Archive for October, 2012

My Girls Take Halloween Seriously

Halloween can be a spooky, fun time for parties or trick-or-treating.  This will be my fourth Halloween with Miss Gretel.  This year she is a gory version of Moaning Myrtle from the “Harry Potter” series.

Moaning Myrtle

Before I get to Gretel’s most recent Halloweens with Miss ABBA, check out these two adorable pictures from Halloween 2002 and 2003 of Gretel as a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old.

Gretel 2002Miss Clavel 2003

In 2009, our first Halloween together, Gretel was a “Vampire Bride”.

VampireBride

And, that same year, Miss ABBA could very well have been a “Ghostbuster”.  She “ain’t afraid o’ no ghost”!

ABBAGhost

In 2010, Gretel was impressed with “Avatar” and decided she was going to be one of the Na’vi, the blue people.

GretelAvatarABBA2010

Last Halloween, since we knew that it was likely going to be Miss ABBA’s last, I decided to dress her up and go trick-or-treating, too.  So, she went as a lobotomy patient, complete with a rubber brain, blood, and gauze.  (You just can’t see the brain and it did slip some from its original placement!)

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And, Miss ABBA even scored her own fun-sized “3 Musketeers” bar that she pretty much enjoyed by herself.  Okay, I took a small bite since I didn’t get one. 🙂

ABBATrickOrTreat2011

October 2011 was also a very mild one and Miss ABBA sat outside a lot.  We even had a dress-up day with my Lady Gaga wig from the previous year.  That day, much to her chagrin, Miss ABBA became “ABBA Gaga”.  The look on her face is priceless.  It’s like, “Dad, people are going to see me looking like this!”

ABBAGaga2ABBAGAGA2011

Last year, Gretel went as Hermione Granger, again, from the “Harry Potter” series.

Hermione

Last Saturday night, she went to a Halloween party at her friend, Zoe’s, and she was inspired by the movie, “Rock of Ages” and went as a rocker.  Rock On!

GretelRockofAges

In memory of Miss ABBA, one of my friends, Mary Baltikauski Nielsen, in Spring Valley, Illinois, made this cute pumpkin this Halloween.

ABBA Pumpkin

And, I can’t leave out my sister, Tammy.  In 1996, she sent me this picture of her at Halloween.

Tammy Cow

Happy Halloween!

Anthony

Playing “Dress Up” Isn’t Just For Halloween

It’s Halloween Eve and I hope you’re putting the final touches on your costumes for trick-or-treating.  Gretel already has her costume ready for tomorrow night.

As I looked through my photo albums, I didn’t find one Halloween picture of me as a child.  I guess cheap, store-bought costumes were not photo worthy. 🙂

The first picture I found was from Halloween 1986 at Club Rumors (or Club DV8) in Paducah, Kentucky.  It was the first time I dressed up in drag and I was so proud of my JC Penney dress and pumps.  And, for hair and make-up, my dearly departed friend, Raven Smith dolled me up!

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While working as a server and bartender for Ruby Tuesday in Paducah, Kentucky, in 1988, I butched it up a little over the Halloween two years earlier.  Now, either I’m really showing my age these days or I looked exceptionally young as a 24-year-old because both Ray and my sister, Tammy, commented on how young I look in this picture.

Cowboy1988

This reminds me of a monologue from “Torch Song Trilogy” from Harvey Fierstein’s Arnold (Anita Mann):  “I think my biggest problem is being young and beautiful. It’s my biggest problem because I’ve never been young and beautiful. Oh, I’ve been beautiful, and God knows I’ve been young, but never the twain have met.  LOL!

My next Halloween dress-up was in Chicago in 1995 when I went out to party at Charlie’s.  Interestingly, my confidence increased and the dress length decreased from almost ten years earlier.

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My next public dress-up for Halloween came in 2002 at Roscoe’s in Chicago.  As I was preparing my outfit for the night as a pasty-white geisha girl, Miss ABBA was so intrigued.  As a 2-year-old puppy, she wondered why she couldn’t have the nerf balls that were used that night as boobs.

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And, finally, the last time I dressed up for Halloween was two years ago, when Ray, Gretel, ABBA, and I hosted our own “Monster Ball”.  In honor of Lady Gaga, since we borrowed the name of our party from her, I dressed as Gaga from a past MTV VMA appearance.  No, it wasn’t the meat dress, although that would have clever (and gross).

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But, when you live and party in the big city (Chicago), you don’t need it to be Halloween to play dress up.

These two pictures are from uniform night and a 1950s night at Charlie’s.

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And, these final ones from three shows in which I performed at Charlie’s in Chicago as my idol, Reba McEntire in late 1995 and early 1996.  The first was a customer appreciation show from the employees and the second was for a pediatric AIDS benefit.  The third was just for fun — a going-away party for me.

RebaFall1995RebaColorAPRebaDecember1995

This Halloween, I was going to dress up as a zombie.  However, I ran out of time (or got lazy) and decided that I’ll just eat some of Gretel’s candy!

Anthony

“Rock of Ages” — Should You Choose Tom Cruise or Def Leppard?

This past spring, I was really excited about the new Tom Cruise movie musical, “Rock of Ages”.

As the June release date neared, I decided that instead of catching it at first-run theaters, I’d wait for it at the cheap theater.  Then, I decided I’d just wait for the DVD release in October.  Did I make the right choice to wait instead of going on a date night (with popcorn and soda) that would have cost more than $30.  Or, was the $1.05 I spent at Redbox all the movie was worth?

We rented it this past weekend and now I wish that I had gone to the theaters this summer to see it and hear the rocking soundtrack with theater sound!

It was very entertaining and the music soundtrack, although rock heavy, featured many of the staples of my teens years and my 20s!  It was heavy on Foreigner, Journey, Pat Benatar, Def Leppard,  along with a dose of Night Ranger, Joan Jett & The Blackearts, AC/DC, and many others.  That alone was worth the rental price!

The movie focus on a nightclub on the Sunset Strip, “The Bourbon Room”.  The owner, Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and his right-hand man, Lonny (Russell Brand), are trying to find a way to keep the rock club open despite the back taxes they owe.

If that wasn’t enough, the religious, conservative wife of the mayor (Bryan Cranston), Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is determined to close down the evil clubs on the Strip, starting with the Bourbon Room.

While not as compelling as she was in the movie, “Chicago”, Zeta-Jones is always a pleasure to watch and her kooky church musical number to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me Your Best Shot” is awesome.

The key to saving the club from closing down is getting difficult washed-up rock star, Stacee Jaxx, played by Tom Cruise, to perform his last concert with his band before he goes solo.

To prepare for the role, it’s reported that Cruise practiced his singing five hours a day to do his own vocals instead of lip-synching.  When Cruise was performing, he was mesmerizing.  However, his alcohol infused haze leading up to those musical numbers dragged on a little too long.

The stars of the movie, Julianne Hough (“Dancing With The Stars”, “Footloose”) and Diego Boneta (“Pretty Little Liars”, “Mean Girls 2”), are beautiful and fun to watch.  As Sherrie, Hough plays a small town Oklahoma girl heading to Los Angeles to be a star.  Boneta plays Drew, a barback at the Bourbon Room, just waiting in the background to gain enough confidence to perform in front of a crowd as a rocker.

The storyline is nothing new.  I’ve seen it before in “Coyote Ugly” and “Burlesque”, but nevertheless, it’s fun and fresh with rock and roll!  You know the two young, sexy people are going to crush on each other, maybe fall in love, have a misunderstanding, break up, and possibly reconcile?

After a chance encounter with Stacee Jaxx at the club the night of his performance, both Sherrie and Drew decide it’s time to move on.  She gets a broken heart and Drew lands a new recording contract.  But, that doesn’t mean things are great in his world.

Luckily, Sherrie gets a job at “The Venus Club” teaching “aerobics”.  (Not really!)  However, that gives us the chance to meet the owner of the club, Justice Charlier, played by the amazing, beautiful, talented, and electrifying Mary J. Blige.  The screen just lit up everytime Mary J. was singing and performing.

In its opening weekend, “Rock of Ages” placed third at the box office with $14.4 million.  It was pretty much panned by critics and only grossed $55.5 million and considered a failure.  The movie’s budget was $75 million.

Gretel was impressed by the whole rock musical plot line and went to Halloween party Saturday night as a rocker!

By the way, I only covered her eyes once in a steamy, well choreographed number between Stacee Jaxx and Constance Sack, a reporter for “Rolling Stone” magazine, played by Makin Akerman.

And, I guess I was ready for a rock musical before I even knew about this movie.  This picture is from last Halloween as I rocked Gretel’s Hermione Granger (“Harry Potter” series) wig.

Actually, that wig on me looked as bad as some of the wigs on the actors in the movie.

So, when it comes to “Rock of Ages”, should you choose Def Leppard’s 1983 #1 Billboard Rock track (#16 on the Billboard Hot 100) or this movie?  While I liked the Def Leppard song, “Rock of Ages”, I liked “Photograph” more.

I choose the movie.  “Rock of Ages” was very enjoyable and I would watch it again.  It didn’t break any new ground for musicals, but I didn’t go into it expecting that.  If you want to be entertained for two hours, definitely rent it.

GRADE:  B

Anthony

They Said What??? Mitt Romney, Ann Coulter, Colin Powell, & John McCain

REPUBLICAN INDIANA U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE RICHARD MOURDOCK

“I struggled with myself for a long time but I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.”

2008 FAILED PRESIDENTIAL REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE JOHN McCAIN

(responding about Mourdock’s comment):  “If he apologizes and says he misspoke and he was wrong and asks the people to forgive him, I would be the first.”

CONSERVATIVE MOUTHPIECE ANN COULTER

(tweeted about President Obama after the third presidential debate):  “”I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.”

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL WANNABE MITT ROMNEY

(at the third presidential debate):  “I congratulate him on, on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al-Qaeda.  But we can’t kill our way out of this mess.”

(just moments later):  “Well, my strategy is pretty straightforward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to kill them.”

FORMER PANTHER AND JET FOOTBALL STAR KRIS JENKINS

“Some people are afraid, if somebody comes out as openly gay, that it’s going to be the end of football as we know it.  But, football will adapt and grow with it.”

ACTRESS VIVICA A. FOX

(responding to actress Stacey Dash’s endorsement and the way she endorsed Mitt Romney):  “I didn’t know she was a Republican. I will start there.  Second, I don’t know why she had to do a photo shoot in a ‘Baywatch’ red swimsuit with the boobs and the whole flag behind her. And she doesn’t have a job or something to promote right now. I just didn’t get it.”

FORMER REPUBLICAN SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL

(endorsing President Obama):  “You know, I voted for him in 2008 and I plan to stick with him in 2012, and I’ll be voting for he and Vice President Joe Biden next month.  I think we ought to keep on the track we are on.”

Anthony

It’s Time To Be Spooked

Halloween is almost here and I know many of you have been having hauntingly fun evenings curled up on the couch watching your favorite horror movies.

Sadly, and this is scarier than any Hollywood production, I never seem to find the time anymore to just veg out on my days off to watch all of my favorite movies over and over again.  This includes Halloween movies.

There’s no contest as to what my favorite horror movie is.  Before I get to that, I want to share one of my new favorites and I actually made time this past Thursday afternoon to watch it again.  It came out in 2004 and I’m sure many of you have never heard of, much less seen it.

It’s called “Hellbent” from the co-creator of  “Halloween” and the executive producer of “The Nightmare on Elm Street”.  The tagline of the movie is “When the night belongs to the devil, the party goes to hell.”

The movie opens with a steamy love scene in a park in West Hollywood (WeHo), California, and the scene ends with a very graphic double murder.

Four friends are heading to the annual Halloween carnival in WeHo.  One of the guys works for the WeHo Police Department and he knows the gory details in the deaths of the two men that were making out in the park and tells his friends and freaks them out.

And, since you know this is a horror movie, the bloodshed is only beginning.

The movie is fun, upbeat, sexy, and gay.

While I’ve seen it many times since it arrived on DVD in the fall of 2006, my only problem (and it’s a slight one) is that it never explains why the serial killer is slaughtering the young, sexy men.  The movie redeems itself with a touching love story through all the blood and gore.

I really enjoyed the first two “Friday The 13th” movies and the first two “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies were okay, but I lost interest in them.

While Jason was relentless with his machete, I was more afraid of his mother!

I loved both “Let The Right One In” and the American version, “Let Me In”.  Both of them are spectacular if you love vampires and winter!

“Carrie” is still one of my favorites.

Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie were both amazing.  And, as much as I love Julianne Moore and Chloe Grace Moretz (“Let Me In”), I’m not really sure that we need the 2013 remake.  I could be wrong.

Of course, I love “Night of the Living Dead” (1968), “Dawn of the Dead” (1978), and the “Dawn of the Dead” remake (2004).  I remember my cousin, Steve, and I taking my mother, Dessie to the late night showing of 1978’s “Dawn of the Dead” without telling her how gory it was going to be and, afterwards, she said “That was so gross that I couldn’t eat my popcorn”.  That’s still funny to me to this day.

With that being said, it probably comes as no surprise that I love those zombie movies since “The Walking Dead” is one of my favorites.

There is still the ultimate horror movie that I want to see.  As hard as it may be to believe, I have not seen 1973’s “The Exorcist” in its entirety!  It’s one thing to see serial killers, but it’s another to deal with demonic possession!  One day soon, I hope I break down and see it.

I liked the original “The Amityville Horror” and I’ll be honest, I only watched the remake just to see studly Ryan Reynolds go mad and shirtless for much of the movie. 🙂

Now, it’s time to reveal my favorite Halloween movie, franchise, and movie ghoul.  Hands down, it’s Michael Myers and 1978’s “Halloween” is my all-time favorite horror movie.  It scared the devil out of me as a 14-year-old.  They are actually showing it here in Moline through Halloween night at the cheap theater.  I think I have Ray talked in to going and seeing it on the big screen!  It’s only been 34 years!!!!!!

There are ten movies in the “Halloween” franchise and it’s been a very interesting ride.

The original Halloween and its sequel came out in 1978 and 1981, respectively.  Then, in 1982, “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” was released and I had heard that the plan was to make ten movies with five different themes of Halloween.  The third movie focused on a demented toy maker that put microchips in the masks that would kill those wearing them.

After the movie pretty much bombed, Michael Myers returned for the fourth “Halloween” movie in 1988 and has been in all of the sequels.

While part four, five, and six, were watchable, they weren’t the best.  Actually, “Halloween 5:  Revenge of Michael Myers” was pretty annoying, but the worse was yet to come!

“Halloween:  Curse of Michael Myers” in 1995 featured a younger, sexy Paul Rudd.  The storyline was also a little far-fetched, but it was still good.  And, I loved the line, “It’s raining red” as blood dripped down on a little girl in her costume from a body hanging in the tree!

The franchise got back on track in 1998 when Jamie Lee Curtis returned as Laurie Strode in “Halloween H20”.  The interesting thing about the re-boot is that Laurie’s character was killed off off-camera for 1988’s “Halloween 4:  Return of Michael Myers”.  However, “H20” pretended that parts four, five, and six never happened.  Curtis returned again briefly for 2002’s “Halloween: Resurrection”.

And, then in 2007, rocker Rob Zombie directed his version, his re-imagining of the original “Halloween”.  Going into the movie, I thought I would hate it.  How could someone mess with the original?  I was pleasantly surprised.  Actually, I loved it because Michael was so much more violent in this movie.

However, Zombie’s 2009’s sequel “Halloween 2” changed my mind.  I saw it in theaters when it came out.  I survived, but I didn’t like it.  When it was released on DVD, I bought it and watched it again thinking I might have been wrong.  I wasn’t wrong.  It was painful to watch again and it pretty much sucked.

There was talk of another “Halloween” in 3D coming out, but it was scrapped and I have to say that if Rob Zombie is involved, count me out.

Two more horror movies I want to bring up for honorable mention are “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre:  The Beginning” to see sexy Matt Bomer and his interesting encounter with Leatherface.

And, check out 2005’s “House of Wax” just to see Paris Hilton die!  (Oops, spoiler!)

Happy Halloween everyone!  Enjoy your candy, popcorn, and horror movies.

Anthony

A Night of (Fake) Stars

Now that I’ve been back from Las Vegas for almost two weeks, I’ve blogged about the Madonna and Elton John concerts, the fantastic food I ate, and seeing “Argo” and knowing that it’s going to be big at this year’s Oscars.

This is the final blog entry about that trip.  While some paid hundreds to more than a thousand dollars to see Madonna for her two concerts in Vegas, Ray and I really hit the jackpot on our last night in town.

We saw some of the biggest names in the entertainment business:  Madonna, Gaga, Whitney, Diana, Rihanna, Janet, Katy, Bette, and Dolly, all at the same show for the bargain ticket price of only $56 for the two of us!

Okay, it wasn’t the real stars.  It was part of the longest running show on the Las Vegas Strip, “Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas” at the Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino.  But, Frank, who does an incredible Joan Rivers, wasn’t there that night.  However, there was no shortage of star power.

While the real Madonna was entertaining down the Strip at the MGM Garden Arena, the Diva’s “Madonna” held court as she opened the show.

The same entertainer that did Madonna also did Lady Gaga.

And, Dolly Parton!

While she wasn’t in “Thunderdome”, Tina Turner was there.

The late, great Miss Whitney Houston was alive and well on stage.

And, that performer returned later as “The Boss”, Diana Ross.

Katy Perry was on hand for the fun.

Oh, I think I forget to mention that the back-up dancers were hot!

Vegas would not be Vegas without the “Divine Miss M”, Bette Midler.

While Michael is resting in peace, Janet Jackson was definitely in “control”.

And, the performer that did Janet came back later in the show as Rihanna.

 

The emcee of the show filling in for Frank Marino was very funny and entertaining and she had a costume change after each performer!  I would have loved to see her do a number, too.

Sadly, Cher, Britney, and Reba were missing from the show.  Oh, Beyonce, was there.  However, it was more of a comical number that didn’t go over that well with me.  The performer was much better as Tina Turner.

If you’re in Vegas, you have to check out the “Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas” show.

Oh, did I mention that the Diva performers are female impersonators?

Anthony

Peeps’ Friday ’80s Flashbacks

It’s Friday morning and I’m back to my normal work schedule through Thanksgiving.  I just want to go back to bed.  It’ s cold!  Since it’s Friday, here are three more of my favorite 1980s songs to get you motivated.

“TIME AFTER TIME” — CYNDI LAUPER

The New York girl just wanted to have fun and many thought that “She’s So Unusual”, the name of her first album that was released in the fall of 1983 and went on to reach #4 and sell 16 million copies worldwide.

Her follow-up album, in 1986, “True Colors” also peaked at #4 and sold 10 million copies worldwide.

Cyndi would score 11 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100.  It all started with the #2 smash, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”.

While she was part of  USA for Africa that topped the charts with “We Are The World”, Cyndi would only have two solo #1 hits, “True Colors” from 1986 and the one I am featuring today.

“Time After Time” was the followup to “Girls” that topped the charts in 1984.

“VENUS” — BANANARAMA

The English trio, Bananarama, hit the Top Ten in the U.K. ten times.  “Cruel Summer” was their fifth hit there and that became their first hit and first Top Ten hit in America in 1983 when it reached #9.

If you were a Bananarama fan, you also remember the big club hits, “Really Saying Something”, “Shy Boy”, “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” and “Love In The First Degree”.

They only had three hits in America and all three of those reached the Top Ten.  After “Cruel Summer”, they hit #1 in 1986, with “Venus”, which is featured today, and #4 in 1987 with “I Heard A Rumor”.

In 1984, they were also part of the #13 charity song by Band Aid, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

“ON MY OWN” — PATTI LaBELLE & MICHAEL McDONALD 

As a member of Labelle, Patti LaBelle reached #4 in 1974 with “Lady Marmalade”.

Before scoring her first Top 40 hit on the Hot 100, she had already charted 7 R&B hits.

In 1985, she hit #17 on the Hot 100 with “New Attitude”, but with the release of her #1, platinum selling album, “Winner In You” in 1986, Patti hit the big time across mainstream America.

Michael McDonald had great success in the band The Doobie Brothers.  The band had 16 hits including two of my favorites, “What A Fool Believes” and “Minute By Minute”.  In 1982, he went out on his own and scored the #4 hit, “I Keep Forgettin'”  and he hit #7 in 1986 with “Sweet Freedom”.

However, neither Patti or Michael had a #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit until they teamed up together on “On My Own”.  In 1986, it spent three weeks at the top of the chart.

Patti would go on to have one more hit from that album, the #29 smash, “Oh People”, but she would have 12 more R&B Top 40 hits.

FLASHBACK BONUS  — “ON MY OWN” — REBA McENTIRE

Shame on you country radio today and in the mid-1990s.

In 1995, Reba released one of her best albums of her career, “Starting Over”, a retrospective of her first 20 years in the music business with recordings of her some of her favorite songs.

The first release, the remake of the Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald #1 smash, “On My Own”, from 1986, roared onto the charts featuring vocals from Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, and Linda Davis, all country singers that had already scored big hits on the charts.

It stalled at #20 and critics blasted the album for being too pop and then country radio turned around and embraced Shania Twain, the pre-Taylor Swift crossover queen!  Boo!

“Starting Over” is still one of my favorite Reba albums 17 years later!

Anthony

Helen, Here’s To Many More Happy Birthdays

I’ve been fortunate enough to see Reba McEntire in concert 11 times since I first saw her in 1995 and I met her in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in April 2005.

Reba Anthony 2005

I’ve seen Madonna three times, most recently in Las Vegas.  While I’d love to see to see Patty Loveless again (I saw her in 2000), there are still four other ladies that are on my concert bucket list to see:  Pam Tillis (who I’ll see on November 2nd), Lorrie Morgan, Olivia Newton-John, and a woman that doesn’t tour much anymore.  And, today she is celebrating her 71st birthday.

Happy Birthday to you ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*
¨*•♫♪ Happy Birthday to you ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥
¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ Happy Birthday dear Helen Reddy!!!!! ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥
¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ Happy Birthday to you! ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥

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Helen Reddy was born in Melbourne, Australia and she conquered music, television, theater, and even movies.  In “Airport 1975”, she played a nun and entertained people on the doomed flight with a guitar and a song.  She was even nominated for a Golden Globe award!

HelenReddy Airport 1975

However, it was music that made her a superstar and at the height of her popularity, she was known as the “Queen of 70s Pop”.  On the Billboard Hot 100, she had 14 hits.  Six of those reached the Top Ten and three went all the way to #1.

Her first hit, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from “Jesus Christ Superstar” reached #13 in 1971.

But, it wasn’t until the fall of the following year that Helen Reddy would become a music superstar and an icon to one of the biggest movements in recent history — women’s rights.

When the song, “I Am Woman” was originally released in the summer of 1972, it peaked at #97 in its third week on the chart and then it disappeared.  In the fall, the song was re-released and by December, it was a #1 smash.

“I Am Woman” became the first #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 by an Australian-born singer and the first Australian-penned song to win a Grammy Award.  While accepting the award, Helen thanked God, because “she” made everything possible.

While becoming a chart topper and a Grammy-award winning song, it became so much more.  It became an anthem for millions as the “women’s movement” for equality gathered steam.

Helen Reddy’s own experience in the entertainment business prompted the song.  She says, “Women have always been objectified in showbiz.  I’d be the opening act for a comic and as I was leaving the stage he’d say, ‘Yeah, take your clothes off and wait for me in the dressing room, I’ll be right there’. It was demeaning and humiliating for any woman to have that happen publicly.”

Helen knew things had to change and she believed with the right song, her voice could do that.  Reddy says, ” “I remember lying in bed one night and the words, ‘I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman’, kept going over and over in my head. That part I consider to be divinely inspired. I had been chosen to get a message across.”  With her lyrics and fellow Australian guitarist Ray Burton’s music, an anthem was born.

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I remember “I Am Woman” very well and that same conviction inspired me as a kid and now, as an adult, to push forward in the gay rights and marriage equality movements.  It made me stronger and gave me the strength to stand up to anyone who ever tried to belittle me for being gay.

After the follow-up single, “Peaceful,” missed out on the Top Ten, Helen would top the charts again with her next single, “Delta Dawn”.  While that song was already a Top Ten country hit for Tanya Tucker in 1972 and being performed live in concert by Bette Midler, Helen’s version was released in the summer of 1973.

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I remember my grandparents, John & Helen Peoples, taking me shopping and “Delta Dawn” by Helen Reddy was the very first 45 single I ever bought.

In the late 1970s, I only owned three eight-track tapes:  Billy Joel’s “Glass Houses”, Olivia Newton-John’s “Totally Hot”, and “Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits”.  It went on to move more than two million copies.

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Helen would go on to score four more Top Ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100:  “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)” (#3, 1973), “You And Me Against The World (#9, 1974), “Angie Baby” (#1, 1974), and “Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady” (#8, 1975).

Her last Hot 100 pop hit was 1977’s “You’re My World” that peaked at #18.

Sadly, Helen decided to give up touring in the fall of 2002 when wrapped up her tour in Edmonton, Canada.  She moved back to Australia and put the music industry behind her and became a clinical hypnotherapist.

In November 2011, she did a great interview with an Australian television show, “Today Tonight”.  It’s incredible to see how she choose to go from being a music superstar of the 1970s to enjoying a quiet life today and doing whatever she pleases.

Back in 2008, she said that she “will never again perform before an audience” and that she’s “moved on.”

For some lucky fans, that isn’t the case.  This summer, she performed at a jazz bar in San Diego, California, and at a benefit concert for the arts outside of Los Angeles.

And, according to her website, she is performing four concerts in March 2013:  one in South Carolina, one in Florida, and two in New York City.  Since I would be so excited to see her, I hope more dates will follow.

So, on this special day, Happy Birthday Miss Helen Reddy and “keep on singing”.

I’m including this because it’s one of my favorite songs and it’s subliminal. 🙂  See the preceding comment about hoping more concerts will follow!

Anthony

Best.Brunch.Buffet.Ever

I’ve been back from Las Vegas now for nine days and it seems like forever.

The good news is that my healthy eating and exercise routine this summer worked and I lost 25 pounds and kept it off for the Madonna concert.  That really wasn’t the only reason for being healthy this summer.  I wanted to lose the 15 pounds that I gained since Ray and I met back in February 2009.

While in Vegas, we did a lot of walking and we even walked on the hotel treadmill.  One thing we didn’t do on vacation was count calories.  You know from reading my blog that I love food, so I’m going to share some of my plates with you.  Food porn, as some may call it!

We went grocery shopping to buy some snacks for the hotel room.  But, we only ate one meal each day and yes, that one meal was a buffet.

By far, the best dining experience on this trip was Saturday brunch for my birthday at the Stratosphere.

While the presentation, the food, the bottomless mimosas, and the champagne was incredible, what was truly impressive is that the brunch was only $19.99 each!  Great tasting and a great bargain!

The choices were endless and it seemed like the chefs switched out various entrees every 20-30 minutes.  It goes without saying, but I will, that even before I got my first plate, of many, that I checked out the desserts.

Along with my first two mimosa, my first plate was salad and fresh fruit.  So far, so good.

As I moved up to lunch fare on the second plate of swordfish, lox and capers, smoked salmon, pork, couscous, and veggies, I switched over to champagne for two glasses.  I didn’t want to overdo it with orange juice and Vitamin C!  🙂

From there, I moved back to breakfast food and back to mimosas for two more.

When I do buffets, I don’t load my plates with food because I don’t waste and I eat every bite.  For this one, I had Eggs Benedict, some French toast with whipped topping, crushed Heath bars, and a cherry, along with some bacon and fruit.

 

When I went back for my last plate before dessert, I had some chilled crab legs, which I’ve never had before.  I also had more lox and smoked salmon, and a little antipasto salad, and another mimosa.  And, then it was time to have dessert.

Before even going to brunch and Vegas, I already had my mind set on what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday and it must have been my lucky day because they had it!

That carrot cake was excellent and it was even better when I drizzled it with caramel sauce.  Oh, by the way, that picture is a little deceiving.  Of course, I had to wash it down with something!

We topped off brunch with a toast to my birthday and to a fantastic time at the Madonna concert later that night.  It was incredible.  Ray and I have decided that when we go back in January to see Lady Gaga we will be having the Stratosphere weekend brunch again.

In case you lost track, I had a total or seven or eight beverages for brunch. 🙂

SECOND BEST BUFFET

On Friday, our second day in Vegas, we took the Monorail train and walked to two grocery stores to get snacks, cherry-flavored vodka, and wine.  While shopping, we noticed a Chinese buffet and decided to have lunch there.  It’s a good thing we did that because we ended up getting tickets to Elton John that night, so we didn’t eat dinner.

So, while the Chinese buffet was good, I won’t count it as my second favorite buffet because it wasn’t at a casino.  That would go to the Palms Bistro Buffet Sunday night.  This summer, we bought a Travelzoo 2-for-1 special and that is why we went out of our way to the Palms.

The buffet was not maintained well and a little messy, but the food was decent.

Before I even got my salad and fruit plate, our interaction with the waitress was rather standoffish.  Wine or beer came with dinner.  I asked, “what are your wine choices?” and she replied, “white or red”.

Simple enough, but I was still curious and asked, “what are the white wine choices?” to which she replied, “white or red”, and I politely looked back at her and said, “is that a white zinfandel or chardonnay?”, to which she finally understood and brought me the chardonnay, the only white wine choice.  At least, there was no confusion on the diet coke!

 

The highlight of my second plate was several different varieties of curried chicken.  When I went back for the third plate, I once again tried more of the curried chicken and a chilled crab leg.  However, the Palms chilled crab leg for dinner didn’t have the same effect, or taste, as the brunch chilled crab leg Saturday at the Stratosphere.

And, of course, I topped the meal off with dessert, or I should say, desserts!  In addition to what you see here, I also have a small bowl of chocolate ice cream.  However, we’ve all seen that so I didn’t take a picture of it. 🙂

The highlight of this meal was a funny interaction between us, our server, and another table.  Midway through the meal, a couple two tables behind us was getting ready to leave.  We had already noticed that the woman was rather bosomy.  And, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that a woman who has probably had a AARP card for many, many years doesn’t have boobies that are that “out there and up there”.

As she walked by, Ray and I both watched her walk by.  I looked up and the waitress was looking at the sight, too.  She then looked over at me and realized that I was watching her watch the couple walk by.  For a couple of seconds, she didn’t know how to react.  So, I smiled that knowing smile.  Okay, it was an OMG smile and that broke the tension for the rest of the meal.

Hey, I say, “if you got the money and you want them, buy them and own them, they’re yours”!

Somehow segueing from desserts to boobies is probably wrong on so many levels.  I’ll just blame it on Madonna since I saw her the night before!

And, the buffet that really was not all that remarkable was the one that we had on the first night in Las Vegas and it was the most expensive.  It was the Big Belly Buffet at the Monte Carlo and it definitely wasn’t worth the $50 for the two of us.

You know it’s not all that spectacular when you load your plate with cantaloupe, honeydew, and veggies!  In all fairness, the limited sushi selections were good and the chicken enchilada was tasty.  The best dessert offering was the individual mini pecan pie.  I had two of them with some ice cream.

Upon returning from Vegas last Monday, we went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday with Gretel and Tammy at Osaka Buffet in Moline, Illinois, my favorite in the Quad Cities.  (Wise Guys Pizza in Davenport, Iowa, is a close second!)

Tammy made me a Twinkie Cake for my birthday and it was scrumptious.

Tammy and Gretel each had one piece that night, which meant that Ray and I finished it off that week.  And, that wasn’t the end of the indulgence or should I say, gluttony.  We had another buffet Friday night with Gretel.

So, after gaining a total of six pounds (and, eight for Ray), we’re both back on the healthy eating and exercising routine.  We’ve both already shed more than three of those vacation pounds.

Here’s a bit of irony.  On the day before Vegas, I had my annual physical in Chicago (and everything came back great).  My doctor was happy that I lost weight, but he told me, “don’t lose any more weight”.  Somehow, my mind told me, in Vegas, that meant eat all I wanted. 🙂

That old saying, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” might be true for some things, but it isn’t for the weight gain.  Those pounds followed us home!

Anthony

Remembering The Woman That Inspired Me To Go Into Television News

While I credit my mother’s strengths, and weaknesses, to getting me to where I am today in life, she never saw me working at a commercial, network-affiliated television station.  She did see me on television as a weathercaster and music show host (“Music Visions”) on MSU TV-11, our campus television station in Murray, Kentucky, back in the 1980s.

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She was always proud of my straight As in high school, for which I thank  my favorite science teacher, Roxanne Ferguson, and my favorite math teacher, Vasteene Rives.  They inspired to me to follow my dreams of being a scientist.

As a teenager, I confirmed that I wanted to be a television meteorologist.  For that, I have current “Good Morning America” weatherman Sam Champion, who was working at WPSD in Paducah, Kentucky, back then, along with WPSD meteorologist Paul Boucherau to thank.  Also, there’s former “Good Morning America” meteorologist John Coleman, who started the “The Weather Channel”.

However, the person that inspired me the most to get into the television news “rat race” was a woman who tragically died on this day back in 1983.

While some Americans first learned of Jessica Savitch on the radio in New Jersey and New York in the 1960s as the “honeybee”, while she attended Ithaca College in New York, her first television job was at KHOU in Houston, Texas in 1971.

She worked her way up from being a reporter to becoming the first woman news anchor in the South three months after starting there.  It didn’t take long for the big markets to seek her out.  In 1972, she was hired at KYW in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fourth largest television market in the country, for the weekend newscasts.  She then became that station’s main anchor.

From there, NBC News came calling in 1977 and offered her a position as the Washington correspondent.  Although it was tough on her because many thought she was given the position for her beauty, she fought to prove herself and become the weekend news anchor.

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On air, Jessica was magical.  The camera loved her.  America loved her.  And, I  loved her.  As much as I wanted to be a television weatherman, I remember as a teenager sitting on my bed reading the newspaper to the wall pretending it was a camera and wanting to be just like Jessica Savitch.

It’s often said that fame and success comes with a price.  And, that’s true.  For Jessica, the price she paid for success was rumored to be drugs.   I won’t say that it’s true or it wasn’t because I wasn’t there.

Nevertheless, her private life was a mess.  It started with her abusive boyfriend back in Houston, who was a reporter at a competing station and continued with her two failed marriages in 1980 and 1981.  Her second husband, Dr. Donald Payne, committed suicide in the basement of their Washington DC townhouse  with her husky, Chewy’s, leash knowing that Jessica would find him.

It had to be rough on all women, including Jessica, working their way up in the male chauvinistic world of television in the 1970s.  For women, it meant you had to work twice as hard as men to accomplish less and it also meant that you made enemies.  Enemies that would make  recorded tantrums public.

Being a television personality, I’ll defend Jessica here.  I have been burned several times by the production crew, directors, and producers with timing issues.  You are the person on the air that is cut off, rushed, or made to look bad.  You are the face that people at home see when things go wrong.

As the rumors swirled about Jessica’s possible drug use and erratic behavior, it all reached a climax with this NBC News Digest from 1983.

Jessica blamed it on a faulty teleprompter (the magic words of the scripts on the camera that an anchor reads), yet her publicist said it was adverse reaction to prescription medication and a glass of wine at dinner.  Nevertheless, it added fuel to the fire about Jessica.

Jessica began dating Martin Fischbein, the Vice President of the “New York Post”, and seemed happy.  On the evening of October 23, 1983, they drove to New Hope, Pennsylvania, to have dinner at Odette’s Restaurant.

When Jessica and Martin left the restaurant in heavy rain, she got in the backseat with Chewy.  In the inclement weather, Martin apparently missed the posted warning signs and the car dropped fifteen feet and sank in the mud to the bottom of the old Pennsylvania Canal’s Delaware Division, which is on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River.

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Jessica, Martin, and Chewy were trapped inside and they all died.

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The official cause of death was asphyxiation by drowning.  No drugs or alcohol played any part in the crash, according to the coroner’s report.

In the fall of 1983, I gave a speech about Jessica Savitch and her death in my “Introduction to Radio-Television” class at Murray State and I made a “B” for my presentation.

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Jessica, I still think of you 29 years after your death and I thank you for inspiring me and so many young women that followed in your footsteps.  You set the standard for television news that is still being mimicked today.

Anthony