Friday, February 28, 2014

Stan, Ollie and Chuck....

Thousands will attend the April 7-13, 2014 Masters Golf tournament in Augusta.

I wonder how many realize just a short drive away, in Harlem, GA, is the Laurel & Hardy Museum.

I pass the exit sign twice each time I go to Atlanta for music concerts.

This time, after seeing the Eagles at Philips Arena on a Monday night, I stopped in Harlem on the drive back to visit "the boys."

Oliver Norvell Hardy, the larger of the two, was born here in 1892

Linda Caldwell, the charming museum director, toured me around.

She pointed out various items in the huge collection of memorabilia from the U.S. and from England, where Stan Laurel was born.

"We have a Friday Movie Night here," she gestured around a large room filled with folding chairs.

"We have a copy of ALL their films but usually show just some of the short ones."

Linda pointed out original movie poster cards on the wall and some that were reproductions.

On the first Saturday in October, the 25th annual L&H Festival drew 35,000 visitors.

More than 300 food stands, arts and crafts and other booths were set up along the main street and around the square.

Linda asked to hold my camera and suggested I hop in the car to take a spin with Stan and Ollie.

Just before she snapped the shutter, I was handed a black bowler hat.

I wanted to be one of the boys so I waved it as we enjoyed riding along on "A Perfect Day," the name of one of their feature films.

There's even a fan in place to create a wind-blown effect if you are shooting a video, Linda added.

Gotta love the business of show.

This particular poster, printed on fine paper, captured the duo in a way that reminded me of a Saturday Evening Post cover.

It had that Norman Rockwell feel.

I'm pretty sure Linda said it was not a cover on that magazine but "the boys" were included in a Fall 1971 issue.

It was amazing to see the array of items that carried the two faces or scenes from their films.

Ollie met his impish co-star by accident when Stan came to America as Charlie Chaplin's stand-in,  I was told.

The rest - as they say - is history.

Wandered around for a while, looking at all the displayed faces and figures then realized I should get back on the road home.

Apparently school bus drivers  knew their riders schedules and I joined a queue of yellow vehicles in a convoy up to the high school.

They turned off into the home of the Harlem Bulldogs.

Hmm, I would have expected a more imaginative name, like the Harlem Globe Something or other.

Or some tie-in to The Boys.

Or perhaps even Hooters over in Augusta.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Later, online, I saw that a dancing scene from one of their movies had been dubbed with a Santana song.

This should take you to the link or you could look it up on YouTube.
You'll have a LOL moment.

The boys were great.

"Another fine mess, Ollie."

Here's a story I received from a former San Diego newspaperman I know who saw this blog.

Joe had left the paper to be a successful ventriloquist and was invited to attend an event for the Way Out West tent of the famed Sons Of The Desert.

Joe performed for Lois, Stan's daughter and for Stan's great grandson. Here's his story:

          On the Laurel and Hardy museum, I have story to tell about "the boys" and those who remember them. In the late 90s I was contacted by the "Way out West" tent of the Sons of the Desert, the mock fraternal group started in honor of them using the title of Sons of the Desert, one of their best received movies. They asked if I'd do a short presentation and they couldn't pay but I'd be their guest at dinner. Since I once had a L&H autograph (one of many things sold to finance my ventriloquism/show biz switch from daily newspapers) and (then) had VHS tapes of many of their movies, and had studied the GREAT L&H silents when I was in high school, I jumped at the chance.
          I was going to do a short bit with my main character and maybe one or two more. About two nights later I woke up with a song lyric and sat down and within about three minutes (it came out of the blue this never happened again) wrote a lyric honoring them to the tune of Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen. I then found I could order the karaoke with the music. It was a poignant lyric and even fitted in Jimmy Finlayson and some other things about them...perhaps a bit corny but really fit.
          Anyway, when I got there I did the bit and they were very receptive. The main dummy would make some comments flirting with this older woman in front whose eyes were popping out of her head she was so fascinated. I only later learned it was Stan Laurel's daughter Lois.
          I then did my lip sync where I get people up, they put on ratty wigs and lip sync Tutti Frutti. Before I arrived I had the bright idea: why not have them wear hats like Laurel and Hardy? No one would think of that! Of course when I got there some did have those hats including the great Chuck McCann who did is Oliver Hardy as another comedian did Stan Laurel in an act after mine.
          When I got the volunteers up, one who looked about 17 or 18 took the hat and looked at the audience which started to roar. Then he put it on and they laughed harder. I later learned he was Stan Laurel's great grandson. (I should have known: he resembled photos of the very young Laurel).
          I sat a table with the then-elderly woman who was the little girl in the Little Rascals fire engine wooed by a rich kid and a member of the gang. "Whitey" from the Bowery Boys was there. At my table there was on woman who had incredible pizzazz, and we talked about a lot of things. When we talked about early cartoons I told her how much I had liked the very much pioneering Crusader Rabbit as a tiny kid. Turns out she HAD BEEN the voice of Crusader Rabbit.
          And then I saw Tommy "Butch Bond" who was the original Butch in The Little Rascals. I and told him he was my favorite kid actor -- and realized I had seen his work only as a kid via TV when he was already an adult. He told me, "I loved what you did. You keep on doing what you're doing!" Several years later I was at the swap meet. This was when they released the restored Little Rascals on VHS tapes. There was a booth with an even older Tommy Butch Bond with a sign: "The Original Butch Autographs $5" Years later when he passed I learned that his wife died so he moved in with his son who was in San Diego County (or so I was told). I told him I had met him at the Sons of the Desert. "Yes -- and I hope you still doing what you were doing!" (A side tidbit he was the producer for ventriloquist Paul Winchell's metromedia show and really found Winchell a pain. In his book he details how an official made sure he got the news first about Winchell's cancellation as a kind of "gift.")
          I need to add that I still watch and study Laurel and Hardy. A GREAT set is now out of their restored shorts. These include a few that were dubbed in Spanish, French and Italian. In the early days they hadn't moved to dubbing so Hal Roach would refilm it, using native speakers in key roles when he could. I'm told their accents were awful in Spanish but they did the lines well and those shorts remain highly popular.
          I don't put my demo on this list but for those interested in the lip sync I did with Stan Laurel's great grandson a version of it is on this 2001 demo (which starts out with my bit on NBC's Spy TV).
          And a footnote: at that Way out West meeting: they took us on a tour of the places where movies such as The Music Box (the stairway) and Big Business (where they destroyed a house) were filmed, as well as the Culver City streets and hotel where some scenes were shot. The person who invited me explained that they figured this would be one of the last chances to do this -- because all of these people were quickly dying off. The groups still operate -- people come out at meetings to watch viewings of the sound and silent movies and maybe have a guest speaker -- but there are fewer. At that time there was one in San Diego, but I don't know if it still exists. I'm sure the Culver City one still does.


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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Where Eagles Soar....

Don Henley was one of the founders of The Eagles.

Still in fine voice and quite the showman, along with his bandmates.

I drove over to Atlanta for a concert and a night in the big city.

No trace of snow or ice!

A 3-hour show, including three encores. Yikes.

Last time I saw them was at the Charleston Coliseum.

That also was a sell-out audience.

This evening at the Phillips Arena was a recounting of the History of The Eagles.

Beautiful production with great lighting and sound.

Well worth the drive...and expensive tickets for seats on the floor.

One, then two performers came into the spotlight as the show opened.

More came on stage, added as the history was told of the early activities in the 70s.

Successful albums and a hit single plucked from one that sailed to the top of the charts.

Loved hearing the growth stages they went through... and the 14-year "breakup" before they got back together.

As I said, the singing - and the harmony - was fantastic.

Timothy B. Schmit is featured on guitar as Henley pounds on drums, a role he performed quite often during the night.

Arena security forces were a bit much through most of the concert.

They finally eased toward the end when cellphones appeared and the audience was in a glorious, joyful mood, standing, singing, clapping and dancing.

Camera-banning enforcement did stymie my attempt to get a shot of Joe Walsh performing "Life's Been Good."

Check the link though to share the moment.

The final bow is not very good quality but it was a grab shot blown up from a wide-angle frame.

L-R are Bernie Leadon, Schmit, Glenn Frey, Henley (checkered shirt) and Joe Walsh.

Quite a history.

Quite a band.

Quite a night.

There were magic moments when all of the principals were on stage and scenic backgrounds were projected.

The lighting effects were extremely effective and added a huge element to the show.

Thanks were expressed by Don Henley at the end, to the audience, to Atlanta and the "the hundred people responsible for tearing down, transporting and re-assembling the set at every city on the tour."

Hey, I'll add my thanks too for a wonderful evening.

(Click on the photos for details.)

I guess Security does what it's told to do.

Evil cameras and cell phones.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

"Thank yuh, thank yuh very much..."

It's called Third Thursday in Summerville.

Stores downtown stay open later, vendors set up stands, entertainment is provided and a sense of community is fostered.

Some members of my Photography Group proposed a Sidewalk Photo Walk last Thursday.

I showed up because I heard Elvis would be there.

As I walked up Short Central (by the city parking garage) I heard "Love Me Tender" booming out loud and clear.

The King was there. It sounded like Elvis and the sideburns looked right.

Well, the belt buckle would help some younger folks identify the singer who was 42 when he died August 16, 1977.

I chatted with "Elvis" Larry Wiley, Director of Clinical Services for Floyd Brace, when he took a break from his karaoke machine and microphone.

"As an Elvis fan and impersonator, I was impressed by an excellent tribute performer in Las Vegas," Larry told me.

He said he congratulated the man and mentioned he was with an orthotics and prosthetics company in South Carolina.

The Vegas Elvis stated he had lost both legs and was proudly standing there as testimony that people are not handicapped by a loss of limbs.

Later, eating chicken parm on the front patio of Alessandras, others in the group told me more about Larry and his family.

He was well-known in the community as a good guy who performs as Elvis at hospital, Senior Centers and nursing homes.

"His wife made that outfit," I was told.

I believe the Photo Group will make Third Thursday - and Second Sunday downtown on King Street - a standing invitation to grab your camera and come out and join the fun.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

As we finished dinner, I saw Larry carrying speakers to his truck.

I shouted "Elvis has left the building."

He smiled and waved.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"Give The People What They Want!"

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are back. And, they're better than ever.

The Music Farm was packed - on a Monday night - to welcome Sharon back onstage from her battle with cancer.

Radiation treatments may have taken her hair but her energy and honest Soul Power has not been diminished.

Wow. I broke a sweat just watching her move around that stage.

The Dap-Kings American funk & soul band backed her dynamic performance as she showed she has NOT lost her groove, rhythm, feeling and explosive power.

Last year, just before release of their 5th studio record, "Give the people what they want," cancer was diagnosed.

Instead of worldwide touring, it was hospitals and doctors.

But now she looks great, sounds great and keeps moving.

Yes, she kicked off her shoes. It's a trademark.

She leaned from the stage to tousle the hair of fans in the front row then rubbed her head and laughed.
She paced across the stage, back and forth.

Coming to the front, she'd pick out a member of the crowd and seem to sing to him or her.

Snappy steps.

Glides and hops.

Over by the 3-man horn section...smiling at the Conga player...sailing to the edge.

I had found a spot by the stairs to the balcony and held on to it for the entire hour and a half show and encores.

Obviously Sharon was glad to be back. Enjoying being onstage again.

The crowd gave its love and she gave it back.

She says that's what got her through the medical ordeal - performing for her fans.

I had been down in front of the stage the last time I saw her at The Farm.

That night she invited some of the ladies to come up on stage and dance with her.

This night she selected two men from the audience. Both had lots of hair!

The first young man whipped out his phone and took a few "selfies" with Sharon.

Then, the lead guitar stepped over and photo bombed one of the shots by sticking his face in between them.

The second fellow was a "Mountain Man." Huge guy. He was easily half again as tall as Sharon but quick on his feet as they danced together. Funky.

The crowd loved it.

The first man climbed down off the stage, this man just stepped down. Yikes.

As Sharon left the stage after her encore, she tried to touch as many people as she could.

Yes, she was back.

And we're glad.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

The link should let you listen to tracks from the new album.

Glad to see her back in front of the crowd.


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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lyme? No, it's called Mynt.

Of course the couch is a mint green color.

Your eye goes right to it when you pass by the front window or as you enter.

A Pee Wee Herman piece of furniture?

No, not really but it was my first time to Mynt so I asked a lot of questions.

It's a bar and nightclub - a place to dance - for young professionals.

Robert (Bob) the bartender said it's been open on Calhoun Street "almost two years."

I asked what was there before and he thought it was an office supply or copier store.

Admittedly, I was there fairly early so the late night crowd had not drifted in.

I was checking it out before the Sharon Jones show over at the Music Farm.

Affable Bob let me sample a draft I had not tried before. I liked it and had him bring over a pint as I studied the menu.

"Small problem," he said as he set down a half-filled glass.

"It's probably just a gas thing I need to adjust but I'll top it off when I get it working right," he explained.

So my challenge was to drink quickly.

Walked around the place after I ordered my Philly Steak sandwich with thin fries. Lots of very large pictures of celebrities all around the room.

I'm not a young professional any more but I spotted a few I recognized.

Then I had a Charleston Bill Murray Encounter.

Well, an enlarged photo of Mr. Murray, dapper in a fedora and open collared shirt.

Very Lowcountry.

I liked the lighting on all of the portraits on display.

In fact, the entire room was wide-open and comfortable.

Bright and colorful, lots of dark wood and a lighted bar top.

I'm sure the young dancers flock there.

It's been a long time since I was a young dancer. Or even an older one.

I asked if Murray had dropped by?

"Not yet, " Bob answered, "that's kind of what we hoped would happen when we put up his picture."

The Philly was very tasty and I had a second beer after my first one was topped off.

My timing was good - that sandwich had just been added to the menu.

And I like skinny fries.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

And hit the link to the club for some really nice pictures. Some were taken with a "real" Fish Eye lens.

Oh, and look at the Pee Wee's Playhouse link.

Check out HIS furniture.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

"Here comes the sun...."

We saw that fiery bright white light in the sky this morning. 

Been quite a few days since we've seen it. 

Natives call it "the Sun." or "The Anti-Ice."

Our big 8-lane bridge has been closed for THREE days because of ice.

Not on the roadway - they used a salt slurry to clear that - but ice formed on the cables that hold the dang thing up. 

Who figured that they would freeze in an ice storm?

Or planned that they NOT freeze?

The Ravenel Bridge.

Frozen and closed. Twice in two weeks. For several days at a time.

The first time, they allowed cars back on the bridge (too soon, in hindsight) and eight were hit by falling "ice bombs." 

Several windshields were smashed but no serious injuries as cars darted and scurried across before it was quickly closed again.

Texting by drivers was seriously interrupted.

This time when the ice formed on the cables, it was even thicker and didn't shatter when it thawed and hit the ground. 

Heavier and more dangerous than before.

The bridge opened in 2005 and this is the first ice storm to hit. 

And then, another one two weeks later.

Whoever comes up with a solution to keep the ice from forming will make a lot of money!

So, the bridge re-opened today and traffic congestion-weary drivers were all over it.

Oh, and here's another happy moment for Valentine's Day I just found online. 

A Jonathan Winters clip from the old Jack Paar Show. Smile and enjoy!

Robin Williams was NOT his son but he was a huge admirer.

(Click on my photos for more detail.)

A day without sunshine....

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dear Cousins in Chicago.....

The polite Canadians, tired of being cursed each winter, have identified Chicago as the real Icy Northern invader. The weather troublemaker. Chi-Town, home of the Polar Vortex.

"Windy City" should have been a clue. An extremely COLD wind that heads south to freeze and burst pipes and cause cars to slip and slide off the road. 

Oh, the hardships here in Charleston

I have had to leave a faucet dripping. For three nights! 

Finally found a heavy jacket way, way in the back of a closet but, it's so old, it's too small

My gloves have moth holes in the fingers. I bought my first ever gallon of windshield washer fluid. It's a bright blue color.

Heated car seats don't seem quite so silly now. Sand sprinkled on a bridge here made my car look dirty.

Another eternity (a day and a half) of winter horror is predicted. 

Schools here have shut down because of "Some Pretty Chilly Days." 

The heavily traveled Ravenel Bridge was closed several hours after cars had to dodge falling ice chunks that were melting from the cables. 

Who knew bridge cables would freeze?

THE Charleston City snow plow was attached to the front of a large pick up truck "just in case."

Will Winter ever end?!

(Click on the photo for more frigid details.)

Oh, I just heard. Temps will be in the mid-70s at Folly Beach by the weekend.

I hope we can last that long!

Brrr. Y'all.

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Sunday, February 09, 2014

Psst, hey Buddy....

GO, Jonny, GO!

"Blistering" would be a good word to sum up the playing by Jonny Lang a few nights ago at the PAC.

He was the opening act for Buddy Guy at the Performing Arts Center.

I had seen him before onstage with Buddy at a salute to Jimi Hendrix, also at this venue, about a year ago.

Some reviewer had written that Jonny "had mellowed" and had "backed off" his wild and exciting guitar work.

He has NOT. If you were there, you know that!
I've seen Buddy Guy half a dozen times and enjoy each and every concert.

Especially when he does his "Walkabout."

He moved through the crowd around the stadium at ChazzFest on Daniel  Island.

On a freezing January night at his club in Chicago, I saw the floor had painted lanes that said "Do Not Stand Here"

He likes to come off the stage and mingle with his fans.

Bedlam ensues and flashes flash.

People stand and wobbily balance themselves on folding chairs to keep him in sight as he roams the audience in various venues.

I look forward to the Buddy Guy Stroll.

He is so friendly and down-to-earth that crowds want to chat with him.

Shouting out comments. Yelling unintelligible phrases.

Hootin' and hollering.

He started a quiet work and then stopped and stared at one overly-talkative fan.

He waited. We waited. The fan kept yapping.

Buddy finally suggested the man "Shut the f*ck up."

Eventually it got quiet and Buddy told us a musical story in a soft voice.
It was very moving.

Then he gave a demo of various Blues Masters he liked and played some licks in their style.

You have to watch his face when he plays.

Constant interpretation of what he's playing. What he's feeling.
What the music does to him and to us.

While he was seated for a few acoustic songs, you noticed that even the wooden stool was painted with his patented polka dots.

He sang a song that highlighted his age.

"74 years young" was a proud recap of his life so far and I smiled because I too am 74... well, until April, when I turn 75.

Obviously, we both can say Damn Right, I've got the blues

After he finished, he remarked "Hmmm, I wrote that three years ago. Now I'm 77 years young."

At many clubs and concerts I look around 
and feel I'm the oldest one there.

This night I am sure there were others around even older than I. All of us long-time fans of Buddy Guy.
He started strong when he came out and finished the same way almost an hour and a half later.

Great stamina.

A fine story-teller from a man who played with the best.

He told of auditioning for a dubious club owner in his early days who dropped coins in the jukebox and asked "Can you play like this?" as he chose different artists of the day.

Well, of course he could. And did.

Toward the end of the show, he said a young lady had approached him to ask if she could come onstage and play a song with him?

All the times I have enjoyed Buddy Guy shows, I had not seen this before.

Robert Randolph and The Family Band had agreed to having two guys come up and play with him at the Music Farm.

Buddy said he asked her - a young lady named Julie - if she could play really well?

She said yes so he called her out to share the stage.

The Lady and the Legend. Hope you were there.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Did you read what was printed in the front of the polka-dotted drum set?

Damn right!

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Thursday, February 06, 2014

Well, it WAS a lively discussion....

 This was the third time I had signed up to attend a 1st Thursday meeting of the Charleston Blogger  group.

I've done more than 700+ postings on my blog so I wanted to meet other locals who do this.

Twice I have had to cancel my RSVP.

Tonight I made it to Barnes & Noble and, after buying a cafe mocha,  was directed by the Manager to the area in the back by the CDs and DVDs where the folding chairs were stacked.

I sat myself down.

A few minutes later I was joined by Madeline. She wants to learn how to blog.

It was her first Blogger meeting but she and I HAD met before.

On a breezy Saturday morning inside Park Circle just before Christmas.

I knew she looked familiar and she said I had taken her picture before.

We were both Tai Chi In The Park members and, yes, I had written a blog about that morning exercise session. She had read it.

Tonight, as we waited for others,  we talked about our backgrounds and I told her about my Photography Group.

Madeline mentioned several local organizations she enjoyed. I said I was retired from the paper and we both laughed when she called it the News and Courier. Each of us grew up here calling it that.

She had lived in Europe and I have traveled there so we talked about Germany. Then The Netherlands. And, of course,  Belgian waffles.

A very nice B&N employee came by to check and make sure we were comfortable and had everything we needed for the meeting.

Something was indeed missing. Other members.

Almost an hour passed and nobody else showed up so we gathered our things and left. On the way, I returned my plate to the coffee section on the other side of the store.

I bade her a "safe driving" wish as we headed for our cars in a light sprinkling of rain.

My plan is to RSVP for next month.

I still would like to meet some fellow bloggers.

Also, I had forgotten to use my Starbucks discount Groupon.

(Click on the single picture I took for more details.)

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Saturday, February 01, 2014

Look Who "Dropped" by.....

The Carolina Chocolate Drops were in town Thursday night, kicking off their 2014 national tour.

We also were introduced to the two newest members of the popular roots and string band.

Founder Rhiannon Giddons, on violin and new cellist Malcolm Parson,  played in close harmony.

Malcolm almost did a strolling cello bit as he hefted it and moved back and forth.

The other original performer was Hubby Jenkins , multiple instrumentalist, who played banjo, guitar, bones and percussion.

The packed Charleston Music Hall
reacted well in almost a "call and response" fashion to the many comments from the stage.

After several in the audience started asking aloud for their favorite songs, Rhiannon smiled and said "we'll get there. This show is long, so you'll hear them all."

New band member Rowan Corbett kept the beat on an amplified "box," using brushes and played some mean bones with Hubby.

Then he stepped forward and brought out a Bodhran, an Irish frame drum,  to dazzle the crowd.

The music was as varied as the instruments although I missed the bass playing of the jug.

Saw the original group in the Cistern area at the College of Charleston, and again at the Music Farm.

The two who departed to do other things were very talented and the newcomers certainly hold their own.

The challenge in photographing  them was trying for shots where faces were not covered by a microphone.

My camera - no flash of course - would snap when they momentarily darted away.

But I was a bit stymied because they moved back in close to the mic when singing. Well, DUH.

The opener act was Barefoot Movement and we were told the "local connection" was the bass player from Myrtle Beach.

The unusual element was they used a single microphone.
This meant being clustered closely together so faces were hard to catch with my camera.

They were the beginning of a Blue Grass kind of evening and an excellent choice to complement the Chocolate Drops.

I had just read about three new bars and clubs in the alley behind 39 Rue De Jean, next to the Music Hall.

Back when I was still working for the Post and Courier, I had visited the 3-story tall former tobacco barn when it was called Club Tango.

ALL of these places, Charleston Music Hall, Rue de Jean, Coast, and Virginia's on King were created by one company.

The new three: Michael's On The Alley, Vincent Chicco's and Victor Social Club, this bar in between with the high, high ceiling, are all owned by Bennett Hospitality.

Two of the three just opened and Michael's is about to have a soft opening, probably this weekend.

The website is still adding the new ones!

(Click on the photos for more details.)

More choices for a place to dine before a show or to meet up after.

Have I mentioned I love live music?

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