Friday, May 09, 2008

The Ploughboy and The Playgirl

Although I must bow to the Nashville Tennessean’s thorough and sensitive coverage of the passing of Mr. Eddy Arnold, I find it both ironic and appalling that the newspaper would pick this same issue to report on the announcement of those country artists who will appear in Playgirl’s Country Music edition. If ever there was a moment to demonstrate class and poise it was this day, May 9, 2008 – the day the news of this elegant gentleman’s death is being widely published. And yet, there on page 3A we are accosted by this shallow and insipid nonsense that the editors of Playgirl Magazine have released the names of those male country music artists who will appear in their upcoming issue. Included was a replication of the cover upon which a bare-torsoed, no-name-wanna-be peered longingly into some camera thinking to himself, perhaps, ‘Okay, so maybe I can’t sing and have no personality but this ought to get me the break I’ve been waiting for.’ The column also included quotes from this Southern Baptist cover boy articulating his rationale for posing, his elation with being picked for this prime spot and the fact that his mother had found peace with his decision. I wept.
May I humbly suggest that The Tennessean would have been wise to have left this column blank, covered it in solid, black ink or printed the words to one of Mr. Arnold’s standards. I would have picked ‘What’s He Doing in My World?’

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Brief Update - May 8, 2008

The Star Jones/Barbara Walters flap is really heating up. I spent all day yesterday and today surfing every Google hit referencing this fascinating, provocative and significant development in the history of western culture. Overlaid into this remarkably heart-breaking feud was news that Ms. Walters and actor/commentator/comedienne Rosie O’Donnell were also reviving an on-going and very public argument focused on Ms. Walters’ prior accusations that Ms. O’Donnell had issues with rage. Light was shed on both of these ‘clashes of intellect’ earlier this week when Barbara Walters appeared on Oprah just three days after 100,000 human beings were killed in a cyclone in Myanmar.  We love you, Barbara!!!!!  

The Great One

In 1996 I had the pleasure and responsibility of mounting a show for 500 radio personalities and programmers on The General Jackson Riverboat at Opryland USA in Nashville, TN. As an employee of the Nashville division of RCA Records I had direct access to the large roster of gifted artists that graced RCA and its affiliated labels. With little hesitation I put together a 2-hour presentation that included live performances by Alabama, Clint Black, Martina McBride, Lorrie Morgan, Kenny Chesney, Mindy McCready, Lonestar and Sarah Evans. With that lineup how could I lose? Well, the event was a huge success until the final act walked onto the stage. When that happened it went from huge success to a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The combined performances of all those who preceded him on that stage that night could not hold a candle to the final 15 minutes in which Eddy Arnold made the world go away.
In planning this event I consulted often with my friend and boss, Joe Galante, regarding the acts we should highlight and the order in which they should be presented. I recall mentioning that I was conflicted about Eddy’s health and stamina and my belief that his stature dictated he should be the one to close the show. With a bit of apprehension and utter respect for Eddy, Joe and I placed him in the proper chronology - the last one to grace that stage. We also kept his scheduled appearance a secret.
Mr. Arnold was 77 years old that night and when the house lights went dark and Gerry House announced, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Eddy Arnold,’ the entire venue unraveled with shouts, astonishment, thunderous applause, stamping feet and a prolonged standing ovation. He strolled slowly to a stool and microphone center stage dressed in a handsome suit, an elegant white shirt and a bolo tie with a gut string guitar strapped across his broad shoulders. Almost 60 years later Eddy Arnold was a beloved superstar.
The effortless and good-humored performance that transpired over those next 20 minutes was as graceful and complete as any I had ever witnessed. As Eddy moved his pure and familiar voice across the melodies of those classic songs I quietly slipped through the crowd and whispered to each of our newly-signed acts, ‘I hope you’re taking notes.’ The response from the crowd at the end of Mr. Arnold’s set was more enthusiastic than his entrance.
Stories abound in this town about the legends that laid the foundation of Nashville’s music industry. Chet Atkins, Roger Miller and Billy Sherrill seem to be at the center of most of them. But there is no shortage of stories about Mr. Arnold. The most-repeated is the one in which it is alleged that a woman saw him cutting his lawn on a riding mower, pulled her car into his driveway and, not knowing who he was asked, ‘What do you charge for that?’ Eddy responded, ‘The lady who lives here let’s me sleep with her.’ 
Given my 15 minutes of undeserved, record executive fame I had the privilege of spending a good deal of time with Eddy and his wife, Sally. They were kind, funny, down-to-earth, unpretentious and generous. I saw Joe a couple weeks ago and he mentioned to me that Sally had passed away earlier this winter – a fact that had eluded me. He also said that Eddy wasn’t doing very well but that he had just spoken with him and he wants to make another record. Joe told him, ‘As soon as you get out of here we’ll get to work on that new record.’
Eddy Arnold
‘Go rest high on that mountain’

Friday, May 02, 2008

Bill Moyers Shatters Softball’s Color Barrier

With courage and poise, unsullied by truth or fairness, ordained minister, author and commentator Bill Moyers crossed the barriers of race last week in becoming the first white pitcher in the Black Liberation Theology Softball League. Mr. Moyers was called in to pitch to one batter – the ever-dangerous Jeremiah Wright – and Mr. Wright pounded every one of Moyers’ slow, chest-high, underhanded offerings deep into the bleachers. Unfortunately, Wright’s towering blasts continued to land afoul of reality and decency so the good-hearted duel continued, ultimately turning into a history-making event when Wright’s at-bat lasted a full hour – so unique a feat that the broadcast continued without commercial interruption.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Forty Years Ago

We carry things with us for a long time. Some of us never drop off our heavy baggage. I happen to know this is true – I drag a large footlocker around with me everywhere I go. It is a fact of life on this earth that cold and harsh winds sweep down and change our lives – forever. However, decent, evolving and maturing human beings attempt to turn some of this darkness into light. 
Jeremiah Wright has incited in me an anger and estrangement that I have never experienced. He has pulled ghosts from many of our closets. He is said to be a ‘preacher of the Gospel.’ If he is a ‘preacher of the Gospel’ then I am, as one of his heroes has proclaimed, ‘the devil.’ There are two attributes I possess that make me ‘the devil:’ I am white and I am male. 
Everything I have tried to do – my thoughts, my benevolence, my liberality, my transformation, my not-thinking-or-talking-like-my-dad-and-uncles – is trumped by this egotistical, race-baiting, unforgiving, slime-talking, media-hungry clanging cymbal. He has set us back decades and he has dashed the hopes of an African-American presidential candidate. If he has his way – this country will return to the anger and violence he wishes to wash his hands in.
Reverend Wright – it is 2008 – some of us have changed and it has been tough and tedious. But we did the right thing. Why don’t you join us? Why don’t you read your Bible? Why don’t you find some forgiveness? Why don’t you change? Why don’t you move forward from 1968? Why don’t you participate in the liberation that is yours? 

In Christ there is no East or West – there is no black or white. 
No Malcolm X, no Billy Graham, no Jeremiah Wright

Dear Traitor

After all my husband did for you I am appalled that you would shift your Super Delegate Support of my presidential candidacy to my opponent. I have spoken with Evan Bayh, Howard Dean and, of course, my husband and we have declared that your Indiana residency is fraudulent.


Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D - NY)
Chicago, IL
Scranton, PA
New Haven, CT
Boston, MA
Little Rock, AK
Washington D. C.

Chappaqua, NY