Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday Potpourri No. 36

Feast Day

St. Ignatius of Loyola, by Peter Paul Rubens
Today is the feast day of St. Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish knight who underwent
a conversion experience while recovering from wounds he had received in battle.

In 1534 Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus and was its first Superior General (referred to by some as the "Black Pope"). He is also known for publishing Spiritual Exercises, a collection of prayers and meditations which remain popular among Christians of all denominations even today.

Ignatius was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1609, and canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622.

Ignatius is the patron saint of soldiers and educators.

Training Camp

Heading down to the practice field

Yesterday afternoon my beloved Kansas City Chiefs opened Training Camp 2016 at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph.

Coming off a highly successful season which saw the team reel off 11 straight victories after a slow start (including the team's first playoff game win in 22 seasons), enthusiasm is running high among Chiefs fans.

"Awesome! Something to take your mind off of the Royals' collapse."

Not the best way of putting it, but I am glad football season is starting up...

Happy Birthday!

On July 31, 1912 Milton Friedman was born in Brooklyn, New York.

He went on to a distinguished academic career, including a Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976, and was a major figure influencing the conservative politicians and intellectuals I followed.

I first read his Capitalism and Freedom while in college, and it made a lasting impression on me. With his wife Rose he also reached a wide audience with Free to Choose in 1980.

He appeared several times on my conservative hero William F. Buckley, Jr.'s PBS series Firing Line.

On July 31, 1951 Evonne Fay Goolagong was born in Griffith, New South Wales, Australia. After learning to play tennis at a young age, she went on to a storied career, winning seven Grand Slam singles titles and appearing in 11 other Grand Slam finals.

I watched on TV as she won Wimbledon in 1971, and from that point on I had a huge crush on her. I was fortunate enough to see her play in an indoor event at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City in 1977.

"A teenage boy with a crush on an attractive woman? Shocker!"

I had my share of them, yeah...what's it to you?

The "Flyover Country" Perspective

From the incisive pen of Michael Ramirez, whose editorial cartoons you should read often, as I do.

Until Next Time...

My taste in music has always been eclectic, thanks to my parents, but by the time I had reached late adolescence it had become pretty rare for jazz music to turn up on any of the Top 40 lists that dominated radio airplay. You could still find jazz on FM stations, but for the most part the jazz artists I enjoyed back then were pretty scarce on both TV and AM radio.

The brilliant jazz guitarist George Benson had released his first album in 1964 at age 21. By 1976 he had released 13 albums, but although many of them had been hits on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart only four of them had made the Billboard 200, and none had ever cracked the Top 50. That would all change when Benson moved to his sixth different record label, Warner Bros. Records. His first album for his new label was a surprising "crossover" success.

On July 31, 1976 Benson's album Breezin' reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, a position it would hold for two consecutive weeks.

The album went on to become the first jazz recording to achieve a platinum certification from RIAA, and it won Benson two of his ten Grammy Awards.

The album included "This Masquerade," Benson's first-ever single release, which reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart and received the Record of the Year Grammy Award.

Today's send-off is the full-length album version of the song (it was a shorter "radio edit" version that had been a hit). Enjoy...

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Horror Abounding

Somber Visit

Passing through the infamous gate

Pope Francis has been in Poland since July 24 to take part in the triennial World Youth Day, a somewhat inaptly-named week-long celebration currently taking place in Kraków, Poland.

On Friday, Francis visited the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. The photographic images of his visit are powerful, and afterward he spoke eloquently of the emotional impact what he saw there had on him.

Today he celebrated a Mass at the sanctuary in Kraków dedicated to St. John Paul II.

Scary Movie Landmark

Original 1999 "one sheet" poster
On July 30, 1999 The Blair Witch Project was finally released in theaters after an innovative online marketing campaign.

A distinctly low-budget production (it cost around $750,000 to make), the film grossed about $250 million at the box office, and single-handedly popularized the "found footage" pseudo-documentary genre of horror films.

It was a particularly unsettling film to see
in a movie theatre, and despite a distinct lack of traditional horror movie tropes it is one of the scariest films I've ever seen. It is one of those movies that doesn't retain much "scare" value after the initial viewing, though. My mom, from whom I acquired my fondness for scary movies, would have loved it.

The Blair Witch Project became a cultural phenomenon, spawning a variety of related media products including books, video games, and comic books. There have also been a number of spoofs imitating the original film's style.

"If you bipeds spent more time in the woods you wouldn't find them so scary."

It isn't just being in the woods that makes it scary...

Horror Show

From the pen of Lisa Benson, whose editorial cartoons you should read often, as I do.

Until Next Time...

On July 30, 1936 George Guy was born in Lettsworth, Louisiana. After teaching himself to play on a two-string "diddley bow" he built with his own hands, Buddy Guy would go on to become a legendary figure in blues guitar.

Buddy's first "decent" guitar was a Harmony Monterey model which he eventually donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has played a wide variety of electric guitars over the years, but he is most closely associated with the Fender Stratocaster. After spending some time playing in bands in Baton Rouge as a young man, when Buddy was 21 he moved to Chicago and began working with Muddy Waters and other key figures in Chicago blues music.

Buddy became one of the most influential guitarists in the history of music, inspiring generations of young musicians with his unique and high-energy playing style. Buddy has won six Grammy Awards in his long career, and in 2003 he received a National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, and received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2012. He was selected for membership in the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2014.

Buddy's 2015 album Born To Play Guitar was my weekly Music Recommendation here the week of August 3, 2015. No doubt due to the publicity boost that honor carries, Buddy's album reached No. 60 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart as well as No. 1 on the Blues Albums chart.

It also won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Blues Album, Buddy's sixth Grammy, proving that he's still going strong after more than half a century as a blues guitar slinger.

Two of the musicians on the album, bass player Michael Rhodes and keyboardist
Reese Wynans, are now part of the touring and recording band of my blues guitar hero Joe Bonamassa.

Today's send-off is the album's title track, from Buddy's VEVO channel. Enjoy...

Friday, July 29, 2016

Feast & Fast

Thank Omoikane It's Friday!

"Trump and Clinton? Are you freaking kidding me???"

Happy Birthday!

On July 29, 1958 Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, creating NASA as an independent executive agency dedicated to the peaceful application of space science.

As I was growing up in the early 1960s NASA fired my imagine through the Mercury and Gemini programs. Just as I was reaching maturity the Apollo program made it seem as if space travel would be an integral part of humanity's ultimate destiny.

"Well, those days are certainly over."
I'm not so sure they are...

Fasting and Prayer

Archbishop Georges Pontier, President of the Bishops' Conference of France, has designated today as a day of prayer and fasting to honor the memory of Fr. Jacques Hamel, the 86-year-old Catholic priest who was murdered by an Islamic terrorist as he celebrated Mass at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray on July 26.

Dipping a Toe

"I'm awesome! Trust me."

Today is supposed to be the last day to accept Microsoft's "free" upgrade to Windows 10. My life experiences with Microsoft rollouts have not been stellar, so I have been resisting their daily nags ever since they began almost a year ago.

I finally decided to give the thing a try on my desktop system, a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion P6540f tower PC running an AMD Phenom II X4 830 quad core 64-bit processor with 8GB of RAM.

We'll see how it goes, but the desktop is not my primary computer, so my anxiety level is fairly low...

"That's good, now you can spend all your time worrying about the MLB trading deadline!"

Actually, I'm mulling some trade offers for a new wingman, so watch yourself...

Feast Day

St. Martha, by Giambettino Cignaroli
Today is the feast day of St. Martha of Bethany, one of the more significant women mentioned in the New Testament.

In particular, she witnessed the resurrection of her brother Lazarus, one of the most famous of the miracles Jesus performed. That miracle is recounted in John 11:1-44.

Martha also figures prominently in Luke 10:38-42, when Jesus visits her and her sister Mary in their home in Bethany. In that story she learns that the Word of God is more important than anything else.

Martha is the patron saint of cooks and servants.

Google RelationshipsTM

From the droll comic strip Zits, by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, which you should read every day, as I do.

Until Next Time...

On July 29, 1966 Martina Mariea Schiff was born in Sharon, Kansas, a tiny town near the Oklahoma border. Martina developed an affinity for singing and performing at an early age. In 1988, she married studio engineer John McBride and the couple moved to Nashville to pursue their interest in musical careers.

John wound up becoming an engineer for country superstar Garth Brooks, and in 1991 Martina began opening concerts for Brooks after signing a record contract with RCA Nashville Records. Recording and performing as Martina McBride, her popularity with audiences took awhile to build, but her beautiful voice eventually broke through, and she would win CMA Female Vocalist of the Year honors four times, and ACM Top Female Vocalist three times. Her work has received 14 Grammy Award nominations.

McBride's 1995 album Wild Angels did not climb quite as high on the charts as her previous album, but it still received a platinum certification by RIAA, and it produced her first Billboard No. 1 Country Single, "Wild Angels."

At the time of the song's release, I was newly separated from my wife. The song's lyrics, which focus on a troubled relationship and the "wild angels" that the narrator believes are helping the couple stay together, resonated deeply with me.

In the end, though, even wild angels weren't enough in my case...

Today's send-off is the official music video of the song, from her VEVO channel. Enjoy...

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Summertime Blues


I managed to make it all through the winter and spring without catching a cold, but the law of averages finally caught up with me.

Now I have a week
or so of misery to deal with, just as the hottest part of the summer is set to begin. Great...

Actually, I think you're the one who gave it to me...thanks a lot...

Birthday Boy

Last night at Kauffman Stadium my beloved Kansas City Royals concluded a dismal 3-6 homestand with a 7-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

"Not great, but not terrible. I'll take it."

Royals starter Danny Duffy struggled with his control, but still managed to turn in a Quality Start. Because the Royals offense was dormant until after Danny departed, he was denied his sixth straight win.

RHP Joakim Soria got the win after pitching a scoreless top of the 7th. All-Stars Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis held off the Angels the rest of the way (although Davis was dented for two runs in the 9th and had the bases loaded when he got the final out).


On his 21st birthday, new call-up Raul Mondesi, Jr. got his first major league hit with a bunt single in the pivotal 7th inning. The pitcher made a two-base error on play, allowing a second run to score and Mondesi to reach third.

CF Jarrod Dyson followed with a triple that scored Mondesi, so in the space of just a few minutes the kid got his first big-league hit, RBI, and run scored.

"How long is this road trip they're starting today?"

Eight games...and since they have the second-worst road record in baseball, by the time it ends Royals fans will finally have to let go of their 2016 hopes and accept that "Defend the Crown" isn't happening...

Baseball Coincidence

Not long ago I wrote about the baseball coincidence of one-time teammates and future Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron each hitting their 500th career home run on the same calendar date just one year apart. Today's calendar date is another of those baseball coincidences that make being a fan of the game so enjoyable.

On July 28, 1991 Dennis Martinez of the Montreal Expos threw the 13th perfect game in major league history, beating the Dodgers 2-0 at Dodger Stadium.

Among the noteworthy aspects of that game: Martinez was the first pitcher born outside of the U.S. to throw a perfecto, the Dodgers became the first team to be on the losing end of consecutive perfect games (they lost perfect game No. 12 to Tom Browning in 1988), and Dodger Stadium became the first site to witness two perfect games (Sandy Koufax threw his there in 1965).

On July 28, 1994 Kenny Rogers of the Texas Rangers threw the 14th perfect game in major league history, beating the California Angels 4-0 at The Ballpark in Arlington.

Among the noteworthy aspects of that game: Rogers's gem came a decade after the Angels' Mike Witt threw a perfecto against the Rangers, making them the only teams in MLB history to have perfect games against each other and making The Ballpark in Arlington just the second park to witness two perfect games. Rogers was also just the third left-hander to throw a perfect game (Koufax and Browning were the others), and no Rangers pitcher has thrown a no-hitter since.

"Most Qualified Candidate Ever," Huh?

From the insightful pen of Michael Ramirez, whose editorial cartoons you should read often, as I do.

Until Next Time...

One of the reasons that parents across the country struggled to accept the rock and roll music that captivated their children in the 1950s was that as live performers the early stars of the genre like Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and others seemed wild and rebellious, bordering on anarchic at times. When they came along in the early 1960s, The Beatles were more readily accepted by parents because (at least at first) they projected a wholesome, clean-cut image.

Few of rock and roll's early performers could match the high energy of Jerry Lee Lewis, famous for his "wild man" singing and playing style.

Original 1957 45 rpm single
On July 28, 1957 Jerry Lee made his first appearance on national television, on The Steve Allen Show, performing his current Billboard hit "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On."

Completely aside from the sexually-charged lyrics, Lewis's performance cemented his reputation as a manic live performer. Nothing like it had ever been seen on live television before, and it did much to fuel the ongoing cultural struggle over rock and roll and its influence on young people.

Today's send-off is the live recording of Jerry Lee's frenetic performance that day. I can only imagine what people watching him for the first time must have thought. Enjoy...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Happy Birthday, Bugs!

Bugs in A Wild Hare
Of all of the influences in my life that have made me the unrepentant smart aleck I am today, the earliest was Bugs Bunny.

On July 27, 1940 the wascally wabbit made his official debut in the Tex Avery-directed cartoon A Wild Hare. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Cartoon, the film also introduced the iconic Elmer Fudd character, and one of animation's most famous bits of dialogue.

Some of my earliest memories of childhood are watching cartoons with my mom and my older brother. Among the Warner Bros. characters they both preferred Daffy Duck, who was no slouch himself in the sarcasm department, but for me Bugs's personality was without peer.

When I find myself formulating responses to life's daily idiocies (like the craptastic speeches at the Republican and Democratic conventions), the voice in my head sounds just like Bugs...

"Well, that explains the metal sign you used to hang in your office."

All you had to do was ask...

National Scotch Day

The Holy Grail

As regular readers of this blog know, I'm not a huge fan
of the trend of having every single freakin' day on the calendar being devoted to celebrating some everyday thing. It bugs me even when the thing being celebrated is something I happen to personally enjoy, like doughnuts
or pie or bacon or ice cream.

Today, however, is an exception. I am wholeheartedly and enthusiastically celebrating National Scotch Day.

Unfortunately, I don't have any 18-year-old Macallan on hand, but I have several other nice choices available for the celebration, including Macallan Fine Oak 10, Glenmorangie Original, Lasanta, and Quinta Ruban, Balvenie Doublewood, Glenlivet 12, and Ardbeg Uigeadail.

"Or you could do what you do EVERY year, and buy something new."

What a marvelous idea!

Happy Birthday, Peggy!

On July 27, 1948 Peggy Gail Fleming was born in San Jose, California.

Like millions of other Americans (especially adolescent boys), I was dazzled by her winning performance at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France.

Peggy's gold medal was the only one won by an American at those games, and Peggy thus received a great deal of subsequent media attention. When I was 15 she struck me as the epitome of wholesome American beauty and gracefulness. To say I had a crush
on her would be a HUGE understatement.

"Have there ever been any attractive women you DIDN'T have a crush on?"

Shut your pipe...

Mostly Not Untrue

From the delightfully off-kilter webcomic xkcd, by Randall Munroe, which you should read every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Until Next Time...

One of the cornerstones of the blues and blues-rock music I love is the so-called
"Bo Diddley Beat," a distinctive rhythm pattern named for blues pioneer Elias McDaniel (aka Bo Diddley). The list of artists who have had hit songs based on the Bo Diddley Beat is a veritable Who's Who of popular music, spanning artists as disparate in style as
The Andrews Sisters and The Clash.

Like most British Invasion rock bands, my favorite group The Who had a fondness for American blues artists, and a fair amount of their early output was cover versions of songs written by those blues artists, including Bo Diddley himself. Their first studio album, 1965's My Generation, included a cover of Diddley's "I'm a Man." That influence would eventually extend to the band's own original material as well.

Original 1968 45 rpm single (U.S. release)

On July 27, 1968 the band released "Magic Bus," a non-album single that employed the Bo Diddley beat. I remember buying my copy at my favorite outlet, the Katz Drug Store in North Kansas City.

While the song was only a modest Top 40 hit, peaking at No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart,
it quickly became a staple of the band's live shows, and has been a fan favorite ever since.

Today's send-off is the original monaural single, paired with some photographs of the band from throughout their history. Enjoy...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Birthdays Galore

Sing It, Sister!

The first time I tried blogging, my focus was on issues related to K-12 education in the United States. One of the features of that blog was a section of links to writings by people I called "Heroes of the Struggle." These were people who were loudly and publicly opposing the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), despite the early momentum that Federal takeover
of our schools was enjoying.

Perhaps the most prominent of those voices belonged to Diane Ravitch, whose books  
The Laguage Police and The Death and Life of the Great American School System were very influential in shaping my own views on curriculum and school reform.

Diane recently published a devastating indictment of the Common Core movement, pointing out that
The people who wrote the Common Core standards sold them as a way to improve achievement and reduce the gaps between rich and poor, and black and white. But the promises haven’t come true.
That Diane's blast was published in the New York Times speaks well of her high standing in the education community. To her everlasting credit, she blogs continually about these issues, in addition to her more formal academic work, speeches, etc. She is trying to find common ground with education reformers without regard to political affiliation, and that takes real courage these days.

You're still a hero of mine, Diane...

"You know you can still write about that stuff if you want to, right?"

I's just tough for me to work up much passion for it anymore, since I'm no longer on the front lines of that war...

Funny Ladies

On July 26, 1895 Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen was born in San Francisco. The best evidence that that was her birth year is U.S. Census records. Her death certificate incorrectly listed 1902 as her birth year, and many sources still list it as 1906 due to erroneous newspaper accounts at the time of her death in 1964.

Gracie Allen became famous as the comic foil of her husband George Burns, first on radio and later on television.

My first exposure to her comedy was the TV show she did with Burns, which my parents loved. I found her deadpan delivery and loopy "logic" both funny and endearing.

On July 26, 1909 Vivian Roberta Jones was born in Cherryvale, Kansas. Her love of theatre eventually led her to New York and a career on the stage there, using the name Vivian Vance.

Like most Americans, I came to know her as the loyal, wise-cracking sidekick to Lucille Ball. There was a point in my life when the sarcastic Ethel Mertz
was my beau ideal for a life partner.


1966 Topps baseball card
On July 26, 1922 James Hoyt Wilhelm was born in Huntersville, North Carolina. He wanted to be a professional baseball player beginning in high school, but because he couldn't throw very hard he experimented with the knuckleball.
It was a decision that led him to a Baseball Hall of Fame career, the first relief pitcher to be so honored.

Wilhelm reached the major leagues at age 29, but wound up pitching until he was nearly 50. He was the first pitcher to appear in 1,000 games, the first pitcher to record 200 saves, and he retired in 1972 with the lowest career ERA of any pitcher since Walter Johnson.

Pretty impressive for a guy who played his whole career with shrapnel in his back from the Battle of the Bulge.

Hubba Hubba

On July 26, 1945 Helen Lydia Mironoff
was born in the Hammersmith district of London. Her father "anglicized" the family name to Mirren in the 1950s, and as Helen Mirren she exhibited a talent for acting at an early age. She went on to an award-winning career in live theatre, film, and television.

I first became familiar with her in her starring role as detective Jane Tennison in the British TV series Prime Suspect, which aired in America on PBS stations starting in 1991. I have been a big fan ever since. Mirren is one of those actresses who can elevate even the most pedestrian material.

I have also had a major crush on her for
a quarter of a century...

"Doesn't it mess up your keyboard when you drool on it like that?"

Shut it before I tie your snout in a knot...

Reality Check

From the pen of Chip Bok, whose editorial cartoons you should read often, as I do.

Until Next Time...

On July 26, 1943 Michael Philip Jagger.was born in Dartford, in the county of Kent, England. The son and grandson of teachers, from a young age Mick Jagger felt called
to be a singer. An early enthusiasm for the music of Little Richard set Jagger on the path that would lead him to become the most famous lead singer in rock and roll history.

Reuniting in 1960 with childhood friend Keith Richards, Jagger soon co-founded
The Rolling Stones, arguably the greatest rock and roll band of all time. The Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, and are still active even today.

I always had a somewhat ambivalent attitude about the band. I liked that they were steeped in the same blues and blues-rock traditions that I enjoyed, and for me the Jagger-Richards songwriting team rivaled Lennon-McCartney. On the other hand, their behavior was marked by rampant drug use and a rather pompous and self-absorbed attitude. It is one thing to be the "greatest rock and roll band in the world" (which they may well have been in their heyday, although I always considered The Who to be more deserving of that title), and quite another to continually boast about that status.

Original rejected album cover artwork
On July 26, 1968 the band was scheduled to release their album Beggar's Banquet
to celebrate Mick's 25th birthday, but a dispute over the album's cover art would delay it's release until December 6. Their American and British record labels both rejected the design, but it would eventually be used on a CD release of the album. The 1968 vinyl LP had a bland off-white cover.

The album had two of the Stones' most memorable hits, the darkly provocative "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Street Fighting Man," the most overtly political song of the band's career.

Both songs appear on Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list,
and Beggar's Banquet is No. 58 on the magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
It was the first Stones album I ever bought.

Today's send-off is the 2002 remastered version of "Street Fighting Man," which restored the song to its correct speed and pitch. Enjoy...

Monday, July 25, 2016


The End of an Era

British Airways Concorde in flight in 2000

One of the technological marvels of the 1970s was the Concorde,
a supersonic transport (SST) built jointly by
the French firm Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation.

The plane flew at more than twice the speed of sound, and offered the fastest transatlantic flights in the history of commercial aviation.

Air France Flight 4590

The aircraft's 31-year history of safe flights, which began with the earliest incarnations of the design in 1969, came to an abrupt end on July 25, 2000.

Air France Flight 4590 caught fire on takeoff from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
It had rolled over a piece of debris that had fallen off of the DC-10 that had preceded it on the runway, shredding a tire. A large chunk of the tire struck the underside of the aircraft's left wing, which in turn caused a fuel tank rupture. The fuel ignited, causing
a cascading series of engine issues that eventually caused the aircraft to stall, then crash into a hotel in Gonesse. All 109 passengers and crew died, as did four employees of the Hotelissimo hotel into which the plane crashed.

All Concordes were grounded after the accident, and none returned to service until 2001. For a variety of reasons both Air France and British Airways ended their Concorde programs in 2003.

For people like me who marveled at the technology when it first appeared, it was a sad end to an era.

"Is that one of the incidents that made you afraid to fly?"

Who says I'm afraid to fly?

George Makes the Hall

In 1990, the year he won his third batting title
On July 25, 1999 George Brett was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, with
98.2 percent of the vote, at that time the fourth-highest total in the Hall's history.

He was joined by contemporaries Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount, both of whom had also retired after the 1993 season as George had. It was the first time the Hall had selected so many first-year eligible players since its initial induction of the First Five in 1936.

George played his entire 21-year career with my beloved Kansas City Royals, and is the franchise's only representative in the Hall of Fame. Given the realities of modern baseball, it seems highly unlikely that another player will ever enter the Hall as a Royal.

"It's nice that you got to be there for his last home game."

It was unforgettable...

Survival of the Fittest

From the wry comic strip Zits, by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, which you should read every day, as I do.

Until Next Time...

One of my earliest exposures to live theatre was a production of Ira Levin's Critic's Choice at my high school. I enjoyed it very much (not least because I had a huge crush on a girl who had a featured role), as I did the film version starring Bob Hope and Lucille Ball when I saw it a couple of years later.

That early experience with a live theatre production that was about live theatre must have made quite an impression on me, as once I began directing plays myself I was always drawn to plays about putting on plays. During my career I directed Walter Kerr's Stardust (twice), John Patrick's Macbeth Did It (also twice), and several short plays along similar lines. These included Opening Night, a stage adaptation of a Cornelia Otis Skinner story, Tim Kelly's Victor Hugo - In Rehearsal, and the wild Christopher Durang one-act The Actor's Nightmare.

It should come as no surprise, then, that my all-time favorite musical is the 1980 classic 42nd Street, probably the quintessential musical-about-putting-on-a-musical. A few years earlier, while I was still in college, another musical about the backstage world of musicals burst onto the scene.

Lobby card after winning Tony Award
On July 25, 1975 A Chorus Line opened at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway. It would run for 6,137 performances, a record at the time, and garnered a dozen nominations for the Tony Awards, winning nine. It won Tonys for Best Musical and Best Original Score, and also received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, one of only nine musicals so honored in the 98-year history of the award.

Since its debut, there have been numerous subsequent productions, including an award-winning production in London's West End and a Tony-nominated revival on Broadway in 2006.

It also spawned a fairly dreadful 1985 film version, but I don't hold that against the folks who created the original, which deservedly remains a towering landmark in the history
of American musical theatre.

Today's send-off is the original 1975 cast performing the show's opening number,
"I Hope I Get It." Enjoy...