Monthly Archives: October 2009

Song: “Monster Mash”

Pickett performs his big hit outside the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Uploaded by daylife.com.

It was the biggest hit ever for Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Cryptkickers. Okay, it was their only hit. “Monster Mash” was released back in the days when new dances were introduced by songs (think “The Twist” and “Mashed Potato”), and this one is about a Frankenstein-type monster rising and introducing a new hit dance.

Uploaded by ipt.ru.

Bobby Pickett was an aspiring actor who sang with a band called the Cordials at night. He sometimes used his Boris Karloff impression during the act, and a fellow band member suggested they write a song for Bobby “Boris.” A new dance? Why not? And “Monster Mash” was, uh, born.

The song became a number one hit just before Halloween in 1962, and “comes back to life” every October since. It’s actually been re-released and made the charts three other times, oddly enough not in October, but in December (’62), August (’70), and May (’72).

The song was essentially Pickett’s whole career. He tried to capitalize on the rap craze by releasing “Monster Rap” in 1985. And most desperate (and strange) of all, he did a version to combat “global warming” in 2005 called “Climate Mash.”

Oh, one interesting bit of trivia – one of the “members” of the Cryptkickers went on to make a name for himself in the music world – Leon Russell.

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Actor: James Garner

Handsome, self-assured, and cool, that's James Garner. Uploaded by images.digitalmedianet.com.

This is one cool dude. From his earliest days as Maverick, through the halcyon era of The Rockford Files, into mature roles in movies such as Space Cowboys, James Garner is quintessentially cool.

The words used to describe Garner pretty much tell the tale. “Charming.” “Amiable.” “Self-possessed.” “Likable.” He tended to be featured as a rogue on the verge of trouble who had to find his way out by using wit and charm.

While his television roles will probably be what people remember most, Garner also made a number of significant and success films. He co-starred with Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, with Julie Andrews in The Americanization of Emily and Victor/Victoria, and with Walter Brennan in Support Your Local Sheriff!

Uploaded by moviegnome.com.

But my favorite James Garner movie was the sweet Murphy’s Romance. He owned a pharmacy in a small town, and along came Sally Field, trying desperately to make it as a single mother. The development of their relationship is a lovely bit of storytelling, and no one could have made it as real as did James Garner. He was nominated for an Academy Award for the role, and he won an Emmy for Rockford.

Here’s how James Garner described his acting style: “I’m a Spencer Tracy-type actor. His idea was to be on time, know your words, hit your marks and tell the truth. I don’t think acting is that difficult if you can put yourself aside and do what the writer wrote.”

This is my favorite scene from Murphy’s Romance, in which Garner offers a toast at his birthday party:

Sports: Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron is Major League Baseball’s legitimate all-time leader in home runs. Of course I say “legitimate” because he has since been passed by Barry Bonds, who took advantage of baseball’s passive acceptance of steroids to…but wait, I don’t want to get distracted from the achievements of Aaron.

Aaron never really had the spotlight that his remarkable career deserved. All he did was play baseball the way it was meant to be played for 23 seasons. While he played he was overshadowed by flashier stars such as Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. When he finally found the spotlight near the end of his playing days, he was reviled for having the nerve to break the career home run record set by baseball’s greatest icon, Babe Ruth (Great American Thing No. 117).

Though he dealt with physical intimidation and death threats, Aaron endured with grace and dignity. Now we can look back and see both his accomplishments and his character in a fresh light.

He not only held the record for the most home runs, but probably more significantly, still has the most RBIs in history. He hit more than 30 home runs for 15 seasons. He has the most extra base hits ever. He’s in the Hall of Fame, of course. But here’s an interesting factoid – of his 755 home runs, 70 came off of pitchers who are fellow Hall of Famers. Tell that to today’s stars who are hitting against essentially minor league pitchers in the big leagues because of the dilution of talent.

Aaron is the last Negro League player to move to the Majors, having played one season for the Indianapolis Clowns. Following that year, he was offered contracts by the New York Giants and the Boston Braves. He later said, “I had the Giants’ contract in my hand. But the Braves offered fifty dollars a month more. That’s the only thing that kept Willie Mays and me from being teammates — fifty dollars.”

Travel: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Fiery lava cascades into the Pacific Ocean. Uploaded by ballslist.com.

You’ll find Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii, home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes (Kilauea) and its most massive one (Mauna Loa). The Park spreads out over 520 sq. mi. of land, and goes from sea level all the way up to the rim of Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet.

The Park offers vistas unavailable anywhere else in the country. You can see flaming lava break off a cliff and fall into the Pacific Ocean. You can walk right up to slow moving floes of lava. You can – well, shoot, let’s see if these pictures don’t say all that needs to be said about this otherworldly location:

Uploaded by hugewallpaper.com.

Uploaded by vacationtravelclub.com.

Uploaded to Flickr by Madison 76

Uploaded by campingtourist.com.

Uploaded by LivingWilderness.com.

Uploaded by rainforestandreef.org.

Song: “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

Remember when that mustache was cool? And that hair? Uploaded by pladevenderne.dk.

Paul Simon wrote it. Art Garfunkel sang it. And America loved it. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” won the Grammy Awards for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1971. And Rolling Stone named it number 47 in its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

But, coming as it did near the end of Simon and Garfunkel’s partnership, it didn’t come into being without some travail. Although Simon wrote it for Garfunkel’s voice, he has stated that he wishes he’d sung it himself. “He felt I should have done it,” Simon told Rolling Stone in 1972. “And many times I’m sorry I didn’t do it.”

It was their last album together. Uploaded by images.amazon.com.

Since the recording industry organization BMI named it the 19th-most-performed song of the twentieth century, it should come as no surprise that several excellent covers have been recorded. Aretha Franklin won a Grammy for Best Female R&B Performance for her 1972 version. Johnny Cash (Great American Thing No. 59) and The Jackson 5 recorded it.

And perhaps those who know that Elvis (Great American Thing No. 121) sang a lot of gospel music might have expected his outstanding version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” He recorded it in 1970 and performed it in two documentaries: Elvis – That’s the Way It Is and Elvis on Tour.

By the way, when Simon and Garfunkel sing the song now during their regular reunion concerts, they alternate singing the verses. “Your time has come to shine…”

Person: Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. Uploaded by thedryspot.files.wordpress.com.

What was it about Paul Harvey that catapulted him to the top of his profession? Was it the interesting mix of stories he chose, alternating between the serious and the quirky? Or was it his distinctive style and dramatic delivery, evident from his opening: “Hello, America, this is Paul Harvey. Stand by for news!

Uploaded by wgngold.com.

His broadcasts ranged from the intimate (“Harold and Joan Pershing in Sausalito, California are 75 years on their way to forever together”) to the whimsical (“You say a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, let’s see about that. You give me a thousand words, and I’ll give you the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd psalm, and the Hippocratic oath and a sonnet by Shakespeare and the preamble to the Constitution and Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, and I’ll still have just about enough words left for the Boy Scout oath.”).

Another of Paul Harvey’s signatures was his “The Rest of the Story” broadcast. He’d tell a remarkable story about someone famous, using a name we’re not as familiar with (for example “Tommy” might turn out to be Thomas Edison), and after revealing the identity of the subject, he’d conclude with, “And now you know…the…rest of the story.”

Paul called his wife “Angel”, both in person and on the air. The “rest of the story” about Angel was that she was very influential in her husband’s career. She produced his show, and indeed was the first producer inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. “The Rest of the Story” feature was her idea, and she was always Paul’s inspiration.

Paul Harvey was consistently listed in the Gallup Poll’s list of Most Admired Men. In 2005, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.

Paul Harvey…Good day!

Food: Banana Splits

It wouldn't be easy to eat this all by yourself. Not easy, but worth it. Uploaded by micuisine.com.

It wouldn't be easy to eat this all by yourself. Not easy, but worth it. Uploaded by micuisine.com.

For a small town (2000 population: 7,634), Latrobe, Pennsylvania has a lot to brag about. It’s the original hometown of Rolling Rock beer. It was the hometown of golf legend Arnold Palmer and TV legend Mr. Rogers. And if that doesn’t do it for you, it’s also the town where the banana split was born. Now we’re talking.

It was created by one David Strickler, an apprentice pharmacist who worked in the Tassel Pharmacy’s soda shop. He loved inventing sundaes, and in 1904 he created one with three scoops of ice cream and a halved banana. It sold for the outrageous price of ten cents, and it was a hit with the students at the town’s St. Vincent College.

Uploaded to Flickr by Richard-o

Uploaded to Flickr by Richard-o

As you might expect, there are other jealous towns that said, “We did it first.” Boston, but they had one problem – they didn’t peel the banana! And Wilmington, Ohio – but they weren’t even original enough to be the first town named Wilmington, so they’re obviously copycats. No, Latrobe has been certified as the birthplace of the banana split by no less an authority than the National Ice Cream Retailers Association. And when NICRA speaks, they give the authentic scoop. “Scoop,” oh man, I crack myself up.

Supposedly, Walgreens helped make the banana split a national phenomenon by offering it as a feature dessert at its soda fountains. Let’s all take a moment and mourn the loss of the drug store fountain, a wonderful piece of Americana that today’s mega-pharmacies will never replace.

Split a banana lengthwise in a “boat” dish. Add one scoop of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream. Top with pineapple or butterscotch (on the vanilla), chocolate syrup (on the chocolate), and strawberry topping (on the strawberry). Add nuts, whipped cream, and a cherry.

Oh, baby.

The Arts: John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck was one of the three greatest American novelists of the twentieth century. Uploaded by stripes.com.

John Steinbeck was one of the three greatest American novelists of the twentieth century. Uploaded by stripes.com.

O ye aspiring writers, harken unto the story of John Steinbeck. Who dropped out of college. Who moved to New York to be a writer, but got nothing published. Whose first three published novels are all but unknown. Who went ten years before finally achieving some critical success with Tortilla Flat.

Once the literary world discovered Steinbeck, it recognized his giant talent. The list of his books reads like your high school summer reading list: Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, East of Eden, The Winter of Our Discontent, and Travels with Charley.

He served as a war correspondent during World War II for the New York Herald Tribune. He chronicled commando raids against the Germans on Mediterranean islands, and published many of his columns later in the book Once There Was a War. The book was made into a documentary, joining 17 other filmed versions of his works.

The National Steinbeck Center, uploaded by discovernortherncalifornia.com.

The National Steinbeck Center, uploaded by discovernortherncalifornia.com.

And, aspiring writers, don’t forget this: John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom From President Lyndon Johnson.

If you ever make it to Salinas, California, be sure to visit the National Steinbeck Center and appreciate this literary shrine. Who knows – there may be a museum built in your honor some day.

TV Show: The Mickey Mouse Club

From Tim Considine (top left) to Annete Funicello (bottom right), the Mouseketeers embodied the boomers as kids. Uploaded by jungleredwriters.com.

From Tim Considine (top left) to Annete Funicello (bottom right), the Mouseketeers embodied the boomers as kids. Uploaded by jungleredwriters.com.

This listing is for the 1955-59 series, not its reincarnations. (Justin Timberlake, Brittney Spears, and Christina Aguilera? Ack.) No, the baby boomer generation was won over by the one with Annette Funicello and Cubby O’Brien, Spin and Marty, and cast members wearing Mousket-ears.

The Mickey Mouse Club was essentially an after-school variety show for kids that offered serials, newsreels, talent performances, and reminders of good moral behavior by show host Jimmy Dodd. Annette quickly became its star, and had a serial based around her – Walt Disney Presents: Annette.

Spin and Marty. Actually, Marty and Spin. Uploaded by en.wikipedia.org.

Spin and Marty. Actually, Marty and Spin. Uploaded by en.wikipedia.org.

Of the other serials, the two I remember best were Spin and Marty and The Hardy Boys. Both featured actor Tim Considine. Spin Evans and Marty Markham were two boys at the Triple R Ranch who had to learn to get along despite coming from different backgrounds. The Hardy Boys was aired in 19 episodes of 15 minutes each that were produced for the extravagant sum of $5700.

Though original shows were only shown for three seasons, the original Mickey Mouse Club was brought back in half-hour episodes for syndication, and maintained a presence on TV through the early 1960s.

Now’s the time to say goodbye to all our company…M-I-C (See you real soon!) K-E-Y (Why? Because we like you!) M-O-U-S-E.

Film: Forrest Gump

Forrest said, "I just loved playing ping-pong with my Flexolite ping pong paddle." Uploaded by data-allocine.blogomaniac.fr.

Seldom has there been a movie, or at least one not written by the Coen Brothers, that has as many memorable lines as Forrest Gump:

“I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.”
“My mama always said, Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”
“You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich.”
“Stupid is as stupid does.”

And on and on. Director Robert Zemeckis did a wonderful job turning what could have been another “disabled person overcomes handicaps” movie into a masterpiece of storytelling.

Uploaded by i467.photobucket.com.

Uploaded by i467.photobucket.com.

Part of what made the movie such a spectacle was the way Forrest Gump interacted with actual history, from Presidents Kennedy and Johnson to Bear Bryant to a march for peace in Washington, DC. And while many of the supporting characters weren’t as strong as a film of this importance required, casting Gary Sinise as Lieutenant Dan was brilliant. He helped propel the film, and the film in turn helped propel his career.

Forrest Gump was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, and won 6, including Best Picture. It ranked 71st in the American Film Institute’s countdown of 100 Years…100 Movies.

One more thing…the soundtrack. It must have been the dream job to have picked the songs that accompanied Forrest’s lifetime. It’s essentially a Greatest Hits of the 1960s and 70s.

Singer: Alison Krauss

Is this the face of bluegrass music? Let's hope so. Uploaded by img.gactv.com.

Is this the face of bluegrass music? Let's hope so. Uploaded by img.gactv.com.

If you had to choose a face for modern bluegrass music, you couldn’t choose one much more appealing than that of Alison Krauss. She sings with that gentle soprano voice and plays a mean fiddle. And here’s a fact I found amazing – she’s won 26 Grammy Awards, making her the most-awarded female artist in Grammy history. Some face!

Uploaded by puremusic.com.

Uploaded by puremusic.com.

She began as a child phenom, garnering her first record contract at the age of 14. She had begun by studying classical violin, but switched to fiddle (more comfortable for the chin) and won talent contests at the ripe old age of eight. I’m not sure if she’d have received exposure to bluegrass in her hometown of Champaign, Illinois, but she was fortunate that her parents were from Columbus, Mississippi. The result is pure bluegrass without the mountain twang that alienates so many outsiders.

Through the years she’s collaborated with a number of artists, often from other musical genres, and has created a rich diversity of songs. Among the artists she’s performed or recorded with are Dolly Parton, Sting, Elvis Costello, Brad Paisley, and John Waite.

Her most recent collaboration was with rocker Robert Plant, with whom she recorded the album Raising Sand. Not only did the album produce the Grammy Record of the Year (“Please Read the Letter”) but it also went on to capture Album of the Year honors. It beat out Coldplay, Radiohead, Lil Wayne, and something called Ne-Yo.

I have to admit it was her performances on the soundtrack of O Brother, Where Art Thou? that won me over.

Americana: Jukeboxes

Used to be three songs for .50, seven for a dollar. Uploaded by sparklette.net.

Used to be three songs for .50, seven for a dollar. Uploaded by sparklette.net.

I’d like to take this opportunity to explain how jukeboxes work. I’d like to, but I don’t have the foggiest idea. All I know is that you put in your fifty cents, and to hear the first of your three songs you hit A and 7 for “Eli’s Coming” by Three Dog Night.

Jukeboxes are the logical, if not technological heir to nickelodeons, the first play for pay devices. The machines played 78 rpm records until the Seeburg Corporation introduced the 45 rpm jukebox in 1950.

Uploaded to Flickr by mjanean.

Uploaded to Flickr by mjanean.

Of course, the fifties were the golden age of jukeboxes, when kids would gather at the malt shop to hear Bill Haley, Ricky Nelson, and Pat Boone perform “white” versions of great R&B songs. Whether they actually went to malt shops I can’t say, but it’s permanently etched into our cultural pantheon by movies like American Graffiti, and TV shows such as Happy Days.

My favorite type was the tableside jukebox, or wallbox. At first they were little more than remote controls that signaled the main jukebox what to play. But later they had their own speakers, so the tinny sound was right there at your booth.

By the way, the term “jukebox” apparently comes from a “juke joint”, and juke comes from a Gullah word meaning disorderly or rowdy. Of course, this information comes from Wikipedia, so I’m sure it’s accurate. I’d say 75, maybe 80 percent accurate.

Here’s that first jukebox to hold 45s:

Actors: Abbott and Costello

Abbott and Costello met Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Uploaded by freeclassicimages.com.

Abbott and Costello met Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Uploaded by freeclassicimages.com.

Today, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are best known for their wonderful “Who’s on First” routine, perhaps the single best known comedy bit in American history. But during their prime, they were one of the most popular and highest-paid acts in the entertainment business.

Uploaded by abbottand costellocollectibles.com.

Uploaded by abbottand costellocollectibles.com.

The guys became partners in 1935 on the burlesque stage in New York, and quickly realized they had something special. Their natural voices were similar, though, causing confusion to radio audiences. So Costello affected the high-pitched sound we now associate with him.

They did radio (The Chase and Sanborn Hour, The Abbott and Costello Show) and then moved to television (The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Abbott and Costello Show), but both had a similar format. Abbott and Costello reprised their familiar routines mixed with performances by popular musical acts.

In addition to radio and TV, they made 36 films. Among the most popular were their first starring role in Buck Privates, along with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man. They were top ten box office draws every year from 1941 until 1952.

And, of course, there’s “Who’s on First.” They performed it in the movies, on radio, on TV, probably in the living room at Thanksgiving. And people loved it. We still love it. It’s wonderful wordplay, and immaculate timing. Two masters at work.

Heeeeey Abbott!

Sports: Muhammad Ali

In his first title fight, Ali upset the heavily favored Sonny Liston. Uploaded by img65.imageshack.us.

In his first title fight, Ali upset the heavily favored Sonny Liston. Uploaded by img65.imageshack.us.

He could “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” He invented the “rope-a-dope” strategy. He became one of the best-known Americans around the globe. He was Cassius Clay. He was the Louisville Lip. He is The Greatest.

As a boxer, he’s among the best who ever slipped on the gloves. He won the gold medal in the 1960 Olympics, held the Heavyweight Title three times, and finished with a record of 56-5.

Uploaded by femalefirst.co.uk.

Uploaded by femalefirst.co.uk.

And because he mattered, boxing mattered. Hard to imagine now, but when Ali fought Joe Frazier in “The Fight of the Century,” George Foreman in “The Rumble in the Jungle,” and Frazier again in “The Thrilla in Manila,” the whole country stopped to watch.

Ali was, of course, controversial as well. Many white Americans were perplexed when he embraced the Nation of Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay. He declared himself a conscientious objector because of his faith, and was convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to five years in prison. His conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court, not on its merits but on procedural grounds.

But over time, public affection for Ali continued to grow. The BBC named him the “Sports Personality of the Century.” And he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 by President George W. Bush. He was a quote machine, and after reviewing them I believe this is my favorite: “If you even dream of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologize.”

Travel: New England in Autumn

There's nothing like autumn in New England. Uploaded to Flickr by krisfong.

There's nothing like autumn in New England. Uploaded to Flickr by krisfong.

I don’t know why there needs to be much explanation of this, except to say that there are lots of places that are beautiful in the fall. But the classic New England mountains and lakes framed by the changing leaves are simply magical. The pictures tell the story.

Uploaded to Flickr by Kirpernicus.

Uploaded to Flickr by Kirpernicus.

Uploaded by seasons.flyingdreams.org.

Uploaded by seasons.flyingdreams.org.

Uploaded by rickbakerimages.com.

Uploaded by rickbakerimages.com.

Uploaded by easternslopeinn.com.

Uploaded by easternslopeinn.com.

Uploaded by techelectronicsstl.com.

Uploaded by techelectronicsstl.com.

Uploaded by mikelevin.com.

Uploaded by mikelevin.com.

Uploaded by tyestravel.com.

Uploaded by tyestravel.com.

Song: “What a Wonderful World”

Do you consider this a Christmas song? Me neither, but it's played then. Go figure. Uploaded by fs2you.org.cn.

Do you consider this a Christmas song? Me neither, but it's played then. Go figure. Uploaded by fs2you.org.cn.

This Louis Armstrong song, which has become iconic in its usage in movies and TV shows, sold fewer than 1,000 copies in the U.S. when it was released in 1968. The good people of the U.K. heard it differently, however, and took the song to number one across the pond.

Uploaded by jazzrecordcenter.com.

Uploaded by jazzrecordcenter.com.

“What a Wonderful World” finally made the charts stateside in 1971, when it was released in memoriam following the death of Louis Armstrong. It took an ironic use of the song during depressing scenes in the movie Good Morning, Vietnam (which has been done to death now, producers, so stop already) to take it to the top of the American charts.

Written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss, the optimistic song is only two minutes, seventeen seconds long. For reasons beyond my simple understanding, it’s now being played as a Christmas song. Could it be the first line: “I see trees of green…”? Or is it its general feeling of goodwill toward men (“I see friends shaking hands, say how do you do/They’re really saying ‘I love you.'”)?

Some of the artists who’ve covered the song include: Eddy Arnold, Diana Ross, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Natalie Cole, Eva Cassidy, Anne Murray, Joey Ramone, Coldplay, Sara Brightman, Rod Stewart, Michael Buble, Celine Dion, LeAnn Rimes, and John Legend.

Food: Philly Cheesesteak

This one's made with Cheese Whiz. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.

This one's made with Cheese Whiz. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.

Hard as it is to believe, the original cheesesteak from Philadelphia was missing what you might consider a key ingredient – cheese. The sandwich originated at a hot dog stand owned by Pat and Harry Olivieri, and became so popular that Pat started his own place that’s still operating today, Pat’s King of Steaks.

Geno's Steaks, the newer rival. Uploaded by cheesesteaktown.com.

Geno's Steaks, the newer rival. Uploaded by cheesesteaktown.com.

A couple of years later, someone finally figured out that cheese makes everything better. And the first cheese used on the Philly steak was provolone. Today, at Pat’s chief rival in South Philly, Geno’s Steaks, you can order your sandwich with provolone, American, or Cheese Whiz. The New York Times called Cheese Whiz “the sine qua non of cheesesteaks.” But what does the Times know from cheesesteaks, huh? Just be prepared to order fast, because there are people waiting in line behind you, hey!

In his 2004 campaign for president, that famed man of the people John Kerry ordered a cheesesteak with swiss cheese. Really. Didn’t go over too well in Philly. The Philadelphia Inquirer opined, “In Philadelphia, that’s an alternate lifestyle.”

Great video about the Pat’s vs. Geno’s cheesesteak war:

Person: Helen Keller

Helen uses her hand to hear Enrico Caruso talk. Uploaded by henryrosner.org.

Helen uses her hand to hear Enrico Caruso talk. Uploaded by henryrosner.org.

I’m sure you know the story of Helen Keller’s childhood, captured without much embellishment in The Miracle Worker. The victim of a fever at age two that left her deaf and blind, Helen had the world opened to her through the tireless work of her teacher, Annie Sullivan.

Helen at age 8 with Annie Sullivan. Uploaded to Flickr by luke skytoker.

Helen at age 8 with Annie Sullivan. Uploaded to Flickr by luke skytoker.

But it’s not as if she went on to live a quiet and reserved life. Quite the opposite. She graduated from Radcliffe College, becoming the first deaf and blind person to earn a bachelor’s degree. She became an advocate for people with disabilities, speaking and raising money in 39 countries around the world. Her concern for the working classes led her to join Eugene Debs’ Socialist Party. She helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union. And she was a suffragette and a supporter of women’s rights.

Helen Keller received many well-deserved tributes to her contributions to American life. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Alabama honored her by placing her image on its state quarter. And she was named to the Time 100 Most Important People of the Twentieth Century as well as Gallup’s Most Admired People of the Twentieth Century.

The Arts: O. Winston Link

Perhaps the most famous of all Link's photos. Uploaded by images.artnet.com.

Perhaps the most famous of all Link's photos. Uploaded by images.artnet.com.

Probably not a name you’re familiar with. But if you’ve seen his photography, you know what magic the man could work with a camera. His passion was trains, but he realized his biggest problem in capturing them on film would be lighting them properly. So he created his own flash equipment, because he preferred to shoot at night.

If you’re ever in Roanoke, Va., be sure to stop by the O. Winston Link museum which is located, appropriately, in Roanoke’s former rail station. You can enjoy a documentary about Link’s life and work, and linger over extraordinary photographs such as these:

Uploaded to Flickr by farm4

Uploaded to Flickr by farm4

Uploaded by robertmann.com.

Uploaded by robertmann.com.

Uploaded by oldprintshop.com.

Uploaded by oldprintshop.com.

Uploaded by oldprintshop.com.

Uploaded by oldprintshop.com.

Uploaded by soulcatcherstudio.com.

Uploaded by soulcatcherstudio.com.

Uploaded by steamlocomotive.com.

Uploaded by steamlocomotive.com.

TV Show: The Honeymooners

Ralph, Ed, Alice, Trixie. Uploaded by bestoldtimemovies.com.

Ralph, Ed, Alice, Trixie. Uploaded by bestoldtimemovies.com.

Ralph and Alice Kramden. Ed and Trixie Norton. A one-room set with a fire escape. Ed drives a bus, Ralph works in the sewers, and both couples struggle to make ends meet. Sound like a winning concept? In fact, the show lasted only one season before Jackie Gleason voluntarily shut it down.

Uploaded by voicechoice.com.

Uploaded by voicechoice.com.

But that tells only part of the story. The Honeymooners actually began in 1950 as a segment of Gleason’s Cavalcade of Stars program on the soon-defunct DuMont Network. The sketches were a hit, and CBS persuaded Gleason to switch networks in 1952. It was then that Audrey Meadows joined Gleason, Art Carney, and Joyce Randolph to form an endearing cast that was hugely popular. The skits ranged from six to thirty minutes within the Cavalcade program.

Finally in 1954, The Honeymooners was spun off into a separate half-hour show. Thirty-nine episodes were produced, the “Classic 39” as they’re known. Ralph was fond of saying, “To the moon, Alice!” or “One of these days…one of these days…Pow! Right in the kisser!” Some said the show glorified domestic violence, but everyone knew Alice wouldn’t back down. Despite his temper, Ralph would often apologize at show’s end by saying, “Baby, you’re the greatest.”

A couple of fun trivia facts: 1) When you’d see Gleason rubbing his stomach, that was the signal that he’d forgotten his lines; 2) If you think you’ve seen The Honeymooners animated, you have – they were the prototypes for The Flintstones.