Tuesday, January 31, 2012


     On January 31, 1940 the first social security check was issued to Ida Fuller for $22.54. Over seventy years ago. Lets hope it's around in another seventy.

Monday, January 30, 2012


     On January 30, 1933 Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany. Mein Kampf (“my struggle”) was published in 1925. Hitler, who wrote this diatribe while in prison, was very specific about his plans for German domination. Though he detailed his fanatic dogma about how he would deal with the fate of non-Aryans, his words were virtually ignored, viewed only as the angry rantings of a two bit politician.  Sometimes it’s good to take people at their word.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


     On January 29, 1845  Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven, was published. With its haunting refrain of “Nevermore, nevermore” it became one of the most often recited poems ever. Incidentally, a few years back The Simpsons did a brilliant parody of it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


     On January 28, 1547 King Henry VIII of England died and his nine-year-old son, Edward VI, assumed the throne.  Lots of responsibility for a kid.

Friday, January 27, 2012


            Recalling summer days as a kid growing up in N.Y., it seems to me that with the exception of camp, children weren’t booked up with tons of extra “enrichment” activities. It was usually left to our own desires and creativity to choose the activities in which we wanted to partake. This could mean playing a game of handball, or enjoying a day at the beach, or simply stretching out in someone’s backyard reading comic books.
             I read a variety of comic books: Little Lotta, Richie Rich, and even the ‘True Romance’ comics (which, looking at today, are quite funny). My favorite comics, however, were Archie comics (including Jughead, Betty & Veronica, etc) and Superman comics. We would actually buy the comics new (at $.10 and $.12 an issue, $.25 for an ‘annual) and then buy, sell, and/or trade them when we were through reading them.
            There was nothing that appealed to me more than settling down with a  Superman comic. I enjoyed the ‘off-shoots’ of Superman as well: Jimmy Olsen, Cub Reporter, Lois Lane Girl Reporter.  What I liked about the earlier issues was that the stories had a human element to them. I’m not sure I could have explained this as a child but I think it was something I realized instinctively. There were stories such as Lois Lane, Fat Lady of Metropolis or Jimmy Olsen  Boy Tycoon. I looked forward to reading about characters from Bizarro land, from other dimensions, and those with the initials “L.L.” (including Superman’s arch enemy, Lex Luther). This all changed drastically in the late sixties as did just about everything in pop culture. The drawings became more intricate, the stories more violent, and the focus more on action than on character. Some people liked the change; I was not one of them.
            Still, the character of Superman never lost its appeal for me. The Adventures of Superman was one of my favorite television shows growing up. I preferred the earlier seasons, which starred Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane. These were directed in a somewhat gritty way and had a distinctly noir feel to them. When Coates was later replaced by Noel Neill the stories became sillier and campier. George Reeves was the perfect Superman and others in the cast (Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen and John Hamilton as Editor of the Daily Planet, Perry “great Caesar’s ghost” White) were excellent supporting actors.
            Christopher Reeves brought much to the role of Superman when he was cast in the film version in the seventies. Hard to believe that the producers tossed out his photo and resume on three separate occasions before finally casting him in the part.
            There is a new Superman movie due out this year. I’m looking forward to it, hoping the actor cast as Superman lives up to his predecessors in portraying “the man of steel”.
            I’ve listed some favorite episodes of the television show, The Adventures of Superman. I didn’t write down the title of the episode but those of you who were fans will certainly remember them:

  1. The episode where Superman takes a bride (Of course this was just a dream. Too bad, his “wife” was played by the lovely Joy Lansing).
  2. The episode in which Lois discovers a ghost town where the few remaining people seem to be dying off.
  3. The episode where Jimmy finds himself on an eerie island in which a lone voice is heard begging for help (turns out to be a parrot).
  4. The episode where the “mole people” invade the planet from beneath the earth’s surface.
  5. The episode where members of a secret society are being killed off one by one.
  6. The episode where the ghost of an Englishman seems to appear in the English country side (filmed on a Hollywood back lot of course).
  7. The episode in which a demented clown is haunting a circus.
  8. The episode in which Superman loses his power (temporarily) by being exposed to Kryptonite.
  9. The episode that centers on a bet made on a lemon meringue pie.
  10. The episode where Professor Twiddle (raspy voiced Sterling Holloway) propels everyone into cavemen times.

Sorry I’m posting this later than usual but I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey along Rhodes Less Traveled.

Have a great weekend,



     On January 27, 1967, The Apollo I fire killed astronauts Grissom, White, and Chaffee during a simulated launch at Cape Canaveral.  We owe a great debt to these brave pioneers of outer space.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


     On January 26, 1988, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway. It would go on to become the longest-running Broadway show. I saw it first in Los Angeles starring Michael Crawford and saw it again with my daughter on Broadway. For months after the performances, I played the soundtrack relentlessly.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


     On January 25, 1915 Alexander Graham Bell inaugurated transcontinental telephone service. He would not believe how far we’ve come.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


     On January 24, 1965 former Prime Minister of Great Britain,Winston Churchill, died in London at age 90.  With his ever present cigar in hand, Churchill was a strong leader who didn’t back down from a fight (either from the Nazis or even from Ireland, whose neutral stance during WWII at times hindered the efforts of the Allies). One of history’s greatest orators, his energy and his stubborn public refusal to make peace until Adolf Hitler was crushed were crucial in rallying and maintaining British resistance to Germany during the  especially challenging years from 1940 to 1942. Would that all leaders had his cajones.

Monday, January 23, 2012


     On January 23, 1989 Salvador Dali died in Spain at the age 84. I had a poster of the famous Dali painting “The Persistence of Memory” hanging in my dorm room. His most memorable contribution to film was the dream sequence in Hitchcock’s Spellbound.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


     On January 22, 1901 Queen Victoria (Queen of Great Britain and Ireland) died after reigning for 63 years.  She was the 4th longest among longest-reigning monarchs and the longest for queens.  When the love of her life, Prince Albert, died in 1861, Victoria's grief was so great that she did not appear in public for three years and did not open Parliament until 1866.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


On January 21, 1977 President Carter pardoned most Vietnam War draft evaders.  Men of that era can usually recall their induction lottery number…can you?

Friday, January 20, 2012


            Whether it’s something minor, such as losing an earring or something major, such as the loss of a relationship, the feeling of loss is unsettling.  When my kids were young I would obsess about the one jigsaw puzzle piece that could not be found or the jacket that was left at school and had never turned up in the lost and found. The truth is I would have preferred that the jacket were ruined rather than lost.
            A ruined jacket is visible.  A lost one leaves one wondering about its whereabouts. Did someone else find it?  Will it eventually turn up or will someone else be enjoying it?
            Most of us form attachments at an early age, not only to other living things, but to inanimate objects as well.  The toddler who loses his or her “blankie” will howl for hours and no amount of promises to replace it will assuage the pain of having lost the original.
            In life we experience all sorts of loss at different stages of our lives.  The loss of a parent, the loss of a spouse, the loss of a pet, the loss of a job.  These are overwhelming losses, but losses that are out of our control.  Yet even when we are in control of the situation, the pain of loss is present. For example, a man choosing to divorce his wife or a woman her husband will likely experience the feeling of loss even if it was he or she who initiated the divorce.  Memories of better, happier times will likely bring a rush of longing for what was and no longer is. (In fact, unlike the death of a spouse, which offers finality, often people who have been divorced are placed in the position of wondering if over really means over.  Can the relationship ever be renewed in the future?  What is one’s ex up to these days and with whom?  Kind of analogous to the aforementioned jacket).
            Change is to be expected and with change comes loss.  You decide to move to a different neighborhood for all the right reasons, but the loss of the life you once lived will inevitably bring with it bittersweet recollections. There is loss due to expectation.  You dreamed of having children, but found you were unable to do so or you thought one day you'd get to visit Paris and have had to come to terms with the fact that odds are you never will.
            My blog generally deals with nostalgia. What is nostalgia if it isn’t looking back, somewhat sentimentally, at the way things used to be?  The loss of a time gone by.
            When it comes to the loss of a relationship, people will be frequently be advised that it’s time to “move on”, to find closure.  Often that is easier said than done. Yes, time does soften, if not heal, the devastating pain of losing a loved one but all it takes is a trigger to remind one of the enormity of the loss. A song, a scent, a handwritten note. It is unrealistic, for example, to believe that a parent whose child has died will ever completely find closure.  Acceptance is the closest one might come to closure. In the final analysis, we all must come to terms with loss in our own way and in our own time. 
            An excellent book dealing with this topic is: CLOSURE: Endings as New Beginnings - http://www.closurebook.com by Lissa Coffey.
            Ultimately it is not so much loss itself that defines us, but rather, how we decide to deal with that loss in order that we might survive and go on with our lives.

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



     On January 20, 1964, The Beatles released their first album in the United States, Meet the Beatles.  Arguably the most prolific and popular rock band in the history of rock and roll, The Beatles' influence is felt even today.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


     On January 19, 1953, Lucy Ricardo gave birth to baby Ricky on I Love Lucy. More people tuned in to watch the show than the inauguration of President Eisenhower.  Everyone loved (and loves) Lucy.  Going to see I Love Lucy – The Show next month. Can’t wait.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


On January 18, 1733, the first polar bear was exhibited in America
in Boston, Mass.  (If you’ve ever survived a Boston winter,
you’ll agree that the polar bear was definitely in his element.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


On January 17, 1991, Operation Desert Storm was launched against Iraq.  President Bush (the elder) ordered a ground war to begin on Febuary 24 and in a lightening fast campaign, U.S. and coalition forces smashed through Iraq’s defenses and defeated Saddam Hussein’s troops in only four days of combat. (Hussein’s troops set fire to 500 Kuwaiti oil wells as a final act of destruction of Kuwait’s infrastructure).  An official cease-fire was accepted and signed on April 6.  532,000 U.S. forces served in Operation Desert Storm. There were a total of 147 U.S. battle deaths during the Gulf War, 145 nonbattle deaths, and 467 wounded in action.

Monday, January 16, 2012


On January 16, 1942 actress Carole Lombard died in a plane crash.  Flying overseas to entertain the troops, Lombard was the first celebrity casualty of WWII.  Carole Lombard appeared in many screwball comedies and had that unusual combination of comic timing and sex appeal. She was married to Clark Gable at the time of her death and some say he never quite got over his loss. One of my favorite Lombard movies was To Be Or Not To Be, co-starring Jack Benny (later remade with Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft); the film was released shortly after she died.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


On January 15, 1967 The first Super Bowl was played: Green Bay Packers 35, Kansas City Chiefs 10.  Mark your calendars for this year’s Super Bowl: Feb 5, 2012.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


On January 14, 1954 blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe married Yankee batter, legendary Joe "Joltin' Joe" DiMaggio. Talk about a super couple. Despite the fact that their marriage lasted less than a year, for two decades following her death, Joe had flowers sent to her graveside twice a week. Some guy.

Friday, January 13, 2012


         Like most of us who enjoy being frightened by things that go bump in the night, I appreciate a good ghost story.  When I was young, my Uncle Hank used to bring my cousins and me together while he told us ‘scary stories’. I don’t recall much about the stories themselves other than the fact that they served their purpose and probably scared us half to death.
          Do kids still enjoy being frightened in that way?  I think so. Books like R.L. Stine’s Goosebump series are popular for good reason. What adults often forget is that there is a magic to be found not only in reading these stories but in having someone read them to you.
           I used to bring a book of scary stories into my son’s fifth grade classroom on Friday afternoons.  I’d turn out the lights, and accompanied by a lit candle, I’d proceed to read spooky stories.  Years later, a young man approached me and told me that he was in that class and that those stories encouraged him to read. (Some suggestions of which spooky books kids enjoy?  I'd offer up any of the collection of 'true ghost stories' or a classic like Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes".  On Halloween, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is always a favorite.)
          It stands to reason that one of my favorite movie genres is the supernatural thriller.  I’m not speaking now of the ones that fall into the category of horror films, such as The Omen, but those in which the supernatural elements are often tied to a mystery and, frequently, a murder. 

Listed below are 10 of my all time favorite supernatural thrillers, in no particular order of preference:

1.     THE UNINVITED (1944)  Starring Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, and Gail Russell, this is about as good a ghost story as you’re going to get. A composer and his sister purchase an old house, dirt cheap, along the English coast. The reason it’s such a bargain, of course, is that it’s haunted. What makes this movie so unique is that it was the first film to treat the subject of ghosts in a non-comical way and it does not have a copout ending.
2.     GHOST (1990) This film had so many elements going for it: a good, suspenseful story, a love so strong, it survived death (Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore portraying Sam and Molly), a brilliant comic performance by Whoopy Goldberg, all backed by the haunting song, Unchained Melody.
3.     THE GIFT (2000) Not only was this a quiet gem for this genre, it boasts an incredibly talented ensemble: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinear, Hilary Swank, Michael Jeter, and Gary Cole. Well worth getting a hold of.
4.     WHAT LIES BENEATH (2000) The wife (Michele Pfeiffer) of a university professor (Harrison Ford) thinks that she is either going insane or that her Vermont home is haunted. Something sinister is definitely going on – and she doesn’t know the half of it!
5.     THE SIXTH SENSE (1999) Famous line to come out of this movie, “I see dead people”.  A movie many viewers went to see twice, though saying why would spoil it for those who haven’t seen it. I don’t think M. Night Shyamalan’s subsequent movies ever came close to this one.
6.     GHOST STORY (1981) Based on Peter Straub’s novel, Ghost Story tells the tale of the ramifications of having covered up a 50 year old murder.
7.     SHUTTER ISLAND (2010) This Martin Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCapprio was set in 1954.  Solid story with, I think, a good twist ending though some found it to be confusing.
8.     THE DEAD ZONE (1983) Based on the Stephen King novel, this movie starred Christopher Walkin and Brooke Adams.  Like all Stephen King stories, the plot is carefully worked out. An especially creepy performance by Martin Sheen as a corrupt politician.
9.     STIR OF ECHOES (1999)  Written by master storyteller
     Richard Matheson, Stir of Echoes tells the story of Tom
Witzky (Kevin Bacon) a man who, having been 
hypnotized, begins to get disturbing flashes of an 
unsolved murder.
10. FALLEN (1998)  Starring Denzel Washington and John
 Goodman and directed by Gregory Hoblit (I knew Greg
 back in the days when he worked on Hill Street Blues).
 Terrific story about the transference of evil and a very 
 effective and eerie use of the Rolling Stones’ 
“Time is on My Side”.

Thanks for joining me on Rhodes Less Traveled and have a great weekend,



 On January 13, 2002, after 17,162 performances, The Fantasticks ended its almost 42 year off-Broadway run.  I had the pleasure of seeing this performed both off-Broadway and years later in a Los Angeles production which starred a friend, actor Terry Lester. The story is a perennial and never lost its charm or appeal throughout the years.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


     On January 12, 1915. The U.S. House of Representatives rejected a proposal to give women the right to vote by a margin of 204 to 174. For decades prior to this, suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony had been campaigning for women's rights. Ironically, some of the opposition to their cause was upper-class women who felt that they were 'the voice behind their men' anyway; they thought that giving women the vote would only weaken their power. Some opposition came from men who assumed that if women were given the vote, the first thing they would try to do would be to close down the saloons. (Hey, come on guys, not all women were like Carrie Nation*). After WW I, the tide turned as did public opinion. On August 15, 1920 the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote, was ratified and became law throughout the United States.

Also on Jan. 12: 1998 nineteen European countries signed an agreement to ban human cloning. This came after the successful cloning of Dolly. (Dolly (5 July 199614 February 2003) was a female domestic sheep, and the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell, using the process of nuclear transfer.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


 On January 11, 1973 baseball's American League adopted the "designated hitter" rule which allowed another player to bat for the pitcher.This and the free agent rule changed the game of baseball tremendously in the seventies. (In 1975 Andy Messersmith of the Dodgers and Dave McNally of the Montreal Expos played without contracts, and then declared themselves free agents in response to an arbitrator's ruling, thereby paving the way for our current system of free-agency and arbitration).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


On January 10, 1920 the League of Nations officially came into existence. Established by the peace treaties that ended World War I., the intended purpose of the League, like its successor, the United Nations, was the promotion of international peace and security.  World War II began 19 years after the League was formed, putting into question is overall effectiveness.

Monday, January 9, 2012


On January 9, 1905 Russian troops fired on a crowd of unarmed Russian workers in St. Petersburg. They were marching to the Winter Palace to petition their grievances to Czar Nicholas II.  This "Bloody Sunday" was followed in succeeding months by a series of strikes, riots, assassinations, naval mutinies, and peasant outbreaks. When WW I broke out in 1914, most elements of Russia (except the Bolsheviks) united in supporting the war effort. However, the repeated military reverses, the acute food shortages, the appointment of inept ministers, and the general suffering of the civilian population as a whole created a revolutionary climate by the end of 1916. The sinister influence of Rasputin over Czarina Alexandra Feodorovna was probably the last straw, leading to the overthrow of the Czar and his family and replacing the government with what came to be known as the Soviet Union. The degree to which the takeover assuaged things is of course debatable. Best book to read about this changing of the guards is Orwell's allegorical "Animal Farm".

Sunday, January 8, 2012


On January 8, 1993 the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Ramzi Yousef, was sentenced to life in prison.  Obviously this did nothing to prepare us for what was to happen only eight short years later.


    On January 7, 1999 the impeachment trial of President William Clinton began.  In 1998 Bill Clinton was called to testify in a sexual harassment suit brought against him by former Arkansas employee Paula Jones.  In the course of his testimony, he denied having had a sexual relationship with intern, Monica Lewinsky.  Ultimately (after  media attention, leaks, and news of Lewinsky's upcoming testimony) he made history by becoming the first U.S. president to testify in front of a grand jury in an investigation of his own possibly criminal conduct, finally admitting to having had an “inappropriate relationship” with Lewinsky.  One interesting outcome of the scandal may have been Clinton’s defining oral sex as not really qualifying as having sexual relations.

Friday, January 6, 2012


            There is good reason why Disneyland is known as the “happiest place on earth”.  From the moment Disneyland Park opened its gates on July 17, 1955 to the present, throngs of people have been visiting to escape for a day of magic. And magical it is.
            Walt Disney had a vision and he saw it through. It was Disney himself who dedicated the various ‘lands’ within the kingdom: Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.  Over the years, other lands were added: New Orleans Square, Bear Country (now known as Critterland), and most recently, Toontown.
            Amusement parks at the turn of the century (the last century) were charming but by the 20’s and 30’s they had become sleazy. They consisted of bad rides and midways. What Disney envisioned hadn’t been done before. He set out to create an amusement park in a beautiful setting, one that had unique rides and family friendly attractions. An amusement park that had a theme.
            The original park was to have been built on a Burbank studio lot, but the space was determined to be too small for what was desired and ultimately the building of it was put on hold when we entered WWII.  Disney Studio facilities had been taken over by the military and energies were put into making and distributing war training films.  Many of the studio’s animators were now in the military so production of animation was slow.
            Where was Walt to get the money needed to build his dream park?  In the mid-fifties a solution presented itself. Disney was able to fund the building of Disneyland with revenues earned by his television series.  Another source of money was the investors Disney was able to get to sponsor the project. (There were originally 33 sponsors which is where Club 33, an exclusive club on the Disneyland premises, derives its name).
            Disney tested some attractions at the 1964 N.Y. World’s Fair, which I had the privilege of visiting as a kid. I remember being in awe of two attractions in particular: It’s a Small World and the Abraham Lincoln that was designed as an audio/animatronics wonder.  Incidentally, these exhibits were so successful amongst New Yorkers that Disney began thinking of an ‘east coast version’ of Disneyland; he quietly began buying up land in Orlando, Florida.
            I visited Disneyland recently and found it to be as magical a place as it was when I brought my children there many years ago.  Amazingly, old rides, like the Teacup Ride remain as they were, evoking feelings of nostalgia, while small new elements are added and the various lands altered all the time. As Disney himself said “this park will never be completed as long as there is imagination in the world".

Thanks for reading Rhodes Less Traveled and have a great weekend,



     On Jan. 6, 1994, figure skater, Nancy Kerrigan, was attacked in the knee with a metal baton. Kerrigan, who was favored to win the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championship was forced out of the running. In her absence, 1991 champion, Tonya Harding, captured a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for the following month's Winter Games (to be held in Lillehammer).  Eventually, it came to light that Harding's ex-husband orchestrated the attack on Kerrigan, to 'ease the competition'.  Hardy admitted to knowing about this after the fact but chose to remain silent about it -- talk about poor sportsmanship.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


On Jan 5 1914, industrialist Henry Ford introduced the $5 a workday minimum wage. In this economy, I hope we won't be returning to that any time soon.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


     On January 4, 1896, Utah was admitted into the union as our 45th state. The state remains heavily populated by Mormons, who arrived in 1847 to escape religious persecution. It was the founder of the Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith, who led his followers out west to find a settlement where they could practice their religion. Ironically, Smith was murdered in 1844 shortly after announcing his bid for presidency. Polygamy, a mainstay of the Mormon faith, was officially abandoned by the LDS church in 1890, though it continues to be quietly (and not so quietly) practiced by breakaway Mormon fundamentalist groups.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


     On January 3, 1967 Jack Ruby died of lung cancer while serving time in prison for the murder of Kennedy assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Ruby, who was reported to have ties to organized crime, was frequently the subject of conspiracy theories. For example, the circumstances surrounding the death of reporter Dorothy Kilgallen were questioned when it became known that Kilgallen, who had recently interviewed Ruby in jail, vocally promised to reveal supposedly earth-shattering news that she had stumbled upon concerning the Kennedy assassination.

Monday, January 2, 2012


     On January 2, 1935 carpenter Bruno Hauptmann's trial began for the kidnapping of aviator Charles Lindbergh's son in 1932. The kidnapping resulted in new and severe penalties for anyone transporting kidnapping victims across state or national lines. Lindbergh himself, having become a national hero for his solo flight to France, later became a controversial figure due to his isolationist stance during WW II and views that were sympathetic to the Nazi Party.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


On January 1, 1959 revolutionaries, led by Fidel Castro, toppled Batista's regime. Consequently the U.S. imposed a commercial, financial, and economic embargo on Cuba. Debate goes on today as to whether the embargo should be lifted and U.S. citizens be allowed to travel to Cuba. (Would make it a lot easier to obtain a Havana cigar).