Saturday, September 23, 2006

That 's Amore

Friday night Monica and I took my nephew Nolen and his wife Aisha out to Jay's Amore Ristorante & Lounge for dinner and to hear Chicago singer Nan Mason. We have seen Nan many times but it was a first for these young people.

Nan virgins, God help them. I say that because you never know what will happen when you go see this woman. Besides being one of the best singers I have ever heard, she is also ridiculously funny.

I wrote about Nan Mason once before regarding the Chicago Sings for New Orleans benefit for hurricane Katrina effected musicians. Although Monica and I have seen Nan many times accompanied by pianist Russ Long, Friday night was the first time we've seen her accompanied by her husband Terry "Horn Boy" Higgins. No brass or woodwinds this time, but accomplished musician Terry played piano and keyboard to a host of songs we'd never heard Nan perform before. It was quite a treat.

We love it when she does cabaret, Broadway musical type songs but Friday night she included more pop, R&B and rock. At one point I swear I was reminded of Melissa Ethridge. This woman can sing any song in any genre and make it her own. She interacted with and teased the audience and since we were down front we were prime targets especially my nephew. He loved it.

We knew that this was not Nolen and Aisha's usual night out type entertainment but also that they are music lovers and would like Nan Mason. They did, very much! Nan rocked several Stevie Wonder songs, Nolen loved that and Terry played "Isn't She Lovely" not knowing Aisha was actually named from that song. Of course Nan threw the attention at Aisha when we told her and Terry sang a verse he called the Snoop Dog version. These two are nuts.

Terry sang a touching love song to his wife called "Whiskey Drinkin' Woman". OMG! Well, his woman is something else!
Nan does define, Broad, Diva, Sophistication, Sweet and Cool.
I mean whether she's belting out her signature song "This Is My Life", or Quincy Jones' sassy, sexy, "Sister" or the sultry classic "Georgia" or Stevie's "Another Star" or a fantastic pumping version of Madonna's "La Isla Bonita" she is all of that and a piece of that decadent chocolate cake we had during the show.

Speaking of the cake, it was excellent. Chocolate to the 'nth degree but not overpoweringly sickenly sweet. Or as my nephew said, "ambrosius"! The cake was indicative of the food at Jay's Amore. We came early for dinner although you can eat while enjoying the show. We all ordered something different and did some sampling. All Good!
I like Italian! I like pasta and the sauces and the spices. I know Americanized chain restaraunt Italian food from authentic but I don't care for food that is so "authentic" it's bland. At Jay's you can taste the freshness of the pasta and ingrediants, and the spices are bright without being overwhelming. Jay's is the real thing, not Americanized type flavor and not bland. Very flavorful-fresh and delicious.

So it was a good night, catching up with Nan at the break and being teased and entertained during the show and the tasty food, laid back comfortable atmosphere and great service at Jay's. Yummy combination.

Nan Mason and Terry Higgins will be at Jay's Amore Ristorante & Lounge
September 29-30th and again in October.
Check for show and CD info.
1330 W. Madison
Go to www.jaysamorechicagocom for menu and info.
Phone (312)829-3333

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


More stealing from Alexandra's site. Her answers are pricless. She got it from Sheila O'Malley and her answers ... that girl is a hoot. What can I say.

Are you in a relationship?
Yes, forever and ever. Amen.

Do you hate more than 3 people?

Personally no, not more than 3. I am starting to stop loving someone now though, very strange for me. I am starting to feel nothing for someone I loved, should love and maybe still do deep down. But the thing is I feel a strange, calm nothing. Like I just don't care anymore. It is scary, but I feel a sense of relief too. Weird.

What is your favorite candy bar?
Almond Joy and Hershey's Special Dark.

What are your favorite shoes?

Have you ever tripped someone?
Uh huh.

Do you own a Britney Spears CD?

Have you ever thrown up in public?

Name something that's always on your mind?
My mom's health.

What is your favorite music genre?
The Blues.

What is your sign?

What time were you born?

Do you like beer?
Only if it is very hot and the beer is extremely cold and I am in a baseball park. "Beer Here!" Then after a few swallows, I am sick of it. Enough.

Have you ever made a prank call?
Yes as a kid. I am tempted to now because I am getting calls on my cell for a Delilah. I have repeatedly told them they have a wrong number to no avail. Last time, I answered, "no she's not, but Samson is here, you wanna talk to him?" Next time I will start singing Tom Jones' song, Delilah. That might do it.

What is the most embarrassing CD you own?
Jim Nabors, Songs of Inspiration. I challenge anyone to beat that.

Are you sarcastic?

What are your favorite colors?
Cobalt blue and teak rose.

How many watches do you own?
3, two are the same and I switch them back and forth when the battery dies. One is a gold and silver bracelet band.

Summer or winter?
Summer. Winter only in measured bits. I am beginning to dislike winter more and more.

Spring or fall?

What is your favorite color to wear?

Pepsi or Sprite?
Cherry coke.

What color is your cell phone?
Blue and silver.

Where is your second home?
Thinking about that lately. Gotta be somewhere warm. Maybe for a first home.

Have you ever slapped someone?

Have you ever had a cavity?

How many lamps are in your bedroom?

How many video games do you own?
About 6.

What was your first pet?
Gray tabby named Misty Bobo.

Have you ever had braces?

Do looks matter?
Yes. Get yo ugly butt away from me. Seriously, I like gorgeous. Honestly though, it's in the eye of the beholder, it's only skin deep, it comes from within. And, actually, of course not.

Do you use chapstick?
Yes, in the winter.

Name 3 teachers from your high school:
Mr. Bunton, awesome music teacher and choir director. Miss Davenport, and Miss Shepard.

American Eagle or Abercrombie?
American Eagle

Are you too forgiving?
I used to be.

Do you own something from Hot Topic?

What is your favorite breakfast?
A belt. Bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato sandwich on raison bread.

Do you own a gun?

Have you ever thought you were in love?
Thought I was several times. Know I am now.

When was the last time you cried?
Sunday at the movies. Cried through the whole thing. I am pathetic.

What did you do 3 nights ago?
Not much, cooked dinner, did some work, watched some comedy and fell asleep.

When was the last time you went to Olive Garden?
Sunday afternoon. Monica took me for a lavish $7.95 all you can eat pasta and salad meal. Yum. It's really good but I got so full afer the first pasta and sauce and salad and warm garlic bread that I couldn't try any of the others. : (

Have you ever called your teacher mom?

Have you ever been in a castle?
Aladin's and Cinderella's.

What are your nicknames?
Moni calls me J and my little nephew called me Gucky before he could say Jackie. Now his mom still calls me Gucky.

Do you know anyone named Bertha?

Have you ever been to Hawaii?

Do you own something from Banana Republic?

Are you thinking about somebody right now?

Have you ever called someone Boo?
Yes. It may be a cultural thang.

Do you own a diamond ring?
No. I have a political problem with diamonds. But I love them.

Are you happy with your life right now?
Yes, it's pretty sweet.

Does anyone like you?
Anyone? Anyone? Speak right up.

What were you doing May of 1994?
Oh please.

McDonald's or Wendy's?
McDonald's. I don't trust Wendy's since her dad died.

Do you like yourself?
OMG! I love me so much. There is no one like me. I am a great ..everything. Sometimes I get on my own nerves though.

Favorite feature of the opposite sex?
Strength and gentleness. Oh feature, eyes and butt.

Are you afraid of the dark?

Have you ever eaten paste?

Do you have a webcam?
No. But U Tube is calling me.

Have you ever stripped?

Diamonds or pearls?

What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
Sunday, we saw Gridiron Gang.

What are your favorite TV shows?
Now, I honestly don't have a favorite. I did like Xena Warrior Princess and also Beauty and the Beast. These shows are really the same. Think about it.

What did you have for breakfast?
Cheerios and green tea.

What is your middle name?

What is your favorite cuisine?

What foods do you dislike?
Oatmeal, grits, beans, okra.

What is your favorite CD at the moment?
Sam Cook.

What kind of car do you drive?
Teal Toyota Corolla. Paid for as of this week. YAYYYYYYYYYYY!

Favorite sandwich?
Roast beef au jus.

What characteristics do you despise?
I hate users.

What are your favorite clothes?
Jeans and polo shirt.

If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation where would you go?

What color is your bathroom?
White, blue, and lavender.

Favorite brand of clothing?

Where would you want to retire to?
Warm I want warm. Atlanta maybe.

Favorite time of day?
I am most creative in the wee hours.

Where were you born?

Favorite sport to watch?

Are you a morning person or night owl?
I am a mixture. I like evenings and love late night but I am actually a morning person. Even when I am up late I wake up pretty early.

What did you want to be when you were little?
Annie Oakly or Elvis Presley

What is your best childhood memory?
Going on car rides on hot summer nights with my family.

Eye Color?

Ever been toilet papering?

Favorite day of the week?


I was watching the Turner Classic Movie station recently and saw a short bio on actress Beulah Bondi. I have always enjoyed her work and I like learning about character actors so decided to check her out. You know, the supporting cast actors, you know their faces but what's their names?
These actors are often great artists and have very successful careers.
Miss Bondi was one of them.

Yes, although she has an extensive movie and TV filmography, most people wouldn't know her unless reminded that she was George Bailey's mom in It's a Wonderful Life, or see her very recognizable motherly face.
Oh yeah, I know her!

In Chicago IL, on May 3, 1888 Beulah Bondy was born. A shy child, she enjoyed playing pretend and started acting at age 7. Beulah's acting passion continued through grade school and her years at Hyde Park High School. She received a degree in Oratory from Valpariso University. Bondi's mother was very supportive but her father reportedly did not approve of acting so she changed Bondy to Bondi. Another story is that her agent simply said i looks better.

Bondi's professional stage debut in 1919 was in a stock company show that included Spring Byington. (Remember her?) The only role left was for a very old lady. Being a small woman with a slim gaunt face, Bondi discovered that she could convincingly play characters much older than her years.
In 1925 she accepted a role in One in the Family her first Broadway play. She played Maggie, a 72 year old servant. No problem. She made a career out of it.

She moved to film in the 1930's working alongside top stars like Sylvia Sydney and Joan Crawford and Walter Houston. Bondi played Jimmy Stewart's mom in four movies including Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. I remember her role as the addled dowager in The Snake Pit with Olivia de Havilland and as Dorothy McGuire's aunt in the 1959 film A Summer Place.

Beulah Bondi did have at least one lead role and it is considered to be her greatest.
She starred in the 1937 film, Make Way For Tomorrow, as the abandoned Depression-era 'Ma' Cooper. Director Leo McCarey, who was better known for comedies, was determined against studio advise, to make this drama about an old couple who have fallen on hard times, lost their house and must turn to their children for help. None of them are willing or able to do much for them and they end up split up and put in separate nursing homes. Knowing this is probably a permanent situation, they have one last outing together.
I have got to rent this flick. OMG! Get the tissues!

The cast included Fay Bainter and Louise Beavers with Victor Moore as Pa Cooper.
The critics loved it, calling it a sensitive and perceptive treatment of the problems of the elderly. Bondi's performance was called inspired acting, that rings with truth and with sensitive observation that reverberates with understanding. Reviews said Bondi's Ma Cooper is a nuisance, meddlesome, exasperating, very poignant and touching.
The public hated it or didn't go to see it. It was a box office failure. It was deemed too sad, no sex and no glamour. And I'll bet, too real.

But her own personal favorite performance was as the bigoted "Ma Bridges" in 1957's, Track of the Cat, no doubt because it was so different from her own personal character and any role she had played on film.
I find it astonishing that Bondi captures not only the look but mannerisms and body language of these older characters so consistently convincingly, with such individuality, whether the character is hateful or tender all her portrayals were unique.

Her TV credits include, Playhouse 90, Zane Grey Theater, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Perry Mason, Wagon Train, Alcoa Theater and many more.

Beulah Bondi was one of the first five women nominated for the new Oscar category, Best Supporting Actress. She was nominated in 1936 for the historical drama starring Joan Crawford and Robert Taylor, The Gorgeous Hussy, and two years later for the Civil War story about family relationships, Of Human Hearts.
In 1972, Bondi won an Emmy for her portrayal of Aunt Martha on The Waltons.

Miss Bondi who never married, died in 1981 due to injuries sustained after she tripped over her cat in her Hollywood, CA home. She was 92. Her career spanned eight decades from the 1890's to the 1970's.

Miss Bondi believes it is because her mother taught her to be "a lover of life and a student of human nature" that she has been able to act convincingly. "It is the passionate desire to know what is going on inside the hearts and minds of people," Miss Bondi adds, "that distinguishes the real actor and actress from the pseudo."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Best Texan Ever

Ann Richards died Wednesday night at home in Austin Texas. The former Texas Governor (1991-1995) was 73.

I first saw Ann Richards on TV on a podium in 1988 at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, where she delivered the keynote speech. That speech, contained the famous Richards' barb at the older George Bush's poor speaking style. The same could be said for his son.

"Poor George. He can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

WOW! She was a rootin' tootin', take no prisoners, stand-up Texan with a shock of white hair, a tough commanding style, funny as hell, wise eyes, Madison Avenue dressed, and looked like she could drink all the men under the table, brush them off on the floor and make the decisions.

I always thought she would be our first female President.

Gov. Richards actually didn't start her political career until her 40's. She was married with four children. Her marriage ended in divorce. She was a drinker. Although she quit drinking in 1980, she talked about it often in public.

"I believe in recovery, and I believe that as a role model I have the responsibility to let young people know you can make a mistake and come back from it."

Ann Richards was elected to her first local Austin office in 1976, went on to Texas state treasurer and then elected governor in 1990. She never left the political scene. She could be found at every convention and on many news talk shows giving her hard hitting, common sense, quick witted views, especially about the Bush's. She was always quite a match for any moderator.

At age 60 she started riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle because she said,
"I thought I needed to do something kind of jazzy."

Another line she often quoted summed up her view of the aspirations of women in politics:
"Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels."
Also one of my favorites.
"Teaching was the hardest work I had ever done, and it remains the hardest work I've done to date."

God bless her, I will miss her.

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, 2006

It was five years ago this morning that the United States of America was brutally attacked on it's on soil. We will never be the same. We all know the ways that it changed us, what we loss and we will think about that today. But even with constant television coverage after the attacks and thereafter, I don't think any of us realize the depth of the immediate or subsequent affect on the people who live in New York City.
We saw, the mountains of pulverized Tower ash seeming to chase fleeing New Yorkers like in some sci-fi movie. We know of course, about the loss of business and tourism and that Broadway went dark. We know of the grief.

But, I don't think it was conveyed to us who are outside of NYC, the profound daily affect on the average New Yorker City resident or the significant consequences the attack had on neighborhoods throughout the city. I doubt that we could ever understand without being there.

The Towers suddenly being gone, must have felt to New Yorkers like the loss of a limb. The smell. The air quality. The ash. Pulverized cement, and glass and asbestos and metal, on and in everything for blocks around. Residents in buildings 10 blocks away, had to have professional restoration services try to clean every single item in their home and the furnace and drains and air ducts. Sometimes it was irreparable. Non-residential vehicular traffic was prohibited in some neighborhoods for more than a week and loss of telephone service for as long as two months. Some businesses could not recover.

It has been five years and we all feel the pain of that day. But New Yorkers, I don't think your journey was ever really articulated to us. We do know you prevailed. So today I'm not only thinking of terrorist or blame or where I was when it happened. I think of and feel love for New Yorkers.
where there is cold silence-
no hallelujahs, no hurrahs at all, no handshakes,
no neon red or blue, no smiling faces-
It has been a
hard trudge, with fainting, bandaging and death.
There have been startling confrontations.
But there remains large countries in your eyes..
And you create and train your own flowers still.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Crocodile Hunter

Steve Irwin was a passionate naturalist and conservationist. He inherited this passion from his parents and has been living with and learning about animals since he was a tot. He was courageous, exuberant, joyous, and dynamically energetic.
He was a Conservation Warrior! He taught children and adults to appreciate and respect animals and their right to survive.

Since the tragic death of Steve Irwin, there has been endless discussion about whether he was reckless or brave. I have heard everything from "that's what he gets", to Germain Greers' statement that, the animal kingdom finally gets it's revenge.
That is just nasty.

I contend that what may seem reckless on the outside may actually be the nature of the business. I admit I worried about Steve getting so close to animals but I also knew this is the way he chose to get our attention. Steve loved life and didn't want to die. He knew and took all precautions. He knew and chose to take all the risks of the unexpected.
Reckless? Is a football player reckless, or a Nascar racer, or a airplane pilot, police officer, construction worker, a gymnast? They are all well trained and take every safety precaution, but they know and accept the risks. So did Steve. In some of these professions and sports, the persons who push the risk envelope are the heroes and winners. There is a risk line that shouldn't be crossed. I don't know in any of these activities where that line lies. I certainly don't think it wise for a race car driver to strap his or her six month old baby in for a 200 mph spin around the track. But, I wouldn't go for that ride myself, anymore than I'd step inside a crocodile's space.

Risky? Steve Irwin knew rivers, the ocean was not his area of expertise. He was still learning the ocean. John Stainton (Steve's friend who was on the boat at the time of the accident), had previously said, "If ever he was going to go, we always said it was going to be the ocean," he said. "On land he was agile, quick-thinking, quick-moving and the ocean puts another element there that you have no control over."
Exploration has it's risks.
And yet Steve's death was a freak accident, not attributed to being daring or unknowledgable at all. Death from a sting ray's barb is extremely rare.

So that brings to me the question, why. What is the purpose of taking this young man with this young family, doing such good work? The eternal question.
There are certainly lots of parents having their first talks about death with their children. I sat down with my 7 year old nephew, who is a big Irwin fan. We talked about his courage and passion and how funny he was and how he and his work will be remembered.
Good on you Steve.