Category Archives: Movies, Television and Radio

The Lollipop that got away

Yesterday saw the passing of one of the most pioneering of child performers, Shirley Temple.

As Internet and television news outlets review her more than 80 years of accomplishments in entertainment and political life, everyone is playing and replaying the most famous clip – the cherubic actress belting out “On the Good Ship Lollipop.”

Cripes, another childhood memory:

Saint Dominic’s Catholic School, Shaker Heights, Ohio, 1968. For the school’s annual musical performance, second graders were divided into two groups. One performed “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” made famous by Shirley Temple. The other performed “Dearie.” If you remember it, then you’re much older than I. For the benefit of those who don’t, it was made famous by Ethel Merman.

Can you guess to which group I was assigned? This eight-year-old had to sing a song made famous by Ethel-freakin’-Merman.

Sorry for the outburst. The months I spent at Saint Dominic’s packed a chest of gloomy memories in the old emotional attic; that movie clip cracked the lid for a second.

The kids assigned to the Lollipop group got to wear cute, short sailor dresses and sing about bon-bons while dancing a perky little shuffle. I still remember a few of the steps. I made a point to learn them in the hopes that Sister Somebodyorother might spot my raw perkiness and switch me into the good group.

The other group did their number seated in rocking chairs, donning gray wigs and dressed in ankle-length frocks, because “Dearie” is about getting old. Not to mention the references to things no second grader would relate to. One group, lemonade stands; the other, running boards.

My father still teases me about how grumpy I was when we rehearsed, my lips pursed and eyes rolling. “Do you remember?” Yes, I remember.

On the Good Ship Lollipop

On the good ship lollipop
It’s a sweet trip to a candy shop
Where bon-bons play
On the sunny beach of Peppermint Bay

Lemonade stands everywhere
Crackerjack bands fill the air
And there you are
Happy landing on a chocolate bar

See the sugar bowl do the tootsie roll
With the big bad devil’s food cake
If you eat too much ooh ooh
You’ll awake with a tummy ache

On the good ship lollipop
It’s a night trip into bed you hop
And dream away
On the good ship lollipop

By Richard A. Whiting and Sidney Clare

Dearie

Dearie, do you remember when we
Waltzed to the Sousa band
My wasn’t the music grand

Chowder parties down by the seashore
Every Fourth of July.

My Dearie, Do you recall
when Henry Ford couldn’t even fix
the running board under a Chandler six

Dearie, life was cheery
In the good old days gone by.

Dearie, do you remember when we
Stayed up all night to get
Pittsburgh on a crystal set

Keystone movies, Coogan and Chaplin
Made you laugh and then cry

My Dearie, do you recall
When Orville Wright flew at Kitty Hawk
Take it from me, I would rather walk

Dearie, life was cheery
In the good old days gone by.

Dearie, do you remember how they
Loved Harry Lauder’s act?
My wasn’t the Palace packed

Jenny Lind presented by Barnum
Sang her sweet lullaby

Test your memory my Dearie,
Chicago all in flames sure caused a terrific row
They blamed it on Mrs. O’Leary’s cow

Dearie, life was cheery
In the good old days gone by.

Do you remember?
Yes, I remember.

Well if you remember, Dearie
You’re much older than I.

By David Mann and Bob Hilliard

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Famous last words

Hurricane Sandy’s doing her thing and I’m doing mine.

Yes, I’m blogging, as so many are. What’s there to say about Sandy that isn’t already being said? What elements of the human condition are being discovered?

I’m not in the direct path and, as of now, Sandy hasn’t yet made the scene. It’s little more than a rainy Monday where I am but already I’m seeing posts of disappearing electricity from the other side of the Beltway.

A few moments ago, I re-read a text message I sent to an out-of-towner who had inquired about my welfare. My words struck me as what are quite likely to be my last words on this earth, preferably decades from now:

“I am scrambling to finish my vacuuming and ironing before everything goes black.”

Two days ago, I stocked up supplies on while they were still on the store shelves. Yesterday I organized my refrigerated goods. Today, after tending to a client project, I vacuumed the house and ironed some altar linens for the church.

An image from one of my favorite childhood movies peeked through my consciousness: The Impossible Years, starring David Niven, about a stodgy British father of two California teenagers in the 1960s.

A scene, the father demanding his daughter clean her room, resonated with me as much in 1968 as it does today:

DAUGHTER: How can you make such a big deal about one little, messy room when the world is flying apart? Race riots, people dying from air pollution, and any moment we could be blasted from the face of the earth, victims of push-button warfare. I can’t understand you, Daddy. Where’s your sense of values?

FATHER: Linda, if we’re going to be blasted from the face of the earth, you’re going with a clean room!

My sentiments exactly.

Hypothetically, say Sandy takes a spin through my neighborhood and, hypothetically, a 150-year-old black walnut slips from the loose grasp of its soggy ground and, hypothetically, slices into our guest room, exactly as one did in 1996.

Can I bear the risk of an insurance adjuster spotting a dust bunny under the nightstand? Not on your life.

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Legally bland

For most of yesterday, I had no name, only a number – 23. Juror #23.

While my number was unique, I’m fairly certain my attitude about jury duty wasn’t.

Part of me hoped to get out of serving altogether, to not disrupt my work schedule, inconvenience my clients, or sit still and unplugged for hours. The other part of me craved a front row seat to a steaming courtroom drama. Surely the other 349 in the pool were feeling the same way.

I’d been called to jury duty only once before, in 1992. I wasn’t chosen then either; but I remember two things about that day.

The first:  More than a few of us were reading A Time to Kill, John Grisham’s first novel. The book had come out three years earlier, but it had gotten little attention until Grisham’s next legal suspense thriller, The Firm, came out in ’92. Jury selection was a central part of A Time to Kill and those of us who arrived with paperback in hand were dying to be selected. The second thing I remember:  Even though I wasn’t selected, I felt sequestered. A full work day at the courthouse without any contact with my office was nerve-wracking.

As I prepared to report for my civic duty this week, I failed to consider the technological advancements of the last two decades. I somberly told my friends, family and clients they’d not be able to reach me. I even put an out-of-office notification on my e-mail.

How sick was my disappointment to be allowed full use of my smart phone? To learn that the jury room had free wi-fi? To see a dozen computer stations available for any use ranging from e-mail to Solitaire? That’s no fun.

While I awaited assignment to a courtroom, I made my own fun – mostly by counting errors in the orientation video. (By the way, Montgomery County, the translation of voir dire is not “to see [and] to hear.” It is “to see [and] to say.”)

I listened in on my fellow jurors’ cell phone conversations, rolling my eyes as they overstated the drama to their loved ones and colleagues. I could only imagine their exaggerated tweets.

Finally, I was assigned to a courtroom where I was sure there’d be real action. The judge outlined some basic facts about the snoozer of the case—a personal injury incident taking place four years prior. He conducted the obligatory voir dire, which revealed nary a trace of conflict.

And then the judge spoke: “Madam Clerk, may I borrow your stapler?”

And then I was dismissed.

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The Entertainer

I was well into my sixes or sevens before I noticed my Dad was different from other fathers.

It wasn’t until the fourth grade that it more meaningfully got my attention. We were asked to write down what our fathers did for a living. (They didn’t ask about our mothers.)

We were allowed to take this assignment home, even though it called for only a word or two. I took mine to my father, asking him how to spell “comedian.” He said he preferred “entertainer.”

The next day at school, we read our responses aloud. There were a lot of businessmen and government employees and several fathers working at the Pentagon. One girl reported that her father told her what he did was nobody’s business. Years later, I realized that her father worked for The Washington Post, when I noticed his byline as an overseas correspondent, then later as chief of the London Bureau and, before retiring, the paper’s ombudsman.

But I assure you, there were no other entertainers.

I’ve written plenty in this space about both of my parents, so if you’ve been around here for a while you have a sense of how my folks differ from yours.

My father turns a big number ending in zero today, so it gives me occasion to reflect on what makes him stand out. Not as an entertainer; most people already know that.

How My Father Is Different From Yours
by Monica Russell; oops, Welch

  1. My father has never worked in an office.
  2. My father went to work at night, usually around 8:30 p.m., after an extremely early dinner and a nap. For much of his career, he did two shows a night, six nights a week, including holidays.
  3. My father often wore a tuxedo to work.
  4. My father worked at a keyboard before yours did.
  5. My father couldn’t write a straight absence excuse after I had stayed home sick from school.
  6. My father took me on a cross-country train trip when I was 9; but he made me use the time to learn all 50 state capitals. Ask me any…
  7. My father took me to church ‘most every Sunday. He often tested me afterward on the homily. Ask me any…
  8. My father has been parodied on The Simpsons, Mad About You, Murphy Brown and Saturday Night Live.
  9. My father hasn’t really retired yet, though he tried. Just this week he said, “You may recall the vow that I made two years ago that I would come out of retirement on the day that congressmen would skinny dip in the Sea of Galilee. I have kept this solemn promise.”
  10. My father could probably make a list just like this one about his father.

Happy x0th birthday, Dad. You’re one of a kind.

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So tarred

Nothing wakes me up like a good mixed metaphor. But you already know that; they’re honored all over this place.

This morning, still sleepy, I filled my morning mug while listening to Today’s Professionals, the mildly lame Today show panel of  so-called “professionals,” consisting of a doctor, a lawyer and a PR exec who expound on issues of the day to the benefit of, well, no one really, in my humble opinion.

The topic of the day was Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), and his recent comments about “legitimate rape” not causing pregnancy.

After Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman rebuffed the congressman’s theory, the panel’s legal analyst, Star Jones, cautioned that the congressman’s gaffe could harm GOP candidate Mitt Romney, whose campaign could be “tarred with the same feather.”

Did you notice this?

We don’t see much tarrin’ and featherin’ going on these days; thankfully, the hot and sticky mode of torture went out with the horse and buggy.

However, we do see people and things and causes being tarred with the same brush as others, the image being that using a brush to spread tar on something could dirty another object if the same brush were used.

It is said that the expression “tarred with the same brush” refers to the tarring of sheep as a method of branding, in which owners of a flock of sheep marked their wool in the same place with a brush dipped in tar to distinguish them from other flocks. I’m sure there are other theories.

Nevertheless, I envisioned someone trying to spread tar—on anything—with a feather. If Ms. Jones’ words are true, then the Romney campaign is going to be just fine.

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Extreme Fletchercise

As Americans learned more about vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan over the weekend, it was most likely intended that we each find something about the man we could relate to. I know I did.

Yesterday’s Washington Post reported:

“In his private life, Ryan pursues the hobbies of an everyman with an overachiever’s zeal. He sweats through grueling ‘P90x’ workouts in the House gym. He beats other legislators in contests to recite the most lines from ‘Fletch.’ And he fishes for catfish – with his bare hands.”

I’d take him. In a Fletch-off, that is. I’m not proud of this, but I’ve got the whole movie memorized. I even have an autograph that Chevy Chase wrote to me in 1988, suggesting I name my unborn baby Fletch. No kidding.

Well, good as Paul Ryan may be, I can’t imagine him and his fellow legislators vying for such a distinction as reciting the most lines from this zany movie. Or maybe I can.

Call me crazy, but this might just unlock the secret to bipartisan civility. Visualize House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, sitting with the Committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, in the Members’ Dining Room.

Ryan: I’ll have a Bloody Mary and a steak sandwich, and a steak sandwich.
Van Hollen: Just get me a glass of hot fat. And bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia.

The two finish lunch and part with a tee-hee about Dr. Rosenpenis in the Records Room.

I dare Congressman Ryan to work a line into his acceptance speech at the GOP convention, or maybe in his debate against Vice President Biden. Perhaps, if backed into a corner on how he’d pay for further tax cuts, he can reply simply, “Put it on the Underhills’ bill.”

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Survey says…

The recent passing of TV game show host Richard Dawson has me feeling a little Family-Feudish.

By the way, I know someone who knows someone who was once on Family Feud. Are you impressed?

You wouldn’t be impressed if I were playing.

You know it goes: Contestants are asked to “Name something that …” as they aim to match their answers with answers of others on their team, as well as with survey responses cast by the audience. If instructed to name something you would find your refrigerator, for example, you might say “milk,” knowing that might be a popular—and hence, high scoring—answer.

If I were to be truthful I’d say “a canister of 35-millimeter film,” or today, “a brick.” But then I’d likely win no points for a match.

Suppose I asked you to Name Something You Would Take on a Beach Vacation. Would you say, an umbrella, a good book, a Frisbee perhaps?

If I were playing Family Feud, perhaps I’d name those things too. But what if I were answering based solely on what I need to occupy a particular cottage, one that is perfectly situated on a beautiful beach, but is ill-equipped to handle my needs?

How many points would I earn I earn if I told you truthfully what will soon go into the trunk of my car?

  1. A specialty whisk, two knives and a cheese grater
  2. A pesto torte, along with the clay brick that makes it mmm-mm good
  3. A bottle of homemade ginger walnut salad dressing
  4. A jar of lemon curd (you never know when you’ll need one)
  5. Fresh mint, for making chilled cucumber soup
  6. Apples to Apples, Taboo and Boggle, three must-play beach cottage games
  7. A bathroom rug
  8. A sound machine, for playing my carefully constructed beach playlists
  9. A noise machine, in case the Atlantic isn’t white noise enough
  10. A large E-Z UP canopy, to shade our dune deck during Happy Hour (when we’re sipping cucumber soup, of course)

Say the game were reversed, you were packing for vacation, but you got points for unique answers.

Go!

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