Category Archives: R.I.P.

21st Century Live Stream Funeral Blues

The other day on social media I posted a link to a WaPo article about the difficulties faced by families who lost loved ones  during the pandemic. It drew a raft of comments because I mentioned my favorite cousin. As First Draft readers know, she died last week.

Today was my cousin’s funeral; attendance was limited to 5 relatives and the people who performed the service. I’m not sure we would have been able to go in normal times, but these are not normal times.

My cousin was a movie buff and the one who introduced me to John Ford’s movies. That’s why the funeral scene from The Searchers is the featured image. Ford knew how to stage a 19th Century funeral in the 20th Century.

My cousin’s service was 21st Century all the way. It was live streamed by her church in Dallas. I nearly put live stream in quotes as the transmission was erratic until the last 10 minutes of the mass. At one point we tried streaming on 5 different devices: 2 iPhones, a laptop, desktop, and an iPad. The latter worked the best. Score one for Apple.

It was such a struggle that we started to laugh at the absurdity. I knew my cousin wouldn’t have minded. She was devout but she had an irreverent side: as a young woman, she acted with Nick Nolte at a community theatre in Phoenix, Arizona. Nolte was wild even then so a little laughter from her New Orleans kin wouldn’t have phased my cousin.

As I laughed, I thought of Chuckles Bites The Dust; the episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show wherein the station clown dies at the “hands” (trunk?) of an elephant while dressed in a peanut costume. The rest of the gang makes sick jokes about the death of Chuckles, but Mary Richards is made of sterner stuff. (The best joke came from snarky news writer Murray Slaughter: “Born in a trunk, died in one.”)  Instead, Mary laughed her ass off during the funeral service after the minister recited the Chuckles credo: “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants.”

I know what those of you who know us IRL are thinking. You’re casting Dr. A as Mary and me as Lou Grant. Twenty years ago, I would have objected but I’ve grown into my Lou Grantness. I was always a curmudgeon but now I have Ed Asner’s hairline and paunch.

I don’t blame the church for my 21st Century live stream blues. It’s hard to imagine a more difficult place from which to transmit than a church. What can ya do?

Condolences to Chris, Xander, and Chloe. The good news is that they’d understand our finding the live stream fail funny. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Perhaps that’s why the iPad worked best.

John Ford’s funeral scenes typically used Let’s All Gather At The River as music. But I’d like to use an equally solemn river song. The last word goes to The Band who headlined the first concert I attended. My favorite cousin was the one who took me.

R.I.P. Tina, you will be missed.

My Brave Face

Mask by Jackson Pollock.

March 2020 has been the month from hell. It’s as if the Ides of March came and never left. I’ve already admitted how hard it is for this lifelong news junkie to follow the news. The bad news has been relentless. COVID-19 has gotten so bad that even the Impeached Insult Comedian finally admits that it’s not “fake news” cooked up to deny him a second term. But there will be backsliding. He cannot help himself.

On a personal level, things feel equally bleak. I usually try not to let things that I cannot control bother me. The pandemic has me jittery and rattled. I try to put a brave face on things but it’s hard not to feel numb and empty.

Here’s why I feel empty: My favorite cousin died at a hospice in Flower Mound, Texas on Monday. I’m glad we got to see her earlier this month. It was a whirlwind trip during which I caught the stomach bug I mentioned here. I did not mention my worry that it was COVID-19 caused from hanging out in a nursing home for the better part of two days.  It was not. But I had more than a few sleepless nights and remain jittery about exposing my immune system to any risks. Additionally, I have a normal body temperature that ranges from  99.5 to 100 on a hot day. That’s why I’m not going anywhere they might stick a thermometer in my mouth.

A few words about my late first cousin. She was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. She was more like a sister than a cousin. My parents are dead, and I’m estranged from my sisters so losing my cousin is like losing the last link to my nuclear family.

I’m one of the younger members of my generation of my extended Greek family. My cousin was 75 and finally lost a 25 year battle with cancer. Her son moved her to a facility closer to his home to make it easier to visit. Then came the nursing home lockdown. In her bleaker moments, my cousin said the only reason she wanted to live was to see her family. I believe she gave up because of the lockdown. Many elderly New Orleanians died in the first year after Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. Like my cousin, they lost the will to live.

If you have elderly loved ones in assisted living or a nursing home, remember to stay in close touch even though you can’t visit. Human contact is important, if you can’t physically touch one another, you can talk on the phone. And I say that as someone who dislikes talking on the phone. My late cousin was okay with that, I’d speak briefly to her, then hand the phone to Dr. A. My cousin always said, “He’s just like Uncle Lou.” In that regard, I suppose I am.

I’m trying to keep a stiff upper lip and put the best possible face on things without being in denial. It’s not an easy balancing act.  I’m lucky because I’m married to a wonderful woman whose family nickname is “the representative of the world of science.” She’s good at keeping a cool head while the rest of the world is freaking out.

Finally, I try to maintain what Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello called My Brave Face.

Now that I’m alone again
I can’t stop breaking down again
The simplest things set me off again
And take me to that place
Where I can’t find my brave face.

It’s a breakup song but it works by analogy.

The last word goes to Macca:

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Game Pieces

The featured image is of Max von Sydow playing chess with Death in the Ingmar Bergman classic, The Seventh Seal. Von Sydow had a long acting career in America; often playing in horror movies. He died earlier this week at the age of 90. This is the first time I’ve ever started a Saturday post with an obit. I like to change things up.

The Seventh Seal is set during the Black Plague. It was an era with clueless and ignorant leaders; much like the US&A in 2020. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

This week’s theme song continues our board game theme. The Game Pieces was written by Chris Leslie and Nigel Stonier for Fairport Convention’s 1999 album, The Wood and the Wire. Here’s a woody and wiry live version:

I’m a lousy chess player but I know a good song about chess when I hear one. Just say Yes:

Now that we’ve established that we’re all good people, let’s take a straight and stronger course to the break.

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: McCoy Tyner

The ground-breaking jazz pianist McCoy Tyner died last week at the age of 81. Here’s a random sampler of his album covers:

Here’s the Nights Of Blues & Ballads album in two parts:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Get Happy

Painting by Piet Mondrian.

My stomach bug was a persistent bugger. It slowly got better but I lived without coffee for four days; an experiment I’m not eager to repeat. It’s hard to be alert when you’re under-caffeinated, Coke Zero and tea don’t quite do it. The result was a groggy unprolific blogger. So it goes.

A quick note about the featured art and its influence on the Krewe of Spank. Our theme this year was NOLAOPOLY and our float was designed to be a rolling version of the game board. I suggested that the sides should look like a Mondrian painting. Our float captain, Greg, went for it with gusto.

I may not be able to paint or draw but I have a good eye. Besides, Di Stijl is always in style.

I decided to try and put some pep in my step with this week’s theme song. It was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler in 1930 for a Ruth Etting movie, The Nine-Fifteen Revue. Etting was later played by Doris Day in the 1956 movie Love Me or Leave Me with Jimmy Cagney as her gangster husband.

We have two versions of Get Happy for your listening pleasure. The artists need no introduction but get one anyway: Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald.

Since we’re trying to get happy, it’s time for Keith Richards’ signature song:

Let’s join hands and happily jump to the break.

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James Lipton, R.I.P.

It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely pop culture hero than James Lipton. After a career behind the scenes, Lipton became a teevee star with Inside The Actors Studio. He died earlier this week at the age of 93.

I always found Lipton weird and intriguing. His hair and beard looked spray painted on but he knew more about acting than anyone this side of Elia Kazan, Stella Adler, or Lee Strasberg. Lipton eschewed gotcha interview tactics and celebrity gossip to discuss the craft of acting.

James Lipton was famous for asking the Pivot Questions. As a tribute to him, here are my answers:

1. What is your favorite word? Eponymous.

2. What is your least favorite word? Utilize.

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally? Music.

4. What turns you off? Bigotry of all kinds.

5. What is your favorite curse word? Malaka.

6. What sound or noise do you love? A good three-part harmony.

7. What sound or noise do you hate? Bagpipes, tubas, and jackhammers.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? An old school movie director. I see myself wearing an eye patch and jodhpurs while yelling at the grips.

9. What profession would you not like to do? Skyscraper window washer.The older I get, the more afraid of heights I become.

10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? “How the hell did you get in here?”

The last word goes to Mr. Lipton himself:

Kirk Douglas, R.I.P.

Movie stars don’t come bolder and brasher than Kirk Douglas. He died yesterday at the age of 103. He was one the last survivors of Hollywood’s Golden Age, which he made grittier and tougher-minded with his presence.

His real name was Issur Danelovitch Demsky. He wisely changed his name before his film debut: Izzy Demsky is almost as bad a movie star name as Archie Leach. The name change led to two nice Jewish boys Douglas and Tony (Bernie Schwartz) Curtis playing Norsemen in The Vikings. Oy, such casting.

Kirk Douglas, of course, would have disagreed with my calling him nice:

“I’ve always been attracted to characters who are part scoundrel,” he told The Times in an interview in 1984. “I don’t find virtue photogenic.”

Douglas was an intense actor. It was easy to imagine him leaping off the screen and grabbing movie-goers by the scruff of the neck. Comedy was not his forte.

Along with director Otto Preminger, Kirk Douglas helped end the Red Scare era blacklist by giving writer Dalton Trumbo screen credit in Exodus and Spartacus respectively. I always thought it was amusing that Paul Newman was cast in Exodus instead of Izzy Demsky or Bernie Schwartz. Oy, such casting.

Douglas published one of the best movie star memoirs ever in 1988: The Ragman’s Son. He grew up poor and tough as nails as this passage indicates:

“Even on Eagle Street, in the poorest section of town, where all the families were struggling, the ragman was on the lowest rung on the ladder,” Mr. Douglas wrote. “And I was the ragman’s son.”

The Oscars are on Sunday. Kirk Douglas should have won best actor in 1956 for Lust For Life in which he played Vincent Van Gogh. He was given an honorary career performance Oscar in 1996. They no longer show such awards during the broadcast. It’s one reason I stopped watching the show last year. I didn’t miss it.

In December, I compiled a Kirk Douglas movie list for Saturday Odds & Sods, The photo montage at the top of the post replicates the list but here it is anyway:

My Top Ten Favorite Kirk Douglas Movies:

  1. The Bad and the Beautiful
  2. Spartacus
  3. Seven Days In May
  4. Ace In The Hole
  5. Paths Of Glory
  6. Lust For Life
  7. Champion
  8. Young Man With A Horn
  9. Two Weeks In Another Town
  10. Out Of The Past

One of the most famous moments in any Kirk Douglas movie came from Spartacus. “I’m Spatacus” gets the last word:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Handle With Care

Saturday Morning by Edward Hopper.

It’s been a busy week. so I’ll keep this introduction brief. And I mean it this time.

This week’s theme song was originally supposed to be a George Harrison single, but it turned up on the Traveling Wilburys first album in 1988. The song is credited to the band, but the primary writer was George. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

We have four versions of Handle With Care for your listening pleasure: the Wilburys original, Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and Stephen Stills & Judy Collins.

If you can handle it, let’s jump to the break but with care. Always with care.

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This Will Be Our Year?

I don’t have a hangover but something about New Year’s Day makes one move as slowly as a dial-up internet connection . We had an early supper with some friends, then hung out at home as the fireworks and the odd gun shot went off. My neighborhood was positively sulphuric, which did not amuse Paul Drake. He’s not terrified of loud noises but isn’t crazy about them either. Who can blame him?

I’ve been in the mood for old movies of late. We saw Shadow of a Doubt the other day, which is best described as Hitchcock Americana. It’s a great movie because of its likable villain: Joseph Cotten as Uncle Charlie.

Last night’s viewing featured an unlikable, sociopathic villain: Robert Mitchum as Max Cady in the original Cape Fear. I’m still unclear as to why Martin Scorsese decided to re-make it in 1991. DeNiro and Nolte were unable to match, let alone surpass, Mitchum and Peck. It always amuses me to see Peck turn into a vigilante to rid his life of his hulking stalker. A bonus is the presence of Maybe Cousin Telly Savalas as a shamus with hair no less.

I almost compared Max Cady to the Impeached Insult Comedian who is a combination national nightmare and stalker. Cady, however, is a smart bastard and Trump is as dumb as dirt and twice as ignorant. We need a few more Gregory Pecks to rise against him and expel him from office. He has a death grip on the GOP similar to this headlock at the end of Cape Fear:

Everyone should remember that Trump wants us rattled and fearful. He feeds off the fear like Stephen King’s evil clown in It. That’s why I call him President* Pennwyise. Fuck him.

2019 was a terrible year for some of my friends. I’ve written about the Homans at the Bayou Brief. My friend Kyle of Little Buddy fame lost both his parents in rapid succession last year. It was a rough ride but he posted some hopeful song lyrics today, which inspired the post title albeit with a question mark:

“You don’t have to worry. All your worried days are gone. This will be our year. Took a long time to come.”

The song in question comes from the Zombies classic 1968 album, Odessey and Oracle. They get the last word:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Behind The Wall Of Sleep

Sleeping Girl by Pablo Picasso.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the impeachment hearings ate my week. It wasn’t a snack, it was a tasting menu of scandal, malakatude, and heroism. Democrats have found their mojo: I was proud of their performance in the face of Republican shouting and conspiracy theorizing. That was down to Chairman Schiff  who refused to take any shit from committee GOPers. I’m less confident of the performance of Judiciary Chairman Nadler but the ball will soon be in his court. Stay tuned.

This week’s theme song was written by the late, great Pat DiNizio in 1986 for The Smithereens debut album, Especially For You. The band had been kicking around New Jersey for years before hitting the big time with this great rock song.

We have two versions of Behind The Wall Of Sleep for your listening pleasure: the original video and a 21st Century live version.

There’s a Black Sabbath song with the same title but metal is not my thing so I’ll pass.

Now that we’ve caught up on our sleep, let’s jump to the break.

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Paul Barrere, R.I.P.

1984 album cover.

Little Feat guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Paul Barrere has died at the age of 71. Paul was not a founding member of Little Feat but joined in 1972 and brought his passion for New Orleans music to the band. He thrived as co-lead guitarist first with  Lowell George who died in 1979 and later Fred Tackett.

When Little Feat reformed, Paul was the co-leader of the reborn band. I saw their comeback show on the Riverboat President in New Orleans. Both the boat and the band were rocking so hard that I thought we’d sink.

I met Paul several times over the years. He was just as good a person as a musician. Our longest encounter was when I went to Tipitina’s to be an extra in Little Feat’s Things Happen video. We later became Facebook friends and traded the odd message. He was even known to read First Draft and comment to me on occasion. I was honored.

The last time I heard from Paul, he thanked me for placing his song Rad Gumbo at #8 on my Louisiana Tunes list for the Bayou Brief.

Paul Barrere was a nice man and a great musician. He will be sorely missed.

The best tribute to any musician is to play their music. We’ll start off with the aforementioned Things Happen. It’s an audio only track since the video is not online:

Hunting for that video made me hungry:

Next up is Little Feat’s first single after they regrouped:

This tune was written by Paul and keyboard player Bill Payne. It comes from the Dixie Chicken album and features Lowell George on lead vocals:

As a self-confessed weather obsessive, how I can resist posting Texas Twister? Besides, the best Feat is live Feat:

Finally, the Paul and Fred Acoustic duo. Fred Tackett is the fella with a full head of hair:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Ginger Baker’s Air Force

Legendary Cream drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80.  You’re probably wondering why this isn’t an R.I.P. post. Here’s why:

If you don’t believe me, check out the 2012 documentary Beware of Mr. Baker.

Here’s Martin Sharp’s front gatefold  for Baker’s 1970 aerial extravaganza:

Here’s whole damn album via the YouTube:

Bayou Brief: Of Second Lines, Clothespin Votes & Jacques Chirac

My latest 13th Ward Rambler column is up at the Bayou Brief. This time I talk about the beastly hot weather, Gil Homan’s memorial service and second line, the Gret Stet Goober race, and the passing of former New Orleans cabbie Jacques Chirac.

Jacques Chirac was Mayor of Paris for 18 years. I gave Joni Mitchell the last word at the Bayou Brief, here’s another ode to the City of Lights:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Robert Hunter, R.I.P.

The Grateful Dead’s primary lyricist Robert Hunter died last week at the age of 78. He wrote all of the band’s lyrics until Bob Weir teamed up with John Perry Barlow.

Hunter refused to reveal what his lyrics meant; preferring to leave it up to the listeners imagination. In any event, his lyrics were ellipitical and even elusively allusive. They were perfect for the Grateful Dead:

“Well I ain’t often right but I’ve never been wrong
It seldom turns out the way it does in the song
Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right”

Hunter also had a long and interesting solo career. Here are the covers of his first two solo records:

Here’s Hunter’s second solo album in its entirety:

One of my favorite Garcia-Hunter songs is Ripple:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Long Black Veil

The Bird, The Cage & The Forest by Max Ernst.

This is the first time since the infancy of this feature that I’ve used the same featured image two weeks in a row. It captures my mood.

We’re attending a memorial service this morning for Gligamesh Homan who died in a horrible accident last week. He was the son of some old friends and was in his freshman year at LSU. I’ll have more about Gil in our second act. Suffice it to say that there’s an open  wound in my circle of friends right now.

I’m not feeling very expansive today so I’m going to keep this week’s outing relatively brief.

This week’s theme song was written in 1959 by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin for Lefty Frizzell. It’s become a staple of the country music repertoire and has been recorded countless times.

We have three versions of Long Black Veil for your listening pleasure: Lefty Frizzell, Gillian Welch, and the Chieftains with Mick Jagger on lead vocals.

Try not to trip over your long black veil as we jump to the break.

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: Ric Ocasek, R.I.P.

Ric Ocasek recorded 7 solo albums: I have half of them. They’re overlooked and underrated but they’re good. He is obviously better known as the quirky front man of the new wave supergroup The Cars.

Ric Ocasek died the other day at the age of 75 according to most sources. His passing is not in dispute but his age is: I’ve seen it listed at 70 as well. I suspect that he’d be fine with that. Ric Ocasek was always in on the joke. His ironic detachment is what made The Cars’ video catalog so special: he knew that what he was doing was ridiculous. Rock and Roll is supposed to be fun. The Cars were always fun.

Here are covers from solo albums released in 1991 and 1997:

Now that I’ve posted two solo album covers, I’m going to mess with you and post some videos by The Cars in no particular order. Like Ric Ocasek, I’m always in on the joke:

At long last a solo video from the Fireball Zone album:

Finally, if you like this feature, please throw a few bucks our way. Click on this link to donate to our annual fundraiser.

 

 

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Pedro Bell, R.I.P.

Pedro Bell’s cover artwork for George Clinton and his family of funk bands helped create their mythology. Bell called his art “scartoons,” I think of it as funk surrealism.

Pedro Bell died recently at the age of 69. The best tribute to an artist is to feature their work. Here are three of Bell’s album covers:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Deeper Water

Gulf Stream by Winslow Homer.

Since we have something of a nautical-as opposed to naughty-theme I thought we’d dive right in without any dockside formalities. I won’t invite you into my stateroom because this might happen:

I would never take a cruise. The thought of doing so reminds me of the not so great Poop Cruise of 2013. Hell, I get seasick contemplating the Winslow Homer painting above.

Let’s move on to this week’s theme song. Singer-songwriter Paul Kelly is often called the Bob Dylan of Australia but he never broke through stateside. Kelly co-wrote Deeper Water in 1994 with Randy Jacobs of Was (Not Was) in case you was (not was) wondering.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure. First, the 1995 studio version that was the title track of Kelly’s tenth album. Second, a 2013 live version from a show Kelly did with Neil Finn. For some reason it’s listed as Deep Water but it’s the same tune. Wow, that’s deep, man.

I hope we’re not in over our heads. Let’s mount the diving board and jump to the break.

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Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, R.I.P.

The first, and thus far only, woman elected Governor of the Gret Stet of Louisiana, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, has died at the age of 77 after a long battle with cancer. It’s often forgotten that Blanco was a strong, effective, and popular Governor on her way to re-election until Hurricane Katrina struck. It was a life changing event for all concerned and, unfortunately, led eventually to the election of Bobby Jindal who ran the state into the ground.

Much of the post-K criticism of Blanco was unfair. The storm was expected to hit the Florida panhandle until the 10 PM advisory on August 26. There wasn’t much time to prepare for a massive evacuation but it could have gone far worse. It *was* a mess but most of that was down to panicky and inept New Orleans Mayor C Ray Nagin. The subsequent flood was a federal affair.

The Bush administration, in conjunction with Nagin, chose Blanco as their political patsy. That was made obvious when the White House made Karl Rove its Katrina point man. Turd Blossom left his partisan stink all over the recovery effort and our Democratic Governor took the fall for Bush and Nagin’s mistakes. She stood her ground and won many battles, but lost the PR war.

Kathleen Blanco was a kind, compassionate, empathetic, and warm human being. She was “pro-life” but, unlike our current Governor, insisted that there be exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother in an anti-choice bill passed by the lege during her term as Governor. Her record otherwise was sterling, big-hearted, and liberal for a Blue Dog Democrat.

Blanco’s reputation has grown since leaving office. She was so effective in her dealings with the lunkheads in the lege that she earned the nickname, The Queen Bee. And the term steel magnolia seemed to have been invented for his charming, kindly but tough woman.

Other than shaking her hand at a public event, I never had the chance to meet Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, so I’m linking to three friends who had the pleasure of her acquaintance: Bob Mann, Clancy DuBos, and Lamar White Jr.

Finally, it was a rough weekend in New Orleans. Beloved local anchorwoman, Nancy Parker, died in an airplane crash while doing a story on the pilot. I’ve enjoyed her work over her 26 years as lead co-anchor at WVUE, but I’m a WWL news viewer. It’s a tribute to Parker that the competition has devoted so much airtime honoring her. Like Kathleen Blanco, Nancy Parker was famous for being nice. They will both be missed.

A Salute To Jerry Garcia

Today would have been Jerry Garcia’s 77th birthday. I don’t believe in astrology. I do, however, get a kick out of sharing a sign with Jerry. Us Leos have to stick together, dead or alive.

The only fitting salute to Jerry is to post his music. We’ll do the Spotify playlist thing with 20 of Jerry’s best tunes; 19 of which have lyrics by Robert Hunter: