Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Loving Broadway - How It Started

It was the mid-1960s. I was in high school and found myself working for the school's official photographer - Bob Heilman. Bob owned a small business called The Hill Studio, so named because it was located on Allison Hill in Harrisburg, PA.

I worked in the print dark room, learning to print black & white photos in a room which always smelled like rotten eggs. (The aroma coming from the fixer which was the chemical sodium thiosulphate.) Right next door, my best friend, Bobby Jones, worked in the negative dark room. He processed the negatives, mostly taken with one of our Graflex cameras.

Bob was a huge fan of Broadway musicals and while we worked in the studio, there was always show music playing on the stereo. In his home, he had almost every Broadway musical record album there was. (Note for youngsters: record albums were the predecessor to tapes and CDs and digital downloads!) Whether in the studio or in his home, we were always listening to music from Broadway shows. This music was my introduction into the world of live song and dance.

In 1966, Bob was making one of his usual treks to New York City to take in a Broadway show. He asked me if I wanted to go and, if so, I should get my ticket ahead of time. I decided I wanted to see Cabaret. So, I sent the theatre a blank check, then anxiously awaited my ticket. (Those under 30 reading this blog need to remember that there was no Internet, no way to purchase tickets online, and Visa credit cards were just getting started in 1966 and almost no one had them. Bob had taught me to do what he always did - send a blank check made out only to the theatre and ask for the best seat available.)

Soon, my ticket arrived and I found myself in New York City watching Jill Haworth, Bert Convy and Joel Gray (Yes, the same Joel Gray whose daughter, Jennifer, starred in Dirty Dancing with Jerry Orbach and won last season's Dancing With The Stars) sing and dance. And, my love of Broadway began.

This initial show was followed quickly by tickets to I Do, I Do with Mary Martin and Robert Preston. (I sat front row, center. They were so close, I could have easily touched them.) Next came How Now Dow Jones with Marlyn Mason and Brenda Vaccaro. Then there was Man of La Mancha with Richard Kiley - a show that Bob Hileman had found "boring." He discouraged me from going as he said it had no intermission and he had actually fallen asleep. I went anyway and loved it.

In the 70s, I was able to take in two shows starring Jerry Orbach - Chicago and 42nd Street (which I saw twice). You may only know Jerry from Law & Order but he was a great stage actor, as well. I never got to see him in The Fantasticks, the Off-Off-Broadway show which really established his career, nor in Promises, Promises. But in Chicago and 42nd Street, he was at the top of his game.

I've been fortunate enough to see some other shows including Phantom of the Opera; but, since moving to Florida eighteen years ago, my trips to New York City and the lights of Broadway have been limited. Still, my wife and I are looking forward to taking in a show this July when we are in New York for our oldest son's wedding.

Looking back, I really do have Bob Heilman to thank for my love of Broadway shows, particularly musicals. May he rest in peace.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Thank You, Zig Ziglar!

I just want to take this moment to say "Thank You" to Zig Ziglar.

Many people know Zig Ziglar as a fantastic speaker and motivator. He has helped thousands of people get to the top of their professions. He's taught us the importance of truly caring about other people. Many of his quotes are well-known throughout the business world.

I have had the great fortune of seeing him in person on three occasions. In one instance, I took a friend of mine who was at one of the lowest points in her life - she was losing every battle and had even tried to slash her wrists. I wanted her to hear Zig in hopes his outlook on life might help. We took our seats and when Zig appeared, the very first words out of his mouth were "YOU were born to win." From that very sentence, my friend hung onto Zig's every word and she left that place with a totally different attitude. It was a highlight of my life to see how Zig had made a difference.

Of course, like many others, I have Zig's tapes (yes, I go back that far) and CDs. There are entire passages of his training that I can quote verbatim. His books have been an influence in my life, as well. While I admire him for all this knowledge he has shared, the truth is that he's just a likable guy! It would be fun to know him even if he wasn't in this business!

Although Zig may know that he's helped people with sales and improving their lives, I wonder if he realizes the amount of joy and even laughter he has brought to them, as well. Exchanges between my wife and myself are good examples of using something that Zig taught us a long time ago. You may recall:

Zig taught the importance of not just words but how you emphasize them. He gave this example: take the sentence: "I did not say he beat his wife." Just eight words. But, Zig taught how there can be eight different meanings depending on which word you stressed with your voice. ("I did not say he beat his wife" - someone else said it, I didn't. "I did not say he beat his wife" - he just shoved her around a bit. "I did not say he beat his wife" - he beat the kids, not his wife. I think you get the idea!)

Well, my wife and I will often use this technique and we soon find ourselves laughing out loud. Sometimes, we use it when we hear someone make some statement and other times, we use it between ourselves. For instance, my wife might try on a pair of jeans and she'll look at me and ask (what man hasn't been in this position?) "Honey, do I look fat in these jeans?" I might reply with something like this: "I wouldn't say you look fat in them." Then, we'll look at each other and start roaring. Because, we both know what we could do to that sentence - thanks to Zig's training. )("I wouldn't say you look fat in them" - I wouldn't say it, but others would. "I wouldn't say you look fat in them" - I'd think it, but I wouldn't say it.)

So, dear Zig, for all the positive things you've brought into our lives, for all that you have done for others, we thank you.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Little Stop On Route 66

It was in the late 70s or early 80s. My wife and I had gone out on a Saturday evening for a bit of dancing at a local hotel which had a dance floor and live entertainment. We walked in and the band was playing "Route 66." We found a table and ordered something to drink. As we sat there waiting, I couldn't help but notice the drummer. He looked so familiar. I was racking my brain when it suddenly hit me - the man playing some terrific percussion was Bobby Troup.
At the time, many people would only recognize Bobby as Dr. Joe Early from the TV series, Emergency. But I knew that he was also the composer of the song "Route 66." I was floored that he was in Harrisburg and at that particular venue.

After the band finished the song, Bobby came down from the stage and there was a great round of applause. He walked from table to table shaking people's hands, signing autographs. When he reached our table, he looked at the huge drink glasses we had on the table and asked us, "What the heck are those?" (Okay, maybe he didn't use the word "heck" but this is a family-safe blog!) Eventually, he sat down at our table. Unlike so many others, we never asked for his autograph, we didn't fuss over him, we just treated him like an old friend we hadn't seen for many years.

As it turned out, he was in town because his family had a music store in downtown Harrisburg - J. H. Troup Music. Since I used to play the piano and pipe organ, I had been in the store zillions of times, mostly to purchase sheet music. We talked a bit about the store and his family members who still ran it. (I love that I can now download sheet music online!)

Eventually, our conversation turned to Bobby's wife - Julie London. Again, although many knew her only as Nurse Dixie McCall on Emergency, we loved her as a sultry and wonderful singer. Bobby was totally in love with her. You could hear it in his voice and see it in his eyes. His face lit up like the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center whenever he spoke of her. He took a gold cigarette lighter from his pocket. "It was a gift from Julie." he shared. As we were telling him how impressive we thought it was, he chuckled as he pulled the gold cover off to reveal a plastic Bic® lighter inside. "Julie had given me a solid gold lighter as a gift but, when I lost it, she gave me this as its replacement."

Bobby wound up spending the next three hours at our table. He watched us dance and asked us a lot of questions about our dancing. It was odd. He was actually at the hotel with a local restaurant owner who was paying for everything (eventually, including our food and drinks). There were several model-like women with the Bobby Troup party that night but Bobby ignored them. He told us that people often thought he'd want beautiful women around when he was "out on the town" but he looked us squarely in the eye and said, "I'm not interested in anyone except Julie."

I had always liked Bobby's music and his role on Emergency. But on this particular night, I liked him much more because he loved his wife and wasn't afraid to let anyone know it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Young Kids and Speed

I may be old but I don't drive like the Florida stereotype. I rarely drive twenty miles under the speed limit and I almost never drive on the expressway with my turn signal flashing for miles. You are more likely to find me traveling around the speed limit, weather permitting. I guess what I'm trying to establish is that I'm not an old fuddy-duddy who wants everyone to drive slowly.

Still, on our street, there's a sign like this one -------------------------->

Almost every morning of the week, there's a young kid in our neighborhood who goes out of our streets at a speed which must approach 50 to 55 miles per hour. He's obviously in a hurry to get somewhere - school (why would you speed to school?), his girlfriend's house, or to the donut shop for a round one and a cup of coffee. What ever his cause, he wants to get there fast. His car is older and sounds as if the muffler has at least one small hole that shouldn't be there. He speeds by so quickly, I haven't been able to catch his license or even the make of his car.

Actually, it's not his speed I worry about - it's his ability to stop (or not stop) his car when he's driving that fast. We have a neighborhood where many people jog or speed walk in the morning. Others, my wife included, are walking their dogs. (See our dog's picture on the right!) Add to the mix the school kids of all ages waiting on the street corner for the bus and you've got a recipe for disaster.

I really want this young man to slow down. Not because I'm old but because my friends across the street with three small boys and my neighbors with dogs and even my own family need to feel safe while enjoying our otherwise quiet streets.

I will get his license and the make of his car. I will turn the info over to the local police. It's great to be young but there are consequences to all the decisions we make in life. I just don't want this young man's choices turning our streets into a deathtrap.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Power of TV/The Uniqueness of Twitter

Yesterday, I had a brief but humorous Twitter exchange with Elisa Donovan. Our Tweet-time caused me to reflect on the power of TV and the uniqueness of Twitter. Eve's Christmas is saved on our DVR every Christmas and we watch it over and over during the holiday season, finally deleting it sometime after New Year's Day. With each showing, we find ourselves liking the Eve character more and more while further appreciating the acting abilities and the personality of the portrayer - Elisa Donovan. The fact that Elisa is in our home so much during the Christmas Holidays just adds to the feeling that she's part of the family. It's a closeness you don't get in the movies or live theatre. (Don't forget about all the other movies and TV shows in which she's appeared. These just add to the inclusiveness.)

(Before you start thinking that we'll soon be stalking Ms. Donovan, please know that my wife and I grew up knowing the difference between TV and reality. We may have laughed at the physical antics of The Three Stooges but no one had to explain to us that you don't go poking people in the eyes or hitting them over the head. Allowing yourself to become emotionally involved with TV is one thing but losing sight of reality is another.)

Moving forward from the early days of TV, now we have Twitter. I love the technology that allows "average Joes" like myself the opportunity to exchange moments with people with whom there would never have been communication in days gone by. (I don't mean just movie and TV stars, I mean people from all walks of life. I tweet with some fantastic people: lawyers; TV News anchors, reporters, and producers; realtors; motivational wizards; and the list goes on and on.) It is fun to interact with those we see on the screen in the movie house or in our home. While there are lots of "stars" with Twitter accounts, I really appreciate those who take the time to not only answer back but "follow" back, as well. I'm fortunate enough to include Kathy Ireland, Paula Abdul, Tony Robbins and Elisa Donovan as some of those who bask in the bright lights yet have allowed a bit of their own personality to appear in Twitter exchanges with Johnnybluenote.

I'm cognizant that the life of those in the spotlight, while often filled with great benefits, is not an easy one. There are those "fans" who can't distinguish that "knowing" someone in public life isn't the same as "knowing" them in their private world and these people sometimes cross the line. Still, I appreciate those who, rather than hide from the rays of fame, take a step of faith and let a bit of themselves "out there."

I can't speak for you but I never long for "the good ol' days." I may be old but I appreciate the great communication technology which exists here, now, in the 21st century. I'm looking forward to what's just around the corner to make it even better!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It's The Nature Of The Beast

* As our world continues to grow into a paperless environment, the importance of having our documents, pictures and other personal data preserved cannot be overstated.
* We're in the computer business. Nearly every day, we witness the disappointment on people's faces when we have to tell them that their stored information can't be recovered.
* If I can convince you of anything in today's blog, I hope it is this: EVERY hard drive fails. Some drives fails sooner than others, some seem to go on forever, but the real fact is that all hard drives crash. Even the new USB drives with no mechanical parts fail. In the last three months, I've had two 8GB USB drives crash. (Oh, and in case you're wondering, these drives were always unplugged using the proper procedure and were never left just sitting in the USB port.)
* I've said all of this to get here: backing up your personal data should be at the top of your list of things to do with your computer - right after installing critical updates.
* How you do backups is another question. Some people back up onto DVDs, CDs, external drives and all of these methods have their pros and cons. My two biggest beefs with these kinds of backups are: 1) can you discipline yourself to back up often enough that you won't lose critical data? and 2) when most people use these methods, they keep the backup right with the computer or nearby leading me to ask this question: what good are your backups should you have (God forbid) a fire or should someone break in and steal your computer and everything nearby?
* For us here at Keystone Computer Concepts (http://www.k-c-c.us/), although we have the knowledge, we simply don't have the time to perform backups. For this reason, plus our unwillingness to have our data go up in flames or out the door with a crook, we use strictly online data backup. (Just visit our website and you'll see how important we think it is.)
* The bottom line is this: whatever method you choose, just make sure you are backing up your data. There's almost nothing worse than losing an important file and having no way of getting it back - except maybe looking into the face or hearing the voice of someone who has.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Today is not "everyday." February 3, 2009 is a significant date for those of us over the age of fifty-five. It was fifty years ago today that the music world lost three big names. Rock and roll was in its earliest stage - kids loved it, parents hated it - and these three young men were in the middle of it all.
Even you youngsters (any of you under 50) have heard their names - Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P Richardson (the Big Bopper) - you have heard their music and you most certainly have heard others who were strongly influenced by what they wrote and sang.
I was nine at the time but I was already humming "Everyday," "Peggy Sue" "Chantilly Lace," and "Donna."
One of the great mysteries of life is how things would be different "if only..." Think just of the music industry: how would it be different if Harry Chapin (age, 38) hadn't died in a car crash; if Jim Croce (age, 30) hadn't also died in a plane crash; if Marvin Gaye hadn't died at 44; or if Janis Joplin didn't leave us at the age of 27?
We'll never know the answer to what might have been. Still, for today, let's remember what was.