David Brenner


David Brenner died today. 78. Didn’t look it.

Interesting story. He started in local TV at KYW Philadelphia. He produced filmed documentaries, many fronted by Tom Snyder. David was an Emmy Award winner for his work at 3rd and Market.

I remember him coming up as a comic through the seventies. Carson was in New York then. One shot on the Tonight Show and David Brenner had a career (see video below). The show was that powerful.

My parents, Helaine and I saw David Brenner perform in Las Vegas. Here’s part of what I wrote July 7, 2004.

After dinner, Helaine, my parents and I went to see David Brenner. He’s playing as the ‘house act’ in the David Brenner Theater at the Westin Hotel on Flamingo. The hotel is low key and subdued which is a weird juxtaposition against the small casino which sits in the center of the entry area. In design, it’s tough to have a casino look right without having over-the-top decorations. That doesn’t necessarily mean garish – though garish usually works.

Brenner was great. Helaine and I had seen him before. He’s very bright, very much in control and confident on stage. He worked a solid hour and a half and had the audience every step of the way.

It’s a small theater, and even then it was less than half full. He made a reference about 100 people, which sounded about right. With promotion and good word of mouth, this guy should be packing them in. It’s a shame. I’d see him again in a second.

He stood on stage with a thick deck of file cards. Probably not jokes, but incidents and observations to be included.

I said then, “very much in control.” How many other comedians can make that claim?

As we get older the pace at which those in our lives die, increases. David is among a blur of names from my life that have disappeared recently. That sucks.

David Brenner was a sharp wit and very funny man. I’m glad for the memories.

Brenner’s final request, according to family spokesman Jeff Abraham, was to have $100 in small bills tucked in his sock — “just in case tipping is recommended where I’m going.”

At The Editor’s Desk…

Maggi Shivane was the best known, least known person on Philadelphia! Now she’s got a face.

This entry will make no sense to most of you reading it. It’s all about a picture my friend Brandon Brooks sent me. He got it from Dick Standish. Brandon works at and Dick worked at KYW Radio in Philadelphia.

The picture itself was taken in 1975 by Sal DiMarco for the now defunct Philadelphia Bulletin and resides on the Temple University website.

KYW is an all-news station. For years they’ve featured the clickety click sound of teletype machines (recorded, since no one has used teletype machines in nearly 40 years). They’ve also given on-air credit to their off-air staff. Specifically:

“At the editor’s desk, Maggi Shivane.”

Hers was a name you could drop that everyone would know. Maggi Shivane was undoubtedly the best known, least known person on Philadelphia! Now she’s got a face.

The iPhone After A Week

If I had a dollar for every time I thought I hit the “m” key but backspaced instead I’d be a wealthy guy.

Thumbnail image for apple-iphone-3g.jpgI’ve had my iPhone over a week now. I suppose an update is in order.

There have been two very distinct responses I’ve gotten from people who’ve found out about the phone.

  • Welcome to the dark side
  • What about the keyboard?

Dark siders: This doesn’t mean I’ll eschew the PC world for Apple. Sorry.

Keyboarders: It’s a bitch! There’s no doubt this keyboard is very difficult to use. I make many more mistakes than I did with the BlackBerry keyboard, itself on the small side but at least with tactile response (you know, the keys pushed down).

If I had a dollar for every time I thought I hit the “m” key but backspaced instead I’d be a wealthy guy.

The one saving grace is Apple’s incredibly useful self correction feature. A few commenters told me to just type away and let the iPhone fix things on its own.

I do. It does.

It’s still not enough.

Using the keyboard in landscape mode is better than portrait mode–but it’s not always available. This is the most anti-intuitive part of the phone. I don’t quite understand why this happens, but it does. Frustrating.

The world famous iPhone apps are pretty amazing. I think I’ve spent around $5 so far for dozens of cool and fun tools. Some are worthwhile. Others will be removed the next time I sync the phone with iTunes.

I bought a UPC scanner app (please, don’t ask why) which automatically tells you what its read and then prices it out on the Internet! I also have a few games and audio services. Yes, I can now provide my own rim shots for one liners!

One program which lets you hold your arm outstretched and shows you which stars you’re seeing is amazing. It shows the incredible value of the compass, which Apple seems to market more as a gadget. No–the compass is much more of an enabling device than I would have ever thought.

Last night after the Phillies won I used the iPhone to play KYW radio. I’ve also used it in the car to listen to some NPR shows.

The phone call volume is TOO LOW!!! It’s too low from the phone and from my bluetooth earpiece. There is a solution published online for more volume but it includes poking tiny holes in the speaker enclosures. Sorry–I need it in software.

Surprisingly it’s too difficult to make calls directly from the home screen. Yes, there’s voice control, but it doesn’t always work correctly. My Motorola RAZR and the BlackBerry are superior in this regard.

As if by magic, one week after I bought the iPhone Verizon began to advertise what many are calling the iPhone killer. What were they waiting for? Couldn’t they have run it as I was driving home from the store?

Bottom line–I’m mainly pleased with the phone though more because of its computer attributes than its phone attributes. I’ve gone on EBay and ordered a bunch of little accessories.

The iPhone stays.

The Reunion

Helaine was apprehensive. She was as spooked about an upcoming event as I’d ever seen her. It worked out well, but she suffered to the last minute.

We’re home now. I am on the sofa. I am in pajamas. That’s how we know the weekend is over.

IMG_8789.jpgYesterday was Helaine’s neighborhood reunion. They’re usually centered around schools, but not in this case. The epicenter was 2nd and Cheltenham in Philadelphia. A range of ages was invited. Unmarried, I’d have been too old!

The reunion was held in the Radisson off Roosevelt Blvd just north of the Philadelphia city line. A ballroom and adjacent hall were booked for an expected crowd of 500. In fact before the reunion requests had been made to leave home disinterested spouses! More people wanted tickets.

IMG_8775.jpgTwo rent-a-cops were hired to guard the door. There was that much worry about gate crashers!

Helaine was apprehensive. She was as spooked about an upcoming event as I’d ever seen her. It worked out well, but she suffered to the last minute.

They were older than I’d like to think I am and more slender than the adult population in general. Some had the look of affluence. I suppose there’s a lot of self selection going on here.

“Oh my God!” How many times did I hear that as friend spied friend for the first time in 30 or 40 years!

IMG_8807.jpgHelaine’s childhood pediatrician was there looking great at 85. So was her kindergarten teacher… or may be she taught first grade. Helaine wasn’t sure.

Hi, I said when introduced to one guy. “Where do you live?” I asked.

“Bel Air,” he replied.

I’d better get a pig-in-blanket.

It was nice to see the kids Helaine grew up with. In many ways they reminded me of the kids I grew up with. And now they have kids… or in some cases grandkids.

IMG_8846.jpgOne of Helaine’s friends works as a radio reporter at KYW radio. “You must know my friend Brandon,” I said. He proceeded to tell me how Brandon’s recovering from heart problems. You don’t get this kind of stuff at a 10th reunion.

I suspect Helaine will remain in touch with some of the people she saw yesterday. Others… well it will probably be another 40 years for them.