Remembering Alan Thicke

On July 19, 2008, Alan Thicke was the headliner at the Sing for Your Supper Benefit Concert at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. ALIVE Feature writer Antonia Venezia interviewed Thicke some time prior to the concert and we published that interview in our July 2008 issue.

We were saddened to hear of Alan Thick’s passing. Not only a man of vast, varied talents, Alan Thicke was a humanitarian and a positive role model to many. He will be sorely missed. All of us at ALIVE offer our thoughts and prayers to his family and close friends.

In remembering Alan Thicke, a re-print of Antonia Venezia’s interview follows below.

One could call him a “Jack of All Trades” in the entertainment business—a multi-faceted entertainer who has delighted fans for over twenty years. If the name Alan Thicke doesn’t ring a bell you probably haven’t watched much television over the years?

As a lead actor on the hit ABC television sitcom, Growing Pains, released in the eighties, Thicke played Jason Seaver, a psychiatrist and father. Growing Pains: The Reunion was one of Disney’s highest-rated TV Movies.

Thicke is also well-known for hosting, producing and writing The Alan Thicke Show, a highly successful talk-variety series that still remains the biggest hit in the history of Canadian daytime televi­sion. Soon thereafter, the show Thick of the Night was born, becom­ing a popular late-night favorite in America.

Alan Thicke has earned a Golden Globe “Best Actor” nomination and seven Emmy Award nominations, five of which are for writing and two for acting. As one of America’s most popular and sought-­after emcees, Alan has hosted event specials including: The Emmy Awards; ABC’s Olympic Kick-off Gala; ABC’s Disney Christmas and Easter Parades; the Miss Universe, Miss World USA, and Miss USA Pageants; Showtime’s Comedy All-Stars; TV’s Funniest Families and NBC’s World’s Greatest Magic, along with many other hit shows.

During our interview, Alan shared some of his secrets on how to become a great television host: “I think the main advice that I can give you is to always expect the worst. Expect that a light might fall down or someone’s going to trip, or you’re going to say a dumb thing; misspeak or misread the prompter. Learn to have fun and just play with that. I think the people who do badly are the ones who try for perfection.”

Alan Thicke has a thick, impressive resume. He’s an accom­plished author who recently signed a publishing deal for his first novel, Lovely Parting Gifts. His other books inc1ude: How To Raise Kids Who Won’t Hate You (the sequel to How Men Have Babies, which is the Pregnant Father’s Survival Guide, an ongoing favorite since its release in 1999). The book has become so popular you can now read it in Spanish, German and Chinese, too. There’s also an audio version available by the author himself.

With an extensive background in game shows, Alan produced Celebrity Sweepstakes and Wizard of Odds, launching the career of his friend Alex Trebek.

“Writing theme songs was a fun little business and I am glad 1 did it,” mentions Thicke. As a music composer, he has written over 45 television theme songs, including themes for the shows Facts of Life and Different Strokes.  

While conversing about music, Alan was thrilled to tell me about his recording artist son, Robin Thicke, the creator of the infectious sleeper hit song, Lost Without U, which has reached platinum status. When I asked him what gives him the most satisfaction out of all of the things he’s achieved in his career, he was happy to say, “The most fun I have, frankly, is enjoying my son’s career. He sold a lot of records last year and he has a new album coming out. I enjoy watch­ing him grow and succeed and then I become a fan, beyond being a Dad or a counselor. I play his record all the time. Wait until you hear his next album. I think it’s even better.”

As a Dad, Alan thinks his son Robin learned some valuable les­sons from him while growing up. “I have a pretty good commercial ear and I am a pretty decent judge of music. I would have been a good judge on the show, American Idol instead of being a partici­pant. I think Robin learned about the business. I taught him how to treat people. People always tell me that he is a gentleman; easy to work with and all the good things you want to hear about your kid.”

Currently, Alan Thicke is working on several exciting new projects. He is acting in a new hour long drama in Canada called, IPOD where he plays a no account Dad with no rules and he has a role in a new Will Farrell film called, The Goods: The Don Ready Story starring Jeremy Piven. His popular book, How to Raise Kids Who Won’t Hate You will soon be re-released with a new chapter that he is writing.

”I’m proud to say that on Thursday I became a grandfather for the first time to Tyler, from my oldest son Brennan,” says Alan. ”I’m looking forward to that phase in life. I’m covering the spectrum—I am a grandfather while I am waiting in the parking lot of my youngest son’s fifth grade school to meet with his teacher.”

Alan Thicke has achieved more than some would only dream of in the entertainment world, which is often quite a demanding job. I was curious to know how he finds the time to do everything. Here’s what Alan had to say: “I’m up at 6:30AM working, making calls and writing. Then I take a couple of hours off during the day to play tennis, golf or hockey. I end up wrap­ping things up at the end of the night and doing more writing. I pace myself and change my venue. I sometimes go from room to room in my house when I am working.”

Thicke’s television career began behind the scenes as a writer for a Canadian broadcasting Corporation. His talent soon led him to the U.S. where he wrote and/or produced comedy spe­cials and series for Bill Cosby, Flip Wilson, Kenny Rogers and Barry Manilow, among others. He also produced and wrote the revolutionary comedies Fernwood 2night and America 2night for hot producer Norman Lear. “All of these talented people who I worked with stood out in their own unique way and they all had  different personalities. Every one of them contributed to my evolution,” says Thicke.

In theatre, Alan received rave reviews opposite Jason Alexander in the Neil Simon/Burt Bacharach musical, Promises, Promises and for his Broadway debut as ‘Billy Flynn’ in Chicago: The Musical. 

He has written sitcoms and film scripts for Castle Rock, Warner Brothers and Viacom. Originally, Thicke wanted to be a football reporter. In college he started doing a little performing and now he’s obviously “doing-it-all.” He has guest-starred on various television shows like Just Shoot Me, Married with Children, and Seventh Heaven. He’s appeared in TV movies and feature films including, Disney’s Not Quite Human trilogy, The Calendar Girl Mureders, and Teddy Bear’s Picnic. 

As a headliner and speaker, Alan’s unique charm, personality and humor have established him as one of America’s all-pur­pose entertainers. He’s been a keynote, motivational speaker and a host/comic at various conferences, hotels and events, including everything from Sacramento’s Earth Day, Awards Ceremonies for California’s Building Industry, and Atlanta’s Real Estate Conference, to The Chiropractic Centennial Celebration and the NHL’s All-Star Banquet.

Alan is married to Tanya Callau and is a proud father of three sons: Brennan, Robin and Carter and a grandfather to a new-born, Tyler.

Alan Thicke’s experience as an entertainer is outstanding. As an actor, writer, host, composer and producer, one can only imagine how hard he works. For many people, it would take a lifetime to achieve this kind of status, but for this multi-talented Superstar, the world is his oyster in the entertainment business. He is, truly, “A Jack of All Trades.”

The best shows on television are as good, or better, than they have ever been. There are some bottom feeders as well. Then you have a lot or reality shows and competition shows. There are so many networks now, it allows a lot of bad stuff in. The low end spectrum is pretty low… but the high end is pretty high. ~ Alan Thicke

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Taste the Stars

Happy New Year! Did you drink Champagne on the big night? Or sparkling wine? Do you know the difference?

The difference is not necessarily in the taste. The aromas and flavors of some finely crafted sparkling wines often rival Champagne. The real difference rests in the origin of the wine, the actual place where the grapes were grown and where the wine was vinified and aged.

Champagne is a sparkling wine produced within the borders of France’s Champagne region in the northeast of the country. By law, a bottle may be labeled “Champagne” only if it was produced within the borders of Champagne itself. Everything else is simply called sparkling wine.

In France, almost every wine-producing region makes a sparkling wine. Those wines are labeled “Cremant” or “Mousseux.” The wines are skillfully made and artfully presented but they will never be Champagne. That’s not to say they are not delicious—they are! A few of my favorite sparklers are Cremant D’Alsace and Cremant de la Loire.

There is incredible prestige in Champagne. So much prestige, in fact, that in 2008 the demand for Champagne worldwide exceeded production. The solution? The INAO (the organization that protects the French appellations) voted to push the borders of production and allow an additional 38 districts to produce Champagne. These districts had been producing bubbly all along but in 2008, they were finally allowed to call their sparkling wine “Champagne.” 

Doubtless it was an incredible windfall for the lucky producers included in the new Champagne districts. Champagne’s fancy moniker demands a much higher price tag than mere sparkling wine. The sparkling wine producers didn’t change a thing but overnight their product suddenly skyrocketed in value.

If the wine is tasty and bubbly, why should you care where it was produced? There are many ways to approach that question. There is the historical aspect, of course. People have been drinking Champagne for centuries. Many of the venerated Champagne houses are hundreds of years old.

The style produced in each Champagne house is different and unique. Kings and queens, politicians, celebrities, and the common man have all celebrated special occasions with a bottle of good Champagne. Winston Churchill favored Pol Roger. Napoleon preferred Moet and Chandon. James Bond drank Bollinger.  Marilyn Monroe loved Dom Perignon.  The list goes one.

There is a certain cache to real Champagne. Anyone who has ever owned a pair of designer shoes can attest to that. They are not just your black pumps; they are your black “Manolos” or “Jimmy Choos”—a world of difference to the proud owner.  The same is true with Champagne. A romantic evening becomes all the more special if a good bottle of Champagne is popped.

Sparkling wine is nice too but are you looking for nice? Does the eager young man with a ring in his hand reach for the bottle of Prosecco to woo his betrothed? Not likely. Nothing against the wonderful sparkle of Prosecco, but Champagne it is not.

If you didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate the advent of 2017 with a bottle of real Champagne, fear not. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and you have the chance to redeem yourself. This year, share a bottle of delicious, magical Champagne with your beloved.

Pour yourselves a glass and hold it up to the light. Observe the fine bubbles, called “Strings of Pearls” to aficionados. Sniff the fine toasty aromas and savor the rich flavors. You might find yourself exclaiming as Dom Perignon did so long ago, “I am tasting the stars!”





Random Thoughts

… while Watching Electrons Exciting Pixels

            PROFOUND CONJECTURE #1. If Apple announced that they were introducing an I-Buggy Whip next Thursday, by next Monday lines would already be around the corner so that one can “Be the first on my block to have an electronic buggy whip.”  (Next question:  What’s a buggy whip?)    

            VISION OR A MIRAGE? #1. One day last week I actually saw (Ah seen it with mah own eyes!) an SUV make a full stop at a red octagonal sign. The guy in the Prius behind him almost rear-ended the SUV, then floored the Prius, drove around the truck (that’s really what an SUV is), and saluted the SUV driver with 20% of a full hand salute. My heart simply skipped a beat at such a momentous occasion.

            OPINION #1. Kaep, you blew your credibility by not voting. It is not only a right, it is a duty. Try taking a knee on the national anthem of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, or 67.38% of the other countries of the world–no matter how well you play football.

            OPINION #2. Does anyone know how many shootings, stabbings, poisonings, garrotings, blastings, and other forms of making people dead appear every week on television?  You will never see, however, a mother breast-feeding her small child. That beautiful act of love, of course, is rated immoral and not fit for consumption by our genteel, sensitive American public that worships television violence and football. Half the adult population of the world has those thingees, and the other half get induced to buy cars, beer, and other commodities just by glimpsing them.

            PROFOUND CONJECTURE #2. How do you protest an election unless you know of some violations of the law or other hanky-panky. The purpose of an election appears to be the gathering of votes on an issue or candidacy and a good percentage of the electorate will be disappointed every time. The only person I know of who has claimed that the Presidential election of 2016 was rigged, turns out to be the guy who won. Maybe the protest should have been directed toward the Electoral College, an antiquated system that resulted in two of the past three Presidents, both Republican, winning despite the other candidate having more votes. What are the chances of a Republican Congress and President overturning the E. C.? (Hey, those are my initials.)

            PROFOUND CONJECTURE #3. If Apple came out with the I-Buggy Whip, how long would it be before Samsung, LG, and others flooded the market with less expensive versions?  One month? Two? (I can see a young couple on their first date in a lovely restaurant. Both have phones in their right hands with thumbs flying at supersonic speeds. We will not ask what they are going to do with the I-Buggy Whips in their left hands, but we may ask how they will get the food into their mouths.  I find the vision unappetizing and frightening.)

            VISION OR MIRAGE? #2. Later the same day I saw the SUV come to a complete stop at an octagonal sign, I was waiting for a traffic light to change so I could turn left. Of the twelve cars waiting, one of three with turn signals on, was a certain German luxury car–yes, with its turn signals just blinking away like Christmas lights. I was unaware that German cars have turn signals. As Hamlet said, “They are more honored in the breach, than in the observance.”  (He was not referring to turn signals.)  I will not identify the maker of the car, but its initials are the same as Matzo Balls.

            SIMPLE SOLUTIONS #1. If you are opposed to same sex marriage and, like me, find the thought of being intimate with a person of the same sex to be totally undesirable, marry someone of the opposite sex and stay out of other people’s lives.

            SIMPLE SOLUTIONS #2. If you are opposed to abortion, do not have one. This particularly applies to men who are extremely vocal in their opposition, although when I think of it, I cannot recall knowing personally any man who has had an abortion. (I have known a few that I felt should have been aborted.)  For those who insist that the Bible stands opposed to abortion, I would like to quote from the Good Book:  Genesis 2, 7:  Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”  A fetus cannot enjoy the breath of life until it exits Mommy’s tummy and gets slapped on its bottom. (I am aware that I have not convinced or changed even one person’s opinion, but that ends my sermon, except for repeating “stay out of other people’s lives.”)

            SIMPLE SOLUTIONS #3. The election is over; live with it. I personally have voted only for Democratic Presidential candidates since 1952. Somebody always wins; someone else always loses. Donald Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States for better or for worse, and we should all hope it is for the better. He deserves a chance to make that happen. If, however, you identify as a Muslim, Hispanic, or Black, you might want to be especially watchful and vigilant. That is based on campaign rhetoric by politicians, and we all know how little truth is dispensed in those speeches by ALL parties.  As a Jew, I thank those groups and Ivanka’s marriage and conversion for taking some of the pressure off us. We are usually first in line for grief. (If by some chance there should be a second term or if he has been crowned “Emperor for Life” by the senior Senator from Kentucky who evidently thinks the Constitution is just another piece of paper from Charmin, then we too can join in the vigilance. Oh, dear, that makes two sermons.)

            SIMPLE SOLUTIONS #4. Is Donald Trump perfect?  Are all Muslims?  Hispanics?  Blacks?  Jews?  Democrats?  Republicans?  Brits?  Any human beings–other than my grandchildren?  We all know the answer to that question, except when it refers to ourselves. I think the words of the great philosopher Marx apply here. No, not Karl. Groucho, who once said the following. “For years I searched for the perfect woman. Then one day I found her. Unfortunately she was searching for the perfect man.”

            VISION OR MIRAGE? #3. On the same day, the very same day, that the SUV came to a full stop at a stop sign. Yes, the same day that the MB flashed its turn signals, I surfed the television that evening and saw another amazing sight, in addition to those two traffic experiences. On a Spanish speaking station I saw, honest, a flat-chested woman. What a day that was!  I could hardly sleep that night.

            SIMPLE SOLUTIONS #5. There are no simple solutions.

This old Democrat wishes good judgment, good decisions, and good luck to President Trump. If he does well, then you, I, and this magnificent country all do well. Can we ask for anything more than that?

Happy 2017!

One Writer’s Voice

My #1 New Year’s Resolution is to watch fewer singing competitions on television. Is it cheesy to admit that I like The Voice, American Idol and The Sing-Off?  Actually, only the Voice is still on, but I resolve to stop watching that incredibly entertaining NBC reality singing show where the winner goes on to do absolutely nothing with their career except to occasionally pop up on the next season of The Voice to promote a CD we’ll never buy.

The truth is, after eleven seasons, there’s never been a Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson or even a Chris Daughtry (American Idols) in the entire Voice bunch. That’s probably a little unfair. I’m confident the past winners have sung their share of National Anthems at minor league ballparks and monster truck rallies. I bet there’s been the occasional ribbon cutting at a Piggly-Wiggly grand opening. Then, of course, there’s the prestigious gig of being the celebrity judge at a bowling alley karaoke competition.  Sadly, I don’t think I’ve heard so much as a single single on the radio by any of the past winners from The Voice.

That said, I still like the show for a variety of reasons. For those of you keeping score, the past winners look a little something like this;


I remember every single one of those past winners, except maybe Jermaine, Danielle and Josh, but that’s because I’m into this stuff. Seeing an actual show taping is high (#4) on my bucket list and I’m not getting any younger. Just for the record, I have actually seen two alumni of The Voice perform live and in concert.  season eight winner, Sawyer Fredericks, played a corporate event at Bishop Ranch and I took my daughter to see Matt McAndrew (season seven runner-up) open for the Plain White T’s last year at Slim’s in San Francisco. My review? Matt had very strong vocals and was very entertaining and Sawyer was inexperienced and slightly off-key. My favorite contender of all time, you ask? That was Will Champlin. He got robbed and finished third in season five. I don’t know what he’s doing today, but I hope he’s got a microphone in his hand and not a specula.

I’m actually watching the Season Eleven finale as I bang out this article on my lap top. Season Eleven has been a good one and I think it’s safe to say that I like this season’s Final Four as much as any other Final Four I’ve seen in the past. I’m avoiding choosing a favorite because, based on past experience, it’s too emotionally draining, filled with an exhausting array of the cheers and tears.  I wish all the contestants’ good luck as I know I will never see any of them again.

Fast forward to the next night, and your Season Eleven winner is…wait for it…Sundance Head. There is an overwhelming abundance of applause and fanfare as the winner’s family rushes the stage. Mr. Head does his best to perform his soon to be released single, available on iTunes, as confetti rains down on the stage. Despite this winning singer having a name more suited for the adult film industry, he’s actually a charming and talented country troubadour. It was nice knowing you Sundance.

Speaking of reality shows, it’s hard to believe the former star of The Apprentice will be our next president. What? I think Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, judges on the Voice, should run in 2020. They could represent the Music-tarian ticket. Why not, the reality President precedent has been set.

I find it hilarious that Donald Trump prepared for being leader of the free world by evaluating B-list celebrity’s business abilities with the tag line, You’re Fired! That was after he and his spawn humiliated them in the board room. I’m also amused by how upset The Donald gets at Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live immediately followed by a Twitter-Tantrum.

Here’s some Presidential advice from a guy who was once President of the Crow Canyon Swim Team: Stop watching SNL. When I knew someone didn’t like how I was running the swim country, I avoided that person at every swim meet and social event. I never read their emails and I certainly didn’t pick up my mobile phone, thanks to Caller I.D. I intentionally bumped more than one kid into the pool just to create a momentary distraction enabling me to escape a possible confrontation. Hopefully President Trump will be too busy not upsetting China to watch late night sketch comedy once he takes office, but I digress.

I have this reoccurring dream that I am a contestant on The Voice. I have this really cool Justin Bieber-meets-Sammy Hagar-type voice and of course I get a “four chair” turn. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the show, a four chair turn is pretty much the most awesome thing that can happen during your blind audition.  Anyway, I choose Miley Cyrus to be my coach, just because my daughters loved Hannah Montana growing up and I was a fan of her Wrecking Ball video. Creepy, I know. Sadly, I don’t end up winning The Voice in my dream, but that’s okay, because I didn’t want to vanish into singing obscurity anyway.


I’m already living a life in writing obscurity and a guy can only take so much obscurity. The New Year means another season of my favorite show and I can hardly wait for The Voice to resume… If I was going to watch it… which I’m not, because I never break a NY resolution.