Archive for April, 2012

CALLING on Montgomery

April 30, 2012

We had another nice CALL trip Saturday. ( CALL stands for Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning.)   A bus load of us went from the parking lot at the Columbus State University Elizabeth Bradley-Turner Center for Continuing Education  to Montgomery, Alabama to soak up museum and theater culture.

First, we went to the Montgomery Museum of Art.  It is a beautiful facility with lots of interesting classical  and contemporary art, plus impressive displays of glass sculpture.  As I commented to some fellow travelers – I couldn’t have called them that in the 1950s because Sen. Joe McCarthy would have investigated us – the Montgomery and Columbus art museum buildings are more artistic and beautiful than the big High Museum in Atlanta.  I realize that such judgements are subjective –  but then isn’t all of art?

After that, we had lunch at Montgomery’s Olive Garden.   It took  so long for our big crowd to get served, I was afraid we would miss the play at the Shakespeare Festival, but, alas, we didn’t. The food was worth the wait. I had  Venetian Apricot Chicken.  It’s grilled chicken, asparagus, and brocoli, covered with an apricot sauce.  It’s was maybe a little too sweet for me, but as I got use to the abundance of sugar, it started tasting good. I don’t know why restaurants think they have to over-sugar and over-salt everything.  As everyone knows, it’s easy to add salt and sugar,  but impossible to take it out of food.

The weird play at the Shakespeare Festival was not by Shakespeare.  They mix them up.  They are doing some Shakespeare later in the season. The play we saw was a spoof of the famous Alfred Hitchcock 1935 movie cloak-and-dagger thriller The 39 Steps.  Four actors – really good ones – played all of the parts a la Springer Tuna style, but with four people  instead of just  two. Once one gets into the hang of the thing, it’s fun.  It is broad, slapstick farce, sort of like the early TV Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca  skits, only this skit was a full-length play, or maybe another way of putting it is that it was the Four Stooges with British accents. The actors got a lot of laughs and a thundering standing ovation when it was over.

All in all, it was another enjoyable CALL excursion.  If you are retired and want to enjoy lifelong learning with a bunch of freindly fun-loving folks,  when the CALL classes crank back up in the Fall, come join us.  There is a fee, but it’s reasonable.

Retired Ranger Col. Ralph Puckett Gets Top Columbus Rotary Award

April 25, 2012

It’s not the top award he has received, since he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, second only to the Medal of Honor, twice, once for valor in Korea and once in Vietnam.  Among his other combat medals are multiple Purple Hearts for his battle wounds.  The honor retired Colonel Ralph Puckett received today, the Mary Reed Award for Service above Self, at the Rotary Club of Columbus was, however, the highest one that can be bestowed on a member of the club.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett and former Sec.of the Army Howard "Bo" Callaway

He was surprised that he had been selected and was visibly moved. He was being honored by his peers, peers that include  not only some of the top  business and professional leaders in Columbus, but also a number of retired Army generals, and the highest ranking veteran in the room, retired Secretary of the Army Howard “Bo” Callaway, who was a fellow classmate  at West Point.  Both were members of the class of 1949.

Mary Reed, veteran Rotary Club secretary for whom the award is named, Ralph Puckett, Jean Puckett (Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1)

He was also surprised when his wife Jean was escorted to the dais, because he thought she was out of town.  He said, “She is my hero, the wind beneath my wings. I would be nothing without her.”

This proven Army Ranger hero is no friend of war. I have heard him say more than once that war is insane and stupid, but there are times when they simply have to be fought to preserve our country’s freedoms.  One of the freedoms, the one I put at the top of the list, freedom of speech,  is courageously practiced by Col. Puckett.  He is not happy that our soldiers are being deployed too long and too often, and that  less than one percent of the country’s population is fighting our wars, while the rest of us are shopping in the malls. He made all of this clear in a talk to the Unitarian Univeralist Fellowship of Columbus. You can read my blog post about it at this link

He was given the most thundering and prolonged standing ovations I have ever witnessed at a Rotary Club meeting.  And, in my view, deserved them.

He continues to  give his time freely and makes many trips to Fort Benning to support our soldiers. And when he is honored as he was today, he quotes President Eisenhower’s comment on humility:  “Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.”

I can’t think of a person more deserving of the Mary Reed Award than my fellow Rotarian Ralph Puckett.

A Big Night for the Columbus Symphony

April 23, 2012

Congratulations to George Del Gobbo, who was honored Saturday evening with a proclamation by Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson for his dedicated service in leading the Columbus Symphony Orchestra for twenty-five years.  The proclamation presented by City Manager Isaiah Hugley prior to the symphony’s  sensational concert.

The audience was blown away by the stunningly impressive performance  by 29-year-old violinist Tai Murray.  She played the extremely difficult and exciting Shostakovich Violin Concerto, Op. 99.  The standing  ovation that followed was loud and long. Not only was she in top form, the orchestra had never sounded better to me.

Columbus is truly fortunate to such a fine symphony orchestra, the second oldest in the country, founded in 1855. The New York Philharmonic was the first.  The CSO went dormant during the Civil War, and World War I and II, but was reborn in 1949 under the baton of Robert M. Barr. Harry Kruger followed Barr and Del Gobbo followed Kruger.

Not only does this year mark Del Gobbo’s 25th anniversary of leading the orchestra, it is also the tenth year of the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts. Delo Gobbo writes in this season’s program guide, “This remarkable building is certainly a treasured jewel in the crown of the city.” Indeed!

What was truly encouraging was the impressive number of young people attending the concert. They have to be exposed to the world’s most beautiful music in order for symphonic music to survive. To me, there is still nothing musically that matches the  sound of a live symphony orchestra.  Even with today’s marvelous recording technology, live still is best, especially in  a hall with the acoustics of the Bill Heard Theater.  Internationally acclaimed artists that perform there rave over the “beautiful hall with its remarkable accoustics.”

CSU Music Students Dazzle the Kaleidoscope Audience Again

April 15, 2012


CSU's Schwob School of Music Kaleidoscope kept things moving again this year as musical units played in the different parts of the Bill Heard Theater, going from one selection to another with short pauses in between. While it proved very effective again, it would have been even more effective if the pauses had been much shorter.

Schwob School of Music Interim Director Ron Wirt asked the audience at the annual Kaleidoscope concert to hold all applause until the very last selection in the concert was played.  And for the most part they did, but some of the performances were so spectacular, some folks just had to  applaud.  But most followed the rule and waited until the CSU Philharmonic Orchestra played the finale, Manuel de Falla’s Jota, from The Three Cornered Hat.  After holding off that long, which was hard to do because of the incredibly brilliant performances by the students, the audience gave a thundering, prolonged standing ovation.  The students and their instructors deserved it. If you missed it this year, do your self a favor and don’t miss it next year.

The CSU Philharmonic, always impressive, provided an exciting and beautiful ending to this year's Kaleidoscope. Maybe one year all of the different units including the University Singers, soloists, CSU Jazz Band, CSU Women's Ensemble, could all perform from all over the theater one grand finale together.

Mike Wallace and Me

April 9, 2012

When a broadcast journalist giant like Mike Wallace dies,  the natural reaction is to think about the time I met him.  Al Fleming and I had gone to the CBS studios in Manhattan to record promos with him and Dan Rather.  While we did them together with Dan, we recorded them separately with Mike.

This is a CBS still photo that was sent to me and Al following our promo recording session with Dan Rather in New York. There was also one of Al and me individually with Mike Wallace, but that was lost years ago.

Dan was quite sociable and we had a nice chat with him when we recorded the promos with him on the CBS Evening News set. I reminded him of the time he had visited the WRBL studios to edit an interview he had done with a West Point mill executive on brown lung disease for 60 Minutes, and we talked about that. Dan had time for us. That was not the case with Mike.  He was stationed on the set of a new daytime show (which tanked) that he was doing for CBS.  The set was dwarfed by the cavernous studio in which it had been erected. When I walked up to shake hands with him, he smiled and said hello, but immediately started yelling kiddingly across the huge studio to a pretty young co-worker, completely ignoring his guest, who happened to be me.  He carried on a yelling conversation with her until she had left the studio. He then turned to the studio crew and authoritatively said, “All right let’s do this.” We read the promos on the teleprompter screen, doing it in one take. Then he gave me a condescending smile as we said our goodbyes as he and his crew waited for the next CBS affiliate’s news anchor to come to do another promo that would run on the affiliate’s station.

So Mike had lived up to his tough, brusque reputation in my encounter with him. Al told me later that Mike hadn’t been friendly with him. Even though I reflected that to me he was an egotistical, rude man who wasn’t interested in a conversation with a small-market anchor, I nevertheless admired his ability to solicit dynamic interviews with some very important people, including a lot of crooks whom he confronted on 60 Minutes.  Just as Morley Safer and Steve Croft, who worked for years with Mike on 60 Minutes, said on CBS This Morning, Mike was highly confrontational and abrasive, but he knew how to use those qualities to get all sorts of famous, and often villanous, people to say things that would make news. And like so many others in the business, I used that direct technique from time to time to get the news subject to do the same thing.  Once, when I was doing the news for WSB in Atlanta, the late Senator Herman Talmadge called the president of Cox Broadcasting  and said that I was trying to embarrass him with a question I asked him.  I really didn’t care, because I knew the question got right to crux of the story.

Safer, whose CBS office was next door to Mike’s, said at one point that he and Mike didn’t communicate for months, because Mike, who was highly competative , would steal stories from him. Croft said the same thing.  Both also said they liked him and admired his journalistic abilities, creditin g him with being the main reason that 60 Minutes  was one of the most succesful prime time news magazine programs in broadcasting history.

I remember when he first broke into the national broadcasting scene with his highly confrontational interviews on the Mike Wallace Show on ABC in the later fifties.  His subjects would actually break into a visible sweat during the interview. I had to admit it was highly entertaining, though sometimes cruel.  Those interviews made such an impact that they were parodied on the Sid Caesar Show. Sid Caesar was one of my favorite comedians.

As CBS was showing the long list of world-famous celebrities that Mike interviewed over the  years, they said, “He even interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt.” S0 did I. I was working at WSB at the time. It aired on NBC.

All in all, I admired Mike’s journalistic ability, thought him highly entertaining, and appreciated the fact that he didn’t appear to be afraid of anyone he interviewed, including heads of state and powerful politicians and businessmen.  He indeed was a giant in broadcasting.

Stream of Consciousness

April 3, 2012

I have to hurry to get this in before  Monday is over since I pledged that I would try to have a new post by every Monday. I’m not thinking about any  single subject right now so I guess I’ll go with stream of consciousness.

I’m glad Dee Armstrong is doing the 6 p.m. news on TY again.  She’still good at it.

When I watch the candidates for  president rant on TV I am reminded of the old saw that “the outs view with alarm, and the ins point with pride.” That’s always true.

I wish Congress would spend more time concentrating on things needed to help our country and the rest of world and less on partisan warfare.

I wish state legislators would work more for the common good and less for lobbyists.

I wish there were an adult – no, I don’t mean pornographic – movie in one the theaters in Columbus. Well, there are a couple at the second-run Peachtree 8, but I’ve already seen them.

I wish Hollywood would make more adult movies, things like Midnight in Paris, The King’s Speech, and Hugo. Yes, I know that the star of Hugo is a child, but it’s still an intelligent, visually stunning  movie.

Chef Lee’s II is closed on Mondays I learned again tonight.

Doc Martin is quite entertaining.  It appears to be going on forever.

I’m getting sleepy so I’ll say good night.