March 14, 1981: Howard Rosenberg, The Times Pulitzer Prize-winning TV critic, watches Dan Rather’s debut in taking over from Walter Cronkite on the “CBS Evening News” and he is not a happy man.Art Seidenbaum and I overlapped at The Times, but I was a rookie and he was one of the senior writers at the paper, so I never introduced myself when I would see him in the hallway or (usually) smoking a cigarette somewhere. I regret that now because I enjoy reading him and he sounds quite approachable. The book he's reviewing, Bill Henderson's "His Son: A Child of the Fifties" may not be remembered now (it ranks 9.3 millionth at Amazon), but Art's insights are well worth reading.
Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
Plagued by arthritis, Les Paul acknowledges that his playing days are probably numbered, but new releases will preserve his work
November 24, 1991
By MICHAEL WALKER, Michael Walker is a free-lance writer based in New York.
NEW YORK -- Les Paul is plowing through the last of his chicken supper at Fat Tuesday's, the tiny basement jazz club in Manhattan where he has performed two shows on Monday nights for the last eight years. It's 15 minutes or so before the start of the first set, and the tables ringing the stage are already filled. As usual, the 76-year-old guitarist and inventor, whose pioneering designs for the solid-body electric guitar and multi-track recording continue to reverberate throughout the music industry, has forsaken the privacy of a dressing room, preferring to devour his pre-show dinner in full view of the fans.
Les Paul wouldn't have it any other way. Fat Tuesday's is his woodshed, the jamming haven he adopted after he resumed regular performing in 1984 as therapy for his arthritic hands. Since the club's management reluctantly agreed to let him take over the Monday night spot, the shows have apotheosized into the downtown equivalent of Bobby Short's eternal gig at the Hotel Carlyle. But where Short wears black tie, Paul performs in what looks like whatever he happened to throw on before driving in from his 29-room mansion/recording compound in Mahwah, N.J.
Paul's unassuming bearing belies his considerable stature among musicians of virtually every persuasion. Over the years he has, it seems, played with just about everyone: Art Tatum, Charlie Christian, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby (with whom he recorded "It's Been a Long, Long Time"), the Andrews Sisters, Andy Williams--even W.C. Fields. Rock guitarists from Jeff Beck to Edward Van Halen have acknowledged their debt to his studio techniques and guitar design, and the walls of Fat Tuesday's are papered with photos of Paul draping his arm around the players who drop by to pay their respects: George Benson, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton and perhaps Paul's biggest fan, Jimmy Page, who is said to travel with a framed portrait of his idol.
These are good times for Les Paul. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and received the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Trustee Award in 1982. Now, 14 years after he shared a Grammy with country guitarist Chet Atkins for their "Chester and Lester" album, a slew of Les Paul recordings is being unleashed. Capitol Records has released "Les Paul: The Legend and the Legacy," a four-CD box set culled from Paul's and his vocalist wife Mary Ford's years on the label in the '40s and '50s. (See review on Page 74.) The set will include the couple's hits, plus their radio shows, "Les Paul and Mary Ford at Home," which were broadcast on NBC (they also did 170 television shows, sponsored by Listerine, from 1953 and 1960), as well as unreleased material from Paul's personal collection.
Early next year, Columbia Records' Legacy label will release two albums of material that Paul and Ford made after leaving Capitol in the late '50s. Paul is also working on four albums of newly recorded material--one album each of rock, jazz, blues and country--featuring the guitarist soloing over songs performed by an all-star ensemble of players. "They're gonna be smokin'," Paul enthuses.
Despite his arthritis, Paul still plays with surprising deftness the fluid, echo-drenched jazz-inspired lines he made famous on hits like "How High the Moon." His guitar, as always, is a custom version of the famous Gibson solid-body electric, introduced in 1952, that bears his name. (He still receives a royalty on each one sold.) When Paul and his sideman, Lou Pallo on rhythm guitar and Gary Mazzaroppi on bass, kick into one of the old hits, the club is immersed in the thick, reverb-heavy hi-fi sound that is the guitarist's legacy and signature.
The relaxed atmosphere at the shows and Paul's genuinely easygoing demeanor--he graciously signs dozens of autographs and gamely honors requests shouted out from the audience--have attracted a group of hard-core regulars almost fanatical in their devotion. (One had the show piped into his hospital room over the telephone.)
"Nobody wanders down here on Monday just because it's Fat Tuesday's--they come to see Les Paul," says Cate Ludlam, a computer consultant who has attended the shows for the last three years. As one Japanese fan exclaimed, marveling at the Les Paul guitar that Paul autographed for him at the club one night: "This is like having the Bible signed by Jesus Christ!"
Yet Paul's Monday night gigs are somewhat bittersweet: Both he and the regulars know that his playing days are probably numbered.
"These fingers are all shot," says Paul through a mouthful of chicken, holding up his gnarled right hand. "They just don't move. This hand's the same way. He moves there," he adds, wiggling a finger, "but he don't move there."
Paul's pluck in the face of his disability seems to inspire the Fat Tuesday's regulars as much as his playing. "I've seen him here in the winter when his fingers looked like sausages," winces Ludlam.
Working around his maladies is nothing new: A 1948 automobile accident in Oklahoma so mangled Paul's right arm that he instructed the doctors to set it at a right angle so he could continue playing. Since 1980, he has undergone quintuple bypass surgery and several operations for Meniere's syndrome, a vertigo-inducing ear disorder. "There's a way out of everything," Paul says in his soft, gravelly voice. "You just have to have the determination and will to go in there and fight."
His frail health aside, Paul's career is at its most robust in years--or, as he puts, "I'm just gettin' started." Like the roots-mania that has pervaded jazz under the aegis of Wynton Marsalis, Paul's legacy to rock 'n' roll has benefited from his rediscovery by the likes of Van Halen and other rockers who had known him, if at all, through the Les Paul guitar. And his nascent renaissance is a far cry from 1965 when, the hits behind him and Ford and unable to make the transition from pop to rock, Paul hung up his guitar and retired from performing. (He and Ford, who died in 1977, divorced the year before.)
"The late '50s and early '60s was a critical time for Sinatra, (Benny) Goodman, Les Paul and Mary Ford--whomever," explains Paul. "Everybody was in trouble, because they've got the devils on their back, and the Beatles and so forth. The record companies approached us and said, 'We want you to change your style.' Mary, who disliked rock, didn't feel as though she should change. We tried one or two things, but it didn't fit. We felt very uncomfortable trying to be somebody other than we were."
Yet even if Paul had never played another note, his place in the musical pantheon would have been assured from his inventions, many of which he never patented. ("I was too busy playing," he shrugs.)
Perhaps most crucial was his work with so-called sound-on-sound recording, or overdubbing, which he used to layer Ford's vocals into shimmering harmonic choruses and his guitar into dense, multiple voicings. "Nobody had done that before," says Brad Tolinski, editor of Guitar World magazine. "In that sense, Les Paul is the father of modern recordings."
Paul's relentless tinkering throughout the postwar years brought forth several seminal innovations. He designed the first eight-track recording machine (the original, which stretches to the ceiling of his home studio, was used to remix some songs on the Capitol box set); perfected slap-back echo; recorded his guitar on a machine running slowly, then speeded up the tape to raise its tone several octaves. Bucking the then conventional wisdom that singers should stand no closer than 2 feet from the microphone, he introduced the now-standard technique of positioning the vocalist inches from the mike, which captured every rasp and sigh of Mary Ford's smoky voice. While encased in a body cast after his 1948 car accident, he designed what would have been the first musical synthesizer. "I had the schematics drawn up--it would have been as big as your refrigerator," laughs Paul, who let the project go after his recovery.
Then there was the Log, the solid-body electric guitar he cobbled together in 1941. Unhappy with the tone and feedback problems of hollow-body electrics, Paul mounted two pickups on a 4x4 block of maple and attached to it the wings from an Epiphone guitar he had sawed in half. When he pitched it to M.H. Berlin, president of Chicago Musical Instruments, the parent company of Gibson guitars, Berlin dismissed it as "a broomstick with pickups." In the early '50s, after Leo Fender had scored with his solid-body Telecaster guitar, Berlin reconsidered. "He said, find that guy with the broomstick with pickups and sign him up,' " Paul says.
The Log led indirectly to the elegant Les Paul model, which, in various guises, has been Gibson's crown jewel for most of the guitar's 30-some years of production. (Some vintage 1958-60 models, with two humbucking pickups and gorgeous flame-maple tops, command more than $30,000 on the rare-guitar market.) Renowned for its fat, round tone and ability to sustain notes, the Les Paul became the natural choice for rock players when the genre shifted into heavier playing in the late '60s. Jimmy Page used a Les Paul extensively on the second Led Zeppelin album, and Peter Frampton flashed one from the cover of his zillion-selling 1976 live album. Though the Les Paul was overtaken during the '80s by the rival Fender Stratocaster and its clones, its use by Guns N' Roses lead guitarist Slash and other third-generation rockers has returned it to prominence.
"Culturally, my God, what a contribution," says Guitar World's Tolinski. "Almost any hard-rock record features it in some way. People say, 'Get me that Les Paul sound,' and you know exactly what they're talking about."
Paul has been dreaming up music-related contraptions since his childhood in Waukesha, Wis., where he was born Lester William Polsfuss on June 9, 1915. By the time he was 7, he was punching extra holes in his mother's player piano rolls to alter the sound. After a ditchdigger gave him a harmonica that Paul had been ogling ("My mother boiled and boiled it"), he began performing around town, later adding the banjo and then the guitar to his act. He fashioned a harmonica rack from a clothes hanger, his first invention, so that he could play two instruments at once. Soon he was amplifying the sound of his mail-order acoustic guitar with a phonograph needle connected to a radio speaker and had assembled a crude recording device using a Cadillac flywheel.
"I was just curious," Paul explains. "My brother would just throw the light switch and was never curious to find out what made the light light. Well, as soon as my mother left the house, I had a screwdriver and the plates off and I'm gonna find out, if I get knocked on my ass, I'm gonna know that there's 110 volts there, whether it's alternating or direct current. I'm gonna know what's happening."
Paul dropped out of high school and ended up in Chicago, performing with a cowboy outfit under the name Rhubarb Red (he still tosses a few country groaners, like "Haul Off and Love Me Like You Should," into his Fat Tuesday's sets). At the age of 19 he was performing nationally on NBC radio. Tiring of country music, he immersed himself in Chicago's burgeoning jazz scene, and left for New York with his first Les Paul Trio in 1937, which performed on orchestra leader Fred Waring's national radio show.
In 1943 he moved to Los Angeles, where Bing Crosby, impressed with his playing, got him a contract with Decca Records and later tapped him to play on "It's Been a Long, Long Time." With Crosby's encouragement, Paul soundproofed the garage of his Hollywood bungalow in 1945 and turned it into a studio, where he recorded the Andrews Sisters, Kay Starr and other luminaries while developing his recording inventions in earnest.
It was there that Paul perfected the multi-tracked "New Sound" heard on his instrumental hits "Lover" and "Brazil," released by Capitol in 1948, and also where he met a country vocalist named Iris Colleen Summers, who later changed her name to Mary Ford and joined Paul as the partner on his biggest hits. (They married in Milwaukee in 1949.)
Les Paul and Mary Ford were all over radio and television throughout the '50s, with hits like "How High the Moon," "Via Con Dios" and "Hummingbird." Though much of their work now sounds dated, Paul's recording techniques were nevertheless far ahead of the industry's standard. "If it weren't for him, the whole electric guitar and recording industry wouldn't be happening, y'know, wouldn't have moved out of that earlier era," Jimmy Page has said. "Those experiments of his with recording techniques paved the way for people like the Beatles with their innovations."
These days, Paul is happily immersed in his new projects--including the refurbishment of his home studios with the latest equipment. Curators at the Smithsonian have let it be known they want his inventions and prototype guitars when he's ready to let them go (not yet, was his answer), there's his long-promised autobiography to be written, and he's been sorting through his and Mary's TV shows for a home-video release. But his first love remains performing the Monday night shows.
"I wouldn't dare miss a night at Fat Tuesday's," he says at the club after a blazing first set. "I like it too much. I never enjoyed playing as much as I do down here."
As well-wishers swarm around Paul at the bar, a visitor reflects on a story Paul had related earlier. Back in Waukesha, before he went to bed, the young Paul would tie a string around his big toe and dangle the rest out his second-story bedroom window. His neighborhood cronies had instructions to give the string a yank in the event an "emergency" required his attendance. One Sunday morning, when he was 9, Paul was wakened by a furious tugging on the string--one of his friends, it turned out, had seen a guitar player 90 miles away in Chicago. It was the beginning of a lifelong love affair, with the road, the romance of music and especially the guitar.
"When he pulled that string," says Les Paul, "the whole world changed for me."
|Above, the dust jacket of Lawrence Lipton's "Holy Barbarians" that's in pretty good shape. Obviously owned by a square. |
June 28, 1959: Lawrence Lipton uses a review of "The Beat Generation and the Angry Young Men," by Gene Feldman and Max Gartenberg to explore bohemian life of the 1950s.
The reading list at the Daily Mirror HQ is long and quirky: "Never So Few" and "Go Naked Into the World" by Tom T. Chamales, "Muscatel at Noon" by Matt Weinstock and EBay's latest contribution to my shelf of books by W.W. Robinson. Then there's the desiderata, like "The Bridal Night of Ronald and Thusnelda."
What jumped to the top of the list is Lawrence Lipton's "Holy Barbarians," a 1959 chronicle of the Beats in Venice, which I encountered somewhere in the clips, possibly a Weinstock column, although I can't find it now.
The book showed up in the mail a few days ago courtesy of EBay, so I've been playing Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and some Coltrane all weekend to create the right mood while I read it. To do the job right, I suppose I should have a set of bongo drums somewhere, hang netting and sea shells on the walls and fill the place with stale marijuana smoke, but I'm not that much of a stickler for authenticity.
The former husband of mystery novelist Craig Rice, Lipton was born in 1898, so he was about 60 when he wrote the book, roughly the twice the age of the beatniks who considered him an elder statesman of their disaffiliated generation.
Lipton was the Boswell of these Beats, capturing their lives in exquisite and often excruciating detail. It's fair to say that the book wasn't written as much as it was tape-recorded. Many conversations, some of them quite long, are merely transcribed from tapes Lipton made of his friends.
Behold, actual hipster talk (Page 102):
"It isn't art or intellectualism, it isn't genius that's got me hooked. It's the life. Do you have any idea what it's like out there? Sure, it isn't Main Street any more. Sinclair Lewis' Gopher Prairie is a thing of the past. So is Zenith City, for that matter.Squareville is modern now. It's got network television and Life magazine culture. You can tune in the Metropolitan opera on the radio. You can stay out late and come home drunk once in a while without being hounded out of town. You can play around a little, if you're discreet about it, without too much talk. The drugstores carry paperback editions of Plato and Lin Yutang.Notice that there isn't a single "daddy-o." In fact, there isn't one in the entire book. If you think James Ellroy's novels are written in authentic hipster talk, you'll be shocked that their speech is so ordinary -- though they do ramble.
"But the tension! Wages go up three cents and coffee goes up ten. So they pipe sweet Muzak into the supermarkets and you go around in a daze loading up that cute little chromium-plated cart without looking at the price tags. And let most of it rot in the refrigerator before you get to it. Last year's car is out of style before you finish paying for the tail fins. It's a rat race. Who's got time to laze around in the sand for an hour, or take a quiet walk by the ocean in the evening, or watch a sunset?
"Here I can get away from it for a while, at least evenings and weekends. I can do without things. God! do you know what a relief that is? Not to have to keep up with anybody. Nobody to show off for. The people at the office, they don't even know where I live. I tell them I live in Santa Monica. That's close enough, and it sounds respectable. It's got the same telephone exchange as Venice, so nobody suspects anything.
"This is the one place I've ever lived where you can take your skin off and sit around in your bare bones, if you want to. Only the rich, surrounded by acres of land and iron fences, can enjoy anything like that kind of privacy. That's what I mean by being hip. And staying cool."
Barbara Lane is part time square and part time hipster, but her heart is in Venice West. "In town, at the office, I work. Here I live," she will tell you. "It's like having one foot on each side of the tracks. But that's the only way I can make it."
I have more to say about "Holy Barbarians," but I'm only halfway through it. You might want to read along. The book is available for free from archive.org in pdf and plain text format.
Is it worth reading? Consider these gems:
Page 20: By which I meant, I suppose, pretty much the same thing that [Kenneth] Rexroth meant when he wrote, apropos of Bird and Dylan, "Against the ruin of the world, there is only one defense -- the creative act."
Page 103: Like Jack Kerouac says in On the Road, "Mexico is a whole nation of hipsters!"
Comments? Send them along.
||I'm sorry to note that one of my favorite downtown blogs, "View From a Loft," is going to be mothballed. Through "Loft," graphic artist Ed Fuentes explored downtown Los Angeles as only a resident can.
HELLO, I MUST BE GOING: Despite an ongoing effort from a strong social and professional network of supporters, the loft is no longer home. Technically, I have the end of the month to catch up and retain what has been my residence for ten years (and workplace for a bulk of those ten years), but for now every possible solution has been exhausted.
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Big Scream TV
Today is the 30th Anniversary of 'The Heidi Game', a Landmark Moment in Television Sports History
TIMES STAFF WRITER
17 November 1998
Los Angeles Times
She was only 10 years old, a cute little first-time actress starring in a made-for-television adaptation of a classic children's story about an orphan living with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps.
But when Jennifer Edwards appeared on television screens 30 years ago tonight, she was unwittingly transformed into an object of scorn by many football fans.
As the title character in "Heidi," she was caught in the cross-fire between a bumbling TV network and infuriated fans and became forever linked with the most infamous gaffe in TV sports history.
"Like it was my fault," she says today, a 40-year-old mother of two (and grandmother of one) looking back with amusement and amazement at the riotous episode that remains to this day the quintessential TV sports blunder.
"Heidi" secured its place in history when NBC, the network that developed the Johanna Spyri-penned tale into a two-hour movie, put it on as scheduled at 7 p.m. in the East, inciting a thunderous backlash by cutting away without warning from the deciding final 50 seconds of a frantic 43-32 comeback victory by the Oakland Raiders over the New York Jets.
"The Heidi Game," as it came to be known, was a watershed moment in TV sports because it signaled to all the networks the new elevated status of sports on television. And the game's stature only continues to grow; last year, "the Heidi Game" was voted the most memorable regular-season contest in NFL history--never mind that it was an AFL game.
The venomous reaction to the network's switch to "Heidi" was so instantaneous that NBC's switchboard couldn't handle the calls. According to legend, its fuse was replaced 26 times.
As syndicated columnist Art Buchwald later wrote, "Men who wouldn't get out of their chairs during an earthquake rushed to the phones to scream obscenities."
NBC President Julian Goodman issued a public apology.
The New York Times ran a front-page story.
A network edict was born: Never preempt an exciting game by switching to regularly scheduled programming.
CBS News poked fun at the situation by jokingly "revealing" the last minute of "Heidi": She married the goat keeper and lived happily ever after.
Sports columnists across America weighed in, many vilifying the young orphan.
A less vocal minority, however, defended NBC's decision.
Living in England at the time, Edwards was unaware of the situation until she read all about it after a Hollywood publicist sent her the press clippings and letters.
"The uproar was so tremendous that I remember getting huge stuffed Manila envelopes of fan mail and hate mail at the same time," says Edwards, the daughter of producer-director Blake Edwards and stepdaughter of singer-actress Julie Andrews. "It was quite extraordinary. . . .
"But it was bizarre in the sense that you were either loved or hated. I remember clippings from newspapers calling me things like, 'The little brat in white stockings.' Like I had something to do with it. And I couldn't quite fathom that. I couldn't quite understand why I was being personally attacked."
Who was at fault?
Nobody ever took the blame.
Dick Cline, whose job as NBC's broadcast operations control supervisor was to make sure the network got the right show on the air at the right time, says he was only following orders that had been handed down to him days earlier in a meeting of NBC department heads:
Leave the game and go to "Heidi" at 7 p.m.
It seemed logical. Timex had bought the advertising time for "Heidi," and the movie was touted by the New York Times as the best program on TV that day.
"I didn't do anything wrong," says Cline, who still works NFL games as a director on CBS telecasts. "I'm not guilty. I did what I was supposed to do. Joe Namath & Co. didn't get the game over in time, so I went to 'Heidi.' "
Unbeknown to Cline, Goodman, NBC's president, had given the order a few minutes before 7 to stay with the game, but the message never got through to Cline in New York.
That's because all phone lines within a six-block radius of NBC headquarters had gone dead when a telephone exchange had gone out. It was later theorized that the circuits were overloaded by scores of fans calling the network to demand that the game stay on past the top of the hour, and scores of mothers insisting that "Heidi" come on as scheduled.
The game had been a classic AFL shootout, with the Jets' Namath and the Raiders' Daryle Lamonica throwing 71 passes for 692 yards.
There were six lead changes and ties through the first 59 minutes, the Jets taking a 32-29 lead on Jim Turner's fourth field goal, a 26-yarder, with 65 seconds to play.
The Raiders returned the kickoff to their 22-yard line.
Lamonica connected with halfback Charlie Smith on a 20-yard pass play, and a facemask penalty put the ball on the Jet 43-yard line.
Cut to commercial, followed by station identification.
And then . . . "Heidi."
All of NBC's affiliates east of Denver cut to the film.
While the Raiders mounted their comeback in the Oakland Coliseum, fans who had been watching the game saw a little girl in pigtails making her way to her grandfather's house.
When the phone lines came back up, calls flooded the NBC switchboard. Some who couldn't get through called the New York Police Department, tying up what was described as "the most elaborate emergency call system in the world" for several hours. Others called the New York Telephone Co. and the New York Times.
Back in Oakland, Lamonica hooked up again with Smith, this time on a 43-yard touchdown pass that put the Raiders ahead, 36-32, with 42 seconds to play.
Namath had time to rally the Jets but never got the chance.
Teammate Earl Christy fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Raiders' Preston Ridlehuber recovered the ball at the two-yard line and dived into the end zone.
The Raiders had scored twice in nine seconds and pulled out a heart-stopping victory.
About 80 minutes after the game, NBC tried to ease the situation by running crawlers across the bottom of the screen giving the final result.
But it blew that too.
One was flashed as Heidi's paralytic cousin, Klara, summoned the courage to try to walk.
"When it comes to doing the wrong thing at the wrong time," wrote the New York Times, "NBC should receive a headless Emmy for last night's fiasco."
Even those viewers lucky enough to see the end of the game were short-changed--NBC came back from a commercial after Smith's 43-yard touchdown.
Many viewers didn't learn the score until long afterward.
About an hour after the game, Jet Coach Weeb Ewbank phoned his wife in New York.
"Congratulations," she said.
"For what?" he asked.
"On winning," she said.
"We lost," he told her.
Ninety minutes after the game, NBC's Goodman issued an apology to football fans: "It was a forgivable error committed by humans who were concerned about the children who were expecting to see 'Heidi.' I missed the end of the game as much as anyone else."
The headline in the New York Daily News the next day summed it up: "Jets 32, Raiders 29, Heidi 14."
The NFL inserted language into its TV contracts guaranteeing that, in the future, games of visiting teams would be shown to their home markets in their entirety.
Cline was stunned.
"I was surprised to see it in the New York Times the next day," he says. "And I was surprised to hear [NBC news anchor] David Brinkley report on it, calling me 'the faceless button-pusher in the bowels of NBC.' I took exception to that. I wasn't a button-pusher."
So why didn't he do the logical thing and stay with the game?
"If I had done what was logical, I would have been fired the next day," he says.
Instead, he adds, he was promoted about a month later.
Namath and the Jets didn't lose again that season, defeating the Raiders, 27-23, in a rematch for the AFL championship at New York before shocking the football world with their 16-7 victory over the NFL champion Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
Edwards, who lives in Brentwood with her husband Mark Schneider and their 5-year-old daughter, Hannah, is dumbfounded that "the Heidi Game" is still remembered.
"What's fascinating to me is that, to this day, even young men in their 30s remember being kids and seeing their fathers throwing things at the TV set," she says. "It's really amazing. . . .
"I remember being at my friend Howie Mandel's house 10 years ago for a pool party and him running out of his guest house and saying, 'You're on TV. You're a great moment in sports.' "
Many years ago, the actress says, the producers of "The Love Boat" television series talked about putting together an episode starring Edwards and Namath and spoofing the "Heidi Game."
Edwards has continued to work as an actress, appearing in about 15 feature films and numerous television shows. She recently completed filming on an episode of "The Nanny" and a TV movie starring Burt Reynolds.
Her biggest role?
"Probably 'Heidi,' " she says. "In the sense that it's the one thing that people seem to associate with me and because of its impact."
She says she is still asked about it frequently.
"In fact," she says, "fairly recently somebody mentioned it and a fairly young up-and-coming actor said, 'Oh, my God. That was you?' And I was surprised that he knew about it because he was probably only about 30. He said he remembered his father and his grandfather talking about it."
Edwards, though, still doesn't understand how anybody could get so worked up over a game.
"That's the thing that kind of blows my mind," she says. "I live with a devout Laker fan and I know for a fact that if anything like that happened during a Laker game, our television sets would be hurled from the nearest window--and not being involved in sports myself, that's an unusual emotion for me to understand.
"But, then again, if you did it to 'ER,' I would probably have the same reaction."
Hank Williams' obituary in The Times, Jan. 2, 1953
|October 28, 2008
By Robert Hilburn
More than a half century after his death, Hank Williams remains so revered as a songwriter that his gifts as a singer are often underappreciated. But one of the strengths of "The Unreleased Recordings," a remarkable new CD boxed set released today, is the way it showcases the brilliance of his vocal skills.
Besides his singing prowess, the three-disc package, which features 54 radio show performances, also underscores Williams' musical influences, including his affinity for gospel songs and his playful personality
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Oct. 29, 1957
You may remember my post on Elvis Presley's concerts at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, based on contemporary reviews by those two keen observers of popular culture: Wally George and Hedda Hopper.
I'm sorry to say I did a very poor job of capturing what actually happened and I've been too pressed for time until now to set the record straight.
In fact, Presley put on a graphic, controversial show. The performance was so raunchy that the LAPD vice squad filmed Presley's second concert for possible legal action. I'll never be able to look at the RCA dog in the same way after reading what Presley did with a statue of the company's emblem. Poor Nipper!
Here's Dick Williams' review from the Mirror, which touched off an incredible controversy and caused Presley to curb his performance. "That's the worst he's ever been," socialite Judy Spreckles sobbed after his more conservative show.
Sexhibitionist Elvis Presley has come at last in person to a visibly palpitating, adolescent female Los Angeles to give all the little girls' libidos the jolt of their lives.
Six thousand kids, predominantly feminine by a ratio of 10 to 1, jammed Pan-Pacific Auditorium to the rafters last night. They screamed their lungs out without letup as Elvis shook, bumped and did the grinds from one end of the stage to the other until he was a quivering heap on the floor 35 minutes later.
With anyone else, the police would have closed the show 10 minutes after it started. But not Elvis, our new national teenage hero.
If any further proof were needed that what Elvis offers is not basically music but a sex show, it was provided last night. Pandemonium took over from the time he swaggered triumphantly on stage like some ancient Caesar, resplendent in gold lame tux jacket with rhinestone lapels, until he weaved off at the end of his stint.
It was almost impossible to hear the music despite a turned-up public address system. A cloud of thumping drums, whining guitars and Elvis' hoarse shouts rose like some lascivious steaming brew from the bare stage (except for a banner plugging his next picture, "Jailhouse Rock") and filled the auditorium.
The only way I knew what Elvis was singing was by asking the youths sitting next to me. They somehow recognized every number. It started with "Heartbreak Hotel" and wound its way through all his popular record hits from "Hound Dog" to "Don't Be Cruel." There is but scant difference in any of them. Only the wild abandon varies.
Hundreds of little girls brought their flash cameras although what they expected to get sitting far back in this vast barn of a place I don't know. Constantly, amidst the high, sustained screaming, the thumping, clapping and wild shouts, innumerable flashes kept going off so that the darkness was intermittently lit as if by lightning.
The whole panorama, from the frenzy on stage to the far reaches of the jammed bleachers which seemed a mile back at the rear, looked like one of those screeching, uninhibited party rallies which the Nazis used to hold for Hitler.
Scores of police circled the auditorium and at the slightest hint of trouble plunged in ominous pairs up the aisles toward the offenders. There have been too many Elvis "concerts" which ended in riots in the past to risk any trouble.
Elvis worked with two guitarists, a drummer and a pianist plus the Jordinaires, a quartet of young harmonists who were lost in the hubbub.
He attempted almost no talking after his initial muttered, "Friends, I want to introduce yuh to the members of muh gang." Most of the time he was weaving over the stage like a horse with the blind staggers.
He wiggled, bounced, shook and ground in the style which stripteasers of the opposite sex have been using at stag shows since grandpa was a boy.
He used frequent contrived sensual gestures such as constantly hitching up his pants, fooling with his belt buckle and yanking down his coat to elicit further wild screams from his audience.
He played up to the mike stand like it was a girl in a gesture which is expressly forbidden by the police department in every burlesque show in Los Angeles County.
The wilder Elvis got in his pelvic gyrations, the more frenzied his audience became. Inevitably, he announced midway, sweat pouring down his face, that he was "all shook up."
The madness reached its peak at the finish with "Hound Dog." Elvis writhed in complete abandon, hair hanging down over his face. He got down on the floor with a huge replica of the RCA singing dog and made love to it as if it were a girl. Slowly, he rolled over and over on the floor.
The little brunette of maybe 15 sitting in front of me bent her head and covered her eyes, whether with embarrassment, fright, sickness or excitement, I know not.
I do know this is corruption of the innocent on a scale such as I have never witnessed before. For these are children to whom Elvis appeals, preconditioned, curious adolescents, who are artificially and unhealthfully stimulated. Their reactions would shock many a parent if he or she could see this display. They are not adults who can take his crudities and laugh or shrug them off.
The boy next to me, bent forward on his seat taking it all in, turned briefly to me between numbers. "He's great," he enthused. "He's simply great, isn't he?"
The same lesson in pornography will be repeated tonight, barring an interruption by the Police Department, which is unlikely, in view of the fact that they might have a riot on their hands.
Oct. 29, 1957
So when Elvis Presley performed his first live concert in Los Angeles at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, The Times carried two reviews, perhaps sensing a pivotal moment in American pop music.
Then again, maybe not. One review was by Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, by then (Lord help me) 67 years old and accustomed to dealing with pliant movie stars hungry for good press.* The other review was by (Lord help me) George Walter Pearch, a.k.a. Wally George, 25, whose column, titled "Strictly off the Record" and then "Court of Records," appeared in The Times from 1957 to 1961 and heavily favored 1940s big band music.
The Times clips from the 1950s are a feast of Elvis trivia (What famous movie star was booted off the university track team because he refused to trim his Elvis-like sideburns? What famous Presley movie was briefly titled "Treat Me Nice"?).
The 1957 stories are especially illuminating as to how unaware people were that Presley's career was merely beginning. He was compared to faded singers like Frankie Laine and frequently came out second best to singers promoted as his rivals: Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson.
But all those citations (including ads, news stories and TV listings, Presley's name appeared in the paper 163 times in 1956 and 286 times in 1957, according to Proquest) are far beyond the limits of this blog. So I'll stick to the concert.
Unfortunately, The Times apparently didn't send a photographer, so we have no pictures of what went on.
Before the performance, Presley conducted a news conference before a fairly hostile group of reporters in a back room of the Pan-Pacific. He was wearing a black shirt, gold evening jacket and a rhinestone belt, according to George.
Hopper and George noted that Presley was polite. Hopper called him "young, likable, wanting to please."
"He was a pleasant, mild-mannered person who might have been any other 22-year-old young man," George wrote. "He was quiet, polite, somewhat shy and made sure to sprinkle in plenty of 'sirs' when he answered newsmen."
Here's the Q&A, reconstructed from George's articles:
A: "I don't sing. I yell."
Q: Do you intend to change your presentation due to national criticism?
A: "I can't. It's all I can do."
Q: When will you write more songs?
A: "That's all a hoax. I can't even read music."
Q: "What's your emotional power over women?" (Asked by a female reporter).
A: "Gosh..." replied Elvis, whispering something inaudible into a mike provided for the occasion.
"Read this!" snapped another reporter, shoving a magazine article into
Elvis' hands. It was an article written supposedly by Frank Sinatra
attacking the institution of rock 'n' roll music.
A: "I admire the man, he has a right to his own opinions," carefully replied the blackshirted Elvis.
Q: "That's all you have to say?"
A: "You can't knock success."
Q: Are you considering marriage?
A: No, he's enjoying playing the field too much.
Q: How long do you intend to wear your 2-inch sideburns?
A: Until Uncle Sam makes him shave them off, perhaps soon. He's 1-A.
Q: How much money are you making?
A: Over $1 million a year, he's not sure of the exact figures.
Q: What do you think of rock 'n' roll?
A: "It's the greatest ever, mainly because it's all I can do!"
For the statisticians among the Daily Mirror readers, Presley performed for 50 minutes and sang 18 "of his biggest hits," including "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Jailhouse Rock." The audience was estimated at 9,000.
Unfortunately, not a note could be heard because of the shrieking audience, according to Hopper as well as George, who also blamed a "frightfully poor audio system."
"The screams came in a sort of rhythm like a great storm at sea so you couldn't hear a word he was singing," Hopper wrote.
"It wasn't an audience of just kids; whole families were there, nice people. Dozens of policemen surrounded the stage but turned their backs on Elvis to watch the audience and see that no one moved. They were told if they got up or walked down the aisle toward Elvis the show would be over."
"He smiled and the crowd screamed," George wrote. "He nodded his head and they made as if to overrun the stage. The musical group behind him struck a chord and Elvis opened his mouth as if to sing--nothing was heard."
"Elvis rolled over and over on the floor, still clutching the mike," Hopper said. "but his performance isn't sickness. He knew what he was doing.... You felt he was mentally saying to himself: 'Do you know an easier way of making a million a year?' "
She added: "In former days police would have been looking at the performance [instead of watching the crowd]. I've seen performers dragged off to jail for less."
And after it was all said and done, it sounds as if Hopper and George may have warmed to Presley:
Hopper wrote: "Elvis' audience got the emotional workout of their lives and screamed their undying love for the greatest phenomenon I've seen in this century."
After coming to Presley's defense against enraged critics, George said: "Well, we don't particularly like his style either. But after observing him closely at a press conference we feel that, as a person, he's not too bad a kid."
I would like to salute the first Elvis impersonator apparently recorded in The Times: A student dressed up like Elvis caused a riot at Corona High School on March 6, 1957, during the school's weekly assembly. Students began shrieking "We want Elvis!" The Times said, forcing Dean of Boys Wayne Taylor to recruit every male teacher to quiet the crowd.
The student's name? Tony Colosimo. Wherever you are, Tony, here's to you!
*California death records list her date of birth as June 2, 1890.
You're wondering about those trivia questions. Surely there are Elvis fans out there who know the answers.