Category Archives: ENTERTAINMENT

Corey Haim should have just said ‘No’

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Former teen star Corey Haim at a March 2009 fashion event in Los Angeles at age 37

 

Of all the truly great legacies left to us by the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, one of the truest, simplest, most enduring messages is the one that came from the campaign during those years of his wife, Nancy Reagan.

The validity and importance of her anti-drug campaign with the slogan “Just Say No” was brought home once again today with the overdose death of popular 1980’s child movie star Corey Haim.

This death comes on the exact 22nd anniversary of the death of 1970’s teen heart throb, musician Andy Gibb, the kid brother to the Bee Gees who also abused drugs. Haim was a child star and Gibb died during the very year that the First Lady was popularizing her vital message.

“Just Say No” is a simple slogan, and some of it’s detractors have stated that it is not only simple, but that it is simplistic, even simple-minded.

Of course these critics are always the same old liberal “I can do whatever I want with my body and who are you to tell me different” crowd. Funny thing is, when the Haim’s and the Gibb’s of this world die of their excess, these folks are never heard from.

Everyone with half a brain on the planet earth knows that drugs are bad for you. They are addicting, they are debilitating, they destroy lives and families, they drive people to commit crimes, they kill.

The cost of drug abuse comes in dollars and cents, both to the addict and to the community that must support the consequences of their actions, but also comes in wasted time and talent.

No one, not even Nancy Reagan in those early years of the full-on initial “Just Say No” campaign ever posited, as it’s detractors have lied and still lie, that their only tactic was to tell kids to just say “No“, but then give them no educational information to back that up.

The campaign was, and in spirit is still, about educating kids fully to the point where they are able and willing to say that “No” at the key moment.

I have had drug abuse and addiction within my own family. I have seen first-hand the ravages to a person’s body and soul that come with this addiction. But while it is very true that drug addiction, like most other addictions to other substances such as alcohol, is a disease, the fact is that it is not only a disease. It is a choice.

People who come down with cancer and other diseases and illnesses do not usually choose them, or take actions that cause them. These illnesses are often hereditary, genetic in nature.

Lifestyle decisions do affect most people, from the person who eats too many cheeseburgers over the years and develops heart disease to the person who smokes too many cigarettes and develops lung cancer. These too are choices.

The difference, however, and there is a difference, is that in the vast majority of the cases the drug abuser is a young person, usually one who is not like Haim or Gibb. It is usually one who has not even started out on life’s journey, or barely so, and has not had an opportunity at career or educational or relational success.

The choice, and it is a choice, to take the drugs the first time and in the early uses, wrecks that opportunity. When a young person is lost to drug abuse, it is a loss to all of us.

How many of those addicts could have made something positive out of their lives? How many could have cured our own illnesses, educated us, entertained us, protected us, been our leaders? The cost in dollars is significant, but the cost in lost human lives and opportunities for the addict and us all is staggering.

Now some will challenge that drug addiction, or addiction in general, can also be hereditary, and some will say that there is little or nothing that the addict could have done. I challenge that, having lived through it first hand. There is always another choice, another option, another direction. The addict chooses the negative, chooses the darkness. Again, at least in the beginning, it is a choice.

There always comes a time in every single addicts life where someone approaches them. It could be a friend, an acquaintance, a school classmate, a lover. But someone always approaches them for the very first time offering the drugs. Offering to share it, offering to show them how, offering it even for free that first time.

Every single addict has been told at some point prior to that moment that drugs are bad for them. It is simply too loud a message to ignore. It is taught in homes and schools and on the streets. The negative examples are all around them in the worst homes and neighborhoods. Family members and communities ravaged by the violence and decadence.

So, at that pivotal moment, every addict has a choice.

Some will say “You just can’t expect a young kid to have the strength or courage” to do the right thing. Baloney. Kids find courage and strength in any number of situations when they want to do it. The simple fact is that the kid makes a conscious choice, usually knowing or having a good idea of the possible outcome, or at the very least the danger.

Often that kid makes that choice when, if they just stepped back and thought about it, they would realize all of the options that they have for a positive direction in life, options that could and likely would be ruined by saying the “Yes” to drugs.

But out of the excuses of the pain and loneliness and lack of confidence that we all face during those teen angst years, some seek temporary comfort in bad decisions knowing full well that they are bad, even dangerous.

While it’s fine to be sympathetic, supportive, hopeful and helpful to those close to us who become addicts, what is needed right now is not more embracing of the choices being made by addicts around us, but a return to reinforcing ever more strongly that simple message to kids of “Just Say No” in their lives.

When that moment comes, they need to care more about their life, their family, their future than looking or acting ‘cool’ in front of some friend or some group.

Families need to understand as well that it is not their fault that their family member makes the choices that they make. You can be the strongest, most loving, most caring family in the world. You can provide solid educational opportunities for your children. You can give them a mostly positive, surely imperfect because you are only human yourself, but nurturing home and lifestyle.

In short, you can give them the foundation that they need to succeed. But there is no guarantee insurance that you can purchase. You cannot be with them at every event, in every situation. You cannot force them to say “No” at their own key moment of choice.

Just Say No” is as simple a message as there is out there. But it is an effective message.

The fact remains that no matter what some liberal thinker or some drug addict might want to tell you, had Corey Haim and Andy Gibb simply just said “No” at the pivotal moments, they would be here today.

Gibb would be a 52-year old popular entertainer. Haim would likely have not lived the past decade and a half in depravity, wasting away his talents.

For my own life situation, I still deal with the effects of my family member’s decision to give in and say “Yes” at the pivotal moments. That one first “Yes” turns into a habit, which turns into a compulsion, which turns into an addiction.

At that point, yes, the “disease” of addiction takes over, one that you are going to have a hard time ever fully beating. But it didn’t start out that way. You never had to go down that path in the first place.

While I pray for the miracle of even a reasonably positive life for my own addict, I also pray that no one else in my life makes the same choice, ever. I won’t only pray, but I will pass along that message, to “Just Say No.”

I pray that all of your children and grandchildren when faced with their own moment will have not only the courage and strength, but also the self-respect to embrace that simple idea, to simply “Just Say No.”

Rock & Roll Heaven: Ty Longley

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Members of Great White perform tribute to Ty Longley

 

Seven years ago tonight one of the greatest tragedies in music history happened. At about 11:05pm on what was a Thursday night, the band ‘Great White’ took the stage at a Rhode Island club known as ‘The Station’ and began to play the opening strains of their song “Desert Moon”.

For 99 of the bands fans, and one of it’s own members, what appeared to be the beginning of a night of great music would instead turn out to be the final moments of their lives.

As Ty Longley blasted into the opening chords of “Desert Moon” with his bandmates, the 31-year old was enjoying all that the rock and roll life had to offer. He was young, playing the music that he loved in front of enthusiastic fans for a living, and had a beautiful girlfriend who was expecting the couple’s first child.

The Sharon, PA native Longley had joined Great White just three years earlier, well after the band had enjoyed their greatest success during the big-hair ‘glam rock’ days of the late 1980’s.

Back then the song “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” was heard across radios everywhere and the accompanying music video was an MTV staple. By that fateful night in 2003, the band was struggling for survival.

Great White had formally broken up during the period of 2000-2001, but original members Jack Russell and Mark Kendall decided to put on a tour together. Doing classic Great White songs and some of Russell’s solo work, the band actually billed itself as “Jack Russell’s Great White”. Some of the original band’s fans simply referred to them as ‘Fake White’, and it was this group that Longley joined as a guitarist and keyboard player.

Along with Russell, Kendall, and Longley the band on the night of February 20th, 2003 consisted of bassist Dave Filice and drummer Eric Powers. The group exploded into “Desert Moon” to the roar of their fans at the small club, both literally and musically.

As the band began to play, tour manager Daniel Bichele set off some pyrotechnics for dramatic effect. The display was intended to look like a shower of sparks flying off in every direction, principally around the rear of the band by the drummer area. As the sparks flew off, they struck soundproofing foam that was on both sides of the drummer’s alcove, and a small fire began which many thought was part of the act.

The fire quickly got out of control, spreading to the ceiling and sending smoke billowing through the club. The band continued to play for a minute, not knowing what was going on, when they suddenly realized something was wrong. As they stopped playing, Russell commented “Wow, this ain’t good” and fire alarms began to blare in the club.

Realizing now that there was an emergency situation, the band and their crew starting fleeing towards an exit off to the side of the stage as the crowd began to stampede towards the main entrance.

Crushing one another in the small entry way, many from the audience were trapped. Of the 462 fans in attendance, 99 died and another 130 suffered varying degrees of injuries.

Ty Longley and the band had apparently escaped out the side exit to safety, and to this day a couple of the band members have no idea how he died.

However, witnesses say that Longley was out safely, but then went back into the club to retrieve his guitar. That would prove to be a bad move, because the fire spread so rapidly and the smoke grew thick and overwhelming quickly. Any action other than immediately exiting and staying out was a fatal act.

Just four days earlier, 21 people had died in a similar nightclub stampede at a club known as ‘E2’ in Chicago. As an ironic result, on the night of February 20th, local station WPRI-TV of Providence was at The Station to do a report on nightclub safety.

Their cameraman and reporter captured most of the tragic incident live as it happened and released footage to national news media in the immediate aftermath. The cameraman, Brian Butler, later said: “I never expected it take off as fast as it did. It was so fast. It had to be two minutes tops before the whole place was black smoke.”

There were some claims that Butler and reporter Jeffrey Derderian were obstructing the escape routes for some by trying to record the incident. WPRI was among the numerous targets of law suits and criminal complaints in the aftermath.

Bichele and the club managers all eventually received prison sentences, and all have subsequently been released. The club itself is now an empty lot where surviving family members and friends still leave crosses and other memorial markers and items.

While the fire at The Station was not the worst of it’s kind in U.S. history, it was one of the worst, and it was the worst in recent history.

The tragic lesson for fans who attend concerts, especially at small arenas, is to make sure that you know where the emergency exits are located. There were apparently at least three under-utilized emergency exits at The Station that night as fans streamed for the main entrance at which they had entered.

As for the band, it took awhile but the original Great White got back together and is performing now. In the immediate aftermath, some of the bands shows were shut down by protesters. The band took to observing 100 seconds of silence for awhile, but has moved on from that practice, as well as the refusal for a few years to play “Desert Moon” on stage.

Acey Ty Christopher Longley was born to Ty’s girlfriend Heidi Peralta on August 12th, 2003. Family, friends, and band management set up various funds in his name over the years, with a trust known as the ‘Baby Longley Fund’ having raised money from benefit concerts and a Ty Longley t-shirt.

Ty Longley himself and the 99 fans of both the band Great White and music in general have been lost forever to Rock and Roll Heaven.

NOTE: this is a continuation of the “Rock and Roll Heaven” series, all entries of which can be enjoyed by clicking on the Tag below this article

Rock & Roll Heaven: Karen Carpenter

 

Karen Carpenter at the White House in 1972
(Photo: Robert L. Knudsen via Wiki Commons)

On February 4th, 1983, one of the most beautiful voices in the history of modern popular music was silenced forever when Karen Carpenter was rushed to a California hospital and pronounced dead. She was only a month shy of her 33rd birthday. The cause of death was heart failure brought on by a long term battle with anorexia.

Back in November of 2008, I began what was to be a series of articles called “Rock and Roll Heaven” that would examine the controversial deaths and lives of artists in the modern music world. At that time the series began with articles on Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Michael Hutchence, and Jim Morrison. This examination of Karen Carpenter continues that series.

Karen and her brother Richard were born and raised in Connecticut, but their parents moved out to California in 1963. Richard became a piano prodigy, but Karen was more of a tomboy into sports and showed little interest in music as a young girl. On entering high school she joined the school band, and from that developed an interest in playing the drums.

Karen fell in love with the drums and became an outstanding drummer. She joined up with Richard and a friend named Wes Jacobs, and the three became ‘The Richard Carpenter Trio’, playing mostly jazz at local clubs. They also played with a band known as ‘Spectrum’ and recorded numerous demos, but they had little recording success throughout the mid-1960’s.

Karen and Richard finally were signed to a recording contract by A&M Records in 1969, and then in 1970 released their second album and first big smash titled ‘Close to You’. The album and the two hugely popular singles “(They Long to Be) Close to You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun” proved to be hits, the songs becoming modern masterpieces.

As the band moved through the 1970’s, Karen was pushed by her label to get out from behind her drum set and perform at the front of the stage.

She loved the drums and was more than good at it. The greats of drumming such as Buddy Rich considered her outstanding, and in 1975 she was voted as the Best Rock Drummer of the Year by the readers of Playboy magazine. Richard said that she always considered herself a drummer who sang.

Back when she was 16 years old, Karen had begun a rigorous diet program because she thought that at 5’5 and 145 pounds she was too heavy. She was under a doctor’s supervision and dropped to 120 pounds, which she maintained for years.

As anxiety over her career direction began to mount in the mid-1970’s, she developed what would later be confirmed as the beginnings of anorexia nervosa, a now well-known but then little-understood illness. With Karen battling anorexia and Richard battling an addiction to Qualludes, The Carpenters cancelled many of their concert performances.

Karen’s personal life proved difficult as well, as she moved in and out of relationships including one with comedian Steve Martin, and an especially difficult breakup with songwriter Tom Bahler. After their breakup, which came because he fathered a child with another woman, Bahler penned the song “She’s Out of My Life“, which became a hit for Michael Jackson.

The Carpenters performed live for the final time in Brazil in 1981, which was also the year the Karen ended what had been a one year marriage to real estate developer Tom Burris. In April of 1982 she recorded her final song “Now” and then returned home to her parents house in California. The family was startled by her appearance and low weight.

After a hospital stay that forcibly put 30 pounds on her via intravenous feeding, Karen left the hospital and went back to California. Here she made her final public appearance as a singer when she performed at her godchildren’s school singing Christmas standards.

The strain on her heart after years of binge dieting had taken it’s toll, however, and she returned to her parents home where she suffered the heart failure that led to her death.

It was well known that Karen exhibited many of the deceptive eating, purging, and medicating practices of those with eating disorders during her lifetime. In the wake of her death her family started up the “Karen A. Carpenter Memorial Foundation” to help raise awareness and research funds to combat eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. It is now known as the “Carpenter Family Foundation” and provides funding for the arts as well.

With songs such as the previously mentioned ‘Close to You’ and ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’, as well as hits like ‘I Won’t Last a Day Without You’, ‘Only Yesterday’, and ‘There’s a Kind of Hush (All Over the World)”, as well as the immortal Christmas classic “Merry Christmas, Darling”, Karen Carpenter left an indelible mark on the music-loving world.

But perhaps as much as her music, her talented drumming and her lyrical voice that caused Rolling Stone magazine to rank her as one of the 100 greatest singers of all-time in 2008, we remember Karen Carpenter for her death as a direct result of anorexia. As someone who has experienced the devastating effects of an eating disorder within my own family, it is one of the greatest challenges that an individual and family can face.

Where is the origination of a true eating disorder? Is it the same as a drug addiction, an alcohol dependency, a sexual disorder? Are they all part and parcel of individual human beings who simply cannot cope, for whatever reason, with life’s challenges, and at some point make a conscious choice to take a known alternate route to find that happiness they so greatly crave?

NOTE: This is the continuation of the series ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ begun in 2008, all entries of which can be viewed by clicking on to that Tag below.

Monday morning quarterback

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There is so much going on right now that one entry here needs to be devoted to a number of topics.

So, I’m driving home after dropping my daughter off at her boyfriend’s home this past Friday evening and one of her neighbors has their house decorated for Christmas.

I mean, that would make it November 21st, just one day after my birthday. A week before Thanksgiving Day. It’s just too soon.

When I was a kid, nothing ‘Christmas’ happened until after we had gobbled down the turkey and stuffing in late November. The day after, in fact. That became known as ‘Black Friday’, almost a national holiday itself, when all the Christmas shopping would begin. Now a great holiday unto itself is being shoved aside more and more.

Moving on to the Eagles…do I really have to? After my hopeful entry just 48 hours ago, the ‘Playoff Express’ ran completely off the rails in yesterday’s second half in Baltimore.

A promising beginning rapidly deteriorated for Donovan McNabb, and he was yanked at halftime of a 10-7 game that was a must-win for this franchise to have any hopes of a 2008 playoff appearance. Frankly, he was awful. McNabb has been awful early in games before and rallied himself and the team.

This was a close game against a top defense on the road. And this is where Andy Reid chose to make the switch to Kevin Kolb? Kolb was at least as bad as McNabb. The game spiraled out of control, the Birds lost 36-7 while all their playoff competitors won, and the 2008 season officially ended. It may be time to let the Kolb Era fully begin, with more roster changes to come quickly.

The Eagles could not have picked a worse time for this to happen. Now they come home for their first Turkey Day game in years, a game that was looked on with excitement until these past two Sundays. Now it likely will prove to be a source of indigestion after a fine family turkey dinner.

Maybe the news holds better stories for us? Nah.

Here in Philly, we bury a cop today. Another cop killed this year in the line of duty. This makes four: Steve Liczbinski and Pat McDonald gunned down, Izzy Nazario and now Tim Simpson run down.

It’s too much for one department to bear, Lord. We need a break. Like a few years worth of a break.

Today cops from all across the city and region will gather. Another ceremony honoring a hero. Another Mass at the Cathedral downtown. Another motorcade to Resurrection Cemetery in Bensalem. Another burial of a hero in front of a grieving widow and children.

More fundraisers and benefits to support and attend. We do it all because we understand, and because we are family. But we would just as soon not have to do it at all. Please Lord, one gift for 2009: no Philly Cop funerals.

Perhaps the national headlines are better? Come on now, really?

It’s more ‘Saint Barack’ 24/7. Something good happens, the front pages read: “Obama Announces Financial Plan; Dow soars 400 points”, or “Obama Reaches Out to GOP”.

Something bad happens, it’s: “Sarah Palin Causes Global Warming”, or “Cheney Suspected in California Forest Fires”. These guys in the media are a laugh riot a minute.

The only thing that won’t be funny is if Al Franken somehow comes out on top in his Minnesota recount. Now that, like Franken’s comedic stylings, would not be one bit funny.

A lot of bad news in this ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ posting, I know. So I’ll end it on a bit of an up-tick: Jack is back.

For those of us who are fans of “24” you know just what I mean. Jack Bauer returned to the air last night with a bang, rescuing a bunch of kids in Africa, but ultimately being taken into custody himself and transported back to America to testify before Congress as the first female President of the United States was being sworn into office.

Hillary had to be watching with a lump in her throat. But Jack was back with the two-hour movie “24: Redemption” and he will be back protecting the nation full-time come January. So we got that going for us, which is nice.

Here’s to hoping that 2009 is a better year all-around, not just for ’24’ fans, but for Philly Cops, Eagles fans, Republicans, and anyone else who pays any attention to this blog. God bless the family of Tim Simpson, may they somehow find peace and healing this holiday season.

How old is too old?

 

Is it even a fair question to ask? Fact is that as we age, our bodies break down. Things that we did when we were in our 20’s and 30’s become much more difficult in our 40’s and 50’s. In many cases they become downright impossible when we hit our 60’s and older.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. Some people are, or at least are very close to being, as healthy, attractive, and fit well into upper-middle age as they were in those younger days.

Those people eat right, exercise regularly, and otherwise take care of their bodies. An even smaller group simply has a genetic ‘gift’ if you will that keeps them looking youthful longer than the rest of us.

Many people can stretch out their youthfulness by simply refusing to ‘act their age’, maintaining a fun-loving, positive, youthful attitude that exudes energy. Call it ‘mind over matter’ if you will. You know that you’re getting older. But if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.

However, the fact has also been that there are some professions that embrace and even require youth. Take female news anchors for instance.

Anyone who follows local news broadcasts over a period of time has seen a parade of young beauties take over for one another over the years, and Philly is no exception.

From Jessica Savitch in the 70’s through to Alycia Lane in the 21st century, local news has seen it’s own parade of gorgeous women in anchor chairs.

The issue of ‘how old is too old?’ for the ladies is playing itself out in a couple of high-profile instances right now.

Up in Canada, 44-year old Kimberly Ouwroulis (pictured) and 45-year old Barbara Sanderson are suing their employer, New Locomotion, for firing them in what they describe as an act of age discrimination.

Kim and Barbie, you see, are exotic dancers.

The management of New Locomotion says they want to go with a younger lineup of dancers. Ouwroulis counters that she is in great shape, still looks good, and still receives good tips and rave reviews from customers. She says that she was one of the hardest-working and most-liked employees.

I was the older girl but the girl who looked great,” she said. “I was never in trouble at work. I’ve never been reprimanded. I don’t have a criminal record. I am just a professional worker who takes dancing very seriously.” 

Sanderson, a mother of two, has filed an official human rights complaint. Does the business have the right to let them go under these circumstances?

At what point are the women’s claims that they are still ‘hot’ and fit enough to do their job in a business where those are the primary requirements trumped by the opinion of their employer on those counts?

For Sanderson, Ouwroulis and New Locomotion, the issue will play out in the courts. Ouwroulis has sued the strip club to the tune of $100,000 which represents approximately one years wages for her.

Carol Alt is now 47-years-old, and her story has a more positive outcome.

If you recall the name it is because Alt was a high-profile model back in the 1980’s. Still looking fit and gorgeous, she is the cover girl on the latest issue of Playboy magazine, and has the inside photo spread to prove her beatific bonafides.

Sure, the good folks at Playboy do a nice job of air-brushing out any small blemishes. But when you take off your clothes for the highest profile purveyor of such images, you just can’t hide enough if the basic package isn’t there.

If all of this sounds like a discussion of pure sexuality to you, then you got it dead-on straight.

Fair or not, whether you personally like it or not, women are often judged on their appearance by men. Young, attractive women get more ‘benefits’ in life from a large segment of the male society, and even from a segment of the female society.

How much of that partiality towards youthful attractiveness should be allowed to stand in the business world? How difficult is it for a woman like Carol Alt to continue to compete with younger models who seem to grow on trees?

Men love good-looking women. There’s a news flash. And we also recognize that many women are extremely physically attractive into middle-age, and sometimes even into old age.

But is there a limit for certain jobs such as news anchors, models, and yes, strippers?

I would take the position in these instances that, especially in those industries where appearance is a key factor, employers have the right to decide when to move on with their employee base.

Still, there are many legal and social issues when addressing the larger question: How old is too old?