Sunday, October 25, 2015

Tom Hanks

I was in radio when I first met Tom Hanks.

I was a morning DJ in New York and he was a guest. Most people knew him from the movie Splash.  He hadn't become the two time Oscar winner, box office gold, Forrest Gump guy, yet.

He was there to promote his new movie Big. Not only was it a good movie but he was great in it. He was also a great guest. Funny. Smart. Told first rate stories of growing up in California. He talked about being on theater sets in Cleveland.

We were in the middle of our show and we were playing a game with our listeners called Rock and Roll Jeopardy. "And if they're right," I said, "Tom, tell them what they win." He was supposed to say, "A WNEW-FM alarm clock." What he actually said was, "What a jive gift!"

We broke into howls of laughter.

Our promo person heard that exchange on the air and, to put it mildly, was not very amused. Tom didn't get the dressing down later. I did.

And that's how I met Tom Hanks.

The next time we saw each other, I was on CBS and had just started doing Entertainment. As I walked into the room to do the interview he said incredulously, "They sent the weather guy?" "Oh right, Tom," I answered, "You're Hard News." He looked at me. I looked at him. And we both started laughing.

Let me tell you about a few of his movies...A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle, Philadelphia (won the Oscar), Forrest Gump (won the Oscar), Apollo 13, Toy Story, That Thing You Do!, Saving Private Ryan, You've Got Mail, Toy Story 2, The Green Mile and Castaway.

How many of them have you seen?

When I spoke to Tom the night he won his first Oscar, I asked him a question. "How do you deal with everyday life when every headline says you're going to win?"

"All I can say is you can't put any faith in it whatsoever. You treat it as a nice accolade and you move on." He added with a chuckle, "Or it'll drive you stark raving nuts."

Smart guy.

He won the following year for Forrest Gump and the Tom Hanks legend grew.

People compare him to another famous actor. They say he is the Jimmy Stewart of our age. They talk about how Jimmy was kind and decent. I never met him but I'll say this about Tom. He hasn't changed one iota because of the grand ride he's been on. He's still kind and decent.

One last story.

He had just made Saving Private Ryan, directed by the most famous director of our time. A Hollywood legend.

Steven Spielberg.

They're great friends.

Talking about Steven's directing style Tom said with a twinkle in his eye, "He's kind of this doofus and then he gets on a movie set and turns into Thomas Edison inventing the light bulb."

I couldn't believe my ears. Did he just call Steven Spielberg a doofus?

When you're Tom Hanks, two time Oscar winner Tom Hanks, you can.



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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tony Colter


I met Tony when I was in the eighth grade.

Tony, his sister Vickie, and yours truly 
We lived on Fort Meade Maryland,
and a new family moved in next door to us. We used to have crab apple trees everywhere and out back there was this new kid throwing fallen crab apples at his brother.

Left handed.

Ah, he's a southpaw, I thought.

And that's my first memory of my best friend.

My dad was an officer in the Air Force, his dad was an officer in the Army and our mothers were best friends.

More memories...

We used to sleep outside as kids and we would wait for Tony to fall asleep. After he did, all of us would lay our heads on him because he was softer than our sleeping bags. He'd wake up to find us all sleeping on him.

That right there did not endear us to him.

When I was in tenth grade Tony moved out to Crownsville and his family built a house. We followed suit.

I can remember all of the McEwens in the car as my dad pulled up to our tree filled lot, and announced, "Here we are! Whaddya think?"

It looked like the woods and I thought my parents didn't love us anymore.

After they cleared the trees and built our home, I grew up there.

With my best friend right down the street.

When I went to LA to do stand up, and starved, I really looked  forward to talking to Tony. I told him I was coming home and hoped to get into radio.  I'll never forget what he said, "Don't worry, I've got a job waiting for you."

He did and before I knew it I was on the air.

Turn about is fair play, and when 98ROCK in Baltimore asked me if I knew someone who could be on the air, I told them about Tony.

He got me my first job in radio, I got him his first job in radio.

Mrs. Colter is Doreen.

Doreen is from New York and had moved down to Maryland.

Tony met her in high school and like they do in cartoons, his eyes had stars in them. He was smitten. Tony chased her and chased her and chased her.

He finally caught her, asked Doreen to marry him and she said yes. And he asked me to be his Best Man.

It was one of the best days ever.

They have a daughter named Karley and I'm her godfather. I always tell her I knew she was Karley before Karley knew she was Karley.

She came to New York to visit and I was heading west to interview NSYNC. Her first jet ride followed, alongside me, and on that ride Karley pulled out all of her NSYNC CDs. She had one that was only available as an import from Japan.

When we got to NSYNC, I mentioned a song on that import and one of the members, Chris Kirkpatrick, said, "No one ever mentions that song or that CD."

They sang the song a cappella and we got it all on camera.

That's ratings gold and it happened because of Karley.

A few more things about Tony and me.

We like the same kind of music. We both love ketchup. Heinz, thank you very much.

We've been laughing at the same jokes for a long, long, time.

We also enjoy each other's company. Big time.


Tony was there when my twins were born. They know him now as Uncle Tony but when they were younger he was Uncle Jelly Belly.

I came out of my bedroom once to find them climbing up his chair, to be swooped up by him, and gently swung down to the floor. Miles and Griffin were laughing the whole time, squealing, "Again, Again!"

Tony looked at me and said with a smile, "We've been doing this for awhile, now."

These days you can hear Tony on Sirius/XM, satellite radio. He's on two channels. Watercolors (smooth jazz on channel 66) and BB King's Bluesville (blues, of course, on channel 70). Since he's nationwide, I can hear him down here in Florida and I'm mighty fine with that.

Cool. Cool. Cool.

They say wine gets better with age. So has our friendship.

Better and deeper.

As Tony says, "Brothers from different mothers." I couldn't agree more.
                                                                                                                                                                                                               



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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Meet Eljon and Randy

Let me introduce you to two people.

Eljon Wardally and Randy Wilkins.

First Eljon.

Eljon was born in New York and when she was younger she wandered outside when they shot a segment of Law and Order. Remember that, because it affected her in a big way.

She tried her hand at acting in high school but it wasn't for her. See, Eljon is a Playwright and a Screenwriter. She's written six plays, two short films and won a bunch of awards. When I asked her when she knew she wanted to be a writer, Law and Order came up.

Her father came here from Grenada as a young man, pretty much penniless, and proceeded to start a thriving business.  Both of her mother's parents were deaf. Her mom was able to juggle raising her daughter while caring for her parents all while earning her college degree.

I mentioned two people.
Randy Wilkins grew up in The Bronx. He was smart, talented and played center field in baseball, thought he would play in the pros. A bad injury changed all that. Derek Jeter was his 'guy' and, funny, my twins wear Derek Jeter jerseys that their dad gave them.

He is Eljon's boyfriend. He's also a cinematographer, editor and a director.

Together they've made something special.

It's called Docket 32357.

It's a web series, written by Eljon and directed by Randy, and it's a good one. Go to Youtube and punch in Docket 32357 and you'll see. It's a story about two women who meet outside a court room. The title pertains to the court case ahead. Through all the twists and turns an unlikely friendship evolves. Now, I'm the kind of person who tries to figure things out, and I'm happy to say, I was wrong on this one alot of the time.

It's well written and shot well.

More on Randy.

He says, "In college I needed an art credit to graduate," and he took a class on film making. He was good at it. He adds, "I didn't know everyday people could make a movie. I thought your name had to be Spielberg."

And then fate stepped in.

After he finished shooting his second documentary, there was a dinner with the director Spike Lee as the guest of honor. Randy's college president graciously gave up his seat at the dinner, next to Spike.

Guess who he gave it to?

Here we are, a few years later, and he and Spike work together. Randy is a two time Emmy winner and is currently in post production for his first ESPN 30 for 30 short scheduled to be released in 2016.

Back to Eljon. And as they say in movies, here's where the plot thickens.

Eljon is a stroke survivor.

She had her stroke in 2010 and wrote Docket 32357 after her stroke. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
She first had a bad headache, which went on for awhile, and she ended up in the hospital.

"Ask Randy how he found out," Eljon says. Randy's turn. "She sent me an email that said, I'm in the ER."

That's a fine how do you do.

After her stroke, Eljon was afraid, "afraid that I couldn't write anymore." While she was getting better she watched a lot of tv, Law and Order of course, and slowly began her return to writing. First a couple of sentences, then a paragraph, then half a page, then...

Docket 32357.

The first season is done and she and Randy are about to start shooting the second season. They could use a helping hand and I've included a link that will allow you to do just that.

By the way, World Stroke Day 2015 is October 29th. This years theme? I am Woman.

Just thought you should know.

I'll let Eljon have the last word. "I'm a driven, passionate person who won't let stroke dictate my life."

That, my friends, is a mouthful.


To help go to http://www.seedandspark.com/studio/docket-32357#wishlist

Eljon is also the author of a blog:http://imakethestrokeunitsexy.blogspot.com


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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

This Blog Is A Year Old

I started this blog a year ago.

October 20, 2014 to be exact.

It began as posts on Facebook on what I've learned since my massive stroke. I've written extensively on being a stroke survivor, how lucky I am. Believe you me, when I say lucky, I mean lucky.  I've said a ton of times that nine out of ten people who go through what I did, don't make it. The tenth person is the one writing this.

So, I began this discussing my new post stroke life. Regular exercise, different eating habits, the importance of caregivers in our lives. The fact that you have to be stubborn, pig-headed, with your will to move forward, and to never, ever, give up.

And then I met Emily Weathers Kennedy.

She was a Facebook friend of a real life friend of mine. Emily is a crackerjack writer and very smart. She reached out to me, we've become great friends, and she was the one who suggested I write about my days at CBS.

I did.

What started out as stroke advice, turned into my thoughts on Tony Bennett, Denzel Washington, Whoopi Goldberg, David Bowie, Leonardo DiCaprio, the Clintons, Joni Mitchell, George H.W. Bush, Quincy Jones and more.

I wrote about running with the Olympic Torch, being on Jeopardy, talking neckties with Joe DiMaggio, loving Jon Stewart, morning television, the great Ed Bradley, Garth Brooks, and a live guest who was so nervous she was in the car drinking Bloody Marys right before going on the air.

I've also written about my kids, my mother and father, my brother Kirk, my cousin David, cold weather in Florida, being a DJ on rock and roll radio, our dog Lola, and even mean comments on the internet.

Through it all I still wrote about things like National Stroke Month (that would be May) and being featured in a Harvard Medical School Special Health Report on stroke. I wrote about my BFF, Tony Colter's mother, who suffered a stroke, long before I even knew what one was, and how she helped in a big way with me understanding and overcoming mine.

I've always thought it important to write and say as much as possible about stroke.

I say the more you know, the more you know.

There are millions of stroke survivors out there who need inspiration and hope plus information to help them after they've had a stroke.

Onward...

Writing about things from your vantage point is liberating.

I've written a book and it's like climbing Mount Everest. It's a chunk of time out of your life and it's about something.  A blog is about all kinds of things and it can be about whatever grabs you that day.

In a year, I've gotten over 100,000 page views. That's you, people. I thank you for reading what I write, I thank you for listening to what I have to say.

Here's to the next year.


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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Quincy Jones

I admire Quincy Jones. He's an inspiration.

More on the inspiration part later. First, a bit of history.

Q grew up in Chicago. Moved west to Seattle and as a teenager his love for jazz and scoring music blossomed. It's also where he met his BFF, Ray Charles.

You read right, THE Ray Charles. More on that later, too.

He met, played for, scored, arranged and conducted for everybody. Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, Barbra Streisand, Miles Davis, Tony Bennett, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne and on and on...

If he'd only done that...

But, wait, there's more.

He was the first black person to score movies. In Cold Blood, The Color Purple and In The Heat Of The Night are just a few.

Plus do you remember "It's My Party (And I'll Cry If I Want To)" by Lesly Gore? Q produced that and that's pop music. It also went to number one.

Which leads us to the thing most people know him for....the album Thriller.

Is there anyone who doesn't know at least one song from that album? Is there anyone who doesn't know the name Michael Jackson? Huge album and won a ton of Grammys. It's one of the great ones in the history of great ones and Q produced that as well.

One more thing. Remember, "Check your egos at the door?" Q produced "We Are The World."
So there's that.

Okay, a story that Quincy told me...
He was coming home late one night and his friend Marlon Brando was driving. Apparently too fast because they heard a siren and saw the blinking lights of a police car. Marlon pulled over and said to Quincy, "This is when it's fun being Marlon Brando."

The cop got out, walked to the car, and started to say, "License and registration please," but instead said, "Hey, you're Marlon Brando!" Marlon ended up giving the policeman an autograph and got off with a, "Watch your speed," and a smile. No ticket.

That's a story.

Inspiration.

Q had a brain aneurysm, his doctor told him it was the equivalent of sixteen strokes, and he almost died. Being a stroke survivor myself, I took strength from his strength. When something like that happens it's easy to say, "that's it," and retire.

Instead, he battled back, got healthy and kept on keeping on. Sounds simple and easy. It's neither.

Inspiration.

I promised you a bit more on Ray Charles and Quincy.

Ray went on to become a legend and deservedly so. Through it all Q and he were buds.

Ray said when they first met,"Quincy had a loving style about him." Ray added, "He hasn't changed a bit in all the years I've known him. He's still the same. I love him to pieces, and you can print that any way you want to.

And say Ray Charles said it."

That's a friend.




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