RIP, Sir Nicholas Winton

The man who rescued so many children from the Nazis, Sir Nicholas Wynton, died on July 1, 2015.

The man who rescued so many children from the Nazis, Sir Nicholas Winton, died on July 1, 2015.

Sir Nicholas Winton, the incredible man who took it upon himself to save 667 Czech children from the Nazis, passed away on July 1st at the age of 105.  His was definitely a life well lived, and a lesson to the rest of us for what we have the potential to do and become.

Here he is, surprised to find himself in an audience filled with some of the people he rescued:

I only wish that the Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded to him this year, before he passed away.  If any man deserved it, he did.

There’s a terrific movie about his life called Nicky’s Family, available here from Menemsha Films.  If you want to uplift yourself, by all means, see it:

RIP, Sir Nicholas!


Documents Surface About Bill Cosby Drugging Women

The Reign of Terror is Over!  Documents surface about Cosby's rape of women!

The Reign of Terror is Over! Documents surface about Cosby’s rape of women!

It’s a day of validation for the 49 women who have been saying for months that they were drugged and raped by Bill Cosby.  A legal document – from 2005 – surfaced in which he admitted scoring quaaludes in order to drug and rape at least one of them.

I can hardly believe this maniac got away with raping so many ladies, and for so long, but he did.  Thank goodness the document has surfaced, so that now – hopefully – he will be brought to justice.

It’s about time!

Hey Bill: real men don’t have to drug women!

Don’t Fence Me In

Shameful!  Manzanar "War Relocation Center," a/k/a concentration camp.

Shameful! Manzanar “War Relocation Center,” a/k/a concentration camp.

I’ve been re-reading the book FAREWELL TO MANZANAR by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston about her Japanese-American family’s internment at Manzanar concentration camp in California during World War II.  She and her siblings were American born, but thrown into the camp anyway, simply because of their ancestry, and the fact that they looked like the enemy.  After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, all people of Japanese birth or descent living on the West Coast were rounded up and locked in camps behind barbed wire simply because Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wartime cabinet were afraid some of them could be spies, if you can believe it.

Jeanne was seven years old.  What kind of a spy did they think she could possibly be?

Jeanne’s brother was in one of the camp swing bands.  One of my favorite parts of the story is that his band would play the music of – but not sing the lyrics to – one of America’s hit songs of the day, Don’t Fence Me In.

Well, I would have sung it, if I’d been in such a situation, and at the top of my considerable lungs, too!

Here’s Roy Rogers singing it in STAGE DOOR CANTEEN:

Prison Escape Update: Now It’s “The Case of the Hamburger Helper”

The escape from Clinton Correctional Facility is now The Case of the Hamburger Helper, literally.

The escape from Clinton Correctional Facility is now The Case of the Hamburger Helper, literally.

Just when you may have optimistically believed that the wacky situation regarding the two prisoners who busted out of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, could not possibly get any wilder and crazier – of course – it did.

Every new revelation gives the public another reason to bust out laughing.

First, the two escapees, Richard Matt and David Sweat, slid out of the prison in a pipe they had managed to cut open – and left a Smiley Face note on it for the astonished officers who found them missing, which read, “Have a Nice Day!”

Almost immediately, their inside accomplice was discovered, prison tailor shop supervisor Joyce Mitchell.   Both gentlemen were sweet-talking Mitchell – and more.  Today a former prisoner who was in the same shop came forward to say that Mitchell and Matt had gone into the storeroom to “count inventory” on at least 100 occasions.

The former prisoner, Erik Jensen, did not believe that what they were doing in there involved either counting or the inventory.  “Shaw-Skank had Closet Sex with Inmate at Least 100 Times,” screamed the headline in The New York Post Today in their inimitable style.

Oh, my!  And in a closet, yet.  Okay, then, the next question, naturally, is where the heck was the prison administration while this was going on, and so much more than once?

The DNA of the prisoners was found in a cabin they broke into that was near the prison – positively identifying them.  That development came only after the manhunt had moved, over the weekend, downstate to Friendship, NY, a tiny town on the Pennsylvania border where the duo had been “spotted” – probably falsely.  Who knows?

But the current top nut on the Prison Escape Sundae is that the inept gaggle of doofuses running this Clinton Correctional Facility (on my taxpayer dollars) finally, after these dudes have been on the run for 17 days, “uncovered” how the prisoner’s paramour  managed to get the escape tools into the prison in the first place.

Are you ready?

Are you sure?

She smuggled the tools in by hiding them in raw hamburger meat.  Another prison employee brought it to them and now he’s in custody, too.

This is now “The Case of the Hamburger Helper” – literally.

Who is running that prison?  Who searches what the workers bring in and out?  Who supervises the supervisors?  The entire facility is beginning to sound like the lyrics to that old song, “The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum.”

Where are these prisoners?

What’s going to happen next?

It’s actually hardly a laughing matter, since the escapees are pretty vile pieces of work, and killers to boot, and on the loose and on the run, but…that Smiley Face note!  That cut-up pipe!  The escape that worked!  The fruitless search of Friendship!  The affair in the closet!  And now, the latest, perhaps the best of all, the piece de resistance: the implements were hidden in the hamburger!

You can’t make this stuff up!  I can hardly wait to see what will happen next.  I’m splitting my sides in spite of myself.

From sweet-talked to stripes: Joyce Mitchell's in custody while the prisoners still run free.

From Sweet-Talked to Stripes: Joyce Mitchell’s in custody while the prisoners still run free.


Was Faridi McFree the Reason Bob Dylan was Wandering in Long Branch in 2009?

Kristie Buble, the Long Branch police officer who didn't recognize Bob Dylan (and who can blame her?)

Kristie Buble, the Long Branch police officer who answered the call about the “suspicious person” wandering the streets.

On the rainy night of July 23, 2009, the 1960s musical icon Bob Dylan was picked up by the police after being observed peeping through the window of a house in Long Branch, New Jersey. This isn’t as bad as it sounds.  The house in question was for sale.

Even so, one of the people in a neighboring house saw what he was doing and called the cops, reporting him as a suspicious person.  He was disheveled, disoriented, and wearing a hoodie.  Of course the neighbor called the cops.

One of the officers who answered the call was Kristie Buble, who was in her 20s and too young to recognize the singer.  Another officer, also in his 20s, was similarly not impressed when the unhappy wanderer claimed to be the legend.  It was an honest mistake.

My favorite radio station is WPLJ, and the first I heard of all this happened when my radio alarm clock woke me up to hear the DJ’s having a wonderful time sending up this story.  I’m not sure if the broadcast was the morning after or a couple of weeks later.  I’ll get to that in a moment.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Dylan was doing in Long Branch.  He told the cops he was on the way to a Dylan concert in Fresno, California…which was not exactly next door to the New Jersey town where he was caught in the act of looking in the window of the vacant house.  People seemed stymied as to why he was there.

I wasn’t.  Right away, I had a feeling I knew exactly what might have brought him to Long Branch.  His old girlfriend, artist Faridi McFree, had moved to Long Branch.

Faridi’s in Long Branch?  And Bob Dylan is found wandering around Long Branch?  It couldn’t be a coincidence, I thought.  He was probably there to see her.

In fact, I hoped with all my heart that he was there to see Faridi.  She was one of my greatest friends and had never, ever gotten over him.

I didn’t know then, as I was laughing along with the WLPJ guys, that Faridi had been sick – and was dying.  I hadn’t heard from her for a little while, which was odd, since we were in pretty regular contact over email.  I have to write her, I thought, and find out if they’d been reunited at last.  It would be so great for her, if they had.  Getting back together with Dylan had been her dream since long before I met her…

When I finally wrote her to ask if Dylan had been in Long Branch to see her, it wasn’t Faridi who replied.  It was one of her legion of nieces, and she gave me the news that we had lost her.  Faridi passed away in August, 2009.

Faridi was on her deathbed as her ex-lover Bob Dylan roamed the streets of her town.  How wild is that?  He was reportedly acting “disoriented.”  Maybe seeing his old love could have gotten the man upset…

So I wonder what really prompted Bob Dylan’s wanderings that night in July, when poor Faridi was nearing the end.  Was he in Long Branch to see her?  Surely seeing him would have been Faridi’s dying wish.  If there had been any way to bring that about, anyone who knew her would have tried to find a way to contact him and get him, belatedly, over to see her.

Awhile back I wrote a blog post about Faridi and Dylan and sometimes hear from people who are interested in their affair or in Faridi’s artwork.  One of them is Stephan Pickering.  He provided me with the picture below.  It shows Faridi, in the middle with hand on chin, and Bob Dylan on the right, on the floor.  There’s also an unknown gal in the photo on the left.  This was taken in February of 1974 in Seattle.  Take a look at how happy Faridi and Bob look.

Faridi had created a cartoon character she wanted to develop into a television series.  It was based on Bob Dylan, whose real name was Robert Zimmerman, as she felt he didn’t communicate with people too well, so she called the character “Zimmy the Zipper.”  The cartoon showed a dude with a zipper for a mouth that he kept sealed shut and wouldn’t open.  It’s still a great idea for a cartoon.  I hope Dylan was Long Branch to see her that night in 2009 – and had “unzipped his lip” at last…but who knows?

Thanks, Stephan, for sharing this photo with me, and for the chance to put it out there so that people who are interested in their relationship can see it.  There can be no doubt: she clearly loved Dylan.

Shabtai Pisel, Faridi McFree and Bob Dylan.

Unidentified woman, Faridi McFree and Bob Dylan.


One for the “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Musicals” Department



This sign says it all.  Enjoy!


Barry Manilow at the Barclays Center

Barry Manilow at the Barclays Center tonight was terrific!

Barry Manilow at the Barclays Center tonight was terrific!

What a nice night!

After three decades in my adopted hometown of Brooklyn, New York, I know there’s no better fans than Brooklyn fans.  We’re the fun borough!   And if there’s anything even more fun than watching Brooklyn fans in action, it’s watching us welcome back one of our very own.

Tonight at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn welcomed Barry Manilow home for a concert, and it was a wonderful night!  It’s incredible how many hit songs Barry Manilow has had during his career and he treated us to as many of them as time would allow. He began with one of my favorites, “It’s A Miracle.”  Then the audience members, all of whom were given green glow sticks on arrival to wave in time to the music, followed a bouncing happy face ball on a screen and sang along to my all-time favorite, “Can’t Smile Without You.”  Another favorite came later, “Let’s Hang On.”

Barry also sang “Looks Like We Made It,” “Mandy,” the wonderfully positive “Daybreak,” “Copacabana,” “I Made It Through the Rain” – all songs I love, and ones that took me, in my heart, right back to high school.  The rise of Barry Manilow’s songs on the charts coincided with the great years I spent at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and a whole parade of images of friends and teachers went through my head as I heard them again tonight.

Then Barry mentioned a relatively new album he’d recorded (in 2011, but this was the first I’d heard of it): Barry Manilow’s Dream Duets.  The entire album is recordings sung with late greats and was created through technology.  I was pleasantly surprised when he began to sing yet another of my favorites, one from before I was born but that I’d discovered, by coincidence, during high school: “Zing!  Went the Strings of My Heart.”  He sang it along with Judy Garland, whose image was up on the screen behind him.  I got the album after the concert and can’t wait to download it to my iPod since he sings duets with Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Durante, Mama Cass Elliott and more.

At one point Barry reminisced about his departed grandpa and wondered what he would have thought of him now.  After the finale, a cake lit with candles was wheeled onto the stage.  It was Barry Manilow’s birthday today!  The band struck up “Happy Birthday,” and the entire audience – 18,000 strong – joined in, thrilled to be able to sing our good wishes to this talented man whose songs have brought so much joy to us all.  If there’s any structure to the way the universe is run at all, I hope that somewhere, somehow, maybe from some fluffy cloud floating along in the great beyond, Barry’s grandfather could be allowed to see that.  Wow, would that grandpa have been proud of his grandson tonight!

Happy Birthday, Barry Manilow!

The CD, "BARRY MANILOW: My Dream Duets."

The CD, “BARRY MANILOW: My Dream Duets.”