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,