Thursday, December 14, 2017


As the New Year was starting to come in, I am sitting in a favorite chair looking out the window thinking of yesterdays.

Auld Lang Syne.  I understand remembering old friends and good times.  I know too that life is a fragile thing and we have to get used to loss. This said, I still deeply miss Sweeney, Big Bill Brower, The Best Man and Sweet Willie Turner. Four Irreplaceable.

Jack Sweeney, Navy man through and through, yet always respectful of your own branch of service, and evenhanded if you had no service at all. Sweeney never belittled a person. He was every mother's joy, doubly so if you belonged to a generation further on.  Grandmothers and great-aunts just loved The Admiral with his white teeth and wall to wall smile anchored by deep dimples. When he smiled at the oldsters on his way back from the communion rail, he made their day.

Bill Brower, my co-presenter on many a broadcasters conference was a towering presence. But Bill underplayed being a towering presence as he led countless rookies along the path to becoming true professionals. He also mastered the art of talking without moving his lips. I could hardly keep a straight face as he said things to me, alone, even when we were standing side by side facing high ticket audiences. But when cancer was finally getting the best of him he looked directly in my eyes and said in a firm, loud voice: “Chick, if you're going to tell your kids how to live, you have to show them how to die.”

Paul Deronian, friend for a lifetime and my Best Man.  Always just a phone call away whenever I was facing a firing squad. Paulie was masterful at making average men and women fit right into his multiple friendships with the High and Mighty. His hallmark was courtesy and good manners to everyone in all settings, everywhere, at all times.

Sweet Willie Turner, was never really appreciated in his relatively short lifetime. Dutifully plodding away night after night marking papers in his job as a university math professor. When periodically freed from this tedious chore to pop a few, he unleashed his sense of humor and understanding of just how insane our world was, and is.

Many people, perhaps, could get used to missing guys like these.  But that doesn't include everyone. So I'll just stay sitting here thinking of them and whisper words of Auld Lang Syne. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


One can make the case that “this season to be Jolly” is a code phrase for commercial madness.  It is surely that.  But beyond, or in spite of this, there is a loss of holy memory, generations of tradition and a whole lot more.  It's not just the department store sales craziness and the eternal playing of Feliz Navidad. It is the “something's missing” feeling.

One neighbor down the lane has a sign that reads “Put Christ back in Christmas.” At first I thought he was a religious fanatic.  But he's not. He is just an ordinary guy who urges passersby to rethink what this time of year is all about.  Nowadays, I agree with him.

When I was a little guy my brothers and I sat at our mother's knee while she read us the story of Jesus Christ and his birth long ago in some faraway place called Bethlehem. It had great impact on us then, and still has in spite of innumerable klutzy readings in religious settings by well-intentioned souls. So that's where I am coming from, supporting a sense of reverence trying to survive in a swamp of hucksterism.

Working in Manhattan for decades had me a goy among the Jewish crowd.  I had reverence for their traditions and holy days, Passover especially.  I respected too where they are coming from.

My personal hope is that we ALL pause and remember what is really worth remembering. And by the way, giving gifts is part of the tradition, just as those notables did when they visited that newborn lying in a manger. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Slippery Slope to Sexual Harassment

(He) “Moonlight becomes you; it goes with your hair. You certainly know the right thing to wear...”
 (She) Thank you, Bing.......We'll see you in court.

Bing Crosby directed these words to Dorothy Lamour in Road to Morroco, a very successful movie way back in 1942. None of us needs to be told that the times have been a-changin' since then. Nowadays men are increasingly wary of what they say to women. Tip-toeing is making a comeback.

Being High and Mighty is perilous if you are going to keep that frat boy mentality. Every day a prominent personality is in the news for alleged physical or verbal abuse of a woman. None of us takes this issue lightly. In the minds of many, including this writer, true sexual abuse of a woman is reason enough to justify the death penalty. Certainly the issue is worth another look, so let's do that.

Speaking about myself and many other men I know, males admittedly are not 24/7 the swiftest of God's creations. But in the main they are likable guys who mostly try to do good as they lumber along in this vale of tears. That's the premise. Second, the environment surrounding them is dangerous all by itself. Advertising in print and broadcasting hammer the same theme day after day: youthful female attractiveness. Beauty products are designed (and named) to attract the eyes of both sexes, but the gaze of women especially. From their earliest days women hear about “being pretty”.  As the years roll by they are urged to gain and/or retain their appeal to men. Stay young, avoid wrinkles. Theirs is a brutal test of time.

Magazines flaunt young women's appeal, partially clothed, or less than. Pin-up photos of a sexy someone adorned the foot lockers of men in the military and the dorms they returned to after service. It has always been so, but nowadays things have gotten totally out of control in an age of no restraint at all. Good manners, common decency and respect for womanhood have been lost to boorish behavior.  Who loses? Yes, women first and foremost, but really all of us get hurt.  Absolutely, women have to stand up, report and be more than brave in facing these idiots.  But gentlemen, you and I have to rally and protect all women. We have to change our mindset and think of every woman singled out for an indecent remark as our sister, sweetheart or spouse. 

The days of light-hearted flirtations are over. We are now in far sterner times. There should be some middle ground between recognizing attractiveness by giving compliments and being sued.  But I'll be darned if I know where that middle ground is given the wide range of opinion among ourselves, plus the vested interests from the left or right. And further, if there was a Citizens Code for Compliments, who would set those standards?

For decades we summed it up nicely in memorable music and words like “a pretty girl is like a melody that haunts you night and noon.”  But no one wants to sing that tune while doing time in the slammer.      

Friday, November 10, 2017

Football: Sport or Burlesque?

There are many issues that divide us here in this great country of ours. The big unifier is that we are all Americans, a force that can stand up to everything else. Our various opinions are protected because of that freedom.

Today, fellow sports lovers, our topic is Football and the issue of insane “celebrations” on and off the field.

When players shower and leave the locker room to re-enter the public world, we expect them to conform to generally accepted standards of conduct and decency. Which means, among other things, no spousal abuse, violence with or without weapons outside strip clubs and a range of other things that embarrass us all. Don't you cringe when the newspapers and broadcast media report yet another incident featuring a prominent athlete? Where is the sense of responsibility and accountability to society (including you and me) and especially to the young boys and girls who worship these “stars”?  Individual players, like the rest of us, have to step up and understand duty. For if we don't, the media will continue to play this same note time and again to our mutual shame.

The other issue is one that we, the football fans of the USA, have yet to clearly voice our opinion on. Is football truly a sport, albeit a very hazardous one, OR, is it an entertainment spectacle with pushing, shoving and tackling followed by giddy prancing and dancing in the end zone? To the fore rush those who say “that's my freedom to express myself”. True. But there are many ways to express joy and celebration that make sense. Executing antic behavior in the end zone is not one of them, at least after the age of 10 or 11.

A football player passing on bad “celebrating” examples to younger generations is (almost) as bad as the consistent spitting, spitting, spitting by baseball players. We NFL fans certainly have a right to object to it. If Roger Goodell is still in the job at the start of next season, write to the commissioner and tell him so.

Friday, October 27, 2017


In another era altogether the Church of Rome had a sacrament called “Confession”.  They still have a form of this today, as does the Episcopal Church and other denominations, but the original version widely practiced in America is but a memory.  And what a memory.

If you were a kid in the 1930s or 1940s “going to confession” hung over your head like a big, sharp ax. Individuals went into a dark confessional box to say aloud their transgressions before God. For youngsters in parochial schools there was no escape. The positions of parents back then were formidable. A youngster did not lie to his/her parents. (This was all before some families let their little darlings call mother or dad by their first names as in “Kay, what's for dinner tonight?” Or “Charlie, I have a big date tonight, can you give me a couple bucks?”) When a parent asked on Saturday night “did you go to confession?” there was no wiggle room.

All of which brings us to Harvey Weinstein.

Harvey has made it rough to be Jewish. But before we others could escape, along came the news of Bill O'Reilly paying out big dollars to settle sexual harassment suits brought by a number of women. So it was a tough day for wearing of the green too. Few of us who were past the age of reason at the time of the Communist infiltration hearings will ever forget the distinguished lawyer, Joseph P. Welsh, challenging the dreaded Senator McCarthy.  'Have you no decency, sir, at long last?  Have you no sense of decency?” A good question to put to Harvey, O'Reilly and the other power people who demean, or try to demean, women.

“Confession is good for the soul” the saying goes.  But high ticket lawyers and platoons of PR people cannot make a case for the guilty. Perhaps we need to bring back the old days of the dark confessional box and all its sweat-inducing anxiety to force genuine contrition from perpetrators. Short of that every mother's son, husband and brother of decent women should stand up and say we are not going to allow sexual harassment to continue.  Ever. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017


On our way into the supermarket the other day, I past a man wearing a Cavalry insignia on his ball cap. “Thank you for your service,” I said.  Later when I passed him again while walking the eternal aisles, he asked me, “Were you in?” I replied, “Yes, a long time ago, Korea.” He said “Oh, Korea is not that long ago. If you said World War Two, that would have been a long time ago.”

Well Korea was a long time ago, and I have the knees and back to prove it. 1950 seems like forever ago to me, as I'm sure it does to a lot of other men and women of my generation.  However, that long ago, which was not so long ago to my younger friend, reminded me of our shortcomings when it comes to public awareness of history, geography, and most especially our national heritage. One survey showing that 20% of our citizenry were unsure of whether  we cut the cord from Great Britain in 1776 or some other country, including Afghanistan.

There is much to be learned about these United States of American, past, present and future. This task might well be overwhelming.  It might be best to look at things in bite size portions. World War II the most horrific of our many wars is a good starting point. So what do you know about WASPs?  That's right, WASPs. Not the White Anglo Saxon Protestants, formerly so much in vogue along Philadelphia's Main Line and other bastions of Ye Olde Guarde. Nor are we focusing on that insect with the terrible sting. Ours is another WASP – the Women Airforce Service Pilots – largely unheralded in their own time and virtually unknown to the several generations that followed.

Your mother or grandmother can probably tell you about Rosie the Riveter and the important role women played in substituting for male factory workers called to uniform during that wartime. But they may have less information about the women who substituted for the pilots bound for combat. This was the unique role played by a thousand women who tested experimental military aircraft, towed targets for ammunition practice and shuttled fighter planes and flying officers across the USA. 38 of these WASPs lost their lives in service to their country. Only a few years ago did Congress finally authorize veteran status to these valiant women.

Now there are less than 100 former WASP pilots remaining.  A memorial to them is being put in place at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. It's an exciting story to read. Go to:

Thursday, October 5, 2017


 “You never know”.  How many times have I used that cliché?  How many times have you? Still the question fits perfectly with our state of mind when we are shocked. “What happened in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas” is another cliché. Except that the murder of dozens of innocents and the injuries of hundreds more should not have happened in Las Vegas or anywhere else.
Hard on the heels of that insanity came the news that my longtime associate, Peter Giuliano, died unexpectedly from a heart attack. Peter and I had not seen each other for years, but he was never far from my mind. He was successful, a leader, with decades of promise left in his outstanding career. But you never know.

30 or 40 years ago I received a phone call from Dr. Virginia Miles, the highly respected pioneer in breaking the glass ceiling for women in advertising.  Nobody in their right mind would fail to take a call from Virginia. And I didn't.  She told me about a neighbor, a young man she said had extraordinary talent, but had not found the right niche in his professional life. Would I interview him and see if he would be right for our business of coaching executives for public speaking, leading stockholder meetings and the whole range of communications challenges that face those in the leadership suite. Done and done.

Peter was trained for the stage.  His hard working mother sacrificed everything to insure he was given the best of acting classes, voice lessons, every aspect of preparation for the footlights. I thought at the time, and still do, that he was a youngish John Barrymore. Some aspects of this flair had to be tempered in our business where we were more “coach” than “performer”. His other gifts were extraordinarily well suited for client companies just as they were. Peter had an uncanny ability to “read” his audiences, small or large. Only then would he move into racing gear. I think of one assignment in a Philadelphia hotel ballroom where he spoke to 1200 elevator repairmen. He received a standing ovation! We sent him to Sweden to work with an engineering firm. He turned that small bit of business into a giant money maker.
And that magnificent singing voice!  When Joan and I were married, I asked him to sing “Danny Boy” at our reception. It wasn't just the bride and groom crying that day.

While it is quite true that we never know when tragedy will come into our lives, there are other times when we will know it full well. Peter, with his larger than life personality, was first and foremost a loving father to his daughter, his sons and the four lights of his life grandchildren. Now their unspeakable loss will eventually settle in side by side with the certain knowledge that Peter loved each of them beyond words.

That they will ever know.         

Friday, September 29, 2017


The American Flag is our flag.  It is not just yours, not just mine. It is OURS. It symbolizes our country like nothing else. 

The American Dream is still a work in progress.  It always will be. We are talking about human frailty here. You and I are imperfect, just like the rest of our citizenry. Yes, we have many things to improve, but the United States of America is still the best hope for humanity. 

Go ahead and try to envision a perfect nation of YOU, or ME. Good luck with that one. You can think of people right now who won't want to be part of the country of YOU. I certainly can name dozens of men and women who will not want to join me in my country of ME.

Football, far and away America's favorite pastime, is embroiled in a terrible mess because certain players will not stand up to honor our National Anthem and our Flag. Repeated talk about it and endless video play of this tradition-shattering moment has incited the strongest of reactions. Because ¾ of the NFL players are Black and ¾ of its fans are White it is already a powder keg because so many people think narrowly, not in terms of US. Now intemperate remarks, starting with those from the President of the United States and including leading athletes of several sports, has thrown gasoline on a roaring fire. Reasoned voices are not heard amid the shouted accusations and self-serving posturing.

Over recent years some have worried that we will eventually face a conflict between Muslims and Christians. My own worry is that we are roaring right into a war between Whites and Blacks. Economics also play into the mess: Hispanic annual income has improved significantly. Whites continue to benefit from improved finances (although at a lesser pace than Hispanics.) Asian income has grown dramatically while Black income has essentially decreased.

Surely the stakes are so high we should expect national bridge-makers to establish workable communication links between Blacks and Whites. Or, can we? Personal comfort and dollars, the Devil's prized tools, may yet triumph over the Golden Rule. In the end, it may take the little guys at the local level, like you and me, to bring sanity back. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Those of you who remember Ye Olde days of television may recall the show 'My Friend, Irma” which starred the curvaceous Marie Wilson as a likable ditsy blonde, a media persona copied countless times since then.

The Irma of this time was no friend to anyone in the path of a most destructive hurricane that caused staggering damage and left us with loss of life and countless heartbroken, homeless families in the U. S. Virgin Islands, our own Florida Keys and elsewhere. For those of us who were touched by it, we were given a lesson never to be forgotten.

By now you have either read about it or viewed television coverage of the sights and sounds of Irma so I won't go over it again, except to say there is unparalleled broadcast documentation and print coverage to satisfy the most demanding of crises historians. My intention here is to pass on just one small slice of the mess by recounting some of the personal experiences of two people on the ground who “dodged the bullet.” (This phrase by the way is used time and again by we lucky ones, although one commentator upgraded it to a “cannon shot.”)

We believe in prayer, and luck. Irma could have roared along the east coast of Florida. Or it could have gone straight up through the middle. She did neither, deciding to go north via our west coast. Waiting for a coming storm to make up its mind is stressful, just short of being hit directly. Ours is a very long but narrow peninsula, so the whole state was declared an emergency zone. Mandatory evacuation was ordered for our area and we had to retreat to the mainland to find shelter. Lucky again. We found a hotel with lights and water, and yes, even television. We considered ourselves blessed then, and looking back, still do. A few people decided to stay put in spite of the mandatory evacuation, although they were told directly and repeatedly that no first responders would be able to come back and help them if things got worse. The governor stated: “We can rebuild your house, but we cannot rebuild your life.” Some folks had no place to go, and no money on top of that. In heavily populated areas (ours was not one) shelters were set up where evacuees could find food and a place to sleep. Pictures of hundreds of cots holding exhausted survivors showed both safety and discomfort.

The hotel, our port in this storm, sheltered an array of personalities from all walks of life.  The senior-seniors were true to the description “the Greatest Generation”, uniformly helping one another. We had dogs and cats among us (hearing barking dogs a few rooms down the corridor was a new nighttime experience.) There was a handful of youngsters with their mothers, a few of whom would have tested the patience of a saint by running here and there, falling down in public areas and generally meeting all qualifications for brathood. Some mothers with their “isn't he cute?” smugness did nothing to restore order. Otherwise during this 5 day trial there was a “we're all in this together” feeling about the experience. My wife and I reminded ourselves again of our good fortune for television coverage showed disaster and deprivation just ten miles away.

State and local authorities demonstrated in full measure how planning and coordinating efforts pay big dividends in terms of public safety. Performance by police and first responders was uniformly excellent.

Even if you were one of the more fortunate, Hurricane Irma reminded us not to take Florida's Endless Summer as a given.  Be prepared and as in life, expect the unexpected.

Thursday, August 31, 2017


June is now long gone and with it Father’s Day and my own father's birthday. That doesn't mean I do not think of it and him.

My late dad, Charles Edmund Reilly, Sr. was an extraordinary man because he was so ordinary. I never recall him, ever, calling attention to himself. His life revolved around my mother, a four foot, ten inch meteor to whom he was utterly devoted. Theirs was a “marriage made in Heaven” according to their friends. Who knows? I can bear witness to the fact that they never argued, let alone fought in word or deed in front of their children.

If their marriage was not made in Heaven, their attraction and devotion to each other surely was. And an early starter too. They were 12-year-olds when my father walked the four blocks separating their family homes to present this diminutive curly-haired girl a box of chocolate candy at Christmas time. Alas, she had nothing in the way of a gift for him. Up the stairs she raced to my grandfather's bureau, whipped out a silk scarf, quickly wrapped it and gifted this young swain with same. Certainly he was impressed. Not so her father who went ballistic when the theft was eventually discovered.

When my brothers and I were youngsters my father took us on “Sunday drives”. Having a car during the Great Depression was reason enough to celebrate, but of course we were too young to understand such things. My father was an excellent driver for good reason. Old-timers remembered him as a 5-year-old with cascading blonde curls driving around the neighborhood at the wheel of a Pierce Arrow roadster.

However, my parents did have a difference of opinion on the subject of dancing. My mother detested it. And this was even before the compulsory dancing class graduation with our mothers as partners. Only the expression on her face showed that 3 of my box 4 step were on the top of her feet. Dad on the other hand was masterful and much admired by the ladies. My mother shared their view because she could happily sit on the sidelines as one lady after another lined up to dance with him.

The years have flown by since my father moved up to the Great Ballroom in the Sky. My “If Only” list would roll back the film of life and afford me a chance to hang out with him and ask why he did this or that. And perhaps learn how to change an outright klutz into Fred Astaire at least for a dance or two.


Football is now underway. Hooray! A new season should numb the pain from talking politics.

My Seat of Wisdom is located in one of the recliner chairs in our living room. It is equipped with two handy containers on coasters ready to receive cold brew. The first is always a work in progress; the second a back-up reservoir against more advertising commercials.

Television programming, as I am sure you have noticed, has not lived up to its potential for enriching people's lives by educating, informing and enlightening our society. (And this was before the last presidential election.) But away from politics we have televised sporting events promising manna in our desert. Manna or no, there is no free lunch. The price our athletes have to pay for playing is escalating at an alarming rate. A list of prominent tennis players who had to opt out of Opens due to injury is all we need to show that the human body can only take so much wear and tear. And tennis is not even a contact sport. Let's go back and look at football for the moment.   

In watching a pre-season football game I brought fresh eyes and another perspective to the slamming and banging that goes on in an ordinary game. We all know football is brutal, combat under another name. It always has been. The difference now is general awareness of the medical damage that goes along with the thrill of athletic prowess. The days of “aw, shucks, it's just an old football injury” are over. It's not so funny today when former jocks are having trouble remembering the names of family and friends and yes, even their own. Repeated blows to the head can absolutely scramble your brain. No helmet can provide real protection.

My own interest in football goes way back to the days when I was an assistant manager of our high school team. I carried a galvanized bucket full of spigot water to the field during timeouts. Gunga Din in suburbia. Thirsty players all drank from one long-handled ladle. Compared to today's frenzied football world on and off the field, those were days of blissful innocence.

The reality is that there is so much money and prominence involved with football success, it would be unheard of for players, coaches, management and owners to turn their collective backs on this enormous potential for riches. After all, these athletes willingly choose to go into the arena, they would argue. It's risk versus reward, etc., etc.

The only real chance for sparing the health of our athletes can come from sports-lovers, including me, rising en masse saying “enough is enough.” You can imagine the odds against that happening.       

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


“Fish Got to Swim, Birds Got to Fly” and writers Got to Write till the day that they die. However, sometimes words are simply not enough as we writers know very well.

The sadness and hurt surrounding the Charlottesville, Virginia, automobile murder short days ago defies real definition, but most of us agree it was a true outrage. And it is not enough to sit back and say “The Almighty will sort it all out” which is also true. Americans, notoriously impatient and used to instant fulfillment, want action in the here and now. How anyone in his/her right mind can want to identify with Hitler and the Nazis is beyond me. But then again not everyone has had the experience, directly or indirectly, of witnessing the handiwork of those monsters.

Compared to my friends who actually lost relatives to the madness of Hitler and his henchmen, my own experience was weak tea. Yet it has stayed with me all these long decades, as if it was only yesterday when a young Army officer serving in the Occupation Forces in Germany walked all alone through the killing machine called Dachau, the gas chamber where poor souls were to “shower”, the ovens where their corpses would be burned to avoid the evidence. Absolutely, it was the Devil's Work.  How in God's name can anyone want to identify with such madness and a so-called “master race”?  Neo-Nazis seeking to emulate superiority over (any) others are walking on Hell's highway in the steps of those now long gone terrorists.

Violence in any disguise is flat out wrong. You and I have to figure out our own specific ways to make a difference. For here, once again, words are not enough.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Many Americans are upset these days. I'm among them. There are reasons aplenty why one should get “upset” in 2017, including global warming, pollution in general, the price of everything, on and on. But a recurring theme in the letters we receive here in the newsroom is sadness about “what has happened to our country.”

What has happened in our country is a notable lack of respect for one another and for our country's historic building blocks: Faith in the Almighty, a Hope that every one of us can build a better life for our families and Charity toward the less fortunate among us. Instead the gods many worship are 1.) money and 2.) more of it. Strange that there are those who are hell bent on accumulating material goods even though we know “you can't take it with you.”  We came into this world naked and we are going out the same way. Bank on it.

To restore ourselves, it's best to remember and practice The Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Our models for this should be the senior leaders of our government and local communities. In the past we have had exemplary men and women there who consistently showed the way. Even if that's not the case today, all is not lost. Good examples of solid leadership are still all around us. Take the time to identify those who are setting the right standards. Think of those you admire personally. Write to them, encourage them, point them out to your children. They are our steady everyday heroes, and, we need them desperately.

Wonder if you and I qualify? Let's take another look in the mirror. Chances are you do. The jury is still out on me, but in any case, I'm going to be trying a lot harder now. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

A SAD DAY in the USA

This Republic of ours has suffered through tough times – even terrible times - before.  We have always bounced back because of competent captains at the helm and rock solid crews of decent men and women as our citizenry. Those days may well be over.

The image of “politicians” is at its lowest ebb. Even those of us who have been largely disinterested in the back and forth that takes place “within the Beltway” and political circles elsewhere, are now paying attention and expressing alarm.  And we certainly should. Why the wake-up call?  In a word: “Mooch.”

Anthony Scaramucci, nicknamed “The Mooch”, is the recently appointed communications director at the White House and a role model for personal boorishness. He has inflicted damage on one level after another of decency in our government and our society generally. The New York Times, the bastion of ultra-liberalism took a courageous stand by quoting Mooch word for word during his latest rant. My spouse has encouraged me to control my own fury and not repeat those words when writing this column. In telling it like it was, the Times recorded Mooch using expletives not heard aloud since barracks room days long ago.

This man, no gentleman he, opens up every possible avenue to stereotype slander of decent Italian Americans. He is the personification of the gangster hit man in 1930 Hollywood movies.  But this time it's for real. Damage to the office of the President, the White House, the American people is incalculable.

Yes, “the office of the President” is one thing, “President Donald Trump” quite another. Trump is responsible for putting this bad actor in the role. He must pay the fiddler for every tune Mooch sings, whether it be on or off key. In vaudeville or burlesque theaters audiences would hoot “Give him the hook” when a performer was terrible.

Mooch deserves the hook. They are already lining up to give Mr. Trump the same in the next act.

Friday, July 7, 2017


Sooner or Later we have to think about the end of the trail, pardner.  Preferably later.  But still it has to be done.

Right now a 50/something lady next door is dying. It is not the idealistic picture one could envision – propped up in fluffy white pillows looking as she did in her prime. Instead this woman is curled up on her sofa in the fetal position, wasting away at about 70 pounds. She knows, but really doesn't want to know. Then too she always had a stubborn streak all the while ignoring what we on the outside would think of as “having made plans.” Especially in having a will.  There is more, including what she would like to have done with the business she owns.

We are different, one from another. Still most of us understand that there are general principles at stake, and we should pay some attention to them.  The Irish are blessed in what we think about Death. We mock him while toasting life. We know that inevitably he will knock on the door and our time will be up. And when he does, The Grim Reaper will appear to have the last laugh. But no, those of us who believe in Heaven will still outfox him.

Perhaps planning for tomorrow may be easier for those of us in our 80s; those who as the late Jimmy Breslin used to say “can hear the gentle flapping of angel wings.” Still for one and all it's just smart money to Be Prepared, as good Boy (and Girl) Scouts always are. Think about our friends who left us far too early.  We never know when it's time to go. That's for sure.

My wife, she whom I mention from time to time in my columns and blogs, is a very caring lady. This is certainly good for me. But she also truly cares for others beyond This Old Leprechaun. She burdens herself mercilessly because she feels that somehow in some way she can make a difference with this younger woman next door who is dying. She can't. And part of this burden that is resting on her fair shoulders does lie with our lady next door who didn't plan at all. Now all the worry, work and the what-should-have-been-dones are left to people who can only guess. And will be forever second-guessing themselves about whether this or that is what the dying lady had wanted.

The message is to tell people what you want done now, before it's too late to do anything about it. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


Some Like It Hot (a great name for a movie.) Some do not. The issue of Hot versus Cold is made more dramatic when you are living in this Paradise called “Florida.”

Our glorious state is at its best during the winter months when frozen citizens of the Northland rush down to the sun, sea and sand to escape the sleet, snow and freezing that makes cold weather an annual curse north of The Mason-Dixon Line.

However, summertime in Florida is an entirely different story. It gives a whole new meaning to “Hot as Hell.” It also places stress on those couples where one likes weather one way, the other another. Even after all these years I still think of my beloved as “hot”. She not only prefers that I do not call her that, but cannot tolerate temperatures that rise above 75. You might say this can put a chill on our relationship. 

We live in a cozy 4-Plex down here, which we like very much.  The problem during hot weather is that our building is an older one where instead of air-conditioning per se, we have giant fans that remind me of the huge wind tunnels where Boeing tests aircraft tolerance. My wife is happy in these cyclones. However, I live a Nanook-of-the-North existence hoping to make it past dinner time when I race for my igloo-like shelter under an array of quits and blankets. There I am safe until the sun rises once again.

Ah, well.  Chances are we both will live long enough to see October and November when the living will be easy again. It's not a perfect life since the endless swarm of snow birds will arrive soon enough bringing crowded roadways, long lines at restaurants and the other challenges.

Still we wouldn't have it any other way. Overall ours is a glorious Life of Reillys. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Good evening, good readers.  This is your pen pal and newspaper columnist, Cholly Rollie, broadcasting from Sunny Florida and bringing you the top newspaper stories via television.

But first, a word from our sponsor, Toilet Tissue...

Today the news isn't good, which is pretty much why it is news.  You've heard before that “No News is Good News” and “Good News is Worse.” We'll hear what Washington has to say about that in just a minute, but first here's a few words from your local station…

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I'm Cholly Rollie back again for you Readers-Now-Viewers, with an important quiz/question for you:  Should the government fund free television sets to broadcast this free newspaper on television?  If so, who or what should pay for it? By A.) increasing the already outrageous national debt? Or, B.) by passing on this cost as part of the pensions, medical and dental coverage, insurance and other perks provided from here to eternity for members of Congress? We'll give you our thoughts on this as well as our cover story on USING THE F word following a short commercial break...

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Monday, June 12, 2017


I am a lifelong believer in women.  My mother was one.  My wife is one.  My three daughters are too. My grandmothers were women as well. By now you have my point - Creatures known as “women” run in my family.  In some cases they actually ran the family.

I'll give you one example of this: My paternal grandfather, Thomas F. Reilly, was a wealthy contractor (referred to in one local newspaper as “the tyrannical old Irish land baron”). He may or may not have been as the paper described him. However, when I marched down to see him dressed in my very first long-pants suit, he pulled a “magic” act on me by fishing out dollar bills, or more, from each of my pockets. For a 12 year old kid in the middle of the Great Depression, there was a lot to love about a tyrannical land baron. Notwithstanding this he once crossed verbal swords with my grandmother, the formidable Katherine Soden Reilly, who reminded him “Tom Reilly, I was born at the top of the hill!” So much for the pecking order back in the Emerald Isle.

But after laying this foundation about women, where do we go from here?  Who knows?  Any man who thinks he knows all there is about women should probably go to Washington, D. C. where insanity is so much in vogue.  All I can give you here, dear reader, is the narrow perspective of one man born of woman.  Which simply put is: women are pretty terrific, but not perfect, whereas men are simplicity itself, abounding in shortcomings, but basically happier souls.  When is the game on? Who wants a brew? Are there any chips?

It is probably better that we have both men and women in this world.  Some guys want to become women but the reasoning for this is above my pay grade.  If you are interested in exploring the matter, you can always go to The New York Times and confuse yourself further. The Times devotes an inordinate amount of editorial space to the question(s) of the sexes and spin-offs of same. My view is somewhat cynical on The Times prioritization - they need a break from their drumbeat on the Pope, Vatican and all things Jewish.

In sum, I'm a fan of womanhood.  I've always found their “instincts” to be on the mark.  They are weak when they should be, stronger in times of sadness and most of all, best able to triumph over the “joy of childbirth”.  On the latter point alone they'll always get my vote. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


In this world of constant communication, we are probably better off without any kind of quality control. Even the bits and pieces we accidentally overhear tend to make us cringe. We are blessed that we don't have to hang in for entire conversations of idiocy.

Here's an example: Dear Friend and I were having dinner for two in a delightful restaurant. A diner nearby whipped out her cellphone and proceeded to tell whomever was on the other end about everything that was on her plate. She missed no detail, item by item. On and on. For diners all around her, there is precious little news in asparagus.

And news, I suspect, is what most of us are looking for. How that news is communicated varies from time to time and place to place but there is one thing for sure, change is the name of the game. Take a short trip in the time machine back to the earlier days of broadcast network news (You may have to get help from your parents, or your grandparents, for this one.)

There are names from the early days that few remember now. Lowell Thomas, John Cameron Swayze, Douglas Edwards.  The true golden era of scheduled broadcast news featured Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley & David Brinkley. There was John Daly, John Chancellor, Mike Wallace, Barbara Walters and a host of others, including Tom Brokaw, Roger Mudd, Martin Agronsky, Frank Reynolds, Harry Reasoner, Peter Jennings, Bob Shieffer, Howard K. Smith, Dan Rather and Connie Chung.  Today we have Scott Pelley, Lester Holt, David Muir.

During those golden years I was routinely around broadcasting news, mostly in Manhattan. I had opportunities for face to face conversations with the executives who ran the news departments as well as the TV anchors themselves.  All of us have favorites in life and I am no exception.  I liked David Brinkley for his quick wit and lack of pretentiousness.  I can still see him banging on an old typewriter on a small table pushed up against the wall in a bull ring surrounded by other reporters and nameless staff.  Of all the major television anchors, Walter Cronkite was king in my book.  Not just because we shared the same (November 4) birthday, but I admired his print background as a war correspondent for United Press. In those days having worked at newspapers gave news anchors extra credibility.        

The first network news program was broadcast in May of 1942 over WCBS-TV. I should point out that the early history of claims regarding “the first” is cloudy fame. But still the consensus is that this was the time and place.  And who was the “anchorman” for that historic broadcast?  None other than Milo Boulton.  Remember the name.

Milo Boulton.

Thursday, June 1, 2017


During the 1940s (a decade we older people refer to as “The War Years”) German submarines lurked in the Atlantic Ocean waters just off the east coast of the United States. Today one of them, U -576, lies underseas 35 miles or so off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. When that sub was discovered in 2014 it came as news to many that World War Two was fought so close to our own shores. Not all of us were surprised however. Walking the New Jersey beaches as kids during the 40s we had to use a can of turpentine placed near the bottom step of the boardwalk to remove “tar” from our feet. That black mess had ominously floated ashore from ships torpedoed by enemy submarines.

If you were in grammar or high school during those years you were lucky. Too young for military service yet old enough to take advantage of home front freedom, grassy green though we were. There was an additional benefit to living in New Jersey or right next door in Pennsylvania.

By and large censorship kept the general public in the dark about the war. There were propaganda films and selected film footage shown in weekend “newsreels” at local movie theaters. Most citizens were believers in “a slip of the lip can sink a ship.” Try that one on today where “leaks” are a way of life with the media.

As opposed to earlier generations, youngsters ages 12 to 16 were given previously unknown freedom during the 1940s. It was possible to pile a large gang into an old car – much like the clowns did in the soon-to-be-late Barnum & Bailey Circus – or hitchhike south to the Jersey shore some 65 miles away. Coast Guard sailors patrolled the Jersey sands on lookout for Nazi saboteurs. In fact, German landing parties actually made it to New York and Florida, although they were all apprehended. Rumors of potential enemy presence held a great promise of excitement for youngsters. We hid out in the sand dunes to avoid the Coast Guardsmen (more accurately their dogs.)  

Happily, none of us were ever discovered. No Nazi made it into Somers Point or Ocean City. Plus, we won World War Two.

End of story.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Memorable Men and Women

Some Florida nights bring such bright moonlight that you think you're living in a lighthouse. That's great if you're not interested in sleeping. As I lay in our bed bathed in moonbeams I was thinking of some memorable men and women who have touched my life.

Such people do not include a certain master sergeant from my Korean War years, but rather the positive folks like Paul, Charlie and Sween. Good friend Ted is another memorable man. Ted is smart, witty, caring, supportive, you name it. A bonus with Ted is his lovely Barbara and their two adult offspring. They are stars one and all. Then there is Hugh, Steve, Mike, Norman and a few others. Interestingly, my collection of Memorables has ladies leading the pack.

There was Pat, my first love, who was considered “the third prettiest girl in the 8th grade.” (Another indicator of simplicity with 13 year-old male minds.) Much later when Pat, Trish and I gathered to plan our 50th grammar school reunion, I can assure you that Pat moved from third place to take the crown. No one else was close. While it's hard to list her every good quality, it might have been that her sensitivity to a short guy with an astigmatism wearing round steel eyeglasses. Or was it “Sleepy Lagoon”, the hit song of 1942? Songs seem to be prominent when thinking of the opposite sex.

Moving on to high school “I'm Confessing that I Love You” carried Jean and me through one semester after another.  Later on Lynn and I danced to "It Had to be You" through college and right into the Army induction center.

Romance is still tied in with songs of the time. My dear wife, Joan, and I were mildly annoyed when Mary Ann said that “Close to You” was their song. Everybody knows, or should know, it is our song.

And speaking of Joan, I told her:
“When my life is through
and the angels ask me to recall
The thrill of them all
Then I will tell them,
I Remember You.”

And I will, Most Memorable of All Ladies.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


I love my bike.  It's right outside, waiting for me to mount up and pedal off to another adventure.

It's true that my biking today is a far cry from when I used to ride 15, 20, 30 miles a trip. Mother Nature, a bad back and wifely concerns have combined to limit me to a modest 3 three mile jaunt. I have no complaints however. Any bike riding is wonderful to me.

The day I first soloed on a two-wheeler is firmly etched in my memory book.  There is no plaque marking the site and my first solo fell far short of the distance Wilbur and Orville flew at Kitty Hawk. But that day on the side yard at 2403 North 50th Street in The City of Brotherly Love was historic nonetheless.  My father, a patient man, held the fender of my rear wheel, gently pushed me, all the while steadying the first few feet of my efforts.  (I wonder if you too recall your own moment.) After my father left to go back to the office, I got on my bike, pushed and pedaled to move forward. Better to try things without an audience, plus having a comfortable grassy landing site if things went south.

Success! Joyous success.  I ran into the house to tell my mother who promptly telephoned my father at work. I yelled the news. Dad congratulated me, excited himself. It was a big Reilly day all around.  Only now, so many decades later do I truly understand how blessed I was. First, in having a bike at all in the midst of The Great Depression, and more important, to have such caring, supportive parents sharing my success. If you've been lucky in this life, and I have, nothing beats having had loving parents.

As for that first two-wheeler of mine, it was a beauty.  Fire engine red with fat white-walled tires. I wonder if it still exists somewhere out there short of the scrap metal heap. If so, name the price. I'll be there. My steed today still sports fat tires in keeping with my own body type. It is rusty but reliable. The young women and men who pass by me on the road, which includes virtually everyone, are cyclists of the first order. Most of them are athletes and fitness buffs. They are also friendly and encouraging. They seem to welcome old timers like me even though we are slowpokes, for we too are part of the sport they all love so much.

Friday, April 14, 2017


Why are three quarters of we Americans fat, or worse, obese?  Why? Why?

Just about everyone over 40 remembers going for an annual check-up where the doctor advised “lose 10 pounds” and “reduce your intake of alcoholic beverages.”  Now medicine has advanced to a point where we are hearing “lose 25 pounds and cut WAY back on the booze.” 
As we age, beefing-up just happens.  Once there, women are better at losing weight than men. If only because talking about weight has become a 24/7 obsession within the sorority, their hairdressers, and just about any passers-by they happen to bump into at the mall. Males, beyond their other shortcomings, are inclined to consider that belly-roll as a badge of honor for success in the boardroom and/or expense account lunches. I belonged to the Fat Boyz, a small fraternity of former athletes who still considered themselves athletes.  You had to come to the tennis or paddle courts with poundage. Period. No skinnies allowed. In these days of heightened IRS surveillance plus general good health awareness, the BIG lunch has virtually disappeared. Today we poke at salads, parsley by the pound and foods we would never have looked at, let alone eaten, in bygone days of large steaks, garlic mashed potatoes and cheesecake by the ton.
The world continues to whirl, whirl, and whirl some more. And we Americans are whirling right along with it, devouring unconscionable amounts of grub.  Advertisers and food chains seem to be in a race to hasten our demise. “Sad” is the word to describe the physical profiles of USA/2016. All you have to do is take your sunglasses off and look around. Fatties are all around.  Unhappily many of the stricken are children. What does this signal for their lifespan? Sad news indeed.
There is a huge miscalculation here somewhere. Starvation abounds in many parts of this whirling world. None of us is immune to the plea of charitable organizations depicting emaciated urchins, and their elders, barely steps from death. Is it just here in the land of the Whopper and fries where this frightening plague of obesity reigns? I think so. To top it off, the medical profession is ill-equipped to handle this surging number of obese patients. Much of the equipment doctors would normally use for various tests – like routine weighing of patients - can't measure the obese whose tonnage frequently exceeds the marking numbers on the scale itself.   
For most of us selecting a counterweight to the craving to eat may be a solution.  For example, committing to “being in shape” can overrule ordering from the dessert tray. So too, appearing slim-by-comparison to the photo at the college reunion.                      

Sorry guys, no magic formula for your head and that thinning thatch.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Where Did I Put It?

Just about everybody experiences the madness of misplacing an item. Car keys seem to be #1 in the ranking of these lost causes.  Trust me, dear reader, as the shadows lengthen these events will be turning up with greater frequency. They come along with your AARP card. You are in the company of many others.

There are some among us who feel that you can beat the odds by developing a “system” to find things.  For example, one pal says that he uses the “bureau top” approach, by placing virtually everything he owns on the surface of the furniture holding his socks, handkerchiefs and underclothes. He cautions that this system can only work for bachelors for “if you are married your wife will use the whole house as her bureau top.”

When my brothers and I were little kids our mother, a devout lady who practiced good deeds throughout her life, had us pray to St. Anthony, the Finder of Lost Things. (“St. Anthony, please come round; something is lost and must be found.”) When St. Anthony came through with a positive result it also served as a thunder clap over our heads to be good. I'm not saying each recovery was a miracle, but it only took one “find” to convince us.

Beyond my friend's “bureau top” approach, there is much to be said about “a place for everything and everything in its place.”  Simplicity and routine are critical ingredients to the “where did I put it?” dilemma. Keys on the table by the front door, credit cards in the wallet in your coat or purse – never loose in the jacket or pocketbook. As for your automobile, use the McGuirk Rule.

During my traveling days I shared many professional assignments with a gentleman named James McGuirk. Jim always wanted to be the driver, and that was okay. But he consistently forgot where he parked our rental cars. Not so good. One evening after I retired for the evening, McGuirk came back from a little night life in San Diego. To avoid a problem this time, he pulled the car right up to the main entrance of the Hilton hotel, got out and locked it up. Next morning chaos reigned with guests trying to check out, taxicab service, etc. But the principle is still valid.  Park your own car out front and lock it up.

Just be sure you're not at a Hilton.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thomas & Friends…And Me

Even in our Sunshine State there is rain. With due respect to the folks in Edina, Minnesota, who have to hunker down from ice, wind and snow, we too have to run for cover when clouds burst over Florida. Happily when I recently found myself indoors channel-surfing, I came across a cartoon series titled “Thomas & Friends.”

Nowadays, Thomas & Friends is familiar to every little boy and girl in kindergarten. Certainly so by the time they graduate in their caps and gowns (!) Still the series remained more or less unknown to those of us of a certain age who came along well before there was kindergarten, let alone television. So I'm glad I found Thomas for now I too am one of his friends. The history of this British/Canadian/American cartoon program reads like a detective story, far too tortured a path to follow.  I'm not sure all that matters.  It is far more important to locate the listing in your TV Guide, then tune in.

Thomas & Friends teaches evergreen lessons not just for little boys and girls but for people of all ages, parents especially.  In addition there are great production values. (Even cartoon figures in the background have detail and movement.) A welcome respite from the endless cut and paste versions we are fed in the endless parade of imported junk that drains any sense of believability from story lines.

Without being patronizing, Thomas & Friends retrieves cherished standards of yesteryear.  Viewers learn the importance of “Thank you”, ”Please”, helping others, not taking credit that belongs to another, apologizing for making mistakes, and a raft of other examples. All of which flow naturally from the adventures facing Thomas and his companions. There are singable songs that accompany footage that nicely ties the cartoons to the real world.

To be sure there is a bit of Britain that is not familiar to most American ears.  Terms like “Sir” and “Madame” pop up in place of “you guys” or “me and him”.  That said, I suggest you try it.  I'm certain you will like it.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Sometimes words are simply not enough. They fell way short of expressing our disgust, fury, hurt and outrage when the news came along that Jewish cemeteries are being vandalized in Philadelphia. Yes, that such a thing would happen in my old hometown is an additional wound, but that it would happen anywhere in our country is the point.

None of us is perfect, that's for sure. It is probably true that we all carry bias of some sort in our make-up.  But our better angels manage to keep such demons under control, until they don't.

As a young Army officer I was sent to Germany as part of the United States Occupation Forces. World War II had ended short years before so there was no shooting or open hostility, but anger bubbled just beneath the surface. My assignment to an orientation program in Munich overlapped a weekend so, knowing that the Dachau concentration camp was somewhere in the area, I set out to visit that site. My experience was a searing one; it still remains fresh in my mind.

Unlike today where the death camp at Dachau is a “tourist attraction” in my time it was anything but. The camp was deserted save one single care keeper, a thin, bedraggled older gentleman who pressed a very modest booklet into my hand. We had to wear our uniforms when off duty back then and he was uncomfortable in my presence. Dachau then was much closer in appearance to its years of infamy than it is to today's well-scrubbed site with throngs of visitors. That day was gray, damp with drizzling rain. I went into the gas chamber where supposedly inmates were to shower. Tiled from top to bottom with a triangular opening at the top. Claustrophobic. And the sickening physical fear that someone would close the door where I entered and I would never get out. The opening up top was to provide the lethal chemicals that would snuff out so many lives crawling the walls and screaming in unheard fear and agony. Then to the crematorium where bodies were pushed into flaming ovens. I remember standing at attention and saluting, tears running down my cheeks. There was nothing else I could do then, and but one thing I can do now. 

Which is to remind you that horror really did exist in our past and it does right now. Antisemitism is part of it that horror.

Monday, February 27, 2017


If I never get on another airplane, that will be okay with me.  I am not afraid of flying, but simply have had enough of 30,000 feet in the air. Been there, done that so many, many times. No doubt part of my negativism has to do with today's airport scene, best described as serial aggravation.

When I do have to go to an airport nowadays, it's because I have to drop off or pick up family members or close friends. That said, all is not lost for it IS possible to have bright moments when waiting for arrivals. This is especially true if you are a “people-watcher” as I am.  It is both a learning lesson in civic behavior and an indictment of our manners. 

My colleague, David M, says I actually watched Wilbur and Orville run up and down the sandy hills of Kitty Hawk launching that slight bird they flew into the history books. Not quite, but I was airborne the day of the 50th Anniversary of Air Canada; how many decades ago was that? Glamour in flying is long gone of course. “Sardines in the Sky” is more like it as we get jammed into our silver cans ready for the wild blue yonder.

As for observing the Great American Public in airports, the first thing you notice is how fashion has become so unfashionable. It is light years different from the days when going up in an airplane was a combination of adventure and social event. People dressed if not in their “Sunday Best” something akin to that. (Hats and gloves were de rigeuer for the ladies back then.) Of course Sunday Best today means Less Grunge than the other days of the week.  “Dressing up” is of interest solely to historians.

Today's traveler places comfort above all. Sweat suits are in, even as showering is passe for many. Smiles are few. Best to put on your game face and be prepared for the frustrations coming your way. Seats are shrinking in size even as we ourselves expand. Knowing full well that there are no complimentary meals aloft, chow down before you board a plane. A sizable number of fliers prefer copious onions & garlic on their pre-boarding pizza. And hey, that's one reason why sweat suits are so in. Who would take the time to notice a tomato streak or barbecue splash on sweats when your very survival depends on getting away from that breath?

One of the true joys of flying in yesterday's skies had to do with the professionalism of stewardesses who were well trained, attractive and highly courteous. Today's “flight attendants” are underpaid, overworked and put-upon at every level. If you can do one positive thing to make up for all this, it would be to save one of your few smiles for them. You might even add “it's nice to see you” if you are pretty sure she won't faint from hearing a good word coming her way.

We can't change the whole messed up system with one smile, but it's a start and will surely brighten her day.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Another Look at Television

The late broadcaster Bill McCarter had a knack for spotting emerging talent.  In the early 1970s McCarter called me to identify one such named Brent Musburger, who was relatively unknown outside of Chicago and a few points west.

The other night I watched Musburger, nowadays very well known, calling his last basketball game. As usual he was a comfortable pal to be around, near or far. Brent loves sports, and because he usually knows what he's talking about, he enriched whatever game we were watching. There are some very positive things about TV. Brent Musburger was one of them.

Still the negatives about television are staggering.  Violence on the tube is overwhelming. Take another look yourself at the near-endless killings, explosions and mayhem that abounds. What can this possibly be worse for our minds, young minds especially? Some programs that purport to be “discussions” of issues are just more of the same.  Did you ever take a peek at the garbage that Maury Povich, Jerry Springer and their ilk serve up day by day?  Add to the mix Hollywood movies dominated by car chases, computer generated destruction, explicit sex, vulgarity beyond vulgarity. To the damage that television mayhem does to our own most precious resource, our children, add the fact that our product is exported all around the world. No wonder the image of our culture is so dismal overseas. You don't have to torture yourself, but please be aware of the extent of the damage being done.

Television is the primary influence in our time. TV, all by itself, is responsible for social change, more than all the legislation ever written.  You really can't change minds by writing laws. People will do what they want to do, one way or the other. Case in point are the advertising commercials depicting the races. It started with white men and women being socially linked with those of other races – usually a Hispanic, Hawaiian or other lighter skinned individuals, then as couples, then as parts of a mixed family. Gradually, and in a relatively short span of time, black and whites jointly filled roles previously restricted to the members of the same race.  So too with same sex couples. You are certainly entitled to your own opinion on whether this is good or bad, but the fact is changes in society have been caused by television. Again, the point is to be aware of this powerful impact.   

With our country being in such turmoil, real news versus fake news and countless opinions bombarding us day and night, each of us has to take personal responsibility for sorting it all out. Our own ethical compass and common sense are just about all we have. Not an easy task, for sure.  But we can't farm it out to any others, can we?     

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Each of us will be facing challenges in this new year.  Some great, some small.  But a challenge is still a challenge.

I have one challenge right before my eyes. It calls for immediate action.  Simply put: How do I arrange the remaining pieces of Bridge Mix in the glass container so that they appear untouched by human hand? Joan has a eagle eye for detail.  A small thing you say, but it still represents a domestic hurdle. Worse, the unfailing lie-detector, our bathroom scale, is right nearby to betray me.

Nothing so motivates an erring husband than a weight-conscious wife reacting in horror when that damn scale indicated she has gained a pound over the Christmas holidays. Hell hath no fury like a woman facing an upward number. While one pound is not a make or break deal in my eyes, my eyes are not her eyes. I'll try not to beat this to death, but a spouse provides a ready-made target for venting. Especially when he has been repeatedly warned to cut down on the suds and cookies that magically appear with Christmas. Not for nothing is it called “comfort food.”  And Yes, I am very comfortable.

Alas, in the real world, bridge mix and cookies can only take me (and you) so far. There are crushing sights and sounds all around us. Sadness and despair everywhere. And since “this world” happens to be our world, we are all in one big lifeboat together. Of course we can simply give up, but that option doesn't appeal to me, nor I suspect, does it work for most people. So now I have a game plan and it's much more than another soon-to-be-forgotten New Year's Resolution. Every morning I will thank God for the blessings that have been showered on me and mine.  At the end of the day, I'll review the ups and downs to see how things went since breakfast.  A report card of sorts.  Where should I have done better?  And especially, did I do anything to help another person in facing his or her challenges?

As I'm reading over what I've just written to you, I understand my words do not appear profound. On the other hand if each of us did something like this, perhaps we could meet challenges more effectively. At a minimum we'll know we have been challenging challenges.       

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Passing Parade of 2016

At the end of a year the media traditionally lists notable deaths from the preceding 12 months. 2016 was no exception. Most of us feel a connection of some sort – usually from afar - to many of the deceased. My own memories of the departed were a subjective bag of near and far. 

Ali – Muhammud was a passer-by when we were changing planes. He liked people. Maybe he understood that a short Irishmen deserved a nod and a big smile to brighten his day. In any event that's just what he gave me. Muhammud disappointed by refusing to serve his country in uniform, still, let's credit The Champ for being loyal to his beliefs.                                

Jim Clements – a near-legend in the publishing industry and lover of all sports, he played many of them with excellence. Clements lived in Darien, Connecticut, but his heart was always in Manhattan. No one loved The Big Apple more than Big Jim.

Bud Collins, for decades we showed up at the big tennis tournaments, he dressed in outfits that blistered our eyeballs. Bud brought tennis out of the private clubs to be viewed by the masses via TV. He was a great reporter and actually a pretty good tennis player.

Bob Elliott had an office with Ray Goulding in the Graybar building during my days at J. Walter Thompson. Radio was the perfect medium for that duo, a highlight for me were reports from that peerless correspondent, Wally Ballou.

Joe Garagiola was one of the first professional athletes who switched seamlessly from sports to broadcasting.  In those days he was with NBC while I was flacking for TV Guide magazine so we walked the same corridors.

Zsa Zsa Gabor reigned over a half century that included Mae West, Dagmar, Jayne Mansfield and Dolly Parton. Zsa Zsa was a trifecta with perennial sex appeal, humor and a delightful accent that became more pronounced with the passing years even as she amassed a record-breaking number of husbands.

John Glenn whom we admired from very, very, far away was the former Marine Corps fighter pilot who made us all proud by his pioneering adventures in space.

Kitty Kallen an ex-Big Band singer from Philly who staged a career comeback with a top selling recording of “Little Things Mean a Lot”. Her uncle was a medical doctor I admired very much. She dated a pal of mine who was some years her junior.

Julius LaRosa – I remember when this young sailor came on the scene singing for Arthur Godfrey.  And certainly recall Godfrey firing him because “he lacked humility.” What an irony coming from a master egomaniac. Julie had the last laugh however as he was still rolling along singing his songs decades after Godfrey had passed on.

John McLaughlin long before his years as a controversial talk show moderator, John-John was a rebellious Jesuit priest in Manhattan driving the Archbishop nuts.  He valued my counsel (!) as to the proper angle he should wear his homburg.

Gardner Mulloy a tennis idol of mine who remained 39 years of age almost forever. When Mulloy passed on he was well over 100 but still under 40.

Hugh O'Brian former Marine turned television hero who made a wholesome star out of Wyatt Earp who in real life was no paragon of virtue.

Arnold Palmer – even if you are not a golfer (that's my group) you knew his name and admired this man. Way beyond his accomplishments on the links, he left a legacy of personal graciousness for everyone who came in contact with him.

Nancy Reagan  when Joan and I met her at The White House she was far from the cool and distant image so often portrayed in the media. She endured years of negativism and ultimately triumphed as a charming, courageous and caring lady.

Debbie Reynolds – you can like a screen personality for that alone. We never met her, but Debbie played that likable girl next door for more than 60 years after “Singing in the Rain.” It worked for us.

Grant Tinker – I suspected his marriage was on the rocks when I spotted him in Grand Central night after night scarfing Uneeda hot dogs when the rest of us were going home to Connecticut. Grant was that rare bird who actually changed television programming for the better.

Morley Safer  chatting with him between airline departures, I wondered about that bassett hound look which masked his charm, finally deciding he was overworked and dead tired.

Kay Starr – a long time Big Band singer who took another turn in the spotlight with her recording of “Wheel of Fortune”. That song was played endlessly in tribute to two of her relatives who were in my Army detachment serving in blistering hot Texas.

Pat Summit – The all-time winning basketball coach, male or female, and role model for her personal fight against disease even as she led her teams on the court. Never met the coach, but watched her on TV time and again. She was truly inspirational.

William H. “Bill” Wilson – with his dashing good looks and outgoing personality, Wilson was the epitome of the gentleman/sports figure. A national squash champion many times over, he was a class act in victory or defeat.

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