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March 29, 2015 / thackersam

March 29 – So long Butch

Vin Scelsa (2)Last night there were three consecutive posts on the WNEW-FM Fan Club Facebook page passing on the news that legendary radio personality Vin Scelsa had just announced his retirement. One stated that his last day on the air would be May 2nd, another said it would be May 1st, and the third had it at April 30th. I haven’t heard Vin’s voice in many, many years, but there was a time when his presence on the radio was important to me and to my Sunday mornings. I wrote about it, here on this very blog last July 19th. One of my fellow WNEW club members poked fun at me because I had thought the letters from Me and Razoo Kelly were real. Real in the sense that they were actually from listeners and not the creation of Scelsa, which I only learned while writing that article that they apparently were of his hand. Scelsa’s on-air reaction to the letters would lead anyone to believe they were new to him. And yes, I still have the kazoo I won from his show and the typed letter that came with it long, long ago.

I remember when Andy Rooney retired from 60 Minutes. After a long fascinating career as a journalist and as a fixture on the Sunday evening staple, he said of his leaving the show – “Writers don’t retire.” It’s not relevant that he passed away shortly after. He was 92 after all. So at the mere age of 67, I think I can reassure Vin Scelsa’s longtime devotees that he is not retiring, but going on to the next chapter in his life, and rather than saying goodbye to him, it would be more fitting to say “So long. See you later.”

If I would ever get around to taking my scanner out of its box, in which it has been sitting for a year, give or take, I could have shown you the letter on WNEW-FM stationary and signed by Vin. You should know however what I went through to find the kazoo, still in its envelope with the letter folded just as I had gotten it. It was actually only in the third place I looked, but with each peek inside a container, it was like opening a Pandora’s Box, only out rushes a series of memories that I must fend off to continue my search, for which I was triumphant.

The letter reads:

December 12, 1978 [please excuse the noise – that’s the screaming in my head as I realize how long ago that was – twwp]

Dear Kazooperson,

You won! I told you you would win this silly contest. No Billy Joel tickets, no Rolling Stones records, no trips to California – KAZOOS!!

Now you too can play along with the Bayonne Butch-Rockin’ Robin Kazoo Band. Welcome aboard!

Kazoos forever,

Vin Scelsa

Captain Kazoo

March 26, 2015 / thackersam

March 25 – Drummer Viola Smith

Viola SmithA friend shared a post on Facebook recently about drummer Viola Smith, who at 102 swears by drumming, wine and reading. Think about it, in the early part of the last century, nearly 100 years ago, she was a pioneer. A drummer. A pioneer in not only the music industry, but for women in general. And I didn’t even know it until now. Well the 1920s were wild times, so I heard. Anything goes?

I found this interview from 2013 to be particularly interesting as at 100 she is fit, lucid , has interesting stories and looks fabulous! So, because today I’m playing hooky, please enjoy the interview, articles and great video of Frances Carroll and Her Coquettes featuring Viola Smith.,

Fitness update: While I still have to take off the weight I put back on throughout the past few months, my upper arms are getting toned.

Thanks to Carol.


March 22, 2015 / thackersam

March 22 – Welcome Spring!

Olive TreeLast time we spoke, I mentioned the massage I had scheduled for Saturday. So you shouldn’t think I am some spoiled wealthy human who just hangs out in spas, I will confess that I am a bit of a Groupon groupie, and yes, I do like to get massages, particularly at the reduced rates the Groupons offer. I did go for my reflexology massage in Gramercy Park yesterday (nice but not mind-blowing) and had passed a diner on the way there to which I decided to return afterward for brunch. I also love diners, as you may recall. For some reason I ordered the lumberjack breakfast, which is not helping the diet I should be on. So even though the snow was still melting from the spring’s uncharacteristic entrance the day before and the weather in the City yesterday was cold and overcast, I made myself walk home from Gramercy Park all the way down to Battery Park, stopping only at Trader Joe’s on 14th Street for Max’s favorite canned tuna and a bottle of cabernet sauvignon for tomorrow evening’s company.

In an effort to avoid the always crowded Broadway and finding Sixth Avenue just too boring, I found myself heading down on McDougal Street. Though the area’s population and its visitors are somewhat younger than I, it is a neighborhood in which I feel comfortable. Then I remembered why as I passed by The Olive Tree Café & Bar that caused me to stop and back up. Yes, this was the place that years ago, long before the turn of the century, which is weird to think about, that was one of our favorite places to go in downtown Manhattan. It had a comedy club downstairs that I’ve never been to. It’s still there as well. The restaurant served Middle Eastern fare. It tables were made of slate. On each would sit a small bucket of chalk next to the salt and pepper. They served the most wonderful alcohol laced coffee and hot chocolate drinks, and a small screen on the back wall showed Charlie Chaplin’s and other silent movies. Oh, and the bathrooms, which were a bit of a trek downstairs, particularly after a cup of their coffee, bore some quite interesting graffiti. At least the women’s room did. I can’t speak for the men’s. I was there many times with Vicki and her sister and others. Amy too. I took a date there once, but it was our go to place back then. A rush of memories hit me as I stood in front, the façade still unchanged from the 1980s. I hadn’t thought of it in a very long time and if I wasn’t already walking off that large brunch, I may have gone in. Now that it looks like we are finally going to get some spring weather, I think I will sometime soon.

By the way – Trader Joe’s has a pretty good greeting card selection.


March 19, 2015 / thackersam

March 19 – The Best of Roxy Music

RoxyMusicI was going to do the dishes before exercising tonight, so not thinking that the ex’s Roxy Music CD would offer the energetic workout I need these days, I put it on, pressed play and stepped into the kitchen and stepped right out again as soon as Bryan Ferry started singing “Avalon.” I could not keep from moving, cause you know, that Bryan Ferry, he can make a woman – sway. In a heartbeat. Some men too I’ll bet. Then “More Than This” followed. It was just a little over a year ago when we were in the final quarter of the A to Z album project of The Walrus Was Paul, covering my Roxy Music record, and I wrote about the first time I heard that song. In a department store, a long time ago, it was the music being piped in and as soon as I heard it I thought it was one of the most beautiful sounds that had ever entered my ears. I asked a perfect stranger what song it was and who was singing it, and not knowing himself, he helped me identify words which would lead to a most pleasurable discovery, the song and the sultry voice of Bryan Ferry. Smooth and cool without even trying. His voice just trickles down like fingers on the back of your neck that spread along your back and… good thing I’m going for a massage on Saturday. Anyway, the beauty of the ending of the song, the repetitious instrumental, is that you can still hear Ferry’s voice long after he has stopped singing.

Oh – Ferry’s version of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.” Damn. Those dishes’ll never get done.

March 16, 2015 / thackersam

March 15 – Happy Birthday Sly! Dealing with demons.

Sly bday

It is by no coincidence that I exercised, again, to my Sly and the Family Stone CD, as it is my go to music these days for a good, solid and enjoyable workout. But today is also the 72nd birthday of Sylvester Stewart, aka Sly Stone. I’m still having a hard time getting around to writing about the history of the band, and how Sly’s substance abuse led to the demise of something really great. There was a reason why it was Sly and the Family Stone, even though the group consisted of some very talented musicians and depended on the concordance and cohesiveness of its members under Sly’s creative leadership. My inability to write about them does a disservice to the other band members, and even my article about Family trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, with whom Sly has a daughter, is lacking. I apologize.

I was happy to learn of his recent victory in a lawsuit against his former management, which paid him $5 million in back royalties, although I’m sure many of us wonder how long it will last. My research shows promise though. Sly has been more of a recluse over the past couple of decades rather than a homeless bum who totally succumbed to his addictions. And he’s come out now and then, playing in his youngest sister’s band, which has also included the great Cynthia Robinson. At 72, Sly looks much older in photos, so I’ve gone with one from the day.

And now for something completely different, but still under the heading of demons. We all have our demons, don’t we? I think that years of intense therapy will never uncover the reason why I have this problem with laundry rooms – or the specific machinery involved – or maybe just the laundry itself. If it is some deep seeded memory of some awful thing, it’s not coming up. I remember everything. You know that. Not like that talent that Marilu Henner has, in which you can throw a date at her and she can tell you exactly what happened on that day, but my memories, when triggered do surface with ease and much detail. So if something not so nice occurred regarding laundry, that one is staying put.

Or, it could just be that I’m lazy. I’ve refused to admit that something as simple as going down to the laundry room has gotten the best of me, so I threw in the towel, so to speak, when I ran through all clean sheets and towels recently and only got as far as dragging the cart out of the closet with no signs of actually putting anything in it and taking it downstairs. I filled a laundry bag that I had purchased long ago and brought a 10lb load to one of the local cleaners. It’s not like having a drug addiction or overcoming it, but I feel good about being able to recognize my shortcomings and giving in to a solution. I will no longer beat myself up over my inability to do my own laundry. Yes, the cleaners does pick-up and drop-off to my building, but I’m not ready to commit that much quite yet.

There’s a good, yet eight-year-old article in Vanity Fair in which Sly give a rare interview at:, and offers the comments of other band members.


March 12, 2015 / thackersam

March 11 – George Michael – Patience

George MichaelNo.

I will say this – it is very nice to be able to don a shorter jacket rather than the long winter coat I’ve been wearing fastened to mid-calf, and sneakers with a bit of an arch instead of the snow boots whose rubbers soles are so worn they no longer have grooves, and freeing my legs into that long stride I know I have in me, no longer slogging through slush taking short careful steps. February is becoming a blurred memory and I am out of excuses. Except that I just discovered Tostinos.

March 9, 2015 / thackersam

March 8 – The Case Against February

GroundhogI have my personal reasons to want to start a movement to put an end to this stupid month forever. For instance, we were only five days into February last year when, without warning, we lost my dearest and oldest friend Vicki. And then this year an old friend, someone I was friends with from first grade through the beginning of high school also passed. That was not unexpected. I was fortunate to see her again after 40 years just this past summer, when we dined together with another old and current friend, who feels her loss as I feel Vicki’s. I’m sure after this year many of you would consider joining the movement to abolish February for your own reasons. Throughout the country we have suffered an onslaught of nonstop horrible weather, not just dotting the end of the winter as February has been known for, but prolonging it making us fear it would never stop. My holiday blues stretched nearly beyond their limit and could have snapped in a weaker person. Reports of my poor cousin, south of Boston, spending hours upon hours out in the cold on his tractor, clearing away pounds and pounds of snow, over and over again, make me ashamed to complain, but I’m doing it for all of us.

It is not just due to the occurrences over the last couple of years that prompt my contempt for the month, it’s the obvious stuff. First, it’s hard to say correctly and even I, who can be a stickler about such things, more often than not will skip the first R and simply say Febuary. (Note: If abolishment is not possible, we should at least change the name to Feblueary to better reflect my state of mind.) Then of course there’s that bizarre day thing. When trying to remember how many days in a particular month, don’t we run through our heads, even recite out loud, “Thirty days have September, April, June and November. All the rest have thirty-one, except for February…” Then who remembers how the rest goes or what it even means. It’s without rhyme or reason, literally. Wouldn’t it be best to say “31 days are in September, April, June and November. All the rest have 32, because we’re not crazy. And how are you?” I will leave it to the experts to figure the redistribution of days and factoring the solstices and whatnot throughout the 11 months we are left with.

We would do away with those nonsense holidays like Groundhog Day that can only be annoying to the poor creatures, who are saddled with the responsibility of predicting the weather, an ability they have proved time and time again not to have, and I’m sure they don’t want to be burdened with. Do we not get that by now? Last year, my city’s very tall mayor dropped a groundhog, which resulted in its death. I don’t blame the mayor, I fault our adherence to silliness on behalf of tradition. Please don’t get me started on Valentine’s Day. (Seriously, don’t get me started because I have a story about last year, that all I will say about it is, the good news is there was no one to disappoint me this year. Really, all I asked for was a cozy dinner at my place, no flowers, chocolates or stuffed animals clinging to hearts.) And then there are those people who call it Valentime’s Day.

I do like the holidays that have historical relevance – President’s Day and Martin Luther King’s birthday. I was one of those who originally objected when we started moving all the holidays to Mondays out of convenience. Now, I like it. Just don’t touch the 4th of July. As March is one of the longer months and has no holidays that close the office for the day, both those February holidays can move there. I understand that the people with February birthdays may be reluctant to shift their own special days, but not if we offer them the opportunity to pick their new birthdays from any of the 365 days and to subtract two years from their ages as an added bonus. I know I would change my birthday from the end of November when Thanksgiving frequently interferes with celebration plans, opting instead for a lovely spring day. If we put our heads together, this could work. I can’t be the only person that has ever thought of it.

I accept no responsibility for my weight set-back, nor for my lack of initiative to work on my writing projects other than the blog and all the stuff I do for the job that pays the bills. I blame February.



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