Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Je Suis Cleveland

Friends, countrymen, Clevelanders, lend me your ears.

I have come to praise Cleveland, not to mourn for it, and why should I mourn the home of the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers? On Father's Day, 2016, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith and Company knocked Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors off their high horse at Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA with a brilliant 93-89 upset victory and lifted the Forest City's 32-year curse .(The Cleveland Browns won their last NFL Championship in 1964.) This is not just a victory for any one sports team, no, no. This is a victory for the good people of Cleveland, the 48th largest city in the United States, which, as the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Rock Capital of the World, has always deserved equal recognition with such musical powerhouse cities such as my beloved Big Apple, (Broadway, Tin Pan Alley, CBGB's,Storyville) New Orleans, (Dixieland) Philadelphia (Gamble & Huff), Memphis (the Blues),  Detroit (Motown)San Francisco (Huey Lewis and the News, Jefferson Airplane) and Los Angeles (too many to list). 

It is also a victory for anyone who has ever been left on hold, stuck with a "non-winning" lottery ticket, and had sand kicked in their face. This is proof positive that with practice, devotion, and belief in yourself, anything is possible. Remember when the Mets beat Baltimore in 1969? Remember when Broadway Joe's bold guarantee came true? Remember when the New York Daily News was ready to go to press with a back page that screamed 1940 and the object of that headline, the New York Rangers, won their first Stanley Cup in 54 years and forced the "Hometown Paper" to replate the back page and eat its words? Remember when the 1970 Knicks provided a lift for a city in need with its first World Championship? It's that kind of feeling, that kind of victory. 

Too long has Cleveland been the butt of jokes from shaggy dog stories to Howard The Duck. Too long has Cleveland been called the Mistake by the Lake. Too long has Cleveland been overlooked and ignored. This ended with the buzzer that Sunday night. Cleveland may not be Paris, but then, why should it be? It has its own industries, its own team, and now, its own champions. This is not only a day for Cleveland, but for underdogs everywhere. Move over, Rover! It's time for US to eat!

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I have no immediate plans to visit Cleveland, actually, I'll visit Philly during 4th of July, but Cleveland is DEFINITELY on my bucket list.)

WE ARE CLEVELAND!
Steve

Thursday, June 16, 2016

DIS-appointed

Once upon a time, the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, to be exact, a little boy met a big mouse and fell in love. First of all, this is not another untold story about Michael Jackson. Secondly, the little boy was yours truly, the mouse, or, should I say, the Mouse was Mickey and I also got to rub noses with Minnie, and I fell in love so much that my grandmother got a whole lot of shares of The Walt Disney Company which I held on to even after Walt himself passed. I was present at the meeting when Chief Executive Officer Michael D.Eisner was about to complete the merger with Capital Cities/ABC Inc., formerly the American Broadcasting Companies,Inc. The motion carried despite a few objections, but I found myself with too many Disney shares, but I couldn't just foist them upon anybody. Unlike a certain presumptive Republican nominee for President (with whom I mistakenly compared him,) Walt wasn't born into wealth, but what made him feel rich back in those early days was his love of the Bible and everything American, so I felt that Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York was the best fit for those shares. (And good thing too, for Senior Rabbi David Posner and his wife Sylvia knew people who knew people at the Mouse House.) After the terror attacks of 9/11, Disney was seen as a source of comfort from Disney/Pixar's MONSTERS INC. to the Disney Channel Original Movies HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL and CADET KELLY (among others) to live sports on ABC sister network ESPN, but there was a movement against the Eisnerian policies led by Walt's nephew Roy E. Disney which spawned, among other things, a line of T-shirts and bumper stickers which were proudly displayed by former animators and shareholders alike and proclaimed the owner as "DIS-appointed," in a parody of the Disney logo.

I will go on record as saying that I love Disney, ESPN, Marvel and Star Wars and nothing is going to change that, and I have had a lot of great times at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Disneyland Resort Paris, as well as the Disney Store at Tanger Outlets Hershey (PA), but I would also like to say that I am extremely DIS-appointed at the management of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort over their lack of action that could have prevented the untimely death of 2-year-old Lane Graves of Elkhorn, NB, who wandered into Seven Seas Lagoon and was attacked not by an Audio-Animatronic alligator, but one that was all too real. I have always admired Disney for the way the care for their guests from offering Big Apples at the front desk at the Hotel New York in Downtown Disney Paris to Mickey's Magical Express at WDW, but this time they fell on their sword with tragic results. They should take to heart Marvel's guiding philosophy: "With great power there must also come great responsibility." I hope Disney pays stronger attention to its guests, remembering that they are not just credit card numbers and that they ARE people. I hope this finds its way to current CEO Bob Iger and that future generations of Disney fans will live happily ever after.

I would be remiss if I did not express my condolences to the survivors of the Pulse night club tragedy which happened not too far away from the Grand Floridian and my support of all the First Responders who stepped up to the plate. #WeAreOrlando

I would also like to express my condolences to the family of Christina Grimmie from THE VOICE who  played a concert in Orlando, just down the road from the Pulse, and was heartlessly and mercilessly gunned down.

Hoping YOUR news is good news (and for better news for all)
Steve

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Don't Try This At Home!

I don't mean to spoil the Prince pity party, (You've probably either read my tribute or you're about to.) but one possible cause of death is drugs, and if you remember the tragic end of Michael Jackson, you'll remember he was prescribed a lot of painkillers by a well-meaning doctor, and those hastened a tragic ending. That, and his reputation with young boys, did not exactly contribute positively to an otherwise sterling reputation as an artist. Similarly, Prince is also known for his affairs with stars such as Charlize Theron, who, reportedly was working on a new album with His Royal Badness. (Did anybody see that SNL musical number when the entire cast sang that while Charlize can slip out of different accents and play different characters, she COULDN'T sing? What's up with that?)

Many talented people, such as my CWPF Judy Collins, country legend Larry Gatlin, and Paul McCartney, have broken the grip of drugs over their lives. Others such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin weren't as lucky. If only Prince had joined the latter camp and had lived to be as old as Merle Haggard and Sonny James (ATTENTION PEOPLE WHO THINK NASHVILLE IS ONLY THE NAME OF A GREAT TV SHOW AND, THEREFORE, HAVE HEARD THOSE NAMES FOR THE FIRST TIME: Click over to http://www.welcometostevecountry.com for complete details on their wonderful lives and a few more surprises.), he would truly deserve all the adulation what a certain Ms. Palin calls the "lamestream media" has been giving him lately. (Guilty, your honor!)

So, all you budding musicians out there, it's OK if you want to be the kind of humanitarian/ pop powerhouse Michael Jackson was (Heck, you can be all that PLUS a better dad!) or rock-soul star Prince was sans all the erotic lyrics and don Juan reputation, but do not, and I mean DO NOT, try to emulate the kind of lifestyle they lived when the lights went down and the cheering stopped. I don't mean to trivialize the death of somebody who touched a lot of lives, but it would have been a whole lot better if he improved his own life first!

UP NEXT: Belated congratulations to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (Grumble,grumble.) on winning New York State. As the primaries move to Pennsylvania and Connecticut, I will share my favorite tourist places in the Keystone State and the Nutmeg State. (Hill won when I recommended my faves in NYS. Coincidence? I think not.)

Steve

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Long Live The Prince

It's our sad duty to report that Prince Rogers Nelson, better known by his first name,passed away in his Minneapolis, MN-area home and recording studios after dealing with flu-like symptoms for several weeks. He leaves this world at the tender age of 57, born less than  one month after this reporter (Steve=May 19, Prince=June 7) in Minneapolis proper. He released his first album, FOR YOU, in 1978 after several unsuccessful prior attempts.His first hit, "I Wanna Be Your Lover," came the following year, with the albums DIRTY MIND, CONTROVERSY, and 1999 following.

Prince was noted for his unique blend of disco,soul, hip hop and rock, apparently influenced by such diverse sources as George Clinton (Parliament-Funkadelic),John Lennon,Carlos Santana,Jimi Hendrix Little Richard,,and  James Brown, and flavored with sexually suggestive lyrics. He has won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. ROLLING STONE placed him at Number 27 on their chart of the Greatest Artists of All Time.

Prince was named for his father (John Lewis) who performed jazz under the stage name Prince Rogers. His most significant music frequently appeared on the Billboard charts in the 1980's, and in 1984, he made his motion picture debut in the Oscar winning PURPLE RAIN, whose soundtrack spawned the title hit, "WHEN DOVES CRY,"and "LET'S GO CRAZY." The "Sgt. Pepper-" inspired AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAY held the Number One position on the album chart, and his "MANIC MONDAY" was a hit for the Bangles, but PARADE had the dubious honor of being the soundtrack album for the Golden Raspberry Award (the Anti-Oscars, presented for the worst movies) winning UNDER THE CHERRY MOON, starring Prince and British actress Kristin Scott Thomas.

In the 1990's Prince changed his name to an unpronouncable symbol and asked to be referred to as  either "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince" or "The Artist." His Royal Badness recorded under his new identity until 2000 when he became Prince again. He played at Super Bowl XLI in Miami and released several albums before his last, HITnRUN Phase One.

Prince's songwriting ran the gamut from the sacred ("4 The Tears In Your Eyes") to the profane ("Erotic City") to the just plain crazy ("Anotherloverholeinyahead"), but he always used that sound which, while a hybrid of different influences, he made his own. In Shakespeare's plays, it always storms when a king dies. Today it rains in our  heart, and it is indeed, a purple rain.

R.I. P, Prince

The blogger presently known as Steve

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

No Way To Treat A Lady!

Michael Strahan, you should be ashamed of yourself for dumping Kelly Ripa! Yeah, I know, you're still working for Disney/ABC and they love you over at GOOD MORNING AMERICA, but YOU JUST JOINED HER! (True, it's been four years, but it seems like only yesterday.) I used to love you when you were a New York Giant, (especially that Snickers commercial when that Cowboys fan teased you and you scared him out of his ten-gallon hat) and I still think you're one of FOX' best pregame reporters, but you and "Pippa" were just made for each other, you kept switching straight man and stooge roles, and you were great morale boosters. I understand why the Kelster missed her show today. If I had a valuable partner who proved himself to be a great host when it came to hosting two shows, I would support him or her unreservedly, and I would understand if you told our national audience you wanted to leave, but Stray, to call you a cold-hearted snake would be an insult not only to Paula Abdul but cold-hearted snakes everywhere! If the circumstances were different, I would have taken a page from the book of GMA's founding anchor and said, "Go out and make it a great day!" BUUUUUUUT, to quote another famous Disney employee, a certain Mr. Thumper, if you can't say somethin' nice....
Steve out!
P.S. Congratulations to Wonder Woman Clinton, well played, Jovial John, and as for Dumb Donald, if you can't say somethin' nice...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Start Spreading The News!

This Tuesday, New York State goes to the polls to pick a choice for President of these United States. (Stevie the Geek's Lead Pipe Picks: Hillary R. Clinton for the Dems, and John Kasich for the GOP. The less said about the guy with the weird hair and loud mouth, the better!) and we've been given some decent weather in which to head to our local polling station. (If you're over 18 and registered, VOTE! If you're over 18 and NOT registered, PLEASE rectify that oversight.)


However, of primary concern to this fine blog as spring finally makes its presence felt and summer grows ever closer is the pulse-pounding potpourri of sights to see in this justly named Empire State.
For example, in June, the eyes of the sports world focus on the normally peaceful small town of Elmont in Nassau County, Long Island as Belmont Park hosts the concluding race in the Visa Triple Crown Challenge, the Belmont Stakes, and although it's too early to predict a winner on the track, you're in for a winning time at Beautiful Belmont itself. There's food to satisfy every palate, (Bring your appetite, but leave your diet at home!) personal appearances from winning jockeys from past years, supervised play for the little ones, and this year, a special post-race concert from American Idol Top 10 artist Chris Daughtry and his eponymous band. (You can also visit Yonkers Raceway and Aqueduct. One major advantage THEY have over Belmont is casinos, but THAT may change. Stay tuned!) Tickets have been known to fly out the door, so log on to http://www.ticketmaster.com PRONTISSIMO!


With all the headlines about all those crazy people in Albany, (our state capital) one may be tempted to hop on Amtrak (from Penn Station, 7th and 8th Avenues from 31st to 34th Street) or Go Greyhound (from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, 8th between 40th and 42nd) to check it out, and while it  DOES have plenty to see, from Empire State Plaza to the New York State Museum and Library, Washington Park, the Albany Institute of History and Art, the Times-Union Center,(home of the Albany Devils), Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy, (home of the Houston Astros' affiliate, the Tri-City Valleycats, and BTW, Schenectady is the third of the Tri-Cities) and, of course, the New York State Capitol, (The guided tour is recommended.) it's best to start in Albany and take a trip out to Saratoga to either see the horses at the racetrack or  Saratoga Performing Arts Center, summer home of the New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra,Cooperstown, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (and ironically, more like New York City than Albany if only because of the large community of Yankees and Mets fans that either call it home or visit to see highlights of each team's respective history) Glimmerglass Opera and museums, or the Berkshires, where you can see Pittsfield,MA, "the Brooklyn of the Berkshires" and home of the Berkshire Museum and Arrowhead, Herman Melville's residence, the beautiful small towns of Great Barrington and Lenox, and Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Norman Rockwell Museum, where you can not only see his iconic Saturday Evening Post covers but you can also see a veritable plethora of other exciting exhibits. If you DO have this great need to visit Albany and NOWHERE ELSE, please be careful out there!

No,Jessica Simpson, buffalo don't have wings! The reason they're called "Buffalo Wings" is because Teressa Bellissimo first served these uniquely spicy chicken wings at the famous Anchor Bar in our second largest city, Buffalo, in 1964. (There are ONLY three Buffalo Wild Wings stores in the Buffalo area, and none of them are in Buffalo proper! INNNNTERESTING!) Since man does not live on wings alone, Buffalo is also the home of its own unique style of pizza, food from all over the world, and the birthplace of non-dairy whipped topping and General Mills cereals. (All silly rabbits are hereby reminded that Trix are still for kids!) Buffalo is also home to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Shea's Performing Arts Center,a diverse theater community, the Buffalo Philarmonic Orchestra (performing at Kleinhans Music Hall), music stars Rick James, Ani deFranco, the Goo Goo Dolls, the third oldest zoo in the United States, parks designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux (also known for Central Park), the NHL Buffalo Sabres, the NFL Buffalo Bills, the Blue Jays-affiliated Buffalo Bisons, women's hockey's Buffalo Beauts, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, and, in case anybody's forgotten, it's THISCLOSE to Niagara Falls. The famous Maid of the Mist boat tour takes guests around the famous river from the American Falls to the Canadian Falls and back. Spring and Summer are the BEST times to shuffle off to Buffalo. Take it from a sports fan who knows, if you want to see your favorite team play the Sabres at First Niagara Center or the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium, either take a LOT of cold winter clothing or stay at home and watch it on TV! (So easy, even Jessica Simpson can do it!)

Everybody talks about "the end of Broadway," but if you REALLY want to see the end of Broadway...go north of Sleepy Hollow (as in Washington Irving's "The Legend of...) in Westchester County, That's where the road we all know as Broadway terminates! Seriously! "The Golden Apple" is also the home of one of America's few government-owned amusement parks, Playland, New Roc City in New Rochelle (home of an indoor amusement park, Westchester's first IMAX theater, and Monroe College's athletic complex), the Westchester County Center and the D-League Knicks, (They lost in the playoffs to Sioux Falls in the First Round. Typical Knicks!), the Neuberger Museum of Art, the Westchester Jazz Orchestra, the Westchester Philharmonic, the Yonkers Public Library and other such fine literary institutions, and the Westchester Broadway Theater in Elmsford. (Broadway the road may end in Westchester, but Broadway, and Westchester are forever!)

BTW, elsewhere in the Hudson Valley, from August to late September, the New York Renaissance Festival turns the ski resort of Sterling Forest in Tuxedo into the Shire of Sterling where men are men and women are lucky! Buy your ticket WAY early, get your Middle Age finery ready, and prepare for folk songs, jousting, living history, and food portions bigger than you can imagine...or stomach if you're smart!

As the great Vanessa Williams once sang, I've saved the best for last...NEW YORK CITY, the Big Apple, the City That Never Sleeps,the largest city in New York State and America, and the city where Huey Lewis once sang, "You can do half a million things, all at a quarter to three!" The home of the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets, Rangers and Islanders. New York Public Library, New York Philharmonic, hip-hop industry, Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, Central Park....WHEW! Where else can you take a ferry to a small city where you can find a modern shopping mall, an authentic restoration of an American Revolutionary town, AND the home of the Yanks' minor league club? Brooklyn ain't too shabby either, what with the Mets' affiliates, the Cyclones, a revitalized Coney Island, Barclays Center, Jay-Z's gift to the people of Brooklyn which is seeing its first NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs thanks to the Isles, and a new and improved Yankee Stadium is drawing more fans than ever before, either because of or despite comedian John Oliver's campaign against premium-priced seating. BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT, my FAVORITE part of New York City is 31st to 34th Street in Manhattan, starting with NYU Langone Medical Center on First Avenue, continuing through the Empire State Building (the second largest building in Manhattan, after One World Trade Center, which is also worth a visit) on Fifth Avenue, Koreatown and Manhattan Mall on Broadway, and ending at Pennsylvania Plaza on Seventh and Eighth Avenues. It starts with Pennsylvania Station which is a great place to not only catch a train but also do some last minute shopping and grab a bite, (Be careful with the natives! If they get a little too out-of-control, PLEASE notify an Amtrak, MTA, or NY police officer immediately.) continues through 2 Penn Plaza (Don't miss the new Pennsy Food Court featuring top quality restaurants owned by Pat LaFrieda, Mario Battali, and Mary Giuliani, to name but a few!) and ends at Madison Square Garden, The World's Most Famous Arena! After the New York Rangers win the Stanley Cup for the first time in 22 years, (Hey, it COULD happen!) the women take over as the New York Liberty challenge the best in women's basketball. (And for the record, Broadway is by no means over! Check out Andrew Lloyd Webber's SCHOOL OF ROCK and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Disney's THE LION KING and ALADDIN,FIDDLER ON THE ROOF,WICKED,CHICAGO,FINDING NEVERLAND, the Radio City NEW YORK CITY SPECTACULAR from early June to early August, and leave the kids at home before you boldly go to AMERICAN PSYCHO: THE MUSICAL!)
REMEMBER, after you've voted for the candidate of your choice, elect to visit the Empire State! (First, visit THESE sites:
http://www.iloveny.com
http://www.discoverlongisland.com
http://www.thisiscooperstown.com
http:://www.albany.org
http://www.ci.buffalo.us
http://www.visitwestchester.com
http://www.renfair.com/ny
http://www,nycgo.com
http://www.thegarden.com


Steve out!



Monday, April 11, 2016

An Unbearable Passing

It was reported by The New York Times during this past weekend that Margaret Emily Noel "Peggy" Fortnum, best known for illustrating the adventures of Paddington, a Peruvian bear found by a British family at the railroad station that gave him his name, passed away on March 28. She was born on December 23,1919 in Harrow, Middlesex, UK and attended Turnbridge Wells School of Art (1939) and Central School of Arts and Crafts after recovering from wartime injuries.She illustrated eighty books including the first Paddington book and the basis for the recent movie, "A BEAR CALLED PADDINGTON" by Michael Bond. Our sincerest condolences to those fortunate to have known her, and the Paddington fans who can't bear to part with her beautiful illustrations.

Steve out!