This week, the the United States and the world has lost some iconic people.

First, Ed McMahon who died at the age of 86. Ed was perhaps the most perfect Ed McMahonstraight man ever to grace the late night stage. As Johnny Carson’s partner for over 30 years, he set up and played off of Johnny’s jokes, keeping uEd setting up a joke for Johnny's Aunt Blabbys laughing until we cried. Johnny and Ed were a late night institution for most Americans, and I — like most people in this country — never missed an episode. As the years passed, I’d forgotten just how funny they were together, but when I heard of Ed’s death, I pulled out my “Best of Carson” DVD and watched the whole thing. Man, those guys were great together. Ed’s quiet straight lines and the looks they engendered from Johnny were classic.

Yesterday, Farrah Fawcett passed away at the age of 62 after three years fighting Farrah's famous posteranal cancer. She, too, was an iconic personality. In the 70s and 80s, her beauty was unrivaled. Her picture was everywhereFarrah at 61 — even my gay friend, Rob, had her poster on his wall. Her beautiful smile was unrivaled, her gorgeous hair was copied by millions of women around the world, and her unbridled sexuality was a turn on for boys and men and a roadmap for women who tried — most of the time with little success — to be just a little bit like her. Beautiful even while fighting cancer at 62, she spent her last months sending a message to the world: Don’t give up, no matter what obstacles come your way.

And then we come, sadly, shockingly, to Michael Jackson. To say Michael was iconic is an understatement. As a child, some of my greatest memories surround Michael Michael Jackson as a boyand Donnie Osmond. The three of us were roughly the same age, so I was especially interested in the two boys. Before they were 9 years old, Michael and the Jackson Five and Donne and the Osmond Brothers were rising stars, rivals of sorts and obviously full of talent. It was Michael, though, who grew into the icon he became. With his every move, he outdid himself. Every song he wrote was better than the last. Every dance move he inveMichael Jackson in his 20snted was 10 tiers above the one before. Every video he made outdid the others. He was a true star, beloved and awed by billions across the world.

Sadly, his upbringing and fame did much to scar him. It turned him into a recluse, robbed him of his childhood and his freedom and shaped him into an eccentric person who only identified with children and other child stars. Thankfully, the world today is forgetting his quirks and eccentricities and remembering him for the amazing, astounding talent that he had. I still can’t believe he’s gone.

Three great icons. I’m so glad we got to experience the joy they brought to the world. I’m so sad to see them go. I give them my applause and thanks one last time.

The holiday season is upon is. Well, it’s more than upon us; we’re entrenched in it and have been, really, since before Thanksgiving, thanks to retail marketing.

During this time of year, I avoid shopping like the plague. The throngs of people on the roads and in the stores make me so anxious that I’ll do almost anything not to be around them. I’ve never understood those people who get up at 3am to be the first in line for Black Friday. To me, that’s like getting up early to be the first in line for the torture chamber.

Nuh uh. Not me.

When I think of all the pushing and fighting and waiting in endless lines, it does nothing but stress me out. Case in point, last night I had to go to GameStop and PetSmart for a quick game purchase and some pet food. Both places are in the same shopping center, which is about five minutes from my house, and I was literally in GameStop for less than two minutes — PetSmart for about five — but because of the ridiculous holiday traffic, it took me an hour and a half to get home. (I sat through 11 red lights at one intersection!)

The blatant commercialization surrounding this holy holiday has become worse and worse each year, until now, some Christmas advertisements begin gracing our TV sets and radios in early September. For many, Christmas has stopped being a celebration of the birth of Christ but an excuse to give and get presents. The sad thing is that, in our disposable, immediate gratification, get-what-you-want-and-get-it-right-now society, gift giving has become so difficult that there’s no joy in it anymore. It’s not like the old days when we lived more frugally and rarely got extras for ourselves; these days “I get what I want” is a way of life, leaving gift buyers scratching their heads trying to come up with just the right gift. Then, on Christmas day, as they hope against hope that the gift recipient will love what he or she got, they’re often disappointed by the lackluster response.

Because of all this, about five years ago, our family decided to stop giving gifts to one another for Christmas. I have to admit that the first year was strange, but as the years have progressed, we’ve all noticed something universal for each of us.

The meaning of Christmas has returned for us.

The focus is back on love and the joy of just being together. We have a wonderful meal. We talk. We laugh. We hug. We tell stories about old times and about family members and friends who are no longer with us. We play dominoes and/or cards. We watch a football game. We enjoy just being together for one of the few days a year when we are able to do that.

Any gift giving we do are for those less fortunate than ourselves; people who have needs that are unmet, people who are alone and/or infirm. People who can’t pay their electric bill, kids who have no shoes, families who have no food for a nice meal. Those are the gifts that truly count. Those are the gifts that mean something.

As the retail world continues to push you into giving them a bigger piece of your hard earned money, consider taking this route. The economy will survive, and you and your loved ones will benefit in ways you never expected.

Try it, and have the merriest of Christmases — from me to you!


And now, an admission, which may seem — on the surface — antethetical to everything I just said…

In spite of my panning the commercialization of Christmas, I have an admission to make. My favorite Christmas song, next to John Denver’s Aspenglow and The Carpenter’s Merry Christmas Darling, is a commercial jingle that’s familiar to almost every Oklahoman.

My love for the jingle began when I was just a tot growing up in Elk City, OK. We didn’t get many TV channels back then — especially living in a little prairie town in far western Oklahoma — but one of the channels we got if we moved our antenna to just the right spot was an Oklahoma City channel. Each year, starting the day after Thanksgiving, this jingle began playing on that channel, and since it coincided with the Christmas spirit rampup, I associated it with Christmas.

When I was six, we moved to Lawton, OK, a town that didn’t get Oklahoma City channels. For years, as Christmas approached, I always felt like something was missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then, when I was about 12, we finally moved from the dark ages and got cable. The day after Thanksgiving that year, I was in my room watching TV when the B.C. Clark’s Anniversary Sale commercial came on. I immediately stopped what I was doing and just stood there, transfixed, as waves of emotion came over me — nastagia and joy filled my heart with each note.

I have learned since then that that little jingle means the same thing to many, many Oklahomans. Megan Mullally, a native of Oklahoma City who became a household name when she starred on Will and Grace for many years, sang the jingle on The Tonight Show. It has been sent to service men and women overseas, sung on airplanes full of homesick Oklahomans, performed at school pageants and even in church services. It’s just not Christmas around here without it.

So for those of you who live near and far, here is the B.C. Clark’s Anniversary Sale jingle, so you, too, can share in a little Oklahoma Christmas tradition!

I don’t want to speak too soon, since we have another major winter storm heading our way tomorrow and Saturday, but I think our house got out of this unscathed! (w00t!)

The tree limb looming over the north side of the house somehow stayed intact — I think it was close enough to the roof that, when the ice weighed it down, the roof kept it supported enough that it didn’t break.

We are so lucky!

Supposedly, there are still a million people in the state - or 42% of the population - without power today. I’ve never seen anything like it. We’ve seen worse storms, but I think it was the type of precipitation that did us in. Freezing rain coated layers of ice on tree branches, while sleet adds a much thinner coating.

You’d be surprised how much a tree limb can weigh when it has one inch thick ice on it.

Our only possible casualty (::knock on wood::) may be the Desert Willow I have in the front yard. According to a horticulturist I spoke to, it’s not supposed to grow in climates like ours, and the only way it survived here was that its first two years had to be really mild. That tree is my favorite thing about the house and is stunning when it blooms, which it does twice a year, but right now, it’s completely weighed down by ice and its top is only two feet off the ground. My only hope is that the ice insulated it enough to let it live.

All in all, this has been a great week for me in spite of the bad weather.  Thanks to a very smart friend, I’ve got some great things brewing on the horizon, and I couldn’t be more energized and excited.  It’s amazing what progress a person can make when they can bounce ideas around with someone with intelligence and imagination.

Now, I’ll leave you with one of my newest favorite songs. It’s a Foo Fighters song called The Pretender and is up for a Grammy this year.  I absolutely love the guitar and bass line, and Dave Grohl’s voice is awesome!  I think it’s rockin’! (It’s not the kind of song you sing; it’s the kind of song you wail, and I’m doing my share of wailing! ;) )

Unfortunately, RCA won’t allow the video to be posted anywhere other than on YouTube, so here’s a link to the video. Awesome song!

Foo Fighters: The Pretender

I came across a forum today that asked the question, “Why do you like the Beatles?” The person who asked the question is, himself, a huge Beatles fan, but he could never put into words why he’s such a huge fan.

It made me stop and think, because I absolutely love the Beatles. I’ve loved them since the first day I saw them at age three, when they came to the United States for the first time and changed us forever. When I was pregnant with my son 20 years later, I took time each day to put on a Beatles album and play it for him through headphones I placed on my belly.

So, if people ask him why he loves the Beatles, he has a pretty good answer. He was indoctrinated before birth. But what about the rest of us? What about me?

Right now, as I’m scratching my head trying to put it into words, I couldn’t give you a single reason. My love for them – for each of them individually and together as a group – is almost visceral. It goes beyond simple explanation. All I know is that they have always made me happy in a way that other 20th century musicians can’t come close to doing. As individual artists, each of them is — or in the case of John and George - was wonderful, but together, they were magic.

I could say it is the tunes themselves, the sweet harmonies created by boys/men who had no formal musical training (Paul still can’t read a note.), and that would be true. (But what about their “out there” later music? I love that, too.) I could say it was John, Paul, George and Ringo themselves, with their wit, their mop-top hair and their fun-loving attitudes, and that, also, would be true. (But what about the in-fighting, and – dare I say – the whole Yoko thing? Except for my extreme dislike for Yoko, none of that made me love them any less.) I could say it was the way they changed the world with their ideas and their music, and that would be true as well.

But none of that is enough.

I think the reason so many of us have problems putting into words why we love the Beatles is because it’s all of those things and more. For me and other baby boomers, they represented a new type of freedom. We had grown up in an age of buzz cuts and skirts just below the knees and all the restrictions that went with that kind of thing, and here came the Beatles. Not only did they look different and have those Liverpoolian accents that melted our hearts, but their tongue-in-cheek, irreverent way of dealing with the media and all the attention they lavished on them, made us feel great – as though our generation could poo-poo the world and all its problems. Their music, their smiles, and their attitudes gave us hope for a positive future. They sang about love, and they always sang it just to whoever was listening.

When I talk to young people today who love the Beatles, I get the same type of answer. No matter what words they use to describe their reasons for loving the group, the theme is the same – their music was awesome, and they just make us feel good. They were pure magic.

Whatever the reason, the Beatles are the only thing my son and I argue about these days. He says he’s a bigger fan than I am, and I say there is no way that could be true. Frankly, I believe it’s a tie, but no matter – I am one lucky Beatles fan, because he loves them so much. With his voice like honey and his talent for playing the piano and guitar, he entertains me each day with the most fantastic renditions of their music. (He knows every song.) I swear, had he been living in Liverpool in 1960, he’d have been one of them.

Often, we harmonize together, since we both know the tunes so well, and because our voices are so similar, the harmonies resonate in us, creating an inner warmth that’s really hard to describe. The sound we produce on those occassions is lovely and sweet.

I have a dream that, one day, Paul will hear how much we love him (we never miss a concert) and how well my son sings and plays his tunes and will come knocking at our door. We’ll sit together and talk while Michael tosses out some McCartney and Lennon/McCartney tunes, and then before he leaves, we’ll all harmonize together. He’ll be so impressed that he’ll invite Michael to come and work with him. Of course, it would never happen, but what a great fantasy; huh?

I’ll never forget the first time we got to see Paul in person. As the concert was about to begin, I remember saying, “Oh, I hope none of these women make fools of themselves by screaming and crying.” And then Paul came out, and the first words that came out of his mouth were, “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you,” and I cried like a baby. (I’m a little misty now just thinking of it.) I never expected to do that – it just came out – and as I looked down the row from me, I saw a very tough looking 50ish year old man doing the same thing and understood immediately that all of us who love the Beatles (and Paul) do so with deep, visceral emotion.

So, why do I love the Beatles so very much? Your guess is as good as mine, and in the end, it doesn’t really matter. They just make us happy, and that, in itself, is enough for our generation and for generations to come. There will never be another Beatles. And we are lucky enough to have seen them for ourselves. Wow. Magic.

In 1964, a 26 year old rhythm and blues singer named Lenny Welch rLenny Welch at 26eleased a single that became one of the nations biggest records. Since I Fell for You was a huge hit, and it was among the 45s that my older sister, Marianne, had in her collection. I listened to that song and it’s “B” side, Are You Sincere? so many times that I knew them by heart by the time I was six years old.

Lenny was huge at that time. In 1962, even before Since I Fell for You came out, Lenny released the first vocal version of A Taste of Honey, which was later covered by The Beatles on their Please, Please Me album. (More about them in just a sec’.) That song would become a standard.

Even as a small child, I was struck by the quality of Lenny Welch’s voice. So pure, hearing it always reminds me of warm honey…rich, full and delicious. In a perfect world, Lenny Welch would have been a huge star, and if it weren’t for really bad timing, he would be one today. Only one thing stood between him and immortality.

John, Paul, George and Ringo.

February 7, 1964, The Beatles deplaned in New York to find thousands of teenagers, The Beatles logomostly female - screaming and crying - out of sheer excitement at the opportunity to get a glimpse of them. That was the day Lenny Welch’s burgeoning career was cut short.

Don’t get me wrong. Lenny has had a good career. His songs have been used in movies, he’s had huge hits, he’s performed at great venues across the world, he’s even appeared on General Hospital, for goodness sakes! But do you know his name? And if perhaps you do, does it have the same significance as Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones?


I think if Lenny Welch’s career had begun just a few short years sooner, he would have Lenny Wlch now - from his official websitebecome a household name. Momentum would have carried him through when The Beatles invaded the world. Instead, he faded into the background.

I hope people will rediscover his fabulous voice and style. He truly is amazing. Check out these samples from his website

Since I Fell for You

You Don’t Know Me

Ebb Tide

Here’s a great video of David and Maddie dancing to Since I Fell for You on the Moonlighting pilot.

When I wrote yesterday’s post about Paul Potts singing Puccini’s Nessun Dorme, I had no idea that the great tenor, Luciano Pavarotti would pass away later that evening from pancreatic cancer.

It’s hard to believe that someone like Pavarotti could be gone. He’s been an icon for as long as I can remember, appearing on shows like Johnnie Carson’s Tonight Show and on the world’s greatest stages. His voice was amazing — so resonant, clear and strong — and his spirit seemed just as strong.

Nessun Dorma was Pavarotti’s signature piece, and no one performed it better or with more feeling. Here is his amazing rendition:

Though Nessun Dorma was his favorite, my favorite recording of him is him singing Schubert’s Ave Maria. I’ve got this one in my 6 CD group of my favorite songs of all time and listen to it all the time. No one sung it like Luciano Pavarotti.

He will be greatly missed.

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