Saturday, December 26, 2009

Heart's Magazine: The SPARTY 1024 LP

It was spring, 1977, I was just 18, and I was walking down 7th Avenue to Penn Station. It had been a rough week. Magazine, the long player that Mushroom Records had released without the cooperation of the group Heart, had been pulled off the shelves. No doubt, despite being their biggest fan, I wouldn't be seeing a copy of that LP any time soon.

As had been my wont when traversing this stretch of 7th Avenue, I stopped into a small record store I knew on the way to the train depot. (It might have been a J&R Music Annex on the west side maybe at 36th Street.) While nonchalantly browsing through the rock bin I happened upon the Heart divider, looked inside and was taken aback. There was a copy of Heart's Magazine.

But the cardboard used for the album jacket felt thin? And there was a little white sticker on the jacket back that was blank? And the jacket itself was unwrapped but placed in a plastic sleeve? After a moment of consternation, I realized it was different from what I was accustomed to in the United States - plus the jacket back mentioned something about London. I've since found out that 50,000 copies of Mushroom's original release of Magazine had been pressed for North America. Some of these were sold in stores, mostly in Los Angeles and Hollywood, Florida. But the album was also briefly released in Europe through Arista Records (under catalog identifier SPARTY 1024). What I had found was an imported copy of this European release - my first store-bought import. I refer to this LP as Magazine (The SPARTY 1024 LP) when it comes up in casual conversation.

Heart had a contract with Mushroom Records for two albums. Magazine was originally intended to follow-up their 1976 Mushroom debut Dreamboat Annie. The group began recording 5 songs that would have been part of this second album. Then, Shelly Siegel took out an ad in Rolling Stone to congratulate the respective successes of the group and his company. The ad showed a picture of Heart group members (and sisters) Ann and Nancy Wilson bare-shouldered with the suggestive caption, It was only our first time.

According to legend, after one live appearance when a reporter suggested that the sisters were sexual partners, Ann returned to her hotel room and wrote the lyrics to Barracuda to relieve her frustration. Thanks to Retrospace for the infamous ad. I searched this here internet for hours looking for a scan before coming across the blog.

None to pleased with this advertisement, Heart also felt that they had now proven themselves as hit-makers and expected Mushroom to act accordingly and raise their contracted royalty rate. To the surprise of the group and their producer, Mike Flicker, the label refused to pay more and decided not to release a second Heart album. Flicker ended his relationship with the label and Heart followed, believing they had no obligation to stay without their producer. They accepted a more lucrative offer from CBS Records (now Sony BMG) subsidiary, Portrait Records and began preparing Little Queen - seemingly breaching the contract with Mushroom.

Shelly Siegel though believed Mushroom had the legal right to release a second Heart album so he compiled the rough mixes of the 5 studio recordings (Devil Delight, the single Heartless, the Badfinger chestnut Without You, Magazine and Just the Wine), B-side Here Song and three live songs recorded in 1975 at the Aquarius Tavern and released the collection as Magazine. The back cover of the LP carries a disclaimer.

Mushroom Records regrets that a contractual dispute has made it necessary to complete this record without the cooperation or endorsement of the group Heart, who have expressly disclaimed artistic involvement in completing this record. We did not feel that a contractual dispute should prevent the public from hearing and enjoying these incredible tunes and recordings.

Unhappy with the demo-like-quality of the release, Heart took Mushroom to court to stop the sale of the album. The Seattle court ruled that Mushroom had to recall the album and unsold copies were reportedly destroyed. When the dust settled, the judge found in Mushroom's favor and required that Heart honor their contract and provide a second album. Heart chose to fulfill this obligation by working with the original Magazine tapes: remixing the songs, adding new lead vocals and editing. Reportedly, Mushroom employed a security guard to make sure that the group didn't try to erase the multitrack master tapes while in the studio.

The official revised version of the album was released with a different track sequence (and no disclaimer) in April 1978. Heart was never particularly happy with the album's sound but nevertheless it peaked at number 17 on the Billboard album chart and sold over a million copies. Heartless was a Top 40 hit. In the early 1980s Mushroom Records went out of business, and Heart's two albums for the label were purchased and re-issued by Capitol Records.

Which brings us back to the spring of 1977 and me holding the now rare long player Magazine, the SPARTY 1024 LP with disclaimer. I ran to the cash register, ran out of the store, ran to Penn Station, and ran up and down the aisles of the train as it chugged along past Merrick, Bellmore, Wantagh, Seaford and Massapequa to stop at Massapequa Park. I finally made it home and dropped the platter on the turntable. Those very tunes I heard that day are the very same ones I've now posted as Heart_Magazine_SPARTY_1024_Vinyl. Email me for the link to download this LP.

Track listing - 1977 Release

"Heartless" (Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson) – 5:00
"Without You" (Peter Ham, Tom Evans) – 4:44
"Just The Wine" (A. Wilson, N. Wilson) – 4:30
"Magazine" (A. Wilson, N. Wilson) – 6:55
"Here Song" (A. Wilson) – 1:35
"Devil Delight" (A. Wilson, N. Wilson) – 4:58
"Blues Medley" – 7:11 
(Mother Earth) (You Shook Me Babe)
(Peter Chapman, Lewis Simkin, Willie Dixon)
"I've Got The Music In Me" (Bias Boshell) – 6:01

Track listing - 1978 Release

"Heartless" (A. Wilson, N. Wilson) – 5:02
"Devil Delight" (A. Wilson, N. Wilson) – 5:00
"Just The Wine" (A. Wilson, N. Wilson) – 4:16
"Without You" (Ham, Evans) – 4:42
"Magazine" (A. Wilson, N. Wilson) – 6:22
"Here Song" (A. Wilson) – 1:34
"Mother Earth Blues" (Chapman, Simkin, Dixon)
– 5:59
"I've Got The Music In Me" (Boshell) – 6:18


Ann Wilson: vocals, guitar, keyboards, 
violin, flute
Nancy Wilson: vocals, guitar, piano
Michael DeRosier: drums
Roger Fisher: guitar, steel guitar
Steve Fossen: bass guitar, percussion
Howard Leese: guitar, keyboards, 
synthesizer, vocals

These files are uploaded for historical purposes only as part of the multimediacal musings of A Man And A Mouse. Please don't hurt me.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It Was the Wrong Item

I bought a USB 2.0 to IDE/SATA adapter cable the other day at MicroCenter, Santa Clara, CA. I took it home, opened my 13 years Mac G3 with its handy dandy side handle and plugged the cable into the internal hard drive - hoping to create access to the unknown but probably brilliant artifacts that might lie with on it.

I plugged in the power cord. I plugged in the 3.5" optical drive plug. The hard drive starts into whirring. But nothing miraculous appeared on my desktop. It was supposed to be so easy. Through further inspection there seemed to be a missing pin on the male side of the drive plug. Was that the reason the hard drive was not appearing? I don't know but whatever the reason, it was obviously not working.

So I brought the cable back to MicroCenter, pristinely repackaged in like new condition to avoid a 15% restocking fee (which would've pissed me off to no end). The customer service rep (as it stated on Kelsey's name tag) asked me what the matter was with the item.

Well, it was actually missing a pin from what my hard drive had so it didn't work for my purposes. It wasn't the right item for me.

Kelsey checked off Customer didn't want. I noticed another option, Wrong item, that seemed more in line with my situation.

Uh, Kelsey, I said it was not the right item. I would love this cable if it were, in fact, the right item for my purposes. But it is not. It is the wrong item.


Well, Customer didn't want makes it seem like I'm being belligerent or something. But I'm not. I just bought the wrong item.

Do you want it?


Here's your receipt. We've credited 17.46 back to your American Express.

Thank you.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Starbucks Green Tea Latte or an Onion Smoothie?

In Starbucks they have a Tea Latte listed on the menu. Flavors include black, green, and earl gray. What a great idea! Those are strong tasting teas worthy of some milk and foam with which to temper the dirty tasting properties. So I asked the Starbucks barista what was in a Green Tea Latte?

It turns out that my idea of a Green Tea Latte is quite different from Howard Schultz, director of research and development at Starbucks.

It's a green tea mix that we add syrup to.

Matcha (or 抹茶 as some parts of the world know it) is the mix Starbucks uses. It is REAL green tea in powder form. The Japanese tea ceremony centers on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha. Matcha is now also used to flavour and dye foods such as green tea ice cream and a variety of wagashi (Japanese candy). Unfortunately, Starbucks mixes the matcha it whips up in a small Japanese tea ceremony with sugar. And in the mix that is sent to its over 15,000 stores worldwide, there is more sugar than matcha. Then to further assault the senses (and the waistline), the barista adds melon syrup to the newly anointed Tazo Green Tea Latte. Now that's an ill-matched matcha.

I'll take a cappucino, thank you.

But from each experience we learn; so I will try something new and exciting in my morning cup of green tea. Maybe I'll add some rice milk (which I find sinfully refreshing). How about some orange juice - which I've heard is good for the over 50 male kidney. (Do you know what I mean?) Maybe I'll whip it, whip it first. Do da da da dah.

You shouldn't have to force down a drink that tastes like dirt just because it is good for you. And I shouldn't have to add a pound of sugar to my diet to get something refreshing. I have done worse though - imagine an onion smoothie. Onions are low in calories, fat and sodium, and a good source of fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and potassium. I thought the blueberries I added would overpower the onions.

So try the matcha - just don't buy it at Starbucks.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Kitchen

I spent all day cleaning the house and the kitchen: doing the laundry, washing the dishes, wiping the counter, putting things away, cleaning the stove top, throwing out the garbage, recycling the recyclables - generally being green. Then I took this picture.

Man was I impressed.

I put the soda can down to take the picture. And the cycle begins again.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

To Patrick Swayze, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar

For years my mother has shipped to me via Media Mail the magazines that she reads on a weekly basis. Because of that I have a pile high of magazines like In Style, Hello, US, and OK in the bathroom because I only read the gossip rags when I'm on the can so I can wash my hands afterwards. (In her defense, she also sends Time, Newsweek, The Nation, and other magazines for the intelligentsia which I read out in the living room in front of a roaring fire. I did ask her to stop sending Reader's Digest.)

Patrick Swayze in Donnie Darko

Having said that, I just caught up with Patrick Swayze's death. I always liked him. I didn't LOVE him. I liked him. He was very good as the motivational speaker with pedophiliac tendencies in Donnie Darko. He also played a drag queen in 1995's To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. The movie was ostensibly groundbreaking as major Hollywood stars (including a muscular Wesley Snipes and a manic John Leguizamo) took the lead as drag queens for the first time. The movie is not believable by any stretch of the imagination. It's not even that great (certainly when compared to the earlier and much better Australian effort The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) but it does boast good performances by Stockard Channing and a host of A-list supporting actors.

As I wandered in and out of consciousness waiting for the film to end I wondered how they contacted Julie Newmar to tell her they were naming a movie after her. I imagine it went something like this.

Julie we're naming a movie after you.

You're kidding me. You're naming a movie after me. What's it called?

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar

That's wonderful. I don't know what to say. I don't know what it means but it's wonderful. You are the sweetest, nicest guys. Thank you for naming a movie after me. Can I get something for it?

What do you mean?

Well, you're naming a movie after me; people are going to come and see it because my name is in the title. How about a point off the top. And 75 % of the gross? Something. Anything because my name's on it.

A point? 75% of the gross? That's a lot Julie. Especially when compared to the amount of people that will come and see it because your name is in the title. How about if we pay you a one time fee?

One time fee? And you get to use my name whenever, whenever?

Yea, we don't have a lot of money.


We'll even give you a cameo.

A one time fee and a small yet pivotal role?


A million dollars.

Um, that's alot. Patrick Swayze isn't even making that much. 50,000?

OK. 50,000 and I'll do it.

You drive a hard bargain.

I'm Julie Newmar.

RIP Patrick Swayze.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

More than 3 Lines About the Film 2012

I ventured to a public movie theater to see 2012, hoping for a throwback to classics of the genre like The Poseidon Adventure and Earthquake. The closest they got was a story line concerning the classic Mona Lisa painting that left me hanging about the ultimate fate of the hallowed piece of art. But more so than that - the movie is really terrible. Some points I thought about during the time it took me to finish this three hour snooze fest. Spoilers below but it's not rocket science.

  • President Danny Glover called a presidential summit that looked like Hollywood Squares.

  • The geologist's phone call saying goodbye to his Dad was treacly and cringe-inducing.

  • The digital fire was VERY red.

  • John Cusack fell into a crack in the earth and was hanging on by his hands. The edit went from his fingers on the top of the cliff to his feet jumping back on soil like we should imagine how he made it back up and move on.

  • The Sex Guru from the extremely funny The Guru creates havoc as a geologist.

The most exciting part of the movie was trying to make my box of Raisinettes last the entire three hours. I didn't - so I went to the bathroom, got a drink of water, bought a New York pretzel, looked at the New Movies posters, walked back into the theatre and STILL the earth was being destroyed. OMG, there's more?

  • The special effects are really sucky. You can feel the line around the actors who were filmed on green screen while a flat CGI image is placed behind them.

  • Amanda Peet was in a horrifying natural disaster and asked the Danish girl to do something but still, as the world was falling around them, Amanda remembered to say please; that was nice.

  • If I heard can't start the engine until we lower the gate one more time I was really going to vomit.

  • Towards the end, those in the ark were watching the disaster occurrences on TV as we were in the theatre watching them on a screen watching the disaster occurrences on TV. We paid but they got paid.

  • I found it odd that we were following the little girl's incontinence issues throughout the movie. But still and all, at the end (SPOILER) when the little girl said, 'No more Pull-Ups' I was pleased she had gotten over her issues. Think of it though, the world is destroyed and I'm living on an ark from which I might never be able to leave? I might choose this time to START pissing my pants rather than to remove my Pull-Ups.

The Palin 2012 movie trailer recently on Saturday Night Live was much more enjoyable. And at 1:54 much less of an infringement on your time.

In a Clothing-Optional Hot Springs

WARNING: This entry contains puerile words some might consider offensive.
During a stay at Wilbur Hot Springs you spend the bulk of your time traversing the path between a beautifully restored hotel built in 1865 and a bathing area that contains six temperature controlled pools filled with fresh mountain mineral water: 75, 98, 102, 106, 110 and a cold plunge of 55.

Right click image in a new tab to enlarge.

The hotel and spa grounds are located deep in the foothills of the Northern California Coastal Range (no cell phones allowed). In the hotel, the kitchen and baths are communal, organized and clean. The rooms have no locks, and everyone follows the rules of the commune (as it were). But there's always someone and, of course, someone was using a cell phone.

I was in the Top Chef-style kitchen quietly preparing an almond butter, blueberry conserves and pumpernickel bread sandwich with a tall glass of cold vanilla rice milk (sinfully delicious). One other guest was doing something while making inconsistent and inexplicable chatter with me.

Girl: (laughing) I'm cleaning the kitchen.

Me (quizzically looking around): Uh. Yea. Cool.

Girl: Gotta. Gotta keep it clean.

Me: Yea. Gotta. (laughing nervously as I wondered WTF?)

Not you! she said, glaring at me.

Not me? Huh? I took my plate and hightailed it out to the dining room where I noticed the person with whom she arrived (you know these things at a clothing-optional hot springs) speaking into a cell phone. I then realized that the girl in the kitchen was talking to her friend in the dining room using a Bluetooth-enabled ear bud. Now I get it.

Clothing-optional hot springs bitch, you're breaking the rules.

Although Wilbur Hot Springs is a place for reflection and serenity, you also see a lot of ta-ta's and schlongs by the hot spring pools (the only place on the grounds where clothing is NOT required). It's equal opportunity gazing for all so I took advantage of it - with stealth, of course. After all, when am I ever going to see the female body this unencumbered again?

I made chit-chat with two exquisitely sculpted women who were a couple. These women were real and they were spectacular. I couldn't take my eyes off of them. But aside from an attempt at humor (that they enjoyed), I held no interest to them.

Who am I again?

There were a number of straight couples and I wondered what schlong gazing meant to the straight men. Were they looking at the other schlongs for the same reason I was looking at the ta-ta's? Like when am I ever going to see the male body this unencumbered again? Was it arousing to them? Even a little? If I pretended I was a straight man staying at Wilbur Hot Springs, I would find it arousing.

I remember who I am now.

Lest you think that going to a clothing-optional hot springs is all tata's and schlongs, it's also a natural sanctuary with foot trails, hot and healing mineral baths, and a quiet, introspective place to read and relax. The tata's and schlongs are just stuff to take your mind off your introspection; too much introspection makes Jack (sic) a dull boy. Check out their web site.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Grandma Moses is Not Whistler's Mother

I used to get my Grandma Moses and my Whistler's Mother mixed up. True one was a self-taught artist and one was an old lady in a painting but they both sit in a chair.

Then I read Otto Kallir's Grandma Moses.

I know who is who now.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I'm Walking Max: Blook 1

For years I've had this idea of writing a book called I'm Walking Max. For years I've been collecting objects d'Max for a Max Museum blog. Finally, I got the bright idea of walking Max online. I took the book, married it with a blog and decided to write a blook.

Blook 1: I Am Max's Manciple

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Orange Alert, Non-Fat with Soy

I was waiting in the airport when some automated feminine voice informed me that the security alert had been raised to orange.

ORANGE! Oh my god. Get the troops. Look out for the Arabs. Guard your back. The security alert is orange. The reds are coming. We're all gonna die. AAAAAHhhhhhhh!!!

Then I wondered what the fuck orange meant.

Does anyone waiting for a flight know what the fuck orange means? Does anyone in this airport know what the fuck orange means? Hello?

The rest of the announcement asked us to watch for any suspicious behavior. Look out for any unattended bags. Listen in on the phone call of the person sitting next to you. Wait. I don't remember that last one but it sounds strangely familiar.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tori Spelling: So Bargain Basement

I had bought a used copy of Tori Spelling's So Notorious television series because, in this video of Tori getting a parking ticket, she was so nice. The series was sweet and funnily self-deprecating - worth the time it took to watch it. When I was finished watching it, I brought the two discs in to sell them back to the kind folks at Rasputin Records. They gave me 10¢ (that's ten cents) for the set.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Spider and the Pope. The Spider and the Pope.

Hi ho the derry-o
The spider and the pope

Notwithstanding this recent video of the spider and the pope [sic], here are some common superstitions about spiders.

  1. If you see a spider climbing the wall you will have your dearest wish come true.

  2. If you see a spider spinning a web you will have an increase in your income due to hard work.

  3. When spiders spin their webs 'fore noon,
    Sunny weather's coming soon.

  4. When a spider is found upon our clothes, some money is coming towards us.

  5. A spider descending upon you from the roof is a token that you will soon have legacy from a friend.

  6. If a spider builds its web across your door, you can expect company.

  7. If you walk into a spider web, you will meet a friend that day.

  8. When a man fyndeth a spyder upon his gowne it is a synge to be that daye ryght happye.

  9. Kill a spider, bad luck yours will be
    Until of flies you've swatted fifty-three.

Notwithstanding the first eight misconceptions - too bad the pope [sic] didn't notice the intrusion and swat it off his lovely white gown.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Alter Egos of the Atlanta Housewives

During this past week's episode, The Real Housewives of Atlanta debuted their alter ego photographs. Photographer Derek Blanks takes two photos of one person and creates a photo-montage to illustrate an underlying story or meaning.

Nene shows off both sides of her personality: as a stripper and as a prim and proper woman. Whether she is actually either of these remains to be seen but she sure plays both parts on TV. She seems the most realistic to what might be her true personage. Nene doesn't always start the drama but she certainly takes part in it.

I think Kim gets a bad rap. Yes, she is an idiot. Yes, she is NOT a good parent. Yes, she seems to have no talent or skill. In the end though I don't think she has any self-confidence which is where the bad stuff comes from. I could be wrong but I felt bad when she got all emotional in the studio. A brunette bob suits her role as the Stepford wife scoffing at her husband's mistress.

I like Kandi. She hasn't started any drama and seems to be nice and helpful - certainly with Kim in the recording studio. But she is also an idiot if she thinks her boyfriend is anything but a scrub. (Kandi wrote definition number one.) In her alter ego photo, Kandi decided to play up the drunk driving accident in which her family was recently involved; this is, at once, benevolent and self-serving.

Lisa is a bitch but not the worst on the show. She's also an opportunist (although all of the women on all of the Housewives shows are) and a greedy capitalist. Lisa plays up her bad and good sides in the photo. As a punk fighting a Girl Scout, she's better as the Girl Scout but that just shows what a good actress she is - not what a nice person she is.

What can one say about Sheree? She is the worst. For instance, she DID NOT make it to Lisa's fashion show - if she had, she wouldn't have had to ask to see the clothes at the after party. As directed by Nene, her desire for a 7 figure divorce settlement is at the core of her alter ego. Although her greed is the core of her personality, her sense of self is way overblown, and she does not have the body of a 25 year old - unless the 25 year old is a man with fake tits.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Husband's Bill Shredder

George presented me with this bouquet of flowers from our garden so in the spirit of equality in love actions (whatever that means) here is the story of a bouquet of another sort I made for George.

George came into the kitchen with a 13 gallon trash bag full of old bills, bank statements, school transcripts, and medical records - some dating back even further than the seven years (this month) that we have lived together. We're talking decades.

What should I do with it? he asks.

I am a big proponent of shredding confidential papers. I shred everything AND I check my financial accounts twice weekly. Credit scores, twice a year. Identity theft is an ill from which I am trying to inoculate myself.

Georgie, on the other hand, would throw the bag out for pick up by the garbage man AS IS. The garbage man would then throw the bag on a landfill that is, to my mind, crawling with evildoers waiting to rip the bag open to find George's credit card bills and social security number which they would then sell to a richer, cleaner evildoer for purposes of thieving and identity theft. I couldn't let that horrible scenario happen to Georgie so I took the bag and sent him on his way.

Now generally, I shred my personal papers daily. When an item reaches my desk, I pick it up and decide: keep or throw? If it's throw, rip once, rip twice. Into the trash. No machine because my shredding needs are light and generally spread over time. This method works for me. But what I'm about to do.

I start shredding the papers in George's bag - ripping each envelope or bill, in half. Once. Twice. Once. Twice. Once. Twice. I worked my way through a bit of the bag and realized there was no way I was going to shred each and every one of these old papers. We are talking decades.

I didn't know what to do when I had an epiphany: I would clean out the refrigerator.

I took the bag and put it in a second plastic garbage bag for double security against spillage. I opened the refrigerator, and then a two week old pint of soy yogurt which I emptied into the bag. I emptied a three week old Tupperware of Tofurkey and vegetarian brown gravy leftovers into the bag. I dumped the moldy Costco raspberries into the bag. I dumped a baggy of slimy old mushrooms and a container of overripe watermelon into the bag. Then I poured the morning's coffee grounds AND the remains of the coffee itself into the bag. Finally I emptied Lucy's litter box and its contents into the bag for that certain bouquet. I tied the bag closed and shook it up and down to coat each piece (and I helped), took the bag outside, and threw it into a garbage bin for pickup.

Set a few days in there. Over to the landfill. Evildoers, have at it.

Lucy's other litter box

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bad to the Bone: A Foray into Show Business

In 1982. I was working at 175 Fifth Avenue, The Flatiron Building in NY. One day as I passed the Pappermint Lounge on my way to the office, I saw a posting on the door that said George Thorogood and the Destoyers' video was to be filmed there Friday at noon. Be in a video for lunch. Friday arrived and I went, dressing specifically for the occasion.

Only kidding.

The live portions of this video were filmed in the Peppermint Lounge. There were a whole bunch of Gen MTVers there on their respective lunch hours. I bought a sandwich and, at certain times during the filming, snuck bites of it until I was finished. It was, after all, lunch time.

Still kidding.

Here is the video for George Thorogood and the Destroyers' bad to the Bone. See me at 2:35 but don't sneeze. Suffice it to say the appearance did not get me a SAG card or I wouldn't be here with you today.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

For Your Health...Froot Loops and Fudgsicles?

This article in the New York Times illustrates everything that is wrong with corporations and, dare I say, capitalism. According to the article, the processed food industry has initiated a Smart Choices Program where they label their own products, based on their own criteria, to help shoppers easily identify smarter food and beverage choices. Foods that have passed muster as a smart choice? Froot Loops, Fudgsicles, Real Mayonnaise and Skippy Peanut Butter - chock full o' sugar, sodium and fat.

Eileen T. Kennedy, president of the Smart Choices board, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and, in my opinion, corporate shill, defends these choices:

You’re rushing around, you’re trying to think about healthy eating for your kids and you have a choice between a doughnut and a cereal. So Froot Loops is a better choice.

Last time I went down the cereal aisle in a supermarket I had a choice between Froot Loops and Grape Nuts and oatmeal. Doughnuts are on the bread aisle.

Kennedy also said the program was influenced by research into consumer behavior which showed that, while shoppers wanted more information, they did not want to hear negative messages or feel their choices were being dictated to them.

So Kennedy and the Smart Choices board (cough, corporations) have decided that since consumers don't want to hear negative messages about their choices, they will just dictate consumer choices using a positive message - despite the outcome: more empty calories, more obesity, more heath care, more money spent.

The article mentions that Kennedy is not being paid for her work. But she is being paid by Tufts. Aren't they embarrassed to have her on their payroll? I'm a neophyte and I know more than her.

Suffice it to say, if you see the Smart Choice checkmark on a product in the supermarket, RUN DON'T WALK to the fruit and vegetable aisle.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Totie Fields: A Blography

Being one myself, I've always been enamored of Jewish comediennes. But while Sarah Silverman, Roseanne, Sandra Bernhard, Gilda Radner, Bette Midler, Joan Rivers, Belle Barth, and Pearl Williams all make me laugh none have made me laugh longer than the too soon, too gone Totie Fields. Historically, Totie was more than a comedienne. She was arguably the first women to attract a national following as a comic.

I went into a department store and tried on a girdle that was
decorated with tiny rosebuds. When I got it on,
the roses opened up in full bloom.

In the 60s when her career really began its trajectory, women were still considered eye candy and not expected, or even allowed, to offer up opinions and ideas. Totie broke that glass ceiling by assuming a comic persona built on her weight and, pride in her shape - polar opposites. She might have been a zaftig yenta but rather than espousing self-pity she was confident in her appeal and sweetly brimming with self love. She explained that bringing up the subject of weight herself deprives the wise alecks from mouthing loud asides all night but, she was also teaching women of the era how to act.

Totie on The Ed Sullivan Show in the early 60s

Totie Fields was born Sophie Feldman, daughter of a shopping center owner, on 7 May 1927 in Hartford, Connecticut, USA. She started singing as a child, making appearances on local radio stations by the time she was 4. She toured the Borscht Belt at 14 and before she reached 20 years, worked as a tummler in Boston area strip clubs. Even then Sophie was breaking the glass ceiling: tummlers entertained guests as a master of ceremonies between acts and, at the time, were generally male. It was during this period that Sophie took her stage name - Totie being the way she pronounced her given name as a child.

I've been on a diet for two weeks,
and all I lost was two weeks.

Totie married George William Johnston, Jr. in 1950. Georgie (as he came to be known) was a fellow comic in Boston who, over time, worked solely with Totie as her musical director. The couple soon moved to Brooklyn, NY and became the parents of two daughters—Jody was born in 1952 and Debbie was born in 1955. The Admiral's Inn in Ogunquit, Maine, now a bed and breakfast, was the family's private summer vacation residence during this period into the early 1960's.

It was after her pregnancies that Totie began to gain weight. She tried dieting but nothing worked. The only way to lose weight, really, she concluded, is to have someone put you in a bed where you can't get to the refrigerator. Ever the optimist though, Totie decided to incorporate her size into her act. Her broad accent, self-deflating jokes and extroverted kvetching helped to endear her to audiences whom she treated like friends AND lovers. It was after making this decision that her celebrity and work increased twofold.

Shirley Temple had charisma as a child.
But it cleared up as an adult.

In the early 60s, Ed Sullivan gave Totie her first national break when he booked her on his show after seeing her perform at the Copacabana in New York. She made multiple additional appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, topping out at almost 20!

WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE: Totie released Totie Fields Live on Mainstream Records and
wrote I Think I'll Start on Monday: The Official 8 1/2 oz.
Mashed Potato Diet
published by Hawthorn Books.

See Experience Totie Fields Live to listen.

Totie also made a name for herself on the talk show circuit during the 60s and 70s. There were multiple appearances on The Merv Griffin Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and The Mike Douglas Show (on which she famously helped Mike introduce KISS to the American public when she co-hosted the 1974 episode that was their first television appearance.)

The Tarzan reunion show with Mike Douglas, Johnny Weissmuller,
Gordon Scott, Jock Mahoney, Buster Crabbe,
Denny Miller, and Jim Pierce.

Other notable appearances included Here's Lucy and a well-received dramatic turn on Medical Center. Totie played multiple roles in the 1972 television special Fol-de-Rol, a filmed version of Sid and Marty Krofft's live puppet show.

Totie visits with Jerry Lewis on his annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon

Totie was diabetic and plagued with other health problems the last years of her life, having almost as many major medical procedures as television appearances. It has been rumoured that some of these problems stem from plastic surgery. This rumor is unsubstantiated although, interestingly, here is a link to 1972 episodes of The Merv Griffin Show on which guest Totie applauds plastic surgery as she questions Dr Kurt Wagner, the plastic surgeon to the stars. (Scroll to clip 4.)

In April 1976, Totie's left leg was amputated above the knee when surgery to remove a blood clot failed. Even with that traumatic experience, Totie fitted herself with an artificial leg and returned to work saying, "I don't want anyone feeling sorry for me." (Link to 1977 article from People Magazine)

Raquel Welch - a moron with less on.

In June 1977, Totie starred in the Home Box Office special series Standing Room Only, beginning her show seated. As the audience (filled to brimming with celebrity friends) welcomed her, she stood up, causing the cheering audience to stand with her. Said Fields: "I've waited all my life to say this... I weigh less than Elizabeth Taylor!" Totie was back and the audience was immediately at ease; if Totie could still laugh at herself, then it was all right to laugh with her.

While still recovering from the amputation, Totie suffered two heart attacks. In October 1977, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and her right breast was removed. Nevertheless, Totie continued to perform and in 1978, the last year of her life, she was voted Entertainer of the Year and Female Comedy Star of the Year by the American Guild of Variety Artists.

Totie was scheduled to appear at the Sahara Hotel when she suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism in her Las Vegas home on August 2, 1978; she was 51. She was buried in Las Vegas and later moved to the Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles to be buried next to Georgie, who died in 1995.

Totie Fields: Inspirational, Outrageous, and Still Funny.

Totie performing in the early 1960s

Additional information:

  • Some sources speculate that Georgie had refused to release films, tapes, and other recordings of Fields after her death thus, explaining the dearth of material available. Can we then hypothesize that Georgie was crushed by her early death and felt it crass to capitalize on her body of work? They were so much in love - just look at the TattleTales clip - that it's a reasonable assumption.
  • Burial: Mount Sinai Memorial Park, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA - Plot: Gardens of Heritage, Main Level, Crypt 60C
  • Totie appeared on The Glen Campbell Show playing a night-club bunny, a cheerleader, a minskirted stewardess and a ballerina.
  • Adorable Me, A Musical Based on the Life of Totie Fields
    Adorable Me! The Totie Fields Story (1990)
    A New Musical Based on the Life of Totie Fields
    Conceived by Nancy Timpanaro-Hogan
    Book by Bobby Pearce & Nancy Timpanaro-Hogan
    Are You Happy?
    Flat Tire, One Headlight Out
    Someone To Notice
    Weaver High School
    He Likes...Me!
    Holding On
    The Taste
    Look, But Don't Touch
    Me, Myself And Cane
    Don't Remind Me
    I'm Not Ready
    With Friends Like Mine
    On Top Of The World/Years
    Papa Is A Nice Man
    One Day At A Time
    Heat Up The Pot
    Workshopped at Long Beach Civic Light Opera (1991)
    Produced by American Jewish Theatre, Inc., Stanley Brechner, Artistic Director (1993)
    Four-month run at The Ballroom, New York (1994)
    Four-month run at Tropworld, Atlantic City (1996)
    Also played in regional theaters and performing arts centers across the country, 
    including Seven Angels Theatre, Northridge Performing Arts Center, Bailey Concert Hall

  • Sophie, Totie and Belle : Sophie, Totie & Belle is a play based on a fictional meeting of the late entertainers Sophie Tucker, Totie Fields and Belle Barth. It was written by Joanne Koch and Sarah Blacher Cohen, with original music by Mark Elliott and songs associated with these entertainers. It opened in New York City at the off-Broadway Theater Four on March 15, 2000 after sold-out runs in Queens, NY Theatre in the Park, Boca Raton, Florida, Miami, Philadelphia, New Hope, Albany, and the Forum Theater in New Jersey, the Drama Center in Deerfield Beach, the Wilton Theater in Ft. Lauderdale, Theatre Works in Sarasota. Another review.
  • A list from “I Think I’ll Start on Monday”
    Five Practical Reasons For Not Going On A Diet
    1. It’s very impolite to leave food on your plate.
    2. America is supposed to be the best fed nation in the world. Why make us look bad?
    3. Fish, meat and vegetables maybe chemically polluted. The U.S. Government has NEVER found mercury in a chocolate layer cake.
    4. Food is synonymous with love. If you diet, you are depriving yourself of much needed affection.
    5. Sara Lee, Laura Scudder, Betty Crocker and Mr. Hershey are sincere, hard working Americans. Check your conscience. 
    Do you really want to take a living away from these people?

  • From Fol-der-ol
  • You can now listen to the Totie Fields Live LP on YouTube. See the Experience Totie Fields Live blog entry for links.
  • You can still download the Totie Fields Live MP3 files but you need to email me for the link.
  • 6/15/11 UPDATE: I received the following information in an email from a reader:
    Just read your blog......interesting stuff! I only knew her because my dad, Harry Morton, was her booking agent. The stories I heard growing up as a kid, in Oceanside, NY, were all about what a pain in the butt she was to work with. She spent many evenings in the den, with other comics that my Dad either handled or knew. Harry was one of the top agents for the Catskills, as well as Miami, and Lakewood, NJ. His clients, just to name a few, consisted of: Henny Youngman, Phil Foster, Buddy Hackett, Alan King, Mac Robbins, Pat Henry, Norm Cosby, Harvey Stone, Jan Murray, and more. I have googled his name [Harry], only to find a sentence or two and nothing more. He was funnier than most of the guys he handled, He cut an album, "Look Out For Harry Morton" back in the 60's. I started to write a book with him, but we only wrote about 100 pages. He's gone now 8 years. He was married to Billie Lorraine, a nite club singer.
  • In this interview of Phyllis Diller from The View, Rosie O'Donnell brings up Totie and Phyllis mentions that Totie did not like Joan Rivers. Interesting.