Let me start by saying that 2020 has to go down as one of the worst years ever. We are experiencing a terrible worldwide pandemic, which has pretty much shut down the world, especially rock concerts. We have lost many celebrities this year as well. The death of the brilliant RUSH drummer Neil Peart, back in January of this year was one of the toughest deaths, I as a rock fan had to endure. I was just stunned that he was gone and many rock fans and rock musicians were as well. It was just heartbreaking to lose a top musician like that.
This afternoon, however, rock fans and rock musicians got the horrible news that influential rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen, the lead guitarist for Van Halen, tragically died from cancer this morning at the age of 65, as announced by his son, Wolfgang. Mr. Van Halen died with Wolfgang and his wife Julie by his side. Even though I knew that Eddie Van Halen was battling tongue cancer and then throat cancer for a few years, this is still so sad. I am still stunned. Tributes to Mr. Van Halen came in from former bandmates, like David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar, Gene Simmons of KISS, who discovered the band in a club and tried to get them signed with then KISS manager, Bill Aucoin, to no avail, and many others. Valerie Bertinelli, Eddie Van Halen’s former wife and mother to their son, Wolfgang, paid a touching tribute to her former husband and father of her son on her social media. Fans also paid tributes to Eddie Van Halen all over social media and on YouTube, as well
I also happen to be a huge fan of Van Halen and I am absolutely devastated. I had the pleasure of meeting Eddie Van Halen when he and and the band, with Gary Cherone (Extreme) as their singer, did a CD signing of their new album “3” at a NYC record store. The whole band was very nice as was Eddie, who was just quiet. It was an honor to meet one of the greatest guitarists ever. It was an experience that I will never forget.
In this blog, I will be listing my personal top ten Van Halen songs in tribute to the late guitar master, Eddie Van Halen. These will not be in any particular order. As I want to just let the music do the talking, there won’t be any explanation, with the exception of a brief quote from a lyric from each song. If my readers want to know more about the life of Eddie Van Halen, here is a nice write up about him in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/06/arts/music/eddie-van-halen-dead.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage . I hope you enjoy the blog and please remember Eddie Van Halen’s family, friends and fans in your thoughts and prayers.
RIP Eddie Van Halen. You are so loved and so missed. Thank you for the music.
Slight warning: Some images and language may be unsuitable for work and children.
MY TOP TEN VAN HALEN SONGS IN TRIBUTE TO EDDIE VAN HALEN
10. POUND CAKE from FOR UNLAWFUL CARNAL KNOWLEDGE (1991):
9.UNCHAINED from FAIR WARNING (1981)
8. SOMEBODY GET ME A DOCTOR from VAN HALEN II(1979)
7. ERUPTION from VAN HALEN (1978)
6.FOOLS from WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST (1980)
5.PANAMA from 1984 (1983)
4.YOU REALLY GOT ME (THE KINKS COVER) from VAN HALEN (1978)
3.AND THE CRADLE WILL ROCK from WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST (1980)
2. EVERYBODY WANTS SOME from WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST (1980)
1. AIN’T TALKIN’ BOUT LOVE from VAN HALEN (1978)
Well, that is it. I love many other songs, like “Running With the Devil,” “Jump,” “Jamie’s Crying and more. I really could have put the entire “Women and Children First (1980) album on the list, as that is my all time favorite Van Halen album in their catalog. No, my fellow RMS Titanic enthusiasts, the fact that “Women and Children First” is my favorite Van Halen album has NOTHING to do with the ship, nor the fact that “Women and Children First” was the evacuation protocol on the Titanic. How the band came up with this title, I have no idea. Nonetheless, it’s my favorite and I thank Eddie Van Halen for his contributions not just to this album, but to music in general. He also worked with one of my all time favorite guitarists, Dr. Brian May, of Queen in 1984, and is also famous for playing the guitar solo for the late legendary Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”
I hope you all enjoyed this blog and please leave feedback.
Thank you, Eddie Van Halen for the music. Until we meet again.
Slight Warning: Some language used in this blog is not suitable for work or for young children as I use quotes from an “R” rated film.
On September 19, 1990, Warner Brothers released the classic film, “Goodfellas,” a mob film, based upon the book, “Wiseguy,” written by Nicholas Pileggi about the true story of an Irish/Italian kid named Henry Hill and his life in the mob. The film is directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Ray Liotta as Henry Hill. The rest of the cast include Robert DeNiro as “Jimmy “the Gent” Conway,” Lorraine Bracco as “Karen Hill,” Joe Pesci as “Tommy DeVito,” Paul Sorvino as “Paul Cicero” and the late Frank Vincent as “Billy Batts.” This film is considered by many, including me, to be the most realistic movie about the mob. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (Martin Scorsese), but won only one, which was for Best Supporting Actor for Joe Pesci. That year’s Best Picture was the overly long and boring “Dances With Wolves,” directed by Kevin Costner. This is the second time that Scorsese and his film have lost to a film directed by an actor. The first time was in 1980 when “Raging Bull” lost to “Ordinary People,” directed by Robert Redford. Raging Bull” was way better than “Ordinary People,” in my opinion. Regardless, “Goodfellas,” did win five BAFTA Awards, the British Oscars, if you will, including “Best Picture” and “Best Direction.”
“Goodfellas,” is not only an all-time great film and one of Martin Scorsese’s best, but is one of my favorite films. I have always loved mob and gangster films my entire life. I am talking about watching films featuring James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson, when they played gangsters, in films like, “White Heat,” “Angels With Dirty Faces,” and “Little Caesar.” Of course, I LOVE “The Godfather” Trilogy. Alright, I am not that huge a fan of “Godfather, Part III,” but you get the idea. “Goodfellas, was a game changer. This was realistic and I thought this film had everything from the over the top characters, violence and even some humor. This film is considered a classic.
As this year is the 30th anniversary of its release, in this blog, I will be making a list of the things that I love about “Goodfellas,” by Martin Scorsese. They could be scenes, characters, or lines or other aspects of the film. I want to emphasize that this is NOT a list,per se and is NOT in ANY order. I am just writing this blog as a tribute to one of my favorite films and letting my readers know why I love this film so much.
Of course, feedback is welcomed and encouraged.
WHY I LOVE MARTIN SCORSESE’S CLASSIC FILM, “GOODFELLAS:”
The Soundtrack: The use of great music, starting with “Rags to Riches,” sung by Tony Bennett and throughout the entire film was one of the great aspects of this film. The viewer heard all kinds of music from opera to classic rock to the crooners and the musical numbers were placed in the right spots to give the scene the right ambiance. The music is used SO effectively that when I hear some of those songs, I don’t think of them the same way.
The Food: Being that my mother was Sicilian, and many of the main characters were either from Sicily or Italy, food is a huge part of our heritage. The scene where Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) goes to Paul Cicero’s (Paul Sorvino) home for dinner and seeing all that food was typical of what Italians would serve. I liked seeing the scenes where Henry Hill is not only worried about the drug deal, but about the sauce he is making, near the end of the film.
“Maury:” Morris “Maury” Kessler (Chuck Low) is the wig maker, whose “wigs don’t come off,” who, at least per the movie, came up with the famous Lufthansa Heist. He was a pain in the neck. I knew he’d get “whacked” or killed. The scene where Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) are in Maury’s place and Conway comes from behind and strangles Maury with the phone cord is a great scene.
Billy Batts: Billy Batts (Frank Vincent) is a “made man,” or a full member of the Mafia. He was considered “untouchable.” In this nightclub, Batts and his friends are having drinks on one end of the bar and Henry Hill (Liotta) and Jimmy Conway (Robert DeNiro) are at the other end. Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) walks in and is not happy to see Batts, who asks DeVito to give him a hug and DeVito reluctantly does it. Batts jokingly comments about DeVito’s ability to “shine shoes” and will “make shoes look like fucking mirrors.” DeVito shows his displeasure and eventually, Batts yells, “Go home and get your fucking shine box!!!” DeVito leaves and later returns and he, Hill and Conway beat Batts up and put him in the car and then kill him, like you see in the very beginning of the film.
Spider: I feel badly for this kid. Spider (Michael Imperiolli) first gets shot in the foot by Tommy DeVito (Peschi) for supposedly ignoring DeVito’s request for a drink at the card game. Pesci is awesome with, “I ain’t alright, Spider.” Later, Spider then gets killed by DeVito, when this kid gets the gumption to tell the hot headed DeVito, “Fuck You, Tommy.” If you want to see an acting clinic, watch Joe Pesci play this scene, right before his character pulls the trigger. After the Spider character tells him, “Fuck you, Tommy,” Pesci sits in a calm silence, while the other characters are like, “Ooohh.” Pesci acts with just his expression on his face. The Jimmy Conway character says to DeVito, “What’s the matter?” “You’re going to let him get away with that?” “What’s this world coming to?” Tommy DeVito fires his gun and poor Spider is dead. Great scene and great acting.
“Get the Papers.” “Get the Papers.” This is a great line. There is a scene where through narration, Henry Hill (Liotta) is showing all the mobsters who eat there and tells the audience about the high life that they all live and “to live any other way was nuts.” Hill then shows some strange characters, like “Tony Two Times,” who “said everything twice, like, “Get the Papers.” “Get the Papers.”
Lorraine Bracco’s Performance: Bracco’s portrayal of “Karen Hill” is a tour de force. I loved how Bracco played Hill as this naïve wife, who was sucked in by this apparently nice guy in Henry Hill (Ray Liotta). As she realized to what kind of man she was married, she started to rationalize why he did what he did, by saying, in narration, about how he and his crew “went out to get us the little extras.
“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” What a great opening line, after the death of Billy Batts. Here is Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) stating how he always wanted to be a gangster, which leads right into the film, which starts with him narrating the story from how he started to hang out with the “wiseguys,” as a kid to his life as a gangster as an adult.
The Opening Scene: The rather shocking opening scene, where you see Henry Hill driving the car with Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito in the backseat wondering what the thumping was and realizing it was the not-quite-dead Billy Batts in the trunk, and then you see DeVito stabbing the pleading Batts to death and Conway shooting Batts had to be one of the most craziest things I have ever scene. I realized that this film was not going sugarcoat this Henry Hill’s story at all. This film was going to make many of James Cagney’s films look like Disney Films.
Joe Pesci’s Performance: I have seen acting performances and films receiving Oscars they didn’t deserve. However, if there were one that deserved the award, this one was it. His acting and portrayal of this psycho was incredible. I mentioned an example of how well he did so in the “Spyder” example.
Great Cast and Supporting Cast: What makes this film outstanding overall is the great cast, Robert DeNiro, Lorraine Bracco, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta. They are all fantastic. What I loved about this film, though, was the supporting cast like Frank Vincent and Paul Sorvino and the many other actors who played the smaller roles, many of whom were onscreen for a few minutes. It is very important to cast the smaller roles correctly as well as the major characters. Depending upon the film, the smaller characters can make or break the quality of the film, in my view.
Scorsese’ Direction: This was a masterpiece. This film was one of Scorsese’s very best. The realism combined with getting great performances out of his cast was amazing. Credit also should go to Scorsese’s long time editor, Thelma Schoonmaker also.
Well, I hope you like this blog as much as I liked writing it. Feedback is below.
The 2020-21 NFL Season opens tomorrow night with the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans and as a massive NFL fan, I am very happen to see something that resembles some sort of sporting event that is close to “normal” return. I am looking forward to seeing the QB duel between the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Texans’ QB DeShaun Watson. Could these two be the next Manning vs Brady? We will see. I expect the Chiefs to roll in this game. The game airs on NBC and kick off is at 8:20pm, EST.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL has had a rather strange off-season, to say the least. There were no pre-season games. Players are tested left and right. The NFL draft was virtual. All the players had was training camp. This season will be very interesting indeed as many teams will start out with no fans and crowd noise at their home games. Some teams will have some fans, like in tomorrow night’s game, the Chiefs and the Texans will be playing in front of 16,700 fans, or so. Of course, we will have to see how and if the pandemic will affect the ability for the season to progress.
In this blog, I will just give the division winners, conference winners, conference champions and Super Bowl winners. I want to add that because of the pandemic’s affect on the off-season and due to some private issues related to the pandemic, I won’t be as detailed as usual. I apologize to my readers in advance, for the lack of the usual in-depth analysis, because I take a lot of pride in giving my readers a detailed analysis of the season. I hope you will enjoy this blog and feedback is welcomed and encouraged.
Baltimore is the obvious class of the division. QB Lamar Jackson is awesome. I would like to see Coach John Harbaugh have him run less and throw more. Can Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger get the Steelers back into the playoffs? It will depend upon whether his newly repaired elbow can last through the season. Cleveland is still disorganized and the Bengals have a rookie QB in Joe Burrow. Good luck to the two Ohio teams on that.
New England: 10-6 Buffalo: 10-6 New York: 8-8 Miami: 7-9
Yes, I KNOW the G.O.A.T, meaning Tom Brady has left the building. However, it looks like to me that the presumptive starting QB and former NFL MVP Cam Newton and coach Bill Belichick are getting along pretty well. We will see what happens on the field. The Patriots still have a pretty darned good defense and Belichick. Yes, Buffalo is the top threat. Did I say Bill Belichick is still the Patriots’ head coach? The Dolphins are going to be the Dolphins and start journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. I nearly left out the Jets. Well, they will always be the Jets. They may threaten a little bit, but like a lot of racehorses will do, they will just fade in the stretch.
I expect DeShaun Watson, who signed a huge contract extension to have a huge year. I hope that offensive line does a better job of protecting him. Head Coach Bill O’Brien needs to do a much better job as head coach. Indianapolis signed Philip Rivers at QB. I do realize that he is aging and I notice the media is not talking about that fact. However, I DO feel his leadership, as fiery as it can be, can get this Colts team to ten wins and most likely the playoffs. I think Tennessee turns back into the pumpkin and is just an 8-8 team this year, as they had their moment last year. Jacksonville just came apart, literally. A couple of years ago, they were called “Sacksonville,” and were trying to trash talk their way to SB52, but were just out-played by the Patriots in the 2017-18 AFC Championship game. Now, the team is in tatters.
Kansas City: 13-3 Los Angeles: 8-8 Denver: 7-9 Las Vegas: 6-10
I think it should be obvious to anyone that Kansas City is obviously going to win the division. The Raiders are going to be in a new place, but the same old Raiders. Denver suffered a HUGE loss to their defense on the last day of practice. Von Miller, their star linebacker, suffered a severe ankle injury that was thought to be ending his season. However, the team is now saying Miller, who suffered from a case of COVID-19 this past offseason, will “be out awhile.” Von Miller is an amazing player and I wish him the best. I don’t know what QB Tyrod Taylor will do as the QB for the Chargers.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE:
Green Bay: 11-5 Minnesota 10-6 Detroit: 9-7 Chicago: 7-9
Analysis: I think the second year of Aaron Rodgers and coach Matt LeFleur will produce a division title for the Packers. I still do not trust Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins in a big game. The rest of the team is still pretty good, but when it is a crucial game, Cousins lacks a clutch gene. For the Detroit Lions, I think head coach Matt Patriots needs to put up or shut up. I don’t like to do this type of thing, but he is my candidate for a very early, “coach on the hot seat.” QB Matthew Stafford is a terrific passer, but Patricia has to put Stafford and that team in positions to win. Chicago’s QB situation is a mess. I am still shaking my head that the Bears took Mitch Trubisky over DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. Regardless, Trubisky will be starting Week One. I would have started the more experienced Nick Foles. but what do I know?
Dallas: 11-5 Philadelphia: 11:5 New York: 9-7 Washington: 4-12
I definitely think the race for the NFC East is between the Cowboys and the Eagles. QB Dak Prescott and company have a good team this year. Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz is healthy. Hopefully, Wentz will stay healthy. There was drama over Eagles RG Jason Peters’ not wanting to play LT. However, that has been resolved and Peters will play LT, per CBSSports.com.(https://www.cbssports.com/fantasy/football/news/eagles-jason-peters-moving-to-left-tackle-after-all/) I expect NY Giants QB Daniel Jones to improve and it looks like the Giants are trying to improve their defense. Washington has undergone a tumultuous offseason. They will be undergoing a name change, as their former moniker offended many. The team also was hit with a sex scandal involving their cheerleaders, which is not being investigated by the NFL. In other words, NFL Commissioner is going to bungle the case, ala Deflategate, Bounty Gate, etc. No matter. Washington will still bring up the rear in the NFC East. The only positive thing I CAN say about Washington is the miraculous return of QB Alex Smith, who returns from a career and life-threatening leg injury suffered on the field against the Houston Texans on November 18, 2018. The injury became life threatening, when after the surgery to repair his leg, infections started.
Tampa Bay: 11-5 New Orleans: 10-6 Atlanta: 9-7 Carolina: 7-9
I am going to paraphrase a line from Led Zeppelin’s ,”Heartbreaker,” here. “Hey fellas. Have you heard the news. Tom Brady’s in Tampa Town?” (https://youtu.be/0hdQi2_HzAc) Yes, Bucs fans, I know it is Tampa Bay, but I am going for a moment. Seriously, though. The big story from the offseason is the legendary Tom Brady leaving the New England Patriots, where he played for 20 seasons to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This should be a very interesting season to see him play in a different conference and in a new system, under head coach Bruce Arians. Arians is a QB guru, who has coached guys like Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Brady has just turned 43, and many people has made a lot of that, too much of that, especially since there is ANOTHER 40-something QB in the same division. Anyway, their offense should definitely benefit from Brady’s experience. Their defense is one to watch out for, as they do need to pick it up quite a bit.
In speaking of the other 40-something QB, let’s get started with him. I am talking about the great Drew Brees. I definitely think that he and coach Sean Payton should definitely be able to make a run at the division. The two games Brees and Brady play against one another should be awesome. In fact, they kick off the season with one of them. As far as the other two teams in the division, Atlanta still hasn’t been the same since, 28-3. I mean, Super Bowl 51 or the equivalent of what would have happened had Secretariat fell down in the 1973 Belmont. I think the Falcons will be just alright this year. I don’t think much of Carolina, either.
San Francisco: 12-4 Seattle: 11-5 Los Angeles: 9-7 Arizona: 6-10
The race for the division is between last year’s Super Bowl NFC representative San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. I do think that the 49ers win the division, though. 49ers QB Jimmy Garappolo improves greatly from last year. I expect Russel Wilson to be the great QB that he has been. I am not crazy about the Rams this year and Arizona is a mess. I feel badly for Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald having to play on such a terrible team. Will he retire this year? We will see.
Caveatto my Post Season Predictions:
There are going to be a lot of factors going into this season, obviously. There will be injuries to star players. Like I said, Von Miller (Broncos) is already out indefinitely. How will not having a full offseason, due to the pandemic, affect players’ conditioning? Staff and players’ getting COVID will also impact games. My predictions for the Post Season is based upon as little interruption of the regular season as possible.
POST SEASON PREDICTION:
Kansas City Chiefs
The only other team that has a chance to challenge them for the conference is Baltimore, despite Baltimore’s surprisingly early playoff exit last post-season. I think Baltimore will improve, but not enough to take away the Chiefs’ spot in the Super Bowl. I don’t think Houston, even with all their talent would be able to be much of a challenge to the Chiefs, either. Does everyone remember last year, when they had their shot, until O’Brien choked? You could and should never count out the Patriots under Bill Belichick. The Patriots possibly may get into the playoffs, and make some noise. The conference is the Chiefs to lose, however. Unless injuries and/or COVID causes a mass interruption, book the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game.
Tampa Bay Bucanneers
I think Brady can get this team to the Super Bowl. His experience and the weapons on offense, along with Arians will get the team to the big dance. Some “experts” aren’t too hot about their defense. I think they do need to improve. I know last year, they did let former and now Saints backup QB Jameis Winston down quite a bit. On a side note, I do feel that while Winston made a ton of bone-headed INTs, I do feel many of the losses were due to the defense. The defense must make key plays to help to get the Bucs there and I think they will. Many experts like Dallas. I am not a massive fan of Stephen A. Smith, but he is right about one thing. Dallas can not handle success. Something always goes wrong with Dallas. Somehow, someway, Dallas stubs their collective toe and screws everything up.
SUPER BOWL WINNER:
While the Chiefs have all the superior weapons and overall, are the better team. I also think that Patrick Mahomes is an amazing person and an amazing QB. I think very highly of him, as he has become a thoughtful person off the field and will become the face of the NFL for a long time. However, I do think think, because of his weapons, leadership, experience and his knack for coming up big in big games over his 20 plus years in this league, it will be QB Tom Brady holding up his 7th and final Lombardi.
Your winner of SB 55 is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
SB MVP: QB Tom Brady.
I hope you enjoyed this blog. Feedback is welcome.
If you had bet that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to turn everything upside-down, you would be the winner. The novel coronavirus has shut down the world and has wrecked havoc on people’s lives. All over the world, millions have contracted the virus and thousands have died. Countless businesses have suffered, from small mom and pop stores to nail salons to gyms to schools and university. The entertainment industry has been devastated by the pandemic.
Sports has also been adversely affected by this pandemic. The NBA, MLB and NHL had to put their seasons on months-long pauses. The NBA is playing in a “bubble” in Orlando, Florida to very good results, as no one, at this writing has gotten sick. MLB are playing in different stadiums, with mixed results, as some games had to be postponed because of outbreaks of COVID have happened to different teams. All three of these sports have no fans in the stands, but they put artificial crowd noise and they also insert placards of people in the stands. The NFL had a virtual NFL Draft, as they had to cancel their in-person 2020 NFL Draft. There were no OTAs and the pre-season games were eliminated. The NFL Season is scheduled to start on Sept 10th with the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs playing to about 16,000 fans against the Houston Texans. Many other NFL teams will start the season with no fans in the stands, but hope to do so later.
Horse racing was not immune, either, as jockeys contracted the illness and/or the sport, like the other major sports, have continued without or with very little fans in attendance, depending on the state. Monmouth Park in New Jersey, for example, allowed up to, about 1000 fans, whereas Saratoga Racetrack and Belmont Park in New York, were not allowed to have fans, even though both tracks, particularly Belmont are enormous tracks. The Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, which are USUALLY run on the first Saturday and first Friday in May respectively, were both moved to this upcoming weekend in hopes of being able to have fans in the stands. Unfortunately, due to the fact that Louisville, where Churchill Downs, the racetrack at where the two races are run, became a COVID “red zone,” the plan to have 23,000 fans was canceled. It is very unfortunate that this year’s Derby and Oaks will be run without specatorts for the first time in the race’s history.
In this blog, I will give a very brief analysis of both the 2020 Kentucky Oaks and the 2020 Kentucky Derby and my picks for each race. I also want my readers to know that I did something a LITTLE different this year. When I give the prediction of the winner of each race, it will be in two parts. I will state who I WANT to win and who I PREDICT will win. This is one of my favorite blogs to do each year and I hope all the participants have a safe Oaks and Derby. Feedback is welcomed and encouraged.
Now, that I got all of that out of the way, let’s get started with the nine horse field for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks, as you can see in the figure below. The race is run at 1 1/8th miles. It is run on the Churchill Downs dirt track. The races is known as the “Lilies for the Fillies,” as the winning 3YO filly gets a blanket of lilies on her withers. The purse is $1,250,000. Post time is 5:45pm, EST on NBCSN.
I have been a long-time backer of the Bob Baffert trained GAMINE. My only question is whether she can carry her speed for 1 1/8th miles. If SPEECH or SWISS SKYDIVER can challenge Gamine, I am not so sure. BAYERNESS is a nice longshot. She has defeated Swiss Skydiver, another of my favorites, but that was way back in November. DONNA VOLACE could be a sleeper here, as she has finished first or second in her last four starts. She hasn’t run since March, though Simon Callaghan has stated that she’s been off and was given 60 days to recover. I tend to be wary of horses who haven’t been in a race for such a long time. Unless she’s Da Hoss. TEMPERS RISING is trained by Dallas Stewart. Dallas Stewart has been known to win or hit the board on Derby AND Oaks Day.
PREDICTION: The top horses in this race are Swiss Skydiver, Speech and Gamine. Gamine is such a short price and I don’t like picking a horse that is so heavily favored. If I am going to go elsewhere, I would look at Speech, Donna Volace or even one of the two horses sired by Bayern, Bayerness or Tempers Rising, especially if you are playing exotics.
Who I WANT to win: Gamine or Swiss Skydiver.
Who I PREDICT WILL win: Swiss Skydiver
Longshot Recommendation: Tempers Rising
Now here is the field for the 2020 Kentucky Derby. The race is run at 1 1/4 miles on dirt. Post time is at 6:50pm, EST on NBC. The purse for the Derby for 3YOs is $3,000,000. The race takes place at the historic Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, KY.
When Churchill Downs changed the date of the Derby, lots of races got all mixed up. The prohibitive favorite, TIZ THE LAW, owned and trained by the same connections that gave racing fans FUNNY CIDE won the shortened Belmont Stakes, and Travers. This horse seems to be unstoppable and is the deserved favorite, despite being given #17. Even though the #3 hole is technically the #1 hole, no horse with #17 has won the Derby. Can Tiz the Law overcome all that? We will see. Trainer John Shirreffs of ZENYATTA fame, has brought another favorite in HONOR A.P., a handsome son of HONOR CODE. Honor A.P. finished a closing second in the Shared Belief, last time out.
Of course, we can’t not leave out any Derby discussion without Bob Baffert. Baffert has two horses in the race, AUTHENTIC and THOUSAND WORDS. Let’s start with Authentic. He drew the far outside post 18. Yes, American Pharoah won from that post. Authentic is a nice horse, but I don’t think he is American Pharoah. In the Haskell, NY TRAFFIC nearly beat him at the wire. I definitely think, tactics-wise, Authentic is going to have to go to the front. There is no doubt in my mind. The other horse, Thousand Words, who won the Shared Belief on the lead may have to stalk or rate. He is a son of one of my favorite stallions, the late Pioneerof the Nile, who sadly passed away in March of 2019. He sired American Pharoah. Can he sire another Derby winner? We will see. Thousand Words had a bit of a slow spot, as Baffert stated, “He soured on me.” However, the horse appears to be getting back into the swing of things just at the right time.
The rest of the field are a lot of horses that are long-shots and those who I would call “no-hopers.” Some may surprise and hit the board, if you like longshots. KING GUILLERMO, owned by former MLB player Victor Martinez, is what I call the “wiseguy horse, a horse on the improve and has a huge following. He has had four months off, and people seem to like him and give him a big chance. Unless he is Da Hoss, who won the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Mile after a year off, I just don’t see it. Some horses who my readers may like to consider in their exotic bets: NY Traffic, MAX PLAYER, and MAJOR FED.
Tiz the Law has don’t nothing wrong this year. He has done everything asked of him. Yes, his sole loss came at Churchill Downs as a 2YO. However, he is a way different horse. He has beaten a good portion of this field. He will be a tough customer. However, from a betting perspective, I certainly am going to try. After all, this IS the Kentucky Derby and anything can happen. I thought my beloved Point Given was a cinch as well.
The Kentucky Derby is known for that mad dash for the first turn. The race will be using the new one piece starting gate so it will be interesting to see if it plays a factor as well. Authentic, as I said earlier, will definitely go to the lead. Tiz the Law and I believe Honor A.P. will be forwardly place. They should get decent position as long as they don’t get crushed by that mad dash to the first turn. For Thousand Words to have a chance he has to be hustled out there as well. Depending on how fast the pace is upfront, I could definitely see a scenario where a deep closer like NY Traffic will pick up the pieces and hit the board.
Who I WANT to win: Thousand Words and Tiz the Law
Who I PREDICT WILL win: Tiz the Law
Longshot Special: Max Player
Well, those are my picks for the 2020 Kentucky Derby and Oaks. Good luck to all participants and horses. For those betting, bet with your head and not over it.
Today, September 1, 2020, is the 35th Anniversary of the discovery of the most famous shipwreck of the world’s most famous ship, besides Noah’s Ark. The ship is, of course, the White Star liner RMS Titanic, which struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912 at 11:40pm and sank the following morning, the 15th at 2:20am. There were 1496 deaths and 712 survivors, who were picked up by the rescue ship, RMS Carpathia of the Cunard Line. Titanic victims included famous people, such as millionaires John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, Second Class passengers, such as Joseph LaRoche, believed to be the only Black passenger on board the Titanic, along with poor immigrants in Third Class, such as the Goodwin family of eight which consisted of Frederick, his wife Augusta and their six children and Margaret Rice and all five with her children.
Many members of the crew were also lost in the disaster, including all of the engineers, who kept the ship’s lights and power going, so passengers had a chance to get to the lifeboats, stewards, stewardesses, the entire Titanic band who played bravely until the end and those who worked in the bowels of the ship, men like William Bessant who were stokers/firemen, trimmers and greasers. These men did the hard, backbreaking work to keep the ship’s engines running. Because these men were constantly covered with soot from the dirt and coal, they were called, “the Black Gang.” Mr. Bessant perished in the sinking. His great-granddaughter, Julie Cook, wrote a book, “Titanic and City of Widows It Left Behind,” about him and how his widow and other widows of these men dealt with life before Titanic and after the disaster. I mention this particular book and recommend the book, because the “Black Gang” are just glossed over in movies, documentaries, etc., about the sinking. Their stories need to be told also. You can find Ms. Cook’s book on Amazon and at Barne’s and Noble.
Ever since the Titanic sank, there have been different degrees of interest in the disaster. There have been films, documentaries, etc. If you have read any of my past blogs, you will know that I am obsessed with the ship. I am not what Titanic enthusiasts would call a “rivet counter,” meaning knowing which room was at which deck of the ship or how a certain part of the bridge looked. I am more interested in the overall story of her being built and the story of the sinking. Of course, I think she was and is the most beautiful man–made object ever built. That being said, I always wondered, like a lot of people, if her wreck would ever be found. After all, she was more than two miles down in the North Atlantic. I didn’t even think Jacque Cousteau could have found her.
I didn’t think the RMS Titanic would EVER be found. I figured that the closest thing I would get to “see the Titanic” would be anytime the film “A Night to Remember” (1958) was shown on television. I just thought the wreck was never to be seen by human eyes ever again. There is that old saying, “Never say never.”
“THEY FOUND THE TITANIC!” My father, who was about three weeks away from his eight birthday when the Titanic sank, shouted those words up to my bedroom, while I was listening to music. I was thinking, “No way,” but ran down the stairs and there was the news. The wreck of the Titanic was found. As the next few days progressed, a gentleman by the name of Dr. Robert Ballard, a marine geologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, discussed his discovery of the wreck. Before I continue, I should mention that even though Dr. Ballard has been credited with the SOLE discovery of the wreck, the search for the Titanic was a JOINT expedition by an American AND French Team, led by French Oceanographer Jean-Louis Michel from IFREMER, who also should get as much credit as Dr. Ballard for finding the wreck.
Anyway, I just could not believe it. The ship I loved, thanks in part to my dad, has been found. I was so excited. I read every article I could find. I don’t have them anymore, sadly. I couldn’t stop talking about it, when I started my senior year at high school. Sadly, my father passed away about a month before I graduated high school. The only comfort I had is that the discovery of Titanic was one of the last things my dad and I were able to enjoy together.
Ever since it has been found, I have read and watched more movies and read more articles. I also kept up with the news about salvage expeditions. I used to be so anti-salvage as I thought the wreck was a gravesite. However, I started to change my mind when I went to Las Vegas in 2000 and the Luxor Hotel had their Titanic Museum. I saw all those artifacts from the ship. I learned quite a bit. I felt, if I and others learned, why can’t future generations? I just saw the violin that Titanic bandleader Wallace Hartley played that fateful night. It was very emotional. I respect that this is a very sensitive issue and I respect everyone’s opinion on the matter.
Reflecting on the discovery of the Titanic after thirty five years, I think it has definitely put the ship back in the public consciousness. Of course, through many expeditions, we have learned more about the ship, especially how the ship may have met her doom. Upon finding the wreck, everyone learned that Titanic broke in half and not in one piece, when she sank, like survivor Jack Thayer III and other witnesses said. Many so-called “sinking theories” have sprung up, some way better than others. The wreck, as of a 2019 expedition, is not in the greatest shape, but you can still tell it’s the Titanic. The wreck still has secrets to tell. It will be interest to see what else researchers could find from the wreck.
As long as I live, I will always remember my father shouting, “THEY FOUND THE TITANIC.”
On July 26, 2020, the entertainment world lost one of Hollywood’s last living legends of the “Old Hollywood” Era. Dame Olivia de Havilland, known for her roles in such movies as “The Snake Pit,” “The Heiress” and, of course, “Gone With the Wind,” passed away in Paris, France at 104. Olivia de Havilland died of natural causes. Ms. de Havilland was the last of the “Golden Age of Hollywood, and until her death, was the oldest living Oscar winner. She appeared in 49 feature films and the large part of her film career spanned from 1935 to 1988. Olivia won 2 Best Actress Academy Awards, one for “To Each His Own” (1946) and for “The Heiress” (1949). Her younger sister was the late Joan Fontaine, who also won Best Actress for “Suspicion” (1941). Both women are the only siblings to have won Academy Awards and the only sisters to have won major Academy Awards. Olivia de Havilland has also done work on Broadway and on TV. Olivia de Havilland was named a Dame Commander in Queen Elizabeth II‘s Birthday Honors list in 2017, just before her 101st birthday, hence her being Dame Olivia de Havilland.
Olivia de Havilland was one of my all time favorite actresses. I always enjoyed her ability to play different roles. I also loved how she was able to adapt to television and the stage, as well as the silver screen. Olivia de Havilland won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Movie or Series and received an Emmy Nomination in the same category for her role in the 1986 miniseries, “Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna.” Olivia deHavilland also appeared in the 1979 miniseries, “Roots: The Next Generation.” On Broadway, she appeared in “in Romeo and Juliet (1951), Candida (1952), and A Gift of Time (1962).
Olivia de Havilland was an amazing and versatile actress and the last of the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. They certainly do not make them like her, anymore. I certainly will miss her and to honor her, I will list some of my personal favorite films in which she starred or co-starred. I hope you will enjoy this list. Feedback is welcomed and encouraged.
Favorite Films Featuring the Late Olivia de Havilland:
“The Male Animal” (1942)
Directed by: Elliott Nugent
This film features a very funny love triangle and a battle about free speech on campus, starring Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland as Tommy and Ellen Turner, who live in a college town, which is crazy about its college football team. Tommy Turner (Fonda) is a college professor, whose desire to read the sentencing statement by Bartolomeo Vanzetti gets him in hot water with the trustees, led by a one Ed Keller (Eugene Pallette), who wants to fire Turner. At the same time, there is a huge football game, and the former football hero, Joe Furgeson (Jack Carson), comes to visit and he is Ellen Turner’s (de Havilland) former beau. Furgeson and Ellen Turner revisit their old romantic feelings and at the same time, Tommy Turner (Fonda) has to deal with trying to keep his job.
This is a very funny and somewhat lighthearted film. I enjoyed seeing the de Havilland character and the Carson character having some quasi-romance and here is the poor Fonda character trying to keep both his marriage and his job at the same time. It’s not one of de Havilland’s Oscar winning performances, but I like her lightheartedness in this film. I also enjoy the free speech on campus battle as well. Does Tommy Turner get to read Bartolomeo Vanzetti’s speech and keep his job after all? Watch this film and see.
“The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz and William Keiley
This film features Errol Flynn as Robin Hood and Olivia de Havilland as Lady Marian in this swashbuckling tale of Robin Hood. Most of my readers know the plot of this film, but for those who don’t, the film is about how Robin Hood (Flynn), a Saxon Knight, in the absence of King Richard leads a rebellion with a guerrilla band against King John (Claude Reins), who along with the Norman lords, are oppressing the Saxon commoners. The film features a cast of well known actors, such as Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy of Gisbourne, Eugene Pallette as Friar Tuck, an uncredited Sam Jaffe, and Alan Hale, Sr. as John Little, a.k.a. Little John. On a side note, Alan Hale, Sr. is the father of Alan Hale, Jr., who played The Skipper on “Gilligan’s Island.”
This is a fun, action-filled romp. I love Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn in this film. The duo actually made several films together. I think they had great chemistry. I loved how at first, Lady Marian was against Robin Hood and, then she accepts his good intentions, and then he has to rescue her. Of course, as we all know, Robin Hood marries her. I love how de Havilland and Flynn work off each other. Her scenes with Basil Rathbone (Sir Guy of Gisbourne) are awesome, also. I enjoy this film and for those who haven’t seen this, I recommend it.
“Hold Back the Dawn”(1941)
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
I love this film, which stars Olivia de Havilland as Miss Emmy Brown, a naïve school teacher, who was in Mexico with fifteen boys on a class trip and falls in love with a Romanian gigolo named Georges Iscovescu (Charles Boyer), who unbeknownst to her, is only marrying her to get a US Visa, so he can work in New York with his former dancing partner Anita Dixon (Paulette Goddard), who also is in love with Iscovescu and tells him that she married an American to get a US Visa and she quickly divorced him as soon as she got it, hence his idea to use Emmy Brown (de Havilland). A couple of complications come when Iscovescu (Boyer) marries Brown, he actually falls in love with her and an Immigration Inspector Hamel (Walter Abel), who looks for con artists like Iscovescu gets right on his tail as well. The film is told by Iscovescu (Boyer) in flashback to a Hollywood screenwriter. You will have to see this wonderful film to find out the reason.
I love the chemistry between Olivia de Havilland and Charles Boyer. Even though Boyer was considered what we would call a “sex symbol,” as he was extremely handsome, Boyer was an excellent actor. Boyer definitely held his own against de Havilland. The scene featuring Paullette Goddard, where her character, Anita Dixon tells Emmy Brown, Olivia de Havilland’s character, the truth is a great scene, as well. The film, “Hold Back the Dawn” was nominated for six Academy Awards, including “Best Picture” and “Best Actress” for Olivia de Havilland, one of her five total Academy Award Nominations.
“Gone With the Wind” (1939)
Directed by Victor Fleming
If you have not heard of “Gone With the Wind” (1939) or the Margaret Mitchell 1936 novel, upon which the classic film is based, you must be living under a rock. This nearly four hour epic, set during the Civil War, is a historical-fictional drama about a strong-willed and spoiled Southern belle named Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) who strongarms her way through family relations, etc., and finally finds love and marriage with a Southern gentleman, named Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).
However, before O’Hara (Leigh) marries Butler (Gable), O’Hara is, at least in this author’s opinion, becomes one of the most destructive and mean-spirited characters ever. O’Hara pretty much destroys everything and everyone, in her path, including her marriage to Rhett Butler. Scarlett also goes after and continues to obsess over someone she knows she can’t have. That someone is Ashley Wilkes (a terribly miscast Leslie Howard) who gets married to Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland).
Melanie Hamilton Wilkes is one of the only characters in this film that I genuinely liked, besides Rhett Butler (Gable) and Mammy (Hattie MacDaniel) Olivia portrayed her with such a quiet grace and such strength, when the character needed it. One scene that sticks in my head is where after the news and gossip got out where at Scarlett’s and Ashley’s store, they were in a comprising position, Scarlett was forced to go to the party in that red dress, and Melanie (de Havilland) greeted her as if nothing had happened. I loved how Olivia de Havilland played that scene.
I admit that I am not as big a fan of this film, as others are. However, Olivia de Havilland, Clark Gable and especially Hattie McDaniel make this film watchable. McDaniel gave a brilliant performance, which won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first African American to win an Academy Award, beating out her co-star, Olivia de Havilland, who was also nominated in the same category. Max Steiner’s brilliant score is an amazing highlight as well.
“The Heiress” (1949)
Directed by William Wyler
Olivia de Havilland won her first Academy Award for the 1946 film, “To Each His Own,” where she played an unwed mother who gives up her child for adoption, but she keeps up with events in his life from a distance. I personally think she also should have won for her thrilling performance as a mental patient in “The Snake Pit” (1948). However, that is how the Academy Awards go sometimes.
However, in this 1949 film, “The Heiress,” based on a 1947 play, “The Heiress,” by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, suggested by Henry James novel called “Washington Square” (1880), not only did Olivia de Havilland earn her second Academy Award, but she turns in a tour de force performance as Catherine Sloper, a meek and rather simple daughter of a renowned Dr. Austin Sloper (Ralph Richardson), who is not only mentally cruel, but constantly compares Catherine to her late mother. Aunt Lavinia Penniman (Miriam Hopkins), who has a very lively personality, moves in to try to encourage Catherine (de Havilland) to be more gracious and to be more out-going. Montgomery Clift portrays Morris Townsend, who is a very handsome young man, but has no money and no career prospects, but Catherine Sloper falls in love with him. Her father, Dr. Sloper (Richardson) has a suspicion that Townsend (Clift) is a fortune hunter and should Catherine marry a man that the doctor doesn’t like, she will lose her inheritance and the money will go to the clinic, instead.
This is one of Olivia de Havilland’s best performances. What makes it so awesome is the eventual transition from her character, Catherine Sloper, being this meek little mouse, who is so shy to the point of being awkward to becoming an astute woman, whose heart has been hardened. When she realizes that her father was right about Townsend (Clift) and at the same time developed her father’s cruel nature, it is a delight to watch from a viewer’s standpoint. The rest of the cast is fantastic. Montgomery Clift is amazing as this scoundrel, who just wants Ms. Sloper’s money. Ralph Richardson is awesome as Dr. Sloper. The scene where Dr. Sloper and Morris Townsend have that confrontation and then Catherine Sloper joins in, asking Morris to be respectful. That is a great acting scene, all around. I highly recommend this film.
These are my personal favorite films featuring the late, great Olivia de Havilland. I hope that you all enjoyed reading this blog and watching the videos. I hope that this blog will inspire my readers to get on either Vudu, Amazon Prime, Google, or whatever service you have to see these and other films in which she starred. My contact information is down below. Thank you for reading.
Thank you, Dame Olivia de Havilland for all your contributions to the film industry. May you Rest In Peace.
On September 13, 1985, a transcontinental concert promoted, produced and planned by musician Sir Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats and performing arts promoter Harvey Goldsmith called “Live Aid,” took place, both at London, UK’s Wembley Stadium and at the then existing John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, PA, simultaneously. “Live Aid” was a benefit concert to raise funds for the famine in Ethiopia. The estimated attendance at London’s Wembley Stadium was 72,000 fans and at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium, there was an estimated attendance of between 90,000-100,000 fans. The event raised $127 Million dollars and won a Peabody Award.
As many music fans and my readers know, many famous artists played at “Live Aid.” In Philadelphia, fans were treated to artists such as Hall and Oats, The Power Station, Madonna, Black Sabbath, Mick Jagger, Phil Collins and Robert Plant (more on these two later). In London, fans got to see such artists as Elton John, The Who, David Bowie, Howard Jones, Dire Straits, Phil Collins and an up and coming band from Ireland called U2. Oh, yes, there was another band named Queen who played as well, who wound up stealing the show. There will be more on them later.
In this blog, I will be highlighting a few of these acts. I will be discussing my own thoughts on the event and my own memories. I certainly will be discussing the legendary Queen who stole the whole show. I hope you will enjoy this walk down my personal memory lane of that seminal event that took place 35 years ago, called “Live Aid.”
When the event took place, I was going to be a senior in high school. My parents were certainly NOT rock fans, but I watched the event on TV. I thought, over all, it was a pretty fun event, even though I had regular television. I watched it on ABC, which was showing it in the States. I was 17 years old, so I unfortunately do not remember many of the artists who were aired on the Eastern Time Zone, as I went to high school in Edison, NJ at the time, so I apologize for not listing all the acts that were aired during that entire day and evening. I do remember a couple that will be mentioned, next.
Highlighted Moments of Live Aid 1985:
The Phil Collins Show
Phil Collins, either for his devotion to charity or ego or a little of both, was the only performer to play on both continents, via the Concorde. For this reason, I jokingly called “Live Aid,” the “Phil Collins Show.” Phil Collin was all over “Live Aid.” I mean, the man was EVERYWHERE. He was in ALMOST EVERYONE’S act. For example, Collins played “In the Air Tonight” in Philadelphia (https://youtu.be/DEWu59OPAbQ) . Collins played, “Against All Odds” in London (https://youtu.be/7A8NgPVizP4) Collins played with Sting at Wembley (https://youtu.be/V8fs2nZw2aI) and with Eric Clapton at Philadelphia (https://youtu.be/f9myqi7VL9s). Collins also participated in one of the events more famous or infamous moments in “Live Aid,” depending upon how you look at it, which I will discuss next.
Thinking it over in my mind, I am sure I saw a few of those performances on TV, although I can’t remember exactly which ones. All joking aside, Phil Collins was a fantastic drummer and I definitely can see that he was sought after for his skills.
Led Zeppelin’s Reuniting Didn’t Sound Very Good
I apologize for the pun, using Peaches and Herb’s “Reunited,” to describe the complete debacle of a reunion of one of Rock’s greatest bands, Led Zeppelin, but it was a debacle and they didn’t sound very good. Guess who pops up again? If you guessed Phil Collins, you are correct. The buildup to this was huge, and to be expected. The band had broken up five years prior and to see a legendary band get back together for such a great cause was really exciting to see. I remember seeing some of this performance and I was excited to see them.
However, it was a shame that the performance didn’t live up to the hype. The band sounded horrible, but there were a few things I want to point out in their defense. In discussing this notorious performance, I will do a condensed version of the now defunct ESPN Show, “Five Reasons You Can’t Blame,” which attempts to debunk narratives about popular sports mishaps, like Bill Buckner and Steve Bartman, so I will do that with Led Zeppelin’s performance at “Live Aid,” but a condensed version.
Robert Plant did have a medical excuse. He had been singing several solo shows in a row and it was hot, so his voice was definitely worn down. Bassist John Paul Jones was the only musician in good form. The band only had about 30 minutes or so of rehearsal, or from other accounts, not rehearsed much at all. I think it was hard to expect a typical top-level Led Zeppelin performance from a band that hadn’t played together in years. I WILL say that I didn’t expect that BAD of a performance though. The band also played with the late drummer Tony Thompson and Phil Collins. I know Collins was Plant’s drummer in his band, but as great as he is, I was puzzled why he was there. I am not knocking Thompson, as he was a great drummer in his own right, but Thompson was placed there and he didn’t know the songs and like I said earlier, they were barely rehearsed. This was a recipe for disaster right there.
I know that Phil Collins is the scapegoat for the whole debacle and I don’t think that is right. As I said, they were barely rehearsed and you had a drummer that didn’t know the material. Plant was hoarse. Jones played alright. The last person to discuss is Jimmy Page. I know he is a musical “sacred cow,” in the sense that no one dares to criticize him without getting flak, but here goes. The man was just blasted. He was loaded on alcohol and drugs. I mean, come on. Yes, I KNOW for “Stairway to Heaven,” he was handed a guitar that wasn’t tuned and that was NOT his fault, and I realize he had a serious drug and alcohol problem. However, the man’s playing was just atrocious.
I have all the respect in the world for Jimmy Page. He is one of rock’s greatest guitarists and has influenced everyone from KISS legend Ace Frehley to guitar virtuoso Steve Vai and many others. Page is in the argument for the greatest ever and some think he IS the greatest ever. I totally respect all those opinions. However, concerning this performance, I think Page deserves some of the blame as well and this again, is my opinion, because of his stature, he has escaped blame for his own poor performance.
Here’s the whole thing. I know Led Zeppelin are “sacred cows,” but they were terrible, but they did have some issues that weren’t all their fault.
Fun Times with Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Elton and others.
The late, great David Bowie, with a wonderful performance of “Heroes,”(https://youtu.be/JFHC6t13hi0) and his other hits, wowed the crowd at Wembley Stadium. Elton John performed many of his hits and had great costumes on, during his Wembley set. Elton John brought out Kiki Dee to perform “Don’t Go Breaking My heart.” (https://youtu.be/8EwwYtA4WJ8) and the late Wham! singer George Michael to sing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” (https://youtu.be/ECN_wgw55lc) An up and coming band named U2 performed a very good set, including a very cool version of “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday.” (https://youtu.be/SCKcULlEydo) The Rolling Stones’ front man Mick Jagger had a great set of songs from his solo album, “She’s the Boss,” and songs from the Rolling Stones. One highlight was when Tina Turner came onstage to join him in a duet of “State of Shock.”(https://youtu.be/d2c4114eKGQ)
Another great highlight was the set of The Who. As most people know, a few years prior, The Who had split, but they were coaxed by Geldof to do this performance, somehow. Of course, the band members were still fighting with each other, even though they agreed to do the show. However, they somehow got their heads together and put on this fantastic set, which included, “My Generation,” and the legendary “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” In my opinion, this performance was the best performance on either continent, save one. Seriously, in my opinion, had Queen not played “Live Aid,” The Who would have stolen the show. If Queen were the 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed at “Live Aid”, I guess The Who had to play Alydar.
Anyway I love this version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” even though Who front man Roger Daltrey botches a lyric. It is a great live version. Check it out.
The Showstopper and Show Stealer Revealed.
Finally, we are going to talk about the artist who by many at the time said and by many, thirty-five years later, will still say, “stole “Live Aid” or “stole the show.” I agreed then and I agree now. They were the Showstopper then and still are, when I re-watch their performance and I am NOT talking about the WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels. If my readers know their rock history and know something about “Live Aid,” I think you should know that the artist to whom I am referring is, of course, QUEEN. Queen put on a blistering and perfect 20 minute setlist containing a great mix of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Radio Gaga,” “Hammer to Fall,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “We Will Rock You,” and “We Are the Champions.” Later on, front man Freddie Mercury and guitarist Brian May came on with a poignant performance of “Is This the World We Created?” This song is also very pertinent to today, as well. The band also appeared in the finale of “Live Aid,” singing “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
This performance was the sensation of the event. Many artists, including Sir Elton John, were commenting on how the band “stole the event.”Elton John told the band, “You bastards, you stole the show. “When my mother and I saw this performance, SHE was very impressed with Queen and that was saying a lot, because with the exception of The Beatles, she HATED rock music. The band must have done something right to impress my hard-to-impress mother.
Why is this particular twenty-one minute concert so brilliant and in the opinion of many, myself included, considered “the greatest concert ever.” After all, Queen has put on many great performances. There are a lot of other bands, such as Led Zeppelin, The Who and even my favorite childhood band, KISS, who have put on great performances in concert, and I mean in these bands’ respective primes.
Queen didn’t like to play in the daylight, as they couldn’t get soundcheck done, but they did pick the 6:41pm timeslot as it was just hitting UK’s primetime audience and the London satellite would just go global. This was a great tactical move. Queen wanted to show they were a great live band and their experience in huge stadiums also worked to their advantage. The band’s sound engineer, Trip Khalaf, also found a way to increase the band’s sound, so they were louder than everyone else. Queen also performed a perfect set of hit after hit.
Their performance overall was mesmerizing. Freddie Mercury just owned that crowd with his charm and performance. Mercury’s “Day-O” spot showed his vocal prowess. If I could go into a time machine, I would love to have been in that Wembley audience. Mercury was in command of that stage in the way he played with the camera man, and played to the crowd, when he dedicated “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” to “all the beautiful people.” Needless to say, Mercury’s voice was awesome, especially since he was battling a throat infection before and during the show, which makes the performance even MORE amazing. Freddie Mercury was just magical that night
The rest of the band were no slouches either. Dr. Brian May was awesome on guitar. May played blistering leads and solos during the set. Drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon laid down great rhythms. May, Taylor and Deacon played brilliantly as well. It was a totally perfect concert. I have seen many concerts in person and on TV, included my beloved KISS (about 45-50 times, since 1996, past their primes) and I have yet to see one as good or as perfect as Queen that night at Live Aid.
As I mentioned, Brian May and Freddie Mercury performed a poignant version of “Is This the World We Created?” Again, perfect.
Here is the legendary Queen Live Aid 1985 Concert, along with the performance of “Is This the World We Created?” and participating in the finale, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
Well, that is my reminiscing about “Live Aid.” It was a fun blog to write and a great way to remember some of these artists who participated in a great event. I encourage feedback and I hope you liked this blog as much as I liked writing it.
Before I start this blog, I hope that my readers have been able to stay safe and healthy during the current COVID-19 pandemic. I also hope that my readers are doing the best they can during the lockdowns, especially those with severe depression and anxiety and those adversely affected financially. I pray for all affected. I also pray for the pandemic to end, and I ask you to remember that this too shall pass. I have other wishes, but that will be for another blog.
Now, let’s get to the blog at hand. As my readers already know, I have been a huge KISS fan since 1977, and have written various blogs about them. I have written concert reviews, album reviews, etc. As many of you know, I have been a proud member of the KISS ARMY since 1977. The KISS ARMY is the collective name of millions of the band’s most diehard and devoted fans. KISS also has many, what are called, “Super Fans,” who have seen this band multiple times, and travel all over the place to see them and get access to the band.
One such Superfan is Andrew Sgambati, from Cleveland, Ohio, who made this Youtube Video-Documentary, “KISS: One Last Time Live from New York-the Movie.” The movie is a documentary-style video discussing his fandom, with video primarily from KISS’ March 27, 2019 show at the sold-out Madison Square Garden in NYC during their “End of the Road” Tour, which started on January 31, 2019 in Vancouver, BC and the last show, as announced on KISS KRUISE IX, was scheduled to be played in New York in July 17, 2021. The band last played in Lubbock, Texas on March 10, 2020, as the tour has been suspended due to the current pandemic. The band’s KISS Kruise X also had to be postponed to October of 2021 as well, which may or may not affect the date of the “final show.”
Sgambati also inserts various past interview clips with the current KISS lineup, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Singer, and Tommy Thayer, ,in between songs or during songs and also takes the viewer on his journey of attending several concerts on the band’s Final Tour. Sgambati also talks about special backstage moments with Gene Simmons, who for some reason gave Sgmabti the nickname of “Paul McCartney.” A bonus concert of 13 complete tracks is included as well.
In this blog, I am going to discuss what I thought was good about Sgambati’s movie and what I thought could have been better. I am also going to give my overall impression and my recommendation. I will include the link to the documentary, and a link to the bonus concert as well. Feedback is welcome and encouraged. I hope you enjoyed this blog.
My Overall Impression of “KISS: One Last Time from New York- The Movie”
Generally, I found Andrew Sgambati’s work to be of excellent quality. The production values were very high. I loved the documentary-style presentation. The intersecting of past interviews with the concert footage was awesome. I loved how he started with his story about becoming a KISS fan and his inserting his fandom and encounters with Gene during the entire piece. I also appreciated that he included the bonus concert footage as well. I also tip my hat to the many folks who filmed the live concert footage, who are mentioned in the end credits.
What I REALLY LIKED about “KISS: One Last Time from New York-The Movie”
I loved how Andrew Sgambati put together events concerning the “End of the Road” Tour in chronological order, with the non-concert video clips. Sgambati started with the news of KISS lead singer/rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley’s getting the trademark for “End of the Road to bassist/lead singer Gene Simmons’ at first denying it, but then confirming it. Sgambati then goes to the announcement on “America’s Got Talent,” and then some of the press conferences from “Good Morning America,” “Sirius Radio, etc”. I enjoyed that.
I liked seeing the backstage stuff with Gene Simmons and his Gene Simmons Soda and the Gene Simmons Vault. That was pretty cool.
One of my favorite parts of the entire piece is where a backstage segment from KISS Unplugged Rehearsals is shown and Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Bruce Kulick all are making fun of Tommy Thayer’s gait and are imitating how Tommy Thayer walked. Tommy pokes his head into the room and says with a smile, “Are you guys making fun of me?” This is worth the entire video. I heard Gene Simmons actually cackling. This was hilarious. I was almost crying. It is at the 38.49 mark or so in the film. I love Tommy to death, but that was funny.
Sgambati’s love and dedication to the band shows through the documentary. The viewer gets the impression that he loves this band.
I thought including a separate link for the bonus concert was a great idea.
Sgambati’s use of vintage footage of the original band to correlate with what Gene Simmons and/or Paul Stanley were saying was brilliant. I really enjoyed that.
What I thought could have been better about: “KISS: One Last Time from New York-The Movie”
I thought in some spots, there was a bit too much reliance of the old interviews. For me, hearing some of Gene’s and Paul’s hype and rhetoric got a little old. I would have liked to have seen more of the concert footage.
I would have liked to have heard more about Sgambati’s fandom, actually. I know he wanted to keep the piece to a certain length, as it ran about 1 1/4 hours, but I wanted to hear more about him.
I would have liked to have seen more of his own backstage clips with the other members, besides the one photo of his friend with the band, if there were any. I respect that Gene is likely Sbamgati’s favorite, but some more backstage stuff with the other guys, would have been cool.
I highly recommend Andrew Sgambati’s “KISS: One Last Time from New York-The Movie.” This is an overall fantastic piece of work by a devoted fan of one of rock’s greatest and most bombastic bands. The piece is a fun story of a fan’s adventure with his favorite band’s final tour. I recommend this video for not only KISS fans, but for fans of all artists.
Link to: “KISS: One Last Time from New York-The Movie”
Link to : “KISS: One Last Time Live in NYC Bonus Concert
Unless you have been living under a rock, NFL fans and even non-fans should know by now that six time Super Bowl winning QB Tom Brady will be leaving the New England Patriots after 20 years with the team, when Free Agency starts on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at 4pm, EST. To many fans of the New England Patriots, this comes as quite a shock, as many of them grew up only knowing Tom Brady as the quarterback for their team. However, for many astute fans of the team, who were paying close attention, this moment was not much of a surprise and the writing was on the wall during many points during the season.
There was the disastrous Antonio Brown experiment, and Josh Gordon’s issues leaving the team with a dearth of wide receivers. The trade for former Atlanta Falcons WR Mohammed Sanu didn’t go well, as he had a hard time learning the system and was hampered by a high ankle sprain. The only dependable receiver, WR Julian Edelman, was injured virtually the entire season. The offensive line was in tatters, and you could see Brady’s frustrations bubbling in his press conferences and in interviews. He also negotiated a contract prior to this last season, where the team could not put the franchise tag or transition tag, and he could go test free agency. He announced on Social Media that he is leaving the Patriots and thanked the Patriots organization and the fans. An extraordinary era in not only the history of a franchise, but in the NFL, has ended.
Tom Brady is my all time favorite NFL player and my all time favorite quarterback and I have seen many greats in my 40 plus years as a fan. Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time). I have had the pleasure of seeing Tom Brady play in person many times and he is everything the experts, his teammates and even his opponents say that he is. Brady is like a surgeon, when he operates that offense. I love how he builds confidence in his teammates. I was at the game in Cleveland, OH in Week 5 of 2016, when Brady returned from that ridiculous suspension, and what a show he put on. Brady put on a clinic by marching down that field and scoring at will against the Browns. I knew immediately that this team was winning the Super Bowl and win it, they did. 28-3, anyone?
Tom Brady, this Patriots fan wants to thank you for all the great thrills you gave us. You took the Patriots from being a middling franchise at the time to being the class of the NFL. What a thrill ride you gave us. I still remember the “Snow Ball” Game, where you lead us into that famous OT win over the Oakland Raiders to send the Patriots to their first Super Bowl of the Brady Era, Super Bowl 36. I remember your leading the Patriots down the field in that very Super Bowl, so then Patriots K Adam Vinatieri kicks the winning FG to defeat QB Kurt Warner and the favored St. Louis Rams to kick off the Patriots Dynasty. I can still see your looking for your sisters in the stands in my mind. What great memories for us fans to cherish.
Thank you, Tom Brady for leading the Patriots to eight more Super Bowls. with five more wins. I loved how you out-dueled Panthers QB Jake Delhomme and the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 38 and defeated QB Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles in Super 39. Of course, even though the year didn’t end like we Pats fans wanted it, I will always appreciate your brilliant MVP 2007 season. I thank you for the great comeback in Super Bowl 49 against the Seattle Seahawks. Of course, then Patriots CB Malcolm Butler did help seal the deal. Thank you for all of these great moments and I especially thank you for the greatest comeback since Lazarus. I am, of course, referring to Super Bowl 51, when you brought the Patriots all the way back from a 25 point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons in the first OT in a Super Bowl. The score was 28-3 and I remember how many people thought the team was left for dead. I figured as long as you were behind center, the team had a chance. That one scamper you made in the 3rd quarter of that Super Bowl to get the first down was awesome and when you threw the TD to make the score 28-9, I knew you would bring the Lombardi back to New England and you certainly did. Super Bowl 53 against the Los Angeles Rams was just icing on the cake. That throw to Gronkowski was just legendary.
To Tom, I would finally like to thank you for your charity and your integrity and grace under pressure. For those who don’t know, Tom Brady has been involved in various charities, like Best Buddies, the Boys and Girls Club of America and other charities. Brady has also shown a lot of poise and grace under pressure, especially when he suffered the ACL injury and also during the 18 month saga, where the NFL pretty much tried to smear him and destroy his good name over missing molecules of air in a football, thanks to the weather. I have never seen a sports league go out of its way to purposely attempt to discredit and destroy its best player, like what the NFL did to Brady, with the help of the mainstream media, particularly ESPN. I admired how Brady was able to hold it together and was able to lead the Patriots to the 2015 AFC Championship Game, during all the appeals and such. Of course, we all know that he wound up serving the most absurd suspension ever given to an athlete for anything for the first 4 games of the 2016 Season. We all know what happened for the Patriots, right? Psst. 28-3. Oh, did I also mention that Tom Brady was the Super Bowl MVP?
It will definitely be different in Foxborough next NFL season. I mean, to see Tom Brady in a different uniform next season will be jarring, to say the least. Who will be under center for the Patriots next year? Will it be QB Jason Stidham? Will it be a newly drafted QB? Will it be a signed veteran? We will have to see. After 20 years of saying, “Belichick and Brady,” and “Brady and Belichick,” it will take awhile to say, “Belichick and….”
I conclude this blog by simply saying, “Thank you, Mr. Tom Brady.” “Thank you for everything.”
Before I start my concert review, I want to wish all my readers a Happy Valentine’s Day, no matter if you are married, dating, in a committed relationship or single. It doesn’t matter if it is just you and your furry/hoofed friend. I hope everyone has a great Valentine’s Day with whomever you love, and that person “will be made for loving you,” and your day will be “just like paradise.” With that, I will segue with the review of the incredible concert I experienced at Lexington, KY’s Rupp Arena last night on February 13, 2020, when KISS on their “End of the Road” Tour (EOTR, from now on) and opening act, former lead singer and frontman Diamond David Lee Roth put on a rocking show.
PRE-SHOW MEET AND GREET WITH KISS
I went to the Will Call window and got my ticket and pass/wristband for the KISS Meet and Greet. I went to my seat and watched some of David Lee Roth’s set. At about 7:45, I started going towards the area where I and an a whole bunch of folks were going to be escorted to get our photos with the band. I certainly didn’t want to be late, as I had to be at the meeting place by 8. I got down to the area, and heard and watched David Lee Roth finish his set.
We all get in line, and a bunch of people with wristbands with red and blue dots got in line first. I am guessing they were either the VIP or Ultra VIP. Anyway, whatever, I was very excited, and a little nervous, as I had a present for KISS lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, one of my two favorites in the current lineup, along with Eric Singer, the drummer. It was a keychain made from wood from the White Star Liner R.M.S. Olympic, older sister of the R.M.S Titanic, an actual artifact from https://www.whitestarlines.co.uk/ , which sells actual artifacts from the Titanic, her sisters and from other liners, like Cunard. At the 2019 Indianapolis KISS Expo, back in May, Tommy Thayer and I got into a few discussions about the Titanic. A First Class passenger named John Borland Thayer II, his wife Marian and their son, Jack Thayer III sparked our conversation, so I thought this gift would be pretty cool, especially since the wood from Titanic’s sister ship and this particular ship, the R.M.S. Olympic also served in WW1 as a troop ship. Tommy, as are the rest of the band, a huge supporter of the military, as his late father was a war hero in WW2.
Anyway, a couple of people I knew from KISS Expos were ahead of me and they got their photos with the band. I was waiting for my photo and KISS manager Doc McGhee recognized me as did their bodyguard. I am watching the proceedings and Tommy sees me and waves to me. That was nice that he remembered me from all those times that he met me. My turn comes and I know I have to talk fast, so I give him the present and tell him about the keychain while showing him my own keychain, as I own one myself. Oh my goodness, you should have seen the look on his face when I told him that the wood was from the R.M.S. Olympic, the sister to the R.M.S. Titanic. He said, with amazement, “Are you serious?” I said, “Yeah.” So, I wrapped my arms around him for my photo and he said, “Aww. Sweet.” After the photo, I told him how I would miss him and I HUGGED HIM!!!!!” Yes, I HUGGED TOMMY THAYER. I gave Gene and Paul fist bumps, and I said a quick hello to Eric Singer and gave him a hug and showed him the gift really fast and had to scoot. What an experience.
DAVID LEE ROTH’S SET
David Lee Roth was my first rock concert ever. I saw him in Pittsburgh, PA as a freshman at Carnegie Mellon University in September of 1986. He had the formidable Billy Sheehan on bass, Gregg Bissonette on drums and Steve Vai, who became my all time favorite guitarist. Now, much has been made about his voice at his Las Vegas show, recently. I was a little concerned, but at last night’s show, he did a very good job, vocally. Roth was working the crowd. Roth was still a hell of a showman. He was doing his kicks, of course, not like he used to do, but it was awesome. The band was awesome, performing Van Halen classics like “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love,” “Running With The Devil,” and “Jamie’s Crying.” David Lee Roth also performed some of his own stuff like “Tobacco Road” and “Just Like Paradise.” The only slight complaint that I had was that I wish “Just A Gigalo/Ain’t Got Nobody” was somewhere in the middle of the set, rather at the end. I thought “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” should have been the closing number, but that is just my opinion. I loved seeing David Lee Roth and his set took me back to a lot of good memories.
What hasn’t been said about KISS that hasn’t been said? KISS is one of the greatest live acts that you will ever see, and boy, did they prove it last night at Rupp Arena. I know in my review of the March 12, 2019 EOTR Louisville stop, that it would be my final show, but when they were coming to my adopted hometown of Lexington, KY, I had to be there. I am glad I did, because this was a great show and even better than their Louisville show.
As in all their shows, KISS had the usual pyrotechnics, bombs and fire. Gene Simmons did his blood spitting and fire breathing routines. There was a great spot during the blood spitting act, which happens right after Gene’s little bass solo, before “God of Thunder,” when after he spit, Simmons said something to the effect of “God is on stage,” or something like that. It was very funny. Gene was pretty animated during this show. He threw a white, bloodied towel to someone, as well.
Anyway, Paul did his usual stage antics, like divide the crowd and have his “which side can be the loudest” contest. He did that a couple of times. Paul went out over the crowd to his little stage for “Love Gun” and “I Was Made For Loving You.” Eric Singer, who has been with KISS on and off since 1992, did his drum solo while going up in the air, and played the piano during “Beth,” with the guys coming out like on the Paul Lynde “Halloween Special,” back in 1976. Lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, who has been the band’s lead guitarist since 2002, did his guitar solo and shot rockets into the flying saucers on stage.
Musically, KISS sounded awesome, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, in particular. Gene Simmons played very well, and I was really hearing his bass-lines. I know Simmons gets a lot of grief for his stage image, but the man really can lay down those bass lines. However, Eric Singer really drives that band forward and was amazing last night. Singer, after all these years, still has that attack, skill and is also a very entertaining drummer. Paul Stanley sang well, and was in good voice.
Tommy Thayer has really come into his own, though. Thayer was on fire all night. He played all the classic leads in songs like “Detroit, Rock City,” “Cold Gin,” and the newly added “Parasite.” Thayer was tremendous playing those licks and leads that original lead guitarist Ace Frehley had written and laid down. Ace Frehley also wrote “Cold Gin” and “Parasite,” as well, so as a big Ace Frehley fan, I was THRILLED that “Parasite” was added to the set. Thayer also has become an awesome showman. I was amazed at his playing to the crowd, and his getting the crowd going. It was very fun seeing him throwing picks to the fans and interacting with them.
Other than the previously mentioned “Parasite,” the only other song that was different was “Tears Are Falling” from 1985’s “Asylum.” It was nice to see the 1980’s era, featuring the lineup of former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick and late drummer Eric Carr being represented. The rest of KISS’ set list included the usual suspects, such as “Detroit, Rock City,” “Deuce,” “Love Gun,” etc., and concluded with the anthem, “Rock and Roll All Nite,” with pyrotechnics and tons of confetti.
It was a fabulous night. I will never forget it. Thank you, KISS.