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Close Encounters of the Third Kind

This Is Important. It Mean’s Something.

November 16, 2021

Perhaps more than any other element of this Academy Award Nominated (and win in one category) film, is its memorable five note musical sequence.

For those unfamiliar with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the five notes are how the extraterrestrials who make contact with earth communicate where they are going to set up shop, so to speak.

When this film premiered on November 16, 1977, it launched movie goers into a Science Fiction world which felt quite real.

Devil’s Tower looks nothing like this poster portrays it.

The premise of the movie is multi-faceted, but the main protagonist – played by Richard Dreyfuss – is key to telling the story of the arrival of extraterrestrials and humankind’s ‘close encounters of the third kind.’ We go to the Infallible Wikipedia for more information:

“At a rural home (In Indiana), three-year-old Barry Guiler wakes to find his toys operating on their own. He starts to follow something outside, forcing his mother, Jillian, to chase after him. Large-scale power outages begin rolling through the area, forcing electrician Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) to investigate. While he gets his bearings Roy experiences a close encounter with a UFO, and when it flies over his truck it lightly burns the side of his face with its lights. The UFO takes off with three others in the sky, as Roy and three police cars give chase. The spacecrafts fly off into the night sky but the metaphysical experience leaves Roy mesmerized. He becomes fascinated by UFOs to the dismay of his wife, Ronnie, and begins obsessing over subliminal images of a mountain-like shape, often making models of it. Jillian meanwhile also becomes obsessed, sketching the unique mountain image. Soon after, she is terrorized in her home by a UFO which descends from the clouds. She fights off violent attempts by the UFO and unseen beings to enter the home, but in the chaos Barry is abducted. (snip)

 Witnesses in Dharamsala, Northern India report that the UFOs make distinctive sounds: a five-tone musical phrase in a major scale. Scientists broadcast the phrase to outer space, but are mystified by the response: a seemingly meaningless series of numbers (104 44 30 40 36 10) repeated over and over until (scientist David) Laughlin, with his background in cartography, recognizes it as a set of geographical coordinates, which point to Devils Tower near Moorcroft, Wyoming. Lacombe and the U.S. military converge on Wyoming. The United States Army evacuates the area, planting false reports in the media that a train wreck has spilled a toxic nerve gas, all the while preparing a secret landing zone for the UFOs and their occupants.”

Despite the movie being firmly in the category of science fiction, it is Richard Dreyfuss’ character which provides the humanity needed to make the movie compelling and memorable. He does a superb job of portraying someone who has experienced a life altering traumatic event. Neary’s quest to go to Devil’s Tower sets up the dramatic final scenes and left audiences everywhere believing that such an encounter could truly happen.

If you have never seen the movie, it is one which was recognized in 2007 as “‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’ by the United States Library of Congress, and was added to the National Film Registry for preservation. In American Film Institute polls, Close Encounters has been voted the 64th-greatest American film, the 31st-most thrilling, and the 58th-most inspiring. It was also nominated for the top 10 science fiction films in AFI’s 10 Top 10 and the tenth-anniversary edition of the 100 Movies list.The score by John Williams was nominated for AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores.”

I feel pretty certain I did not see it during its initial release. In the fall of 1977 and early winter of 1978, I was immersed in college life and, being perpetually broke and busy with other social events, it likely never made it to my radar screen.

But when I did eventually see it, the premise intrigued.

I had heard about UFO’s and was somewhat familiar with the legend of their appearance near Mt. Rainier in the late 1940’s. In January of 1980, as a reporter in Eatonville, Washington, I had the opportunity to consider if extraterrestrials could possibly be true and wrote about that experience in one of my blogs from a few years ago: https://barbaradevore.com/2018/03/27/a-blast-from-the-past/

It was in 1989, however, when the hubby and I made it to Devil’s Tower to determine, first hand, if a giant alien ship really could have landed on top of that volcanic plug.

1989 was a ‘camping’ trip vacation and the hubby and I had a tent which we dubbed ‘Darth Vader.’ The reason for this was that the tent – when fully set up with the rain fly over it – looked a lot like the helmet worn by the Star War’s villain. Our first child had not yet arrived in the world although he was in process.

How Devil’s Tower looked during our 1989 trip

Since it was still early in the pregnancy, sleeping on an air mattress in a tent was acceptable. We had camped our way from Seattle to Yellowstone and from there had headed northeast towards Devil’s Tower. Or at least I think that’s what we had done.

The day we arrive it’s getting on toward sunset and it’s windy and a bit stormy. And although WE got our tent set up and firmly secured, it was moments before the wind and rain swept into the campsite. We watched from inside our car as one tent rolled over and over ending up in the river; objects flew past our car.

Fortunately, the squall soon passed and the rest of the night was without incident. The next day we hiked around the base of the tower and learned that, no, the top of the rock looked nothing like the massive spot where the aliens landed in Close Encounters.

Fast forward to 1998. We are now touring in style, towing an 18-ish foot travel trailer complete with kitchen, indoor plumbing, a dining table, and bunks for the kids. The kids are 8 and 5 and we head out to Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, and Devil’s Tower. It’s August 1998.

The afternoon we arrive at Devil’s Tower campground it’s hot but that’s to be expected. What’s not to be expected is a repeat of the 1989 trip… yet there we are.

The storm clouds roll in and there’s lightning. The wind picks up. Rumor has it that there are climbers up on Devil’s Tower who, because of the thunderstorm, cannot get down from it.

We had just finished dinner when we see the park ranger approach our campsite. Although I cannot remember his exact message, I will paraphrase:

“We are under a tornado warning (or perhaps it was only a watch?) and it’s recommended that you seek shelter. You can go to the bathrooms or, if not that, buckle yourselves into the seatbelts of your car.”

Oooookay…

I remember looking over at the cinderblock bathrooms and being repulsed by the idea of staying inside the musty cement building for who knows how long.

So we all climbed into the Wrastromobile (1998 White Chevy Astro Van), buckled up and waited for the tornado. My five year old daughter and I were in the back seat. She never let go of my hand, traumatized by the thought that we were going to be pulling a Dorothy and end up soaring up in the funnel, still buckled into our seats. The tornado never arrived.

Obsessed with the imagery of Devil’s Tower, Roy Neary makes models of the mountain out of everything, including mashed potatoes

Eventually, the ranger came back by and said the warning was past. So we exited the van, had a campfire and watched the sunset over Devil’s Tower. The next day we learned that there had been a EF-0 tornado about 20 miles away in Moorcroft.

The next evening, while staying further west in Buffalo, Wyoming, we experienced a high wind event which, although it was not an official tornado, ripped the awning off of our trailer, took down a bunch of branches, removed all the recycled cans from the wire bins in the campground, and generally left the place a mess.

And although we never saw any extraterrestrials landing their ships atop Devil’s Tower, I’m convinced that whatever happens there is important and it means something. But I’m in no hurry to go back and tempt fate with a close encounter a third time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Close_Encounters_of_the_Third_Kind

Facebook Quiz Answers: E.T., King Kong vs. Godzilla, Planet of the Apes, Close Encounters, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Mork and Mindy

Na-Nu, Na-Nu

September 14, 2021

Na-nu, Na-nu! This phrase – unknown before September 14, 1978 – became a part of the American cultural vernacular thanks to the incomparable Robin Williams in his role as Mork in the sitcom Mork and Mindy.

The show catapulted Williams to fame and fans of the show tuned in every week to see what crazy new thing Mork would do.

The story of Mork began the previous year as a plot line in the popular TV show Happy Days. In one episode Richie encounters Mork – an alien from the planet Ork – who attempts to capture Richie and take him back to his planet for study.

Apparently fans loved the Mork character and the concept. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Mork appears in the Happy Days season five episode ‘My Favorite Orkan’, which first aired in February 1978 and is a take on the 1960s sitcom My Favorite Martian. The show wanted to feature a spaceman in order to capitalize on the popularity of the then recently released Star Wars film. Williams’ character, Mork, attempts to take Richie Cunningham back to his planet of Ork as a human specimen, but his plan is foiled by Fonzie. In the initial broadcast of this episode, it all turned out to be a dream that Richie had, but when Mork proved so popular, the ending in the syndicated version was re-edited to show Mork erasing the experience from everyone’s minds, thus meaning the event had actually happened and was not a dream.”

The spin off show catapulted to the #3 spot on TV during its inaugural season, leaping ahead of Happy Days in the ratings.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

Mork arrives on earth in an egg

Mork arrives on Earth in an egg-shaped spacecraft. He has been assigned to observe human behavior by Orson, his mostly unseen and long-suffering superior (voiced by Ralph James). Orson has sent Mork to get him off Ork, where humor is not permitted. Attempting to fit in, Mork dresses in an Earth suit, but wears it backwards. Landing in Boulder, Colorado, he encounters 21-year-old Mindy (Pam Dawber), who is upset after an argument with her boyfriend, and offers assistance. Because of his odd garb, she mistakes him for a priest and is taken in by his willingness to listen (in fact, simply observing her behavior). Snip

Culturally, the impact was huge and spawned a variety of toys and games

Storylines usually center on Mork’s attempts to understand human behavior and American culture as Mindy helps him to adjust to life on Earth. It usually ends up frustrating Mindy, as Mork can only do things according to Orkan customs. For example, lying to someone or not informing them it will rain is considered a practical joke (called ‘splinking’) on Ork. At the end of each episode, Mork reports back to Orson on what he has learned about Earth. These end-of-show summaries allow Mork to humorously comment on social norms. Snip

This series was Robin Williams’ first major acting role. Pam Dawber found him so funny that she had to bite her lip in many scenes to avoid breaking up in laughter and ruining the take, often a difficult task with Williams’ talent.”

In the fall of 1978, I was 21 years old and in college so I didn’t see every episode of Mork and Mindy. But the show, specifically Williams’ role, made an impression. My fellow sorority sisters and I loved Mork and soon mimicked some of his outrageous phrases and antics.

People magazine cover October 1978

We greeted each other with “Na-nu, Na-nu” and the accompanying hand gesture; we used the term “Kay Oh” instead of “Oh Kay.” The crazier male students attempted to ‘sit’ on their heads. In many ways Mork provided a primer on how to be outrageous which, when you are in college, is a goal for many.

Mork and Mindy was like fireworks, bursting onto the television scene, in a soaring arc of sparks and light. Many tuned in just to see what crazy thing Williams would say and do. I can only imagine how exhausting it must have been for Williams to keep it up week after week.

Although the series remained popular in subsequent seasons, nothing quite compared to its meteoric season one.

Occasionally, I still find myself saying “na-nu, na-nu” or “K-O” without even realizing how these terms – so very novel when first uttered – have become a part of American culture. All due to an alien named Mork who conquered the world in September 1978.

The link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mork_%26_Mindy

Answers to the Facebook post: Three’s Company (1976), Mork and Mindy (1978), Taxi (1978), Welcome Back, Kotter (1975), and Laverne and Shirley (1976)

The Lion King

The Circle of Life

June 15, 2021

An often repeated conversation in my household goes like this:

Hubby: “What movie would you like to watch tonight?”

Me (Scrolling through the list showing up on the TV): “How about __________________ (picks some random 1990’s era movie). We haven’t seen that one.”

Hubby: “Yes we have.”

Me: “Maybe you have. I didn’t see any movies in the 1990’s.”

This statement is not, however, entirely true. I did see movies in the 1990’s but most of them were rated “G” or “PG” and the main characters were animated.

On June 15, 1994, when The Lion King was released, I had a four year old and a one year old. It was one of the rare movies we went to the theater to see. More on that in a bit.

The Lion King is the story of Simba – a cub born to parents Mufasa and Sarabi. Mufasa is the king of the lion pride much to the consternation of his younger brother, Scar. Jealous of Mufasa, Scar convinces a pack of hyenas to trap and kill Mufasa but pins his brother’s death onto his young nephew Simba. Simba is driven from the pride and ends up in an unlikely friendship with a warthog and meercat (Pumba and Timon).

Eventually Simba grows up and, with the help of Pumba, Timon, and lioness Nala, battles with Scar. Victorious, Simba assumes his rightful place as the heir to Mufasa’s kingdom, ascending to the top of Pride Rock.

According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The Lion King was released on June 15, 1994, to a positive reaction from critics, who praised the film for its music, story, themes, and animation. With an initial worldwide gross of $763 million, it finished its theatrical run as the highest-grossing film of 1994 and the highest-grossing animated film. It is also the highest-grossing traditionally animated film of all time, as well as the best-selling film on home video, having sold over 30 million VHS tapes. (snip) The Lion King garnered two Academy Awards for its achievement in music and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. (snip)

In 2016, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’.  It is, as of December 2019, the only Disney film to have been dubbed in Zulu, the only African language aside from Arabic to have been used for a feature-length Disney dub.”

The film appealed to both children and adults. The script was full of subtle jokes aimed at the grownups and lovable characters to inspire the imaginations of kids.

Soon after its release our family of four went to the theater to see it. Both our children loved the animated Disney movies. Peter Pan and Robin Hood were particular favorites of our four year old son. But as soon as he saw The Lion King, it took over his imagination.

‘Pride Rock’ was in the thick of play time from this March 1995 photo. The evil “Scar” is literally hanging from the edge.

That summer we would drive from our home on the east side of Lake Sammamish clear to the Burger King on 85th in Kirkland. Every week we made the trek in order to collect The Lion King figures from the Kid’s meals. Soon each child had their own Mufasa and Simba and all the rest of the characters. The two lion brothers would frequently engage in battle through the imagination of my child.

When The Lion King was released to VHS on March 3, 1995, the obsession really ramped up.

Our four year old had some other interests as well, of course. Chief among these was to build things. He loved hammers and nails and would spend hours pounding nails into Dad approved boards. The child even had his own workbench with real tools.

Getting in touch with his inner Simba in a Mom created costume for Halloween 1994

The acquisition of the VHS movie, however, turned into a daily viewing of the film. Soon there were elaborate sets constructed for the Burger King toys including a version of Pride Rock. Of course it really looked nothing like the Pride Rock from the movie. It was about 18 inches tall and built from 2 x 4’s and plywood. But in my son’s eyes it WAS Pride Rock.

I don’t recall when the compulsion ended. What I do know is that I heard the songs so often that I know all the words and can sing every one. Eventually the wooden Pride Rock was disassembled and he moved on to new interests which included, at various times, dinosaurs, rocks, coins, Pokemon trading cards, Legos, and video games, to name a few.

For a parent there is a particularly poignant moment in the movie when Simba – still a cub – is frustrated by having to follow his father’s rules and declares, via song, I Just Can’t Wait to Be King. It is the oft heard child’s lament, in a hurry to grow up, not knowing just how special it is to be a ‘cub’ without real world worries.

For me, I think it was okay to not see the majority of ‘grownup’ TV shows or movies from the 1990’s. It’s one of the best things about having kids – one gets to immerse themselves in the child’s world – and, for a short time, see the world through their eyes. It’s the circle of life.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lion_King

Star Wars

“I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This”

May 25, 2021

From the moment these words first scrolled up the movie screen – along with the dramatic opening chords of John William’s soundtrack – moviegoers were immersed in a fictional world full of drama, conflict, intrigue, good vs. evil, and – ultimately – a cliffhanger ending to the first of what was to become, arguably, the most successful franchise in movie history.

Star Wars: A New Hope was released on May 25, 1977. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“After a turbulent production, Star Wars was released in a limited number of theaters (snip), and quickly became a blockbuster hit, leading to it being expanded to a much wider release. The film opened to critical acclaim, most notably for its groundbreaking visual effects. It grossed a total of $775 million (over $550 million during its initial run), surpassing Jaws (1975) to become the highest-grossing film at the time until the release of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). When adjusted for inflation, Star Wars is the second-highest-grossing film in North America (behind Gone with the Wind) and the fourth-highest-grossing film in the world. It received ten Oscar nominations (including Best Picture), winning seven. In 1989, it became one of the first 25 films that was selected by the U.S. Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’. At the time, it was the most recent film in the registry and the only one chosen from the 1970s. In 2004, its soundtrack was added to the U.S. National Recording Registry, and was additionally listed by the American Film Institute as the best movie score of all time a year later. Today, it is widely regarded by many in the motion picture industry as one of the greatest and most important films in film history.”

It was, in many ways, the quintessential ‘cowboy’ movie but updated for an audience which had watched men land on the moon in 1969. It appealed to, particularly, the male need for adventure. Its heroes were simultaneously recognizable, yet also fresh, characters: Luke Skywalker – still a boy – who chooses to leave his boring home and seek out adventure; Obi-Wan Kenobe, the sage elder who takes Skywalker under his wing and teaches him the ways of the freedom fighting Jedi; Princess Leia who redefines the idea of a damsel in distress; and, especially, the bootlegger Han Solo whose swashbuckling antics left millions of women with serious crushes.

Rather than recount the plot of the movie for those who have never seen it, the Infallible Wikipedia offers a summary (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars_(film)) or you can Google ‘Star Wars A New Hope’ which produces 24.9 million results.

Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher in their roles as
Han Solo, Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia.

Personally, I think every person should watch at least the 1977 movie through the lens of the classic American cowboy movie. The weapons and horses may be different but the formula is still the same.

I must also admit that I did NOT see the first movie that year. At 19, I thought the movie was for kids. In fact, I cannot say for sure when I did eventually see the film. The second movie, The Empire Strikes Back, arrived in theatres on May 19, 1980 and the third, The Return of the Jedi, on May 25, 1983.

All of this is mentioned for one reason. As far as I’m concerned, episodes IV, V, and VI ARE Star Wars. The original cast, the campiness, and the fun of those movies were not to be replicated.

By early 1983 pretty much everyone had seen the first two movies and eagerly awaited the release of The Return of the Jedi. The hubby and me were no different.

R2D2 and C3PO

Finally the day arrived. Of course it was a Wednesday and with work and jobs we were not going to be a part of a midnight showing. Instead we waited a couple of weeks for when Microsoft reserved the ENTIRE UA150 theatre in Seattle for an exclusive showing for its employees (of which I was one).

That’s when the hubby and I hatched a plan. Across the street from that venue on 6th and Blanchard in downtown Seattle was the UA70 which was showing both of the first two movies. On the day of the event, we arrived that morning – like at 9 a.m. – to view movie number one. We may have been two of only a handful of people present when the place opened. This was followed by the second movie and then, after grabbing a bite to eat, we joined the Microsoft crew for Jedi. Now, we were not quite as crazy as some of the Microsofties who arrived dressed in costume and sporting light sabers. Although some people thought the marathon Star Wars day was kinda nuts.

I still experience the event in my mind when, as soon as the iconic ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,’ appeared on the screen a cheer rocked the theatre. For the next hour and half the venue was filled with cheers and gasps and applause as our heroes eventually won the day.

The UA150 in Seattle during the 1980 release of The Empire Strikes Back. From the Seattle Times archives

We loved doing the Star Wars triple and learned a few things: Harrison Ford is much sexier than Mark Hamill; the line ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this’ repeats multiple times throughout all three movies; the hubby can ‘talk’ like a wookie; and ewoks are cute but totally annoying.

Eventually we purchased VHS, and then DVD, versions of the three movies and introduced our kids to them. We also watched subsequent Star Wars movies in the theaters but, truly, it was never the same. After enduring the obnoxious Jar Jar Binks character we quit watching and were content to revisit the three originals from time to time in that galaxy far, far away from the comfort of our living room.

The answer to the Facebook question is: all three- Han, Leia, and Luke – said it at one time during the three movies.

The Sound of Music

I’ll Sing Once More

May 4, 2021

The 1965 promotional poster

When this film was released in the spring of 1965, I wonder if its creators ever dreamed of the incredible impact it would have on the world.

The Sound of Music was the number one film of that year and spent 29 of 52 weeks at the top of the box office lists; its popularity continued into 1966. In all, it was in the premier slot for a total of 40 weeks and became the highest grossing film of all time – a distinction it held for five years.

Frankly, one would have to have lived in a technology devoid place for their entire life to never have heard of the film.

It began life as a Broadway Musical in 1959 before it was adapted for the silver screen. The story was based on an autobiographical book by Maria Von Trapp who, along with her family, escaped Austria just as WWII was about to begin. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Based on the 1949 memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp, the film is about a young Austrian postulant in Salzburg, Austria, in 1938 who is sent to the villa of a retired naval officer and widower to be governess to his seven children. After bringing love and music into the lives of the family, she marries the officer and, together with the children, finds a way to survive the loss of their homeland to the Nazis.”

The movie is first and foremost a love story

What sets the movie apart is a combination of elements. The story line has so many great themes: two different love stories. Maria and the Captain, of course, but also 16 year old Lisle and the confused Nazi youth, Rolf. There are gut-wrenching decisions to be made as the Von Trapp’s plot their escape from their beloved Austria, forced to give up everything rather than sacrifice their values. But most of all it’s the Rogers and Hammerstein score which has resonated through the years.

The opening scene alone, with the larger than life song Sound of Music being belted out by the heroine Maria on the Austrian mountaintop, pulls the audience in. From there, the music truly tells the story. Maria is a problem to be solved; one must ‘Climb Every Mountain,’ and face life’s difficulties in ‘I Have Confidence.’

The toe tapping tunes continue on: My Favorite Things, Do-Re-Mi, and Sixteen Going on Seventeen.  And so many more.

The movie won multiple awards. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

The Sound of Music received five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, Wise’s second pair of both awards, the first being from the 1961 film West Side Story. The film also received two Golden Globe Awards, for Best Motion Picture and Best Actress, the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement, and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical. In 1998, the American Film Institute (AFI) listed The Sound of Music as the fifty-fifth greatest American movie of all time, and the fourth greatest movie musical. In 2001, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

For Americans in 1965, life was quite different than today. Most of the families I knew rarely went out to eat in a restaurant or to the movies. Going to see The Sound of Music at the Capitol Theatre in Yakima was such a treat and likely only the third film I’d ever seen in a theatre; the first two being Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady from the year before.

In the mid-sixties, women and girls still wore dresses everywhere. Such was the case for when I saw the Sound of Music. I have a distinct memory of wearing a pink dress and, likely my saddle shoes. I was hooked from the first moment.

Soon after seeing the movie, the album arrived in our house and was played over and over – to the point, no doubt, where it developed skips and that crackling sound that comes from a worn out record.

My sister and I acted out the Sound of Music in our bedroom or in the backyard with the neighbor kids. We took on the various roles. I always wanted to be Lisle but the character of Brigitta, her nose always in a book, was more accurate.

Brigitta,, played by Angela Cartwright, was always reading

The year I was 10 I learned that the local Warehouse theatre group was going to produce the stage version of the Sound of Music. I got a wild hair that I needed to try out and get the role of Brigitta. But when I asked my Mom, it was a resounding ‘you don’t want to do that.’ Which when translated meant that SHE didn’t want me to do that.

I was crushed that I wasn’t going to be able to live out my dream of being on stage in the Sound of Music. A girl I knew from school got the role of Brigitta. I don’t believe we ever went to the production.

But even that disappointment did not deter me from my love of the Sound of Music. When they first started broadcasting the film on commercial TV I made sure to watch it every year. This was followed with owning the VHS version and, ultimately, on DVD.

Sing Along Night poster for the Lincoln Theatre

Up until the Covid-19 Pandemic shut down large gatherings, the Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon would host an annual Sound of Music viewing and singalong, encouraging attendees to dress as characters from the movie.

I haven’t yet made that event, but it’s on my bucket list. For the record, I no longer identify with Brigitta or Lisle, but to join all the other wannabe Maria’s out there would be the best.

A couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sound_of_Music_(film)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_1965_box_office_number-one_films_in_the_United_States

March 30, 1964

What is the date Jeopardy Premiered?

If I mention the names Don Pardo and Art Fleming, what’s the first thing you think of?

For anyone born after about 1975, it’s unlikely those names mean a thing to you. But if I add in the name Alex Trebek , nearly 100 percent of people will immediately say “Jeopardy!”

Art Fleming, the original host

Long before Trebek became the host, the first two were the memorable announcer and host, respectively, of Jeopardy which premiered as a daytime TV program on March 30, 1964.

The 1960’s was the golden age of TV game shows. Jeopardy joined seven other such shows already on the air that year including Let’s Make A Deal and The Price Is Right. Only Let’s Make A Deal has run continuously on TV longer, edging out Jeopardy by 3 months.

The show got its start thanks to iconic TV producer Merv Griffin. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In a 1963 Associated Press profile released shortly before the original Jeopardy! series premiered, Merv Griffin offered the following account of how he created the quiz show:

My wife Julann just came up with the idea one day when we were in a plane bringing us back to New York City from Duluth. I was mulling over game show ideas, when she noted that there had not been a successful ‘question and answer’ game on the air since the quiz show scandals. Why not do a switch, and give the answers to the contestant and let them come up with the question? She fired a couple of answers to me: ‘5,280’—and the question of course was ‘How many feet in a mile?’. Another was ’79 Wistful Vista’; that was Fibber and Mollie McGee’s address. I loved the idea, went straight to NBC with the idea, and they bought it without even looking at a pilot show.

Griffin’s first conception of the game used a board comprising ten categories with ten clues each, but after finding that this board could not easily be shown on camera, he reduced it to two rounds of thirty clues each, with five clues in each of six categories.] He originally intended requiring grammatically correct phrasing (e.g., only accepting ‘Who is …’ for a person), but after finding that grammatical correction slowed the game down, he decided to accept any correct response that was in question form. Griffin discarded his initial title of What’s the Question? when skeptical network executive Ed Vane rejected his original concept of the game, claiming, ‘It doesn’t have enough jeopardies.’

Announcer Don Pardo whose recognizable voice graced the airwaves for decades

The format of giving contestants the answers and requiring the questions had previously been used by the Gil Fates-hosted program CBS Television Quiz, which aired from July 1941 until May 1942.”

Of course the references in the above article highlight just how long ago Jeopardy got its start, especially the citation of Fibber McGee. But I digress.

I’m pretty sure I’ve watched Jeopardy pretty much since its beginnings. Now mind you, as a kid the only time I saw the program would have been during summer vacation or being home sick from school. Holding down the 11:30 a.m. spot on NBC made Jeopardy required TV for the ill child. Once lunch was over (soup and saltine crackers, no doubt) and the boring old news came on, it was time to sleep.

The other reason I know Jeopardy occupied my brain is that I still have the Fifth Edition Jeopardy Board Game which I’m pretty sure was either a birthday or Christmas present, likely around 1967.

Imagine a completely old school sort of game. The answer board cover is made from white indestructium.* There are white one inch square removable plastic tabs that cover the answers for each Jeopardy round. You know its old because the dollar amounts (printed in blue on the tabs) are $10, $20, $30, $40, and $50 for regular and double those numbers (in red) for the second round. Oh, and did I mention how they kept the answers ‘secret?’ By use of the always cool, see through red plastic used in kid’s decoder kits of the 1960’s.

My 1960 something game… the blue clicker is missing but everything else is there.

But the best part was by far the ‘buzzers’ used by the players when they knew the right question. In this case, however, ‘buzzer’ is a misnomer because the devices were frog style clickers in red, blue, yellow, and green. After a few games of vigorous use those clickers no longer clicked; our alternative was for the contestants to make a buzzing noise with their mouths which, you might imagine, led to some hilarity.

My friends and I loved the game. It’s actually in amazing shape considering the use it had. Or maybe I’m misremembering all the use and, perhaps, it was just me who was the complete trivia nerd. The game, after spending decades tucked away in my parents’ house, came back to me in the fall of 2019.

Over the years, however, Jeopardy continued to be a part of my life. In the 1980’s, after dinner, the hubby and I would often watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. The hubby seemed to know every Jeopardy answer and had it out before my brain had time to process. In fact, I often thought that the hubby should try out for Jeopardy.

His rapid trivia skills were passed down to the next generation as our daughter also loves Jeopardy and is really good at it. In fact, both her former roommate and fiancé (now her hubby) got to the point of not wanting to even watch Jeopardy with her because she seemed to know every answer and, like her father, was very fast.

After she moved in the spring of 2020 and no longer had cable TV, she mostly quit watching. Some of the joy of the show, no doubt, was lost with the passing of Alex Trebek. She did admit that a couple of the ‘tryout’ hosts were pretty good.

Alex Trebek

“I need my Jeopardy host to be pretty dry in their delivery,” she told me.

I think any Jeopardy fan hopes that a worthy replacement will be found for Trebek ; one who will assure that the 57 year tradition that is Jeopardy will continue for years and generations to come.

Now, for those who want to play, here’s the final Jeopardy answer for today’s Tuesday Newsday: 22. Be sure to post your answer in the comments section below!

* Indestructium is a word coined by the hubby to describe any linoleum or plastic manufactured in the 20th century which is basically impossible to damage or destroy.

The Infallible Wikipedia links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeopardy!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_longest-running_American_television_series

Groundhog Day

Carpe Diem

February 2, 2021

This movie – written by Danny Rubin and produced and directed by Harold Ramis, was released in February 1993 based on a premise: What if you had to live the same day over and over until you ‘got it right?’

Groundhog Day – starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell – brought that concept to the big screen. The plot centers around Murray, a self absorbed TV reporter named Phil Connors, who is assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day event and do a story on whether or not Punxsutawney Phil would see his shadow.

Connors completes his report but a blizzard hits the region, forcing him to remain in Punxsutawney another night. When he awakens the next morning the radio is playing Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” just as it had been the previous morning. Connors soon learns that it is February 2nd once again and the events repeat themselves.

And on it goes throughout the movie. Murray is brilliant in the role. At first he despairs his situation, then he gets angry. He starts to alter things in an attempt to escape the ‘loop.’ He embarks on a life of crime, stealing from the townspeople. When that doesn’t release him from repeating each day, he falls into a depression and attempts suicide. But it’s impossible to kill himself and he continues to wake up to February 2nd.

Eventually, he hits on the idea of using his time to improve himself and the lives of those around him. He takes piano lessons and learns all about the people of Punxsutawney who he’s been encountering each day. He finds ways to help ease their burdens.

His love interest, Rita (played by McDowell), also eventually comes around to seeing him for this wonderful sincere guy who affects the lives of others in a positive way.

In the ensuing 27 years since the film’s release, there has been a lot of speculation as to how many consecutive February second’s Phil Connors experiences. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The duration of Phil’s real-time entrapment in the time loop has been the subject of much discussion. Ramis once said that he believed the film took place over 10 years. When a blogger estimated the actual length to be approximately 9 years, Ramis disputed that estimate and his own. He replied that it takes at least 10 years to become good at an activity (such as Phil learning ice sculpting and to speak French), and allotting for the down-time and misguided years he spent, it had to be more like 30 or 40 years. A similar estimate suggests that it takes at least 10,000 hours of study (just over a year’s worth of time) to become an expert in a field, and given the number of loops seen or mentioned on screen, and how long Phil could spend per day studying, that Phil spent approximately 12,400 days or nearly 34 years trapped. In Rubin’s original concept draft, Phil himself estimates that he has been trapped for between 70 and 80 years, having used books to track the passage of time.”

Additionally, many have delved into the ‘deeper meaning’ of the film, finding spiritual and religious meaning. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Rubin has been contacted throughout the years by different experts providing their own interpretations. It has been seen as a Christian allegory with Punxsutawney Phil representing Jesus Christ, an example of the Nietzschean concept of the eternal return, the spirit of Judaism, and the essence of homeopathy. It has also been interpreted as an adaptation of the Greek mythological figure Sisyphus who is also condemned to an eternal, daily punishment. (snip)

Groundhog Day can also be interpreted as a secular tale in which Phil is experiencing an existential crisis where primal indulgences are no longer satisfying, causing him to fall into a depression that he escapes by taking ownership of his own self-improvement; he then uses his improved persona to benevolently help others.”

On February 2, 1993, I was 7 ½ months pregnant and my son had just turned three. I can say for a fact that I did not see Groundhog Day during its initial release. I also, additionally, argue that as a young parent I was living some form of my own repetitive loop.

It is not until one is caring for a baby that you really can appreciate the mind-numbing repetition which it presents.

The first months of a child’s life, particularly, are an exercise in repeated activities. Eat. Sleep. Poop. Repeat. Somewhere around month three you start to emerge from this fog and you notice that things have started to change ever so slightly. A first smile. The first time to roll over. If you’re lucky, the baby sleeps more than a few hours a night without waking up.

Six weeks may not seem like a very long time, but it’s interminable if you are sleep deprived. You might ask yourself “will it always be this way?”

As it turns out, the answer is no. My son was around age five and one night he had a nightmare and appeared in the hubby and my bedroom. I always allowed the kids to crawl in with us for a few minutes but then I would carry them back to their own beds.

The author with her newborn son… several decades ago when she could still pick him up

When I went to pick up my drowsy son, however, I could not do it. Sometime in the previous few days I had experienced the ‘last’ time I was able to lift and carry my child.

Life is full of lasts. And sometimes we don’t even know it will be a ‘last’ until the moment is past. The last time you had a conversation with your Mom or Dad; the last time you rode a bike or went sledding. Somehow an event slips by without you knowing it was the last time.

Groundhog Day is one of my top five favorite films if for no other reason than it reminds me that every day is an opportunity to improve myself and make a difference. It’s also a cautionary message which is best summed up by the Latin phrase ‘Carpe Diem.’

Unlike Phil Connors, none of us gets a repeating loop in life. Whatever your passion, whatever it is that brings you joy and fulfillment, go out and pursue it. Carpe Diem. Seize the Day.

The Wikipedia Link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundhog_Day_(film)

Titanic

My Heart Will Go On

December 22, 2020

“Upon its release on December 19, 1997,” according to the Infallible Wikipedia, this film “achieved significant critical and commercial success. Nominated for 14 Academy Awards, it tied All About Eve (1950) for the most Oscar nominations, and won 11, including the awards for Best Picture and Best Director, tying Ben-Hur (1959) for the most Oscars won by a single film.”

Titanic, as measured by every metric, lived up to its name. The buzz around the film the third week of December that year had movie-goers flocking to the theater.

For those who have never seen the movie, you really should. It’s a study in ‘how to’ craft a compelling story. The backdrop is, of course, the tragic tale of how the luxury liner Titanic hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean during its maiden voyage. The ship did not have an adequate number of lifeboats available for the over 2,200 passengers resulting in the death of 1,517 people.

It was the singular vision of screenwriter and producer James Cameron which propelled the entire story. The Infallible Wikipedia summed it up this way:

“Cameron felt the Titanic sinking was ‘like a great novel that really happened’, but that the event had become a mere morality tale; the film would give audiences the experience of living the history. The treasure hunter Brock Lovett represented those who never connected with the human element of the tragedy, while the blossoming romance of Jack and Rose, Cameron believed, would be the most engaging part of the story: when their love is finally destroyed, the audience would mourn the loss. He said: ‘All my films are love stories, but in Titanic I finally got the balance right. It’s not a disaster film. It’s a love story with a fastidious overlay of real history.’”

As a Romance writer, it is Rose’s story which I have always found most compelling. She is 17 years old when she boards the Titanic and over the course of the next three and half days, falls in love, breaks off her engagement, faces disapproval from family, and then survives, arguably, the worst shipwreck in history.

What Cameron does with Rose is brilliant. We meet her at the very beginning of the movie, a still vibrant 101 year old woman, who is brought to the site of the Titanic’s wreckage to advise a treasure hunting crew looking for a valuable necklace believed to have been on board the ship when it sank. The story is then told through her eyes as she chastises one salvage crew member on his forensic account of the event. “The experience of it was somewhat different,” she says.

It is her love interest Jack, ultimately, who admonishes Rose to live life fully. He sacrifices himself for her and she promises him that she will.

Cameron uses black and white photographs of Rose, ostensibly taken throughout her life, to show the many things she experienced. She does exactly as Jack urged and lives her life to the fullest.

The reason I chose to feature Titanic today – since December 19th will not fall on Tuesday for two more years – is due to an amazing coincidence.

In 2005 – after a class I took on novel writing concluded – a number of us formed a writer’s critique group. Sometime during those first few months one of our members suggested the addition of another writer he knew from a different group. They had taken a class together from the same instructor a couple years earlier. Which is how I met the woman who I eventually dubbed ‘the real life Rose.’

To be clear, this ‘Rose’ did NOT survive the sinking of the Titanic. In fact she was not born until 1920, six years after the fact.

Plus, her name is Irene, and not Rose. As I became friends with Irene over the past 15 years I learned much about her life and experiences and, when I would tell people about her, I often referenced Titanic and continued to call her “The real life Rose.”

For the past two December’s our little group celebrated Irene’s 98th and 99th birthday’s during our weekly meeting at the Bellevue library. Last year we vowed to do something bigger to fete her on her 100th.

Our band of authors – sans the cameraman – on Irene’s 98th

And then the COVID pandemic hit and our method of meeting changed. Five of us, including our ‘Rose’, switched to Zoom. Last week – knowing I planned this as my topic for the blog – I casually asked Irene what the date of her birthday was. Her reply: December 19, 1920. I literally shook my head at the coincidence that Titanic had been released on a December 19th also.

Irene’s story is that of a young woman who met and married a dashing RAF pilot; he trained at an American AFB run by Irene’s father. It was the height of WWII and the only way she could be with her new husband, was to find a way to get to England. That ticket turned out to be working for the Red Cross. The newlywed’s grabbed snippets of time together as their assignments took them to opposite locales throughout Great Britain.

Tragedy, however, struck when his plane was lost, leaving her a young widow, pregnant with their child.

Hence the reason I started calling her the real life ‘Rose.’ And like Rose in Titanic, Irene has embraced life and lived it to its fullest. She’s climbed the Great Pyramids in Egypt, hiked Machu Pichu in the Andes, been on cruises to Panama and Hawaii (and others). She was a single mother in an era when doing so caused most people to look at you askance. She pursued a career in hospital administration, providing for herself and her family, never falling into the trap of self pity. She’s written multiple novels, dabbled in painting, and holds a wide variety of interests.

As I’ve told her more than once, she’s my role model of how I want to age.

Irene braving the weather for her driveby party

To this she will reply, “Barbara, growing old is a privilege not everyone gets to have.” And then, in her humble way, will say how appreciative she is – despite some of the infirmities that accompany the aging process – that she has been given that privilege.

This past Saturday (the 19th) her family (son, daughter-in-law, and grandson) arranged for a drive by birthday party. I imagine they were thinking a few friends might come by. It turned into a much bigger parade. I was, unfortunately, late due to some obstacles. But that turned out okay. I got to visit with her for a few minutes and promised that we’d have a proper party next year on her 101st birthday!

While the fictionalized account of her marriage and what occurred in England will likely never garner the same level of interest as Titanic, the story is no less compelling. It’s available on Amazon. (See link below)

Thank you, Irene, for being an inspiration to me and to so many others. You’re amazing.

Update – December 23, 2021 – Irene celebrated her 101st birthday a few days ago. Sadly, with the world still locked down due to the ongoing Covid pandemic, we did not have a party. With luck it will happen in the spring!

And, of course, the link to the Infallible Wikipedia and two more movie clips:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanic_(1997_film)

Anything Goes

Take A Bow

November 10, 2020

The cover from Eisenhower’s production of Anything Goes in 1975

Now, 86 years after the fact, the musical Anything Goes is showing its age. One thing about it has aged well, however, and that would be the music of Cole Porter. For those unfamiliar with the musical, here’s some background from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Anything Goes is a musical with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. The original book was a collaborative effort by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse, heavily revised by the team of Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.The story concerns madcap antics aboard an ocean liner bound from New York to London. Billy Crocker is a stowaway in love with heiress Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and Public Enemy Number 13, ‘Moonface’ Martin, aid Billy in his quest to win Hope. The musical introduced such songs as ‘Anything Goes,’ ‘You’re the Top,’ and ‘I Get a Kick Out of You.’

Since its 1934 debut at the Alvin Theatre (now known as the Neil Simon Theatre) on Broadway, the musical has been revived several times in the United States and Britain and has been filmed twice. The musical has long been a popular choice for school and community productions.”

The best way to describe Anything Goes is as a wild adventure with hidden identities, love triangles, and a whole lot of sexual innuendo. It was, in its day, considered inappropriate. Hence the title.

Despite its racy themes, Porter’s lyrics are masterfully written and crisp and so very sing able.

My readers will be forgiven if they’ve never heard of the show.

I had never heard of it either until December of 1974 when my high school choir director, Mr. Jim Durado, announced that our spring musical would be Anything Goes.

To be clear, I never had a shot for any sort of solo singing role in the production. In fact, Mr. Durado was legendary at our high school for somehow selecting musicals which seemed to ‘fit’ the students who filled the leads. That was, I’m certain, by design.

And so it was for Anything Goes. The lead role was for a female and he had a very talented vocalist who he cast as Reno Sweeney. More about that a bit later.

My role, however, was also a rather important one and I was selected by Mr. Durado specifically for it as surely as he picked any particular cast member.

It all began the previous spring when he asked me if I would be his Teacher’s Assistant (TA) for the following year. It required me to have TA as one of my classes. I said yes.

During the course of that year, I ran every errand, copied copious amounts of sheet music, tracked down students, kept attendance records, and made sure things happened on time. If there was a job to do, he gave it to me to get it done. When it came time to start rehearsals, my post was to sit at the mid-point of the theatre, three rows back from the stage, and follow along in the script. If someone needed prompting, I was the one to do it.

My photo was in the program along side all the lead actors

Every day after school – for three months – we rehearsed. I swear it became a muscle memory thing because to this day I can sing most of the songs without missing a word. For a number of years I could even say all the lines of every character.

It was a great experience and I am forever indebted to Mr. Durado for trusting me to do the job.

For Mr. Durado, however, 1975 turned out to be a time fraught with conflict. As a student, I was not privy as to what was going on his life. All I know is that there were moments when I would wonder what I had done to make him so sullen and incommunicative. It took months to learn the truth.

We were only a couple weeks in to rehearsals when the lead he’d chosen to portray Reno Sweeney told him she couldn’t take the role as she was very uncomfortable with the innuendo and believed it violated her faith. Thus the scrambling began to find a replacement. Another senior, Jennifer, was quickly selected and her part was then given to Mr. Durado’s own daughter. There was some amount of complaint from the cast who felt that a different girl deserved the role.

Reno and Sir Evelyn – aka Jennifer and Doug – during a performance

But the show, as they say, must go on. The next couple of months saw the production come together and, on March 19, 1975, Anything Goes opened. The page in my yearbook states:

“The eighty member cast worked three months in preparation for the standing ovations they justly received. Mr. Jim Durado proudly produced and directed his tenth musical production, one which originally opened on Broadway in 1934.”

By April, the intense schedule of rehearsals and a successful musical behind us, it was time to focus on recruitment for the next year. In addition to the main choir, there was a 16 person four part harmony swing choir, called Lancers. It was THE premiere vocal group at the school and dozens would vie for a coveted spot. Tryouts were looming for that and several performances by both groups were on the schedule.

One morning in mid-May, however, Mr. Durado was not at school. I cannot to this day recall exactly how I heard the news. It was probably announced to the whole choir when we arrived for class. But Mr. Durado had been shot by his wife. The bullet hit near his shoulder. He was alive and was in the hospital and that was all we were told.

That afternoon – in spite of the shock – the entire choir went to Franklin Junior High to perform a scheduled show. Somehow we got through it with a substitute teacher. The memory which sticks in my head from that day is that a group of a half dozen girls were walking out of the Junior High after the performance and everyone was talking about it; some of the girls were crying. All of us were upset.

I did go see Mr. Durado in the hospital a day or two later. He was making jokes about how bad a shot his wife was. It was surreal.

Less than a month after I graduated and heard little more about my teacher. The next year there was a new choir director who had huge shoes to fill. From Mr. Durado’s first musical production in 1966 until his last in 1975, he had built a dynasty.

Being in choir was cool. Those who were selected for Lancers were the coolest (I was not in that group!) It was getting to participate in the musical, however, that was everything. My oldest brother was in Funny Girl – which was Mr. Durado’s second production – in 1967. My cousin Susan was selected for the role of Mrs. Paroo in 1973’s The Music Man. That was also my sister’s first of two years in the cast; in 1974 both my sister and I were in The Most Happy Fella. I closed out our family participation with Anything Goes.

Mr. Durado moved back to his home state of Montana after he recovered from his wounds. From an adult perspective I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult the whole situation must have been for the family, especially for his daughters. No shortage of victims in this story but it seems as if it’s often the kids who are most hurt.

Mr. Durado lived out his days in Montana, taking his final bow on March 19, 2013…38 years to the day from the opening night of the last musical he produced and directed, Anything Goes.

A couple of links:

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/195146855/james-rocco-durado

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anything_Goes

Fiddler On The Roof

Tradition!

November 3, 2020

Until November 3, 1971, this musical play could only be viewed on Broadway or in a community or school production. With the release of the movie, however, Fiddler On The Roof, cemented its place as one of the best musicals ever.

The 1971 Movie Poster

Prior to being made into a film Fiddler was a Broadway staple. The Infallible Wikipedia sheds a bright spotlight on its history:

“The original Broadway production of the show, which opened in 1964, had the first musical theatre run in history to surpass 3,000 performances. Fiddler held the record for the longest-running Broadway musical for almost 10 years until Grease surpassed its run. The production was extraordinarily profitable and highly acclaimed. It won nine Tony Awards, including best musical, score, book, direction and choreography. It spawned five Broadway revivals and a highly successful 1971 film adaptation and has enjoyed enduring international popularity.”

What’s so captivating about Fiddler is its unique story. The audience – from the first notes of the fiddle’s haunting tunes – is immersed in the pre-Russian revolution community of Anatevka.

Soon the viewer sees the world through the eyes of Tevye, a Jewish peasant ‘blessed’ with five daughters and no sons. Tevye narrates the entire play through words and song in an often humorous yet bittersweet evaluation of his – and his fellow villager’s – life.

What ties it all together, however, is the incredible music. From the foot tapping lament of If I were A Rich Man, to the witty Matchmaker, and the wistful Sunrise, Sunset, each song expertly captures the feeling of a unique time and place in history.

Fiddler – perhaps more than any other musical to grace the silver screen – is a serious film which explores the foibles of human nature and one’s ability to adapt to change.

I know I saw the film in the theater as a teenager and also a production of it at Eisenhower Sr. High (IKE) in Yakima in the spring of 1972. The IKE production, in fact, was the event which inspired my resolve to be in the choir since you had to be in that group if you wanted to perform in the musical.

I was in my ninth grade year – in junior high – when I wrote this diary entry on March 24, 1972:

“I went to ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ It was very good, we had front row seats and I felt like the lead was singing to us in some parts. It was really neat.”

First of all, a big thank you to my parents for being first in line and purchasing the front row seats. Second, that is not the most eloquent bit of writing, but I’ll forgive my 14 year old self…at least she captured the moments. I bought a book of Fiddler songs on sheet music and learned to play many of them on the piano. I even sang Matchmaker for a talent competition… I no longer recall WHY I thought this was a good idea (it wasn’t) or the specific event… but I was much more fearless then.

A page from the 1972 IKE yearbook, Reveille, of the Fiddler on The Roof production. I wanted to be just like this group, on stage singing in a musical.

Years later, when my kids got to about ages 8 and 11, I hatched an idea. The hubby and I ordered and installed an 8 foot by 8 foot movie screen. A speaker system was set up to create surround sound and thus we created a part time media center in our living room.

This all coincided with my discovery that the King County Library ‘rented’ to anyone who held a library card films on DVD and VHS. And when I say rent, I mean for free. The catch was that you had to put a hold on the movies you wanted and then wait until the email notice arrived advising that a particular one was ready to be picked up. Much less expensive than Blockbuster and with an element of surprise; we never knew which movie would be the one for any particular Saturday night.

And thus began my mission to introduce my kids to every musical ever produced. My budding film critics soon developed opinions about every selection I brought home. My daughter, for example, declared the musical Carousel as The Worst. Musical. Ever. Personally, I would put it up against The Fantasticks for that title.

The Worst. Musical. Ever.

On the night of Fiddler, the sights and sounds of 1905 Russia filled the room and the whole family was enthralled. For me it was as if visiting with an old friend for a couple of hours. I tamped down my temptation to sing along and once again enjoyed the wonderful story and characters.

Finally, when I had exhausted all the musicals available through the library, I asked my children one day of all those we had watched, which was their favorite? While I don’t recall what my daughter said, my son did not hesitate: Fiddler On The Roof. An opinion he confirmed recently.

As for me and my dream of being in the cast of my high school’s musical… well, that’s a story for next week.

To learn more about the incomparable Fiddler, one needs only to access The Infallible Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiddler_on_the_Roof

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiddler_on_the_Roof_(film)

L’Chaim!