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February 11th, 2019...

Thousands of intelligent good-looking readers.

THE COMEDIAN. I sang with The Dawn Breakers quartet in a show club called The Elmwood Casino in Windsor, Ontario, across from Detroit. The emcee was a very funny comedian named Frankie Rapp. I once saw him in a Jerry Lewis movie. There was also a classy female singer named Gloria Brooks. She was Frankie’s ex-wife.and she told me she didn’t like old comedians. She’d been married to two of them. After comedians make us laugh we expect them to be jolly in real life. They can be quite different . Lou Costello got 60% and Bud Abbott got 40% of their income. When asked if he thought he needed Abbott, Costello said, “I could have him painted on the curtain.” Misty and I have known hilarious comics who were depressives offstage.. We got involved with one who was evil. I was producing a Starday Records artist named Rusty Diamond, who had a knack for getting rich women as backers. Rusty wanted to put together a Vegas type stage show. I knew he wasn’t ready for that, so I suggested we hire a comedy coach I'd heard of. His name was Danny Rogers. Rusty’s backer was paying for the coaching sessions, and the rent on a rehearsal hall. Danny could be funny, lovable, humble, devious, and cruel. He could be different people at different moments. He did so many characters I didn’t know which was the real him. I think he was the mean one. He’d been fired from Milton Berle’s Vegas show for being too funny. He told me “Berle was right. It was his show.” The potential comedy group consisted of Misty and me, Paul McLaughlin our sax player, and Rusty was to be the star. Rogers began calling Paul “the hick” and riding him mercilessly. I was the designated straight man, Misty was “the chick”. It never became clear what Rusty was supposed to do. It did become clear that Rusty was not going to be the star. Danny was getting paid to train him, but Rusty was on his way out. It was morphing into The Danny Rogers Group. Rogers was a terrific comedian and I was to be his Dean Martin. He didn’t even want Paul in the act. That’s why he made his life miserable, but we made sure that Paul stayed. To be fair, Danny did teach us a lot about stagecraft and comedy. He taught us some great routines, but he yelled at us all the time, which took the fun out of it. Rusty’s backers pulled the plug and he left the group, Paul “the hick” was miserable, and Misty and I were imagining fun ways to kill Danny Rogers. Misty bought an expensive new dress and Danny commanded her to “Never wear that again!” Then he booked our act into a famous showplace in the Caribbean. We all knew at that moment that we were not going to be on any island with Danny Rogers. We were actually afraid to tell him. He had become the cruel warden. But we did tell him, and he wasn’t at all happy. First he became the poor soul who’s been hurt, to make us feel guilty. He was good! Finally he got mad, did a troll dance, and left. (Maybe I made up the troll dance.) Ten years later, after we’d had several hit records, I was calling old names in our address book for some reason, and got Danny Rogers on the phone, I asked if he remembered us, and he said this: “Yeah. Too bad you never made it. I'm in the diamond business now.” With all our modern technology \we still can't strangle jerks over the phone. Copyright © February 11, 2019 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

February 5th, 2019... Well. Through fatigue and snow (NOW?!?), YFNW™ is finally catching up on things around here. Here's Jack...

Thousands of intelligent good-looking readers.

TRANSITIONS. (Written February 28th, 2015.) It's a cool gray rainy day here in Hickory Hollow, a transitional day, with the remnants of Winter and early signs of Spring. Standing under the edge of our carport I can see almost a mile of tan fields and lines of trees, until the landscape gets lost in the mist. The trees and Spanish moss are moving with the breeze, as are the flags on our street. These are mostly World War Two people and that kind of patriotism doesn't go away, even though the nation has changed over their lifetime. I didn't like Florida for a long time after I landed here. The palms annoyed me. They were foreign and reminded me that I wasn't home; that this was all temporary and I didn't belong here. I could go to almost anywhere up north and not feel like an outsider, but Florida felt unreal... like a movie. As I stood just out of the rain today and took in the palms, the giant oaks in rainy-day colors, and the Spanish Moss like graceful fringe on a gown, it occurred to me that I like it. When did that happen? I still love Buffalo with it's four seasons and the energy in the air, but it's mostly the Buffalo in my memory. The last time we visited there, I enjoyed it, but I had a sense of being outside looking in. The world has changed so much that maybe we all feel a little like strangers at times, but this subtropical place has sneaked up on me and it's started to look right. Maybe I'm home... or as close as I'll ever get. Copyright © February 5, 2019 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

Thousands of intelligent good-looking readers.

THE DISNEY WORLD GROUNDBREAKING. I just found an old newspaper article I wrote back when I was a cub reporter. It's about The Walt Disney World groundbreaking, The truth can be funny. * * * It was a Rolaids morning. At 8:37 AM I remembered why I stopped getting up early, when stomachs growl, and the breath of man strikes fear into the hearts of moose. The Parkwood Plaza Cinema was packed with press people, snapping pictures and interviewing the crap out of each other. At the Disney Groundbreaking Press Conference I thought there would be mice and ducks, but not an animal spoke, and not a magic wand waved. The affair proceeded with the hilarity of a colonoscopy in the rain. One by one, executives confessed to excitement, undetectable to the human eye. The audience reacted with a burst of apathy. There were speeches about hydro-pneumatic modular electromagnetic prefabrication, followed, two or three days later, by a spirited race to the rest rooms. I think Scrooge McDuck is running the company. We stood in awe of cardboard models hovered over by cardboard dignitaries, while cameramen kneeled and stretched in their native dance. News people rattled off reporter lingo into phones, scooping each other. I was amazed to see many of them typing. I do all my writing with a brown crayon. Buses carried us to a two-hour presentation of mud, where holes were being dug on Disney swampland. Balloons represented future hotels which were the project's main theme. Then back to the buses for another ride. I awoke with a start when the bus door opened, thinking we had reached Cincinnati, only to find us at a Ramada Inn. I checked my watch. It had rusted to a stop. A nice lunch of Chicken Formica awaited us poolside. There was no shade, so we ate, glowered, and watched each other burn, to the music of a sweating Latin band. I was in such pitiful shape that when I got home my dog tried to bite me. The family asked me how it went. "Disney magic was all around", I said. "The entire day was one of beauty and song." Copyright © January 28, 2019 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

January 21st, 2018...

Thousands of intelligent good-looking readers.

GHOST TOWN. Somehow we had missed the turnoff to the southern Ohio town. We went back to where the highway ought to be and found a narrow old road, with grass growing up through the cracks in the pavement. Could this be the main road to town that I remembered from my childhood? The sign said it was. The small city, after slumbering quietly for generations, had become a boomtown with the coming of a large chemical company. For a while the population grew with the influx of labor. The little corner taverns where old cronies had once exchanged worldly wisdom became juke joints as the town opened up. Housing became scarce, money became plentiful, and the townsfolk began a new habit... locking their doors. The picturesque, American town of stories was the only memory I had to go by. I was surprised at the desolate weeded over road that had once been a main artery. We turned off the superhighway and followed the rustic lane toward the town, trying to spot familiar landmarks. There were new shabby buildings, some vacant and boarded up. There were new gas stations, looking aged and toothless with their pumps gone. I thought I recognized an old building... a certain curve in the road... but the clutter made it impossible to get my bearings. Drifting into town, I was relieved to see the railroad station and its surrounding park untouched by time. I had often told Misty about the good times at Aunt Bess' house, where I had spent a lot of my childhood. Now I was about to show her the actual place where it all happened, but at first I couldn't find it. It used to be right there on the corner of Fourth and Maple. Now there was just a rundown Frankenstein house hiding in the weeds. We parked while I stared at it for a long time. I had somehow forgotten... They're all gone. The whole smiling, partying family had died off one by one since I'd been gone. I knew it, I'm sure, but I’d blocked it out. The small grocery store across the street had a new name but looked the same. I went in and asked, but they didn't remember who had lived in that corner house. They didn't recognize my desperately mentioned names, and they were busy. Asking around we learned that the chemical plant had laid off thousands of workers, and the government had built a superhighway that bypassed the town, so it went quietly back to sleep, somewhat the worse for wear. We searched the town all day, and it was sunset before we found anyone we knew. They were all together, as always. The squeak of the rusty wrought iron gate pierced the evening stillness, as we entered the old cemetery, and began brushing away weeds and dust, to peer at names on tombstones... names that clicked on familiar faces in my mind. We drove out of town and didn't talk for a while. Nobody said goodbye. If this was a ghost town these new people didn't know it. We were the ghosts. Copyright © January 21, 2019 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

January 16th, 2019... In the immortal words of Johnny Cash, come along and ride this train...

Thousands of intelligent good-looking readers.

RAILROAD DAYS... A long time ago we were on our way to do a national television show from the PBS main studio in Pittsburgh, and then to a Nashville recording session. Tennessee Birdwalk had become a surprise hit. Sometimes life can be good. The porter showed us to our compartment and stowed our luggage. Orlando was sliding away past our windows, so we settled down, propped our feet on our suitcases, and waited for snow. An official voice over the PA system: "You're invited to the dining car for the hospitality hour", Free coffee and orange juice". Misty said, "Let's live a little", and we staggered forward with the sway of the train. Passing through the club car, the train rounded a curve, and Misty sat on an elderly man's lap. His wife said, "Well, I never" and glared out the window at nothing. She failed to see the humor in it. The best part of the dining car is watching the scenery fly by in sunset colors. Telephone poles tick away the time, and up ahead the train whistle adds to the adventure. At every road and city street, cars are lined up waiting for us to pass by. Make way for the train, the biggest thing that moves on land! We stayed awake most of that night wiping our breath steam from the train window, and watching the sparkling towns and moonlit woodlands fall away behind us. Washington DC was having a brisk morning as we left our luxury train and boarded a coach bound for Pittsburgh, which wove slowly through the gray land Appalachia. There were untidy traces of leftover winter, dingy crusts of snow and slush. Smoky air had left its film on town and country alike, dulling the colors. Trees, houses, factories, cars, dogs, cats, grass, and people all blend to a drab tannish gray. Men in work clothes stand in the cold rain waiting for the train to take them home after another hard day. A pregnant woman struggles to get a baby carriage over the curbside slush pile without dropping her bag of groceries. Clothes are functional. No time for style. A gang of workmen lined up in the aisle waiting to get off, whisper and snicker at our haircut and clothes. We must seem outlandish to them. Misty and I smile at each other, taking no offense. The train stops and they file off, lunch boxes under their arms, heads bowed against the gray rain, each seeking out the dreary street that leads home. The train was owned by The Baltimore and Ohio/Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, and the train staff was proud of it: R.G. Whitling, Conductor; L. Boone, Flagman, and E.A. Popp, Baggageman. Their hospitality brought color back to this leg of the journey. Nature soon followed suit, producing a beautiful rocky river that wandered for miles through scenic hill country. Journeys can remain after destinations fade from memory. Copyright © January 15th, 2019 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

January 8th, 2019...

Thousands of intelligent good-looking readers.

SOME MUSIC MEMORIES. We were doing a Southern tour with Leroy van Dyke, and at one place they didn't have enough electricity to run to the flatbed for our show. Leroy offered to let us plug in to his bus generator. It worked fine. People share on the road. Merle Haggard used our PA system when his wasn't working. Walt Disney World put on a Country Cavalcade. The three acts were in three sections of the park and we alternated show times, so the crowd would move from one stage to the next to see all the shows. Roy Clark was at the front by the castle. Hank Williams, Jr. was at the opposite end of the Park, and Misty and I and our band set up in the center near the big merry-go-round. Our section was called Vanity Fair. It was a great day to be in show business. We got some celebrities in our club in Orlando. Roni Stoneman would come in and play her banjo with us. One night she finished an amazing solo and the audience stood and cheered. She said, "I bet you thought I was just a pretty face." Fabian was in the audience a lot, always with a good looking date. He didn't sing, but we'd sit and talk with him. The first time Ferlin Husky came in he sat at a corner table to the right of our stage. We loved Ferlin. He was such a classy guy. When we introduced him to the crowd he stood up and almost knocked himself out on a TV platform over his head. We felt bad about it. In the 1970s we did "The Three Couples Tour": with Jack Greene and Jeannie Seely, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, and Misty Morgan and me. Good times. Copyright © January 5, 2019 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

December 31st, 2018/January 1st, 2019...

Thousands of intelligent good-looking readers.

BEING ALIVE. For some people the world changes so slowly they hardly notice it. Things happen on a small familiar set, like a stage play. For others of us, our horizons have grown so far apart it's hard to get our bearings. If I ever do get back to my old neighborhood I'm sure I'll run into a guy I used to know for whom nothing much has changed. Reality is fluid. The scenery of life changes constantly. There is only one thing we can depend on, and that's the thing we fear most: Change. Relationships change, that's for sure. If we're lucky they change into something better... different, but better. Misty is my full time family. After all these years we still have lots to talk about, and we make each other laugh.. Our occasional arguments last only minutes. We were in a bad hurricane in Miami in the 60's The metal posts holding our carport were banging up and down in the 135 mph wind. A guy on the radio yelled "Holy crap! The back door just blew off!" I said, "Isn't he supposed to cheer US up?" I was sitting by the window listening to the sound of emptiness. This is not like listening to no sound at all, because the sound of emptiness contains all the things you hoped would be in it, and all the sounds that once were. ROGER MILLER. Roger Miller walked in on our session at Columbia. I stopped everything and went to meet him. I put my hand out and was going to say "I'm a fan of yours." Before I could, he said "I'm a fan of yours." A high spot of my life. My grammar school was pretty strict, but they gave us education on par with today's colleges. In seventh and eighth grades all us boys had to wear ties. The result was grotesque but funny. The most popular style was this: A blue flannel checkered lumberjack shirt and a bright red rayon clip-on tie with a picture of Popeye on it. Make the days a little longer. I don't know where the time has flown. Lord, I'm having such a good time, I don't want to go home. Copyright © December 31, 2018 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

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It's that time of year again, folks. A lot has happened in the last 12 months, like it seems to do every darn year, and in the spirit of old adages like "a new broom never boils" and "a watched pot sweeps clean" (or some such stuff... forgive me, I'm old...) it's time to put this past year's news page out to pasture. But don't worry if you missed anything -- it hasn't gone far. You can now find every little bit of it HERE! (And shortly on the Old News page, as usual.) So on behalf of myself, Lee, and Jack and Misty, let me wish you all a safe, sane and happy 2019! Happy New Year, everybody! Jerry D. Withers, Your Friendly Neighborhood Webmeister™
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