Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ya Gotta Believe! Steve LeVeille is Coming Home!

For those who fear their voices are never heard; for those who wonder, "What can I, as one person, do to affect my world?"; for those who love local AM overnight talk radio; for all of you, I am pleased to pass along some fantastic news:

WBZ 1030AM in Boston heard us! Steve LeVeille will be back on the air!

The news was announced today that LeVeille and Lovell Dyett with both be returning to the Boston airwaves this weekend, with Dyett's return in the Sunday morning 4:30-5:00AM slot, and LeVeille returning Monday night in his old midnight-5:00AM slot!

If you are unable to tune into WBZ over the airwaves, the station provides live streaming audio over their website, www.WBZ1030.com!

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Door-to-Door Encyclopedia Salesmen Are OK, Though

Saw this post at Burbia.com, and laughed out loud. Jerry, it seems, has been a little less than neighborly. Follow the link to see a close up on the fine print. Classic stuff!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Would YOU Take a $4,000,000 Raise?

The Phillies' website is reporting that first-baseman Ryan Howard is seeking $18 million for 2009 in arbitration. The club has supposedly offered Howard $14 million, which is a $4 million raise from 2008.

The question that GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. needs to answer is how valuable is Howard's overall contribution to the club? Last year, Howard played the first half of the year like he was Dave Kingman - hitting around .220 and striking out a whole lot, with some towering, majestic home runs strewn among the mediocrity. The second half he came back and began playing like the Ryan Howard who should have been paid $10 million, culminating in a .281 average over the last 10 games of the season, pulling his overall average up to .251 for the year, to go with 48 home runs and and 146 RBIs.

Those power numbers are right in line with past seasons (47 HR, 136 RBI in '07; 58 HR, 149 RBI in '06), but his batting average has tumbled from .313 two years ago. Add to that the fact that his defense is iffy at best, and do you really have an $18 million player?

I happen to like Ryan Howard, and I'd like nothing more than to see him stay with the Phils. So far, the club has come to arbitration-avoiding deals with Cole Hamels, Greg Dobbs, Ryan Madson and Shane Victorino. Can they bridge the $4 million gap with Howard before arbitration? Better question: should they?

Another Blow Against Local AM Radio

The World of Isaac is reporting that Detroit station WDFN 1130-AM in Detroit, MI will have switched to an all-syndicated content station as of 3:00PM today. All local shows cancelled, all local talent let go.

Sad days.


The pomp and circumstance has not yet begun to wind down in Washington DC tonight. There are balls to be attended, more speeches to be made, and celebrations of what many are hoping will be a new, better chapter for our country. Once the party is over, however, the hard work begins.

As I noted during this morning's live blog (thank you again to those who were here), I did not vote for Barack Obama. I happen not to agree with his politics. While I think all Americans want to see the same ends achieved, I personally don't believe the means by which Mr. Obama seeks to achieve those ends are the proper way to go. Still, I want to see President Obama succeed. I would like nothing more than to be proven wrong, for if I am, we as a nation will be in a much better place.

President Obama is outstanding when it comes to delivering speeches full of sweeping emotion and go-get-em attitude. His "Yes we can!" slogan and his calls for "hope and change" are straight out of the Positive Affirmation playbook, and his speech today fell right in line with that attitude. To hear him speak today and not be caught up in the enthusiasm would have been impossible. To hear him speak today and not ask "How can I help President Obama rebuild this country?" would have been unthinkable. And, as I noted earlier today, that speech was pitch-perfect as far as what he needed to say...today.

Where Mr. Obama has always fallen short, in my eyes, is when it comes time to get to the detail. How, exactly, are we going to face the challenges before us? What, precisely, is the Obama Administration going to do to bring about the change and maintain the hope that he has talked about for these many months? It's great to shout to the rooftops that the old internal political divisions that have sometimes cuffed our hands are obsolete, but what does President Obama do when those obsolete divsions inevitably cuff his hands from the things he wants to accomplish? Is he prepared for those battles?

I do not envy President Obama the job he has begun today, and I hope that he does have a few tricks up his sleeve for when the going gets tougher, because it will. And it will be in those toughest of situations that we will learn whether this change is one for the better, or whether we have once again fallen for the old "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" routine.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Inauguration Day Live!

I will be live-blogging during Tuesday's historic Inauguration. I have chosen Cover It Live as the on-screen interface to use, as it will allow real-time interaction and conversation from you, the reader. I will have the Hulu live feed on the site as well.

The live-blog session here will kick off at 11:30AM EST; our 44th president, Barack Obama, is scheduled to take the Oath of Office at noon.

I hope you'll join me!

Cole Hamels - No Arbitration!

Happy news for my beloved World Champion Philadelphia Phillies: the Phillies' website announced today that pitching ace Cole Hamels has signed a three-year, $20.5 million contract with the club! Hamels was one of seven Phils who might possibly go to arbitration this year. Agreeing to this contract avoids arbitration in Hamel's case, and secures both a highly valuable part of the 2008 Championship Team and one of the flat-out best young starting pitchers in the Major Leagues today. Hamels performance in last year's post-season was phenomenal, and I, as a life-long Phillies fan who has seen a lot of bad pitching from this club over the years, am very glad to see this deal get done!

With the game's finest pinch hitter Greg Dobbs recently signing a two-year deal, and the addition of Raul Ibanez to the outfield, the 2009 team is starting to take shape. How the Phils will fair in '09 may rest, however, with the six remaining players eligible for arbitration: Ryan Howard, Ryan Madson, Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Chad Durbin and Joe Blanton. Howard, of course, is the big question-mark, but the Phils would not have been in the post-season if not for the strong contributions of the other five names on that list.

LeVeille Update

First of all, thank you to those of you who commented on the post I wrote last week regarding Steve LeVeille being taken off the air. I am so pleased to hear other voices joining the chorus asking for his return. Please, keep the comments coming!

That post has generated a tremendous amount of traffic for this blog, in large part because of two sites which linked to it: The Boston Radio Blog and Radio-Info.com both picked up the post and brought quite a few new readers my way. A huge thank you to those who linked, and a warm welcome to those who stopped by to take a look. I do hope you'll stay and become regulars!

While there hasn't been anything to report regarding Steve LeVeille's status, the Boston Globe is reporting that Lovell Dyett, another former WBZ on-air personality who was summarily laid off in similar fashion and at the same time as LeVeille, has been meeting with WBZ management to discuss a return to the air. Could this be the first sign that WBZ is realizing the tremendous mistake they've made by selling the station's soul to the CBS Network? Keep fingers crossed!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cash Flagg, Khan, and the Prisoner

They say it happens in threes. Unfortunately, the last few days have seen that adage sadly borne out again, as the entertainment world has lost three fine gentleman: Ray Dennis Steckler over the weekend, Patrick McGoohan yesterday, and today Ricardo Montalban.

Ray Dennis Steckler may be the least well-known of the three in mainstream culture, but fans of rock-n-roll infused B-movies of the sixties know his work very well: "Wild Guitars", "The Thrill Killers", and "Rat Pfink a Boo Boo" are among the canon of drive-in shlock classics Steckler directed and produced...and often acted in under the alias Cash Flagg.

Patrick McGoohan had a slightly higher profile in the mainstream, best known to a generation of TV viewers as Number Six, or "The Prisoner", McGoohan's career spanned five decades of work in movies and television, including a parody of the Number Six character in a 2000 episode of The Simpsons.

Ricardo Montalban
had the most well-known career of the three, but it will be a shame if he is remembered only as Mr. Roarke, as Cpt. Kirk's greatest foe Khan, or as the car commercial guy selling us on "rich, Corinthian leather" interiors. While these may be the roles for which he is best remembered, Montalban's resume demonstrates an actor with far greater talent.

A moment of remembrance, please, for these three gentleman. May they rest in peace.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

7 Things About Me

Ken Mueller (@kmueller62) of the excellent blog I Threw a Brick through a Window, tagged me with the current "meme of the week," which means I am now bound by the unbreakable laws of the Blogosphere to respond in kind. A tip of the cap to you, Ken -- spending the afternoon putting this post together has allowed me to nicely avoid doing laundry and vacuuming the house. You know, I really need to hire a maid...

Anyhoo, this is how the game is played:
1. Link your original tagger(s) and leave a comment on this blog posting when you’ve “memed."
2. List these rules on your blog.
3. Share seven facts about yourself in the post - some random, some weird.
4. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
5. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter.

That's the simple part. Now, let's see if I can actually come up with seven interesting/unusual/random/bizarre things about myself...

1. I Don't Drive. I do not now have, nor have I ever had, a Driver's License. Of course, the first question everyone asks me is, "Why not?" (Well, actually, that's the second question they ask. The first is usually "Are you f---'n nuts?!?") And the thing is, I don't have a good answer as to why. I just have never driven. There's no physical handicap, legal decree, or bizarre phobia that stops me. It just has never been high on my priority list. I walk a lot, and long walks don't bother me. If walking is out of the question, there is public transportation, taxi service, or sharing rides with friends...and yes, I always offer to contribute a few bucks for gas!

2. My First Television Appearance. Had you lived in Lancaster circa 1971/1972, you might have seen the four- or five-year-old version of me smiling at you from the set of Percy Platypus and Friends, a Saturday morning kids' show broadcast from WGAL. The show had a 15-year run here ending in 1974, and one of the recurring segments was celebrating the birthdays of kids in the audience. I just spoke with my Mom about this, and neither she nor I can pinpoint the date, but somewhere in a dusty old scrapbook there is evidence of this; when we find it, I will post it!

3. Green Eggs & Ham.
Like most high schools, ours held an annual talent show. It was filled each year with the typical acts: dancers, musicians, the usual ho-hum stuff. Being a staunch anti-conformist even back then, I entered the talent show one year with an act where all I did was read Green Eggs and Ham aloud. This was not a recital of the book - I memorized nothing. Had the book in front of me, and read it. Mind you, every act had to pass an audition to get into the talent show, meaning that someone else was cut in favor of my reading a children's book to the audience. Ah, the subversion! I dare say it was the hit of the show - people still talk about it today. Some years later, when Rev. Jesse Jackson read Green Eggs and Ham on SNL, I got phone calls from old high school friends saying, "Hey, he stole your act!"

4. Johnny Thunders Bought Me a Beer.
About a year before his death, legendary New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders came to Richmond, VA as a solo act. At the time, I was Music Director for the University of Richmond's radio station, WDCE, and got a call from Johnny's manager asking if we would like to interview him on air while he was in town. Wound up having to pick him up from the hotel and bring him to the station, and then give him a ride to the club where he was playing. So, a friend and I wound up hanging out with Johnny Thunders for the better part of an afternoon and evening, and drinking on his tab. Had a standing invitation to come see him play in NYC, but unfortunately Johnny passed away roughly ten months later, reportedly from a drug overdose.

5. Wanna Get Under My Skin? Be Late. The surest way to aggravate me is to not be somewhere at the time you said you would be there. In my work, if a meeting is scheduled for 3:00, I expect everyone to be there at 3:00 - not 3:05 or 3:10. Same thing in my social life. If I'm meeting someone for dinner, I expect her to be on time. Early is even better, but if I have to wait, my annoyance and irritation grows exponentially with each passing minute!

6. The First Non-Kiddie Record I Ever Owned was "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon & Garfunkel, bought for me by my parents when I was very young because I loved the "coo-coo-ca-choo" part. The first non-kiddie record I ever specifically asked for was Terry Jacks' "Seasons in the Sun," which I played to the point of driving everyone batty. I was a child of the '70s...

7. I Don't Believe in Radon.
I think the radon gas scare is one of the greatest money-making scams of all time. Someone came up with the idea of saying, "There is this gas, and you can't see it, smell it, or detect it, but it will kill you! Luckily, I can detect it, and for a price I will tell you if it is in your house or not. Then, for a second fee, I will remove it from your home. Finally, for a third fee, I'll test again to make sure it is gone." How can you argue? You don't want to die, so you give someone your money to detect and remove something that you can't even tell if it was there or not to start with! Yeah, you're not scamming me with that one...

OK, now it's my turn to tag 7 fellow bloggers. Also, this gives me a chance to suggest to my readers that they also read these folks' blogs:

You - yeah you, you who are reading this! Guess what? Tag - you're it!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Boston Radio Great Steve LeVeille Taken Off the Air

I am what they call a Night Owl. My natural sleep/wake cycle is such that I am usually up until 2:00 or 3:00 AM, and regularly sleep in until 11:00 AM or noon. As such, I have over the years become a fan of overnight talk radio on the AM dial. Not the pre-packaged and often pre-recorded syndicated talk radio "product" that is foisted upon us by the networks, but good, old-fashioned, hometown talk radio done live in the studio of the station broadcasting it; authentic, off-the-cuff, spontaneous radio that has, for the large part, sadly disappeared from the airwaves.

I've listened to WBZ 1030AM out of Boston for as long as I can remember. WBZ was the last outpost for non-syndicated overnight talk. I was introduced to Bostonian legends like Larry Glick and Norm Nathan as a youngster when I would spend the night at my grandmother's house: she fell asleep nightly listening to WBZ. After I graduated college, I found myself listening to those same programs: Norm Nathan until his passing, Bob Raleigh until his retirement, Jordan Rich on the weekends, and Steve LeVeille.

Steve LeVeille took over WBZ's overnight (midnight to 5:00 AM) slot in 1999, and for the past decade he has presented the most enjoyable late-night radio program found on the dial. While echoes of LeVeille's predecessors can certainly be heard in his broadcasts, he had a signature style all his own. The Steve LeVeille Broadcast was a nightly mix of thoughtful debate on current events (both those local to Boston and those affecting the entire country...or the entire world) and general lighthearted fun that often slipped into outright silliness, as when he would have Mel Simons in the guest chair conducting his Audio Clip Trivia Quiz. The revered LeVeille-Hagopian Polls (cofounded with WBZ writer/producer Garo Hagopian) got to the heart of issues affecting listeners, asking such soul-searching questions as "paper or plastic?", "red, white, or blue?", or "soda, cola or pop?", and listeners waited for the tell-tale siren indicating a Deviation Alert: someone had made the first non-offered choice!

Though I never met the man, and never called into his program, I felt certain common bonds with LeVeille. Being a life-long Phillies fan, I could easily identify with his yearly frustration with his beloved Red Sox -- and found myself swept up in the joy of the Bosox finally winning the World Series in 2004. Like me, Steve was flabbergasted that each winter's snowstorms brought on a rush to the grocery stores to stock up on milk and bread, as if everyone should hunker down and subsist on French Toast until the storm passes. When he campaigned to change that tradition to one where we should run out before a storm and stock up on Marshmallow Fluff instead, I jumped on that bandwagon.

What made his radio program work so well was Steve's inherent understanding of his role: while so many who enter the talk radio field model themselves after the Limbaughs, Sterns, Larry Kings, and others who shine the spotlight mainly on themselves, Steve LeVeille knew from Day One that he was not the star of his show. He was merely our Master of Ceremonies whose job it was to guide us through whatever may ensue in each night's five-hour block; the callers were the stars. He gave everyone the ability to speak their piece, and while he certainly let his opinions on things be known, he always did so as an aside while trying to get at the reasons the callers felt as they did. He never belittled anyone for their stances, although he did not suffer fools long. If you couldn't explain why you felt as you did, or, worse yet, rambled on without getting to a point, you were done. But, every caller was treated well by Steve, whether they were weekly regulars or one-time callers, and his easy, conversational approach made even the most nervous first-time-caller-long-time-listeners a bit more confident.

Steve LeVeille is no longer on the air. As LeVeille himself noted in an interview with the Boston Herald, he was laid off without warning after he completed his December 29th show. After a decade, The Steve LeVeille Broadcast is suddenly no more, with barely a statement from WBZ, and without the opportunity to say "goodbye." Sadly, it has been replaced on WBZ by something called Overnight America - another soulless, syndicated, cookie-cutter piece of network talk radio product. And to say that LeVeille's many fans in the "38 states and all the best provinces of Canada" that WBZ's signal reaches are upset is an understatement.

A "Bring Back Steve LeVeille" campaign has been initiated by several of his fans; I quickly added my name to this petition. If you were a fan of Steve's, I urge you to join the chorus of voices asking for his return. If you never listened to The Steve LeVeille Broadcast, but understand that losing one of the last of a dying breed of true radio personalities only means a greater influence of CRaP (Corporate Radio Product) and hate that as much as I do, I urge you to sign the petition. If and when Steve returns, you can hear him on WBZ's website, which offers streaming live audio, and perhaps find yourself becoming a fan.

I, for one, sure hope WBZ listens to those who have been listening to WBZ for so many years. We miss you, Steve!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

R.I.P. Ron Asheton, 7/17/48 - 1/6/09

Just learned that former Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton was found dead in his home yesterday. He was just 60 years old. I have not seen a reported cause of death yet.

In Asheton's memory, here's footage of the Stooges at the Cincinnati Pop Festival in 1970.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Dickies at the 941 Club 1/3/09

Great time last night at The 941 Theater in Philadelphia, PA to see Van Nuys, CA's greatest contribution to punk rock, The Dickies. Absolutely had a great friggin' time - a little hole-in-the-wall BYOB venue on Front Street, about 250 - 300 people, a "stage" that was little more than plywood on cinderblocks raised about a foot off the ground: this is how to see a punk show! Heck, you had to go "backstage" to find the restrooms, fercrissake!

I am learning that it takes a little longer for my 42 year old body to recover from the crowd crush and the decibel level (ears are still ringing, dogs still barking from standing on a concrete floor for hours), but the fun was worth it. Am I showing my age by saying I'm kinda glad PA has the smoking ban nowadays because at least I side-stepped the traditional morning-after hack-a-lung-a-thon?

This was a four-band show; unfortunately, we got there a little late and missed the first band, The Trakes.

We arrived just as Philadelphia's own The SlotCars took the stage. Now, I've been to enough shows in my life to know that opening bands are always a gamble, and home-town opening bands can sometimes be double jeopardy. The SlotCars came through, though, with a fine set. All of the expected spaces on the punk band bingo card could be checked off: song about the band itself? Check. Instrumental with vocal interjection from the bass player? Check. Surf-styled tune? Check. Nifty cover? Check. This, however, was not just "punk rock by the numbers." The band had an energy and a personality that took their minimal guitar/bass/drum basement band vibe to another level or two higher, and they score bonus points for having a wicked sense of humor about themselves, the Scene (with a capital S), and their local fans. Follow the link to their MySpace page and listen to "SlotCars Theme" and their cover of "Little Deuce Coupe", and enjoy!

Kitty and the Kowalskis from New York were up next. Following the "chick singer and three guys" band formula and blasting out a melodic-punk sound with more than a little resemblance at times to Tex & the Horseheads (check out "Mr. Wrong" and "I Love You Baby But I Hate Your Friends" on the Kowalski's MySpace page), they played one helluva set. Good to know that I'm not the only one feeling my age: Kitty called herself out for trying to play a punk show in a sweater and declared herself to be a "child of the sixties".

So, two-fer-two on the opening bands - a great start to the 2009 concert year! (Based on what I've heard on their MySpace page, the Trakes would've been right there, too.) But my friends and I - and by self-admission, the opening bands - were really there for only one reason: to see The Dickies!

I'd only seen the Dickies live once before, at Fiend Fest in Asbury Park, NJ in 2003. They put on a great show then, but as part of the packaged tour with several other bands, their set was truncated. Last night, the spotlight was all theirs, and they did not disappoint! Over the course of roughly an hour and a half or so, we got a virtual Dickies' jukebox. They roared out of the gates with "Rosemary," and gave us everything from the early classics ("Give it Back", "You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla)", "Manny, Moe & Jack") to their best known hyper-speed covers ("Nights in White Satin", "Paranoid") to prime examples of their newer material ("My Pop the Cop"). The almost non-existent stage created an environment of band and fans becoming almost one, resulting in Leonard Grave Phillips allowing the crowd to become his call-and-response partners on "I'm OK You're OK" and "Got it at the Store", and we basically sang "Gigantor" for him!

The band did two encores - first encore included a hysterical sing-along on Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World", and the second closed the night out as any Dickies show should be closed: with their turbo-fast slam through of the "Banana Splits Theme".

Hung around a bit after the show and got to talk with both Stan Lee and Leonard - and yes, for those who asked, every Dickies record I own is now autographed.

All in all a great night, a lot of fun, and a heck of a way to celebrate my birthday and kick off a new year of shows. Visit my online album of pics I took throughout the night - forgive the quality, I only had my cell-phone camera with me. If any of you were also at the show, please leave a comment with your review.

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Last Minute Substitute Concert

Woo hoo! My birthday celebrations are saved!

As you read in an earlier post, plans to catch the Damned three times this week were made irrelevant when Dave Vanian came down with the flu. My birthday is Tuesday, so seeing the Damned tonight in NJ and tomorrow in Philly was to be my way of celebrating.

A buddy called me up today and asked whether I still had tomorrow free. I did, and now plans to go to Philadelphia are back on...the Dickies are playing!

Ironically, the last time I saw the Dickies, they were part of the Fiend Fest lineup with the Damned. I'm taking the records to get signed (fingers crossed), and will have the full report here on Sunday...assuming the Canceled Concert Curse is broken...