Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy RIP

Ted Kennedy RIP

I met Ted Kennedy on two occasions, once when I was a kid, I guess I was nine in 1960 when Teddy was campaigning for his brother for President in downtown Camden and the nuns let us out of school to go see him.

It was at the Walt Whitman Hotel, which isn't there anymore, but at one time was a grand old hotel, and I was walking next to TK down the grand staircase, while he scribbled his name on a piece of paper for me.

I don't know what ever happened to that relic, but years later I met him again, this time at his home in McLean, Virginia, in the spring of 1977 or 78.

My friend Brian had lost a leg in a motorcycle accident in Ocean City (NJ), and with the insurance money he bought a little red TR7 sports car and asked me to join him on a cross country road trip. We lived in a seasonal-winter rental beach house at the time, with two other guys, and literally drove from coast to coast. My brother Leo gave us his CB radio and we were "Red 7" on a cross country trip to Long Beach, California, where we would attend the US Grand Prix auto race, which like Monaco, was through the streets of the town.

On the way we stopped to visit friends of mine from college, and in Colorado, stopped at Winterpark, where we met Hal O'Leary, who invented three-track skiing for one-legged handicapped people, like Brian. They ski without a prothesis, on one leg, with outriggers on the poles. After awhile you don't consider them handicaped, as Brian quickly became a better skier than me, a "normie."

A week or so later, on the other side of the Rockies, we put into Aspin, where we met another three-track skier on Ajax, Aspin Mountain. One of his outriggers was broken, so Brian helped him down the mountain and at the base bar, where our waitress was Nancy, who we knew from Ocean City. Nancy worked on the boardwalk at Irenes, near where I worked in the summmers, Mack & Manco's Pizza. Nancy is now married to Ed Devlin, then the owner of Irenes. So we introduce Nancy to our new friend, who we jus met on the mountain, Ted Kennedy, Jr.

Teddy was then seventeen, and had just lost his leg to cancer, but was clean now, and learning how to ski three track, and a few other things. Brian took Teddy out for a spin in the TR7 and showed him how to shift gears with one leg, and do a handbreak turn 360.

Teddy wanted to go to California with us, but the car only held two people, but he gave us his phone number and said when we got back to the East Coast to give him a call and tell him how the rest of our trip went.

We drove to California, went straight to Santa Monica Pier and then to Long Beach for the Grand Prix, and to Mexico, a little further down the coast to Ensenada, where Brian got arrested with another one-legged skier we met in Colorado. They had turned the street lights switch out and were arrested, put in a Paddy Wagon, taken to court, where the judge was working, and were fined whatever they had on them. They were out of there by the time I walked down the street.

Before we left town I grabbed a couple of $5 Cuban cigars, Montecristos, that you can't buy in the USA, figuring I'd give one to my father's boss, the county prosecutor, and the other to George McGonigle, the long time bartender at Gregory's our local bar in Somers Point. (Ocean City, NJ being dry).

Well, to cut to the chase, on the way home we stopped in Columbia, South Carolina, where we visited our good friends Scott and Duncan MacRae, who had worked with me at Mack & Manco's. They had opened a college bar/restaurant called Yesterdays, at Five Points, and are really successful. Leaving there, we were about two hours out of DC when Brian called Teddy and told him we were in the neighborhood.

Teddy said to come by his house, we could still make dinner if we hurried. We didn't hurry, and got tied up in traffic and lost, and it was about 8pm at night when we pulled into a gas station in McLean, not far from the CIA. Teddy gave us directions to his house, and young Patrick answered the door. It's hard to imagine Patrick is now a Congressman from Rhode Island, but then was just a kid.

Teddy was glad to see us, and introduced us to his sister Kara, and then took us into the library where his father was on the phone. There was a fire in the fireplace, and a sterio was playing a reel to reel tape of a speech by RFK that Teddy, Sr. was apparently listening to. Although he was at home in his own study, Ted Kennedy wore his tie tight up on his neck, and yet seemed comfortable.

Senator Kennedy handed the phone to young Patrick, saying "Talk to your aunt Ethel," while Teddy, Jr. introduced us, "Dad, these are the guys from Jersey I was telling you about."

As the Senator shook our hands, and asked how our trip was, I noticed he was smoking a cigar, which he was holding in his other hand, a cigar that was down to a roach, as they say.

While he wanted to hear some stories of our adventures on the road, I said that while in Mexico I had bought a couple of Cuban cigars, and asked if he would like one. Sure. So I went out to the car and got one of the cigars, and as I gave it to him I told him that I had bought two, one for my father's boss, the prosecutor, and the other for our local bartender, George McGonigle.

Then he wanted to know which one I was giving him?

He was getting the one I was going to give my father's boss.

"That shows whose more important in your life," Kennedy said laughing.

I then remarked about how there is the story of "your brother ordered a case of Cuban cigars before he signed the trade embargo," which Kennedy said, "was something Jack would do."

Young Teddy then showed us around the house, his pin ball machine in the basement, and his bedroom, where on the wall was a framed page from a yellow legal pad, with notes and scribbles and dated April 17, 1961, the day of the Bay of Pigs.

I later saw that a book was published on presidential doodles, and thought about that page and what was on it.

We didn't stay long, an hour or so, but we got to know young Teddy better, skiing with him again in Colorado a few times, and he visited the Jersey Shore.

I also got to know Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who stayed overnight at my family's house at 819 Wesley Ave. in Ocean City, while on the 1980 campaign trail when Teddy Sr. ran for President. I drove Bobby around to radio stations and meetings and hooked up with his brother Michael. I then drove Bobby and Michael to New York City, where the major argument was to have dinner at 21 or pizza. We ate pizza.

Having met young Teddy skiing, and the Senator and his family at their home, and knowing Robert and Michael from the campaign trail, I can say that I found the Kennedys to be a fairly typical Irish American family.

And now Big Teddy is gone, and the younger generation must step up. Hey, that's us.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul RIP

Charlie Carney, one of the last of the old time bartenders, insisted that I check out this guy John Coliani, a pianist who used to play at Steve & Cookies - the old Strotbecks club. John is indeed a terrific musician who then introduced me to his mentor, Carlton Drinkard, Billy Holiday's pianist.

One night I accompanied Carney and Drinkard to Philly to see a Billy Holiday show, a night to remember.

More recently I heard a recording of John Coliani on the radio and was inspired to write my first Nightbeat Blog about him, and how he was playing every Monday night in New York City at a nightclub with the Les Paul trio.

After exchanging a few emails with John, I promised him I'd check out his show with Les Paul.

Well, now I guess I can't keep that promise.

Les Paul, Jazz-Guitar Virtuoso and Inventor, Dies at 94

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 13, 2009; 1:40 PM

Les Paul, 94, a Grammy Award-winning guitar virtuoso and inventor who helped bring his instrument, typically assigned to chug along rhythmically and compliantly, to the forefront of jazz performance, died today at a hospital in White Plains, N.Y. He had pneumonia.

Mr. Paul first came to prominence for his fast and flashy jazz-guitar style. In the 1940s and early 1950s, he and singer Mary Ford, his wife, had hits with "How High the Moon," "The Tennessee Waltz," "Vaya con Dios" and "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise."

All along, he refined musical inventions in his workshop. He was an early designer of an electric guitar that had a solid body, and his model managed to reduce sound distortions common to acoustic instruments.

He actively promoting such guitars for the Gibson company, and the Les Paul line of guitars became commonplace among such musicians as bluesman Eric Clapton, jazzman Wes Montgomery and rocker Pete Townshend.

Mr. Paul called his first solid-body guitar "the Log." It was made of a four-inch thick piece of wood from a nearby railroad track, a neck he borrowed from an Epiphone guitar and two pickups to give it the electric pulse. Audiences and music executives laughed at the ungainly device, and he spent years honing its visual appeal.

He said his efforts were toward one goal: to change the way people saw the guitar.

"I wanted people to hear me," he told the publication Guitar Player in 2002. "That's where the whole idea of a solid-body guitar came from. In the '30s, the archtop electric was such an apologetic instrument. On the bandstand, it was so difficult battling with a drummer, the horns, and all the instruments that had so much power.

"With a solid-body, guitarists could get louder and express themselves," he said. "Instead of being wimps, we'd become one of the most powerful people in the band. We could turn that mother up and do what we couldn't do before."

He played a key role in developing the eight-track tape recorder, and used the device to play many parts on the same recording, a process now called multitracking. Such early work in overlaying sound contributed to the richness and distinctiveness of his recordings.

Mr. Paul earned the nickname "the wizard of Waukesha," after the town in Wisconsin where he was born Lester William Polfuss on June 9, 1915. His father was an auto-garage mechanic.

As a boy, Mr. Paul taught himself music on his mother's player piano, mimicking the notes with his own hands. An admirer of the blues and country troubadours he heard on the radio, he imitated their songs with his own harmonica and mail-order guitar. He played both instruments simultaneously by making his own harmonica holder.

As a teenager, he played dates at a drive-in restaurant, where he experimenting with amplified sound to reach the open-air audience. He stuck a phonograph needle inside his acoustic guitar and wired it to a radio speaker.

Adopting the moniker "Rhubarb Red," he left high school and joined a traveling cowboy band and later played on the "Barn Dance" program on WLS radio in Chicago. He named one of his early groups the Original Ozark Apple Knockers.

Not wishing for a career in hillbilly music, he convinced two friends -- guitarist Jimmy Atkins (Chet's brother) and bassist Ernie Newton -- that he knew Paul Whiteman, the prominent big-band leader. The trio went to New York in 1937, only to be kicked out of Whiteman's office.

They were waiting for the elevator back down when they saw bandleader Fred Waring next to them. He already had dozens of musicians, but Mr. Paul insisted he hear the trio's lightning-fast tempo -- timed to please Waring before the elevator arrived. He was hooked, and they got a job on his NBC show.

Around this time, Mr. Paul also became a consultant to the Gibson company, testing its new models. Not until a decade later, in 1952, and after a rival company developed a similar model, did Gibson see the selling potential of Mr. Paul's solid-body electric guitar. They sought his endorsement on their own design.

Meanwhile, he had disagreements with Waring about the continued use of the electric guitar. He announced he wanted to be the accompanist for Bing Crosby, one of the most popular singers in the country.

It took Mr. Paul two years to meet Crosby and worked as musical director for two Chicago radio stations before impressing the crooner during a musical date at a Los Angeles club.

Crosby arranged for a recording session at Decca records, where they made "It's Been a Long, Long Time," "Tiger Rag" and other titles that were best-sellers.

In the early 1940s, Mr. Paul worked for Armed Forced Radio Service and became a staff musician at NBC, accompanying the Andrews Sisters and other pop singers.

He jammed the blues with pianist Nat "King" Cole in Norman Granz's first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert series in 1944. Their quicksilver note-for-note matching of solos created howls of approval from the audience.

He also had musical dates worldwide, once meeting his idol, Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt.

On Crosby's advice, Mr. Paul created his own recording studio, both to help his guitar career and his interest in electronics. He began to take advantage of new, still bulky, tape-recording machine technology. Facing initial skepticism, he persuaded Ampex to market his eight-track tape recorder.

After hundreds of false starts, he began recording with these new devices in the late 1940s and can be heard on such standard and novelty numbers as "Nola," "Josephine," "Whispering" and "Meet Mister Callahan."

His version of "Lover" boasted him playing eight electric guitar parts, which he electronically wove into a single record. It was a sensation.

Married at the time, he also had been seeing Ford, whom he had hired as a singer and guitarist. Both were in the auto wreck, on an icy patch of road in Chandler, Okla., that almost killed Mr. Paul in 1948.

Mr. Paul's right arm was crushed, and one doctor suggested amputation. Instead, he had it fixed at a right angle so he could play his instrument.

The next year, Mr. Paul divorced his first wife, Virginia Webb Paul, and married Ford. The new couple settled in Mahwah, N.J., and continued to work together on a series of albums for Capitol and Columbia in the 1950s, including "The New Sound" and "Time to Dream."

The rigorous touring schedule and Ford's alcohol addiction damaged their marriage. Meanwhile the public demand for rock 'n' roll harmed their careers.

They divorced in 1964. Survivors include a companion, Arlene Palmer; two sons from his first marriage; and a son and daughter from his second marriage; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. A daughter from his second marriage died in infancy in 1954.

Mr. Paul, who had long ago made his fortune, tried to settle into retirement in the 1960s as the popularity of rock-and-roll music grew. He made occasional recordings, notably the album "Chester and Lester," for which he shared a 1976 Grammy for best country instrumental performance with Chet Atkins. Mr. Paul was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and won two more Grammys, in 2006, for his album "Les Paul & Friends: American Made, World Played."

He gradually reentered public performance, obtaining a regular date at Fat Tuesday's in New York through the 1990s. For fans and fellow musicians, including Billy Joel, catching Mr. Ford at Fat Tuesday's was a Monday-night must. He was a sprightly presence at the club, even after he developed arthritis that left him with use of only two fingers in his left hand.

"If you're stubborn, it can be done," he once told The Washington Post. "I've been playing with what fingers I have left. If they'll put up with it, I can put up with it."

Bill DeMain's 2006 interview with Les Paul:

Friday, August 7, 2009

Adml. William Fallon, USN (Ret.)

All Press Releases for August 1, 2009

Admiral William J. Fallon, U.S. Navy (Retired), Former Commander of U.S. Central Command, joins Tilwell Petroleum LLC.

Tilwell Petroleum LLC is pleased to announce that Admiral William J. Fallon, U. S. Navy (Retired), former commander of U.S. Central Command, has joined Tilwell Petroleum as a partner and advisor for the company's strategic business development program.

We are excited to have Admiral Fallon join our team at Tilwell
Mystic, CT (PRWEB) August 1, 2009 -- Tilwell Petroleum LLC is pleased to announce that Admiral William J. Fallon, U. S. Navy (Retired), former commander of U.S. Central Command, has joined Tilwell Petroleum as a partner and advisor for the company's strategic business development program.

Admiral William J. Fallon, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
"We are excited to have Admiral Fallon join our team at Tilwell," said Tony Cardwell, Managing Member of Tilwell. "Admiral Fallon's extensive experience in the Navy and his work with government and non-governmental agencies is a great addition to Tilwell as we continue to expand our customer base and support for both military and commercial applications."

Admiral Fallon spent 41 years in the U.S. Navy where his career began as a naval flight officer flying combat missions in Vietnam. Prior to becoming CENTCOM commander, he served in numerous high level positions, including Commander of U.S. Pacific Command (2005-2007), Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command and Atlantic Fleet (2003-2005), and Vice Chief of the Navy (2000-2003). Admiral Fallon, recently completed a year as a Robert E. Wilhelm Fellow at the MIT Center for International Studies, has a private consulting and advisory business and serves on several corporate and university Boards.

Admiral Fallon is a graduate of the Naval War College in Newport, RI, the National War College in Washington, D.C., Old Dominion University, and Villanova University, where he presented the commencement address to the graduating class of 2009 and received an honorary Ph. D.

About Tilwell Petroleum:
Headquartered in Mystic, Connecticut., Tilwell Petroleum LLC supplies fuels, standards, and solvents to the Aerospace and Defense Industries. The company offers the unique ability to supply customers with products in a variety of quantities to fit their specific requirements. Tilwell also prides itself on delivering a high level of service and support that its customers are finding unique within the industry. More about Tilwell Petroleum and a current product offering will be found at

Tilwell Petroleum LLC
Peter M. Tilton, Media Relations
Ph. 860-536-4777
Fax 860-536-3638


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Wait A Minute! Whose the older women?

Wait a minute!

Just when I thought this story was going to play out quietly, along comes an unexpected curve ball.

In this case two curve balls - that the women who called 911 to report a possible burglary at the residence of Professor Gates, didn't actually eyewitness the event at all, and was tipped off by another person, who so far has only been described by CNN as "an older women without a cell phone."

Of course the CNN's top notch investigative team that's on this story is hot to trot to identify and locate this so far unidentified informant, who some speculate is either a certifiable racist or covert Cuban agent.

And then,

“….Whalen said an older woman with no cell phone told her that she was worried someone was trying to break into the home, and decided to call 911…”

“…An officer responding to a report of a possible break-in at Gates' Cambridge, Massachusetts, home arrested the professor on July 16 for disorderly conduct. The charge was later dropped.

The arrest sparked a national debate about race and police relations.
Whalen said an older woman with no cell phone told her that she was worried someone was trying to break into the home, and decided to call 911.

Whalen never referred to black suspects when she called authorities about the suspected break-in.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama -- who had weighed in on the controversy, saying initially that police acted "stupidly" -- sat down for a beer at the White House with Gates and the officer who arrested him.

The meeting has been called the "beer summit..."

“…Whalen said an older woman with no cell phone told her that she was worried someone was trying to break into the home, and decided to call 911….”

"Jimmy the lock?"

Not only is there still an unidentified confidential informant on the loose, Gates himself has expressed the belief that while he was gone, someone tried to force their way into the apartment, the reason he could't get in.

Even Wiki has a yet inconclusive web page on it:

On July 16, 2009, Gates had just returned from a trip to China, where he had finished filming a new documentary series for PBS tracing the ancestry of cellist Yo-Yo Ma.[11] As the front door of his home would not open, Gates entered through his back door. He could not, however, open the front door from the inside, even after unlatching it. Gates states that the lock was damaged and speculated that someone had attempted to "jimmy" the lock while he was away. Gates went back outside and, with help from his driver, forced the door open.

Now what was strictly a potentially hot race issue, suddenly becomes a multiple mystery, that's yet to fully unravel.

More to come on this story.