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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Finders Keepers

Okay, so I have a confession to make before we go ahead with this week's edition of the Saturday Smorgasbord, as well as the final day of August 2013. My god, it's been a long month. Thank goodness it is finally over.

Okay, here's my confession. I am a slob.

Don't misunderstand me though. I am not what I would consider to be one of those people you might see featured on an episode of “Hoarders”. I do not have piles of decomposing produce or jugs of bodily fluids covering my floor, nor do I have so much stuff in my place that it is considered to be a safety hazard. But I will say that as far back as I can remember, I've always been kind of a messy person. Even as I look around at my desk, it's absolutely covered with random things. I have documents that I just printed off from my computer, I have several books spread out. I think somewhere underneath all of the clutter, I have my iPod charging and adding the songs that I just purchased onto it. And, as far as writing implements go, I never need worry about finding one because I have literally sixty different coloured gel pens scattered all over my desk.

Now, some people might read that very description and cringe in terror over it. How in the world could I ever be able to work under conditions like that? How could I even find anything at my desk, let alone in my entire living space?

Well, I guess it's because it's what I have grown up with and am absolutely used to. And I think a part of it comes from the fact that I have never been a homeowner, and thus have never had a place that I can truly call my own. I mean, granted, I wasn't the person who purposely smashed holes in the walls, or painted my room some obscene colour like chartreuse, burnt orange, or blood red. But I guess I had the attitude that because it wasn't really our place, I could be as messy as I wanted.

(Keeping in mind that this is coming from the mindset of someone who was seven years old and whose idols included four gigantic turtles who scarfed down pizza and fought battles against a warthog, a rhinoceros, and a talking brain.)

Of course, my mind has matured over those years, and I no longer have that opinion. Yet, somehow the messy gremlins that I blamed for making my room untidy have followed me into adulthood. I guess it's just one of those hard habits to break. Maybe one day when I actually have a place that is truly mine and can do with whatever I wish with, I'll find it within myself to implant the Danny Tanner cleaning gene inside of me and keep my home so immaculate you could find photos of it within a home decorating magazine.

Or, at the very least, I'd be happy if I could take pictures of it and post them on Facebook.

But you know something? I always seem to find myself feeling more comfortable when things are somewhat in disarray. I am certainly not one of those people who have to have everything in its own place, and who flips out if even the slightest thing gets moved (though if you are, that's perfectly okay too). I actually feel really uncomfortable if I am in someone's house and it looks like a furniture showroom at The Brick. I would be the one to purposely take a cup of coffee and spill it over the couch cushions so that it would look more lived in!

I know. It sounds strange, right? But when you consider that this is the way that I grew up...getting used to rooms with a little bit of clutter here and there, it may make my argument much clearer.

And, I'll admit that in a lot of cases, the clutter doesn't prevent me from finding things. Even though my teenage bedroom often looked as if a bomb went off inside of it, I knew where everything was, and how I could find it. Everyone else who dared venture inside of it were lucky if they could even find the closet door.

In fact, I bet that if I had given everyone a list of...oh, say...eight objects in my bedroom, and gave them a time limit to search through every nook and cranny and under every single pile of debris in the area, I wouldn't be too shocked to see only half of the items found...if that.

Well, that happens to be the premise behind today's topic. We're going to be looking at a children's television game show that aired during the late 1980s that had that very situation. You had two teams of children racing through a life-size version of a house, and the object was to go through each room to find objects by deciphering clues detailing where their whereabouts were. Those who succeeded would win a bounty of prizes that could make any child's room a fun zone.

Have you ever heard of the television show “Finders Keepers”? That was the name of the game show that we will be looking at today. And it's actually a show that I only ended up hearing of long after it aired on television. The show ran for two seasons, between November 2, 1987 and March 10, 1989. The first season was broadcast on Nickelodeon and was hosted by “Land of the Lost” star Wesley Eure, and the second season was hosted by Larry Toeffler in syndication.

I suppose that the best way that I could use to describe the type of show that “Finders Keepers” was could be like if you took the game show “Fun House” and blended it with “Where's Waldo”. If you're a fan of those hidden object games, then “Finders Keepers” is the game for you.

The game started the same each time. We met the two teams, made up of contestants that were between the ages of eight and fourteen, and the host explained the rules of the game before they proceeded to round one.

Okay, so the first round (and second round) began like this. The teams would be shown a mural or a picture that may look something similar to this one below.

Now at first, it might seem like a normal drawing. But look closer. There are some hidden images within the main picture.

The host would read out the description of a hidden object within the picture, and it was the team's job to point out where the item was hidden. If they found the correct image, they would win twenty-five dollars for their team. Come on, let's play a round right here.

QUESTION #1: They can be found in schools and in the seafood section.

Can you find the item?

Yes, that's correct. The answer is a fish, and you can see it circled inside this picture.

Or, how about another one?

QUESTION #2: _______________ Dundee.

Can you find the item?

Yes, if you look at the bottom of the picture, you can see an upside-down crocodile hanging out near the ground.

(Or is it an alligator? You know what, I'll let you decide.)

At any rate, each picture usually had six hidden objects within them, so if a team had a clean sweep, they could win a total of one hundred and fifty dollars each round (which back in the late 1980s could buy an average of a hundred and ten comic books).

But that was just part one of each round. What about part two?

Well, this is where the “Fun House” reference comes into play. You see, the set of “Finders Keepers” was built in such a way that it looked like a gigantic play house (I'll be the first to admit that had I watched this show when it originally aired, I would have loved to go on it because I was a sucker for tree houses and play houses back in those days). Depending on the season you watched, the rooms of the house could be giant-sized versions of every day rooms (dens, bedrooms, kitchens, etc), or they could be theme rooms (a pastry shop, a laboratory, a school locker room, etc). Whatever the case, the host would read a clue that described an object in that room. Like, for instance...

Q: I have all the numbers from one to twenty stamped on my face, but its the direct center of me that you have to hit in order to score the highest.

Of course, you all might have guessed that the clue describes a dartboard. The trick is that the contestant has to dig through the room, locate a dartboard within the clutter, and bring it back to the host before the thirty second time limit expired. If the contestant found the item, they won fifty dollars for their team. But if time ran out, the opposing team would get the money instead.

And, don't think that the search for objects was going to be a cakewalk. Sometimes bookshelves came apart. Sometimes light fixtures would short out. Sometimes ceiling tiles would come loose and rain debris over the contestant's head. You had to be quick AND dodge flying objects. It could be quite challenging.

Don't believe me? Let's watch an episode below!

You get what I'm saying? It's fun, but intense!

In the second round, the prize amounts were almost doubled. Teams could earn $75 for the picture finding game, and $100 for the room search game. At the end of two rounds, the team with the highest score would earn the opportunity to go through the “Finders Keepers” house for the chance to play the “Room-to-Room Romp”.

And, what was the “Room-to-Room Romp”?

Well, the winning team would have to go through all six rooms in the house. They had to go through each room in the order that was given to them by the host. The order was non-negotiable, and the contestants only had 90 seconds to find all six items. The good news was that even if the teams didn't find all of the items, they could still win prizes. Even if they found one item, they would still be rewarded with a small prize. The only thing is that the more items you found, the better the prizes would be. Finding one item might net you a Nerf gun. Finding four might get you a Nintendo Entertainment System. Finding all six would win you a ten-speed mountain bike.

Oh yeah...if you found four items, you'd keep the four prizes you won.

Hmmm...I wonder if I could have been made to clean my bedroom more often if I was given the option of winning prizes every time I found someone else's item hidden away in my cluttered room?

(Only kidding. Somewhat.)  

Friday, August 30, 2013

Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon

Okay, so is August over yet? Almost? Okay. I think I can get through these last two days.

I'll be honest with you. August has completely sucked monkey balls. And, yes, I did just utter the words “monkey balls” twice in this blog already. That's how badly August sucked.

I know Green Day warbled some song about waking them up when September ends, but as far as I am concerned, I am really looking forward to the month of September. After all, it can't be much worse than August was!

Especially since I have some time off of work coming up in September...which is always a welcome thing.

So, since I'm really looking forward to September, I thought that I would feature a theme that has September written all over it. A program that used to air every September. A program that was kind of a double-edged sword of sorts.

You see, this long-running program had a great cause behind it. It helped raise money for medical research and facilities necessary to help treat diseases affecting muscle control and the nervous system, and it often had some interesting entertainment coming out to perform in hopes that people would be generous with their hearts and wallets that would aid in finding a cure.

But here's where the downside comes it. The show would always air during Labour Day Weekend. And in Ontario, Canada, where I was born, raised, and currently living in, Labour Day weekend meant the end of summer, and the beginning of a new school year.

Yeah, it was official. Every time we saw Jerry Lewis on television, we knew that it wouldn't be long after that before the school bell rang for another year, and we would be trapped in a classroom for six and a half hours each day.

Yes, today's blog topic is all about The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. Or, at least, that was the name that the show went by for nearly fifty years. After Jerry Lewis retired as host of the show in 2010, the show changed its name to “The MDA Show of Strength”.

(And yes, I know in Canada, we add an extra U to the word labour, but for continuity's sake, we're going with the American spelling just for today.)

Now, currently, there are a rotating group of hosts that run the event. Currently, the line-up of stars who host the program are former Entertainment Tonight hostess Jann Carl, current Entertainment Tonight hostess Nancy O'Dell, and Days of our Lives actress Alison Sweeney. And currently “The MDA Show of Strength” only lasts at most two hours in length. This year, the program is airing on ABC this upcoming September 1 for just two hours in length.

Which pales in comparison to the near TWENTY-TWO hours that the telethon used to run prior to 2011. I don't know how the telethon worked in other time zones in North America, but here in Ontario, the program would begin at approximately nine in the evening on the night before Labour Day, and run straight through until seven in the evening on Labour Day. After the telethon concluded, the brand new season of “Wheel of Fortune” would begin airing new episodes shortly after that.

And, I don't know how the telethon worked in various cities and various affiliates, but I'll explain how things worked in my neck of the woods. The telethon would air on our CBS affiliate, which in my town comes from Watertown, New York (WWNY-TV Cable 7), and while Jerry Lewis' segments would air, we'd see telephone numbers to call in order to pledge a donation towards a cure for muscular dystrophy. And after about ninety minutes or so, the show would shift over to a local affiliate, where we would see two hosts interviewing local heroes who have raised money all year long for MDA, as well as the various volunteers who were taking phone calls. On the affiliate I watched the telethon on, our hosts were Mel Busler and Cindy Habeeb. It kind of sparked a little bit of a betting game between members of my family as we would all predict just how many times Cindy Habeeb would change her outfit throughout the twenty-two hour long broadcast. I don't ever remember winning, but it was a fun game to play.

But I bet you don't know how those local cutaways originated on the telethon, do you? In fact, I bet some of you don't know how the telethon began, do you? Fear not? I've done all of my research for today, and I have all the answers for you.

As far as official records go, the very first Jerry Lewis Telethon was broadcast on the weekend of September 4 and 5, 1966. But the true story is that the telethon actually originated fourteen years earlier, in 1952. Back then, Jerry Lewis began hosting mini-telethons to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Associations of America as a favour to a staff member who had worked with Lewis and Dean Martin on the set of “The Colgate Comedy Hour” who wanted awareness raised for the disease. Throughout the 1950s, Lewis would host four hour long telethons in a variety of locations in the New York City area, its affiliates happily donating the time to broadcast the events.

By the mid-1960s, the mini-telethons became such a success that MDAA thought about doing a telethon that lasted an entire day. Jerry Lewis instantly agreed to host the event.

Of course, organizers of the event were left puzzled over when to host the telethon. After all, it had to be at a time in which local affiliates could turn over airtime for such an event. Eventually, it was decided that the only time that the show could be broadcast was during the Labour Day Weekend. And, initially, this worried people in New York City. Labour Day Weekend was a long weekend, and it was expected that many people would be away from their television sets to enjoy the final weekend of summer. Many people expected the telethon to be a complete failure, and New York City officials were even reluctant to issue MDAA a fundraising permit to host the event. Luckily, MDAA got that permit just in the nick of time. But the real test came on September 4, 1966, when the inaugural Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon aired on WNEW-TV, filming live from New York's Americana Hotel.

Just to give you perspective on how much money the telethon raised that first year, consider this. The original tote board that the telethon used had enough digits to display six numbers. Therefore, the highest the board could display was $999,999.

So when the telethon ended with just over one million dollars collected, Jerry Lewis actually had to grab a bucket of paint and physically paint a number one in front of the total!

(For reference, that first year the telethon raised $1,002,114.)

It seemed as though Jerry Lewis and MDA certainly proved everyone wrong. The following year, the telethon raised even more money than the year before. Celebrities came onto the show to offer their support for the cause and singers would appear on the program to entertain the crowd. This prompted other affiliates to show interest in telecasting the telethon as well. By 1969, Buffalo, Rochester, Boston, and New Bedford also began broadcasting the show. The groups of stations that signed on to show the telethon were grouped under the name of “The Love Network”, because all of them were joining together to raise money for a common goal – the eradication of all muscular dystrophy and its associated diseases and conditions.

TRIVIA: Remember how I talked about the affiliate that I watched the telethon on breaking into programming to showcase local heroes? That tradition came about in 1968, when Rochester's WHEC network began the tradition in between performances on the Jerry Lewis Telethon to showcase local fundraising efforts. When it was revealed that the Rochester affiliated had more donations pledged to that station than any others within “The Love Network”, the decision was made for other networks to follow suit.

The 1970s was a very huge decade for the telethon. At the beginning of the year, San Francisco and Los Angeles had joined the growing number of affiliates joining “The Love Network”, making the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon a coast-to-coast effort. In 1973, the home base for the telethon moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, and that same year, the telethon broke a record, earning twelve million dollars. Once again, Jerry Lewis had to paint a number one at the beginning of the tote board because there wasn't enough room to incorporate all the digits of the final total! By 1976, the telethon was simulcast on 213 television stations, effectively bringing the show to the entire continental United States, all ten provinces in Canada, and some areas of Mexico. How's that for a “Love Network”?

And you have to give Jerry Lewis credit. For the first couple of decades of the show, he stayed up the entire night to host the whole telethon. Twenty one and a half hours entertaining the crowd, announcing and chatting with celebrities, and accepting large oversized cheques for thousands of dollars in support of MDA. This tradition continued until 1983, when Jerry cut back his commitment to sixteen hours so that he could have some rest (he had surgery the previous year). Jerry would continue this tradition until health problems in 1999 caused him to cut back his appearance time again, this time only appearing at the first few hours of the telethon, and at the conclusion of the telethon. This continued for the next eleven years until 2010, when Jerry Lewis stepped down as host.

But during the time in which Jerry Lewis was resting, he did have help as a variety of co-hosts stepped in to relieve him. That's how Jann Carl, Nancy O'Dell, and Alison Sweeney got involved with the current MDA program. They all started off as co-hosts for the telethon.

Other celebrities who have helped out at the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon over the years were Casey Kasem, Elayne Boosler, Leeza Gibbons, John Tesh, Larry King, Tony Orlando, Marilyn McCoo, and Billy Gilmer.

But of course, you couldn't have a telethon without an announcer or co-host. For the first few years of the telethon, game show announcer Johnny Olson (best known as the original announcer of “The Price is Right” until 1985) was the announcer/co-host. But in the early 1970s, Ed McMahon took over as permanent co-host. The kinship between Ed and Jerry was legendary, and their chemistry together was absolutely remarkable. McMahon would hold this position for thirty-five years until his death in June 2009.

Of course, the main goal of the telethon was to raise awareness for muscular dystrophy. Every year, the MDA would name an MDA Goodwill Ambassador (a child usually between the ages of four and sixteen that had some form of muscular dystrophy). They were also known as “Jerry's Kids” because Jerry Lewis would often become emotional and inspired by their stories of survival, as well as laughing along with them at the positive attitudes that these children had even though they were battling a serious disease.

Seriously, guys...we could all learn something from those kids.

In fact, if you click HERE, you can watch a montage of some of the most memorable of these MDA Goodwill Ambassadors. Perhaps one of the most well-known kids of recent years was one Mattie Stepanek, a young boy who suffered from dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy, and who lost all of his siblings to the disease as well, but didn't let that stop him from publishing five books of poetry and one book of essays – one of which made the New York Times best sellers' list! Sadly, the disease took Mattie's life in June 2004 at the age of thirteen. But in those thirteen years, Mattie Stepanek changed the poem at a time.

I think that's why the show was a huge success. Some people may say that the MDA and Jerry Lewis exploited these children, but I never saw it that way at all. I think if anything, watching the positivity and the fight in these kids to keep living while searching for a cure...that was inspiring. And, I suppose looking at it from perspective, it makes having a tough day at work, or spilling your coffee on your new outfit, or missing the bus seem a little bit insignificant.

Jerry Lewis may not host the show anymore, and the telethon is definitely not like it used to be. But the fact remains that over the last forty-seven years, the telethon has generated a total of over two BILLION dollars. And although a cure still has not been found as of yet, the money raised for the organization has ensured that people who are diagnosed with the disease have more treatment options available to prolong lives, as well as testing experimental new treatments that could help erase muscular dystrophy from the world forever. That makes a huge difference.

So, to conclude this entry...let's have a look at a few of the more memorable moments of the telethon.

Let's start with 1987, which is probably the earliest telethon that I can remember watching. Could you imagine Mr. T being in the same room as Sammy Davis Jr.? It happened! Take a look!

Or, how about 1981, when Frank Sinatra stole the show with his performance of “I've Got the World on a String”?

Or, how about this epic moment also featuring Frank Sinatra that included a special guest from Jerry Lewis' past at the 1976 telethon? It remains the most talked about moment of the telethon's entire history. Just watch it and see what I mean.

To make a donation to MDA, just click on the following link below.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The MTV Video Controversy Awards

Okay, I promise...this will be the final diary entry this week. I know I've done a lot of them this week, but I had a lot of things on my mind. But fortunately, things are getting back to some degree of normalcy, and all is starting to feel good.

So, I thought that for this edition of the Thursday Diary, I would be a little bit snarky. A little bit sarcastic. And, maybe for good measure, a little bit of lamenting over how times have changed...and not necessarily in a good way.

August 29, 2013

I remember at one time I really used to love watching the MTV Video Music Awards. And, for that matter, the Grammy Awards, the MuchMusic Video Awards, or any other award having to do with music.

Throughout my entire life, I've always been surrounded by music, and I couldn't imagine my life without it. Why wouldn't I want to watch some of the biggest celebrations in the music industry?

I honestly don't remember what my very first Grammy Awards ceremony was. I think it must have been around 1989 or 1990. Coincidentally, I thought 1989 was a decent year in music and would often listen to Top 40 radio around the third grade, so it kind of fits with the timeline.

I think that I started watching the MTV Video Music Awards right around the same time...maybe I was a couple of years older. Although we didn't get MTV here in Canada, the MTV Video Music Awards would often be either simulcast on MuchMusic, or it would air about a week later. To me, the MTV Video Music Awards were the quintessential awards show to watch to not only celebrate the best of the best in music video, but to see singers and bands reveal themselves to their fans in more ways than ever before.

And, certainly there were some awesome moments over the show's twenty-nine year history. The late Whitney Houston helped break down colour barriers on MTV, and when the third annual MTV Video Music Awards aired on September 5, 1986, the world saw Whitney demonstrate her vocal talents in this performance.

Or how about three years after that when on September 6, 1989, Paula Abdul showed the world that there actually was a time before she became American Idol's “nice judge”? Watch it below.

And, since today would have been his fifty-fifth birthday, how about a spotlight on Michael Jackson, whose performance at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards was fifteen minutes in length and was voted as the Best VMA Pop Performance in the show's history? Watch it below if you have the time to do so. It's phenomenal.

So, where am I going with this?

Well, in the case of Whitney Houston, Paula Abdul, and Michael Jackson...they really didn't need a whole bunch of gimmicks and fancy bells and whistles to showcase the immense talent they had. Mind you, two of them have since passed away, and the third one is currently designing jewelry for Avon campaigns. But back in their heyday, they were considered the crème of the crop. The sauce on the steak. The ice in your slushie. They actually had the talent to back up their accolades.

I'm not necessarily saying that the music artists of today aren't like that. I'm sure that there are a lot of people out there who could wow us with their talents alone and come up with VMA performances that could rival, or even surpass those of Houston, Abdul, or Jackson.

So, imagine my surprise when I tuned into the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards which aired this past Sunday, and this was the clip that had everybody talking.

I know that by now, it's old news. But you know what? I feel a need to comment on this performance because it's just so all over the place.

Okay, Miley Cyrus. I get what you were trying to do here. You want to break free from your father's “achy breaky hold” on you, and start up your own career. You don't want to be associated with the squeaky clean “Hannah Montana” image anymore. I get that. You're nearly twenty-one, you have your own ideas as to where you want your career to go, and you must be happy to have a huge hit with your latest single “We Can't Stop”. But, you know what? I have to point my finger at you...and when I say finger, I don't mean the foam finger that you were...well, you know what, I don't even know what you were doing with that thing.

The problem with Miley Cyrus' performance is that if she was expecting for people to take her seriously...well, it kind of backfired in a big way. Everyone I know who saw the performance was fairly disgusted. One even commented that Miley did things with Robin Thicke that Robin Thicke's own wife hadn't done with him.


Miley, let's talk. The thing about that performance is that when it comes to what you were trying to do, I sort of get where you're coming from. You want to carve your own identity and you want your own independence. You just went about it the wrong way, in my opinion. Instead of getting respect, though, you're the punchline for late night talk show hosts this week.

Of course, these are just my own thoughts. You can feel free to agree or disagree with me if you so choose. But the truth is that this performance has so many points of view that there really is no clear-cut answer. The facts of the story appear as blurred lines running into each other, open for interpretation.

(Get it? Blurred lines?)

Anyway, regardless of what your stance is, it's gotten people talking about it. Certainly the story was enough for me to comment on it myself. And maybe in some grand scheme of things, Miley set out to achieve exactly that...create a moment that would get people talking no matter how positive or negative a reaction she got. After all, controversy sells and it keeps your name in print. And, apparently thanks to that performance, I now know what it means to “twerk”.

(Never thought I would be writing the word “twerk” in this blog.)

I just wish that Miley would realize that she didn't have to go down that route to be a respected musical artist. She was doing a good enough job already. I actually admit to liking “The Climb”, and “Party in the U.S.A.” was a fairly decent pop hit in the summer of 2009.

But, you know...Miley's certainly not going to be the last artist to be controversial at the MTV Video Music Awards. She most certainly wasn't the first!

It seems to be synonymous with the MTV Video Music Awards, you know? For as long as I can remember, that awards show was the place to go if you wanted to stand out, and perform outrageous routines in outrageous costumes, and do generally outrageous things that would make the six o'clock news the following day.

For instance, nobody remembers September 11, 1987, when Peter Gabriel set a record for most MTV Video Music Awards won on a single night with ten for his “Sledgehammer” video. But, I bet everyone remembers what happened two years later when Andrew Dice Clay earned himself a lifetime ban from the network for reading off some rather vulgar poems. I don't have that clip, but it kind of went like this (some language may be NSFW, so be warned).

Come to think of it, many people would consider 1989 a real turning point for the awards show. It had so many controversial moments aside from the Dice Clay scandal. It was the awards show that saw Izzy Stradlin and Vince Neil get into a physical altercation during the show! And, again, it wouldn't be the first time that this happened. Bret Michaels and C.C. DeVille got into a famous battle royale at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards. RuPaul and Milton Berle (what an odd combination) did a little verbal sparring two years later at the same awards ceremony. Van Halen had the shortest reunion in history when just minutes after the band's original line-up took to the stage briefly at the 1996 VMA's, David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen came to blows.

And, who could forget the Kanye West/Taylor Swift debacle after Beyonce supposedly had the best video of all time, and Kanye decided to use Taylor's acceptance speech time to tell the world exactly why.

Well, Beyonce proved to be a class act by giving up her time to let Taylor Swift finish her speech, Taylor Swift's latest album “Red” has been considered a crossover success, and Kanye West is trapped in the Kardashian family with a child they named “North West”.

Yeah...karma has a funny way of showing its face, doesn't it?

And just going on a performance level, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke weren't the only ones to have a performance. You might think that the September 6, 1990 performance of Madonna's “Vogue” was quite tame in comparison to Miley's, but watch the performance a little closer. You'll see some bust grabbing, skirt peering, and other taboo acts within it. Of course, all of the dancers were in Victorian-era garb, so nothing was really revealed. Again, quite tame.

Then we had Prince one year later, whose outfit during his September 5, 1991 performance lead very little to the imagination – well, at least the back part of the costume anyway. But, let's be honest. This is Prince we're talking about here – a man who's written some of the raunchiest songs over the last thirty years. We've come to expect things like this from him.

And on September 6, 2001, the world learned that Britney Spears was up for shock value when her performance of “I'm A Slave 4 U” featured some special guests – in the form of a gigantic Burmese python and a tiger in a cage. The performance was called out by PETA who claimed that the animals were being mistreated, but it was just a blip on the controversy level for Britney Spears. Besides, in 2003, she kissed Madonna and in 2007, she had her meltdown which lead to a rather lukewarm performance of “Gimme More”.

Come to think of it, I seem to recall Britney's performance getting panned, and people making fun of her. But considering the fact that she had a nervous breakdown where she shaved her head and lost her mind, I thought it was brave of her to perform on the awards show. She clearly wasn't ready to take the stage on that day, but I give her credit for trying. And it seems as though the pain (albeit self-inflicted) she was enduring six years ago has been left in the past, as Britney's experiencing a comeback of sorts.

Perhaps Miley Cyrus will learn something from this experience. Perhaps not. The thing is that what's done is done. It will forever be a footnote in the history of the MTV Video Music Awards. My hope though is that one day there will come a time in which the MTV Video Music Awards aren't about how much controversy you can raise, but how much musical talent you really have.

But as I type this, I fear that there are artists out there who have seen Miley's performance, and who want to one-up her in the shocking behaviour department.

Yeah...the 2014 awards show should be interesting.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Joys of Back-to-School...Shopping!

I think that it is a safe bet to say that this past week in "A Pop Culture Addict's Guide To Life" has been rather unpredictable.  There was no Monday Matinee, a lot of emotional baggage that I had to deal with, and the knowledge that maybe things aren't as dire as I initially thought.

In fact, I was so preoccupied with everything that has been going on that I completely forgot to ask people for requests this week.

So, I thought that I would use this space for another diary entry.  After all, this whole week has started off on a bizarre note.  May as well keep the momentum going.

August 28, 2013

Okay, so first things first, I want to wish my parents a happy 48th wedding anniversary.  Forty-eight years is certainly a huge accomplishment.  Some celebrity marriages don't even last forty-eight weeks!  So, congratulations to both of them!

Now, as I look at my calendar, the date reads August 28.  I imagine that some of you kids are already back at school for another year (and probably loathing every piece of homework you have to bring home to complete at that).  But here in Ontario, Canada, school doesn't start for a few days yet.  September 3 is the date that everybody goes back to school for another year.

You hear that kids?  You have less than a week left of your freedom from pencils, books, and all those teachers dirty looks.

Now, I'll be completely honest with all of you.  I had very mixed emotions about the first day of school.

In some ways, I hated it because I would be going to school with a brand new teacher who I did not know.  I also didn't know who was all going to be in my class until September, which prompted some anxiety (especially if I happened to be in a class with some of my worst tormentors, as was the case with seventh grade).

But there was always something good about going back to school.  Going out to shop for school supplies.

And, yes, I see you looking at me with blank faces.  How can shopping for back to school supplies be considered fun?

Well, for me, it was.

Okay, maybe not every aspect of back-to-school shopping was all that much fun.  I hated shopping for back-to-school clothes because I was not slim enough or had the money to wear the coolest styles.  And shoe shopping was absolutely frustrating as I could never find the right shoe to fit me (a problem which unfortunately has followed me into adulthood).

But shopping for school supplies?  That part was fun.

Whenever my family would take me to the back-to-school section at Giant Tiger, Woolco, or even an office supply store, I was absolutely on cloud nine.

But then, you also have to consider that when I was younger, I didn't really play with toys all that much (aside from video games).  I was just as content with a bundle of loose-leaf paper and a box of crayons to keep me amused.  Who needed the latest toys when your imagination was all you needed?

Let the kids compete against each other to see who had the best back-to-school look.  I was more concerned about having the highest quality school supplies.  And, for your viewing pleasure, I have compiled my own list of must haves for my own back-to-school experiences. 

Most of them met the guidelines of the school rules.  A couple of them blatantly broke those same rules.  But I didn't care.  I just used them when the teacher's back was turned. 

Okay, so here's the list.


I know that when I was in school, we were provided 80-page notebooks for us to do our schoolwork in, but let's face it.  When you needed to do homework assignments, sometimes it was better to show your work on a separate piece of paper.  And, besides, it's not as if I had to specifically buy loose leaf paper for back-to-school.  We always had it in the house.  I think I once went through an entire ream of paper in the course of a week because I was always drawing pictures and writing things down.

2.  PENCIL CRAYONS (specifically Laurentien brand)

This one makes me mist up a bit because over the last couple of years, Laurentien pencil crayons have been discontinued.  It seems as though Crayola now has the monopoly on the coloured pencil market - which stinks because I always saw Crayola pencil crayons as inferior to Laurentien.  Luckily for me, I have several Laurentien pencil crayons kicking around that I can use whenever I want.  I always did like Laurentien coloured pencils best because the colours were always bold, and they came in 12, 24, and even 60 count packages.  And what made Laurentien pencil crayons unique was that each coloured pencil was numbered, so you didn't even have to know the colours to know which one you needed.  You could ask someone to hand you pencil #5, and it would be the orchid purple one, or #18 would be blush pink, or #39 would be ocean blue.  

(And yes, I memorized all the colours with their respective numbers up to the number 45.  After that number, the colours kept changing, and I lost track of what the old colours and new colours were.)


Now, I know that I dissed Crayola pencil crayons just a few sentences ago, but if you are looking for markers, Crayola markers were always the go-to choice.  And, in almost every year that I was in elementary school, I remember always using Crayola brand markers in my schoolwork.

(The lone exception was in second grade, when I used those special colour-changing Raccoons markers.)

But seriously, an eight pack of Crayola markers was basically all you needed.  The colours were big and bright, and lasted a long time.

Of course, when I grew older, I started to develop a love for those Mr. Sketch markers, which were fruit-scented.  I think that the licorice black marker was enough to make anyone permanently high if they inhaled the fumes long enough.  And, one thing about Mr. Sketch markers was that they lasted on average four times as long as the Crayola ones.  I bought a 12-pack of Mr. Sketch markers ten years ago, and at least half of the colours still write as well as they did ten years earlier!

4 - GLUE

Okay, so this was one of the things that was considered a huge no-no by my school.  The school, after all, provided us with glue and we didn't need to bring any in.  

But come on.  The stuff the school provided us was that brown sludge known as mucilage.  That stuff didn't keep ANYTHING stuck on a piece of paper for long.  On construction paper, it was absolutely useless.  So, I always snuck in a couple of glue sticks in my school backpack to use whenever we had art class.  And, none of the teachers were ever the wiser, either.  Of course, I did have to deal with the students always wanting to borrow my glue stick, and they never returned it.  I think one year, I went through ten of them.


Yeah, the school always provided us with pencils whenever we needed them.  And given how many pencils that I went through over the course of a given year, it was always a good thing to know that teachers often had entire cases of them whenever we ended up losing ours.  Though, I will be completely honest.  Some teachers were overly stingy with their school supplies...such as the case of my first grade teacher who refused to pony up a green crayon for me when I only had seven to use.

But I will state this.  I didn't particularly care for the pencils that our school provided for us.  They must have been made of the cheapest wood possible because whenever we ended up breaking the pencil lead and we had to sharpen them using the pencil sharpener inside the room, the pencil sharpener would eat three-quarters of our pencil before giving us the desired point we wanted.  So frustrating.

Eventually, I gave up on sharpening pencils altogether and bought some of those BiC mechanical pencils.  With just a click of a button, I could "sharpen" my pencil with ease.


Now, for crayons, I actually liked using Crayola the best.  And, I remember using them back when they had the original colours.  I bet most of you reading this won't know the joy of using such colours as cadet blue, raw umber, and maize, but I will always forever have those memories.  We certainly never had a macaroni and cheese crayon.  

And, seriously...who came up with the colour name macaroni and cheese anyway?  I mean, it's a lovely colour and one that I like a lot, but it's just so random a name.  What next?  The bleu cheese crayon?

7 - PENS

This was another forbidden thing for me to use until about grade seven...and even then, I always cheated.  When I was in elementary school, we could never use pens for our schoolwork.  All of our work had to be done in pencils.  I suppose that made sense.  After all, what teacher wants to read an essay with pen splotches all over it.  By the time we reached seventh grade, we were allowed to use long as they were in blue or black.

And, well...I never quite followed that rule.  I never really followed the crowd in school, and I purposely used colours that were unlike anyone else's, just so the teacher knew that I did my homework.  I used royal purple, turquoise blue, and deep green inks on my assignments.  And, you know what?  I never did get penalized for it.  They probably didn't like it much, but they weren't going to give me a zero for it.

Perhaps this contributed to the fact that I rarely ever use black ball-point pens, if at all.  Unless I have no choice, I'll stick to my unusual colours, thanks.

And, well...that's my list of back-to-school must haves.  What are some of yours?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August 27, 1990

Before I go ahead with today's Tuesday Timeline, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to finally talk about long-buried issues that I have had all this time, and for offering support in the current situation that I am in.

It was really hard for me to come to terms with everything...and it makes me sad to conclude that at this time, there is nothing more that I can do except pick myself up, dust myself off, and continue living my life with people who actually want to be a part of it. I will not allow myself to be treated like an afterthought any longer.

I guess the hardest part about this is admitting everything and putting it out in the open. As I explained yesterday, this was the most candid that I have ever been in this blog. It wasn't my intention to purposely hurt anybody with my comments – more like a way to try and process everything that happened, and trying to understand why I'm suddenly public enemy number one to those who are supposed to be closest to me. I don't understand the reasoning behind it, and as long as I live, I honestly don't think that I will ever understand it.

The only thing that has been made crystal clear is that maybe this is the time in which I need to start giving myself a little bit of TLC...and I don't mean that group who had several top 10 singles between 1992 and 2000 either.

I'm tired of having relationships with people who only stick around when they want something and then once I give it to them they disappear into the night until the next time they need something. I'm at the point right now where I will not put up with it any longer. I need people in my life who will be there as friends in any type of weather...not just fair weather. And maybe that means that I have to make some serious decisions over who I spend my time with. Time is so precious. Why waste it on those who don't matter?

In fact, I'm just going to leave you with one thought, courtesy of a long-time reader and friend of the blog. “Family doesn't have to just include those who are blood-related.”

I think that's something that I really need to hold on to as I proceed with the rest of my life. And while there is always the possibility that things will eventually blow over...I can't guarantee it. So, that's why I need to do the only thing I can do and just start focusing on what I want out of life, and to stop living for other people.

And now, the events of August 27.

410 – The sacking of Rome by the Visigoths ends after three days

1776 – British forces under the command of General William Howe defeats Americans under General George Washington in the Battle of Long Island

1813 – Emperor Napoleon I defeats a larger force of Austrians, Prussians, and Russians at the Battle of Dresden

1832 – Black Hawk, leader of the Sauk tribe, surrenders to U.S. Authorities, which ends the Black Hawk War

1859 – Petroleum is discovered in the community of Titusville, Pennsylvania which leads to the discovery of the world's first commercially successful oil well

1916 – Romania declares war against Austria-Hungary

1927 – Five women from Canada file a petition to the Supreme Court of Canada asking
“Does the word persons in Section 24 of the British North American Act, 1867, include female persons?”

1928 – The Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawing war is signed by the first fifteen nations to do so

1962 – The Mariner 2 unmanned space mission is launched into Venus by NASA

1964 – Hollywood film and television legend Gracie Allen dies of a heart attack at the age of 69

1967 – Brian Epstein, discoverer of The Beatles dies of a drug overdose at just 32 years of age

1971 – African nation Chad severs its diplomatic ties with Egypt following the failure of an attempted coup in the nation

1993 – Japan's Rainbow Bridge (connecting Tokyo's Shibaura to the island of Odaiba) is completed

2000 – Moscow's Ostankino Tower catches on fire, killing three people

2003 – Mars makes its closest approach to the planet Earth in nearly sixty thousand years

2008 – Australian actor Mark Priestley dies at the age of 32 after leaping from the window of his hotel room

And, celebrating a birthday this twenty-seventh day of August are Tommy Sands, Harrison Page, Daryl Dragon, Tuesday Weld, G.W. Bailey, Barbara Bach, Charles Fleischer, Paul “Pee-Wee” Reubens, Alex Lifeson, Downtown Julie Brown, Yolanda Adams, Robert Bogue, Cesar Millan, Chandra Wilson, Tony Kanal (No Doubt), Jimmy Pop, Jonny Moseley, Sarah Chalke, Aaron Paul, Kyle Lowder, Demetria McKinney, and Alexa Vega.

So, the date is August 27. But what year will we be visiting this time around?

How about we go back in time twenty-three years to August 27, 1990?

I actually somewhat remember August 27, 1990. I was nine years old and was about to enter the fourth grade in school. In all likelihood, I was probably at the mall with my mom shopping for back to school supplies which included a neon coloured pencil case, a pair of UHU Glue Sticks, and Laurentian brand pencil crayons (which sadly are now a defunct brand). And it was also the day before my parents celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, which was kind of cool. The plaque that they received from the mayor of our city at the time celebrating the milestone still hangs on their wall today. Hard to believe that in a couple of years, they will be celebrating anniversary number fifty! That makes me (and them) feel real old now!

Sadly, August 27, 1990 was a day that was very tragic in the world of music history. That was the day that the world lost a talented blues guitarist and singer in a devastating helicopter accident.

Hours before the crash occurred, this performer and his band had just finished performing at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin, and their next destination was Chicago, Illinois.  The helicopters - four of them - were waiting for him and his band members and the helicopters took off as scheduled despite the fact that the visibility wasn't exactly the greatest.  According to witnesses who were there at the time, the conditions were foggy and hazy.  Certainly not the most ideal conditions to go up in the air with a helicopter.

And yet the helicopters took off as planned, and the pilots were instructed to fly over a hill that was over a thousand feet in altitude (during the winter months, it was used for skiing).

The helicopters departed just before one in the morning on August 27, 1990 from an elevation of approximately 850 feet.  The pilot, Jeff Brown, was instructed to pilot the helicopter to Meigs Field.

They never made it.

The helicopter smashed into the side of the mountain, killing everybody on board.  It wasn't until four-thirty in the morning until Civil Air Patrol was notified of the accident, and it took another three hours before they could reach the site of the crash.  The bodies of everybody on board were nearly impossible to identify.  Believe it or not, it took musician Eric Clapton, and Jimmie Vaughan to identify the body of Jimmie's brother...a man who he had just recorded an album with earlier that year.

In addition to Jeff Brown, the other victims of the crash were Bobby Brooks, Nigel Browne, Colin Smythe...

...and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

The death of Stevie Ray Vaughan was a tragic shock to his fans and family members.  He died at just thirty-five years old at a time in which his music was at its peak.  He was the founder of his band, "Double Trouble", and together, he made beautiful music that blended soulful blues with rock music, and his skill with a guitar was almost legendary.

It should not have ended this way.

Stevie Ray Vaughan was born on October 3, 1954 in Dallas, Texas.  He was the second son of "Big Jim" and Martha Vaughan, a younger brother for Jimmie, who was born three years earlier in 1951.  And, it became clear at an early age that Stevie Ray Vaughan was destined to become a musical genius.  After trying his hand playing the saxophone and drums, Stevie Ray Vaughan received his very first guitar on October 3, 1961 - his seventh birthday.

Mind you, it wasn't your typical guitar.  It was a toy guitar that came from Sears.  But still, it was good enough for Vaughan, who taught himself how to play the songs "Wine, Wine, Wine" and "Thunderbird" - two songs by The Nightbirds.  Ironically enough, Vaughan had absolutely no interest in doing any formal training.  Instead, he learned how to play guitar through a more kinesthetic/auditory approach.  Listening to his brother's records by Muddy Waters and B.B. King, he managed to learn and duplicate the guitar chords and solos that he heard from the album.  He would later purchase an album by Lonnie Mack, which also helped him perfect his craft, as did Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze".  Even though his childhood was not exactly the most pleasant (his father was a violent drunk, and he had very few friends), he found a way to get through it through music.

In 1965, when Vaughan was just ten, he founded his first band, "The Chantones", and his first public performance was held that June at a talent show.  But even though Vaughan liked performing, his parents didn't quite support his career aspirations, and he ended up taking on a job as a dishwasher where he made seventy cents an hour.  He would later quit that job following a near mishap with a barrel of hot grease, and would make the decision to focus on music full time.

After dropping out of high school when he was sixteen, Stevie Ray followed his older brother to Austin, Texas on the final day of 1971, and began engrossing himself with the music scene there.  During the 1970s, he was a party of several bands.  He was a member of Krackerjack (formerly known as Bluebird), Marc Benno and the Nightcrawlers, Paul Ray and the Cobras, and Triple Threat Revue.

And it was at the tail end of the 1970s that Vaughan would form the line-up of his most successful band - Double Trouble.  The group had a revolving door of musicians coming and going, but one could argue that the band line-up that most people would consider to be the most recognizable was that of Vaughan, drummer Chris Layton, bassist Tommy Shannon, and keyboardist Reese Wynans.

As the seventies morphed into the eighties, Double Trouble started off slowly.  They meticulously started building a fan base, and by 1983 they were starting to get the attention of various record producers and singers.

Including David Bowie.

I'm not sure if you all knew this or not, but Stevie Ray Vaughan was a huge part of David Bowie's 1983 album "Let's Dance".  He played lead guitar on several of the album's singles including the title track, which you can hear below.

This song reached the top of the charts in May 1983, might I add.  A huge achievement for Stevie Ray Vaughan, even though all he did on the single was play that awesome guitar solo midway through the song.  Vaughan was even asked to go on tour with David Bowie to promote the album, but on the urging of Vaughan's management team, he declined.

Instead, he decided to focus on releasing material himself.  In June of 1983, Vaughan released his debut album with Double Trouble, "Texas Flood", which spawned the singles "Pride and Joy", and "Love Struck Baby".  Soon after, the band opened up for The Moody Blues, and landed a guest appearance on the television show "Austin City Limits", where he performed along with his brother's band, "The Fabulous Thunderbirds".  It would just be the first of many appearances by Vaughan.  Just have a look at one of Stevie's performances.

Their follow-up album, "Couldn't Stand The Weather" was accompanied by music videos that soon received a lot of airplay on MTV.  The band had also received a couple of Grammy nominations in 1984 for "Texas Flood".

However, there were some barriers that Stevie Ray Vaughan had to overcome over the years.  One was a serious case of stage fright.  He was incredibly nervous playing in front of large crowds, and many people noted that he would always be sweating a lot during performances, and that he had absolutely zero self-confidence on stage.  However, by the mid-1980s, he had seemingly found his groove.

And then there was Stevie's addiction to drugs and alcohol, which seemed to spin out of control right around the time that the band released their 1985 album "Soul to Soul".  His contract for performances always called for two-fifths Crown Royal and one-fifth Scotch.

He also developed a cocaine habit while Double Trouble toured.  It started off being a casual routine, but quickly developed into absolutely dependency.  At one point, Stevie's cocaine use was so out of control that he once dissolved some cocaine into a glass of alcohol and cause serious damage to his stomach lining.  The event that seemed to shock Stevie back to reality took place in Ludwigshafen, Germany, when he tried to get up and threw up over himself, realizing that he was covered with blood at the same time.

It was enough of a scare for Vaughan to quit drugs and alcohol altogether.  And after completing treatment in a rehabilitation centre, he would become one hundred per cent sober by 1987, and remained that way for the rest of his life.

In his last few years, Vaughan was determined to make up for all of the time he lost due to his addiction to drugs and alcohol.  Double Trouble returned to the recording studios to record the 1989 album, "In Step", which proved to be the band's best effort yet.  And this song was a huge part of that success.

ARTIST:  Stevie Ray Vaughan
SONG:  Crossfire
ALBUM:  In Step

Stevie's personal life was also thriving.  After his marriage broke-up, he began dating Janna Lapidus, a Russian-born model whom Stevie had met back in 1986.  She visited him while he was recovering from his drug abuse, and at the time of Stevie's death, they were still together.  He had also recorded an album with his brother Jimmie Vaughan entitled "Family Style", which was released a month after Stevie's death, in September 1990.  But perhaps the one thing that Stevie was most proud of was his new found sobriety.  He attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in January 1990, which has since been transcribed and posted on the Internet (you can hear a portion of it if you click HERE).  He continued to make healthy living a priority in his life, and I imagine that had he lived, we would have seen him do so much more with his life.

At the very least though, if there's any sort of consolation regarding his death, it is that he spent his last few days doing what he loved.  The day before his death, August 26, 1990, Double Trouble was on tour with Eric Clapton as his opening act, and one of the final moments of the August 26 show involved both Vaughan brothers, Clapton, Robert Cray, and Buddy Guy performing a jam-session to "Sweet Home Chicago".  And perhaps this excerpt from Double Trouble band member Chris Layton would best describe how Stevie Ray Vaughan was feeling just hours before that fatal helicopter ride.

"The conversation was actually very light; there was nothing heavy in it. It was just like, 'this is a great coupla nights and wasn't it great to be here,' and talked about the record that he and Jimmie just made, how they had a lot of fun and that was exciting. He was looking forward to that coming out and looking forward to us making another record. He was in great spirits. I mean, we just had two great nights and we talked about all kinds of stuff, talked about the son that my wife and I were getting ready to have–we didn't know it was a boy–but just anything and everything. We talked for, I guess, almost 30 minutes.
Then he got up and said, 'I'm gonna go back down to the dressing room for a minute.' I don't know, maybe five minutes or so later, he came back up and he had his jacket on, he had his bags. He was making this turn, and I said, 'Hey, what are you doin'?' And he said, 'I'm gonna go back to Chicago.' I said 'Well, now?' And he said, 'Yeah, I gotta get back. I want to call Janna,' his girlfriend, in New York. I thought, 'Jeez, you could actually call her anywhere and then call her later,' but he turned around and said, 'Call me when you get back. I love you,' and kinda gave me that wink of the eye he would do. And then he was gone. He just disappeared into the night."

Stevie Ray Vaughan