One Voice

… because one voice, armed with the truth, can help begin to heal the world.

My own personal 15 minutes of fame

I don’t usually post things on this site in more than one place, but the effort it took to be able to post this video makes me want to get the most mileage I can out of it.

I have been trying to post it on YouTube for the better part of two years, and it was finally this week that I got it into a length and a format that would work. Even then, I had to try three times to upload it before I stopped getting error messages.

It’s sort of an ego thing. Folks who know me know that I wrote a newspaper column for five years from 1996-2001, and that they were the years I enjoyed most in my 29-year career in the newspaper business. In the fourth year of my tenure, a local television station in the Inland Empire did a profile on me for their news show “Evening Edition.”

After it aired, they gave me a DVD of the entire half-hour show on Riverside-based KVCR.

Here’s the video:

posted by Mike in American Dream,California,television and have No Comments

Is there anything stranger than memory?

Memory is the strangest thing, but some of the things we remember ought to tell us to be very, very careful.

It’s particularly true with television, which seems to hammer memories of totally trivial things deep into our subconscious mind. For example, I didn’t even like the television show “The Brady Bunch,” but I have no trouble remembering all the words to the theme song.

Unforgettable?

There’s just no reason for that.

Nor is there any reason that when I’m listening to the Sixties channel on my Sirius/XM radio, I can remember the lyrics to almost every song I heard more than five times back then — whether I liked it or not.

It’s even true of the Seventies.

“Indiana wants me, but I can’t go back there …”

“Everybody was kung-fu fighting …”

Yet almost every time I leave the house with two or three errands to run, I forget whatever it was I needed to take along for one of them. I suppose part of it might be the difference between short-term memory and long-term memory, but it offends me that I would have no trouble remembering the names of the members of the Jackson Five.

There are two people in the world other than myself whose Social Security numbers I know from memory, and one of them is someone I haven’t seen for nearly 28 years. I remember the phone numbers of my two closest friends from high school, and that was more than 40 years ago.

My head is so full of garbage that it’s a wonder I remember my own name sometimes.

I was answering a message from an old friend who said she didn’t remember that she had met someone who was another friend of mine. I didn’t remember exactly when we had met or what movie it was we all saw together, but I had a picture in my mind of the theater where we saw the movie.

Strange? I don’t know anymore. I know I have absolutely no memory of the year I spent in fifth grade (1959-60), but I have some fairly vivid memories of third grade two years earlier. Go figure.

Of course, third grade was the first time I ever got trashed by a girl I liked.

Those memories never go away.

posted by Mike in baby boom,Family and have No Comments

Finding stars in the strangest places

I haven’t known all that many movie stars in my life.

The one I did know, I didn’t know he had been in the movies until I had known him for a while. If that sounds odd — and it seems as if there are too many “knows” in the sentence — you have to understand the situation. I came to Southern California in the spring of 1990 to cover professional sports for a newspaper in the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles. At my first few Dodger games, I noticed that there was a lot of media in the clubhouse after games.

There were all sorts of newspaper reporters, some television guys and more than a few radio reporters. Some of them worked for local radio stations and some for national networks. Biff Elliot was an older man — 66 at the time; I was 40 — and he was stringing for CBS Radio. He’d go into the clubhouse after games, get some sound bites from the players and then upload them to CBS for play all over the country.

Biff Elliott

If you know sports journalism, you know that print reporters tend to look down on the electronic media. It takes a lot more creativity to write a game story than just to stick a microphone in and get some quotes. Biff was seen as kind of goofy for the long, involved questions he would ask, but he was a nice guy and I never ragged on him the way some people did.

Later that summer, I was covering the then-Los Angeles Rams at their practice facility in Anaheim. The routine was pretty standard. Reporters wandered in at 11 or so, and waited for the team to break from its morning practice at noon so that we could get interviews.

For some reason, I don’t remember why, I found myself having a conversation with Biff one morning as we waited for practice to end. I was amazed by what a fascinating life he had led. He had been an actor in both television and movies from the early 1950s to the mid 1980s, and he had some famous friends — Jack Lemmon, Tennessee Williams and Clifford Odets.

He told me a story of how he had basically sat beside Odets’ deathbed in the final days of the playwright’s life. I wish I remembered more about what he told me, but it was 20 years ago and I’m nearly as old now as he was then.

Biff's greatest role

He told me had had played the lead in “I The Jury,” a 3-D movie made about Mickey Spillane’s famous detective, Mike Hammer, and that he had made guest appearances on most of the great television shows of the ’50s and ’60s.

I was enthralled, and 40 minutes passed very quickly. When the Rams were breaking from practice, Biff turned to me and said, “Thank you for listening to me.”

I was surprised to hear it, but I responded quickly. “No, it was my pleasure.”

He looked at me gratefully. “You see, when you get older, you get the feeling that a lot of people wish you would just go away.”

I stopped covering professional sports in the mid ’90s, and I haven’t seen Biff since then. I looked him up on the Internet Movie Database, and at least according to IMDB, he’s still alive and going on 87.

I wouldn’t have any idea how to get in touch with him, and I doubt he would remember me if I did, but I’ll never forget him.

He’s my movie star.

posted by Mike in California,Friends,Movies and have No Comments

Tough to realize that old-timer quality

About 10 years ago, I was in a sports memorabilia store looking at autographed baseballs.

I was more of a collector then than I am now — my remaining collection is in a case that holds 12 balls — and I was considering purchasing balls signed by Frank Robinson and Johnny Bench.

“Oh, you like the old timers,” the attractive young sales clerk said to me.

Old timers? I almost screamed. Bench didn’t reach the majors until after I graduated from high school. Had I really lived that long as an adult, that a great player reached the big leagues, had his entire career and been retired long enough to be an “old timer?”

It’s the same thing with movies, television and music. “Star Wars” and “Jaws” aren’t old-time classics to me, and neither are “Happy Days” and “Welcome Back Kotter.” Bob Seger and Journey aren’t old-time rockers.

Are they?

If those are the old timers now, then where does that leave Joe Dimaggio (whose autograph I do have), “Casablanca,” “I Love Lucy” and Elvis Presley? Prehistoric? From a time when dinosaurs ruled the earth?

In recent years I’ve been collecting DVDs of some of the classic sci-fi films of the ’50s — movies like “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers,” the original “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and numerous others. I’m sure kids look at those movies now and laugh because the special effects are so cheesy, but I wonder if they’re looking at movies like the newest “Star Trek” — which I enjoyed — and laughing because they know the special effects are all done by computers and blue screens.

My good friend Mike Haskins wishes we could return to a day when baseball players had to get jobs in the off-season. I’m not sure we were better off then, but at least when ballplayers made $8,000 a year, they seemed more human to us.

There’s a certain unreality to life as we head into the second decade of the 21st century. It used to be that we could look at a family on television — be they Bradys, Cleavers or Cunninghams — and recognize only a slightly idealized version of families we actually knew. But now everything is so exaggerated that we can’t see ourselves in the picture at all.

Probably the last real family on television was the Conner family — Dan, Roseanne and their kids, who lived real lives, who fought with each other and ragged each other and still managed to love each other.

How did we go from Laverne & Shirley, working-class girls who lived in a crummy basement apartment in Milwaukee, to the six “Friends” with New York apartments anyone not named Trump would have had trouble affording.

Maybe it’s that movies and television used to turn a mirror on our lives and now they try and help us escape our lives.

Yeah, I guess I am an old timer.

posted by Mike in Americana,baby boom,baseball,Movies,Music,Ranting and have No Comments
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