Monday, December 31, 2007

"Riding" the elevator...

Today I was back in my old stomping grounds, the Post and Courier building downtown. It's the annual drop-in for retirees and I never miss a chance to have the paper buy me something.

After pushing the floor button in the elevator, I remembered a time - back before I retired - when I was going up with 4 other people... and the phone rang.

Not a cell phone. The EMERGENCY phone hidden away in a small box in the wall of the elevator. We all know there is one but I had never heard one ring before. I opened the box, picked up the black receiver and said "Hello..Elevator."

There was a stunned silence on the other end then they hung up. Guess they had missed a digit when dialing. Later, when I checked, I did not see a number listed in our directory for the elevator.

But I did take a hard look at the inspection notice hanging in plain view. Elevators are under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Labor, the Office of Elevators and Amusement Rides.

During the annual Fair in Ladson, do you think fewer elevators get inspected?

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

IAMMMMW Fan Remembers 1963

Someone mentioned an old film called "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" by Stanley Kramer and I flashed back to a special screening in San Diego for staff members of the Union-Tribune newspaper.

The preview was in the then-new downtown Civic Center and editorial staff of the daily paper were invited to take a peek at a film which boasted "Everyone who's ever been funny is in it."

The movie ran more than 4 hours! Some of us were late going to lunch.

The final release was shortened to only about 3 hours but it was a funny, laugh-filled morning as we watched a who's who of comedy of the 50s and 60s explode on the screen.The "serious" star was Spencer Tracy and the theme is Greed with a capital "G.". Kramer had directed 4 of the last 5 Tracy films which included "Judgment At Nuremberg," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and "Inherit The Wind."

Thanks to, one is able to find movies and read all about them online - including photos. Gotta love the computer.

A side note: I had never heard of Dick Shawn before this film and got to see him perform live comedy years later in a club.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Virtual Tourism ! (Click for link)

Back in the early 1970s, I HAD to fly to Munich, Germany to attend an international tourism convention.

Hey, this was part of my job!

I was promoting Missouri as a tourism destination so I had to observe how all the other places presented themselves. It was an awesome experience to see the world package itself to accommodate visitors.

At the end of the official event, I joined a small group of fellow Missourians in two rented VW vans for a 5-day "quick Tour" of Germany, Bavaria, Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland and a tiny piece of France.

Just outside of Munich, in Upper Bavaria, we saw the Mad Ludwig Castle which was the inspiration for Disney's Cinderella Castle and stopped and walked through a pilgrimage church called Die Wies (The Fields).

Here is the picture I snapped back then of the beautiful church and also a link to a Virtual Tour that offers even better views than we had in person.

So, 30 years later, skip all that airport security angst, delays and expense and sit down at your computer and see the world.

Must be tough to be a State Director of Tourism these days.

(Click on the title and "roam" all around the church).

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Monday, December 17, 2007

This Could Be The Start Of Something Big....

So, in 1973, I was chatting with Steve Allen about how we have this nationwide Energy Crisis and people are confused and frustrated - gas is cheap but now you couldn't get any?!

I was promoting Southern California as a tourist destination but most of the customers were expected to drive or fly from cold, northern climates and from the East Coast and that required ample fuel supplies.

We shifted focus and started talking to people a lot closer. We came up with "Vacation in your own backyard. Millions of people come thousands of miles to enjoy what you have right here in Southern California."

The movie studios endorsed this energy-conscious idea and offered their celebrities to record special "Public Service" messages which we sent out to local stations. That is how I came to be in the living room of Steve Allen one sunny morning.

I had a studio sound man with me with sophisticated recording equipment and one of those large fuzzy-covered microphones. Mr. Allen had been briefed and agreed to lend his considerable talent to the effort but he kept going over my proposed script.

Finally, he looked up and said "I like to listen to Paul Harvey. He's a man of few words. No, really, if someone gave him 80 words to read in a script, he would pare it down to 40 and speak slowly. With..... Dramatic.... Pauses. And, he would stress certain words. A distinctive and memorable style."

Steve Allen started chopping words - MY words - off the page and together we came up with a shorter version that said what needed to be said. He gave us several excellent takes on the revamped copy. The sound man signaled that we were done.

Walking us to the door, Mr. Allen asked what music would be used with the short piece? I explained that we were avoiding all the problems and delays for clearance that original music would demand.

He laughed and dug out one of his albums, suggested a track to use and gave it to me along with a hand-written note of approval and permission.

"End of problem," he said and bid us a good morning.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Gas Was 30 Cents A Gallon..

Yes, that's Jack Webb on the right. I am on the left, wearing more hair than necessary.

Just the facts ma'am.

It's 1973 and we are in the first "oil crisis" of the decade. (The other one came along in 1977). Gas was selling for 29.9 a gallon (regular) until OPEC decided to back off production and frustrated people were forced to wait in long, long lines to try and get the suddenly scarce fuel.

Mr. Webb and I actually met in a recording studio at Universal Studios. I was writing Public Service announcements and he was one of the celebrities who agreed to read my words which suggested what could be done as an alternative when gas became scarce.

Ed McMahon, Steve Allen and others agreed to record these PSAs but I was REALLY thrilled to tell Jack Webb "Er, Mr. Webb, let's try that again ...and, uh, maybe with more emotion please."

He gave a second reading, then, looking over the microphone and into the glass of the booth, he said "That's it kid."

A proud moment indeed.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Setting priorities.

Back in the 60s I became friends with a neighbor in San Diego who had a great attitude about life.

Beer is to be consumed. Lots of it.

He had the first home beer dispenser setup I had ever seen: a short refrigerator to hold a keg of beer, bottled gas and a tap extending up to pour a frosty mug. Buying beer in kegs was a LOT cheaper than 6-packs or even by the case. He was in the Navy so the PX prices were even lower.

He bought two kegs of Michelob at a time, "in case one runs out over the weekend."

They lived in a 3-bedroom house and had three daughters so he built triple bunks for the girls and used one bedroom for his bar. It had sliding glass doors out to the pool. When the last daughter married and moved away, he knocked out a wall and extended his bar the whole length of the house, into the living room.

Now, he had a 1-bedroom, 1-bar home and his wife especially loved Sunday mornings..."one more sober to day up," she would proclaim.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

My Cell Phone Is Very, Very Old.

Since this blog is basically about Chuck + photography, every now and then it calls for a picture such as this.

The Post and Courier was celebrating its Bicentennial in 2003 and asked me to portray Lord Ashley Cooper.

Charleston old timers will remember Frank B. Gilbreth, a beloved local writer, who used that famous Cooper name over his Doing The Charleston column for more than 40 years. (He and his sister also wrote "Cheaper By The Dozen.")

I called around and found a theater company which had performed 1776 a few years ago and they let me borrow the coat, vest, ruffled shirt and collar and short pants. A local dance place sold me white tights and I found the perfect wig and even picked up some fake buckles to attach to my black sneakers.

Yes. I know that Ashley Cooper dates back to the 1600s but nobody had recently done a play for that period.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

I Love A Parade...

Hey, we've started the countdown to Christmas and you know what that means! Yes! A week later is the Rose Bowl and the big parade!

One year, back in 1970, Universal Studios decided to enter a float in the New Year's Day Rose Parade over in Pasadena.

I had watched the Tournament of Roses event for years on television and this year - since I now worked for the fairly new Studio Tour - I was told I would be the official liaison between the Studio and the Parade Committee.

Well, actually, what they meant was that SOMEONE had to get up long before dawn and coordinate lots of details in the cold crisp morning. I had been selected to be responsible for the expensive float and the care and comfort of the talent who would ride and walk beside it for 5.5 miles up Orange Grove and then right on Colorado Boulevard.

At 3:30am on New Years Day, the studio sent a long, shiny, black stretch limo to my modest house in Glendale to pick me up but of course all of my neighbors were asleep, my kids and then-wife dozed and everyone missed seeing my limousine moment.

I just read that Universal, for the first time since 1970, will have a 5-story "Cat in the Hat" float in the 2008 Parade. It's the 4Th float up at the head of the line so maybe I'll watch it on tv.

Some poor guy will have a limo pick him up early. Hope there's a thermos of hot coffee in the back. I took my own.

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