Archive for April, 2012

“A Double Header in Oakhurst!”

April 30, 2012

“Take me out to The Kettle –
Bring me there about 9.
Buy me some breakfast – then sit right back
Les will be there just to get us on track.

Les Marsden

Les Marsden

Then on Sunday, Marc Boyd will visit.
We’ll all be right there in the Park.
For it’s one – two – both things are true.
First it’s Les — and then – our Marc!”

Marc Boyd

Marc Boyd

As my friend J.R. Froelich and I were discussing several days ago, one of the nicest things about Oakhurst is that we all seem to get along quite well in personal interactions, while
maintaining the right, if not responsibility, to hold vastly varying opinions on important issues of the day elsewhere, particularly those of national interest. Bill Atwood and I have even fantasized doing a radio talk show together, Bill playing Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck/Sean Hannity to my Ed Schultz/Rachel Maddow/Lawrence O’ Donnell. That would be a hoot and a half!

Bill was sharing his recent Tea Party activities in last week’s Star — stressing the right to protest — and suggesting civility as a more appropriate response to same than drive-by demonstrations of digital disdain. I couldn’t agreed more and, in fact, Bill’s extended commentary offering Conservative perspective prompts me, as a card carrying member of the Oakhurst Democratic Club, to enthusiastically extend an invitation to all, especially Tea Partiers and, for that matter, Republicans of all ages. We’ve planned an exciting two for one weekend just for you!

On Saturday, Les Marsden joins us at the Ole’ Kettle for our May Meeting at 9 AM. Les is not only Founder and Conductor of the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra, but also Chair of the Mariposa County Democratic Central Committee and Trustee of the Central California Democratic Council. Setting these and even more impressive credentials aside, the fact is that Les Marsden is one of the finest public speakers you will ever hear anywhere in the known Universe. The reason that’s important is that Les has agreed to tackle what sounds like a hideously boring subject; i.e., “The Impact of Top Two Primary Voting.”



But Les will wake us up to the extraordinary importance of this new twist in California voting law and, transitioning to an immediate application, Marc Boyd is hoping you’ll ask him a few questions in person the very next day.

Marc is running for office in the newly defined Assembly District 5. The Oakhurst Democratic Club would like to introduce him to you with a “Meet and Greet” this Sunday at the Oakhurst Community Park Pavilion from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. We’ll have music, family fun, food, coffee, soda, prizes, coffee and Marc — all absolutely free of charge on a beautiful, sunny, early Spring day — out in the fresh mountain air.

Marc is the only officially endorsed Democratic Party Candidate for our 5th Assembly District. He is our David, going up against not one, but two mighty Goliaths. Marc might be crazy. But consider the math.

There’s no need to wonder where Big Money is going. According to the Fresno Bee, Republican candidates for the 5th have raised or borrowed a combined war chest of
$ 643,000 and climbing — against Marc’s $ 6,000 and hoping. That means Marc will be outspent by better than 100 to 1. That’s not a typo. That’s ONE HUNDRED TO ONE.

And Republican registration in District 5 outweighs Democratic enrollment 43% to 32%.

Yet, with “Top Two Primary Voting” now in place and assuming a similar split among Independents, June 5th voting just might witness a Marc Boyd winning 42% of total ballots cast, with Madera County Supervisor Frank Bigelow and Calaveras County Businessman Rico Oller more or less tied at a rounded-off 29% to 29%. This would mean Marc will stay in the race against either Bigelow or Oller, depending on who wins a six figure arm wrestle for second place.

This will position Marc Boyd as a sharp alternative in November against either worthy opponent.

Kindly note that “Vote By Mail” ballots for the Primary will be sent next week, May 8th, and the last day to register for the election is May 21st.

I just got off the phone with Marc, having told him of this column and asking if ”David” had any last words for Star readers who might wonder how on earth he expects to go up against entrenched political power and win. His exact words for Goliaths on the immediate horizon?

“Don’t underestimate me when my heart and soul are in the fight!”

He’ll show us why come Sunday.

“A Sandman Sleeps”

April 20, 2012

My first plane ride headed straight for “American Bandstand.”

I was working mornings on WNDR in Syracuse in November of 1961 when the station ran a wild promotion to transport two busloads of lucky teen listeners 250 miles down I-81 to WFIL-TV in Philadelphia for a live appearance with Dick Clark.

Since my air shift precluded a departure with the buses, the station decided it was worth the staggering sum of 24 dollars to fly me down on a Mohawk Airlines Douglas DC-3 to rendezvous with all at the TV station.

Syracuse connections with young Mr. Clark ran back quite some time even then, including the years he played Country & Western tunes on WOLF’s “Buckaroo Sandman Show” while a student at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications.

Dick’s family owned and operated WRUN-AM in nearby Utica, where he also paid early dues. Upon graduating from college, Clark obtained his first major market position in Philadelphia when he was hired in 1952 as a weekend weatherman and booth announcer on Channel 6. He was low man on the WFIL totem pole when Bob Horn got picked up for driving drunk.

Since Horn was hosting a show for young people called, “Philadelphia Bandstand” on WFIL — underage girls accompanying him at the time of arrest and other salacious allegations brought forth a local scandal of epic proportions, The charges instantly cost Horn his job at the station in July of 1956 and created a heart-stopping crisis for “Philadelphia Bandstand” Producer, Lew Klein. The situation required big time damage control for television, where image was everything. This was in the Eisenhower ‘50’s — when Elvis could only appear on television from the waist up, when you couldn’t say, “pregnant” on the radio, and when “the boys and girls” at Cathedral Academy during my Senior Year were separated by an empty row of desks to avoid “unnecessary temptations.”

Wait! Where’s that clean-cut kid from the newsroom? The one the sales staff loves ‘cause he works his tail off doing great commercials for local clients? That guy who can memorize a five minute pitch and perform it flawlessly with hardly any preparation at all?

Dick Clark was instantly assigned hosting duties on “Philadelphia Bandstand” as a temporary measure. After a few weeks, it became permanent. A year later, in August of 1957, “Philadelphia Bandstand” went national and became “American Bandstand” on the then fledgling ABC Television Network for a full 90 minutes every weekday afternoon from 4 till 5:30.

That initial trip to WFIL-TV and “Bandstand”, to be repeated several times annually until the program moved to Los Angeles in early ‘64, was an eye-opener. Most impressive, in addition to Dick Clark’s awesomely smooth, pitch perfect, on screen presence – was the absolute control he exercised over every aspect of the telecast. As I mentioned to Ray Appleton last Thursday on KMJ during Ray’s excellent tribute program in Clark’s memory, “Dick even watched out for the little things. I remember a large, matronly women with a commanding presence walking through this large crowd of teens moments before broadcast with a large coffee can — into which she demanded they all deposit their gum since, “Mr. Clark doesn’t want any of you chewing away coast to coast.” Cooperation was instantaneous.”

“The Dick Clark Cavalcade of Stars” visited Syracuse quite often back then. The “Cavalcade” consisted of a dozen or so recording artists who were driven up from Philadelphia to appear with us at the State Fair Coliseum. WNDR DJ’s would introduce Dick. He would then bring on the performers, who would “lip-sync” their hit records. This meant having the artists “sing” over recorded music. We’d have a local group or two on stage just to fill up space and pretend to play along. They were usually unplugged, but looked fabulously engaged. After most shows, a few of us would have dinner with Dick, who was as down to earth and engaging off air as he was on. Although most known by the public as a performer, Dick Clark ultimately was the consummate entrepreneur.

It is staggering to realize how much this one man accomplished in his lifetime. The list seems endless. “$10,000 Pyramid,” “The American Music Awards,” “TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes”, “Where The Action Is,” “Dick Clark’s World of Talent,” “The Dick Clark National Music Survey” and, of course, “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve.” At one point, Dick Clark had successful television programs running simultaneously on all three major TV networks, even as “Dick Clark Productions” staged hundreds of major concert events across the country in the ‘60’s, ‘70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Dick and I would see each other at dozens of “Radio Conventions” through the years and reminisce. However, although most distant in time, “American Bandstand” still seems nearest and dearest of all my Dick Clark memories.

As 70 million “baby boomers” stormed the gates of American culture, forever changing everything — Dick Clark waved us along — encouraging us to dance all the way through.

Perhaps that’s why I’m so sad he’s gone.

“Let’s Go to the Hop!”

April 16, 2012

“Well, you can rock it — you can roll it.
You can slop and you can stroll it at the hop!”

“At The Hop” — Danny & The Juniors (1957) ABC/Paramount Records

1957 was a magical year.

It saw the ultimate emergence of an new American music form called “Rock & Roll” and witnessed “The Little Church on the Hill”, established in 1894, move from Chapel Hill off Road 425B to Oakhill Cemetery on Highway 41. It also saw 16 year-old Peter Cavanaugh make what can only be described as a horrifyingly inauspicious radio debut over WNDR in Syracuse, New York.

These completely separate events are about to marvelously converge more than a full half century later for a most worthy cause.

WNDR had rocketed to the top of Central New York ratings in a triumph marking the very birth of the Rock Era. It advanced in a vacuum more than partially enhanced by traditional radio professionals shunning any aspect of the new phenomenon, a fusion of grass roots “Country and Western” and black-based “Rhythm and Blues.” I and other young enthusiasts were more than willing to step forward and grab the controls. We didn’t have to wait for anyone to get out of our way. They weren’t even there to begin with. Who would have thought?

My professional career started one April after riding my bike out to WNDR, which had moved to a swampy area just outside town where the towers were located. Every spring there was a flood, so the last fifty feet were by boat. I was answering phones on weekends for fifty cents an hour, a position obtained after many uninvited visits just “hangin’ around”.

My first efforts at WNDR were extended to include writing early morning news. I eventually cajoled my way into doing a few trial newscasts and then a regular weekend news schedule. But genuine “coolness” could only be found behind studio turntables. We kids had quickly come to worship the few who played that “Rock & Roll” on Syracuse stations. After mounting a relentless, non-stop campaign, management finally acquiesced. It was determined that I be allowed a one-hour live on-air audition at Midnight the following Sunday, when the station would normally sign-off for maintenance.

I wrote down every single word I would say, practiced each record introduction hundreds of times, sat in the control room hours on end watching all the moves made and memorized dozens of different “one-liners” to use if I needed, Lord forbid, to “ad-lib”. The adrenaline hit as soon as I sat down in the chair. I went to open the microphone channel and my humble hand brushed against a “master-off” switch directly beneath the intended target, promptly plunging WNDR into twenty minutes of stone silence. The engineer on duty, fairly new to the business himself, took that long to determine the extent of my stupidity. After my “first hour” was finished, I assumed I was as well, the premiere performance also my last. But by an astonishing stroke of fate, no one important heard my curious initiation. I was on my way to fame and fortune such as might come my way.

Next weekend, on Saturday, April 28th, a 1950s Sock Hop will be held at Evergreen Conference Center, 43803 Highway 41 in Oakhurst, with all proceeds going to The Little Church Foundation. I have been honored being asked to “DJ” the event and have already visited the venue and reviewed all technical logistics with Jackie Mallouf to insure uninterrupted fun and frolic.

The evening will begin with wine and appetizers at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 7 p.m. and dancing, contests and drawings from 8-10 p.m.

Tickets cost $20 in advance or $25 at the door. They are available at Coarsegold businesses Steve’s Tropical Fish and Mountain Feed & Nursery, and Oakhurst businesses Dorsey’s Hallmark and Willow Bridge Books.

I’ll be spinning the tunes primarily from the ‘50’s and early ‘60’s with as many old favorites as we can squeeze in and, of course, taking requests and dedications as in the old days. If there’s something specific you want to hear that night, drop me a note at sometime over these next few days so I can make sure I bring it along. That’s what smooth DJ’s do!

“Well, you can swing it you can groove it
You can really start to move it at the hop.
Where the jockey is the smoothest
And the music is the coolest at the hop!
All the cats and chicks can get their kicks at the hop.

Let’s go!”

“Kid Scoop”

April 6, 2012

Amidst the plethora of amazing technology exponentially emerging and expanding with every passing day comes a lovely ancillary opportunity afforded by the very newspaper you now hold clutched in your grasp.

Visiting on the Internet brings you an electronic version of many features brought to you in this publication, including local news, a community calendar, sports stories, obituaries, social announcements, all sorts of other cool connections, and even a copy of “For Your Consideration”, a weekly column submitted by yours truly and my trusted colleague, Alan Cheah. The reason Alan and I work so well together is that we never read what the other writes until it appears in “The Star”, at which point we often send each other a brief note offering absolute concurrence and sincere congratulation.

Another plus presented by the online version of “For Your Consideration” is that it gives me a chance to share observations contained therein with the whole wide world (I like to think) merely by pasting the link onto my Facebook page and/or other Facebook sites with which I am associated, including “Remembering WTAC” and “Sherwood Forest/Concert Venue”, these two alone reaching an average of over 4,000 persons each week.

Such capability finally brings me to the whole point of this particular piece, which is to salute “Kid Scoop”, an endearing little logo which always seems to jump up adjacent to the digital column, bringing me weekly queries from friends “Back East” as to why on earth I’m calling my column “Kid Scoop” when there normally doesn’t seem to be any connection with the usual content contained therein. By way of explanation, “Kid Scoop” is a delightful feature for boys and girls and children of all ages which can be found in every edition of the published “Sierra Star,” but is only promoted on the website. But this week, there IS a connection!

Webster offers a secondary definition of the word “scoop” as a colloquialism “to publish or broadcast a news item first”– and it was only from “the kids” I learned about “The Hunger Games”, first as a book for young adults by Suzanne Collins and, of course, most recently as a brilliant motion picture for which 21 year-old Jennifer Lawrence should receive a “Best Actress” Academy Award for virtually each and every scene in which she appears, meaning just about every second of the film. Ms. Lawrence was outstanding in “Winter’s Bone”. In “Hunger Games” she is astounding. Even more powerful is the film’s message – a deadly demonstration of –and solemn warning against — the ultimate horror of concentrated political power.

My old friend Mike Moore offers this typically restrained summary at

“The Hunger Games” – Don’t miss this film! It’s set in the United States of the future, after the 1% have completed their mission to enslave the other 99%”

But not if today’s kids have their way. It has been my experience they “get it” much more than not. They sense injustice a mile away. They know unfair when they see it.

They think more freely than their parents and seem to display amazing objectivity.

Oakhurst, where one out of three of us has no health insurance of any kind, was the center of national attention on Saturday, March 24th, when National Public Radio carried a feature story headlined, “In Conservative California, Confusion And Contempt For Health Law.” Sarah Varney of San Francisco’s KQED interviewed a few folks at Sweetwater Steakhouse and discovered — a dichotomy. Doug Macauley tactfully and diplomatically summarized it best. “You’re complaining over here that you don’t have health insurance and you can’t buy it. And over here [the government is] trying to provide you with it but that’s the worst thing ever. So there seems to be a disconnect in the thinking there.”

In the broadcast, Joe Stern (the water-conditioning Joe Stern) was also absolutely correct with his expressed view that, when it comes to health care in America, “no one is really left out”. The intellectual challenge comes when you match this against Joe’s other comment that “Obamacare is absolutely, horrible, horrible, horrible”, overlooking the fact that all of us are already paying for “no one” being “left out” with proportionately escalating medical costs coming out of our pockets across the board and that “Obamacare”, a right-wing invented hate phrase for “The Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act of 2010”, might just be a good first step in the right direction.

Ultimately it’s the kids who will decide. They are our future. I’m betting on them.

“The Kids Are Alright” — The WHO (1965)

Hope I die before I get old!