Sunday, December 21, 2014

Football 2014

Another season of football is winding down with the Super Bowl just around the corner.  What were your impressions this time round?

In this corner of the couch my thoughts were fourfold: Injuries, Disrespect, Idiocy and Hope.

.Injuries. There for a while I thought I was the only one thinking that gridiron warriors were being wounded at an exceptional rate.  As the season went by however it became crystal clear that violent clashes between hardened men was taking a more frequent and terrible toll on the lives of  players at every level, particularly professional football. Watching a player ”slow to get up”, or seeming to be “shaken up” started to sound like commentators were engaged in some sort of plot to keep real danger away from the public mind. I keep thinking not only of injury to players in the here-and-now but also the disabilities that will plague their tomorrows. Constant pounding of bodies, even the helmet smacking and chest bumping of teammates after stellar plays starts to make you wince.

.Disrespect. Attitude toward opposing players was never a love-fest - nor should it be - but the level of trash-talk and even threats to officials has descended to an all-time low. I also wonder if constantly living violent lives on the field isn't linked somehow to the rash of domestic violence and spousal abuse that dominates the conduct of so many after the game is over.

.Idiocy. “Celebrating” touchdowns by gyrating in the end zone has certainly gotten out of hand.  Officials have cut players far too much slack. We deserve a new look at how long a time period such nonsense should be permitted, or if they should be permitted at all. And far worse is the invitation such idiotic behavior extends to those of racial bias when displays of chest-thumping and other mannerisms of the jungle are considered part of the game.

.Hope. By now just about everyone knows of the seriousness of concussions.  Some recognition and some steps – one forward, two backward – have been made by officialdom. But positive action must be accelerated all across the board. For starters by having truly competent medical personnel treat downed players from the very moment the injury whistle is blown. Parents are already having their youngsters opt out of football for less dangerous sports. Let's hope that next season and the years that follow will see a lot of improvement in these four areas.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Making the call in any sports is NOT a no-brainer.  And having to do it within milliseconds is not for the faint-hearted either.  Officiating is a combination of personal self-esteem, experience, objectivity and practice, practice, practice.

No matter what the sport, referees, umpires, linesmen and all others who officiate at games are committed to providing level playing field for the competing athletes. In so doing they face a lot of stress. Is it tougher to work a major league baseball game than to help out on a Little League playing field?  That's a question for the ages. No one has yet compared the howling anger of adults fueled by stadium beer to the outrage voiced by a dozen or more soccer moms.  In long years in both settings, I would lean toward fearing soccer moms a tad more.

All of us who make the calls have searing memories of one game or another.  My personal Waterloo came when calling a service line for a tennis match in Philadelphia. I had just gotten off a red eye flight from California and gone directly to the grass courts of the historic Merion Cricket Club in nearby Haverford. Here is where the aforementioned self-esteem ran into Irish ego. When the referee Brooks Keffer asked me to “take the service line” I should have refused the honor right then and there because of fatigue from the cross country airplane ride. But I was cursed by the “I can do anything” Irish mentality.  I made several bad calls and a couple of them were against Vic Seixas, the Hall of Famer and perennial U.S. Davis Cup stalwart. Seixas was a big fan favorite in those days. All the more reason for those in the grandstand wanting to kill this linesman. None of course was more upset than Vic who could have wrapped his racquet around my head. My own story had a happier ending a week later during the U.S. Nationals at Forest Hills when I was complimented for exceptional work by the umpire.

Of all the stories about officiating, none is more trauma-inducing than a call the NFL's Ed Hochuli made in the nationally televised 2008 Chargers-Broncos game. Bronco quarterback Jay Cutler dropped back to pass and the ball slipped out of his hands to be gobbled up by a Charger.  Hochuli ruled it an incomplete pass, not a fumble. The play was not reviewable because the whistle had blown. The Chargers went on to win the game. Hochuli, a highly regarded official (and former president of the officials association) was devastated.  He received dozens of irate Email complaints, each of which he answered personally. His officiating ranking was downgraded.  He was quoted as saying “officials strive for perfection – I failed miserably.  Although it does no good to say it, I am very, very sorry.”

Hochuli has been back in action since then, still highly respected.  His son is a NFL official as well.  As for the rest of us, we lesser lights, making the right call is still the name of the game.

When we don't, we too are very, very sorry.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Football in the Southland

When it comes to passion, football here in the Southland is right up there with The War Between the States.  And fighting the good fight is the name of the game now just as it was back then.

I am long out of the sports press box these days. I'm not unhappy about this since sitting in the Heineken section of our Little Florida Hideout is much more relaxed than having to deal with uncomfortable seats surrounded by cynics who have to meet deadlines.

But I do love football. This sport is exciting to play and exciting to watch. This is certainly true when measured against the lifetime that passes between any two shots on the golf course. And baseball is no quick-step either. Yep, it's true that multi-camera locations and video replays have given some television viewers a perception that things are moving along at a quicker pace on the diamond even when they are not.

Football is unquestionably America's favorite sport. The game we watched on the tube the other day had over 100,000 people in the stadium. If you add the hundreds of thousands watching on TV and listening on radio, you have an audience to die for.

Unhappily, the professional end of this game is mired in the madness and disgrace of spousal abuse. My hope is that this NFL mess will be straightened out in the best interest of the sport itself as well as the public. But don't expect it to happen overnight. There is just too much money involved for the franchise owners and the people on the payroll, like Commissioner Roger Goodall, to completely come clean in the sunlight. PR spinning has a life of its own, so it will take time under the best of circumstances.

In the meantime it's good that we have college football, although this is not squeaky clean either.  We are talking about human beings here and you know what that means – there is both good and bad in all of us. Alabama's Nick Saban, admittedly a great football coach, is less commendable on the leadership front. Ballistic behavior when chewing out a player who dropped the ball, literally or otherwise, is not a good move when there are hundreds of thousands of adults, and their children, in a television audience watching it all.

Joan and I are automatically in the Florida camp when it comes to sports because we live in Palm Beach Shores, just north of the city of Fort Lauderdale. The CBS sports team commenting on that Florida-Georgia game we watched recently was headed by Verne Lundquist who has been in the announcing booth since Jim Thorpe was playing JV ball. His teammate Gary Danieleson is almost as bad as Phil Simms when it comes to on-the-field insights. Still the game speaks for itself. This Florida-Alabama contest was great even with the sound off.  Much has changed since Mr. Lundquist first spoke into a microphone. There are now players with shoulder-length hair, some even longer than that and orange-colored. There is also the relatively new wrinkle of adding “Jr” to the jerseys of same-name sons of former stars, even an occasional one with “Sr.” or “III.”

Surely the game of football has ardent fans in every section of the country, but the Southland brings a devotion that even Mom and Apple Pie can't touch. Whole families are involved 24/7, no holds barred.  If you are ever in the South on game day drop by any gridiron to see just what I mean.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

2 ½ Commercials

Television remains addictive. In spite of tremendous competition from an array of sources ranging from the Internet to whatever device you happen to be carrying around in your hand 24/7, the power of TV programming cannot be denied.  And so it follows that advertising on this medium is a must for companies bent on moving product or services into a broader marketplace.

Incessant TV commercials impose a burden on our viewing pleasure, and certainly on our patience. While most of us would probably pay an annual fee to avoid them, the stumbling block would be an astronomical price tag for the blessing.  I know this sounds like heresy coming from a former Mad Man, but that's just the way it is. Everything in marketing is built around providing a platform from which to launch commercials. NBC anchor Brian Williams is a household hero (known to the two of us here at home as “Brinie”.) Even our idol falls short because he must make way for ads. “We'll take a break here” he intones after just 15 minutes reading from his teleprompter.  The thought crosses our minds “Geez, Brinie, where's the exhaustion, the “need to take a break” coming from? Of course this is all pretext leading into yet another batch of commercials.

Still there actually are some great TV commercials on the tube – many are evergreens. The Budweiser Clydesdale ads a case in point. Taking a tip from the TV show 2 & ½ Men, let me present 2 & ½ commercials presently honored in the Reilly Television Hall of Fame:

#1 is the AT&T Mobile commercials featuring the competent and friendly “supervisor” who talks about the value of multiple-user packages. Her name in real life is Milana Vayntrub. Milana is natural, her words believable.

#2 Progressive Insurance features memorable “Flo” as their rep steering viewers to the best deals by comparing her company's rates with others. Flo in real life is Stepanie Courtney who, like Milana, is an actress/comedian.

# ½ is the Geico gecko series accompanied by the wonderful voice of London-born actor Jake Wood.  The gecko is animated, not real-life like Milana and Stepanie, so he only scores ½.

There you have it. Television commercials can be entertaining and informative if they avoid overdoing it. Like strawberry shortcake – one helping is grand but having shortcake three meals a day for a month is, well you get it, far too much of a good thing. It's the same with great commercials.

Companies cannot afford not to advertise on television, but at the same time they must avoid irritating viewers, the ultimate purchasers. Let's hope more advertisers will be successful in creating a happy balance.

Monday, August 25, 2014


Looking back, one weekend in June was a couch potato sports fan's paradise.   Television covered the Belmont Stakes – third leg of racing's Triple Crown – as well as the Men's Singles championship of the French Open.

At the historic racetrack in Belmont, New York, (just outside Manhattan on Long Island) California Chrome was picked to be the first Triple Crown winner for decades.  However, Belmont is a notorious swamp for favorites and this year did not disappoint. Chrome's failure was no fault of her own, she was just worn out from repeated high stress competition in a relatively short span. One good thing came out of this race however. That was the opportunity see and hear the great Bob Costas in action.  Costas stands firmly at the top of the Communicators Hall of Fame.  He never misses a beat. His delivery is flawless. His is delivery without error or mispronunciation, and certainly no “fillers” like “y'know” and other verbal garbage.  He is at the blessed end of a spectrum where ex-jock Phil Simms routinely tortures listeners, one and all.  Which moves us to his on-air partner Jim Nance who consistently narrates the action with style and grace. Nance is a competent and genial life preserver for Simms who would have certainly gone down for the third time without him. Simms is not the only jock who stumbled in the broadcasting booth.  Football legend Red Grange never could get the name of his own announcing partner Lindsey Nelson right – calling him “Lisley” throughout.

The day after The Belmont coverage television sports panned over the seas to Paris and the French Open tennis championship where the fearsome duo of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were battling for the Singles title yet one more time.  It was arguably one of the best tennis finals ever. Covering play in the announcing booth were John McEnroe, Mary Carillo and Ted Robinson.  This trio have been there and done that before. The three of them know the sport very well (and McEnroe and Carillo have championship titles to prove it.) But Robinson gushes like he is watching a May pole dance. Carillo, who rarely shuts up, gets mixed up in her delivery reminding me of the sign-off on the old Bugs Bunny cartoons “Th..the..tha...that's all Folks! Where are Costas and Nance when we need them?

The fault lies less with the men and women calling the match than it does with the American Way of doing it.  The Brits have it right- let the play on the courts speak for itself.  Their on-air people make comment only when they have to.  This gives their words extra value and enriches the viewers/listeners appreciation of the game. Here in the good old USA where broadcasting is drenched with advertising commercials ad nauseum, such seconds of silence would be especially appreciated.

Friday, August 8, 2014

An Appreciation

Praise for a lawyer is rare enough these days.  I understand that. There is so much litigation in our world, we are sick of lawsuits and yes, many a lawyer him/herself. But like pedophile priests, the black brush of infamy from the few touches the many good. There are plenty of exceptions to this universal disdain of lawyers. 

I have honorable lawyer nieces and a nephew whose professional competence and personal ethics are noteworthy.  I am relatively sure that you too can point to model counselors in your own circle of friends and acquaintances. For now let's forget about the bums and bounders and highlight a positive member of the bar.  His name was Paul Derounian and he left us last night.

Paul was my lawyer and far more than that.  He was at my side when I was facing big professional and personal challenges. His steadiness and counsel were invaluable. Most of all I valued his belief in the goodness of others while he searched for win-win solutions. His “contact list” ranged from waiters and doormen to the high and mighty.  His law practice included executives, blue chip corporations and more than a handful of major celebrities. They admired his legal know-how and trusted him, as I did.

Second marriages are fraught with challenges.  Good people get hurt. Where children are involved the stakes are even higher.  When I hear someone say “I had a good divorce” it comes from the mouth of a fool.  There are no good divorces, only those that are less painful than some others. Paul was my best man when Joan and I married. That should give you another sense of why I held him in such high esteem.  At any rate, I always called him “the best man.”

Paul was no stranger to limos, the Hamptons, Hollywood and Vegas in addition to the corporate boardrooms of Manhattan and elsewhere.  But he took everything in stride just as he did in relating to the doormen and waiters I mentioned earlier.  Impeccable manners, respect for others, always. People instinctively knew that he valued them individually.

Paul was married to Liz, a strikingly attractive lady of intelligence and warmth in addition to her outward beauty, which once led to a memorable moment in Atlantic City. The Derounians had invited us to a casino for the opening night of one of his show business clients.  As Liz and Joan, who is attractive in her own right, were walking to our table all eyes in the room were on Mrs. Derounian. Joan turned to Liz and whispered “I just hate it when all these men stare at me!”

As is always the case, we grieve for ourselves when we lose a dear friend.  It is certainly true with me. My consolation comes from recalling the 1001 good memories I have of Paul Derounian.

He was truly The Best Man.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

World War One

2014 marks one hundred years since World War One began.  It was called “the war to end all wars”, which of course it wasn't since it was followed by World War Two and a string of other disasters. Still, this first worldwide war remains a horror story unmatched in the saga of mankind. As we all know now, wars truly are hell for those who have to fight them, for those who lose the men and women who fight them, and for the communities with their most precious asset, the human resource of energy, creative juices and dreams for tomorrow, that will be forever lost as well.

As a sometime military historian (junior grade, to be sure) this century anniversary prompted me to take a very close look at the years from 1914 to 1918. That time was so horrific that my extensive reading of it was exhausting. To have actually been on the ground in the combat situations of trench warfare remains incomprehensible to modern minds. Years back I was fortunate in having face-to-face conversations with veterans of that war. Saying that I regret not having more such opportunities is to state the obvious. Now of course such meetings are impossible.

The next best thing in educating and informing yourself of that terrible history is to read the firsthand memories of those who were there in the fighting.  Here we owe a huge debt to the historian Lyn Macdonald. She had the foresight two decades ago to interview dozens of British WWI soldiers while they were still with us. I recommend two of her books “1915, The Death of Innocence” and “Somme. The first gives you an idea of what civilization was like as it transitioned to sheer madness. Somme takes you through the campaign that bled dry the flower of youth of the British Empire and scarred the souls of its people to this very day. In 2014 we are rightly outraged over a single death. Just imagine a casualty list of 60,000 men being killed or seriously wounded in a single day of that fighting!

Yes, I do think that parents should have some awareness of those terrible times so that their children and their children's children are not totally oblivious to the fact that World War One changed civilization forever.  What was more or less the same for hundreds of years was never to be that way again.

The literature on World War One is legion.  The average reader cannot take it all in. The challenge is to select a few books such as these two I've mentioned by Lyn Macdonald, and perhaps include the classic “Memoirs of an Infantry Officer” by Siegfried Sassoon, then take it from there. Or not.

Each reader will form his or her own opinion after reading these materials.  Mine is the terrible dehumanization that resulted from weeks and months of living in muddy knee-deep filth, wet and shivering, scared to death while awaiting whistles to go over the top. More often than not it was the last sound many ever heard.  After one big battle a staff officer in well-polished boots drove up in a staff car close as possible to the battlefield of a place called Passchendaele. Staring at the muddy horror he sobbingly cried: “Good God, did we really send men to fight in that?'”

The answer was “Yes”. And they did it time and again.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mountain Greenery

“In a Mountain Greenery, where God paints the scenery” (sorry atheists, but who else?). These great Lorenz Hart lyrics were penned to a catchy tune composed by Richard Rodgers in a long ago revue called Garrick Gaieties, Second Edition (1926). 

I am writing to you this day from the glorious mountains of North Carolina where we are escaping the blistering heat and humidity of our Little Florida Hideout.  It is quite true that the jabs we directed at our Northern friends during this past winter's terrible days of cold, snow, ice and sleet have come back to haunt us. Florida summers are very hot and humid, our version of northern frigidity. Now it is the Reillys on the tip of the spear. It reminds me again of the repeated warnings by my late, sainted mother to “never make fun of others or it will happen to you.” As in the case of giggling at male pattern baldness, it did.

My own experience with mountain ranges like the Poconos and the Catskills are one thing (or two), but North Carolina is something else.  And so are the people who inhabit them. Very friendly folk, helpful and virtually always well mannered. When wife Joan went over a mountain to buy The New York Times (limited readership here) she introduced herself and chatted a bit with the lady behind the counter.  As she left this lady said “you have a very nice afternoon, Miss Joan.” Try that in Bayonne, let alone Brooklyn. Also everyone waves, all the time.  And not the index finger version we so often see in the big cities.

Yes, you experience a certain culture shock when you transition from the Northeast to the mountains of North Carolina, but I suggest it is a positive one. There is much to be said about taking one thing at time instead of attempting to multitask 24/7.  Up North the use of the term “Redneck” trips quickly off the tongue. (God only knows what those good 'ol boys in their pickup trucks with rifle racks hanging down from the rear windows really think of we Northerners.)  Like most Yankees who have been raised on stereotypes, I wondered if “Redneck” and “Hillbilly” are one and the same.  At least judging from the men and women we have met here in the mountains, I think not, but would be hard pressed to explain the difference in detail.  I just know that we like the mountain men and women.

Part of our family, Bill and Michele, loves to hike, and hike and hike with a little bit of rock climbing thrown in.  I left such things at Fort Benning over 60 years ago, but all is not lost.  With a cool beer in hand, it's easy enough to watch them go at it from a rocking chair well placed out on the front porch.

We are partial to roadside fruit and vegetable stands even though they have first-class supermarkets here.  Joan stopped by one stand the other day to inquire about their potatoes, tomatoes and corn. An elderly man in a rocking chair went into a patient explanation based on his own long lifetime of farming each. Great info from a nice guy.

The eternal lesson here, taught to me once again, is to accept people individually and not as groups.  Finally, I'm getting it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bar Car Closing

There are sad days in our lives.  The Last Call on the last bar car on the old New Haven railroad is surely one of them.  While we cannot in good conscience compare it to “The Day of Infamy”, made immortal by Franklin Roosevelt (and the Japanese pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor), it's right up there in the category of dismal times. In the real lives of we “Mad Men” who rode out of Manhattan on our way home to the bedroom communities in West Chester and Connecticut it is much more than a simple end of an era. Yes, it was all so long ago but yet not quite so far away.  Memories have lives of their own.

Much has changed in 60 years. In commuter jargon “Metro- North” has replaced “the New Haven.” People from all walks of life, not just bankers and advertising toppers, are dressed to suit their own fancy, women mingle co-equally with men. Back in the 1960s and 70s, men wore narrow ties and lookalike suits, suits smelled of cigarette smoke for days, women in the bar cars were rare birds indeed. Males lived two lives even as the bar car was a constant among them, enabling them to transition from one to the other. The witty ad guy went from Madison Avenue smoothie to “Daddy's home!” And it all happened in just over an hour thanks to a few pops on the swaying iron horse. People did not die in those days. Faces were locked in perpetual late -30's mode.

One of the great moves was to purchase a small handful of rose buds at Grand Central Station for “the wife”, she who stood ready in her kitchen to greet the returning warrior at the end of the day. This less than noble and surely less than expensive (50 cents) gesture earned one the title of “hero for a half”. Women were mostly chained to the drudgery of homemaking. How they managed to survive it all is a tribute to both their patience and perseverance. Ultimately however they were freed from that lifestyle to compete on a more or less level playing field in today's world.  Hooray for them!        

In the long ago, stalled trains were a constant.  The sight of dozens of frustrated commuters getting off between stations to slip and slide down snow covered hillsides to thumb their way home on the Connecticut Turnpike was not a rarity. The flames in Harlem during that terrible riot, thank God, was. There is much nostalgia surrounding the demise of the commuter train bar car from Manhattan. But still we Americans are forward thinking. With or without our cocktails-on-wheels, no one wants to go back to getting there by Conestoga wagon.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring Break

Coming over the bridge from the real world to our little retiree island in the sun one can feel an immediate change.  Gone for the most part are troubles and cares, replaced instantaneously with a sense of serenity. 

Our retreat is called Singer Island and named for Mr. Singer of the sewing machine company, not for a singer of songs named Bing Crosby.  Crosby used to vacation here too, but that's another story.

Within Singer Island is a special community named Palm Beach Shores, or “PBS” as we natives call it. It is in truth an island within the island. We have our own police department, fire department and a town hall staffed for the most part by friendly hardworking people. We have a private beach manned by highly qualified guards, ready in a heartbeat to meet whatever challenges fate may usher in. And every year fate ushers in a challenge referred to as “Spring Break.”  Long ago this interlude in school calendars was the Easter vacation.  However in today's politically correct environment of super sensitivity to anything and everything, Easter vacation is gone, and we pass over Passover as well.

Now we have “Spring Break” which as witnessed here in Florida, runs from New Year's day to the following Christmas eve. We have an uninterrupted stream of pasty faced Yankees determined to scorch themselves before they return to their classrooms in the frozen tundra. We, the bronzed ones, smirk at them before we revisit the dermatologist’s office where modern-day Vikings slash and burn us before we return to our cabanas on the beach. Spring Break seems endless. Just as one liberated group of schoolies departs, another arrives. There are of course other holidays during the school year. So if you add them all together your kids are rarely in the classroom. As for college age men and women, well dear old dad and mom are forking out big time dollars for smallish face time with teachers. No wonder we lag behind the rest of the world where school and studying is rightfully viewed as the ticket to success.

The American Way is play, play, play.  Unhappily in a very competitive world, someday we will be paying a heart-stopping bill for this Spring Break fun in the sun.

Monday, April 14, 2014

New Faces

Where is Leonard Sillman when we need him?

Mr. Sillman was famous for several things, most especially for introducing new talent to the world of entertainment. Sillman's “New Faces” musical reviews spanned decades and featured such stars-to-be as Henry Fonda, Imogene Coca, the hilarious Paul Lynde and many more. The two biggest words for us these days are New Faces.  Most of us are bored to tears by seeing the same array of personalities in the magazines and on television. And I'm not just talking about Kim Kardashian and her famous-for-being-famous posse of sisters and mother.

As but one example, the tennis season is in full flower right now and here we go again with Mary Carillo, Mary Carillo, and yet more Mary Carillo.  Many of us remember when Mary from Queens teamed with John “The Brat” McEnroe to win the (1977) French Mixed Doubles.  Ancient history you say?  Well yes, this was way before yellow tennis balls flew over the net but that duo did warm the hearts of those who love stories of unknowns capturing a crown. After a while Mary was sidelined from playing on the tennis tour when her knees gave out; she then embarked on a career as a sports commentator. She knows her stuff about the game but familiarity does breed viewer contempt. There is a statute of limitations with viewer's patience in seeing and hearing the same old - same old whether it is from Mary or others.

Think of the Clintons, Good Ol Burger Billy and Hillary Eternal.  Few indeed are those who want to sit through another 100 years of either. And that goes for yet another Bush or two. Buckle up, folks, we are destined to suffer more and more, and more. This is where Leonard Sillman could have rescued us just as the cavalry did in the old shoot-em-ups at the Saturday matinees. Unhappily Leonard rode into the sunset a while back, leaving only his tombstone that reads “Here lies Leonard Sillman: Straightened out at last.”
Too bad for all of us. More than ever, we need New Faces.            

Friday, February 28, 2014

Show Business

Way back when, Ed Justin of the TV production company Screen Gems, Art Shulman of TV Guide and I were having lunch at the Oak Room of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. In those long ago days the Oak Room was a prime watering hole for those in the broadcasting industry. Justin had just returned from London where he witnessed “four skinny kids with long shaggy hair” take over England. The quartet was due to appear the following week on the Ed Sullivan Show. Justin predicted they would sweep the USA as well. Neither Shulman nor I believed him, hooted at his prediction and had him pick up the tab. Short weeks later Justin had the last laugh when The Beatles conquered audiences on this side of the pond just as they had in Europe.  

Flash forward to 2014 and witness the Beatles in the headlines again. The Fab Four is minus John Lennon and George Harrison these days but Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney keep the flame burning with no diminishing of the fire they lit a half century ago. As I write this column news has come in that the great Sid Caesar has passed away. Before the Beatles dominated America, television comedy ruled the airwaves. Names like Caesar, Imogene Coca and Ernie Kovacs pioneered the genre and will ever remain in television's pantheon. Then and now there are creative men and women like Justin and Shulman to be sure the show goes on.

As part of The Greatest Generation, Ed and Art faced the challenge of World War II. Justin's guts and his Yiddish tongue talked dozens of German soldiers into surrendering, a feat for which he won a Distinguished Service Cross and a battlefield commission. Later in civilian life, among a score of outlandish stunts, he marketed three guys dressed in costumes as Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Fred Flintstone. They attracted hundreds of thousands of hysterical fans here and abroad as he set up Jellystone parks amid frantic promotions that rivaled the madness of his WWII days.

At the same time as Justin was fighting on one side of the globe Shulman was in the Pacific theater of operations sweating out the probability of invading Japan. After the war Art, went on to prominence in the publishing business, all the while writing comedy material for The Tonight Show and other network programs. In the closing days of his career he masterminded an outstanding event honoring the SS Exodus and its heroic effort to save thousands of Holocaust survivors by transporting them from France to Palestine. As part of the festivities surrounding this celebration, he talked Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca out of retirement to headline a successful fund raiser. Caesar and Coca brought down the house earning standing ovations just as they had in their glory days a half century earlier.

Stars will always have their names in lights, but just as surely there will be unnamed heroes like Ed Justin and Art Shulman standing in the wings of show business to make sure the magic happens.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Holding Hands

Holding hands at midnight
Neath a starry sky
Oh that is nice work if you can get it
And you can get it if you try...

George Gershwin wrote the music and his brother Ira penned the lyrics for “Nice Work if You Can Get It”, a song for the 1937 motion picture “Damsel in Distress” which starred Fred Astaire and Joan Fontaine. Astaire sang the song which has since become a classic. Many another songbird has tried a hand at it but Mr. Astaire's version remains the gold standard. Joan Fontaine, very young and quite pretty at the time, pretended to dance with him. You will recall that Astaire danced with a clothes tree and a handful of other inanimate objects over his long years in film. Joan was surely among them. No matter, the Gershwin brothers' magic with words and music made for an enjoyable movie outing.

Back to holding hands at midnight or at any other time for that matter. Here at   In-Person Communications we pay very close attention to body language for it gives us a clue to the relationship (or little relationship or absolutely no relationship) between a speaker and his/her audience. Hands specifically are the most important aspect in the body language mix.

During the month of February when most of our clients and friends were experiencing the Winter from Hell, my wife and I basked in the warmth of The Sunny South (yet far enough from Atlanta and their own huge weather problems.)  So while whiling away many an hour at a lovely beach we had repeated opportunity to observe boys and girls, men and women, strolling the beach holding hands. Romance is lovely to behold, be it puppy love, the middle years, senior stage or the senior-senior world. And yes, as a member of the senior-senior group I've heard the joke that holding hands is “more for assistance than romance.” I'm blessed with both when I hold the hand of Mrs. Reilly.

In these days of rushing here and there, multitasking (or attempting to), gulping or skipping meals, frantically trying to bi-locate in order to be present at two appointments at the same time, important relationships suffer mightily. And none more so than the primary twosome, you and your beloved. I don't say that holding hands is the ultimate answer to keeping romance alive. I just suggest it is darn sure worth doing more of it than you have in the past.

Friday, January 31, 2014

New Jersey

With the possible exception of Idaho, New Jersey has been maligned more than any other of these United States. Not fair. More than a garden state, New Jersey has managed to assemble an enviable array of scenic and cultural riches within its borders. Many outsiders simply do not appreciate it.

New Jersey has mountains, seashore and historic treasures by the handful.  It is certainly much more than the New Jersey Turnpike, the frame of reference for the unknowing. The current flap about its governor and unnecessary closings on the George Washington Bridge (“Bridgegate as it is now called) did a real disservice to the citizens of the state. But let's pause for the moment to focus on some positive things.

Visitors to New Jersey come from near and far.  In general they enjoy themselves mightily, returning home with rich memories. People from New York State, right next door, have easy access to the northern end of New Jersey with its extensive beaches, the Statue of Liberty Park and countless other attractions. Those of us from Philadelphia, just across the Delaware River bridge, have always considered “Jersey” our second home. Going “down the shore” was part of our vocabulary.  Beyond submarine sandwiches (“zeps”, “hoagies” or whatever you prefer to call this delicacy) we share an affinity for cinnamon buns, field grown tomatoes and sweet corn.  Those of us of a certain age remember our teenage years on the home front during World War II, when too young to serve in the military, we spent our days in Ocean City, Atlantic City and other towns along the southern part of the state. Those were times when members of the Coast Guard and their dogs patrolled the beaches on the lookout for German submarines that might be landing spies. (From time to time they did just that along our USA shores.) Adventurous boys and girls hid in the sand dunes evading these patrols. Days of innocence and insanity to be sure.  These are just a part of my personal memories. Others have their own fond reminiscences of that great state, New Jersey.

The point of all this is to say that even those who are not residents of the State of New Jersey feel offended. We decry the politically inspired mess and inconvenience Bridgegate caused to so many hard working people. Equally onerous, we simmer at the terrible cost to the reputation of the State of New Jersey. It is reprehensible. Those responsible for this disgrace simply must be held responsible. Starting at the top, which is usually a very good place to start.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mrs. Claus and the New Year

Now that Santa has completed his 2013 Christmas run and is safely back home in the North Pole, he deserves some R&R.  How does Santa chill out?  Is he knocking back a few Heinekins as he sits in his big easy chair away from the manger and also away from the fireplace? (“ I don't want to even see another damn fireplace until next December,” he rumbled).  We assume that Mrs. Claus is happy to have him back, but having Santa and the flying reindeer away for a while did give her a mini-vacation of sorts.

Mrs. Claus has her own fans in Christmasland. One holiday shopping photo that showed Santa without his wedding ring brought a number of irate complaints on the Internet. Well, relax. Rest assured that the marriage is intact; their biggest domestic challenge right now is to make New Year resolutions. It's no easy task for them, nor for us.  Historically many a good intention dies by the wayside even before the end of January.  Did you ever wonder about those grassy hills that dot the land just to the sides of our turnpikes and major highways?  They are made up of garbage, trash, discarded furniture and broken New Year resolutions.

Where to start?  Many of us consider losing weight. I've made that resolution every year since forever. (Now I simply look at the percentage of gain as compared to other years.)  Barbara Szala our esteemed President here at In-Person Communications has made a very successful career out of helping clients. Her annual project of baking delicious Christmas cookies also falls into that category, but woe to waistlines. Count me in anyway. There are many desirable New Year resolutions  -  not losing your temper when caught in endless traffic around Fort Lee on the George Washington bridge or refraining from comments on the idiocy of Washington, D. C. among them.

But here's one we can all embrace: simply put, it's being grateful for the blessings we have already received.  If we but pause to think about them, 2014 will be off to a great start.

Happy New Year!