Friday, December 30, 2011


            I’m embarrassed to admit that I have held on to many of my kids’ childhood toys. I still have an assortment of blocks, Fischer Price ‘little people’, Matchbox cars, and so on. I think that one reason I’ve held on to these is the regret I’ve felt about my mother having tossed out some of my own childhood treasures (gone are the 500 Beatle cards I painstakingly collected).
            Is it nostalgia alone that makes us look back so fondly at the toys and games of years ago?  Is it that they evoke an era of innocence or was there something unique about the toys themselves?  Probably it’s both.
            There are so many electronic toys and gadgets available these days that sometimes it’s nice to think back to a time when a simple toy could still capture the imagination of a young child.
            Most of us have a memory of a special toy: one that we received on a special occasion or that a sibling or friend was warned to touch with care.  In my case it was a Give A Show Projector.  What this was, was a plastic magnifying toy of sorts, through which slides were pushed.  The slides themselves contained about 4 or 5 cels that told a story when projected onto a wall.  The various cartoons included with the projector were: Popeye, The Three Stooges, Maverick, and Huckleberry Hound to name a few.  Now admittedly this seems really, really basic when compared to the XBOX of today, but I found it thoroughly entertaining.
            In addition to the toys of the fifties, sixties, and seventies, there were the games: Candyland, Cootie, Mousetrap, Twister, Battleship, Chutes & Ladders, Life, Monopoly, Sorry (and Trouble, both variations of Parcheesi), and Clue (since I always loved a good mystery, this one was a personal favorite of mine.) Of course many of these games are still around, but back then there were no video games with which to compete.
            As is evident in many aspects of our culture, the attention span of society as a whole has waned somewhat and there’s no denying that it’s a challenge for one product not to be deemed obsolete upon the arrival of another. And yet, I think it’s safe to say that even with all the options available today, most kids would find some older toys intriguing if nothing else.
            I’ve made a list of some of the more popular “vintage” toys, many of which have survived into the 21st. century. For a nice viewing of some of these on You Tube, go to

1.                  Mr. Potato Head
2.                  G.I. Joe
3.                  Lionel trains
4.                  Barbie (and her assorted friends and family members: Ken, Skipper, etc.)
5.                  Colorforms
6.                  Lite Brite
7.                  Betty Crocker Jr. Baking Kit
8.                  Etch a Sketch
9.                  Slinky
10.              Erector set
11.              Chatty Cathy
12.              Betsy Wetsy
13.              Play Doh
14.              Suzy Homemaker Oven
15.              Pick Up Sticks
16.              Davy Crockett rifle and hat
17.              Silly Putty
18.              Tinker Toys
19.              Viewmaster and reels
20.              Lincoln Logs

Thanks for joining me this week on RHODES LESS TRAVELED. Incidentally, I'm toying with the idea of adding something to my blog for the coming year. Since it is nostalgia oriented, I'm thinking of posting a daily "this day in history". I'd appreciate any feedback as to whether this would be a good addition.

Have a great weekend and a very Happy New Year,


Friday, December 23, 2011


            Today will not be a usual blog post for me. I wanted to talk, instead, about the blog itself.  When my daughter first suggested, months ago that I begin a blog I had my doubts. For one thing, I’m not all that tech savvy and for another, I had heard of people blogging their daily routines and sharing all aspects of their personal lives with the world. This didn’t have much appeal for me.
            However, when she pointed out that it would be a good way of getting back to my writing and making people familiar with it prior to re-releasing my first novel, GROOMED FOR MURDER (I’ll be discussing that in a future blog), I reconsidered. As those of you know who follow my blog, the essays I write, though written from my perspective, are not about me. If they have a common thread, it has usually been one of nostalgia and pop culture.
            The response has been incredible. What amazes me the most is that in addition to the following I have in the U.S., I have a strong following in distant countries as well. Countries such as: India, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Germany, Venezuela, France, Italy, S. Korea, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Canada, Malaysia, Belgium and a few others I might have missed.
            I would like so much to hear from readers outside the U.S.   
            Please email me at: and let me know a little about you, how you found my blog, and what interests you about American culture that I might write about in the future.
            For now I’d like to take this time to wish everyone a Happy Chanukah, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

And of course, thanks for following RHODES LESS TRAVELED. 


Friday, December 16, 2011


            Some people feel that admitting to watching or having watched a soap opera in one’s life is a kin to admitting that he or she lolls around eating bon bons or reading the National Enquire.  Why this is so is beyond me. On the contrary, I find that people who put down ‘the soaps’ without ever having watched one are often insecure intellectually. (They don’t seem to have a problem admitting that they watch the show, House, which is in essence a soap for those who are embarrassed to admit they watch soaps).  Truthfully, if Dickens were alive today he’d be writing for the soaps. Same with Jane Austin. Celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Sammy Davis Jr. were closet, and not so closet, fans of the genre.
            Let’s go back to the original purpose of the daytime serial. It was to sell soap. Hence the term, soap opera. It had its origin in radio in the forties and by the fifties many of the shows transitioned to television. Some, such as Stella Dallas and Our Gal Friday did not. The largest sponsor of daytime serials back then was Proctor and Gamble.  Many of these shows aired in fifteen minute formats, shows such as Brighter Day and Secret Storm.  By the sixties, most had expanded to a half-hour format which eventually made its way, in some cases, to a one-hour format.
            The basic formula for most of these shows was the same. Generally the story revolved around two families: the family that was blessed with wealth but that lacked love and the family that was blessed with love but that lacked wealth. From there, all the usual trials and tribulations grew. People loved to hate the villains and empathize with the victims.  They came to feel as though they knew the characters, whether it was Erica Kane or Lucky Spencer. Were the stories convoluted?  Of course they were. Characters died and their long lost twins would appear months later. It didn’t matter. Viewers were asked to suspend their beliefs and give in to their imaginations. They were frequently rewarded with stories filled with pathos that, in many cases, reflected their own lives. This was especially true beginning in the eighties when storylines dealt with domestic abuse, alcoholism, teenage pregnancies, etc.
            I began watching soaps with my mother when I was very young. My favorite of them all was The Edge of Night.  Winner of the Edgar Awards for best mystery writing, EON would craft a story in a matter of weeks that would climax in a murder. It would take several weeks until the mystery unraveled and the murder was solved. The show was brilliantly written.
            Years later, I found myself working for P & G, writing for As the World Turns. When I challenged the continuity of a particular storyline, the producers were impressed with my knowledge of the bible (the original story on which all is based). Little did they know that my knowledge came from watching the show as a child.  When my husband, Rick, began writing music for the show Santa Barbara, we became fully entrenched in the world of soaps and made many wonderful, life-long friends. The theme that Rick co-wrote for Guiding Light aired for many years, ending months before he passed away. I never told him and the show itself was canceled shortly thereafter.  I, myself, had the opportunity to write for General Hospital in the eighties. Incidentally, I’ve watched this show for the past few years and find it to be very well written, acted, and directed. Kudos to Executive Producer, Jill Farren Phelps.
            Whether or not you got ‘hooked’ on a soap by watching along with your mother, your grandmother, or a girlfriend, whether you began watching while at college -- don’t be so ashamed to admit that, for at least a time in your life, you watched a soap.  Trust me; there are worse things to which one can be confessing.
            It’s common knowledge that many well known actors have appeared on soaps over the years.  See if you can guess which actor appeared on which show. As usual, you can scroll down for the answers when you’re finished. Good luck.

1.    Kathy Bates                                  a.   Love is a Many Splendid Thing
2.    Ryan Phillipe                                b.   Somerset
3.    Brad Pitt                                      c.   Capital
4.    Warren Beatty                             d.   Bold and the Beautiful
5.    Leonard Nemoy                          e.   General Hospital
6.    Kevin Bacon                                 f.    The Edge of Night
7.    Bette Midler                                  g.   As the World Turns
8.    Joan Crawford                              h.   Young and the Restless
9.    Macdonald Carey                          i.    Santa Barbara
10.  Robin Wright                                 j.    Passions
11.  Alec Baldwin                                 k.   The Doctors
12.  Hal Holbrook                                l.    Another World
13.  Tom Selleck                                  m.  Guiding Light
14.  Dustin Hoffman                            n.   Brighter Day
15.  Meg Ryan                                     o.   Secret Storm
16.  Donna Mills                                   p.   Search for Tomorrow
17.  Teri Hatcher                                  q.   One Life to Live
18. Georgia Engel                                 r.   Days of our Lives
19  Sigourney Weaver                          s.   Love of Life
20. Jack Wagner                                  t.   All My Children
21. Yasmine Bleeth                               u.  Ryan’s Hope

l.t; 2.q; 3.l; 4.s; 5.e; 6.m; 7.f; 8.o; 9.r; 10.i; 11.k; 12.n; 13.h; 14.p; 15.g; 16.a;
17.c; 18.j; 19.b; 20.d; 21.u  

Thanks for joining me again on RHODES LESS TRAVELED,

Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Holidays,


Friday, December 9, 2011


Without a doubt, etiquette has cultural biases. In some parts of the world, for example, burping after a good meal is a polite way of informing one’s host that dinner was delicious. In other parts of the world it is considered rude not to remove one’s shoes upon entering someone’s home. Needless to say, it is not always easy to navigate another culture’s customs in regard to etiquette. But what about our own culture?  Increasingly, Americans either don’t know or don’t care about doing and saying things that generations ago would have been deemed inappropriate and gauche.
By the way, I am not referring here to the misuse of a salad fork but rather to the more important ways in which people interact.  (Both my kids attended Cotillion classes, though truthfully I don’t know if you could measure how much either one of them took away from the experience).
Things have changed since I was a kid and I think this has less to do with a strict adherence to etiquette and more to do with boundaries. When the sixties ushered in “do your own thing” and “if it feels good, do it”, it didn’t quite take into consideration the effect all this would have on those who were more or less being forced into doing “someone else’s” own thing.
Growing up, I referred to my friends’ parents as Mr. and/or Mrs. Yet when my husband and I  moved to the suburbs with our kids we discovered that all children were encouraged to address adults by their first names.  Likewise, years ago doctors and nurses didn’t automatically assume that one wanted to be addressed by anything other than their surnames. (These days an eighty-year old man might justifiably object to being called Freddie by a twenty-something nurse).
There were questions that one didn’t ask:  How old are you?  How much do you weigh?  What did you pay for your house? People also share more personal information with strangers than those strangers need to know, whether it’s medical, financial, sexual, or domestic in nature.
 At a dinner party I threw, I overheard one of my guests ask another, “So how much money do you make, if you don’t mind my asking?” (Incidentally, these last six words, “if you don’t mind my asking” are always added to the inappropriate question in order that the one asking the question not come off as being nosy.  As if!)
One of my personal pet peeves is when two people are dining and a friend of one approaches the table and begins a lengthy conversation. He or she should say a quick “hi, nice to see you, I’ll phone you and we’ll catch up”….then leave!  Another problem I have is when people have you on a speaker phone and neglect to inform you of the presence of others.
It’s not surprising that as a culture we seem to have lost our ability to honor boundaries. We’re bombarded with television programs like The Jerry Springer Show, which encourage people to shed their inhibitions and to say whatever it is that’s on one’s mind.
I’m not suggesting that we return to a rigid, “how do you do madam” society. I just think that perhaps we all need to think about when and if we are crossing some boundaries when we interact with other people, particularly new acquaintances. Regretfully, with a loss of certain boundaries, often comes a loss of civility.

Below, I’ve listed some table manner no-nos I thought worth mentioning even though many of them are no brainers.  Just some food for thought (and how to approach that food).

.   Speaking while one’s mouth is full of food.
.   Eating anything other than finger foods (fried chicken, ribs) with one’s fingers.
.   Eating off another person’s plate (I’m afraid I’m sometimes guilty of this one when it comes to fries)
.   Slurping one’s beverage or soup.
.   Applying any make-up other than lipstick at the table (this holds doubly for men:).
.    Neglecting to place one’s napkin on one’s lap as soon as one is seated.
.    Pushing food around on a plate with one’s fingers rather than a utensil or a piece of bread.
.    Using a toothpick at the table.
.    Texting or speaking on a cell phone for any length of time. (This is extremely rude; it’s okay to answer a call if you believe it might be an emergency)
      .    Laughing loudly, behaving raucously, and generally being boorish, 
thus disturbing other patrons’ dining experiences).

Have a terrific weekend and thanks for joining me on this week’s journey along RHODES LESS TRAVELED,


Friday, December 2, 2011


What has been the appeal of game shows through the years?  The vicarious thrill of someone winning a fortune?  Or making a fool of himself or herself in the process?  Maybe it’s that most game shows, to a certain degree, embrace three basic elements:  that of competition, knowledge, and the possibility of great success.
Many shows that were enormously popular on radio in the fifties, such as: People Are Funny, Queen For a Day, Truth or Consequence, and You Bet Your Life, eventually made there way to television. Others, like It Pays to be Married, were precursors to shows like The Newlywed Game.
Quiz shows, as they were called, reached their peak in the mid-fifties until one scandal threatened the future of them all.  The show “21” was the brainchild of producers Jack Berry and Dan Enright.  Unlike shows such as Truth or Consequences, it relied on a contestant’s knowledge as opposed to his physical abilities. In 1956, “egghead” champion, Herb Stempel was pit against good-looking, young Chris Van Doran.  Van Doran beat Stempel but it was later revealed that Van Doran was fed the correct answers and Stempel told to take a dive. Hearings ensued resulting in a much tougher oversight of these shows which went from being called “quiz shows” to the more relaxed, “game shows”.  Although shows like College Bowl still emphasized knowledge, newer shows broadened their themes and incorporated more humor into their formats.
In the early sixties Goodson-Todman produced game shows that relied on celebrity participation and that, in my opinion, were more intelligent than many of their counterparts. Shows such as I’ve Got a Secret, hosted by Garry Moore. Panelists here were Betsy Palmer, Bess Myerson, Henry Morgan, and Bill Cullen. The secrets could be anything and everything. (ie. “I babysat Garry Moore when he was a baby”). What’s My Line, hosted by John Daly was another such show. Panelists Bennett Cerf, Dorothy Kilgallen, Steve Allen, and Arlene Francis were encouraged to guess the guest’s occupation. The occupations were usually pretty weird, (ie. “I’m the person who spreads the filling in an Oreo cookie”). Another popular one was To Tell the Truth, where all three guests claimed to be a particular person. The other two were imposters. (I dated someone once who was an imposter on one of the shows. What does that tell you?)
I also appeared as a contestant on three (that’s right, three) game shows in my lifetime: The $10,000 Pyramid (I almost won but my partner, Tony Randall, screwed up. Ironically, the opposing celebrity, June Lockhart, turned out to be someone whose daughter, Annie, would come to be a life long friend of mine).  I was a big winner on Name That Tune (my winnings included a trip to Las Vegas, and a piano) and I appeared on Joker’s Wild as well. I enjoyed all three experiences and came home with an assortment of soups and small appliances. 
It’s possible to catch some of these old game shows on the game show network (I keep wondering if one of my appearances will pop up). These days, the only game show I watch when I can is Jeopardy.
Aside from the Goodson-Todman shows already cited ,  I’ve listed some other shows that, I believe, are some of the best all time game shows and definitely worth a mention. Again, I list these in no particular order.

  1. Password
  2. Family Feud
  3. The Match Game
  4. Let’s Make a Deal
  5. Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?
  6. The Price is Right
  7. Concentration
  8. Wheel of Fortune
  9. The $100,000 Pyramid
  10. Jeopardy

Have a great weekend and thanks for joining me along,



Friday, November 25, 2011


They were cooler than cool. They were the guys men wanted to hang with. The guys women wanted to be with.  They drank. Smoked. Gambled.  Caroused.  They lived hard and played harder. So what was there about the ‘rat pack’ that made them so cool?
To begin with, let’s go back to the origins of the so called pack.
The original rat pack, formed in the 50’s, referred to a group of entertainers whose habit it was to party, hang, and generally drift in and out of the Holmby Hills home of Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.  Those belonging to this group included such laudables as: Errol Flynn, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Cary Grant, Judy Garland, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, David Niven, and yes, Frank Sinatra.
By the sixties, the group had evolved with Frank Sinatra, more or less, becoming the head honcho. This newer group did not, for the record, call themselves ‘the rat pack’ but rather ‘the summit’ or ‘the clan’. (The press and the public, however, continued to refer to them as the rat pack).  Aside from Sinatra, members included: Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. The women in their sphere included: Marilyn Monroe, Angie Dickinson, Shirley MacLaine, and Juliet Prowse, many of whom appeared in movies with them.
And speaking of those movies (Ocean’s Eleven, Some Came Running, 4 For Texas, Robin and the Seven Hoods, The Cannonball Run, and others), though they weren’t too weighty in subject matter, they were memorable for one thing: the fact that it looked as if these hell raisers always seemed to be having an incredibly good time.     
Audiences wanted in on that good time.
They often showcased in Las Vegas, particularly at hotels such as the Dunes and the Sands. (For the record, our family managed to save a Sands coffee mug before the hotel imploded in the nineties). Here, the pack would arbitrarily ‘crash’ one another’s performances by adlibbing, coming up with crazy antics, and tearing up the joint, so to speak. As Sinatra was known to say, “You gotta love livin’ ‘cause dyin’s a pain in the ass.” Their act always seemed to include plenty of in jokes and an adoring public ate it up and romanticized them -- so much so that they always appeared before sell-out crowds.
 Each man had different personas. Sinatra was the chief and everyone knew it. Others deferred to him. Martin presented himself as an amiable fellow with a love affair with alcohol (this probably was somewhat of an exaggeration, at least until his later years.) Sammy Davis was possibly the most gifted entertainer of them all. He sang, danced, joked, acted. You name it, Sammy did it and he did it to perfection. Bishop was the mascot, a jokester with deadpan humor. And then there was Lawford.  Film actor Peter Lawford’s role in the group was very interesting.
He was married to Patricia, President John Kennedy’s sister. As brother-in-law to the president, he was the conduit between the White House and Hollywood. As such, he was instrumental in having “introduced” Kennedy to actresses such as Marilyn Monroe and Angie Dickinson. (It might be said that Lawford was the ultimate Hollywood pimp). He also drew his friends into the political arena. The pack entertained at the Democratic Convention in L.A. in 1960, campaigning heavily for JFK’s election.
In 1963 Lawford made what would turn out to be a monumental mistake. He asked Sinatra to have Kennedy be his guest at his Palm Springs home. Sinatra was understandably honored and went to great lengths to prepare for the president’s visit. However, Robert Kennedy, JFK’s brother and, then, Attorney General, quickly intervened. He felt that Sinatra’s home was unsuitable due to the singer’s questionable connections with mobsters such as Sam Giancana. (For the incredible irony here, I refer you to a previous blog of mine about mistresses entitled, “My Wife Doesn’t Understand Me…Yada, Yada, Yada.)  Instead, Kennedy would spend time at the home of another crooner -- Bing Crosby. When Lawford informed Sinatra of the change in plans Sinatra became outraged and cut Lawford out of his life from that point forward.
Sinatra, Davis, and Martin went on a revival tour in the eighties and when Martin had to drop out he was replaced, successfully, by Liza Minelli.
There has been a recent resurgence of interest in the rat pack, particularly amongst young people who, having rediscovered what is often referred to as martini music, have embraced the group’s irreverent behavior.
There’s no doubt that these guys left their marks in the fifties and sixties and that their “ring-a-ding” ways represented a seemingly carefree and often enviable lifestyle.

Peter Lawford died at 61 in 1984 as a result of cardiac arrest due to liver failure.

Sammy Davis Jr. died at 64 in 1990 due to complications of throat cancer.

Dean Martin died at 78 in 1995 as a result of heart failure due to emphysema.  It’s been said that Martin’s health deteriorated after his son Dean “Dino” Martin, Jr. was killed in a plane crash in 1987.  Martin never really recovered from this devastating loss.

Frank Sinatra died at 82 in 1998 from heart failure.

           Joey Bishop, the only one of the pack to remain married to the same woman for 58 years, outlived them all. He died in 2007 at the age of 89.

Thanks for joining me on this week’s journey along,



Friday, November 18, 2011


          Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There’s not a lot of pomp and ceremony to it. No disappointment in gifts exchanged. We gather with loved ones. Watch football. And stuff ourselves silly.
          It’s also a good day to remember and to reflect.
          To begin with, autumn has always been my favorite season. The incredible red, orange, and sienna foliage. The smell of burnt chestnuts that can bring me back to a brisk day in Manhattan in a New York minute.
          My memories of Thanksgiving Day growing up were of helping my mother prepare the stuffing, from scratch of course, using day old stale bread. She’d sew the turkey with thread and then panic when she couldn’t find the needle (this happened annually). I recall the aroma of roasting turkey and of thyme filling the room. The television was tuned in to Laurel and Hardy’s “March of the Wooden Soldiers” which aired every Thanksgiving. Most of all I recall the intangible feeling of comfort I felt on that day.
          I think most Americans feel that way. And the great thing about this holiday is that it is so inclusive. Even an immigrant who has resided in the U.S. for less than a year is made to feel as though his ancestors met the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.  Everyone is welcomed, not only to partake in the holiday, but to enhance it with his own cultural flavor. A Vietnamese family might serve lemongrass soup before the turkey is brought out. A Polish family might offer up kielbasa as an appetizer. And the variations on stuffing are endless: Middle Easterners adding dates, Africans adding peanuts, Mexicans adding cilantro, and so on.
          As for me, I’ve retained some traditions (I make my stuffing the same way as my mother did) and have incorporated some new ones as I raised my own family. These days the television is often tuned to a Twilight Zone marathon as we prepare for the festivities. My daughter makes a wonderful cauliflower dish and my son makes delicious home made cranberry sauce each year. We’ve lost loved ones who used to grace our table, and we’ve added people to the table as well. I suppose in some way that’s a metaphor for life.
          On this day I try not to look at the negatives but instead to be appreciative for that which I have to be grateful:  My wonderful children, old, cherished friends who have been so supportive, and new relationships that continue to grow stronger. I am thankful for my relatives, including my brother, sisters, nieces, nephews, and cousins with whom I got together recently to celebrate my brother’s birthday.  I am grateful for memories of a good marriage. I am grateful to have the opportunity of making an impact on the lives of young people and I am very grateful to have rediscovered my passion for writing. And by the way, I’m grateful to those of you who have been faithfully following my blog and for all your encouraging words.

          I hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and thank you again for joining me along,



Friday, November 11, 2011



The phrase “Catskill Mountains” conjures up a variety of images. Some associate it with the so-called “Borscht Belt” humor of old time comics from that era such as: Alan King, Henny ‘take my wife’ Youngman, Totie Fields (whose daughter, Jody, was a friend of mine back then), and the various “Jacks and Jackies" (Carter, Mason, and Vernon, for example). Some associate it with the crooners who entertained at the hotels. Singers who included: Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé, Neil Sedaka, Louis Prima and Keely Smith, and possibly the various “Bobbies” (Vee, Vinton, and maybe even the late, great Darrin, though I couldn’t say for sure).
     Others think of the movies, Dirty Dancing or Marjorie Morningstar when they think of the Catskills and perhaps, to some, the Catskill Mountains connotes nothing more than an association with stories written by Washington Irving. Stories such as Rip Van Winkle.
     But to someone raised in New York during a certain period of time, any reference to the Catskill Mountains evokes so much more.  A little background information is in order here.  The Catskills of which I’m speaking is actually the southern western portion, an area of about 250 miles located in upstate New York in Sullivan and Ulster counties.  When the 81 Hwy replaced Rte 17, what was once a day long journey northwest of New York City, became a much more tolerable one and a half hour drive. (I remember these winding drives vividly since, as a child, I was prone to motion sickness).
     How did it all begin? In the late 1800’s, early 1900’s, some Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, left the tenements of the Lower East Side behind and migrated to the farmlands of the C.M. When word of the beautiful scenery and fresh air got back to their friends and relatives, others decided that they too would like to escape to “the Mountains” if only for a week or two. Italian families seemed to prefer the Poconos.
     By the thirties, enterprising Jewish farmers were turning their farmhouses into summer boarding houses, where city dwellers would have the opportunity to feast on clean air and farm fresh food. I recall my mother speaking fondly of the summers she spent as a girl on “Mrs. Sandler’s farm”.
     After WWII, bungalow colonies sprang up throughout the area.  By today’s standards, these small summer communities offered little in the way of amusement: A baseball diamond, a swimming pool (whose only luxury feature was a diving board), a stroll down a country road laden with blueberry bushes, and a “casino”. The so called casino was home to pinochle and mahjong players during the day and to those wanting to listen or dance to a jukebox by night.  Simple pleasures, yes. But people came in droves.
     They came to towns called Ellenville and Liberty and Monticello and S. Fallsburg. They drove up in cars and station wagons and rented hacks loaded down with everything but the kitchen sink and they usually stopped along the way at the Red Apple Rest (a great place to snack on Drake’s Pound Cake). Some stayed for two weeks, others for two months.
     Often, the wife and kids remained throughout the week and dad would drive up on a Friday night to spend the weekend before returning on Sunday. Incidentally, these weekly separations occasionally resulted in a “seven year itch” of sorts. Some husbands took the opportunity of dallying with their secretaries while on their own in the city and there were wives who got ‘up close and personal’ with the young men tending the pools.
     The heyday of the Catskills was in the fifties and sixties, tapering off in the seventies.
     By now, resorts had taken hold and hotels such as the Concord and Grossinger’s put the C.M. on the map, so to speak. Single men and women chose The Mountains as a destination when seeking romantic rendezvous, and college students worked summers as waiters, busboys, and counselors; the money made in tips helped put some of them through school.
     An average couple might vacation with their children for a week or two.  For one set price (this was before Club Med, mind you) they would get a room, three incredible meals a day (it would take an entire essay to describe the food), supervised care for their children from 7:30AM to 8:30 PM (and free, babysitting “night patrol”). They didn’t even dine with their kids – how’s that for a vacation?  Amenities varied from hotel to hotel but could include: golf, discos, indoor ice-skating, spas, and horseback riding, to say nothing of the phenomenal nightly entertainment. (Sammy Davis Jr., Billy Crystal, Lucille Ball, Don Rickles, Barbra Streisand – the list is endless).
     I spent many summers in the Catskills, both as a guest and as a counselor at various hotels. Though I didn’t go, I was there during Woodstock, which was only a few miles away. Once, I was the counselor for the young daughter of a “wiseguy” (he tipped very handsomely by the way). When Stiller and Meara performed one weekend, my cousin had charge of their son, Ben.
     I’m told that there are still a few hotels in the area up and running, and it might be interesting to see what they offer these days, but the phenomena of the C.M. as it existed years ago is gone.
     So what made the Catskill experience fade away?  A combination of things. Maybe it was because airline flights and cruises became more affordable, giving vacationers other options. Maybe it was the fact that central air-conditioning allowed city dwellers to tolerate their apartments. Or maybe it just wasn’t seen as ‘cool’ by upcoming generations. Some say that legalized gambling might have given the Mountains the shot in the arm it needed. All speculation.
     Perhaps it just comes down to its having been a time and place that was only meant to exist when it did.  How fortunate for those of us who were able to enjoy it.
     I’ve included a list of some of the most popular resorts:

Grossinger’s Hotel
The Brickman Hotel
Brown’s Hotel (where Jerry Lewis got his start)
The Concord Hotel
The Raleigh Hotel
The Nevele Hotel
The Windsor Hotel
Tamarack Lodge
The Nemerson Hotel
Kutsher’s Hotel
The Stevensville Lake Hotel
The Pines Hotel
The Paramount Hotel
Homowack Lodge
The Eldorado Hotel

Have a great weekend and thanks for joining me on this week's journey along,


Thursday, November 3, 2011


Alfred Hitchcock is probably my all time favorite director, followed
closely by Billy Wilder.  I have enjoyed Hitchcock films my entire
life, both as a kid and later as a cinema student, when I learned more about the man and his maverick techniques.

      Hitchcock’s style was unique and easily recognizable, so much so
that Mel Brooks tenderly paid homage to it in his film High Anxiety.
Hitch (as he was known to colleagues) pioneered numerous innovative
shooting and editorial techniques to create suspense. When asked how
he created suspense, Hitchcock once said that seeing a bomb, for example,
then watching it explode did little in the way of creating suspense. Instead,
one created suspense by cutting between the bomb set to go off, a clock,
and, say, the fearful eyes of the intended victim.  He was able to do this by
first, meticulously creating a storyboard depicting his shots, scene by scene.
     Also, by allowing our eyes to be that of the camera and by moving slowly
around his subjects, he engaged us in a form of voyeurism.  We felt the
actors’ fear, their anxiety. And let me assure you, his characters usually
had much about which to feel fearful.
    A common thread running through his films was that of a man wrongly
accused of a crime (ie. The Thirty-Nine Steps, Saboteur, The Wrong Man,
North by Northwest, and Strangers on a Train) and Hitchcock’s
experiences as a child came into play here.
     He apparently had a lonely, isolated childhood, made worse by his
obesity. Lots of time for his imagination to grow and fester, I would imagine.
When he was a child his father “punished” him by sending him to the local police station with a note asking that he be “locked up for ten minutes for his
”infraction”. This was undoubtedly done as a way to teach a lesson that
wouldn’t be easily forgotten. If that was the case, it worked. It developed in Hitchcock a lifelong fear of being locked up and a distrust of the police in general.
 His Jesuit upbringing influenced him as well and many of his films dealt with religious,
 or at least morally ethical dilemmas (Vertigo, I Confess)

    In addition to his “man-on-the-run-having-been-wrongly-accused” themes,
Hitchcock’s films shared other similarities. Most of them starred “icy
blondes” such as: Eva Marie Saint, Vera Miles, Doris Day, Grace Kelly
and Tippi Hedren, with Grace Kelly said to have been his personal
favorite. His daughter, Patricia, appeared in bit parts and his wife,
Alma, was the editor of most of his films. Another element common to his
pictures was the use of well known places of interest such as The Statue of
Liberty in Saboteur, Mt. Rushmore in North by Northwest, Royal Albert
Hall in The Man Who Knew Too Much and the Forrest Hills Tennis Stadium
in Strangers on a Train. (Incidentally, Robert Walker’s performance as socio-
path, Bruno Antony in this film, is chilling).
     Hitchcock also introduced what came to be known as the “MacGuffin”: vague,
unimportant devices whose sole purpose was to move the story forward.  These
might come in many forms ranging from a formula whispered by a diplomat (Foreign
Correspondent), to hidden microfilm (North by Northwest), to a bottle of wine
containing uranium (Notorious).

      It’s difficult to state my favorite Hitchcock film, I’ve enjoyed so many. If pressed,
I would probably have to say that The Lady Vanishes, Shadow of a Doubt, The
Man Who Knew Too Much (the second version starring Jimmy Stewart and
Doris Day), and North by Northwest are amongst my favorites. Hitchcock’s
unique blend of psychological suspense, sexual undercurrents, and ironic
humor are what made him an icon. (Though he never achieved an Oscar for a
particular movie, he did ultimately receive a Lifetime Achievement award).
    Hitchcock’s “signature” was the cameo appearances he made in all his
films.  See if you can “find Hitch” by ithmatching the film below with the scene
in which he turned up.

1.  THE LADY VANISHES                     A. Being pushed in a wheelchair at an airport

2.  STRANGERS ON A TRAIN               B. In the center of a crowd wearing a “bowler” hat

3.  THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH C. Walking down the street carrying a trumpet

4.  LIFEBOAT                                       D. Missing a bus during the opening credits

5.  TO CATCH A THIEF                         E. Winding a clock in a songwriter’s apartment

6.  SHADOW OF A DOUBT                   F. In a crowded Victoria Station, smoking a

7.  THE BIRDS                                     G. At “a hunt”, walking a horse across the screen

8.  DIAL M FOR MURDER                     H. In a Moroccan market place watching

9.  NOTORIOUS                                    I. In before and after pictures in a newspaper ad*

10.REAR WINDOW                               J. Coming out of an elevator

11.PSYCHO                                         K. Behind a door marked “Registrar of Births 
                                                                and Deaths”
12. TOPAZ                                            L. Through a window wearing a cowboy hat

13. FRENZY                                          M. Boarding a train carrying a bass fiddle

14. TORN CURTAIN                                N. Seated in a hotel lobby holding a small child

15. FAMILY PLOT                                  O. In a class reunion photo

16. NORTH BY NORTHWEST                 P. On a train playing cards

17. VERTIGO                                         Q. Seated on a bus beside Cary Grant

18. REBECCA                                        R. Posting a letter at a mail box

19. SUSPICION                                      S. At a big party sipping champagne

20. SPELLBOUND                                  T. Leaving a pet store with two white terriers

*Note of trivia: The ad in question was for "Reduco Obesity Slayer".


1F; 2M; 3H; 4I; 5Q; 6P; 7T; 8O; 9S; 10E; 11L; 12A; 13B; 14N; 15K; 16D; 17C; 18G; 19R; 20J

If you’d like to learn more about Alfred Hitchcock, I would recommend reading “The Dark Side of Genius” by Donald Spoto. It’s the most comprehensive book on Hitchcock I’ve read to date.

Have a great weekend and thanks for joining me on this week’s journey along,



Friday, October 28, 2011


Halloween is second only to Christmas in the amount of money Americans spend celebrating it.  This wasn’t always the case. In fact, the holiday, variously referred to as All Hallow’s Eve and Old Souls Day, has steadily increased in popularity since the 1920’s. What began as a Celtic festival called Salhain, a celebration of the harvest, has blossomed into quite a commercial affair.
            As a child, I was discouraged from trick or treating. My parents claimed that it was a kind of begging of sorts but I think it was more likely that they didn’t feel quite comfortable with my knocking on strangers’ door on the streets of New York.
           Fortunately they had no problem with my going to Halloween parties. And I went to many.  I remember old fashioned parties I attended where we “bobbed for apples” (people were less health conscious in those days) and told scary stories in the dark (while passing around items, such as overripe fruit, that were gross to the touch). We partied  beneath black and orange streams of crepe paper. Lots of fun. Great memories.
           As an adult, the parties continued and often got a little wilder than mere bobbing for apples.  I tried, before writing this, to recall all the many costumes I’ve worn through the years: Little Red Riding Hood, A French Can-Can Dancer, The Pink Panther, a  witch, Papillion (I dressed as prisoner, in striped pajamas having been invited to a somewhat pretentious “come as your favorite literary character” party). I wore fake fruit sewed to a turban when I dressed as Carmen Miranda one year. Probably my favorite getup, and one that I wore more than once was that of a Saloon Girl (I was wearing this when I met my future in-laws; their son was dressed as Spock).
           Nothing allows you to revisit your childhood and to enjoy Halloween more than getting to celebrate it with your children. Visits to the Pumpkin Patch, carving Jack-O-Lanterns (and roasting the seeds), going on the occasional hayride.  It was a rush getting them dressed as devils, gypsies, pirates, and an assortment of movie figures and Disney characters.
          When they were young, our neighborhood was the “go to” neighborhood for the premium trick or treat experience. Streets were lined with bumper to bumper kids and their parent chaperones. One couple around the corner supported the parents by serving up apple martinis. After we checked the bags of loot that were brought home for “suspicious looking candy inspection”, we’d wait for our children to graciously share what they knew were their parents’ favorites. (In my case, Dots and Good and Plenty)
          Again, lots of fun. Great memories.
          So what candies do kids (and adults) think fondly of?
          My list, in no particular order:

1.    Tootsie Rolls
2.    Snickers
3.    Kit Kats
4.    Neco Wafers
5.    3 Muskateers
6.    Twix
7.    Smarties
8.    Good n Plenty (or Mike & Ike’s for those who didn’t like black
9.    Twizzlers
10.   Dots
11.   Starbursts
12.   Mr. Goodbar
13.   Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
14.   M & Ms
15.   Raisinets
16.   Goobers
17.   Abazaba
18.   Almond Joy
19.   Chunky
20.   Whoppers

What was your favorite candy?

Have a great Halloween and thanks for joining me on this week’s journey



Friday, October 21, 2011


             It’s World Series time again so I felt it only appropriate to post an article about baseball.  When I was growing up it was baseball, rather than football that was the national sport in the United States. (Forget about soccer; that didn’t really make its way on the scene until the early to mid seventies.)
            While admittedly I was not nearly as avid a fan as was my older brother and older sister, I enjoyed baseball nevertheless. Not merely for the game itself, but for the feelings of comfort it evoked. I have many fond memories associated with baseball. For example, I’m reminded of lazy, N.Y. Saturday afternoons, hearing the familiar voice of announcer Mel Allen as he relayed the plays of the Yankees. (I imagine that my kids, born and bred Angelinos, will feel the same way about the voice of Dodger announcer, Vin Scully). I think back to the small purple plums we ate every September and October while watching the Series.  We came to refer to these plums as “World Series” plums. I remember snatches of conversation amongst my brother and sister and their friends. Conversations referencing names like Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, and Joe Pepitone.
            I recall how enthralled I was when my brother took me to my first “live game” at the Polo grounds in the Bronx.  The baseball diamond was so green! (Keep in mind that up until that point I had only watched the game on a black and white T.V.) Eventually, my sister took me to see the Mets at Shea Stadium, which was located directly across from the site of the 1964 World’s Fair.
            I was a Mets fan (still recall where I was when they incredibly won the series in ’69) but became a Dodger fan when I moved to California. (Hey, they were originally from Brooklyn, weren’t they?)  I attended games with my friend, Jane, who introduced  me to her friends, Fran and Ron (the Penguin) Cey. Ron played third base for the Dodgers in the early eighties. (I had a ball signed by the team but it faded over the years because, foolishly, I didn’t realize until later that I should have encased it in plastic).
            It’s apparent that football is the sport of choice for many in this country, but for me it’s baseball. (I even enjoy baseball movies like It Happens Every Spring and The Natural and the musical, Damn Yankees has always been one of my favorites.)
 I thought that this week I’d offer up a small “baseball oriented” quiz.  Mindful of the fact that players are free agents and often change teams, see if you can match the following pitchers to the team with which they are most closely associated.

1.    Carlos Zambrano                          a. Arizona Diamondbacks
2.    Warren Spahn                               b. St. Louis Cardinals
3.    Jim Palmer                                    c. Atlanta Braves
4.    Satchel Paige                                 d. Pittsburgh Pirates
5.    Roger Clemens                              e. Washington Senators
6.    Sandy Koufax                                f. Cleveland Indians
7.    Mark Buehrle                                g. Detroit Tigers
8.   Whitey Ford                                   h. Boston Red Sox
9.   Juan Marichal                                i.  Chicago White Sox
10. Nolan Ryan                                    j.  Philadelphia Phillies
11. Greg Maddux                                 k. Texas Rangers
12. Bob Gibson                                     l.  Chicago Cubs
            13. Tom Seaver                                    m. Florida Marlins
14. Robin Roberts                                n.  Baltimore Orioles
15. Walter Johnson                              o.  San Francisco Giants
16.  Bob Friend                                     p.  N.Y. Yankees
17. Hal Newhouser                              q.  Brooklyn, LA Dodgers
18. Michael Pineda                               r.  Seattle Mariners
19. Randy Johnson                               s. N.Y. Mets
20. Leo Nunez *                                    t. Milwaukee Braves

Bonus trivia question: Who was the only player to have played for the Boston Braves, the Milwaukee Braves and the Atlanta Braves?


l. l; 2. t; 3.n; 4. f; 5. h; 6. q; 7. i; 8. p; 9. o; 10. k; 11. c; 12. b; 13. s; 14. j; 15.e

16. d; 17. g  18. r;  19. a; 20. m

* Nunez was recently arrested for signing his contract with forged documents and playing under an assumed name. His real name is Juan Carlos Oviedo.

Answer to trivia question: Third baseman, Eddie Mathews.

Enjoy the Series and thanks for joining me along,