Saturday, October 28, 2006

Mark Twain, Jesse James and Harry S Truman

From 1979 to 1983, I was the Director of Tourism for Missouri and my job was to advertise and promote the state as a destination for tourists and conventions. Mark Twain had lived in and wrote about Hannibal so he was part of our image.

British Caledonian Airways started non-stop service between St. Louis and London while I was Director so we set up a trade mission to take the Missouri story overseas. The airline supplied the seats and a group of businessmen accompanied us to the U.S. Embassy in London where we gave a rousing Mid-America presentation. We pointed out that since we were in the heart of America, we were "on their way" to anything in the USA.

As I researched the state's history to come up with superlatives, I realized that Twain was taught in British schools just as Shakespeare is studied in ours, so I brought along an actor who gave a rip-snorting, knee slapping 40-minute twangy Twain speech, immaculate in a white suit, hair in disarray and smoking a stogie. He really impressed this "Show Me" UK crowd.

Research also showed, and I shared this with the audience, that Jesse James was a well known Missourian as was President Harry S Truman. Unfortunately, it was in that order. Sorry Mr. President

So it's fair to say I am a fan of Mark Twain.

However, the picture above was not taken during the Missouri trip. Many years before - about 1958 - Hal Holbrook had just started doing his "Mark Twain Tonight!" and I snapped him during a show at Camp Lejeune, NC.

The color photo to the left was when I showed that photo to Mr. Holbrook backstage after he appeared as Twain in Charleston a few years ago. He graciously signed it for me and said "I remember that furniture." He also added that he spends a lot less time putting on makeup these days. Do the math.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

... With 26,008 Close Personal Friends

On Friday the 13th, I was part of the writhing floor level crowd literally "inhaling" Wide Spread Panic at the N. Charleston Coliseum and Tuesday night I was seated comfortably in the 8th row enjoying Eric Clapton and his band in smoke-free Charlotte. Yikes, what a week.

Let me add quickly that at both concerts the rules stated quite clearly "no cameras or recording devices permitted" so I did NOT take my small digital camera. I was probably the ONLY person among 8,000 Charleston fans and 18,000 in Charlotte's Bobcat Arena who did NOT hold up a cell phone. Mine only makes phone calls.

I found the Clapton photo online but feel justified in using it because 1. Even though it was taken two cities before, everything looked the same, 2. The t-shirt cost $35! 3. The ticket price was about what I had paid here for a ticket for The Eagles.

I found some WSP photos online but they were too small to import and view.

The Robert Cray band opened for Clapton and Derek Trucks was lead guitar so the show was awesome. We all were in assigned seats but stood most of the show. When Clapton sat for a brief acoustic set, we all sat down too but were up again shortly.

A fellow fan who had been to five Clapton shows said he felt this was the best he had ever seen and heard. I agree...based on just this one live concert and my extensive CD blues collection.

The drive up I-26 was rainy most of the way, then foggy and wall-to-wall with fast-moving, lane-changing 18-wheelers. (And one 17-wheeler that had a missing rear inside wheel. I'd never seen that before).

Maybe Tuesday was Trucker Day?

November 1 Taj Mahal plays Charleston Music Hall so I'll be edging my way to the front.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Riding My Time Machine. Again.

So I Googled some names of people I know from the 1970s and came up with a delightful lady in Los Angeles who currently is the Associated Press "Trial Maven." Someone who now held a position once described as a "sob sister writer" back in the day.

She rated front row PRESS seats for the Manson trial, the O.J. Trial, The Menendez Brothers, Michael "Jacko" Jackson, etc. I ran with that group for about half a year then dropped out for measly tourism promotion which was less newsy, less spectacular and a helluva lot less bloody.

She is the leader in fast-paced, front page tabloid journalism. This is cut-throat competition. Impossible deadlines. High profile trials. Hey, we all saw and enjoyed Richard Gere starring in "CHICAGO." And, if you're old enough, remember the newspaper-types in "Front Page?" A different world!

After an extensive online search, I actually found an e-mail address for Linda and dropped her a note from "someone in your really, really, really distant past." I had given her a beer toast at a Halloween party while wearing handcuffs for Pete's sake.(Me cuffed, not Linda. She was probably holding a reporter's notebook)

She wrote back immediately. (I LOVE high technology.) As a Chinese proverb - or something Asian - says "we live in interesting times." I warned her this whole thing might end up in my blog so read on...

We're talking about Charlie Manson & The Family and the 1971 trial where all the principals were sentenced to death and then, within a year, the ultimate penalty was eliminated and now - 35 years later - they've all been turned down for parole about 13 times each. They will die in prison for their heinous crimes.

But, I was told, my days as the CBS TV News newbie were still remembered and there are photos hanging on the wall in the Los Angeles D.A.'s office of our extremely weird and tasteless media Helter Skelter Halloween party that was held during the trial.

I had showed up dressed in denim shirt and jeans as Charlie with a swastika carved in my forehead (theatrical clay) to duplicate the "other" Chuck. A helpful neighbor policeman in Burbank had loaned me official cuffs so I showed up with my hands properly manacled behind my back.

I was officially restrained yes, but quickly realized I was not able to drink so I gave Linda the key, and she unlocked me and re-positioned my hands in front so I could accept what the bartender offered.

No pictures received yet but I've been promised that some are on the way. Stay tuned.

They tell me that in one photo I am handcuffed to another reporter and sitting on her lap. Did I mention that, in those days, I could pretend to look VERY drunk for the camera if needed. I expect this will prove that ability.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Paris Hilton Update

A very popular celebration happens the end of this month and, whether or not you are religeous, if you like free candy, it's a great evening. Of course I am talking about Hallowe'en. And I mean the way it USED to be celebrated when I was growing up in downtown Charleston.

I have not recently seen a child holding a string and pulling a shoebox down the sidewalk with a lighted candle inside. The box had windows and designs cut out on the sides and tissue paper covered the openings. The flickering light shone through the shadows, dancing along the sidewalk as you were joined by other friends on Wentworth Street in Ansonborough, lighted shoeboxes trailing along behind. A crowd of 3 or 4 made quite a shimmering spectacle.

Shortly one of the children - usually a boy - would tip over his candle on purpose and pull the now blazing shoebox as it erupted into flames and quickly consumed itself. Then you went knocking on doors and begged for candy.

Hallowe'en was a neighborhood thing then not the car-pooling transporting around movement it has become. Now we see an invasion of strange cars and SUVs dropping children off in new areas as they go from door-to-door of people they don't know and hold open their Trick or Treat sack or pillowcases to accept candy, gum, fruit(?) and sometimes pennies.

My bank puts up posters and "gets in the mood" each year which looks strange when someone visits the customer service rep for some investment or banking advice.

Oh, I went online to refresh my memory of what the Hilton looked like when I stayed there in Paris. The lobby seems the same but they have refurbished the rooms and the suites feature a balcony view of the Eiffel Tower next door. Yes, my memories of the Paris Hilton are still treasured.