19th & 20th April, 2010



















Photo by Eric Yeager ©2009 All Rights Reserved

A Thought for Today

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and perpetually tired.



As we start this mid-April week it turns out there are a number of people I’ve known, admired and worked with over the years who share April birthdays.



“Hamp” was one of the great jazz all stars. He influenced many a decade of musicians and was one of the nicest, most generous and gentle bosses I ever had. We toured together briefly before a stint with Uncle Sam put a halt to my days as a big band singer. I learned a lot from him and we had some interesting adventures together. Particularly when I was the only white member of his band as we played a still very much-segregated American South. I could write a chapter or two or three on our ‘hospitality’ in Alabama.

What made Hampton great as an artist was his versatility. He could bop with the best of them and he was peerless when it came to malloting out a sweet ballad on the vibraphone. Before starting his own successful and world-renowned big band he was a sideman and soloist.

Hamp was more than generous when it came time to let me sing. I performed everything from They Raided The Joint Took Everybody Down But Me, Pretty Eyed Baby, Walkin' My Baby Back Home, assorted blues, bop, scat and of course a nightly chorus of How High The Moon. The many great musicians I got to work with during my stint with Hampton provided a basis for my respect of players of every kind

I lost touch for a while Hamp after exiting the Army and turning my interest to a folk, then more International style of singing. We had a very happy reunion in the late 1960’s thanks to Dinah Shore who booked us as guests on her popular television shows. If he were still with us he would have turned 87 today.


I never worked with Hugh, except for a brief stint when we stumped cross-country for Gerald Ford’s Presidential Campaign but I always admired his work with kids. Ever since he hit it big on television with his Wyatt Earp series he has always donated a large chunk of his television and film earnings to the Hugh O’Brian Foundation, which helps abused, neglected and underprivileged kids. And over the years his appearances have earned millions for his own charity and other organizations of like mind.

Hugh O’Brian is a survivor and his film and television career spans decades. The last time I saw him was at an Oscar party a couple of years ago and later at an autograph signing we both took part in. Hugh turns a bright young 85 this week.


I was under an exclusive contract to Universal Pictures who owned me lock, stock & cash on the line for those wishing to employ me outside of the Universal-International gates). I met Jayne while on loan out to The Jack Benny Show, “Shower of Stars.” It was quite a cast, in addition to Benny and company Jayne and myself the other guests included Liberace, at the height of his popularity and Vincent Price who besides his ubiquitous film work had recently been a contestant on the 64,000 Question, a very popular TV quiz show of the day where he applied his considerable knowledge of fine art to win big bucks for several episodes.

A weeklong eight hour a day rehearsal, not unusual in those days for a live hour-long variety program, helped make fast friends of all of us. Over the years Vincent advised me on art, I was a budding collector and he of course the expert and major collector. I would see Liberace at various functions and we attended dinner from time to time at each other’s homes.

But, it was Mansfield who intrigued and fascinated me the most. Despite her dumb blonde image she was one smart woman. Her obviously arresting figure, almost constant smile and that simpering, whimpering voice helped turn her into one of 20th Century Fox’s most interesting contract players. But she was not without real comedic talent. Don’t take my word for it, check out the recently release Jayne Mansfield DVD collection which includes The Girl Can’t Help It, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (adapted from the Broadway play) and The Sheriff Of Fractured Jaw. Jayne holds her own in those films with veteran actors such as Tony Randall, Joan Blondell, Barry Gordon and Tom Ewell the comic foil for Fox’s other blonde bombshell of the day, Marilyn Monroe.

Jayne Mansfield knew what she wanted and by working hard, cooperating with the studio and always making herself available to the unusually powerful world press of the day, she seldom failed to get it.

She was always on time and one of my favorite memories of her was the first day of the Shower Of Stars rehearsals. On Monday morning when all of us sat down at a conference table for the first time together for a read through of the script Jayne was the only one of us –– and that includes the old pro Benny –– who didn’t use her script for reference. She knew all of her lines and all of ours by heart.

Jayne was sweet too, everybody liked her. In all the years I knew her there were no reports of professional tantrums, pouting or any kind of conduct, personal or private, unbecoming her status as a super star. When we met over the years I found her friendship intact and her joy at new work, whatever the project, undiminished. When her contract with Fox ended she and her husband Mickey Hargitay embarked on a successful night club tour

Law And Order, in all of is permutations, is one of my consistently favorite TV series and I hope one day to meet Mariska Hargitay (Jayne and Mickey’s daughter) not just to thank her for the pleasure I’ve had watching her emote week to week but to share with her what a unique woman her mother was.

Mariska, a young child at the time, survived the fatal automobile crash that took her mother much to soon. Jayne’s indomitable spirit and true zest for living was and continues to be an inspiration to all of us who knew her. She would have turned 78 on April 19th.

- RM 4/18/2004 Previously unpublished.

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notable birthdays

Monday 19 April

Don Adams o John Taylor Arms o Luis Miguel Basteri o Hayden Christensen o Tim Curry o Elinor Donahue o Frank Fontaine o Kate Hudson o Richard Hughes o Ashley Judd o Bernhard Klee o Jayne Mansfield o Luis Miguel o Dudley Moore o Hugh O'Brian o Murray Perahia o Paloma Picasso o Dick Sargent o Vivienne Segal o Constance Talmadge o Al Unser, Jr. o Ruby Wax

Tuesday 20 April

Marcus Aurelius o Jan Cremer o Carmen Electra o Joni Evans o Nina Foch o John Eliot Gardiner o Lionel Hampton o Adolf Hitler o Victor Hollaender o Clint Howard o Jessica Lange o Joey Lawrence o Harold Lloyd o Don Mattingly o Joan Miro o Norman Norell o Ryan O'Neal o Tito Puente o Alan Reed o Edie Sedgwick o Bram Stoker o Debbie Sweeney o George Takei o Georg Michael Telemann o Johnny Tillotson o Luther Vandross o Elena Verdugo

Rod's random thoughts April won’t apologize for children seeking out irrigation ditches and mud puddles in their search for the meanest place to break in this year’s brand new Easter shoes.

Love makes every season turn.

Use caution in thinking ill of other and even more in reporting it.


The outer reaches of the heart
are never fully tracked
but I have seen the limits
of my own heart
in the distance
and I now know its boundaries
to be unlimited.
I had begun to feel
that sorrows fought & conquered
could not touch or threaten me again,
but this new grief is wider
than the sleep of reason.
I have moved through solitaire
to some new unnamed place
                           beyond alone
and I am standing here without a map.
I wish that I had not gone
swimming in the distance
without an island or a raft
as harbor or safe floating place.

The afterwish
is always harder to make so
than the dream we call a starting place.
Safety always lies out there.

How to get from here to there,
                                the question.
The answer, wait for transportation.
Or better still, supply your own.

- from "The Sound of Solitude", 1983. With revisions 4/18/2010


Don’t forget Webmaster Ken Blackie arrives on Wednesday for another edition of This One Does It For Me. Sleep Warm and I’ll be back Thursday (Earth Day this year) with a page from an April Diary.

RM Holmby Hills, CA 8:16 PM PDST 18 April 2010

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Webmaster: Ken Blackie • Birthday Research by Wade Alexander • Poems from the collection of Jay Hagan •
Sound & Fury Dr. Eric Yeager • Editor at Large: Bruce Bellingham • Emeritus: Melinda Smith
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