Sunday, October 15, 2017

Life Lessons Leaned from Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie, written by Mitch Albom about the final words of wisdom from his beloved professor Morrie Schwartz, is recognized as one of the most popular books ever written on how to live your life with understanding and how to face your death with dignity.
Albom and Ted Koppel, who featured Schwartz on three occasions on Nightline, appeared recently in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the book and talk about the tremendous impact Morrie’s words had on them and millions of readers around the world.
Booming Encore Senior Contributor Dave Price captures the essence of this ongoing publishing phenomenon in a two-part series.

Ted Koepel and Mitch Album discuss their remembrances of Morrie Schwartz
Album with his beloved professor Morrie Schwartz

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Return of the Porn and the Politico Deep Throats

In the 1970s, if they weren’t already, Baby Boomers quickly became well acquainted with both the pornographic and the political meanings of the term “Deep Throat.”

The 1972 cinematic release of the X-Rated film, Deep Throat, starring Linda Lovelace ushered in a new acceptance and interest in pornography.

One of the first pornographic films to feature a plot, character development, and relatively high production values, the film earned mainstream attention and launched what has been called “the age of porno chic,” even though the film was banned in some jurisdictions and was the subject of obscenity trials.

Deep Throat gained even more pop cultural significance when editors of The Washington Post chose the name for the secret source who assisted reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with their reporting on the Watergate story, a lengthy series of articles which helped bring about the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974 and jail terms for many of his closest advisers.

Now more than 40 years later, we are witnessing a renaissance of the widely recognizable moniker.

Earlier this month, The Deuce, the latest offering from producer David Simon and writer George Pelecanos of The Wire – which many critics call the greatest show ever to air on television – debuted on HBO.

The Deuce, which was a street name for New York City’s famed 42nd Street, captures the grimy, seedy, sordid, Manhattan of the 1970s, when the sex industry, drugs, crime, and white flight combined to change the city.

It’s a sweeping saga of when disco was raging, AIDS was not yet an urban danger factor, and some prostitutes were moving from the streets into the fledgling sex industry, while others continued to work nightly to keep themselves and their colorfully attired pimps in the money rolling in from the sex trade.

Of course, given the timeframe for the series, mentions of Deep Throat and the name of the film prominently displayed on a movie marquee add a sense of reality to the fictional story.

The series, which has already been renewed for a second season, is drawing much praise.

“The show’s survey of the sex trade – from the women working the streets all the way to the mob guys pulling the strings at a distance – is transfixing, nourishing entertainment, a surprisingly good-hearted ensemble study that yields gentle, slow-burn rewards,” Richard Lawson writes in Vanity Fair. “It’s the most amiably sleazy workplace drama you’ll see this year.”

While The Deuce is steeped in the past, the new movie Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, released this month, feels eerily contemporary in these times of Edward Snowden and Donald Trump.

For decades, the identity of DC’s most famous source Deep Throat was shrouded in mystery. One of the fun games played in the nation’s capital was to try to figure out who had been guiding Woodward and Bernstein on their stories.

Just prior to his death in 2008, William Mark Felt, a former Associate Director of the FBI and the number two man behind J. Edgar Hoover, revealed he had been the reporters’ informant.

Although the information Felt divulged was beneficial to both reporters, he corresponded only with Woodward. The pair met clandestinely in a deserted parking garage in Rosslyn, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from D. C.

Woodward knew Felt before he became a reporter. Prior to Watergate, Felt had helped Woodward with other stories. The journalist described his relationship with Felt as "a predatory friendship."

"He was somebody I pressured. He would basically confirm things," Woodward said in an interview at the Newseum after Felt’s revelation. "Sometimes he would help. Sometimes he would not help."

Woodward, who despite authoring 16 best-selling books still remains as an editor at The Post, says he believes Felt's motives for helping was a combination of "personal ambition and angst."

"He wanted to be director after J. Edgar Hoover died (he was passed over for that post) and he was outraged by what was going on in the White House," Woodward said. 

It would be difficult to view the new movie featuring Liam Neeson as Felt and not consider the relationships between Watergate and the Trump turmoil that is vexing Washington, especially with the special investigation of Russian connections to the 2016 election underway that somewhat parallels the one leading to the toppling of Nixon.

“Of course, you could argue that government leaks from the highest levels, a corrupt president, internecine battles between rival factions of the Washington power establishment, and the national hunger for a cathartic whistleblower – even if we have no idea who it is – could scarcely be more relative than it is today,” Owen Glieberman recently write in Variety.

“It’s impossible to watch ‘Mark Felt’ without speculating on who might become (or already be) the Deep Throat of the Trump administration,” Glieberman added.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Eric Burdon: It's Still His Life

At age 75, he may need some assistance from a cane and the strong left arm of a loving wife to get from the dressing room to the backstage area. But once he hears the music and strides onto that stage he prowls. He growls. He moans and he howls.

He becomes the iconic, irascible Eric Burdon.

The Hall of Fame rock and roll blues belter, who for more than four decades has been the voice of the much-beloved British Invasion band The Animals.
Recently, Burdon and the latest members of the Animals (all of whom were still more than two decades from being born when Burdon started his series of hits with “The House of the Rising Sun” in 1964), headlined the Flower Power music cruise, a five-day floating Summer of Love music festival sailing around the Caribbean.
As he has been doing nightly on this most recent tour, Burdon lets his amazingly-tight, four-piece band augmented with two stellar horn players, perform a segment of the opening song before he joins them, often wearing a simple black T-shirt and his ever-present shades.
Some nights this song is “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” a huge hit for Three-Dog Night which was originally written by Randy Newman for Burdon to perform on his first solo album. This night the opener is “Spill the Wine,” the early 1970s Top Ten single Burdon recorded during his brief tenure with the all-black band War.
Obviously, with more than 40 years in the business, Burdon has a massive catalog of hits, misses, originals, and covers to draw from when making up any given night’s set list. Some favorites like “I’m Crying” and the John Lee Hooker’s cover of “Boom Boom” aren’t being played on this tour. Others, like the Animals’ 1966 version of “See See Rider” or a moving mashup of Burdon’s “Sky Pilot” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” sporadically make an appearance. Keyboardist Davey Allen told me others like “Help Me Girl” have been rehearsed, but not yet performed.
But you can be sure of one thing – if you see Eric Burdon in concert – you will hear “House of the Rising Sun,” the first #1 hit for the Animals, a song heralded as one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded.
“I can’t leave the stage unless I sing that song,” Burdon said during an on-board interview. “That song changed my world. I sing that song because I love it. It has become me. It also put me in touch with my love for New Orleans and southern culture”.
Burdon maintains there is also a spiritual aspect to what is definitely the most well-known song ever written about a southern house of whores. “(The House of the Rising Son) is really a song about redemption. Those houses employed girls from Africa. They weren’t just there to provide sexual pleasure. They helped heal people. These houses were a place for men to talk and meet friends. It was a totally different kettle of fish. Of course, nothing is what it seems in New Orleans,” Burdon explained.
Ironically despite its popularity, Burdon has never received any royalties for “House of the Rising Sun”, in large part apparently due too some financial shenanigans on the part of the band’s management and then-keyboardist Alan Price.
“Over the years, I’ve seen just millions of dollars disappear. We were paid $200 a week back then when we recorded House of the Rising Sun (in just one take),” he says.
But “The House of the Rising Sun” isn’t the only song inextricably identified with Burdon. There is also “We Got to Get Out of This Place,” a Top-Ten hit written for the Animals by the Brill Building team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
The song became identified as the most popular tune favored by American soldiers during the Vietnam War, a status not surprising given the song’s clear message of being trapped in unfavorable circumstances and wanting to leave.
“Look, I desperately wanted to get the hell out of my hometown. Everybody has a place that they want to get out of,” Burdon said.
Initially, he said he was uncomfortable with all the reports of how much the Animals’ track meant to Vietnam veterans.
“Then I started running into a lot of guys from over there and they said ‘that song literally saved my life’. At first, I was embarrassed, but then I began to realize they were serious. That threw a whole different edge to me singing that song,” Burdon said.
Whether you see Eric Burdon in concert, read about him, or are fortunate enough to get a chance to hear him speak, one attribute stands out – Burdon is an authentic adherent to the famous William Shakespeare line “to thine own self be true.”
And that rare attribute in a business known for phoniness is directly linked to a third Animals song you are assured of hearing Burdon perform in every show – “It’s My Life,” with its repeated chorus lines of “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want. It’s my mind and I’ll think what I want.”
Without asking, Burdon will tell you what he thinks of our new American president. (Hint: It’s not positive). He talks of his great disdain for record companies and music management. (“Whatever you wanted was not what they wanted). He calls Ed Sullivan, whose iron grip of Sunday night TV in the 60s could make or break careers “a bitter old man.” And when asked if he ever has contact with any of the still living three original members of The Animals he answers succinctly, “in the words of our president – none”.
But that authenticity isn’t just negative, it is also at the core of Burdon’s positivity.
If he says or does something, you can be sure it is genuine.
For example, if he flashes a peace sign, it isn’t some attempt to capitalize on a faded hippie ideal. For Burdon, it is a symbol for something that is real and still achievable today, even in these turbulent times.
Over the years, Burdon has attracted a huge fan base in Germany, a country where he plays regularly. In fact, he says his favorite place to perform in the world is a club in Hamburg that once was a site where the Nazis manufactured munitions.
“Something like that gives me the power to say things can change,” Burdon says.
He claims the most meaningful compliment he has ever been paid for his music came from a German official who once told him, “You helped put a stop to Nazism. Instead of picking up guns, our young men began picking up guitars.”

So after 40-plus years, what comes next for Eric Burdon?

Of course, that can’t be definitely answered, but you can be sure it will involve singing.
“Put me in a jail that’s 5 feet underground and with chains around my ankles and I’ll still be singing. I don’t know anything else. For me it’s my art. For me, It’s spiritual. It’s really my religion.”