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I’ve been a Sinatra fan since I was a teenager. Like great classical music, I can listen to his music over and over again and hear something new in it almost every time.
Much has been written about his impeccable phrasing and breath control. It’s been said he never sang a song the same way twice. It all seems so effortless.
I focus on his recordings, but the sheer volume of his work is staggering. In his 60-year career, he made hundreds of concert, radio and television appearances. In his spare time apparently, he became a movie star as well.
Ginny and I were at Caesar’s Palace on Frank’s opening night on Labor Day weekend, 1976. I remember every detail. Barbara Sinatra and the Fifth Dimension were in the audience. Lola Falana winked at me as she breezed through the V.I.P. line. Sam Butera (of the great Las Vegas lounge act Sam Butera and the Witnesses) opened. It still seemed like old Las Vegas and was great fun.
At one point in the show we got the Sinatra blessing. Jack Daniel’s glass raised, he toasted the audience. “May you live to be a hundred and may the last voice you hear be mine.” Amen to that, Mr. Chairman.
A new slogan on the Siriusly Sinatra channel on Sirius-XM radio says it all for me. “Frank Sinatra: The voice that taught us how to listen.”
This is Frank Sinatra’s centennial year. A big exhibit is running in New York City. A “new” album has just been released called “Sinatra London.” Bob Dylan, of all people, just released an album of Sinatra songs. A 4-hour documentary is to be seen on HBO beginning next month. Volume two of James Kaplan’s wonderful biography is expected to be published soon. All in all, it’s going to be a very good year.
Remember the Sony Pictures hacking scandal a few weeks back? Hackers released a ton of confidential data belonging to Sony Pictures Entertainment, including personal information about Sony employees, their salaries and whatnot. It provided a glimpse of who was doing what to whom in Hollywood. It embarrassed countless show business talent and executive-types and provided a lot of fun reading for the rest of us.
With that in mind, what follows is a heavily edited, but very real Facebook conversation between the lovely and talented Maria Williams Kennedy and educator/actor/singer/director/agitator Brad Sherwood. I’m releasing it in hopes of stirring up some trouble around here.
Maria Williams Kennedy: Hello! I am working on a collaboration with Emily Burkland at the Empire Arts Center about an Opera Project that will be turned into a film to be shown at the Empire. I have written the script and contacted singers and would like to ask you if you would be interested in performing….. Please let me know if you are interested in this fun Fundraiser for the Empire. I have attached the scrip. Thank you!
Brad Sherwood: What is the timeline of events around this work?
Maria Williams Kennedy: We would be filming in the Summer and a release date would be September.
Brad Sherwood: sounds like fun…if it fits in the calendar of life…”i’m in”
Maria Williams Kennedy: Yay!
Brad Sherwood: but only if I can be killed by Terry Dullum!!!
Maria Williams Kennedy: LOL that could be arranged!
Terry Dullum: I’d love to kill Brad. I’m assuming this is a non-singing role on my part?
Maria Williams Kennedy: Yes, no singing. We’d love to have you kill Brad, Terry!
Terry Dullum: I have a list of some others I’d like to kill… but we can discuss that later.
Zombie Empire is a real project. Without giving away too much, let’s just say the script revolves around zombies, Marilyn Hagerty and world domination. I’ll be playing myself, as best I can. Watch for it.
Another full house and a standing ovation for the final performance of Guys on Ice last night at the Fire Hall Theatre in Grand Forks. It was a great finish to a very fun run.
In eleven performances and a half dozen or so rehearsals, I didn’t fall off the stage once. To me that’s success.
Thanks to everyone at the Fire Hall for allowing a civilian like me into your ranks. And thanks to everyone who came out to see our little show. I had the best time!
For what it’s worth, Kerstin Kealy’s interview with President Obama today is not exactly a first for the station. Former WDAY-TV anchor Marv Bossart was one of several local television reporters to conduct a sit-down interview with President Reagan at the White House about a year before his presidency ended in 1989.
Marv recalled later to many of us that he was struck by the president’s poor hearing, asking for most of the questions to be repeated.
I also remember fondly Marv telling me (through his laughter) about “stealing” the paper White House coaster from under the president’s water glass as a souvenir after Mr. Reagan left the room.
Ginny & I were terribly saddened to learn of the passing of Earl Williams today, one of WDAY Radio’s best and brightest. Earl is probably best known as one half of the Earl & Don Show on WDAY, Don being Don Dresser.
Even as a snarky teenager, more into rock music rather than ‘DAY’s middle of the road format, the Earl & Don were “must” listening for me. Listening to them I remember thinking that is how you do that.
Ginny & I got to know Earl only recently at a couple of WDAY alum lunches in Fargo. His Queen Elizabeth “pull my finger” story had me nearly on the floor.
Visitation will be from 9 – 10 am Friday, followed by a memorial service at 10 am at Hope Lutheran Church – South Campus in Fargo.
Not everybody gets to spend an hour talking about himself in front of a roomful of strangers. But every year, I get to.
Each week second-year medical students at the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Grand Forks break into teams to study a different medical condition. The students themselves are responsible for much of the research that goes into their education. It must be a very interesting way to learn.
Fridays a physician and a patient join them to answer student questions. Yesterday Altru Health System urologist Dr. R Tony Highshaw and I talked about prostate cancer. Clearly the students appreciated Dr. Highshaw’s energy and enthusiasm. I tried to keep up.
After the “wrap-up” session, one of the students said to me, this is the time of year when he gets a little weary of the books. My heart melted when he said “But you reminded me why I went into medicine in the first place. It’s about helping people.”
So, we’re doing this thing. It’s called “Guys on Ice.” It’s a fairly new musical comedy about ice fishing in Wisconsin. It has some great scenes and songs in it.
Not being an actor/singer/dancer-type, the nice people at the Fire Hall Theatre in Grand Forks created a role for me that doesn’t require any singing or dancing. It’s doesn’t require much acting on my part, either.
I “play” the emcee of the “Guys on Ice Half-Time Show,” a post-intermission audience participation game show. My character is sort of like Alex Trebek, only shorter. My only “acting,” aside from attempting a very questionable northern Wisconsin accent, is to affect a kind of world-weary attitude. (Come to think of it, not much of a stretch for me there, either.)
The show lends itself to a certain amount of improvisation, especially my part. So, in addition to playing the game with the audience, I like to work in some comments about what’s happening around me.
Here’s a partial listing so far. My former employer, television in general, the city of Fargo, the Fire Hall Theatre, Brian Williams, Leinenkugel’s Beer, the state of Wisconsin, Valentine’s Day, a seemingly very nice, follically-challenged gentleman in the front row, pianist Karen Braaten, hockey, a guy in the front row from Cando, 50 Shades of Grey, a guy in the front row from Stephen, Cost-Cutters, professional football and character Ernie the Moocher played by Dave Whitcomb.
And, we’re really just getting started. I suspect future talking points will include hockey, the Oscars and more about my former employer.
We’ve had four great audiences so far. Remaining “Guys on Ice” performances are February 19 – 21 and February 26 – 28 at 7:30 pm. There’s one more matinee February 22 at 2 pm. Tickets are available by calling (701) 777-4090. They are going fast. They really are.
With the Lenten season almost upon us, I’m reminded again how terribly bad I’ve been lately at sacrificing or “giving up” things for Lent. (Never mind New Year’s resolutions which are pretty much out of the question. Forgetaboutit.)
But about this time last year I heard some theologian say it’s perfectly consistent with Lenten spirituality to “add” something positive in one’s life, in place of giving something up. Lent can be considered a time of self-improvement.
So in February last year, instead spending 40 days trying to surrender chocolate or alcohol from my life or something else just as much fun, I decided to seriously do something healthy for myself every day. I decided to give meditation another try.
I say another try because I was first exposed to it back in the Dark Ages, college in the late 1960’s. As an elective, I took a religion course on Mysticism taught by a rabbi from Winnipeg. I remember the class was hugely popular and terribly hard to get into. Again, this was the 60’s. Anyway, we would spend the first 20 minutes of class time in meditation.
I didn’t stick with it, however. One thing or another got in the way. Being drafted into the Army among them.
Fast forward forty-plus years.
As it turns out, last year I had just read Dan Harris’ wonderfully down-to-earth book 10% Happier. I also talked with him about it on television via satellite, as they say.
You may know that Dan Harris as one of the weekend anchors of ABC’s Good Morning America. For years he has covered religion and spirituality for the network. He’s done a bang-up job doing it, by the way.
After reporting on it, Mr. Harris himself became attracted to meditation and a convert. One reason for that he gives in the book is that today meditation is practiced regularly not just by granola-eating, sandal-wearing “hippy”-types, but also by people from all walks of life, including Navy Seals. Nowadays it’s part of their training.
The health benefits of meditation have been well-documented for years. It can lower blood pressure. All kinds of things.
Mr. Harris was convinced. Mr. Harris convinced me.
Early one morning he even tweeted me his encouragement from the set of Good Morning America suggesting I start with just five minutes a day, which I did.
Today I meditate for twenty to twenty-five minutes first thing in the morning in our sun room. I haven’t missed a day in almost a year. Sometimes Desi joins me on my lap. (Desi is Desi Arnaz, our cat named after a Cuban bandleader who married well.) I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not, but Desi seems to enjoy it, usually sitting perfectly still with me.
The idea of meditation is to try to clear the mind and turn off “the voices” that are constantly in our heads. I’m here to tell you it’s incredibly hard to try not to think of anything, but there is something about the process of trying to think of nothing that is beneficial.
For me at first, nothing happened. After awhile, nothing happened either.
But eventually little things at work started to bother me less. Tailgating drivers behind me on the road started to bother me a little less. It’s funny. The benefits of meditation seem to kick in when I need them most, when I the most stressed.
Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been life-changing or anything. I still get mad to be sure, but less often and with far less intensity.
Anyway, I never expected miracles. These things take time. But for me, it beats giving up chocolate.
Opening night is coming up. The Fire Hall Theatre’s production of Guys on Ice opens February 12 in Grand Forks. Foolishly enough perhaps, the theatre people have asked me to be a part of it.
Without giving away too much, I’ll be in the Guys on Ice “half time show.” I hope you’ll call 777-4090 and support the Fire Hall Theatre by reserving a fistful of tickets. It runs weekends through February 28.
Last year I was one of about a dozen of the usual suspects from around town who were asked to die in the opening scene of Dearly Departed at he Fire Hall Theatre. Chuck Haga, UND President Robert Kelley and others gave their lives as well one night only.
But actually, my acting career may have peaked several years ago when I appeared on an episode of the ABC soap opera General Hospital. The networks call them daytime dramas. Somewhere there’s tape to prove it.
If you work for an ABC television station and you’re going to be in the Los Angeles area, as they say, sometimes the producers will have you written into their show. That’s what they did with me.
Angela Cary, WDAZ’s promotion director at the time, set it up. One day (while I was in the shower) General Hospital’s casting director called me at home. After a short, rather odd conversation with her on the phone she said “I’m looking at your head shot. I think we’ll make you the manager of an upscale, European casino.”
As instructed, I dragged a blue suit and a grey suit with me to California, only to learn at the last minute I’d be dressed by the show in a tuxedo.
The script arrived in Grand Forks after we’d left for the coast, so the writers a copy delivered by currier to our hotel (at some expense). I would have one line, four words. “Urgent call, Mr. Jax.”
My scene would be with Jasper “Jax” Jacks, the character played by hunky Australian actor Ingo Rademacher. (Ingo also came in 5th in the 16th season of Dancing with the Stars in 2012.)
Fairly long story short, arriving at the appointed hour, they “blocked” the (rather complicated) scene, rehearsed it once and shot it in one take.
Then somebody told me to be sure to check in at the business office before leaving “or you won’t get paid.” I told them I didn’t expect to get paid, that I was doing it to show our view our news viewers what it’s like to be on a soap opera, I mean daytime drama. I was told “You don’t understand. You have to get paid. It’s a union thing.”
Back at home a few weeks later in the mail I got a check with a full-color image of Mickey Mouse in the corner for three hundred and thirty-some dollars. Not bad at all for about an hour’s “work.” Ginny and I used the money to buy a set of bookcases. A couple weeks later I got another “residual” check in the mail for something like eighteen dollars. A couple weeks after that, another check arrived, for fifty cents, a little more than the postage. What’s more, about half of that amount had been taken out. Some of it went to the union. (I’m not making any of this up.)
I couldn’t bring myself to cash the check. Eventually, I framed it. But first, when tax season rolled around that year, I insisted that our tax guy declare it as income. He showed it to everybody in the office. They all agreed it was the smallest check any of them had ever seen.