n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 6 A L I V E E A S T B A Y 21 disc jockey, but he doesn’t play records. He plays the piano, interviews Hollywood celebrities plus the audience, and he is really, really funny.” She was referring, of course, to a quite young, unknown except locally, Steve Allen, and his late night radio show “Breaking All Records.” Both Mom and I, late risers and sleepers, became fans instantly and followed him through his rise to fame and success. At that time Al Jolson reigned as the leading entertainer in the U.S. and probably the world. He appeared one night on Allen’s show, and in the course of the interview remarked that he had been to the Hollywood Ranch Market the night before and bought a bunch of bananas. While it may not sound so astounding to adults who have experienced television and the internet virtually all their lives, it was a moment of wonder for a seventeen year old naïve and unworldly kid. AL JOLSON, A DEMI-GOD OF SHOW BUSINESS, WENT TO THE MARKET TO BUY BANANAS! He was an ordinary human being just like all the rest of us. Wow! That summer my family moved to Los Angeles, I entered my senior year of high school, and discovered that on Friday nights Allen would fill the Jack Benny radio studio and do his show from there with a real audience. In high school and community college it become almost a pilgrimage after the Friday night football games to drive to Hollywood and be part of his audience. One night Allen had two young performers on the same show. The first was a radio actor who talked about the new police show that he was developing. His new program would show police life as it really was, not through romantic Private Investigators. The actor’s name was Jack Webb, and the show “Dragnet,” which soon radically changed the picture of police work on radio and television. “All I want are the facts, Ma‘am.” Allen then interviewed a young, rather small but highly energetic Black man who sang, played drums, tapped danced, and did imitations that were spot on. The young man just was beginning to get a reputation in “the business.” He and his father appeared with his uncle’s jazz band, The Will Mastin Trio. The father’s name was Sammy Davis, Senior. (I wonder what ever happened to “Junior“?) If we take the insight that performers were simply people with special talents and combine it with the newly acquired passion I received from Mrs. Madvig’s simple request, one can easily understand the effect on an impressionable teenager, an impression that has lasted a lifetime. Thank you, Mrs. M.! Thank you, Steverino! BASEBALL: Through the ups and downs of my life (thankfully a lot more ups than downs) my family and baseball remained the rocks and constants in my life. How can I say it? I can’t. Instead, please listen to James Earle Jones’ speech before he ventures into the cornfield in “Field of Dreams.” He says it all, and with that unique voice. (Sadly, we cannot capture that magnificent sound on paper.) I give bundles of thanks to those listed above, to my family, and to the countless others who contributed to whatever constitutes the person known today as “Edwin Cohen“. HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO EVERYONE.
Alive November 2016
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