Category Archives: entertainment news

Still missing this iconic musician after all these years

I am one of the few Americans who was not watching “Monday Night Football” the night we all got the shocking news.

Howard Cosell, a friend of John Lennon, told the world that a gunman shot John “twice in the back,” that he was “rushed to Roosevelt Hospital … dead on arrival.”

I was watching an NBC show that night 39 years ago. They, too, broke in and stunned the world.

Oh, how I still miss this man. He was just 40 years of age when his comeback from a five-year hiatus from public view came to its tragic end. I am left to wonder, as are all fans of John Lennon’s enormous talent, what kind of legacy would he have built had he been allowed to live.

The man who essentially founded The Beatles led this band of musicians into the cultural stratosphere. Sure, he had plenty talent playing alongside. The careers of Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the late George Harrison all flourished after the band ended its professional existence in 1970. The three surviving members of the band collaborated in 1995 to finish a couple of songs that John had written; they released them that year with “Free As a Bird” being named the top single of the year. I remember the Grammy award presenter declaring, “I can’t believe this: 25 years after they broke up … the winner is The Beatles!

George, too, is now gone.

John Lennon’s legacy already is rich. We are left only now with the memory of what he was able to accomplish as a musician, a songwriter and an advocate for peace, and ponder what might have happened had fate not intervened that night in New York City.

As for the gunman who took him from us, well … may he continue to rot in prison.

Hodgetown earns honor, sending Center City director ‘over the moon’

Beth Duke is beaming with pride … and why not?

The Amarillo Center City director nominated Hodgetown, the city’s new downtown ballpark, for recognition as the best downtown construction project in Texas. Hodgetown then got the honor.

Duke, a lifelong Amarillo resident and a big-time promoter of its downtown revival, should be proud. So should the city for this latest honor granted to the shiny new ballpark that is home to the city’s championship-winning Texas League baseball team, the Sod Poodles.

The award comes from the Texas Downtown Association. It honors the ballpark’s look, its ambience, the attraction it proved to be for baseball fans and other Texas Panhandle residents.

As Duke told the Globe-News, where she worked for more than 30 years before taking over the Center City directorship: “I think you all know how proud I am of every building and the progress we’ve made in our beautiful downtown. I nominated Hodgetown for Best New Construction in a Texas (city) of more than 50,000 people. I was so gratified to be a finalist and the night we won, I was just over the moon.”

She should be over the moon.

I have taken great joy in applauding the city’s effort to build this structure, formerly known as the “multipurpose event venue.” It is a gorgeous home field for the Sod Poodles. More than that, it is a fabulous addition to downtown’s urban landscape.

Hodgetown came to fruition after a sometimes-rocky ride. I am more than willing to acknowledge harboring a doubt or two that the city could complete the project. There was turmoil on the City Council relating to the future of what was called the MPEV. Top-level city management went through a wholesale change with resignations of key personnel, including the city manager.

Despite the occasional ruckus at City Hall, the ballpark was completed. Hodgetown opened this past spring. The Sod Poodles played some great Class AA baseball in a ballpark full of cheering of fans.

Now comes a high honor from a downtown group that bestows honors that cities can use to their marketing advantage.

Beth Duke is the perfect advocate for Amarillo’s downtown district. She is a happy woman today. I am proud of her and of the city for the steps it has taken toward rebuilding its downtown business and entertainment district.

Well done.

Stand firm, Ellen, in your friendship with ‘W’

I hereby endorse Ellen DeGeneres in her declaration that she is friends with former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush.

The comedian is taking flak because she happened to attend a Dallas Cowboys football game at AT&T Stadium, where she sat next to the former first couple, had a few laughs and enjoyed each other’s company.

DeGeneres noted out loud the other day that it does strange for a “gay liberal” such as herself to be friends with a “conservative” such as President Bush. Which makes me respond: So what? 

Ellen is taking heat from some in the entertainment industry. Actor Mark Ruffalo commented via Twitter that Bush’s policies are anathema to the “kindness” that DeGeneres mentioned in her comments about her friendship with “W.”

Look, I get it. I am not “friends” with the former president, although I have had the pleasure of meeting him three times over the years. The first time was on an elevator at the 1988 GOP convention in New Orleans; the second time was in 1995, when I interviewed the then-new Texas governor at his office at the State Capitol; the third time was in Amarillo in 1998 when he was running for re-election as governor.

My impression of President Bush is clear: He is the kind of guy I would love to have a beer with … except that he no longer drinks alcohol. He is affable, jovial, personable, humble and all-round good guy. His politics stink, but as Mitt Romney once said during the Al Smith Memorial Dinner in 2012 when he appeared on the same dais as President Barack Obama against whom he was running, “There is more to life than politics.”

So it is with Ellen DeGeneres and President Bush.

Stand firm, Ellen.

What if John Lennon had lived?

I am acutely aware that today would have been John Lennon’s birthday. He would have turned 79. He didn’t make it nearly that far into his life.

A gunman ended it all for John in December 1980. He died at 40.

I want to take the opportunity today while marking John Lennon’s birthday to take stock of what might have transpired had this genius been allowed to live. We, of course, cannot know with any certainty.

I’ll let my heart speak for a brief moment.

My ticker tells me John Lennon would have continued to make memorable music. He would have written lyrics that stand the test of time. He would have built on his already priceless body of work, most of it of course in tandem with his songwriting partner, Sir Paul McCartney. Might they have reconciled enough to re-form their partnership? Oh, one only can hope they might.

Hey, it’s also quite possible that John Lennon would have been knighted just as Sir Paul and Sir Richard Starkey — aka Ringo Starr — have been honored by their queen. I only can imagine the statement a Sir John Lennon would have issued upon getting this honor from the crown. I’ll add as well that George Harrison, who died in 2001, deserved to be knighted. Alas, it won’t happen.

John Lennon was my favorite Beatle. It might be only because we shared the same name. In reality, I was drawn by his quirkiness, his snarky approach to celebrity and his biting wit.

The boy could sing, too.

All of this is my way of wishing fate had dealt John Lennon a better than what he was forced to play.

I will miss this genius forever. Happy birthday, John.

‘Abbey Road’ back to No. 1 … imagine that

This bit of news really doesn’t surprise me, but then again it is still quite astonishing.

“Abbey Road,” The Beatles’ iconic final album, was remastered and reissued recently to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the album’s initial release.

Then we hear that it shot to No. 1 on the United Kingdom record charts — a mere 49 years and 252 days after it hit the top of the charts the first time.

Wow! What does this say? Well, it tells me that the super group’s music still holds up. It remains relevant for so many generations of music lovers.

Two members of the group — John Lennon and George Harrison — are deceased. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are making new music to this day. Sir Paul is still performing before huge crowds with a show that blows one away; I know, having attended a concert recently at Globe-Life Park down the road in Arlington, Texas.

Still, The Beatles appeal to many millions of young people and, oh yeah, old folks like me.

Rock on, fellas!

Has justice really been delivered to Felicity Huffman?

I’ve been pretty quiet about the school admitting scandal that has swallowed the careers of two prominent Hollywood entertainers: Lori Laughlin and Felicity Huffman. Of course, there have been many others caught up in this scandal.

I have been trying to come to grips with the sentence handed down to Huffman. To be totally candid, I am having trouble believing justice was really delivered to this individual.

She arranged for her daughter to get admitted to a university; she arranged to manipulate her SAT score. She paid some huckster a five-figure sum to assist in this travesty.

What did she get? Fourteen days in prison; a $30,000 fine; a year of supervised release; a term of community service.

Why just 14 days? That’s weird, in my humble view. It seems the sentence might as well have been for 20 minutes in the slammer.

Her lawyers argued she didn’t deserve any time, as it was her “first offense.” Huffman has been contrite. She apologized to the court, to her husband — actor William H. Macy — her daughter, to the world.

Loughlin, meanwhile, has stood by her innocence, challenging the system to put her on trial.

Huffman told the judge she would “try to live a more honest life.” When someone says they’ll “try” to do something, I often take that as a sort of code that they cannot promise to actually carry through with a rock-solid pledge.

There’s just something so very token about a two-week prison sentence. I am unclear what the judge is seeking to do with a wrist-slap on the arm of a wealthy actress.

Let’s just say that other “first offenders” have gotten far worse punishments for far less crimes.

Irksome Phrase, Part 2: ‘Reality TV’ has joined the club

Time for an admission. I watch an occasional “reality TV” show, even though I find it astonishing that contemporary culture has adopted the term in the first place.

There’s nothing real about “reality TV.”

What was the first one? I believe it was “Survivor,” correct? CBS TV launched this “reality” series that features individuals being “stranded” in some out of the way place, having to fend for themselves. They get voted out by their colleagues, I suppose, for not doing what they’re supposed to do to stay in the game.

I’ve never watched a single episode of this “reality TV” series. I’m going on what I have heard and read about it.

The roster of “reality TV” shows has too numerous to count.

I do watch “The Voice.” Why? Well, I enjoy the banter among the judges and I certainly enjoy watching the unknown talents competing for the title of being “The Voice” champion.

But this whole notion of “reality TV” is among the greatest misnomers I can imagine. The one where contestants race around the world against each other is kind of fun. I won’t watch the show where the contestants are enclosed in a room with the camera watching over them.

And all those “Real Housewives” series on Bravo? Puh-leeease!

I understand the economics of this type of programming. Networks pay these individuals far less than they pay established film and TV stars. The reduced overhead makes “reality TV” shows more affordable. So, I get that part of it.

What I don’t quite get is why the networks call it “reality TV.”

Those “Survivor” contestants aren’t going to be allowed to starve to death, or face wild animals, or have to cope with disease-carrying insects. The TV production crews are standing by to assist them.

Is any of that a form of reality?

I do not think so.

The very term “reality TV” simply irks me.

Happy birthday, Ringo … I remember you well!

Days like today remind me of the differences between generations. Strange, yes? I now will explain.

Today is Sir Richard Starkey’s birthday. He is known to us, though, by the name of Ringo Starr. He played drums for The Beatles, but you knew that already. He is 79 years of age today. Ye gads, man!

Four years ago, when Ringo turned 75, I was working part time at an Amarillo, Texas, automobile dealership. I made plenty of friends there. I still am friends with many of those former colleagues.

I was chatting with one of them that day four years ago and I mentioned to this much-younger 20-something woman that it was Ringo’s birthday, that he turned 75.

Her response? “Who’s Ringo Starr?”

My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe my ears. “Are you serious?” I asked. She said she was totally serious.

Oh … my. I had to explain the cultural significance of The Beatles, of Ringo’s role in the band turning into arguably the most iconic and musically immortal acts in the history of recorded music.

Yes, I got a blank stare.

I was crushed. Crestfallen. I thought she would share my joy in celebrating Ringo’s birthday. She didn’t.

Oh, well. That was her loss.

Sir Richard, I’m with you, pal. Happy birthday, and thanks for helping raise me … and billions of others.

Irony continues to provide a bit of sting

There might be a reader or two of this blog who will presume this brief post is an assault on a young woman who once lived in Amarillo, Texas.

It isn’t. Please accept the notion that I intend only to reiterate an astonishing irony.

Meghan Riddlespurger once was the front woman for what she called the “Amarillo Millennial Movement.” She fought for the voter approval of a proposed downtown Amarillo sports/entertainment venue. Her primary motivation, she said at the time, was to entice “millennials” to remain in Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle after they finished their education. She wanted them to stay at home and to enjoy the fruits of the entertainment offerings that the venue would provide.

She posted this message overnight on Facebook: When you build it, they’ll come. Please support your walkable downtown development efforts and give your heart to municipal efforts because this is where a difference can be made. Just a few years ago, people said none of this could happen. And then it did. Believe in the most and fight for the best. Your city loves you! Goodnight!

It’s a lovely message. I presume Meghan returned to Amarillo to take in a baseball game at Hodgetown, which is the direct result of her efforts to help rejuvenate her hometown’s downtown district.

But she left the city not long after the November 2015 non-binding referendum victory she had sought. She now lives in Fort Worth, where I presume she is doing well. What about the “walking the walk”?

I harbor no personal animus toward this young woman. I like Meghan Riddlespurger, even though we don’t know each other well. I left the city, too, but I’m an old man who merely comments on local matters through this blog. I wasn’t invested at the level Riddlespurger was invested.

I just find the irony to be so very remarkable.

I do have to say this, though, about the young woman’s effort: It is paying off with the Sod Poodles playing before nice crowds at the ballpark and the city reaping the reward of the effort Meghan and many others put into its downtown redevelopment.

Happy birthday, Sir Paul; may you keep on making music

I don’t normally use this blog to comment on people’s birthdays, other than perhaps members of my immediate family.

I’ll do so briefly here by noting that Sir Paul McCartney is turning 77 years young today.

I am mentioning Sir Paul mainly because I was among the 40,000 or so fans who cheered him on Friday night as he sang to us at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.

And, yes, we sang him “Happy Birthday” for good measure. He returned the favor later in the evening when he launched his six-song encore with The Beatles’ classic ditty “Birthday.”

Sir Paul might be the youngest 77-year-young individual I’ve ever seen. The man can play music. He plays it well. He plays his bass, guitar, mandolin, ukulele and piano with amazing verve and vigor.

I am just blown away by being able to say I’ve seen him perform now three times in my life. No. 1 was at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum in the summer of 1965, when he played for about 30 minutes with The Beatles. No. 2 occurred in 1993 at the Houston Astrodome, when the show went a whole lot longer than it did the first time. No. 3 was just this past week in Arlington.

Paul McCartney — along with John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr — helped raise me when I was a kid. Those of you are about my age know what I mean.

So, I feel a bit closer to Sir Paul on his 77th birthday than I have before. Happy birthday, Paul.

I hope you are “going to a party, party.”