Sunday, September 30, 2012

"The Cooler" with Maria Bello, William Macy and Alec Baldwin (2004)

Nobody does apathy better than William H. Macy. His characters are always a bit removed from the action; even when he is the center of it he manages to evoke the helplessness we all feel at some point of time in our lives.

In “The Cooler” he uses this ability to bring to life the character of Bernie Lootz, a man so unlucky that he is working as a “cooler” in an old established gambling casino in Las Vegas, which is just about to change from the mob controlled town of the 1960’s and 70’s, to the corporate “glitz” which it has become. No one is more unhappy about this than Bernie’s boss, Shelly Kaplow, played by Alec Baldwin, who, along with Bernie, has been in Vegas from the beginning. And, in the process, the old adage “Lucky at cards, unlucky in love” gets turned upside down in this understated film about life, luck and love.  

When Bernie falls into debt with friend; casino owner Shelly; and can’t pay him back in time, Shelley has his leg broken. The two remain “friends” and Shelley offers him a job as a “cooler” in the casino; that is, he is the guy who comes up to the table and helps to break other patrons winning streaks. He does this by a combination of means, but mostly, he is just bad luck for whoever he is around, including himself.
When he begins to think that he should just leave town, Shelly pays cocktail waitress Natalie Belisario, played by the stunning Maria Bello, to fall in love with him. But the problem is that she really does. Bernie is the first man she has ever met who didn’t want something of her. Her affection for him quickly turns to love, which only serves to make Bernie feel like any man who is in love does; lucky.

Of course, this new found confidence makes him a liability for Shelly, as all the people in the casino start to win. When Bernie’s long estranged son Mikey shows up with his “pregnant” girlfriend in tow, Bernie gives him some money to get on his feet. The son uses that money to cheat at the casino, causing Shelly to re-act in the expected way. He is going to have him killed. This puts Bernie at odds with Shelly, who has already realized that Bernie’s luck has changed, making him unnecessary to Shelly any longer.

Paul Sorvino, who usually plays a mobster, portrays Buddy Stafford, a drug addicted lounge singer in what may be one of the most sensitive roles he has ever tackled. He is a beaten man and knows it. But, Shelly keeps him supplied with heroin in order to keep him working, as well as keep his own illusions alive. When Buddy overdoses it is almost symbolic of the changes that are about to occur in Las Vegas, as the old gives way to the new.
The confrontation between Shelly and Bernie reaches a stunning climax as Bernie is forced to choose between luck and love.

Note: IMDB lists the release date of this film as 2003,; however, the DVD shows the release date to be 2004. I have chosen to use the date on the DVD.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp" with Popeye (1939)


Some of the best cartoons to come out of the 1930’s were done by 2 of my favorite animators, Max and Dave Fleischer. Their cartoons have fluency to them; the images seem to roll by like waves. They are really a joy to watch. And, of course, the best ones were always the feature length cartoons mimicking some literary character or story. Some of those cartoons are satire, art and just plain old cartoons rolled into one. “Sinbad the Sailor” with Popeye is one which immediately springs to mind in this regard. And so does this one, “Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp”, which is based upon the tale in “The Book of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights”
Popeye, playing Aladdin, is in a struggle to obtain the hand of a beautiful Princess, played by Olive Oyl; this is the basic plot of almost every Popeye cartoon; and involves an evil sorcerer who lures our hero to a cave in order to obtain a magic lamp. Popeye gets the lamp, but just as the evil sorcerer is about to steal the lamp from him, trapping Popeye in the cave, he drops the lamp.

Popeye rubs the lamp and the genie appears, granting him a wish. Popeye wishes to get out of the cave and claim Olive Oyl as his true love. But the sorcerer has other plans and kidnaps her, leaving Popeye in a tight bind. When the sorcerer sends monsters to thwart the true love Popeye feels for Olive Oyl, the game is on. And with a little luck, a genie, and a can of Spinach to help him, the outcome is almost certain from the start.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cotton

Last year Sue and I were riding around Mooresville, looking at the pumpkin fields just before Halloween, when we saw the most beautiful field of cotton. Stopping the car I managed to pick a few bolls, feeling very much like a sharecropper as I did. It was, after all, someone else’s crop which I was picking.

I have grown cotton before; just a few plants on my back porch. I love the way it grows so patiently, with the buds giving way to the white flowers; which quickly turn pink; eventually become hardened bolls of the coveted white fluff.

We live in North Carolina, a state known for tobacco and cotton, both during the days of slavery, as well as after. Most of the tobacco is gone now, but cotton is still grown in the area. The beauty of the crop, as with opium, belies the pain behind the façade; the pastoral image of the Old South, with slaves singing in the fields as they harvested the crop.

In reality, when this time of year came, and the plants flowered so beautifully; creating fields of white flowers mimicking a snowfall; the slaves were very cognizant of what that beauty meant to them. This was the yearly lottery; when whole families could be separated from one another, never to meet again.
From late November, after the last of the crops were in, until the first of March, was the usual time when slaves were hired out for the winter; if they were lucky; or sold outright if they were not. The difference between the two lots is staggering; as with the former there was at least a chance of being re-united with your family after your “hiring out” was done. But, with the latter, there was no way of predicting what your fate would be, or even where that future lay. When you were “sold”; a vulgar term when used in conjunction with human beings; you were simply gone, most likely never to be seen again by your family or friends.

So, when I look at the beautiful plant which I have grown, or drive about looking at the fields of soon to be harvested cotton, I am very much aware of the “social” history of this pretty little flower. All of the cotton raised in this area is now harvested by machine, although many adults my age, both white and black, have picked cotton at some point in their lives.
There is no point to this post. It’s just me, looking past the flower.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Cat House

Midnight, our resident stray, has a new home. After over a year of trying to make him comfortable; while at the same time taking care of my own allergic reactions to him; he finally has a better home than he did for the last winter. At that time he was living in our garage on an old bedspread with a heating pad to help him keep warm. This year the heating pad will be located at one end of his wicker home, and connected to a timer, which will offer him a few options in relation to how much heat he actually wants.

It’s been a year in which we have come to know one another a bit better, each respecting the others limitations and idiosyncrasies more than we first did. For instance; I now know that he strikes me with his paw as a sign of affection after I stop playing with him; while he has learned to not use his claws on me. Since he does live outdoors I cannot have his nails clipped, as that would leave him defenseless.

He has also learned not to wander too far from home, stranding himself in other people’s garages without food or water for several days. He has also learned not to cross the big open yard in back of our house which makes him a convenient target for the many hawks in the area. Last year he was actually swept up by one of these aerial predators. It was a short flight which left his ear damaged from the hawk’s talons. It actually changed the pitch of his “meow.”
The new home is of wicker construction, and was acquired by Sue at a yard sale for less than one dollar. I had already purchased a “cat bed” for him, complete with catnip, but he just kind of looked at it in a curious manner. He never even tried to lie down in it.

By contrast, from the moment Sue bought this wicker palace home, Midnight was very much interested in it. There is even a sun roof for him on top to use on nicer days. Currently, we are furnishing the inside, using Snoopy's doghouse as a guide for what Midnight might like. A small pool table is not out of reach; and a transistor radio or tummy TV is certainly affordable. But the Van Gogh is definitely out.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

יום הכיפורים Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement - 5773

For all of my Jewish readers, including myself, Tuesday evening marked the beginning of our holiest day in the year, Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. On this day, many Jews the world over, will be fasting until sundown this evening in an effort to cleanse ourselves of any sins we have committed in the past year. That’s the part where we apologize to God for any offenses we may have committed against Him.
But Yom Kippur is also about making amends with the individuals you may have offended, and this must be done directly, not through God. Traditionally, after you have asked forgiveness of the offended party 3 times, you are released from your obligation, and the sin of unforgiveness then falls upon the one who was originally aggrieved, as they would seem to lack the ability to forgive. It is a most interesting concept, and not as easily accomplished as one would think. The perception of just who was responsible for the affront is subjective at best, making this one of the most difficult of the Commandments to fulfill, as it involves pride.

The painting above is called “Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur” and was painted in 1878 by artist Maurycy Gottlieb. To all my readers, regardless of faith, may we come together in the year ahead. The alternative to not doing so is almost unthinkable.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"A Daughter's Tale" by Mary Soames (2011)

 Mary Soames is the last surviving daughter of Winston and Clementine Churchill. Born in 1922; she was a surprise baby; and lived through some of the most historical times in the history of the world. Her perspective on life before the war, and the changes engendered by the war, are a real eye opening experience into the daily lives of one of the world’s most notable families.

Winston Churchill was the face of England in World War Two. The fate of the Empire literally rested on his shoulders. Emerging from the shadows of the Great Depression; and at odds with Prime Minister Chamberlain; Sir Winston proved to be right concerning the threat posed by Germany’s military build-up; which was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Churchill staged one of the most extraordinary comebacks in political history, and then went on to win the war. And Mary Soames was there every step of the way.
In some ways Mrs. Soames, as the youngest, was surely the favorite daughter of the Prime Minister. She came of age just as the war broke out and served with a Women’s Auxiliary Unit, whose duties were to man artillery guns and shoot down enemy aircraft, including the new German V-2 rockets.

From life at Chequers, the family home outside of London during the war, to the family estate at Chartwell, with its panoramic views of the English countryside, Mrs. Soames takes you on a journey through a past which no longer exists. Along the way she manages to give you not only the cold hard facts of the peril which England faced, but also the very essence of the spirit which pulled them through their darkest hours. Her descriptions of air raids and the way the British people coped with the crisis, speak highly of them all.
Along the way Mrs. Soames manages to entertain, as well as explain, some of English history, as in her description of Lady Jane, whose bedroom she occupied briefly at the beginning of the war. She found her to be a kindly host, though at times she confesses to shielding herself with the bedclothes when she would hear the bombers overhead, not knowing whose they were.

Her encounters as a young woman in her early teens with the likes of T.E. Lawrence and Lloyd George will be of interest to anyone who is curious about that era of English history. Told from the perspective of a privileged young woman, these events take on a whole new direction and meaning.
Raised at first by her Nana, Mrs. Soames came to know her mother well only after a series of trips they took together when she was a young teen. Her descriptions of these trips are fascinating, in that they give us a look into a world which, for the large part, no longer exists.

When the war broke out in 1939, Mrs. Soames found she was old enough to help in the war effort. And help she did; serving in every position, from making bandages; which she admits to being very poor at; to manning an anti-aircraft battery, and also serving as Aide-de-Camp to her father on several trips to meet with President Roosevelt, crossing the Atlantic several times. On one trip she was almost swept overboard, and her account of that incident is harrowing.
The author has done something with this book which is very hard to accomplish. She has, at once, given us a look at a world which no longer exists, while chronicling some of the most harrowing years of the 20th Century. All the while, she brings a new humanity to a man who was larger than life when he was with us, and whose legend looms large in these troubled times. And, in addition to all this is, it is a wonderful tribute to the love between a father and daughter.       

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cab Calloway - "Minnie the Moocher" (1931)


One of the greatest bandleaders of all time, Cabell “Cab” Calloway III was born on Christmas Day 1907 in Rochester, New York. It was a fitting day for him to have been born;  a day when people exchange presents; for with his inimitable style he has left us all the gift of his music.

One of his best known numbers is the rousing “Minnie the Moocher”, which is really a variation on the old “call and response” songs which were popular with African-Americans as far back as the days of slavery, when the music was used to accomplish work in unison. It was also a hallmark of early African-American Christianity. In the rural churches which sprang up in the black community after the Civil War, there was often a shortage of hymnals and prayer books. The preacher would say, or sing, a line from a prayer, or hymn, and the congregation would answer back in kind.

“Minnie the Moocher” is an example of how gospel influences would spill over into popular music, much as it did again later with the advent of rock and roll. The lyrics are said to be based on “Willie the Weeper”, while the melody is based on “St. James Infirmary”, a blues standard of the era.
This version of the song was performed on television in the early 1950’s. There are older, and even better, versions of this song on You Tube, but for some reason blogspot will not accommodate their download. And while you’re googlin’ around, don’t forget to look at “Reefer Man” by Cab Calloway and His Harlem Maniacs. This was one of the best scenes in the 1933 film “International House” with W.C. Fields. Never mind, here it is;

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Andy Griffith Show - Opie's Hobo Friend (1962)


When a hobo named David Browne comes to Mayberry he meets Andy and Opie fishing. They strike up a conversation with Mr. Browne, who is played by Buddy Ebsen, known universally as the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz”. Andy and Opie both take an instant liking to this affable man, but Barney is instantly suspicious of Mr. Browne, and brings him in on a vagrancy charge.

But Andy sees something more in this drifter, and even offers him a place to stay and some odd jobs in order to earn some cash. But there’s trouble in Mayberry as Mr. Browne regales Opie with stories of magic and shows him how to take the short cuts in life. His favorite word in the English language is tomorrow. There is nothing, in his estimation, that can’t be put off until then.  When Opie begins to cut school and slack in his chores, Sheriff Taylor is forced to confront Mr. Browne, who is clearly becoming a bad influence on Opie.
But just as you think you know this drifting man, he does something very noble. Knowing that being forced to leave town will only cause a rift between the Sheriff and Opie, Mr. Browne engineers his own expulsion from town by giving Barney just the excuse he needs to run him off. And though it breaks Opie’s heart to lose his new found friend, he is cognizant of the right and wrong involved.

These old Andy Griffith shows are like Sunday sermons. They each convey a message of tolerance, while at the same time delineating the fine line between right and wrong. Buddy Ebsen, of course,  would go on to portray Uncle Jed in “The Beverly Hillbillies” later that same year, a role he would play for the next 8 seasons.   

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Hawaiian Holiday" with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy (1937)


When Mickey Mouse goes to Hawaii on vacation he brings along his friends, Donald Duck, Pluto and Goofy. There they encounter all of the usual insanity you would expect. While Mickey strums a ukulele, Minnie dances the Hula. And Goofy goes off on an adventure of his own; surfing.

Meantime, Pluto checks out the local wildlife. He is especially baffled by the shellfish. Donald and Pluto discover an annoying little starfish as Goofy continues his battle with the surf, at one point losing his surfboard, thinking it has sunk.

Along with the usual sound effects the cartoon is scored to the popular tune of the day, “On the Beach at Waikiki.” Good weather, good music and good friends make this a vacation not to be forgotten!

Friday, September 21, 2012

"Being Flynn" with Robert DeNiro and Paul Dano (2012)

Robert DeNiro stars in this very poignant drama about a homeless man named Jonathan Flynn. He is a great writer. We know this because he says so to anyone with whom he comes into contact. He is only driving a cab to make ends meet while he completes his novel. When his aggressive behavior causes him to be evicted from his apartment, he becomes one of the homeless.

Denied shelter by his friends and acquaintances, he finds himself at the homeless shelter. His son, Nick Flynn, played by Paul Dano, works there, which causes all kinds of problems as the son begins to know the father he never had. Moreover, he does not really like what he sees; in some ways he is an emotional image of his father.

Julianne Moore plays his mother, Jody Flynn, who kills herself after reading an unfinished story by her son in which she was supposed to be the hero.  Mistaking the story to be about her own failure as a mother, she then takes her life.
Nick has saved over 100 of his father’s letters to him over the years. In these letters his father alludes to the “masterpiece” he is working on, but never seems to complete. Nick grows up wanting to be what his father never became; a writer. But he is plagued by the same demons as his Dad, and only a rude awakening will shake him out of his lethargy. When his father calls him, after 18 years, he is awakened.

Struggling with his own problems, and a lack of confidence, Nick navigates his way through the world of the homeless while working at the shelter. When his father is barred from the shelter for bad behavior, Nick is forced to make a choice in reaching out to his father, even while struggling to get his own life on track.
 
With outstanding performances by all, and a script based on the semi-autobiographical book by Nick Flynn, this film really moves the viewer. Directed by Paul Weitz, who also co-wrote the screenplay, the movie leaves many questions unasked, as well as others unanswered. In the end it is left for you to decide who the real hero in this story is. Are there really any heroes at all? Is Jonathan Flynn a good man, or a flawed man?  Or, is he just like the rest of us; including his son Nick; simply searching for a clue?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Happy Birthday Sue!

This is one of my favorite pictures of my wife, Sue. It was taken by someone while on a field trip for a class on something about the environment in Chesapeake Bay. The photo captures her joy, as well as her interest in almost anything. It also shows her as the tower of strength which she is. I can’t imagine living my life without her.

Today is her birthday; and this is my very public way of letting her know how much I still love her. There isn’t a day that passes in which I wonder why she chose to spend her life with me. I’m just glad that she did. Happy Birthday Sue, I love you more with each passing year.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Odetta and Tennessee Ernie Ford - Live


It’s not too often that I write about the same artist, or any subject, two days in a row. But while looking at videos of Tennessee Ernie Ford for yesterday’s post reviewing “River of No Return” by Jeffrey Buckner Ford, I ran across this video of Odetta performing on the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show sometime in the 1950’s. It’s so good that I did not want it to get “lost” in the review. So, I decided to wait and post it separately, which also gives me a kind of day off.
Tennessee Ernie Ford was pigeon holed as a performer, and is remembered largely for his pea-picking songs, and of course “16 Tons.” But the man literally knew no bounds, and was equally comfortable in all genres, from jazz, blues and pop, to classical music. In 1960 he even did a half hour version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Mikado” on TV, giving me my first taste of “musicals.”

In this film from his show, Mr. Ford sits down with the legendary Odetta, and together they perform Merle Travis’ “Nine Pound Hammer”, and Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty”. Early television was filled with moments of uncertainty, error, and sometimes pure brilliance. This performance was one of the latter.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"River Of No Return" by Jeffrey Buckner Ford (2008)

When I was 1 year old Tennessee Ernie Ford hit it really big with his recording “Sixteen Ton”. Consequently I don’t remember a time when that song wasn’t around, either on TV, or radio. And you still hear the song today, being played on “oldies” stations, as well as classic country ones. And it’s a great song. But, aside from that song, just who was Tennessee Ernie Ford? (As a child of 4, I thought it odd that he was named after a state and a car.)

In “River of No Return”, Jeffrey Buckner Ford, son of the iconic entertainer, not only answers the question of who his father was, but also explores just how he came to be who he was. A man who seemingly had it all; from his good looks, wartime service, and his eventual marriage to Betty Jean Heminger, whom he met while in training to fly B-29’s; he was blessed at every turn with sucess.  As luck would have it, the war ended just as he was about to head for the Pacific.

The book is also a history of the music industry in the days after World War Two and the impact which television had on the industry. So much of what went on the air was live, and improvised. "16 Tons" was originally recorded in 1949 by Merle Travis for a folk music anthology. The song was risky to record, as it was pro-union in the early days of McCarthyism. The finger snapping, which Mr. Ford did before all his recordings, was left on by accident. As a matter of fact, the song was supposed to be the "B" side of "You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry." It sold 400,000 copies in 11 days!

Although mainly known as a gospel singer, Tennessee Ernie Ford was much more. His sessions with Kay Starr in 1950 and 1951 produced several gems. He also recorded with Betty Hutton, resulting in  the iconic "River of No Return", which became the title song for the Robert Mitchum/Marilyn Monroe film of the same name.
In addition to the musical history behind his Dad's career, Mr. Ford also tells the story behind the veneer of his parent’s marriage, which looked picture perfect to the 30 million people who tuned into his TV show weekly between 1956 and 1961.  I say “veneer” rather than “façade” to note the fact that these two people loved one other very much. But the rising star of Tennessee Ford’s career eclipsed the talent which his wife possessed as a painter, bringing a strain to that love.

With unflinching honesty, Jeffrey Ford writes of the struggle his father endured with alcohol, and how that struggle affected those whom the elder Mr. Ford loved the most. And when he is finished telling the history of that portion of his life, the younger Mr. Ford talks of his own journey to discover what is important in life beyond the fame and fortune which beckon us daily.
Written with great warmth for his parents; and a proper amount of disdain for his father’s second wife; Jeffrey Ford had done the seemingly impossible. He has written an account of his father’s career, his parent’s family history and marriage, and the demons that constantly lurked on the perimeter. That he has done so without rancor, and without disrespect to the memories which his father left us, is a credit to his spirit, and a testimony to his ability as a writer.

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Saboteur" with Bob Cummings and Priscilla Lane (1942)

When I was about 4 years old I used to watch a show called “The Bob Cummings Show”, in which he played a carefree bachelor, always juggling one woman against the next. Although I was probably too young to understand the show, I did notice the actor. The next time I saw him was on good old WOR-TV in New York when I was about 7 years old. He was playing the part of a man named Barry Kane, who works in an aircraft factory during World War Two.

Basically the plot centers about a mysterious man who bumps into Barry Kane just before the factory catches fire, obviously due to arson. As the two bump into one another, the other man drops a hundred dollar bill, along with some envelopes bearing his name and address, as well as the address of the envelopes destination. Moments after he returns the money, and the envelopes, to the stranger, the fire breaks out. Barry’s friend is killed fighting the fire with an extinguisher which has obviously been filled with gasoline. Subsequently, Barry Kane is accused of being a saboteur, and the chase is on as he flees the authorities, while trying to unlock the key to the trap in which he has found himself ensnared.

This is the first Alfred Hitchcock movie I ever remember seeing. And, as I was later to learn by watching his other films, it contains all of the elements crucial to a Hitchcock film. First rate performances by Bob Cummings and Priscilla Lane make this one a winner.

Happy Shana Tova - 5773!

This is also Constitution Week. View our Constitution on line at;
http://constitutionus.com/

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad

Today is the 62nd Wedding Anniversary of my parents, Ruth and Bill Williams. The ceremony took place somewhere else, but the reception was held in Apartment 3-C of 3619 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, a red brick building on the northeast corner at Kings Highway. This was my Grandmother Marcus’ apartment. She and my Great-Grandfather, along with my Mother and my Uncle Walter had lived there since about 1932, shortly after her divorce from my Grandfather.

You could say that my Mom’s home was already a multi-cultural experience; and now my Irish Catholic Father was going to be added to this mix. But first, there was the Honeymoon, which was supposed to be in Pennsylvania in a rural setting with a cabin in the woods. They took a bus to get there, as neither one drove at the time, and even if they did, they had no car to drive.

When they arrived at their destination; I think it was New Hope; they were told that they had no reservations and there was no record of a deposit in their names. After an argument with the management; which almost got physical; they were “asked”, by the local constabulary, to get back on the next bus and go home. And that is how they came to spend their honeymoon at the St. Moritz Hotel in Manhattan; overlooking Central Park. This is something I’m sure they could not afford at the time. Coupled with the loss of their deposit in Pennsylvania, they were off to an inauspicious start financially.

Married for 34 years, until my mother’s untimely, but long expected, death from illness in 1984, they were a typical couple for their time. He worked, she didn’t. He drove, she tried. He was strong, but she was the real strength behind the throne. They played card games with their friends and had sleepovers at one another’s houses; kids included. You can say what you like about that lifestyle, but they were together until they were parted by her passing.
Along the way they fought, and there were even some times when she packed her bag and went downstairs to the lobby, waiting for him to come and beg her to come home. He always did, and so did she.

My relationship with my parents was always a complicated affair, but they showed me the value of true love. Be flexible, and love never dies. Happy Anniversary to you both, Mom and Dad.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"I Wanna Be Like You" - Louis Prima in "The Jungle Book" (1967)


Everyone has seen and heard this great song from the Walt Disney animated film “The Jungle Book.” It’s a modern classic. Louis Prima did the voice overs for Louis the Ape, creating a lasting impression on anyone who has ever listened to this song. Although his intentions are evil, his desire is not. He simply wants to be treated like everyone else; and wield the same power. He wants the secret of fire. 

It’s probably just a coincidence that this film came out at the height of the Cold War, when the United States was competing with the Soviet Union to see who had the biggest, and best, weapon of mass destruction. But then again; maybe not. One of my favorites, this is one film I never got tired of watching with Sarah when she was little. And that, in large part, is due to the antics of King Louie, who, when all is said and done, just wants to be like you.

Friday, September 14, 2012

"Gracie - A Love Story" by George Burns (1988)

What can be said about a book that is so good I have read it three times since it was released in 1988? The book is a love story; just as the title states; but it is also a history of vaudeville, as well as a bare display of the humor and affection which Mr. Burns’ clearly held for  both his wife, as well as their craft.

Married for almost 40 years to a woman whose age he did not know; her birth certificate was destroyed in the San Francisco Earthquake; Mr. Burns only really discovered himself when he met the tiny, five foot tall, 100 pound Gracie. She was at least 10 years his junior, and he was all of 27 at the time.

In a way, they were the perfect couple for their time. Life was new to them, and radio was new to the world. Just as they were learning how to live, the medium of radio was doing the same. And as the medium grew, so did Burns and Allen. Successfully wooing his rival for Gracie’s affections wasn’t easy; but he did it just the same. When she fell ill out west on a vaudeville tour with George, he made sure she never received his flowers or calls, sort of “salting the shaft” you might say. Call it what you like, he got the girl.

From radio the two moved on to do several movies, many with other stars in productions like Broadway melody of 1932, which was their first big film. And who can forget them with W.C. Fields in “The Big Broadcast of 1936”? That is still one of my favorite films to watch when I am feeling down.

The book serves as a tribute by Mr. Burns to his wife, who died at the age of 58 years old from a heart condition. But along the way, she ran for President on the Surprise Party Ticket against Roosevelt in 1940, launched a nationwide search for her brother; who really did exist and was not missing; and generally surpassed the standard for the “Dumb Dora” type of actress, while still preserving her own artistic integrity. As George Burns points out, she never threw a pie, nor took one in the face for a laugh. She got her laughs as being the soul of the nation. They came to love her through her appearance on radio, in movies, and still later, in their own living rooms as Gracie and Allen explored the limits of a new medium called television.
Written in 1988, when George Burns didn’t know he had another dozen years to go, he kept us laughing right up until the end, but never forgot his beginnings. Each time he would plan to do a new show; or make a movie; he would go to the cemetery where Gracie was buried and talk to her about it. If the vibes were right, he’d do it. One of the greatest love stories to ever come out of Hollywood, this book is a loving tribute to a woman who was so much more than she appeared to be. And when you find out just who she truly was, you will love her all the more. Oh, by the way, George Burns wasn’t half bad himself. It’s just that he was twice as good with Gracie. I hope he’s puffing on his cigar. (Read this book and then you will understand that last line.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Boardwalk Empire" with Steve Buscemi (2012)

On the eve of Prohibition becoming the law of the land, Atlantic City County Treasurer Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi, is about to make a lot of money. He already controls everything else in town, from prostitution to gambling, so why not get in on Prohibition from the very start?  With his brother as a State Trooper and the rest of the Boardwalk beholden to him for all manner of “favors” he has done them in the past, you would think that “Nucky’s” life would be one free from trouble. But trouble seems to stalk him, turning some of his most cherished dreams into a living nightmare of deceit and confusion as he struggles with fellow politicians, as well as criminal rivals, such as Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Arnold Rothstein.

Set in the hotels along the famed Boardwalk of Atlantic City, this series takes you inside the brothels and jazz joints that then flourished under Prohibition. There is also the story of “Nucky’s” past, and his childhood with a drunken firefighter for a father. That past plays a large role in who he is, and just what motivates him emotionally. Surrounded by a cast of characters which will leave your head spinning, and beautiful sets; where every detail is correct for the era; this series is textured and well written.
A relentlessly driven Federal Agent, along with a destitute young woman; who quickly becomes “Nucky’s” lover, as well as his conscience; make the story compelling. It begs the question of what drives people to do what they do, and how hey justify it. Written by Terence Winter and Produced by Martin Scorsese, this is a series which will have you looking forward to each episode.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Figs From the Garden" by Sue

These are Sue’s figs. I don’t normally show photos of my wife’s figs to total strangers, but I am exceptionally proud of her ability to coax food from the ground, an ability that; as a native of Brooklyn; eludes me. She started with a small bush last year, and we both watered it faithfully at noon each day with about a gallon of water. We did this religiously, whether it had rained or not. And he results are in.

This is the most easily grown natural treat you will ever find. Eaten right from the tree; which the bush has now become, as seen in the photo below; the little golf ball sized fruits are a wonderful relief from the sun. And served indoors, merely sliced on a cold plate, adds to the delight. The bush was exceptionally inexpensive; it cost only about $7; and it bore fruit within 6 months. But you gotta remember to water it! The more water it gets, the juicier and sweeter the fruit.

There were a couple of days this summer when you could actually watch it droop while waiting for the daily watering. But those were the exceptionally hot days, when the temperature soared to over 100 degrees.
Up until now, my only experience with figs came in the Middle East, where the fruit is grown abundantly. But, through the imagination and hard work of Sue, my Garden of Eden out back now includes a fig tree. I can actually lie outside now, and when I get thirsty just grab a fig. That’s what I call being wealthy. Now I can’t wait to see how my cotton does. If all goes well, I may have enough to make a small handkerchief.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"The BangBang Club" with Ryan Phillippe and Malin Akerman (2011)

When you open your morning paper; or turn on your TV for news; you are confronted by images that, while they may be unpleasant, represent the reality of the world in which we live. This film tells the story of the men; and women; who take those photos; and the people who buy them. The subject is deftly handled by director Steven Silver, who explores the difference between journalism and opportunism, in war torn South Africa in the early 1990’s, as Apartheid was dying.

As the vacuum of leadership under the Mandela rule, the new country was plagued with tribal warfare, largely in the area of Soweto, where some of this story takes place. The ANC, the African Army, took sides in the tribal warfare that erupted between the newly freed South Africans, and their Hutu rivals, who had come to South Africa for jobs. This warfare required the newly formed government to take sides, aiding the native Zulus against the immigrant workers, resulting in massacres.
Into the middle of all of this comes fresh faced photographer Greg Marinovich , played by Ryan Phillippe, who fearlessly goes where no one else has dared to go before; inside the Zulu camps to hear their side of the story.  He is then befriended by the local photographers who freelance for the leading publications of our time and call themselves the “BangBang Club.” When Greg witnesses a man being burned alive; and wins the Pulitzer Prize for it; he begins to question his own motives; as well as his colleagues; in their pursuit of the news.

A very realistic look at the side of the news we do not ordinarily see, this film is contemporary and speaks to the inhumanity of man against man, as well as what drives those of us who stand on the side and watch, or the ones who take the photos.

Monday, September 10, 2012

"The Last Sultan" by Robert Greenfield (2011)

Robert Greenfield has done a masterful job in this sprawling biography of both Ahmet Ertegun and Atlantic Records. As a matter of fact, the stories of the two are almost inseparable. Author Robert Greenfield, using the words of many of Mr. Ertegun’s friends and business associates has put all of the stories, and history, together in a most readable manner.

From his birth in 1923 to an aristocratic family in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, to ruling over his own fiefdom in the music industry, Ahmet Ertegun was a man who loved to tell stories and live life fully. He was also one of the most beloved men in an industry filled with back stabbers. A hard negotiator when necessary, he could also be enormously generous to the artists who signed contracts with him and his label, Atlantic Records.

Mr. Greenfield does a thorough job of acquainting the reader with Mr. Ertegun’s background and how he came to America. Then he begins the real story of how this man’s love for black music, at a time when Jim Crow still reigned supreme in the South, built an empire consisting of some of the greatest musical talent of the time.
Whether he was down South, or roaming the streets of New York, London, or Los Angeles, he was always in touch with the rhythm of the “scene”. He had a natural “ear” for what was good or bad. In short, he had his fingers on the pulse of a generation, and he used that insight to bring some of the greatest music to the forefront of our lives.

From his very beginnings in the record business, until the end of his storied career, he knew no color, unless it was green. A man of many contradictions he would buy his suits of the rack for a hundred bucks, and then have them re-cut by a hotel tailor for 50 bucks more. And, even with that strategy he managed to make the list of the 10 Best Dressed Men at least 5 years in a row.
From his relationships with Bobby Darin, Professor Longhair and Ray Charles; whom he lost to another label; to his “scouting” out new talent, the man was a visionary. He helped to propel Steve Stills, of Buffalo Springfield fame, to the top of the charts; and then was instrumental in putting together Crosby, Stills and Nash. His friendships with Phil Spector, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie are well known, but in Mr. Greenfield’s hands these stories seem to come alive.

One of the most illuminating parts of this book concerned the Payola scandal, in which record companies were accused of paying disc jockeys to play their records. The federal government got involved and all the record companies were coerced into signing an agreement with the government barring this type of conduct in the future. Only two companies refused to sign. One was Chess, and the other was Atlantic. Their mutual attorney, Paul Marshall, argued correctly, that the original charges used to ruin Alan Freed’s career were baseless. The charges all hinged on the belief that all gratuities paid to the disc jockey belonged to the stations. Mr. Marshall countered that these “gifts” were merely “tips”, and if tipping was not in violation of the disc jockey’s terms of employment, then no crime had been committed.
He further argued that since the crime of payola, which stated that it “consisted of changing and affecting public taste”, did not apply when the disc jockey, or artist were already known. Since they were already recognized by the public, no change in taste could be affected. I found this section particularly interesting.

From race records to pop music, Ahmet Ertegun affected a whole generation of music lovers, leaving behind a whole world of music. His presence, at a time and place when social mores were changing, left us with years and years of music to enjoy. And that’s not a bad legacy at all. Filled with stories about almost every artist you can imagine, this book will leave you very satisfied, as well as a bit more knowledgeable about the music industry in general.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Aunt Minnie - Little Woman, Big Secret

When I was a kid my favorite Aunt, on my mother’s side, was Minnie Marcus. She was a tiny woman, as you can see in the photo above. At the age of eleven I was already just about as tall as she was. But this little woman held a big secret, which was never revealed until she told the story to her daughters on her deathbed several years ago.

The story came to me through my second cousin, Jana, with whom I share a grandfather. He was married to my grandmother and after a bitter divorce, remarried and had kids with his second wife as well. Jana is one of those grandkids, and has been kind enough to share the family story, from her side, on several occasions, each time shedding more light on a family history that was in many ways vague.

Dear Marcus Clan,

Greetings all.  It has been a long time since we connected.  I hope everyone Is doing well and had a great summer. Boy, do I have a story for you!!

Back in 2007, Marion and Ginny shared a story with me:

When William Marcus's daughter, Minnie Marcus Newman, was on her death bed she was living with her daughter-in-law, Marion Newman and grandchildren, and told them that when she was a young girl she heard that her father William was facing a court trial in Boston, and she traveled on her own, to see what it was all about. Supposedly she sat in the back, and when a woman came before the judge and claimed William was the father of her child, Minnie ran from the courthouse crying, and never spoke of it again (and never heard the rest of the paternity suit either). Stanley Rothstein recalled being told there were cousins in Boston, when William first came to America.  Additionally, several years ago Alan and I found William's death certificate and it states his parents’ names: Louis Marcus and Hester Schonfeld.
Last night I found an historic archive of Boston newspapers online and decided to investigate. Wow---front page news in 1913!!
Here is the truth behind the remarkable story that Minnie Marcus told on her death bed about a Marcus paternity suit in Boston.
Seems as though William Marcus went to Boston in 1913 in search of his father, who had been missing for many years.  At the same time William discovers a half-sister, Rosie Marcus Burnstein, who is also looking for her father, Louis Marcus.  Rose's mother, Jennie (or Bessie) Marcus identifies a Boston Jeweler named Victor Schonfeld as really being Louis Marcus, whom shesays she married in Russia 45 years earlier, and he had abandoned his family.
Victor Schonfeld denies that he is Louis Marcus, and sues Rosie Marcus Burnstein, and her husband Joseph Burnstein, for slanderous bigamy charges. The case goes to court, and our William is there and testifies that Schonfeld is indeed his father, Louis Marcus.
Schonfeld brings witnesses to the trial that testify he is not Louis Marcus, and ultimately the case is closed and Schonfeld is awarded 1 cent in damages from the Burnstein's.
Obviously the Burnstein's are the Boston cousins that we had heard about. The four articles from the Boston Journal are attached.  Here's where the story gets really curious:
1. Schonfeld was Louis Marcus's first wife's maiden name.  Is it a coincidence that Victor Schonfeld would use his first wife's maiden name as an alias?
2. How did William know about this case?  He must have tracked down his father or something, because according to the newspaper article he did not know Rose Marcus Burnstein, his half-sister, until they met in court.
3.  If Schonfeld was really Louis Marcus, his traits of abandoning his children were definitely repeated in Max Marcus's behavior.
Any thoughts on this?  Write back...this is fascinating
Love to all,
Cousin Jana

Saturday, September 8, 2012

"Popeye for President" (1956)


Cartoons have long been a staple of American political satire, from their first appearance in the early newspapers; to the more modern cartoons such as this one; they have always held a special place in the hearts of most Americans. In this classic from 1956, we get a look at just how far the candidates will go in order to get elected.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Reading for Fun - A Self Portrait

I began to read a new book the other day; I had just cracked the cover of the book which I intend to review next week; when I realized that I had no idea which book I had picked up, nor what the subject was about. I frequently have several books going at once, sort of a juggling act which I enjoy doing, but I always know which book I am reading. Apparently ,not this time. However, in  my defense I offer the following;

I had just turned to the first page of Chapter One; I read the Introductions, etc. later on, after I have gotten the flavor of the book, so as to avoid being steered in any direction other than that of the author’s own words within the narrative. This book begins with the line, “Fred Whalen learned to scam along the Mississippi, the river that divides America, at pool halls and revivals.” Great line; it  hooked me from the get-go, it has the elements of time and place, along with the personal type of pitch which appeals to me. In short; it made me want to read more; and I am in the process of doing just that. We'll have to wait and see if it can hold my interest against the other two I'm reading.
But, my greater point is this; I have finally reached the point I always dreamt about; I have become that absent minded, besieged by books, slightly confused type of old guy I always wanted to be. And, I actually understood Clint East Eastwood the other night. You got a problem with that?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"The Salt of the Earth" with Will Greer and David Wolfe (1954)

“Salt of the Earth” holds the honor of being the only film ever blacklisted, and actively pursued by the law, in the history of the United States. It was more vigorously harassed than even any pornography which existed at the time. And the saddest part of the whole thing is this; the story is based on fact, and as such is really the story of a group of zinc miners in New Mexico during the 1930’s. This band of miners, consisting of both Mexican and Anglo workers, along with their wives, lived in deplorable conditions, prompting the men to call for a strike. 

This film may seem to be poorly acted at times; and if so, is to be excused. You see, most of the cast are the actual members of the Local Zinc Miners Union, and not actors at all. Just people; like you and I. The actual strike lasted 8 months, with no settlement in sight, until the women stepped in. With their children’s stomachs to be filled, these women could wait no longer to get the strike settled, so they pitched in in the best way they could. They got arrested, causing all kinds of logistical problems; including dirty diapers; for the local constabulary. This hastened them to put pressure on the mine owners to settle with the workers, who were none too happy to be at home washing clothes.
More important than the actual story is the example set by all who pitched in together to organize for change. Together there is nothing that cannot be achieved. It is only when we let the powers that be keep us divided by class, race, religion or sexual and political persuasion that they have any power over us at all. And that is what scared the government so much about this film.

The story not only speaks to labor equality, but is also one of the earliest films to encompass feminism and the deprivations of all workers. Being released in the midst of the McCarthy Era did it absolutely no good, as it was banned; and that ban was widely enforced.

The film was written and directed by Herbert Biberman, who had been among the Hollywood Ten, which was a group of directors singled out by the House of Un-American Activities during the McCarthy Era witch-hunts as being a subversive, and therefore a danger to society. His real crime, of course, was his unwillingness to name other people to be persecuted by McCarthy and his aides, who included future Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
A very educational and groundbreaking film; which also explores the issue of illegal immigration; this is a film that you will want to see more than once, if only to see whether your reactions to the issues remain consistent with what you think you believe, versus whether you have changed.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Frank Sinatra Spectacular - 1965


The night before this TV special was recorded in St. Louis for a charity benefit in 1965, Joey Bishop slipped a disc in his back. While this was bad for Mr. Bishop, it was a wonderful opportunity for Johnny Carson, the King of late night TV at the time, to work with one of the hottest acts in entertainment history.  Acting as the emcee for, and sometimes performing with, the legendary trio was one of the self-confessed highlights of Mr. Carson’s long and storied career in show business.

The show was recorded and beamed live via closed circuit TV to selected movie theaters across the country on June 20th, 1965. The broadcast originated at the Kiel Opera House in St. Louis.
Whatever else needs to be explained about this video is done in Mr. Carson’s introduction to the show. So, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"FDR and Chief Justice Hughes" by James F. Simon (2012)

The old saying about how everything changes, yet remains the same, is highlighted in this book highlighting the battle between the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Charles Hughes, and Franklin Roosevelt, the President of the United States, over the Presidents “New Deal” policies. More than just a chronicle of events, the author takes the time to study each man’s past in an effort to more fully understand the differences in the two.

Within the first 5 days of his administration taking over the office of the Presidency, FDR enacted sweeping changes which put him; as well as the changes he did manage to make permanent; at odds with certain interests in the financial community. That chasm still exists today. And that’s what makes this book so important to read. At a time when we should be using the success of the New Deal to wriggle our way back to financial security as a nation, we seem to be having the same old arguments about how that recovery should take place.

Harry Truman once said that “The only thing new is the history you don’t know.” I quote that often, mainly because it is true. Within days of his taking office, FDR had declared a bank holiday, and suspended trading in silver and gold, using the Banking Acts of the First World War as his precedent to do so. He then went on radio to deliver the first of his “fireside chats”, explaining to the average American just how the financial system worked. After only three days the banks which had been allowed to reopen showed twice the amount of deposits as they did withdrawals. By the 15th of March, a mere 2 weeks after the new administration took control, Wall Street re-opened, surging well ahead of the markets in Europe, and racking up the highest gains in 6 months.
Of course these changes did not sit well with many people in the banking profession. Particularly glaring were the changes regarding the Gold Standard, which had many of the more well-heeled industrialists fulminating. Eventually the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Hughes, struck down the New Deal as being Unconstitutional, leaving an exasperated FDR to come up with a new plan which would pass the courts muster. This is the part where he tried, through a failed attempt at legislating the age of retirement for the Justices on the Court, 6 of whom were over the age of 70. He hoped to be able to “pack” the court with Justices who would uphold his legislation. Although his motives may have been pure, his thinking was not.

The framers of the Constitution had made a point of having Supreme Court Justices appointed for life. They did this for a very good reason. In order to keep the Supreme Court from becoming a “plumb” position; handed out as a reward to political lackeys; they envisioned the positions to be life-long. This ensured that no party, no matter how long they might retain control of the Executive Branch of Government, could maintain control of the Court. The Court, like the Executive and Legislative Branches, was to act separately, answering only to their interpretation of the Constitution under which it was formed.
The book is filled with the history of both Franklin Roosevelt and his family, as well as that of Chief Justice Hughes. Even if the book were completely devoid of the struggle between the two men over the New Deal, the histories of their respective families would be interesting enough on their own.

Throughout the book, as the two men circle one another over this issue, the reader cannot help but admire the tenacity of both parties as they struggle to do what they feel is right for the American people. Both men were brilliant statesmen, making the tale of their adversity all the more remarkable.

Fully researched, and deftly written, this is the perfect book to help you get through both Conventions. It contains the seeds of the economic struggle which still rages in America today, as the “haves” try their best to bring back the days when the rest of us were “have nots.”

Monday, September 3, 2012

Convention Alternatives

I don’t know about you, but I have been going out of my way to avoid the 2 freak shows which have been masquerading as Conventions this past week, as well as the one just beginning. (This is quite an accomplishment on my part, considering the Democrats have taken over Charlotte, and the surrounding environs, which is where I live.) To that end I have accumulated some of my favorite all time movies about the Presidency to watch; all of which I have seen before. But with nothing new, or unexpected, set to happen at the Conventions, I have been getting the better part of the bargain.
 
In the first film, “The Manchurian Candidate”, pictured above, the Convention becomes the backdrop of an assassination plot to kill the party nominee while he is at the Podium. The most fascinating thing about this movie is that it was made 1 year prior to John Kennedy’s assassination, allegedly at the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald, who had been involved in some of the same mind control experiments as Laurence Harvey’s character in the film. As a matter of fact, this film; much like the Zapruder film of JFK’s murder; was taken out of circulation for 25 years. It’s re-release only came about due to a conversation between Larry King and Frank Sinatra, in which Mr. King asked why the movie was never shown after its initial run. Sinatra didn’t know it, but the film had been purchased from the studio and then locked in Sinatra’s vault without his knowledge. The film was re-released in the late 1980’s by Mr. Sinatra. If you have never seen this original version of the film, this is a good week to do it.
 
In “Seven Days in May”, which was actually filmed in the family quarters of the White House; much to the dismay of Jackie Kennedy; Frederic March plays the President. He has just signed a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Russians, which invokes the ire of his Joint Chiefs of Staff, who then plot to overthrow the civilian government. Burt Lancaster plays the villain in this thriller, which mirrors the events of the time to a tee. Only an accidental observation by Kirk Douglas saves the day in this thriller, which was actually viewed pre-release by President Kennedy. He had already read the book 3 times upon its release in 1960. 
 
“Dr. Strangelove” is another off my favorite movies involving the Presidency. In this film, Sterling Hayden plays a Major in charge of a Strategic Air Command base who decides to preserve our American way of life; and our precious bodily fluids; by taking a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. With George C. Scott playing the General who is tasked with recalling the planes, and Peter Sellers playing multiple roles; including the President; this is a satire which exposed some of the weaknesses in our official policy of Mutually Assured Destruction.
  
"John Adams”, with Paul Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, is another movie high on the list of films about the Presidents. This mini-series is at once a story of a man, his marriage, and the birth of a nation. No matter what you might think of John Adams, the movie is superbly written, produced and performed.

There are several more movies about the Presidency which I have been watching in lieu of the Conventions, but these are just a few of the best. Turn off your TV and slip in a disc. You’ll be glad you did.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

"Come Together" - Black America Sings Lennon and McCartney" (2011)

 
Music crosses all barriers of race and culture. It's primal. When you hear something that you like, it pleases you. It doesn't matter if you're a stone cold racist; Little Richard is just plain good. During the 1950's America was deluged with what were called "race" records at the time. That is; they were black artists singing gospel infused blues music, which quickly came together with the blues to form a new genre in music; rock and roll. That's one direction on the two way street of music.
 
But just as the American artists of the 1950's influenced the British artists of the time, the British Invasion which came of that music, came to inspire the same artists back in America. By 1969 Aretha Franklin was singing "Let It Be” even before the Beatles released their version. And Wilson Pickett was doing "Hey Jude", with Duane Allman on guitar, to tremendous success.
 
Good music is like that, it crosses; or passes through; anything in its way. When Howlin' Wolf howled; and Little Richard shrieked; white America and all of England took note. So, it was really great to see that some of these same American artists were equally enthralled with the sounds that were coming back at America.
 
This 2011 release pays homage to the 4 guys who led the British Invasion, and had been influenced by Chuck Berry, Mary Wells, Fats Domino, Little Richard and a host of others. All of the artists I have mentioned; with the exception of Chuck Berry; appear on this album singing songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Some of the selections were a real surprise to me. Long familiar with the Wilson Pickett version of "Hey Jude"; with Duane Allman's searing guitar;  and Aretha Franklin's version of "Let It Be"; which was actually a present to her from Mr. McCartney; I was more surprised at the scope of songs, as well as the artists, who are included in this unusual collection.
 
Billy Preston doing "Blackbird" was almost expected, as he had been working with the Beatles at the time McCartney wrote the song. But Chubby Checker doing "Back in the USSR" came as a surprise, even though it is basically the twist, for which Mr. Checker is widely known.
 
Fats Domino rocks out on Lennon's "Me and My Monkey", and I was shocked that Chairmen of the Board, known mostly for their beach music, would even tackle something as political as the title song "Come Together".  Below is a list of the 24 tracks on this album, which is unique in its concept of having African-American interpretations of British "pop" music. Check out the unusual, and different, renditions of some of your favorite Beatles tunes done by some of the premier African-American artists of our time. And, when you do, you will understand that there are no boundaries when it comes to music.
 

1. Back in the USSR - Chubby Checker
2. We Can Work It Out - Maxine Brown
3. Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey - Fats Domino
4. Ticket to Ride - Wee Willie Walker
5. Good Day Sunshine - Roy Redmond
6. Please Please Me - Mary Wells
7. Eleanor Rigby - Gene Chandler
8. And I Love Her - The Vibrations
9. Come Together - Chairmen Of The Board
10. Blackbird - Billy Preston
11. Paperback Writer - R.B. Greaves
12. Rocky Racoon - The Moments
13. Drive My Car - Black Heat
14. Lady Madonna - Junior Parker
15. Help - David Porter
16. Yesterday - Linda Jones
17. Day Tripper (previously unissued alternate take 4) - Otis Redding
18. Why Don't We Do It in the Road - Lowell Fulson
19. I Saw Her Standing There - Little Richard
20. Don't Let Me Down - Donald Height
21. Get Back - The Main Ingredient
22. The Long and Winding Road - The New Birth
23. I Want to Hold Your Hand - Al Green
24. Let It Be - Aretha Franklin