Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I've been busy working on other writing and have neglected blogging much lately. I thought I would, this week, reprint my Thanksgiving blog from last year. Though for me, as for many others, much has changed in a year, I think the basic sentiments remain the same.


          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,

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


This Friday marks the seventh year of Rick’s passing. I didn’t get to say the things I would like to have said at his memorial service. In fact, I couldn’t say anything at all. Now that time has passed and I have a blog, I’d like to use it as a forum to pay tribute in a way I was unable to at that time.
            Rick was more than my husband. He was my partner, my soul mate, my cheerleader, and my best friend.  Those who had the good fortune of knowing him will attest to the fact that although he could, at times, drive you crazy, you had to love him and his ‘eccentricities’ (he was so efficient and organized he was sometimes referred to as Mr. Quick-Quick and trash cans were emptied before they were half filled). And he had a nick-name for everyone.
            He was said to have been a musical prodigy at a young age, his first instrument being the trumpet. (Later, he taught himself to play piano by listening to his sister, Robyn, practice her lessons).  In his musical career, he traveled the country with a band called Wonder and was a magnet for investors who believed enough in his talent to back him when he performed in concerts and put out his own recordings. He played various clubs in the Los Angeles area, performed at weddings, and was, with The Rick Rhodes
Band, the house band at Mountaingate Country Club here in L.A.
            I introduced him to the world of soaps when I was writing for As The World Turns; he turned to the TV one day and asked who wrote the music for ‘this junk”.  He worked his way onto the staff of the show, Santa Barbara (sitting in for no pay at the beginning as he learned what was to be expected of him).  He composed music for other television shows as well (including the theme for Guiding Light) Throughout the years, Rick earned 6 Emmy awards and was nominated 24 times. He was also a pioneer in the ‘music library’ business.  Not long ago, ASCAP informed me that Rick was so prolific he had well over a thousand pieces of music registered with them.
            It was Rick who mentored me when I  first wrote lyrics (I still recall his crumpling my first efforts and telling me it was ‘a good start’) and eventually two songs we co-wrote were nominated for Emmy awards. I think some of his best music was that written for a musical we worked on together called UG – A CAVEMAN MUSICAL.
            Rick was more than merely talented; he was very entrepreneurial and had the knack of getting those inclined to say no to say yes.  He was fiercely loyal and trustworthy; he had integrity and would be hurt and dismayed when he found these qualities lacking in others.  His generosity extended not only to me and to his children but to friends and strangers as well. He gave financial and emotional support to many who needed it. One of his proudest contributions was being on the ground floor of the creation of C.L.U.’s Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival, something that is now entering its twelfth year.  He also took great pride in starting Oak Park High School’s drama department, which flourished under his leadership. After his passing, I received numerous letters, some from people I’d never met. They’d begin “You don’t know me but your husband was responsible for giving me my first break in my career”.
            Rick was not perfect.  Who among us are?  But he left an indelible mark on those he met. He cherished his kids and played a huge part in their lives. So much so that I think perhaps my children will have more vivid memories of their father than those whose fathers may have been physically in their lives, but emotionally absent.
            I still find it difficult to listen to his music, but one day I hope that I’ll be able to do so. In the meantime, he remains with me in the anecdotes I still hear told by friends, in the humor and expressions I hear echoed by my daughter, Allie, and in the voice I hear when my son Adam sings, The Wanderer.
            In fact, Rick’s legacy lives on not only in his music, but  in his children as well. He will live in my heart always.

Monday, October 8, 2012


I was reflecting recently on the demise of the world’s fair.  World’s fairs were once held as regularly as the International Olympics and were looked forward to with the same anticipation.
            The only world’s fair I ever attended was the one held in New York in 1964/1965.  The site was Flushing Meadows, New York and it was one of the largest world’s fairs ever to be held in the United States. (The 1939 world’s fair was also held in New York).
            The theme of the 1964/65 fair was "Peace Through Understanding", dedicated to "Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe".  This was somewhat ironic since the fair was to come into conflict with the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE), the international body headquartered in Paris that sanctions world's fairs: BIE rules stated that an international exposition could run for one six-month period only, and no rent could be charged to exhibitors. (In order to make a profit, it was decided that the fair had to run two years). Because of this controversy, many European nations, Canada, Australia, and the Soviet Union did not have an exhibit at the fair.
            Controversy aside, the fair was an incredible and most memorable experience. Just ask any baby boomer fortunate enough to be living in or visiting the New York area at the time. I was pretty young, but I have vivid memories of the fair. I confess, though, I had forgotten about several of the exhibits. Some things I remembered, some I had to be reminded of.

.  The 12-story high, stainless-steel model of the earth called the Unisphere.
.  Getting off the subway station and seeing the fair to the right and Shea Stadium to the left.
.  My first taste of Belgium waffles.
.  My first viewing of “La Pieta” (I saw this again years later when visiting the Vatican).
.  The Clairol Pavillion: (one of my favorites) Women only were permitted in this exhibit. A round glass structure called the “Clairol Color Carousel” had 40 private booths which rotated on a slowly circling turntable. “During a six minute ride in one of the compartments, each of our visitors will be given a complete hair-coloring analysis. Special devices on the Carousel’s steps will show “the ladies” how they would look in various hair shades and styles”.
.  "Dinoland", sponsored by Sinclair Oil, featured life-size replicas of nine different dinosaurs.
.  Futurama: a show in which visitors, seated in moving chairs, glided past elaborately detailed miniature 3D model scenery showing what life might be like in the "near-future"
.  IBM ran a program to look up what happened on a particular date that a person wrote down—for many visitors, this was their first hands-on interaction with a computer.

            The fair also is remembered as the venue Walt Disney used to design and perfect his system of "Audio-Animatronics", in which a combination of electromechanical actuators and computers controls the movement of lifelike robots to act out scenes. (From this came the idea for Ira Levin’s “Stepford Wives”.)
            Some Disney exhibits:
.  At the Illinois pavilion, a lifelike President Abraham Lincoln, recited his famous speeches in "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln".
.  In "Pepsi Presents Walt Disney's 'It's a small world' - a Salute to UNICEF and the World's Children" at the Pepsi pavilion, animated dolls and animals frolicked in a spirit of international unity accompanying a boat ride around the world. The song was written by the Sherman Brothers.
            (Both of these exhibits would eventually find their way to Disneyland).
            So why no world’s fair any longer?
            The world’s fair presented visions of the distant future: electronic gizmos and appliances that might some day become reality.
            Nowadays, the speed at which one technology replaces another is so great that an exhibit would become obsolete before it opened.
            Those who have visited the New York World’s Fair should consider themselves lucky to have done so.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Last month I downsized, moving out of the home in which I had lived and raised my family for twenty years.  It was time to make the move for a multitude of reasons. I was warned by several people that I would miss the house, but surprisingly I haven’t found that to be the case.
            Yes, I miss the house but the house I miss is the house of a decade ago before Rick became ill. The house where we threw great barbeques and parties with music filtering outside to the pool. The house neighborhood kids drifted in and out of. The house where we had huge, memorable New Years Eve parties. While it is true that house no longer exists for me, my memories are with me forever.
            The move was as horrific as everyone said it would be. After months of sifting through the garage, donating, tossing, packing, we were still left with way too much ‘stuff’. I’m not speaking of furniture. That was manageable. It’s the stuff we hold on to through the years: The kids’ artwork, the old greeting cards, the toys (yes, I still had plenty of my grown children’s toys), the memorabilia, the files, etc. So I gave away, donated, and tossed more.
            Finally the weekend of the move arrived along with temperatures ranging from 101 – 106.  I’m not at my finest hour in hot weather and moving just exacerbated the situation.  Between the movers and some very, very helpful friends and family, the move was completed. 
            As I stared at cartons reaching to the ceiling, I decided that some ‘stuff’ would remain in boxes, stored in closets. If and when I move again, I’ll have a head start.
            Here are a few tips for those contemplating a big move:

. Buy lots and lots of tape and boxes…more than you think you’ll need.

. Start getting rid of things early on – garage sales, donations (if you know any young people starting out they’ll be grateful for many of your discards).

. Very important. Pack a separate bag as if you’re going on an overnight trip. In it, place the immediate essentials (ie. appt. book, phone charger, remote controls, make-up, medicine, etc.) You think you’ll remember where you packed things.  Trust me, you won’t.

. Don’t only label the boxes by room; list the content or as much of it as you can.

. Register your change of address with the post office as soon as possible and make any other changes, closing down utility accounts, etc.

. Bring over breakables yourself as much as you are able to (this includes lamps, mirrors, knick-knacks).

. Feed your movers. (And supply lots of bottled water).

. Don’t try to tackle everything at once when you first move in. It will take a few weeks to settle in.

Thanks for joining me on Rhodes Less Traveled,  Vivian

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Jewish New Year

Hi everyone:

I'm back.

Haven't posted on my blog for the past several weeks. I moved and I've been busy settling in (something I'll discuss in a future blog).

I thought that to celebrate the beginning of Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year I'd attach a link to a blog I wrote for The Four Seasons Hotel, Westlake Village:

L'shana tova (Happy New Year) to all.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I did not get to post a blog this past week and probably will not get to post again for the next few weeks. Things are a little chaotic at the moment; I’m in the process of moving.
            Moving is considered one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. Right there along side of death in the family and divorce.  My family and I have lived in this house for twenty years. That’s a lot of memory, both good and bad. Mostly good.
            After my husband’s death six and a half years ago, I chose to remain in the house with my son and daughter. We had had enough upheaval for a lifetime and, I believed, we needed this time to heal and regroup.
            Now, with my daughter having moved out and about to get married and with my son on his way, with one foot out the door, the big family home has served its purpose.
            When I informed friends and family that I was going to downsize, I received mixed reactions. Most people understood and encouraged me in taking this next step. Others were, understandably, sentimental about the parties and good times associated with my home.  But unfortunately one can’t remain frozen in time to satisfy the fond memories of other people, as cherished as those memories may be.
            Moving is not easy under any circumstances but going through memorabilia and photos is particularly emotional when you’ve lost a loved one. Also, deciding what to keep, what to donate, what to toss….not easy either.
            Still, with the help of friends and family I’m doing it. At various times I find myself feeling anxious, excited, sad, and hopeful. Cleansing one’s garage is extremely cathartic. We all have way, way too much and can make do with a lot less than we think we can.  I’ll still hold on to the special collectibles, to the precious baby mementos, but, truthfully, I’m looking forward to simplifying my life.
            I’ll be posting again as soon as I get settled. Wish me luckJ

Thanks for joining me on RHODES LESS TRAVELED,


Friday, July 20, 2012


This past month I’ve been privileged to teach two English classes on the Cal Lutheran University campus. It’s part of a program called Upward Bound, which helps high school students, from various parts of Los Angeles, needing that extra leg up. The kids are terrific and it’s been an extremely rewarding experience.
            Yesterday, my teaching assistant and I were permitted to “tag along” as our students, who are also taking a class in Chinese culture, were brought to Chinatown by their two instructors.
            I haven’t been to L.A.’s Chinatown in ages and going by bus rather than having to drive was a particular treat for me. (I’ve always enjoyed bus and train rides --- allows one time to space out).
            When we arrived, we went immediately to a temple. Here, we approached the alter (laden with offerings such as meat and fresh fruit) and partook in a custom involving sticks, stones, and luck.  Fortunately, the number I chose was a lucky one (at least that’s the interpretation I received).
            From there we did some shopping at a nearby plaza and visited a local grocery store. There were an assortment of teas, dried shrimp, and just about anything you’d expect to find at an Asian market.
            We dined at a restaurant called Empress Pavilion where apparently President Clinton and President Bush both dined (at different times I’m assuming).
            The food was ordered for us by our knowledgeable teachers, Christina and Debbie, and it was a feast: numerous appetizers, main courses, and side dishes (noodles, dim sum, lemon chicken, shrimp etc.)
            We shopped a little more and then it was time to return to our ‘normal lives’.
            As I looked around at women walking by,  carrying umbrellas to shield them from the sun, I was reminded how diverse Los Angeles is.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for joining me on Rhodes Less Traveled.


Monday, July 16, 2012


This weekend was a particularly busy one for me and I neglected to write a blog.  I am still pressed for time but my obsessive nature won't allow me to just skip writing one even for one week.

This, then, will be brief.  I merely want to mention the wonderful time I had this past weekend. I brought my daughter's future in-laws and her fiance, as my guests, to the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley.  For those who have never been there I strongly recommend it.  The exhibit itself is fantastic, the docents are knowledgeable, and the view is absolutely spectacular. (Regardless of your political persuasion, it's a trip worth taking).

Aside from the ongoing Reagan exhibit, there is always an adjunct exhibit (Among the exhibits I've seen are: dresses worn by former First Ladies, exercise equipment used by various presidents, a Harley motorcycle exhibit, and the entire collection of the works of Norman Rockwell). Every Christmas, Christmas trees are displayed. Formerly, they represented various countries; more recently they've started displaying Christmas trees that represent decades in America's history.

The adjunct exhibit we attended this weekend was one promoted by Disney fans;  on display was an amazing array of Disney memorabilia: props, costumes, animation --- anything that would tempt a Disneyphile (and who amongst us is not)?

The Disney exhibit will be running through next April so put it on your calendar.  Aside from a walk through Air Force One, make sure to visit the gift shop where one can find a huge assortment of jelly beans, President Reagan's favorite candy.

Thanks for joining me on Rhodes Less Traveled,


Saturday, July 7, 2012


“The Fishin’ Hole”, the whistled theme song of The Andy Griffith Show, is arguably one of the most recognizable television themes of all time.  Like the show itself, the theme, written by Earle Hagen, Everett Sloan, and Herbert Spencer, is easy going and breezy.
            With the passing of the much loved and admired Andy Griffith earlier this week, I began to reflect on the appeal of Mayberry, the imaginary town where the show was set.
            Mayberry, North Carolina was situated in close proximity to Raleigh; it was at least within easy driving distance.  Griffith played country-wise, Sheriff Andy Taylor, whose sensible outlook on life was in direct contrast to his excitable, know-it-all, deputy, Barney Fife (played to perfection by Don Knotts).  Rounding out the ensemble were characters we felt we knew, such as: Aunt Bea, Floyd the Barber, Otis the town drunk, and the Pyle cousins, Gomer and Goober.  Andy’s son Opie (played by future director, Ron Howard) literally grew up on the show.
            So what was its appeal?
            My mother loved The Andy Griffith Show.  Born and raised in New York City, she greatly appreciated the depiction of small town Southern living, circa the early 60’s. Of course, we watched the show through rose tinted glasses:  there was no racism in Mayberry (truth be told, there appeared to be few blacks living there).  If a resident suffered from cancer we were unaware of it; the worst illness spoken of was a slight touch of bursitis.  And the crime rate in Mayberry was nearly non-existent, so much so that the sheriff didn’t even carry a gun (though Barney did keep a single bullet in his pocket in case of an ‘emergency’).
            This begs the question, was it wrong to portray a town like Mayberry in such an idealized fashion?  One could say that it was no worse than creating fantasies of the typical American family with shows such as Leave It to Beaver, and Father Knows Best.
            We turned a cultural corner in the late sixties and early seventies and comedy became ‘realer’ with shows such as All in the Family and Maude, but at the same time shows  became more cynical. Like a bucket of water being suddenly dumped over our collective heads, we were more or less forced to abandon our innocence.
            Perhaps this is why The Andy Griffith Show holds a place in the hearts of so many, as does its star, the late Andy Griffith.

Hope you're enjoying your weekend. Thanks for joining me on RHODES LESS TRAVELED.


Friday, June 29, 2012


Summer.  Coppertone.  The Beach Boys.  The ice-cream truck (growing up in New York we waited for the Good Humor Man or Mr. Softee to show up on alternate evenings).
            And then, of course, there was the beach.
            Where I grew up, in N.Y., that meant Brighton Beach. (Occasionally, people drove to Jones Beach or to Rockaway Beach but my recollections are of Brighton Beach). Laying on the sand at Brighton, one could look up and see the roller coasters and the parachute drop at nearby Coney Island.
            The beach itself was divided by stations, or bays as they were called. (Bay #1, Bay #2, and so on).  People had their favorite bays and clustered to them according to their particular affiliation, such as the school they attended. There was a bay predominated by Italians, by Jews, by gays.
            Rather than a lemonade stand, men, dressed in casual attire, would stroll the sand, carrying their treats and shouting “get your ice cold orange-aide, get your hot knishes” (for those unfamiliar, a knish is a potato delicacy).
            In June, just before school let out, blankets would be strewn with ‘Regents Exam’ study guides. Regents Exams were exit exams covering a multitude of subjects, given by the state of New York to all graduating seniors before they were permitted to graduate.
            Folks arrived at Brighton Beach and Coney Island in droves to watch the 4th of July fireworks.
            I recall one time in the seventies, when people were devouring Jaws, the blockbuster novel by Peter Benchley; fewer swimmers dipped their toes into the waters of the Atlantic that summer.
            Speaking of the Atlantic – when I relocated to the West Coast two things struck me about the Pacific Ocean: there seemed to be more debris, rocks and shells, on the ocean floor and the water was much, much colder than that of the Atlantic.
            Which ever beach is close to you, I hope you’ll be relaxing on it some time soon, placing a sea shell to your ear and listening to the ocean’s waves.

Have a great weekend whatever you do,



Saturday, June 23, 2012


Before Jennifer Aniston., before Debbie Reynolds, the ultimate girl next door was Doris Day. (Arguably this might be said of June Allison, but Doris Day was a personal favorite of mine so I’m sticking with Doris).
           Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff, on April 3, 1924, with her winning smile, her infectious laugh, and the wonderful sense of vulnerability she possessed, it was no wonder that her name was continuously on movie marquees, particularly in the fifties and sixties.
            Doris Day began her career as a big band singer in 1939 but it wasn’t until 1945 that she hit it big with Sentimental Journey. One of the most prolific female artists of the twentieth century, she recorded more than 650 songs between 1947 and 1967. What made Doris such a superb vocalist is that she had a unique ability to put over a song. To personalize the lyrics so that when you heard her sing you truly believed that she felt the words she was singing. (As someone who has been a lyricist, I find this talent extraordinary and very gratifying).  Like Frank Sinatra, this particular skill would later serve her very well in films.
            Believe it or not, my mother did not want me going to see Doris Day films when I was a child. She felt that the subject matter was “too suggestive”.  Yes, too suggestive.  When I finally did see the romantic comedies of the sixties I found myself wondering (even at my tender age) why  Doris Day, a virgin in her thirties, was turning down an opportunity to travel the world with the wealthy business tycoon with whom she was in love (and who, by the way, was played by Cary Grant no less!)
            Unfortunately Doris’s screen persona was different from her personal life, which was not all sunshine and daylight. Far from it. She had a pattern of being attracted to a variety of men who either cheated her or physically abused her. (The closest she came to a role imitating her life was in the movie, Julia).
            From all accounts, she was a sincere person and a loyal friend. In fact, she maintained a long standing friendship with longtime co-star, Rock Hudson and stood by him in his final days, before he eventually succumbed to AIDS. 
            Doris Day, who in addition to films had a successful television career, is also known for her life long devotion to animals and to organizations supporting them.
            Though she was recognized best for romantic comedies, my favorite Doris Day movies were the ones in which she played it straight (Julia, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Storm Warning). 
            Doris Day was and remains a class act.
            I’ve listed a dozen of my favorite Doris Day movies (in no particular order).


 Thanks for joining me on RHODES LESS TRAVELED, and have a great weekend,


P.S.  Due to the fact that I'm going to find myself very busy in the coming weeks, I've decided to dispense with my daily 'this day in history' at least for the summer. I will continue writing my weekly blogs (though they may be posted at any time during the weekend). Thanks for your continued support.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


I am not going to be writing my usual blog this week. I’ve been out of town, visiting my sister. My brother-in-law passed away last month and I came out to attend his memorial service and to offer whatever comfort I could.
            There’s not much to say at a time like this but, having been in the same situation only a few years ago, I am mindful of what platitudes not to express. (To be reminded of this, check the archives for my blog entitled, “What Not To Say To Someone In Mourning”).
            The service was lovely. I, and several other family members, spoke eloquently about Larry and the man he was. We shared humorous anecdotes and talked about Larry’s many good qualities.
 My nephew, to his credit, spoke not only of my brother-in-law’s good qualities but also reminded us that his uncle, like the rest of us, was not a saint. He had his weaknesses, made his share of mistakes, and so on.  Too often we idealize a person posthumously, elevating our loved ones to an exalted status. Why do we do this?  Is it because we only wish to remember the deceased as a perfect person?  In life, didn’t we love and accept him or her, shortcomings and all?
People came from great distances to attend the memorial service which was a tribute to the many lives Larry touched. I was brought back to my husband Rick’s service which was attended by about 700 people. I remember thinking at that time how honored Rick would have been and how much he, himself, would love to have attended the service, seeing people he had not seen in years.
Perhaps the lesson to be learned here, if there is one, is not only to treat each other with kindness, but to go out of our way to keep up with old acquaintances and relations, attend that family function or that reunion you weren’t sure you’d be going to. Though it’s good to be able to attend a loved one’s memorial service, it’s even better to be there for that person in life.

Thanks for joining me on Rhodes Less Traveled,


Wednesday, June 13, 2012


On June 13, 1966 The U.S. Supreme Court set forth in Miranda v. Arizona that the police must advise suspects of their rights upon taking them into custody.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


On June 12, 1963, Civil rights leader Medgar Evers was fatally shot in front of his home in Jackson, Mississippi.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


I didn’t forget to post this blog on Friday as I usually do. I chose to post it today instead because today is exactly a year that I posted my first blog. Can’t believe a whole year has passed, but there it is. In one year my blog’s had almost 6000 hits.
            It was my daughter, Allie, who first suggested that I write a blog. I was resistant since I myself wasn’t a fan of blogs that read as personal journals (ie. today I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich).
            Still, it was a way of returning to my writing as was working on revising my first mystery, GROOMED FOR MURDER, and making it available as an ebook.
            I wasn’t sure if I had any sort of a ‘theme’ going. I love to cook, but mine wouldn’t be a recipe blog. Nor would it be a travel blog or a ‘mommy blog’. Eventually, it evolved and when I looked for a common thread I realized that for the most part my blogs were historical or nostalgic in content.
            I’ve written about subjects as diverse as film noir, Harry Houdini, old time baseball, and famous mistresses through the years. The article that was read the most was the one on “what not to say to someone in mourning”. I’m glad that anyone can read articles missed by checking out the archives.  A few months ago I began daily postings of ‘this day in history’. Depending how popular this is I may or may not continue these in the future.
            One of the things that excited me most was when I first looked at the stats and discovered that my articles were being read by people in a variety of countries such as: Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, to name a few. My biggest ‘fans’ outside of the U.S. are from Russia.
            (I would love to get feedback from people reading this outside the U.S. so if anybody is reading this from lands far away, my email address is
            The best thing about the blog has been the discipline I’ve returned to in my writing. I research the articles I write and learn a lot while doing so.
            I hope you’ll all continue reading as I enter my second year of blogging.

Have a nice weekend and thanks for joining me along RHODES LESS TRAVELED,



On June 10, 1935 Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by "Bill W."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Baseball great, Lou Gehrig died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS, a rare type of paralysis now referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Friday, June 1, 2012


Is it okay to murder a despicable human being?  That would depend on one’s perspective I suppose.
            The movie, Bernie, was well written, well directed, and well acted. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it was Jack Black’s best performance to date and may likely earn him an Oscar nomination.
            Getting back to my original question: is it okay to murder a despicable human being?  Bernie would have us believe that it is. (Spoiler alert: if you don’t want to know about the movie, stop reading now).
            Based on true events, Bernie, directed by Richard Linklater, tells the story of a beloved funeral director, in his thirties, whose generosity of spirit and whose kindness are very much appreciated in the small Texas town where this takes place. When Bernie befriends a wealthy, elderly widow who is despised by the community for her meanness, the town is aghast. Most people think Bernie a saint for putting up with the woman’s cruel and controlling ways.
            Bernie accepts all that ‘Margy’ dishes out until one day he snaps and shoots her to death.
            The story is conveyed in mock documentary style with all the residents weighing in on whether Bernie, who ultimately admits to killing the woman and stuffing her body in a freezer, should be found guilty.
            The movie was very well done and I enjoyed watching it but at the same time, it left me thinking about how manipulative films can be in spinning a point of view.  In this film, only the D.A. (played by Matthew McConaughey) and family members are disturbed by what is truly a horrific act (and the family members are not portrayed sympathetically).
            Through the eyes of the movie makers we are left to sympathize with Bernie, a sweet, loving man who is dominated by this witch of a woman (played as the ultimate bitch by veteran actor Shirley McClaine). Bernie uses any money he gets from her estate, not on himself but to help the townspeople and the church.
            Did such a man deserve his sentence of life in prison?  Wasn’t he doing the town a service in eliminating this awful woman?  There’s a side here that we’re not seeing. Margy’s side and that of her family.  Here was a young man who took up with a wealthy old woman, a man who traveled and vacationed with her in first class luxury. No one held a gun to his head to stay. Bernie covered up her death for months. Yet, we, the audience are left hoping that he’ll be acquitted.
            Remember, Dorothy Gale killed two witch sisters (yes, the deaths were accidental – one witch flattened by a house, her sister melted by water – but she killed them none the less) and yet did we, for one moment, want Dorothy to pay for her crimes?  Certainly not.
            Films can easily get us to sympathize with even the most heinous characters (case in point, Bonnie & Clyde).  This is not to say that we can’t enjoy the movie, only that we should be cognizant of the fact that often our feelings are being manipulated.

Have a great weekend and thank you for joining me along RHODES LESS TRAVELED,



On June 1, 1938 the first issue of Action Comics, featuring Superman, was published. Still have a stack of old Superman comics somewhere in the garage.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


On May 31, 1990 the television show Seinfeld premiered. Thinking that this was an obscure show about nothing that the network would soon cancel, my husband and I began taping every episode and managed to attend a live taping (something that would become nearly impossible to do after the show became wildly popular).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On May 30 1536 King Henry VIII of England married his 3rd wife, Jane Seymour, 11 days after he had his 2nd wife, Anne Boleyn executed.


On May 29, 1431 Joan of Arc was burned at the stake as a heretic.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012


I've frequently been asked what the difference was in writing a script as opposed to writing a novel.
It’s been said, for good reason, that the play is an actor’s medium, television a producer’s medium, film a director’s medium, and the novel a writer’s medium. With the exception of one’s editor, the author of a novel pretty much has free reign and the final say in how he or she wishes to tell a story.
            Writing for film and television is different than writing a novel or a play. In a play, the story is essentially revealed through the characters’ dialogue. Even under the guidance of a director, it is the actor who ultimately conveys the essence of the play. (This was true, incidentally, in old-time radio as well).
            In a novel, the author can rely on a combination of dialogue and exposition to lay out the story. A visual medium, however, is just that. Visual.  Here, the old axiom “show don’t tell” strictly applies.
            For example, in a novel, a young, resolute ballerina might say, “I realize this is hard work, but I’m determined to make dancing my life’s work no matter what it takes.” On film, she’d say nothing.
Instead, we’d see her removing her wrinkled, waitress uniform and change into a leotard. She’d twist her long pony tail into a bun before sitting down and removing her shoes. We, the audience, would watch her slip worn ballet slippers over feet that are bruised and discolored. She’d walk into the dance studio, take a deep breath, and begin a strenuous dance routine. Her determination to dance despite all obstacles would be revealed without so much as a line of dialog.
            A script can go on for pages without dialogue. To some writers, this might seem easy. Personally, I find it challenging. My strength is in writing dialogue (I would love to have been a writer on one of those old radio shows). I preferred script writing for the soaps as opposed to writing story breakdown. I also find it more natural for me, in writing a mystery, to include a lot of dialogue in addition to exposition.
            Writing a screenplay is a trickier proposition for me. I find that I have to constantly remind myself to convey a scene with as little dialogue as possible.  I would probably have an easier time adapting a screenplay to a novel than I would adapting a novel into a screenplay. 
            Another thing to keep in mind is that to a film director, a screenplay is often no more than a blueprint. He (or she) will interpret the story as he sees fit even if that means completely overhauling the script. In contrast to a novel, a screenplay or a teleplay is usually a collaborative effort.
            At the end of the day, whether one is writing a play, a novel, or a screenplay, it is imperative to keep in mind the particular medium for which one is writing.

Have a great weekend and thanks for traveling along RHODES LESS TRAVELED,



On May 25, 1969 Midnight Cowboy, the only x-rated film to win a best picture Oscar, was released.


On May 24, 1844 Samuel Morse transmitted the first telegraph message, in which he asked, "What hath God wrought?"


On May 23 1430, Joan of Arc was captured by the Burgundians and subsequently sold to the English.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


On May 22, 1972 Richard Nixon arrived in Moscow, becoming the first U.S. president to visit the Soviet Union.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I recently saw the movie, THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL. I found it to be a charming movie with an incredible ensemble (it includes Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy among others and was directed by John Madden).  It tells the story of an assorted group of retirees, who appear to be in their sixties, who decide to leave England  to relocate to a hotel in India. Unfortunately the hotel doesn’t live up to its brochure description (does it ever?) and the story unfolds.
            Aside from its being charming, I thought it somewhat profound on various levels.  The basic theme of the movie is aging and the choices we make when life pulls its punches.  My late mother-in-law once told me that the only way to survive was to have the ability to go with the changes that occur in one’s life. I think she was probably better at that than I but it’s something we all need to address at some point in life.
            In old films someone in his sixties was considered to be old.  His or her life was seen as pretty much over. With the life expectancy having grown, however, that is no longer the case. Just as forty is the new thirty and fifty, the new forty, sixty is the new fifty. Wonderful, yes?  Maybe, but it begs the question, what do we choose to do with those ‘extra years’ laid out before us?
            Often the choice seems to be made for us. As in MARIGOLD HOTEL, people are thrown curve balls. Something comes up in life that they didn’t expect.  Health issues, the loss of a spouse, disintegration of one’s life’s savings. Change is inevitable. It’s how one chooses to handle those changes that matters. Of course there are the obvious ways such as denial and substance abuse. Neither of these options is a particularly viable way to live.
            There is another option:  Think outside the box.  Consider alternatives that may not have occurred to you before. Examine the ‘worst case scenario’ and see if there’s a way to turn it to your advantage (making lemonade of lemons, yes, but so what?)
            Baby boomers have always been reluctant to give up their youth (go to any rock concert featuring a group from the sixties and you’ll see fans who still feel as though they’re in their twenties). Some, turned off by the traditional retirement homes enjoyed by their parents, have come up with creative alternatives (ie. metro-condos located in the heart of a city-like area surrounded by movie theaters and restaurants, sharing homes with other adults, relocating to other countries where it is less costly to live).
            The retirees in the film embraced a life that they would never in a million years have planned on. They were only able to do this successfully by letting go of some of their preconceived notions of the way things should turn out in life.
            The autumn years of one's life can be spent passively, sitting around a coffee shop talking about the way things were and should be now or they can be spent re-creating oneself and still considering oneself in the game. The choice is ours alone.

Thanks for joining me on RHODES LESS TRAVELED, and have a great weekend.



On May 19 1921, Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act, establishing national quotas for immigrants.


On May 18 2004, Randy Johnson, age 40, became the oldest pitcher to throw a perfect game.


On May 17, 1875 The first Kentucky Derby was held at Churchill Downs, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


     On May 16, 1929 The first Academy Awards were given on this night. The term, Oscars, was not used to describe the statuettes given to actors and actresses until 1931.


On May 15, 1972 Alabama Governor George Wallace was shot and crippled as he campaigned for the presidency.

Monday, May 14, 2012


On May 14, 1998 Frank Sinatra died at the age of 82. (Had the opportunity of hearing him perform live on three occasions -- he was one of a kind).

Sunday, May 13, 2012


On May 13, 1981 Pope John Paul II was shot and wounded by Mehmet Ali Agca as he drove through a crowd in St. Peter's Square, Rome.

Friday, May 11, 2012

MARTY (The Movie)

            Last week, while home in bed nursing a cold, I took comfort in watching one of my favorite old films: Marty.  A true classic.
            On the surface, Marty is the simple story of a Bronx butcher who finds love. Marty was, however, unique in several ways. To begin with, it was originally written as a sixty minute teleplay by renowned writer, Paddy Chayefsky.  It starred Rod Steiger and Nancy Marchand (in later years associated with the television show, Lou Grant).
            It is said by some that Steiger turned down the chance to re-create his role for film because it would have meant his signing a multi-movie contract, something he didn’t wish to do.  Others maintain that producers Harold Hecht and Burt Lancaster weren’t sure Steiger would work for the big screen. (Ironically, Chayefsky originally wrote the script with his friend actor/director Martin Ritt in mind – hence the title “Marty”.)
            Regardless of how Ernest Borgnine got to be cast in the role, he nailed it.  In fact, I suspect he had the vulnerability that Steiger, good an actor as he was, may have lacked.
            What makes the film so memorable is that American films, unlike European films, are rarely character driven in the way Marty was.  This was especially true in 1955 when the film was made.
            Marty is a devoted son, a practicing Catholic, and a solid friend but he cannot seem to find a girl.  His traditional Italian mother, with whom he lives, worries that he’ll “die without a son”. Rejected so often, due, he believes, to his being homely and overweight, Marty is hesitant to try again; he is fearful of striking out.
            At a ballroom mixer, he finally connects with a girl (Betsy Blair as Clara), who herself is not very attractive. He tells her “maybe you and me aren’t the dogs we think we are.”  For once, Marty begins to feel good about himself.  Of course, human nature being what it is, people in his life offer opinions based on their own agendas.
            His friend, Angie, afraid of losing Marty as a companion advises Marty to “dump her…she’s a dog.”  His mother, terrified of being abandoned, tells Marty she “don’t like the girl” (for one thing, she’s not Italian).  Even his cousin, experiencing his own marital woes, tells Marty he’s better off single.  Ultimately, Marty must decide to do what is in his own best interest.
            Though the movie is over fifty years old, the themes of loneliness, superficiality, and selfishness are ones that are timeless, making Marty a true classic.


     On May 11, 1960 Israeli agents captured Nazi Adolf Eichmann in Argentina. They were unsuccessful in their attempts to capture The Angel of Death, Dr. Josef Mengele.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012


On May 7, 1994, Edvard Munch's painting, The Scream was recovered a few months after it had been stolen. It recently sold at auction for nearly 120 million.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


On May 6, 1937, the German airship Hindenburg blew up and burst into flames at Lakehurst, N.J.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Friday, May 4, 2012


Today, while pumping my own gas and checking myself out of the supermarket, I thought about how many jobs are either obsolete or heading in that direction.
With almost every new innovation, invention, and technological improvement comes the loss of a job.  In the name of progress, men and women have had either had to re-adjust, re-invent, or perish.
            In years to come we might very well see the ultimate demise of the gasoline attendant (still required in New Jersey) and the supermarket checker. Newspapers and book publishers may, too, become obsolete one day due to the internet and devices such as Kindle and Nook.
On the upside, new jobs are constantly created to fill the void. (Who could have dreamed of S.W.A.T. team mediators in the early 1900's?)
I tried to think of jobs that no longer exist or will probably be obsolete in a few short years:

Typewriter repairmen
            TV repairmen (cheaper to buy a new set)
Elevator operators (I can recall the ones at Saks in NYC)
            Bowling pin setters
            Ice men
            Milkmen (I still have my mom’s old milk box)
            Switchboard operators (I worked one of these intimidating monsters at a Beverly Hills law office years ago and spoke with Yul Brynner, whom I believe I may have inadvertently disconnected)
            Telegraph operators

I'm sure you can think of more. Hoping yours won't become obsolete any time soon:).

Have a great weekend and thanks for joining me along RHODES LESS TRAVELED,



On May 4, 1932, Public Enemy Number One, Al Capone, was jailed for tax evasion.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


On May 3, 1979 Margaret Thatcher became the first woman elected prime minister of England.


On May 2, 1939 Lou Gehrig established a new major-league baseball record when he played his 2,130th consecutive game. It would take another 57 years before Cal Ripken, Jr., broke it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

    On May 1, 1967 Elvis Presley married Priscilla Beaulieu. (They divorced in 1973.)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012


On April 29, 1945 American soldiers liberated the Dachau concentration camp.


On April 28, 1967 boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused to be inducted into the Army.  (Was probably still Cassius Clay at this time).

Saturday, April 28, 2012



            What tickles your funny bone?  A pie in the face?  A slip on a banana peel?  Or, do you prefer dry, sophisticated English wit?
            Humor is very subjective, influenced by so many demographics. A person’s age, gender, nationality, and ethnic identification, are only some of the factors determining that which one considers humorous.
            Years ago, I dated someone of a different nationality.  He couldn’t understand why The Mary Tyler Moore Show made me laugh.  He didn’t get the cultural subtleties. On the other hand, he did enjoy Sanford & Son, a show I hated but whose humor was much broader than that of the MTM show and therefore more easily understood.
            Most women don’t get why men love The Three Stooges (I grew up with the Stooges because I was influenced by my older brother).
            In addition to gender and culture, ethnic identification is a strong variable in determining one’s outlook on humor. At one point, in the nineties, three networks were airing sitcoms each of which appealed to a particular niche (ABC’S “blue collar” shows like Grace Under Fire and Rosanne, NBC’s “urban shows” such as Friends and Seinfeld and the WB's numerous sitcoms which appealed to predominantly black audiences.)
            Perhaps one of the biggest divides is generational. Comedy has changed a good deal over the years. Charlie Chaplin gave way to the Marx Brothers who gave way to Bob Hope who gave way to Woody Allen who gave way to Chris Rock, and so on.
            Humor today, in my opinion, has become more mean-spirited and cynical. Maybe this happened after 9/11 or maybe it would have evolved this way naturally. (My son loves Always Sunny in Philadelphia but it does nothing for me).
            Some humor is timeless (The Honeymooners) while even the best (All in the Family) can seem dated with the passage of time.
            Fortunately, with all the technology that is available to us these days, there is no shortage of places from which we can all find the types of humor that make us laugh.

Challenge your ‘humor meter’ with the following quiz (most of those listed below got their start in stand-up), then scroll down for the answers.  

  1.  Timeless comedy writer/director/actor whose Broadway play won record awards a few years back.
  2.  Quick witted comic who incorporated ironic word play into his act.
  3.  “Take my wife…”
  4.  Famous for his stand up monologues using a phone as a prop.
  5.  Black comic actor noted for the various personas he can mimic.
  6.  One of the first standup comediennes; known for her acerbic tongue.
  7.  Major black comic to whom Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock owe much.
  8.  “Well excuuuuse me”.
  9.  First comedienne to come out of the closet.
  10.  Foul mouthed black standup who had his own series in the seventies.
  11.  Star of hit 90’s sitcom based on his life.
  12.  Plump comedienne of the 60's.
  13.  Poster boy for A.D.D., starred in a hit sitcom of the 70’s.
  14.  Politically incorrect Jewish comic who has an ongoing role on The Simpsons.
  15. “You look mahvelous!”
  16. Won a well deserved Oscar for her role as Oda Mae Brown in a 90’s hit movie.
  17. Famous for his hand-on-cheek gesture accompanied by a “well!” he was known to have been a great influence on future stars such as Johnny Carson.
  18. As part  of a team, he was straight man for his ditzy wife.
  19. Her nasal voice, like nails on a chalkboard, didn’t prevent her from having a hit sitcom in the 90’s.
  20. “I can’t get no respect!”
  21. Beloved SNL star known for her role as Roseanne Roseannadanna.
  22. Rubber faced comic actor who came on the scene in the 90’s with his starring role in The Mask.

1.Mel Brooks 2. George Carlin 3. Henny Youngman 4. Bob Newhart 5. Eddie Murphy 6. Joan Rivers 7. Richie Pryor 8. Steve Martin 9. Ellen DeGeneres 10. Red Foxx 11. Ray Romano 12. Totie Fields 13. Robin Williams 14. Jackie Mason 15.Billy Crystal 16. Whoopi Goldberg 17. Jack Benny 18. George Burns 19 Fran Drescher 20. Rodney Dangerfield 21. Gilda Radner 22. Jim Carey

Have a great weekend and thanks for joining me on RHODES LESS TRAVELED, Vivian