Thursday, August 6, 2020


In all these years of writing blog postings I've seldom written about members of my family, particularly my wife. She fully acknowledges she doesn't read anything I write, but I'm used to being ignored by people, even by my closest family member. Other people do read what I read, albeit, in tiny quantities.

I can't really explain her talent for reconstructing whole dialogues from years, perhaps even decades ago. My daughter Susan remarks how Mom can come up with the most trivial of remembrances years and years later, like where they ate after the older daughter Nancy's wedding shower 16 years ago.

It is remarkable considering my wife fails to remember the names of people she just heard about on television when trying to tell me what they said. "Oh, I forget. You know who." No I don't.

It's as if she could be a court reporter or stenographer and function without a pad or the machine. All husbands deny what they've said, but when my wife tells me that I once said I didn't "like Charmin toilet paper "I will believe her I must have said it, but do wonder in what context the utterance came up. 

I attribute her talent for remembered dialogue to years and years of watching soap operas, when there was a wide variety to choose from. Anyone who can follow those plot lines that take years to unravel has to have a good memory.

Her favorites were Guiding Light and Days of Our Lives. I mean you have to be able to remember things watching those shows because there is no action, only people floating around dressed to the nines wearing beautiful dresses and earrings at 2:00 in the afternoon, pouring a drink and moaning about their life.

And it's hardly only women who watch these shows. One of my male friends when he was over would go over the latest episodes of one of the shows with my wife to the point that when I overheard them talk, I thought they had just gotten back from a family reunion. "Who are you talking about?"

Now that my daughter Susan has joined a good part of the rest of world and bought a house with her husband, she finds herself at Home Depot as much as at the supermarket. And the other day I joined her. She needed things. I needed things, and for one of the very few times, I was there without my wife.

We have a side shed and store extra bales of toilet paper an paper towels there. The shed doesn't leak, and the goods don't spoil. My wife's not a hoarder per se, she just like to take advantage of a good price when it rolls around and "stock up."

I report on the inventory and lately told her we were down to two bales each of paper towels and toilet paper. Hardly an emergency, but I figured a reorder point. She told me I probably wouldn't find the paper towels at Home Depot. They'd be sold out. And they were.

The fact that you can but paper goods like that at a home improvement store shows you how great this country is. We genuinely live in the land of plenty.

But Home Depot did have one bale of Charmin toilet paper left, and I bought it along with the other few items on my list. I got home about 9:30 that evening and left the unloaded goods in the vestibule. The next morning the dialogue started:

Did you save your Home Depot receipts?
Sure, why do you ask?
We don't use Charmin toilet paper. We always use Scott's. I can take it back.
What? It's toilet paper. Who cares who makes it? Charmin is all they had.
You said years ago you don't like Charmin. It's too soft.
I said there's a toilet paper I don't like? I don't remember ever stating a preference. How could I tell you I don't like Charmin if you've always been bringing Scott's into the house? What, I went over to a neighbor's in time of need and came home and said I don't like their Charmin?
You did. You said you don't like Charmin.
I went over a neighbor's? There's people out there who might not be able to get toilet paper still. And here we've got a bale of Charmin and you're going to take it back? I'm not taking it back.
We'll see. Maybe I'll take it back Saturday.
Well, suit yourself. When you need toilet paper at that critical time it's always good to realize you have toilet paper, not who made it.

The fate of this bale of Charmin is still undecided. I have a feeling it's going to get to stay. Then someday when the time comes, I'll try and remember what I thought of using it. We'll then see if Charmin ever makes it back into the house.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Untouchables

If you are aware of current speech patterns, you'll recognize that "of a certain" age has come to be the euphemism for "older." An indeterminate older, but someone who is easily above 50.

I take in a little early morning TV news and of course hear all the commercials, most of which are pointed toward people of a certain age with compromised health or i need of money. There's one that touts, "if you're over 50, wouldn't you like to make one-third more in retirement money." It's an ad for an insurance company's annuities. I always talk back to the TV: "50? that shipped sailed for me quite a while ago."

Then there are the drug ads. Prior to my recent medical event from which I'm doing quite well, thank you, I used to feel left out of the pitch. Even at 71, I wasn't taking anything they were pushing. I just plain didn't have the ailments the drug companies had a treatment for.

The other night I was watching a Jeopardy episode, one of those throw-back replays where Alex seemed to wear better suits, and there it was, an ad for Brilinta. Hey, I take Brilinta. I feel I finally joined to club. I joked to the cardiologist that Brilinta sounds like Tom Brady's wife. Or at least should be Tom Brady's wife. (Maybe someday she will be.)

I do read books, but I read book reviews the most. I always like the book reviews in the WSJ, one because they are always in the same part of the paper Monday through Friday, and two, they're seldom about novels, but rather about finance, science, history and true crime. There's little that interests me less than a review about the psychological byplay of the latest novel that explores the depths of human emotion and the ironies of life. The NYT is great for those reviews.

I've long accepted that I'm of "a certain age." But according to Tom Nolan's review of Eliot Ness and the mad Butcher by Max Alan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz,  I'm of an "even earlier era" all because I remember The Untouchables starring Robert Stack as Eliot Ness in the TV series (1959-1963) and not just those "of a certain age" who remember the 1987 movie starring Kevin Kostner that was stolen by Sean Connery's performance as a Irish Chicago cop who famously scoffs at someone who brings a "knife to a gunfight."

The implication is clear. If you remember a 1987 movie, you're headed for dotage. If you remember anything earlier, well, you're taking televised medication and belong to an era just after dinosaurs.

Anyway, yes, I do remember the TV series where Stack and his shoulder-holster crew are always going after Al Capone and Frank Niti, especially Frank Niti. As a growing lad I became fascinated with gangsters. I bought a pulp paperback about the famous criminals of the 1930s, the and jails they were sent to, and hid it under the mattress. When my parents found it they were greatly concerned about where I might be vocationally headed. Parents worry about everything.

I remember reading about the real life Eliot Ness and what he did after bringing down Capone and sending him to the Big Island, Alcatraz. The latest book about Eliot Ness picks up when he becomes the police chief in Cleveland and aids in bringing a halt to some gruesome killings by a serial killer who left headless torsos in the woods.

One almost wishes the killings were reported on by the New York Post. The headlines in 1938 would have been worthy of the Headline Hall of Fame. "Headless dead" lead off each reports of another body.

In Cleveland, Ness formed another hand-picked squad and became instrumental in getting the psychotic doctor, Francis Sweeney, who was performing his own version of unauthorized autopsies. Apparently, so pervasive and gruesome where the murders, the foreign press even  became aware of the story. Germany, of all countries, scolded the U.S. when the Nazi press made fun of our country's inability to bring the "Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run" to justice. Imagine Nazis making fun of murders. Now there's an irony of life.

Regardless, Ness and his crew were able to get the sod committed to a mental institution. His guilt was inconvertible, but too circumstantial for a court conviction. Anyway, once Sweeney was institutionalized, the murders stopped.

Ness's Chicago crew became called The Untouchables because they were hand-picked and were outside corruption influences. They couldn't be bought. The book review is interesting in that I didn't know the Dick Tracy comic strip by Chester Gould was spawned by Ness's success. I distinctly remember the comic strip. It held price of place on the front page in the Sunday Daily News, in color, with crimestopper tips and always a reference to Tracy's "two-way wrist radio." Who didn't wish for one of those?

Another nugget is that when Ness passed away at 54 of a heart attack in 1957, he was $9,000 in debt. I don't know what that is today's dollars, but I'm sure it's relatively significant.

The Robert Stack series was immensely popular. I remember the Italian defamation people were getting pissed off that the thugs were always Italian. Their pleas for diversity in crime were successful because the show bowed to pressure and introduced Greek gangsters, an ethnic group who my family is part of on my father's side and who, to this day, do not possess a great deal of political clout. I've grown up always saying that in NYC it's best if you're Catholic or Jewish to help you enjoy being near the seats of influence.

Despite my parents concern for my new-found interest in gangsters, I remember  my father was at some dinner that Robert Stack was at. My father brought home a glossy of The Untouchables crew signed by Stack with a inscription to me. Sadly, I don't know what happened to it.

Untouchable certainly has  meaning beyond crime fighter. There is outcast caste in India that is referred to as the Untouchables. And then there are The Untouchables who browse at Barney's.

Huh? Well, as always, something always reminds me of something else, and in the late '60s or early '70s Barney's men's store at the very unfashionable location of 7th avenue and 17th Street started an advertising promotion where you could just come in and browse. I'd shopped at Barney's, and they always descended on you as soon as you walked in, made you wait a bit, then assigned you to a salesman based on what you were interested in. There was no free-range browsing.

The campaign they started was a "Just Looking" button that you asked for, pinned it to your jacket, then descended down the stairs to roam around on your own.

Myself and two other guys from the office made our way over to Barney's on lunch hour one day, asked for the "Just Looking" buttons and descended the staircase.

A salesman at the bottom of the stairs looked at us, and derisively said, "Oh, here come the Untouchables."

I wish I still had that button.

Monday, August 3, 2020

A Day At the Spa

It was another nice day at Saratoga yesterday. And I wasn't there.

The pandemic lockdown continues. I was only there virtually through the benefit of the all day telecast brought to sports-starved fans through the TV stations FoxSports1&2, and MSG, sponsored thankfully by the sire prospects for the horse Run Happy, Claiborne Farm—where he proudly stands in the hallowed stall No. 1— and by Petaluma Farm Cheese. Thank God for sponsors.

At least NYRA doesn't see the hokey need to put cutouts of fans in the stands or leaning over the rail. There is no simulated sound and no there is no computerized CGI of someone ripping up a fistful of tickets.

In fact, ripping up tickets is pretty much a thing of the past considering the online betting and the use of vouchers and self-help betting machines. No one is going to drop their voucher on the floor after a losing race if there is still money on it.

A few years ago I sampled NYRA's creation of their Top of the Stretch section at Saratoga. It is a gussied up accommodation with nicer seats and food deliveries carved out of the unused seats at the very end of the track. It is hardly worth it.

I will always remember the poor teen-age girl sporting braces who found summer employment at Saratoga holding the long handled trash scooper and broom, stationed near the bathrooms, who had the boring job of sweeping up discarded tickets. She was there to keep the place clean.

She had nothing to do. I explained to her that no one drops anything on the floor these days, and that she was in for a long day of having little to do. I'm not sure I made her happy, but I did sympathize with her. At least she was getting paid.

Watching the telecasts from Saratoga I can only be frustrated. It's not enough that there are no plans to go there this year, it's that you can't go there. You're not allowed.

It is painful to look at the photos posted by the DRF photographer Barbara Livingston and turf journalist Teresa Genaro of scenes from the track. I know Ms. Livingston lives in a nearby town, and Ms. Genaro comes from Saratoga Springs and still has family in the area. It is home for them.

It's very odd to see Jose Ortiz take time after his race to lean over the rail and watch the replay, and then see him disappear under the stands to go back to the jocks room, unaccompanied. Saratoga's configuration requires the jocks to walk under the stands and travel a bit on the back apron to get back to the jock's room.

Security always bodyguards the jocks when they do this walk, but Saratoga fans hurl no insults their way. They want autographs. And the jocks quickly comply while walking back. There are even markings in the floor to guide the jockeys on the protected route to take. But no fans, no security needed. It's all very tame and very empty.

But, through the convenience of downloadable past performances and flat panel televisions, it is possible to at least be virtually at the track while sitting at home.

And Saturday was always my day to be there. Downstate there was one year when I first starting loving the game that I went to either Aqueduct or Belmont 31 times. And the season then only ran from March through mid-December. Saratoga's meet was only 24 days (6 days x 4 weeks) in the month of August. And back then I didn't go to Saratoga, and there was no TV coverage of a card like there is today. Sometimes things do get better.

No member of The Assembled was coming over yesterday. Johnny M. had other plans, and Bobby G. was at the beach house with the extended family with his toes in the sand. I did offer Bobby G. my handicapping numbers, but by the time he read the email most of the card was over. He had no betting interest anyway. He likes to be there. Jose I'm sure went to a Capital District OTB since he lives in Rockland. I'll hear from him eventually.

So, how did I do? In the old days there would never be 12 races on a card. And a Saturday wouldn't sport five maiden races. But you need maiden races to produce winners who can then qualify for the next level. And there were five stakes races, three of which were Grade 1s: The Personal Ensign, the Whitney and the fairly newly named H. Allen Jerkens that was formally The King's Bishop and usually part of the Travers card. But this is a unique year. So, there really were no complaints about "the card."

Midnight Bisou was the marquee entry of the day, and in the five horse Personal Ensign, the race that is really the Whitney for older mares, four and up. Racing loves symmetry.

Midnight Bisou is a formidable foe. She lost a close race in the Saudi Cup to Maximum Security, a male horse. All her wins have been in graded stake races. Her dollar odds are usually microscopic, and Saturday's 30¢ to the dollar was no exception. No show wagering. NYRA didn't want to risk the prospect of paying for a minus pool due to bridge jumpers putting so much money on her to show that they'd have to subsidize the pool to pay the $2.10 minimum required by law.

Our surely by now departed mentor, Les, "Mr. Pace" at whose knee we learned a great deal about the game ("pace makes the race." He said it so often we just called him Mr. Pace.) had a strong prejudice about the reliability of female horses to deliver when you wanted them do.

Les was older than us, and came from a strong prejudicial view of women and their abilities. So, he of course transferred that prejudice to animals. He pejoratively would just utter the word "fillies" as if he was spitting out the word "fuck."

He would forever tell us the story of Twilight Tear who lost her race in 1945 at 15¢ to the dollar—as part of an entry no less—who finished fourth at Laurel in a six horse field in the 16K Maryland Handicap, against males, on October 21, 1944, carrying 130 pounds over a muddy track, and the poor slob who then toppled off the roof (many tracks allowed viewing from the roof of the stands in those days) after a self-inflicted, well-placed gunshot wound to his head.

Twilight Tear was that era's Midnight Bisou, running 24 times with an 18-2-2 record. However, that day she was doing TWO things she had never done before: carry that much weight, and run on a gooey track labeled muddy. Pittsburgh Phil's rule would have kicked in and told any smart bettor to never bet on a horse trying to do something they've never done before. Pittsburgh Phil made a lot of money at the racetrack following his rules, posthumously published in 1908 and still worth absorbing today.

Twilight Tear was Les's proof that you can't trust a female. I've tried to verify Les's story about the guy topping himself, but could never find an account of it. No matter. It was urban legend for Les, and that's all the proof he needed.

So, how do I play the Personal Ensign, if I play it at all? I don't share Les's views on females, but I do know they usually all get beat, male and female. Saratoga didn't earn the nickname "Graveyard of Champion" for nothing.

I played some 50¢ tris that would yield some boxcar prices if Midnight ran out at 30¢ to the dollar, a thoroughly unlikely scenario since she was not really being asked to do anything she hadn't done before. She'd won at the distance, won at the track, and already carried the 124 pounds and won. She was a rocket launch waiting to happen. The paddock analyst Acacia Courtney described her in such glowing terms that she was Miss America, Ms Courtney herself once being Miss Connecticut.

But hey, they still have to run the race, and perhaps Midnight Bisou stumbles, or just plain doesn't have it today. I can't believe I thought along  the same lines as Andy Serling and made a cold exacta bet with Vexatious over Midnight Bisou. I was thinking of Les, just a bit. Andy never met Less. He had his own reasons.

My reward was a $42.20 $2 exacta with Vexatious over Midnight Bisou after a stirring stretch drive. It's only the fifth race and I'm on Cloud Nine. I've got to do well, right?

Racing will treat you the same way if you're there or not. I saw Tom's d'Etat fall out of the gate and lose all chance of giving me my boxed exacta. I always call a busted exacta a bowling 1-3 split.

Then there was the DQ in the 11th race when it was ruled Sadler's Joy interfered with horses in the stretch. Sadler won at 8/5 but was taken down and placed fourth. You win some inquiries and you lose some inquiries, and it's never fun to lose them.

I usually need to cash in on three races to have a winning day. A .300+ hitter in baseball can win a batting crown. A .300+ bettor can make money.

But a frustrating day at he race—or virtually at the races—never prevented people like myself from coming back. And remembering Les and what he thought about fillies and mares.

Losing only very little is right up there with a winning day.

Friday, July 31, 2020

The Penny

Once again the planned elimination of the penny is in the news. I've been reading about its elimination for at least 20 years now, and it's not the repetition of this effort that gets me, it's that NO ONE quotes Benjamin Franklin's, "A penny saved is a penny earned." The penny has poor legal representation. It's going to fall eventually. But when?

The usual arguments are advanced. There is a general coin shortage now anyway due to the slowing of the economy due to the coronavirus and the pandemic; more people are using digital transactions to buy things. And perhaps the most businesslike reason advances, it costs 2¢ cents to make a 1¢ coin. There'is a concept I wasn't aware of: the government is supposed to make money, or at least break even. When?

Paul Volcker once said "money has velocity," and right now it's moving as slow as molasses in winter.

The latest story I read was in yesterday's NYT. And count on The Times to trot out a quote from someone from Harvard or Yale. Jenny Gross's story includes an observation from N. Gregory Mankiw, an economics professor at Harvard University who says the argument for getting rid of the penny "has only gotten stronger over the decades, as inflation has suppressed the penny's purchasing power." Still, he said he did not think, "any changes would happen soon."

He's got that right. The penny is as good as protected by an unworded Second Amendment, just as  the worded Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms. Say goodbye to the penny and weapons? Fuhgetaboutit!

Our northern neighbor Canada seems to be the most progressive on making changes to their physical currency. They long ago eliminated the $1 and $2 denominations of their paper money and replaced the bills with coins—durable metal—called Loonies and Twonies, $1 and $2 coins distinguished by how many loons (waterfowl, not politicians) are depicted on the back of the coin.

Ms. Gross's story also tells us Canada stopped making the 1¢ coin in 2012. I guess the elimination of the coin will occur through attrition. Eventually, there will be so many in jars, drawers, cans and piggy banks throughout the provinces that there will no longer be any in general circulation. A deadline will be declared on redeeming the pennies for credit, and the extinction will be complete.

Arguments for keeping the penny are weak. There is the sentiments that it will amount to a 1¢ sales tax on items costing 99¢. This is bogus. Just make te floor rpice $1 and Bob's your uncle, no one will realize they might b paying an unseen tax.

Then there's the argument that the older pennies are made of copper, a metal that resists holding onto germs. Thus, rubbing your hands with fistfuls of old pennies will introduce sanitary handling of money. Older pennies are antimicrobial, perfect for the pandemic era.

Rubbish. How many "old" pennies do you see? In 1982 the metal composition of the penny went to 2.5% copper and 97.5% zinc. Copper became far too valuable to use to make a 1¢ coin. Copper was being vandalized from wires in electrical boxes and tunnels and melted down for its value. Pennies were ripe candidates for the smelting pot.

With my grammar school education that started in the early '50s, I can never forget what we learned of presidents and American History. And part of that history was always Benjamin Franklin, the guy who captured electricity by tying a key to a kite's string and standing in a lightening storm; the guy who invented bifocals; the guy who signed the Declaration of Independence; the guy who designed a stove.

More modern depictions of Franklin's role in American history were when they aired the miniseries on John Adams starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, when Adams opens a bathroom door in France and interrupts Franklin, who is sitting naked in a bathtub with a naked, older but quite preserved looking French woman. I think they're playing cards, or chess, and probably footsies.

Franklin was a man about town, and apparently was popular with the ladies on both sides of the Atlantic. He was never part of any cabinet position, but was an ambassador to Sweden and France. We was the first Postmaster General. He was instrumental in getting the Paris Peace Treaty signed that ended the first war with Britain. The big one we call the American Revolution.

Yanking out my seldom used edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations there are two and a half pages of his utterances, but amazingly nothing about the penny. The Wikipedia entry does acknowledge the sentiment taken from Franklin's 'Poor Richard's Almanac, "A penny saved is twopence dear" (often misquoted as "A penny saved is a penny earned." Franklin also famously said of house guests: "Fish and visitors stink in three days." He certainly get a lot of things right.

Ms. Gross points out correctly that only Congress has the power to eliminate the coin, and past efforts have proved elusive. "The biggest change was in 1857 when the Congress discontinued the half cent, which was unpopular."

She tells the story of "Jim Kolbe, a Republican from Arizona who once introduced legislation in the early and mid-2000s to eradicate the penny while he was in Congress. His efforts were stymied because Dennis Hastert, then the House speaker and other representatives from Illinois opposed the legislation, in part because the penny since 1909 has carried the image of Abraham Lincoln, who spent eight years in the Illinois legislature."

The introduction of Lincoln on the penny starting in 1909 was a commemorative celebration of the centennial of his birth. Lincoln's image replaced the Indian Head penny. Imagine an Indian Head penny being in circulation today. It wouldn't stand a chance.

So, will the next attempt at legislation to eliminate the penny result in a Patrick Henry-like speech from the floor of the House of Representatives, quoting Benjamin Franklin on the virtues of thrift?

Not a chance.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

An Omission for the Ages

I am STUNNED. Not by the news that the composer of the ditty "Alley Cat," Bent Fabric, has passed away at 95, but rather by the colossal omission that the word 'wedding' does not appear anywhere in his NYT obituary by Katharine Q. Seelye.

Okay, at neither of my daughters' weddings did they play "Alley Cat." Nancy was married in 2005 and Susan in 2018, so maybe the piece of music was declared off-limits for the 21st century, but certainly not the 20th century. And that was only 20 years ago.

I remember being at a wedding in 1971 when my boss got married. When the first strains of "Alley Cat" floated through the air I headed to the bathroom. Hardly being a dancer, I wanted no part of the "you put your left-foot out..." routine. I wasn't the only one heading for the sanctity of running water. I remember one of the female guests teasing the evacuees about their dance floor desertion.

And I didn't stop hearing "Alley Cat" at that 1971 wedding. There were several weddings after that I watched the guests being lead into the dance routine. I know "The Chicken Dance" seemed to take over as the novelty musical number, but "Alley Cat" certainly has more class. There seems to be sufficient grounds to deny people who've been lead onto the dance floor a school board seat at the next election. Especially if they've had more than a few.

Of course The Macarena has succeeded "The Chicken Dance." Or at least it seemed to at the last few weddings I attended. But "Alley Cat" was THE one before all others.

It was of course interesting to read that someone actually consciously wrote the music, rather than be told it was a traditional tune handed down like Greensleeves. Turns out Bent Fabric was a Danish composer who is considered a "grand old man of Danish pop music." There might even be a statue in Copenhagen. (There should at lest be a plaque somewhere.)

The song won a Grammy for Mr. Fabric in 1962 for being the best rock n' roll recording. It got to be No. 2 here in the States on the Billboard easy listening chart, immediately after it hit No. 1 in Australia.

The Australian popularity is certainly no surprise. Watch the YouTube videos of "Alley Cat" being danced to by a gathering and imagine substituting kangaroos for the wedding guests. It's an absolute natural for the Down Under crowd. I bet they still play it at weddings.

I don't know Katharine Q. Seelye other than to say I've read many of her bylined obits and found them lacking in nothing. But to devote six columns to Brent Fabric's signature endeavor without mentioning the word "wedding" is way more than I can understand.

I've Tweeted Ms. Seelye and expressed my amazement at her omission. Her Twitter profile, unlike mine, comes with the small photo that gives us an idea of who we might be agreeing with or railing against.

Ms. Seelye is certainly not my age, but she also seems certainly old enough to have been to a few weddings and heard "Alley Cat" and gleaned that's it's been a staple at weddings.

It's that, or she's bolted for the bathroom to fix her makeup before the band or DJ get going.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Olivia de Havilland

It is not very often I can read an obit of someone who was born a year after my father and two years before my mother. If I stay alive long enough, there eventually will be no one who passes away whose years sit tucked between 1915 and 1918.

But right now, we have the obituary for the actress Olivia de Havilland, who has passed away in her early triple digits of 104. You never really make it too far into those triple digits. Pretty much the longest anyone lives is to be 116. The skin gives out.

When you pass away at 104 in 2020 it is very hard to realize how far back her career went. Of course there was 'Gone With the Wind' in 1939, but that was hardly the only notable film she made. She won two Best Actress awards. For many reasons I've always loved 'Robin Hood,' and still will watch some of it when it's on. As Maid Marian, she was worth sweeping her off her feet.

Of course there was Errol Flynn, who turns over tables and can keep five guards at bay with his sword. In the late '50s I annually went to a YMCA "sleep away" camp for two weeks at a time. One of the activities was archery.  I tried, but never could split the arrow like old Errol.

Olivia admitted to having a very serious crush on her co-star Errol Flynn, but the fact that he was married seemed to be enough to keep her from consummating any relationship. It was certainly a unilateral barrier, since Flynn had the nickname "in like Flynn," to acknowledge his seductive prowess at being able to get into the bedrooms of more women than the Gideon Bible.

Mentioned in her obit is that her father's cousin, Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, was "an aviation pioneer" even before WW I. Unmentioned is that he developed the de Havilland jet engines, used in early versions of jet aircraft. The name for the engines has since disappeared due to several mergers with other manufacturers.

When someone of an advanced age passes away, I usually think of my mother and father, and how old they would be if they were still alive. Right now they would each be over 100, an age seldom attained, despite the growing number of people who are over 100. Actuarially, the odds are against it.

Last week my friend commented that it was his mother's birthday, and if she were alive today she'd be 100, being born in 1920. She never got close, passing away from cancer in 1979.  Her era was like my parents, WW II and baby boomer births. She sang in U.S.O. shows and met her husband there who was in the Army, producing the shows. A New York, Times Square dandy who helped entertain the troops.

Right now I've just about finished reading Chris Wallace's book, 'Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days that Changed the World.'  The massive explosion was of course achieved because, "we split the atom."

The massive entertainment of watching Ms. de Havilland and Errol Flynn in films for me was always achieved when Robin Hood split the arrow. Both events were a long time ago.

Sunday, July 26, 2020


I always liked Regis Philbin. After all, how many people do you know that were named after a high school? It's usually the other way around.

I was logged on yesterday afternoon when I got an email from my oldest daughter Nancy asking me why didn't I write a blog about Regis. I really didn't put two and two together, but I responded that I would if there was an obituary to read.

I was busy evaluating the results and entries at Saratoga and wasn't absorbing the instantaneous news that can fly your way when you're connected to the Internet. Nancy responded that he did pass away. I promised a blog posting.

My daughter Nancy remembered how I used to love to tune into his show when we were on vacation at a summer house we rented for several years in the late '80s and '90s. The rabbit ear reception was pretty bad, but the sound was okay, and the picture was good enough to see distinguishing features.

Those were the years with Kathy Lee Gifford as his co-host. And even with her almost annoying laugh, I loved the show.

Regis always had a long lead-in. He and Kathy would yap for about 15-18 minutes without commercial. In a different era they would have been a couple on the radio doing a breakfast show from a living room. The two of them were known for being able to talk about absolutely nothing and entertain you.

Regis usually held up a morning tabloid, the Daily News or the New York Post and react to the headline, whatever it was. Thinking about that now maybe that's what created my habit of handing  the Daily News off to my wife through the window of the car when my wife dropped me off at the station. I always had a quip to say about the headline. My younger daughter Susan was in the car at the time, being driven to grammar school. She's reminded me of the habit I had.

Regis was the New York boy who made good. Very good. The NYT obituary today tells us he might have been worth $150 million. Never a bad amount for someone coming from the Bronx who went to Cardinal Hays High School and graduated the year I was born.

His parentage was Irish and Italian, but the Irish half came through the strongest. Regis had that leprechaun face; freckles and a glint in his eyes that relayed that he was probably a bit of a cut-up for the nuns and brothers to handle. My guess is he didn't sit very still in class.

He graduated from University of Notre Dame, so the Irish connection was complete. His father went to Regis High School, a selective Catholic all-boys high school on 84th Street just east of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan that is tuition free. It is extremely hard to get into.

The upshot to the Regis High School story and Regis's father is that Regis tells the story of his father going to school there, but being expelled in the 1920s for fighting with a priest or brother.  The father always felt bad about getting expelled, so when he and his wife had their first born and it was a boy, they named him Regis. If my father followed the same logic when I was born, he would have named me Stuyvesant. (A difference however being my father didn't get thrown out.)

Regis was always well dressed, pocket square ever showing. I might have imitated him a bit without realizing it when I adopted wearing a pocket square with my jacket when I went to work. I felt it compensated for the tie I was discouraged from wearing at the last job I had, working with significantly younger people in an IT environment. Ties were only for the first day. The owner sometimes wore shorts.

I remember Donald Trump was in the front row on the aisle for Regis's last show with Kelly Ripa, a co-host I really didn't tolerate too well. In Mr. McFadden's NYT obit he tells us of President Trump's Tweet calling Regis, "one of the greats in the history of television. He kept telling me to run for president."

It's not his fault. No one should stay mad at Regis for that one.

My guess is Regis had a time-share table at Rao's, the East Harlem Italian eatery that is still harder to get a table at than admission to Regis High School. When the gatekeeper, owner/maitre d' Frankie No was alive, he didn't say "no" to Regis.

He was a man about town, a regular at Elaine's and was depicted as being himself with his wife Joy drinking wine at Elaine's in a De Niro movie. I forget which one. He was friends enough with
De Niro that he referred to him as "Bobby."

With a different mayoral administration Regis should have been declared a Living NYC Landmark years ago—like Tony Bennett. Someone dropped the ball on that one.

As good as the NYT obit is, pre-written by Robert McFadden, with an update credited to Christina Morales, there is absolutely no mention of the last show Regis was involved with, The Crowd Goes Wild, a Fox Sport channel mishmash of sport news and very silly sports commentary that did not last long.

Regis shared the spotlight with a British journalist, Georgie Thompson, the WSJ sportswriter Jason Gay, (fresh from writing for GQ men's magazine), an ex-football player Trevor Pryce, and a young comedian Michael Kosta. Katie Nolan quickly advanced from an off-camera Twitter feed reader to a regular spot on the dais.

The show was pretty silly and struggled to gain traction in the ratings. But in 2014 I was already retired, so I decided to try and go to the show that was televised from Chelsea Pier studios. The show was live, and it wasn't hard to get to be in the audience, a small bunch assembled on bleacher-style seating that I don't believe ever was shown on camera. Maybe it was.

The show's interns spent morning hours handing out leaflets in Times Square, trying to encourage tourists to come to the afternoon show. I just went straight to the Piers.

It was the first TV show I ever got into since I gained admission to be in the audience at a Johnny Carson show in 1966. Presence at a Carson show was much harder than a Regis show. You generally needed tickets mailed to you way in advance.

But in January 1, 1966 there was a subway strike in NYC. The head of the TWU, Michael Quill, famously defied Mayor Lindsay and called a strike. It lasted 12 days.

At that time, I correctly figured there would ticket holders who wouldn't bother trying to get to the show, and I might be able to gain entry from the stand-by, provisional line. I did. The strike lasted long enough that I did that twice. The second time, even then, Johnny took the evening off and was replaced by the comedian Corbett Monica. Simon and Garfunkel were introduced and sang 'Sounds of Silence' at the first show I saw. Johnny made a little fun of their names by opening his jacket and flashing a label that he said could be Simon and Garfunkel, as if they manufactured clothing.

'The Crowd Goes Wild' disappeared into TV's cyberspace. I remember watching the last show and Regis showed his disappointment at bowing out on a bit of a low note. He said, "I always wanted to do a sports show. I still do."

He may have bowed out, but he's certainly not forgotten.