Joining the Sierra Oakhurst Kiwanis last weekend at the Oakhurst Community Center for their 11th Annual "Run for the Gold" car show, I received a rare opportunity to play "DJ" again spinning only music from the 50s and early 60s to properly match dozens upon dozens of ageless classic cars shimmering in proud display.
As closing strains of "Venus" by Frankie Avalon (Chancellor Records 1959) filled the air, I briefly reminisced about all those early "Beach Party" movies featuring Frankie and, of course, everyone's favorite Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. Even as I said her name, my mind flashed back 50 years.
I had started my radio career five years beforehand at WNDR in Syracuse and was still doing both a morning and afternoon show there in September 1963. But WNDR's signal didn't reach Utica, New York, 50 miles to the east. Consequently, WTLB reigned supreme in the Utica-Rome market, also enjoying extended listenership through much of the historic Mohawk Valley toward Albany.
At the invitation of WTLB's program director, I would occasionally jump into my '63 Chevy SS Super Sport Impala (425 hp - nine miles per gallon) and head down the Thruway to pull a Sunday afternoon air shift. The format was much looser in Utica and a young, imaginative DJ could experiment with interesting techniques and approaches.
It was upon such an occasion I received a call on our WTLB "Hitline" from a young female purporting to be Annette. Believing the caller to be charmingly fraudulent, I cheerfully expressed my disbelief, concluding with a challenge to prove her identity with an immediate visit to the station. Fifteen minutes later, accompanied by a protective cohort of several large male cousins, there was Annette spending a few days in Utica visiting her family.
Interspersed with a few tunes, I interviewed her on the air for two and a half hours. I mean, come on It was Annette. Having become known as "America's Sweetheart," she still exuded that untouchable, unknowable virginal innocence I had always associated with female Mouseketeers and all Catholic high school girls.
M-I-C See you later. K-E-Y Why? Because my body is the Temple of The Holy Ghost and/or Walt Disney and they won't share me.
But how things change.
Contemporary Disney darlings from the revived "Mickey Mouse Club" (1989 to 1996) included Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, while Lindsay Lohan starred in Disney's remake of "The Parent Trap," "Freaky Friday" and, with a title unintentionally prophetic, "Herbie: Fully Loaded."
While Annette's beach movies at their hottest were considered "slightly spicy," Christina, Britney and Lindsay have left illusions of perpetual celibacy far behind. But the transformation of Disney's All-American, clean cut, utterly wholesome "Hanna Montana" to the real life Miley Cyrus on this year's MTV Music Video Awards must have witnessed poor Walt Disney spinning away in his rumored cryogenic chamber faster than light speed squared.
Joining Robin Thicke in a live performance of his undisputed No. 1 summer of 2013 hit, "Blurred Lines" (introduced to Sierra Star readers in a characteristically predictive column back in early June), Miley was agonizing in her sad professional determination to turn from sweet to slattern without the talent to pull anything off other than clothing.
What was dependable in the past is dicey in the present.
Ask retirees of International Business Machine, long considered a paragon of corporate stability and trustworthiness.
Here's a headline from last Sunday's Huffington Post: "IBM To Move Retirees Off Its Health Plan Due to Rising Costs." The article went on to explain that 110,000 former employees will shortly have to pay a significant portion of premiums for medical, prescription drug, dental and vision coverage. Other large employers are also moving away from formerly guaranteed health benefits, including American Airlines, as the United States remains the only nation in the entire industrialized world without some form of universal health care for its citizens.
The first serious step in that direction, our Affordable Care Act of 2010, is under renewed attack again by a retrogressive Republican Party determined that only the strongest deserve to survive as a matter of natural order and national priority.
Last week, former President Bill Clinton initiated a series of discussions aimed at explaining various components of the act, legislation made even more complicated by necessary adjustments, capitulations and compromises demanded by bitter partisan opposition to its passage.
Summing things up, Clinton stated, "The current system is unaffordable and downright unhealthy for millions of Americans" and emphasized, "other prosperous countries cover everybody and do it at far less cost," even though the United States ranks first "by a country mile" in the percentage of income spent on health care.
Those who scoff at "ObamaCare" are either embarrassingly clueless or intentionally misleading, depending upon the reliable ignorance of "low information voters" to join them in pejorative, mocking dismissal of remarkable, life saving legislation long overdue.
There are times when change is good.
This is one.