Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'obituaries'

Tales of My City and My State

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jan 07, 2013 @ 5:56 pm PST

Huell-HowserRalph-StoryJack-Smithuserpic=californiaToday, my city and my state lost one of its greatest boosters, and his passing reminds me of other great journalistic boosters for my city and state. In their memory this post is dedicated.

Today’s news brings the sad report of the death of California icon Huell Howser. Howser, a transplant from Tennessee, grew to be one of the greatest booster of Los Angeles, Southern California, and all the quirks and oddities of California. Starting in the mid-1980s with Videolog, he rapidly developed a folksy style over a series of travelogue programs covering our great state. I know he was out to Orange Empire Railway Museum numerous times (which increased attendance every time), and even did a video report on the subway tunnels of the Pacific Electric. He was evidently as nice in person as he was on TV, and just enjoyed telling people about this wonderful state. I’m glad to see KCET will continue to air his shows.

Thinking of Huell made me remember another lost icon of Los Angeles, Ralph Story. Story died in 2006, and I wrote up some recollections then.  Story worked for KCBS (then KNXT) and KABC. I remember Story from his award winning series “Ralph Story’s LA”, which explored the history of Los Angeles. I particularly remember the segment he did on the Pacific Electric Railway tunnels near Echo Park.

I tend to like to do things in 3s, so I wanted a third person who boosted LA and has passed away. My wife came up with the answer: Jack Smith of the Los Angeles Times. Smith was a columnist who did regular columns on Los Angeles and Southern California; many of these were collected into books such as “The Big Orange” (for you Bay Area folks, substitute Herb Caen). Smith died in 1996, and I’m not sure the Times has had a columnist like him since. About the closest is Steve Lopez.

While writing this remembrance up, one other booster came to mind, but it is neither dead or off-the-air… however, it hasn’t had the same impact. KABC’s program, Eye on L.A., is a long running travelogue series hosted by whomever KABC had on staff (I remember Chuck Henry hosting it, but there have been others). However, it hasn’t exclusively focused on Los Angeles, or even California.

So, Huell, we thank your for your love of Los Angeles and California, and for continuing in the tradition of Ralph Story and Jack Smith, bringing the stories of the people to the people. You will be missed.


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The Reason for the Season: News Chum!

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Dec 25, 2012 @ 10:15 am PST

userpic=chanukah-christmasAh, Christmas. The day when a jolly fat man in a red suit, hopefully legally, comes down your chimney (or through an unlocked window) and leaves you a collection of news articles to chew on while unwrapping economic incentives:

  • Ugly Sweaters. It’s become a hipster phenomenon — ugly holiday sweaters. It has even been written up in the Los Angeles Times, so it must be hip. They are even going so far as to make ugly Chanukah sweaters: Berkeley clothing label GeltFiend has introduced a line that includes a sweater featuring Chasidic snowmen (complete with beards and peyos) or $65 for a dreidel cardigan. As for Christmas goodies, Tipsy Elves offers reindeer dancing in a conga line and a multitasking Santa spelling out “Merry Christmas” in the snow as he relieves himself. Kitsch is the reason for the season, right?
  • Celebrity Christmas Deaths. Two celebrity deaths to report. First is Jack Klugman, an actors’ actor. Wonderful roles include his performance in 12 Angry Men, Gypsy, and of course The Odd Couple and Quincy, ME (the latter being the prototype for CSI, in my opinion). The second is Charles Durning, who also had many great roles, but I’ll remember him as the governor in the movie version of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (whose author, Larry L. King, also just passed away).
  • Baker. Another near death to report: The community of Baker, CA. The world’s largest thermometer is no longer working or being maintained, and the town is slowly dying due to the recession. Of course, there is a plan to save it. A UFO-themed hotel attached to a jerky stand. I kid you not.
  • Pay Phones. Also reportedly coming back from the dead (to continue our theme of the reason for the season) are pay phones. Evidently, the superstorm Sandy alerted people that cell phones are not always reliable, even if they are installed in churches. It appears that copper wires with independent power are much more reliable, and people surged to the remaining pay phones during the emergency.
  • The Reason for the Season. Of course, this all boils down to the apparent real reason for the season (note the use of the word “apparent”): money. So what better to end with than a link about money. The US Mint is testing a number of different metal alloys to develop a coin that actually costs less to produce than its face value. That’s one way the US Government makes money.

As Stan Freberg says, “We going out on that joke?” To which I say, “No, we do reprise of song, that help. But not much.” Oh, and speaking of Stan Freberg and the reason for the season, we go out on this classic: Green Chri$tma$.

Music: All American (1962 Original Broadway Cast): “Our Children”


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Things That Were, and Things That Never Were

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Dec 24, 2012 @ 11:09 am PST

userpic=tombstonesAs we approach the end of the year, the newspapers are bringing a number of stories of things that were, or in some cases, never were…

Music: Butterfly (Barbra Streisand): “Jubilation”

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An Icon Passes

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Oct 06, 2012 @ 11:27 pm PST

An icon of my childhood has died: “Sheriff” John Rovick has died at the age of 93.

Back in the era of children’s television hosts, Sheriff John was one of the most beloved in Los Angeles. His “Lunch Brigade” was a staple for kids like me growing up. We grew up on his songs, his cartoons, his morals, and his ideals… and of course, Farmer John Hot Dogs. We preferred the Birthday Cake Polka (“Put another candle on my birthday cake”) to any other birthday song.

Our motto, after all, was John’s:

Laugh and be happy and the world will laugh with you
When people see you smiling they can’t help smiling too
When you look out the window to a dark and gloomy day
Break out a smile and in a while the gloom will go away
So laugh and be happy with a merry melody
A song will make a hat rack look like a Christmas tree
Get rid of worry in a hurry, chase the blues away
Just laugh and be happy all the live…. long….. day.

Rest in peace, Sheriff John. You taught a generation well.



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Friday News Chum: Obits, Animation, Non-Christian Christians, Fecal Transplants, 404 pages, and Close Shaves

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Sep 28, 2012 @ 11:08 am PST

Well, it’s Friday at lunch, and that means it is time to clean out the news chum links, toss them into the water, and see if anyone bites on them for discussion.

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Remembering Harry Harrison

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Aug 15, 2012 @ 10:48 am PST

Harry Harrison has died.

Harry Harrison was one of my two introductions to the genre of Science Fiction*. Back when I was in high school, the Science Fiction Club at Pali High (in Mr. Layton’s room) introduced me to Harrison’s novel Captive Universe. I can still remember the lines:

“Now follow closely my thoughts because they are of the lougest importance. This man is of the valley yet he cannot return to the valley. I will tell you why. It is written in the klefg that the people of the valley, the derrers, shall not know of the Watchers. That is ordained. This one will then not go back to the valley.

“Now listen closely again. He is here, but he is not a Watcher. Only Watchers are permitted here. Can anyone tell me what this means?”

There was a long silence, finally broken by a weak voice which said, “He cannot be here and he cannot be in the Valley too.”

This was the start of a long love of Harry Harrisons books. Through the Deathworld trilogy, through all the Stainless Steel Rat books, through his teen work, and especially all of his alternate histories — I devoured it all.

Harrison had a way of writing that I just love; that just gabbed you. Just look at the first line of Bill, the Galactic Hero:

Bill never realized that sex was the cause of it all.

Great opening line. Then there was the fabulous Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers, a parody of all the EE Doc Smith 1950s-style SF. Again, just listen to those opening lines:

“Come on, Jerry,” Chuck called out cheerfully from inside the rude shed that the two chums had fixed up as a simple laboratory. “The old particle accelerator is fired up and rarin’ to go!”

“I’m fired up and rarin’ to go too,” Jerry whispered into the delicate rose ear of lovely Sally Goodfellow, his lips smacking their way along her jaw towards her lips, his insidious hands stealthily encircling her waist.

This is a story where Chuck and Jerry, two fun-loving students at an American College discover a faster-than-light space drive, and install it into the football team’s Boeing 747. They, together with the lovely Sally Goodfellow, crusty Pop, and loveable old John veiw with horror a practical joke gone awry as the plane screams off to Titan. But that’s only the beginning. When loveable old John’s true and awful identity becomes known, a wild batter across the Universe and through centuries ensues. But love triumphs in the end, in the oddest way.

There are his alternative histories, such as A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah where America loses the Revolutionary War, and Geo. Washington’s great grandson now is building a network to connect England to the Colonies. There are the Civil War books, the Eden series, the Wheelworld series, and the Technicolor Time Machine. Books I just loved.

Thank you, Mr. Harrison, for your words over the years.

*: The other author that got me started on SF was Kurt Vonnegut in the short story collection, Welcome to the Monkey House.

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The Ride Home

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Aug 07, 2012 @ 11:33 am PST

Today’s news brings word of the passing of Marvin Hamslich (Playbill, LA Times, USA Today), and that means it is time to trot out my story of my encounter with Mr. Hamslich.

It is 1975; I’m 15 years old and in the high school program at Wilshire Blvd Temple. This program, which was run by Rabbi Goldmark, brought in various name speakers to talk about Judaism in their lives and what they do. This includes folks like Monty Hall, political figures, and Marvin Hamlisch. As WBT was near downtown, and I was living in Brentwood (16 miles away), Wilshire ran a bus from near University Synagogue to the downtown campus. This bus left promptly at its scheduled time; if I missed it, I had no way to get home.

One particular Sunday in 1975, our speaker was Marvin Hamlisch. He’s running long, so I get up to go get the bus. He stops speaking, looks at me, and asks where I was going. I told him I was going to catch the bus to go home. He says that he doesn’t like to lose an audience, and he would give me a ride home. This he does, but along the way, we stop at the newsstand in Westwood so that he could pick up the New York papers and read the reviews of A Chorus Line, which had just opened. I did get his autograph on a piece of notebook paper, which I have to this day.

Thank you, Mr. Hamlisch for your music throughout the years. From A Chorus Line to They’re Playing Our Song to Smile to Goodbye Girl to Sweet Smell of Success to numerous others, you have added art and richness to our culture. Thank you for your movie music throughout the years, starting with The Sting and the music of Scott Joplin. I’ll even forgive you for The Way We Were :-). Oh, and thank you for the ride home. I look forward to seeing The Nutty Professor if it ever makes it out to Los Angeles.

P.S.: Reading the reactions, nobody has a bad word for the man (here, here, here). That says something about him.

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A One-Two Punch

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jun 06, 2012 @ 11:53 am PST

Today’s a busy day, so here’s a quick one-two punch over lunch:


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