Matter of Record

How was your week? Mine was a little stressful. Here’s why.

Some time ago, Ginny and I decided to add a fireplace to our home, forgetting the old adage (I just made up now) that when you add something, something else has to be subtracted. In this case that something else is storage space. That storage space was for our record collection.

You should know Ginny and I love our vinyl LPs. For those of you too young to know what vinyl LPs are, there’s Google.

In some cases, LPs sound better to me than CDs, which can sometimes sound a little shrill or harsh. Much larger than CDs, LP artwork can be seen the way it was meant to be seen. They are big enough to actually read the liner notes, too. (Yes, aging may well be a factor here.) Also, I just enjoy turning over a record half way through the album. I don’t know why, I just do.

Once said to be obsolete, funny thing is today new LPs seem to be crowding out everything else in the music section of Barnes & Noble.

I never gave up on them. Most of mine have been dragged lovingly from Hillsboro to Grand Forks to Georgia, back to Hillsboro (at U.S Army expense), then to Mayville, Bismarck and back to Grand Forks. When Ginny and I got married, near the end of the vinyl era, our record collections ended up co-mingled, of course. I can’t prove it but I suspect LPs breed, or rather clone themselves at night. All I know is that we always seem to have a lot of doubles.

Back to the stressful week that was. With the new fireplace, roughly half of the shelf space we once had for our music is now gone, which means half of our vinyl had to go.

And so the self-searching began. Do we really need a dozen Chicago albums? Will Chicago Transit Authority do?

Do we have to have ten Peter, Paul & Mary’s? Interestingly, the answer was no. But oddly, all of Harry Belafonte had to stay.

Good as he was, some of Ray Price had to go. Johnny Cash, not so.

On and on it went. For days!

I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. (Slight exaggeration.) I took solice only in my nightly martini. (That part is true.)

Some of the rock ‘n roll and quite a lot of the middle of the road stuff went. Nearly all of the jazz stayed.

When the first hatch-back load of perhaps a hundred records arrived, the nice man at the thrift shop who helped us unload said nothing.

After the second load, he said, “Are all of these yours?” Not anymore.

With the third load, again he said nothing. But for a moment I thought I sensed a little sadness in his eye. Just for a second.

Don’t cry for us. We also have CDs, downloads and Sirius XM at home and the cars. And we still have Chicago Transit Authority on the shelf.

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Mickey and Me

mickeyThe excellent, new biography The Life and Times of Mickey Rooney by Richard A. Lertzman and William J. Birnes got me thinking about an interview I did with the film legend some years ago. My experience with the five-foot, three-inch screen star was not at all a pleasant one, so if you like and admire Mickey Rooney it might be best for you to skip this post. No one doubts Mickey Rooney’s enormous talent, but the experience I had talking with him mirrors what the two authors write, that the last years of his life especially were not at all good ones.

I was thrilled to have been offered the chance to interview Mr. Rooney. He was Andy Hardy, after all! Sir Lawrence Olivier, no less, once called him “the best [actor] there has ever been.” Good enough for me.

Preparing for the interview, however, led to me to believe that interviewing Mickey Rooney was not always a walk in the park for reporters. One Chicago newspaper writer in particular had recently written about how the film star refused to answer any of his questions during a one on one interview over dinner with anything other than one or two word replies. If he pulls this sort of thing on the Chicago Tribune, I thought to myself, what chance do I have?

In preparation, I decided if that was going to be the game, I would pepper him with questions. So, I wrote no less than about a hundred. Honestly, about a hundred. I continued writing in the car during the nearly two-hour drive to Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

Our little interview took place at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids. Along with his (eighth) wife, Jan Chamberlain, he was appearing the next night in their “One Man, One Wife” show at the annual Judy Garland Festival.

And so, the three of us sat down. Let the games begin.

Sure enough, Mr. Rooney was not in a very good mood that day. At one point, the conversation went (exactly) like this.

Me:  You and Judy Garland were great friends….

Mickey: Judy and I weren’t friends.

Jan:  Oh, Mickey, you and Judy were friends.

Mickey:  Well, yeah.

On and on. If I had said the sky is up. Mr. Rooney would have disagreed. After “all” was said and done, Jan whispered to me, “Good interview.” I felt otherwise.

Flash forward a little over a year. One of the organizers for the Grand Rapids festival called on me at WDAZ quite out of the blue. Months and months later, she took the time to apologize to me for Mr. Rooney’s behavior.

She also shared a couple of her Rooney stories which included having to change, not just hotel rooms for the movie star, but hotels. That resulted in having to transport Mr. Rooney, as I recall, twenty some miles to and from Grand Rapids and the festival.

Side note:  Ginny and I have stayed in the hotel in question. It is fine.

Rooney also dismissed two (maybe three) local pianists, one of whom was to accompany him and Jan in their show. A Los Angeles pianist had to be flown in at the very last minute at considerable expense to the festival.

The organizer told me, “We are not having Mickey Rooney back.”

None of this takes away any admiration I have for Mr. Rooney’s tremendous screen and stage achievements. But the new book confirms what I’ve believed ever since meeting him, that his final years were terribly unhappy. Sad, for a man of his towering (no pun intended) talent.

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Scammin’ the Scammers

I enjoy playing with scammers. You know, the ones who pretend to be your friends on Facebook. I like to think I’ve wasted at least some of their “work” time by keeping them occupied for as long as possible. Below is my actual conversation from earlier today.

Scammer: Hello. How are you?

Me: Doing well.

Scammer: Am pretty good, life is blessed, how are things in your world?

Me: Good.

Scammer:  its good to hear from you,i have a great news to share with you. Guess what?

Me: What?

Scammer: Are you aware of WLA Lottery nominated by facebook?

Me: No. Say, I heard you went to Jane’s wedding.

Scammer: Really

Scammer: Am glad to tell you Some Facebook user’s name are chosen in automated random data base, where i got $50,000,I thought it was a scam until i got delivered

Me: But you went to Jane’s wedding?

Scammer: Yes but i needed to be very sure this that is why i did not not say anything before but right now i have the money cleared into my account

Me: Yeah, but I heard Jack died right in the middle of the service?

Scammer: Yes

Me: Hold that thought. I have to eat lunch.

Scammer: okay

Scammer: Are you kidding or pretending?Because when the Ups men came to delivered the money to me at my doorstep it seems your profile name was on the winner’s list with the shipping company agent,so i thought i would see if you have gotten yours?

Me: Nope. Thanks. Say, would you like to go to the new James Bond movie with me tonight?

Me:  You still there?

Me:  You there?


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The Man Who Made Album Covers Sing

John Berg has died.  You may not know his name, but you know his work. I guarantee it.

Berg was Columbia Records’ Grammy-winning art director, the man responsible for some of the most iconic album covers of all time. The New York Times calls him the man who made album covers sing.

His work includes the famous backlit image of Bob Dylan. The one of Bruce Springsteen sharing a joke with sax player Clarence Clemons. On and on and on.

He died Sunday of pneumonia at the age of 83.


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Silver Circle

emmypodiumIt’s a thrill for me to join friends like Charley Johnson and Bill and Marietta Ekberg and others like Pat Miles and Don Shelby in the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Association of Television Art and Science’s Silver Circle. The award is given for 25 years or more of service to the television industry. Congratulations to fellow inductees Tim Seaman of KCAU-TV in Sioux City, Iowa, and Brendan Henehan of Twin Cities PBS.

Below is the little acceptance speech I gave this weekend in Minneapolis at the Emmy gala.

“First, I would like to say a word of thanks,especially to those of you who were here last year. Last year, our little newsroom, WDAZ  in Grand Forks won an Emmy for Team Coverage. It was the first Emmy the station had ever been nominated for, or won, it in its almost 50-year history. And all of you were so nice to us. You bought us drinks. And you talked to us. And you made us feel so much a part of this Emmy community. It meant a great deal to our mostly young staff. It meant a great deal to me as well. So, thank you.

“This award is… ridiculous.  Ridiculous in the very best way. My first thought when J.J. called to tell me I would be getting it was that the judges must have been drunk out of their minds at the time!

“Be that as it may, I’m not giving it back. But I do want to share it with a couple of people who happen to be sitting at my table this evening.

“First, Julie Moravchik, the last news director I worked with in a fairly long television career. Julie taught me a great deal. Not so much about news, I suppose, difficult as it is to teach an old dog new tricks.

“But Julie taught me a great deal about friendship. She taught me that you can be as tenacious a news director as ever walked into a newsroom, that you can care most about getting the story fast and first, but at the same time, you can care an equal amount about each member of your staff as individuals… as people.

“I also want to share this with another woman sitting at my table. (You should know, I like women.) She is my roommate, my best friend and my current wife, not necessarily in that order, Ginny Dullum. Ginny spent way too many nights home alone over the years, way too many holidays, too many weekends home alone, while I was out somewhere doing the work that I loved. Ginny, I share this with you.

“And finally, to another woman who is not at our table tonight, my 94-year-old mother who passed away a couple of weeks ago. My mother never understood the news business, I don’t think. And I don’t think she ever understood the people in the news business, including her own son. But she was always greatly amused by all of it. So mom, this is for you too.

“Thank you all very much for this.  I accept this honor with a great deal of humility and much gratitude.”


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On Eagles’ Wings

Someone asked me this week if I ever covered a Papal visit. Not one in the U.S., but on September 16, 1984, I covered Pope John Paul II’s visit to Winnipeg for WDAY and WDAZ. It was part of a very long Canadian visit for John Paul, and a fairly historic one, marking the first time a Pope had ever set foot on Canadian soil.

What I remember most is the size of the crowd waiting to be a part of John Paul’s Sunday Mass. I don’t recall the numbers, but the audience was so large it was to me, at different times, awesome and a little scary. Positioned, as we were, on top of a scaffold several stories high on a fairly breezy day didn’t make it any less scary.

popejohnpaulA Papal visit is a series of “moments,” for the crowd and for the cameras. To me, the most memorable Winnipeg moment was the Pope’s “entrance” to the Birds Hill Park grounds in the Pope mobile.

The song sung by a huge, mass choir just as the Pope arrived at the site was “On Eagles’ Wings.” It was relatively new at the time, written about 1975. I had never heard it before. It’s a beautiful song and powerful. It was a powerful moment too, at least for me.

Since then, “On Eagles’ Wings” has become a favorite of mine. Every time I hear it now I think of John Paul and Winnipeg.  It was played the other day at my mom’s funeral. Now, I’m sure, I’ll think of that day too when I hear it.

It has become hugely popular among nearly all denominations and recorded by Josh Grobin, among others. I love the music and I love the lyrics.

And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand…

I wish I’d written that.

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Bears on Patrol

patrolbearAt first when they arrived at the North Dakota Highway Patrol office in Grand Fork, some of the bears seemed a little apprehensive.  But then when they found out how nice everybody is they relaxed a little bit.

whitebearsA few words of explanation. My mother used to collect Teddy Bears, especially white ones. When she died last month we decided that the bears should come out of retirement and go to work for the Highway Patrol. We bought a few new ones to round out their numbers. They will ride along with patrol officers until some little guy or girl needs a bear hug. We think it will be a win-win situation.

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peteSaddened to learn of the passing of long-time WDAY promotions director Roy “Pete” Peterson.

I didn’t know Roy personally. I wish I had. I did know his work. He played a huge role in shaping WDAY’s identity as a station in its early days, as well as how we think of NDSU and the city of Fargo today.

Working behind the cameras, with more than a little P.T. Barnum in him, Roy made sure that names like Bill, Dewey, Verna, Boyd and Marv stayed in front of the public for decades.

In one memorable filmed promotion for WDAY, he directed a local “actor” as he took (to my recollection) a forward summersault down the open stairway of the Townhouse Motel in Fargo to promote the station’s new “fall” television season. Mercifully, he got what he wanted in one “take.” Today the lawyers would put a stop to such a stunt before it even reached the talking stage.

But when I think of Roy I will always picture him on top of a cherry picker on a chilly May day lining up a hundred or more local high school marching bands on one of WDAY’s Band Festival days in the mid 1960’s. Megaphone in hand, it was, “Hillsboro, you’re up next. Davenport, stand-up.”

Somehow he got thousands of high school musicians on live television and later fed (probably a hot dog and chips) at the Fargo Civic Auditorium and entertained by Dick Dunkirk’s Strangers.

I defy anyone to pull off something like that today.

Rest in peace, Roy. As the children say, you were awesome.

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A Moving Story

Yesterday, a couple of very big, very strong guys (relatives, actually) helped us move my mother’s possessions out of the Hillsboro home where she lived for almost 60 years.

It reminded me of the time in Bismarck when we hired two movers to help us with some of the furniture in Ginny’s mother’s home after Hazel died.

The movers were a married couple who traveled the country in their own rig. Interesting job, really.

They had just come from moving Johnny Carson’s mother in law across the country to California.

I asked them if they got to meet Mr. Carson. Yes, they did.

I asked them if he tipped them. Yes, he did. A thousand dollars.

I’m afraid the two very big, very strong guys didn’t get that much of a tip from me yesterday.

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In one of my mother’s closets, our family found some items she wanted in her funeral. We found them the day AFTER her funeral, of course. They included the Bible passage and poem below. We can’t turn back time and use them in her service, but we can place them here.


Psalm 121

     Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

shall neither slumber nor sleep.

I lift up my eyes to the hills;

     from where is my help to come?

My help comes from the Lord,

     the maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved

     and he who watches over you will not sleep.

Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

     shall neither slumber not sleep.

The Lord himself watches over you;

     the Lord is your shade at your right hand,

so that the sun shall not strike you by day,

     nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;

     it is he who shall keep you safe.

The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in,

     from this forth forevermore.

Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

shall neither slumber not sleep.



Don’t grieve for me… for now I’m Free.

I’m following the path God laid for me.

I took His hand when I heard Him call

I turned my back and left it all.

I could not stay another day

to laugh, to love, to work or play.

Tasks undone must stay that way.

For I found peace at close of day.

If my parting has left a void

then fill it with remembered joy.

A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss

Yes, there are the things I too will miss.

Be not burdened with times of sorrow.

I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.

My life’s been full, I savored much

Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.

Perhaps my time seemed all too brief.

Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.

Lift up your hear and share with me

God wanted me now

He set me free.

momsingleHilda Bagstad