Friday, July 21, 2023

Tony Bennett

                                                     My friend, my dear friend, Tony is gone.

I was running around doing things and I got a text from my friend Karen that told me what you now know is true. I was flabbergasted and began to cry. We all knew it was coming but that doesn't make that news any easier. 

These last couple of years have been hard but let's go back in time. 

I first met Tony, I first interviewed him, at The Rainbow Room at the top of Rockefeller Center. It was for CBS This Morning. Remember I was a former rock and roll DJ but I sure knew who he was. He was kind, he was decent, he was smart, and I don't have to tell you he was talented. Later on, I found out how talented Tony really was.  

Keep in mind although he was Tony Bennett he wasn't yet THE Tony Bennett that was his second act. We have his son Danny to thank for that as he managed his Dad and took him to Mount Everest, the Grammy for album of the year, and more without changing what made Tony famous in the first place.

His voice.

And those songs. 

He had Tony touring colleges and a new audience found out what the old audience knew. He was special.

But let's go back to my early days with Tony and what an influence he was on my life. I had him on my show a number of times and one time he said I reminded him of Ed Sullivan. He said that on national tv and I don't have to tell you that went a long way.

That was Tony.

Okay, Live By Request on A&E. 

I hosted that show and Tony got that for me. You've heard the story but if you haven't it went like this. He did that show on the radio. People would call in, tell him what a certain song meant to them and Tony would sing it. They decided to bring it to television and the show was scheduled for Valentine's Day. They wanted a female host to go along with Tony and he said no. He wanted Mark McEwen. They said, "Who?" He said, "Mark McEwen."

Three times he said my name and three times they demurred until he put his foot down and they got me as the host.

That show won an Emmy and it ran for seven years. Tony got me that job.

Over the years our friendship grew.  Remember I mentioned his talents? Plural? One time I was interviewing him at his old dwelling and saw him painting, doodling actually, a plant and I said, "You paint?" He said, "Yes." And then Tony said, "I should paint you." I hemmed and hawed and by the time I was in the hall I thought, "What did I just do?"

A year went by before I saw him again and I said,"Remember when you said you'd paint me?" Tony smiled broadly and said, "Sure." Well, another year went by and on Live By Request he presented me with his painting.

It hangs in a place of honor in my home.

When I had my stroke Tony called a lot. His conversations meant so much to me. One day he called as I was finishing up my book. Tony asked what I was doing, and I told him. He quietly said,"I'd be happy to give you a quote for your book." And he did. 

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Uber Driver

I am an Uber Driver. And I love it.

How’d that happen?

First of all you know I substitute teach but as Alice Cooper sang,”School’s out for the summer,” and that J-O-B dried up. My wife said I needed something to do and brought up the fact that I also needed to get out of the house and suggested Uber. 

My first thought was,”Do I need a hat?”

After applying and giving them my license and make of car and my plate number and a photo of me (gasp gasp) I was good to go.

My first week was abysmal.

I made so many mistakes.

 See, the way it works is you get the app, go online and it dings if there is a rider. You can accept or not but if you do you’re in your car with the GPS guiding you to the pickup.

After picking up the rider the GPS guides you to their Dropoff location. Sounds easy right?

What I did wrong was you have to hit a certain button to signify the drop off of your passenger. I didn't do that so the first four rides were free. Not good. I learned fast, had to, so that whole thing was fixed toot sweet.

Since then? Smooth sailing.

Things I've learned by Mark McEwen. Some passengers don't say anything so as the driver you don't say anything. BUT.  Some talk and the conversations you have are just wonderful. “Are you from Florida?” Many are many are not. If not,” How long have you been here?” “Sure is hot.” “ What do you do?”

And on and on.

I get to say things like,”It’s real hot in the summer here but it’s fun watching winter on teevee.” That kind of stuff gets a chortle.

I’ve learned that the bigger the dollar amount the farther you drive. How’d I learn that? Picked up a big money fare and they wanted to go all the way to Tampa. Not only is it an hour and half drive, one way, you come home empty. You don’t want to do that.

You have repeat customers that you get to know like old friends. That’s cool. I’ve also been to the airport more times than I care to mention. I’ve also learned to, ahem, tinkle before I leave.

As they say in Shrek,”Better out than in.”

The things you learn.

My parents taught to me to be polite and taught me manners.

 Goes a long way.

I’d write more but my Uber app just dinged with a new rider.

I’m off.

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