoming a tenured faculty.

I rolled practice games of 158 and 172 at Cressmoor.  Owner Jim Fowble show ed me photos of Alaska, where he and his wife spent six weeks a few years back.  Several shots were of a bear and her cubs on Kodiak Island. Another was from when they drove up to the Arctic Circle.

Jerry Davich wrote about people’s fascination with obituaries and used a quote from “Gary’s First Hundred Years.”  He noted: Region historian James Lane wrote that obits ‘listed bereaved loved ones plus nicknames (often papa or momma) and special talents (poet, southern cooking, fisherman) but few clues about cause of death beyond the ubiquitous ‘after a brief illness.’’”  Soliciting comments, Davich heard from Noelle Neis, who wrote: “One of the strangest things I have seen in an obit was ‘he loved to vacuum.”  Cheryl Hagelberg said they were helpful for genealogy research.  Old Post-Trib editor Dean Bottorff reported that “early in my journalism career I wrote obits back in the day when they were published for free and handled in the newsroom.”   Once our next door neighbors, Dean (below) and Joanell moved to Valpo, then to Hong Kong, and finally to Rapid City, South Dakota.

I stayed home till lunchtime to have deviled eggs and leftover ham, knowing my pre-bowling meal would just be yogurt, nuts, two Oreos and gelatin with mandarin oranges.  I watched the last half of “Phil Spector” that I fell asleep to first time around in California.

On Terri Hemmert’s noon WXRT show I heard three great oldies, “Uncle John’s Band,” “Veronica,” and “Southern Cross” intermixed with “Passion Pit’s “Carried Away,” The Decembrist’s “Down By the Water,” and Matt and Kim’s “Let’s Go” (which mentions “shouting out of my windows, rolled down”).  Elvis Costello’s “Veronica” is about a senile woman whose lover died during WW II, while “Uncle John’s Band” by the Grateful Dead evokes memories of the Sixties counter culture. David Crosby’s “Southern Cross” is about someone at sea following a broken love affair.  Rather than denoting a Ku Klux a Klan cross, the title refers to the constellation visible in the southern hemisphere.  Rolling Stone has an article about session musicians – including Leland Sklar, Danny Kortchmar, Craig Doerge, David Lindley and Russ Kunkel - who played with Crosby Stiils and Nash, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Carole King and other “California Sound” Seventies artists.

Purdue North Central’s Kenny Kincaid brought four Latino History students to the Archives.  They had read “Maria’s Journey,” and Ray and Trish Arredondo recently spoke to their class.  One was planning on interviewing a 97 year-old great aunt.   Two others were interested in bi-lingual education issues.  One was from LaPorte and had heard of its former mayor Elmo Gonzalez, who grew up in Indiana Harbor and was a buddy of Louis “Weasal” Vasquez. Other Archives visitors from Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore were looking for material relating to Cowles Bog.

Against a team of 200+ average bowlers, Captain’s Crew, anchored by Bobby Spears, Jr., the Engineers salvaged the last game.  After a very mediocre evening, I strung four strikes in a row, starting in the eighth frame, and Duke Cominsky doubled in the tenth, enabling us to win by 12 pins.

Dave was pumped because in their first match of the season the East Chicago girls defeated Griffith, 3-2, with Ashley Rodriguez, Fabiola Guillen, and Kayla Cast each winning their singles match.

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